Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | November 10, 2012

Let down your nets on the other side

Some texts let you down. You keep trying them, but they don’t yield. Oh… how that has been the story of my life. Often of course it says more about the sympathies of the fisherman than the fish, does it not? Any questions, read my comments on the Brother K… and you’ll see my shortcomings. But this same thing holds true elsewhere. Sometimes, I’m simply too distracted to extract from a text what it offers. Some literally do require you to push through because it is the sweep rather than the specks of the text that draw. More often as it comes to these things, it’s the intense focus that finds merit… a practice that those later hours of the evening when so many of us do our reading simply find ourselves lacking in energy to accomplish.

“For myself, I cannot deny that although I have worked all night I have caught nothing. Yet at your suggestion I have again let down the nets, and I have made a large catch. They are not big fish, but there a hundred and fifty-three of them (cf. John 21:11). These, as you requested, I am sending you in a creel of love, in the form of a hundred and fifty-three texts.
I am delighted to find you so eager for texts on prayer  eager not simply for those written on paper with ink but also for those which are fixed in the intellect through love and generosity. But since ‘all things go in pairs, one complementing the other’, as the wise Jesus puts it (Ecclus. 42:24), please accept the letter and understand its spirit, since every written word presupposed the intellect: for where there is no intellect there is no written word. The way of prayer is also twofold: it comprises practice of the virtues and contemplation. The same applies to numbers: literally they are quantities, but they can also signify qualities.” from p. 55 of “The Philokalia, Volume One”, and one of my favorites, Evagrios of Pontus (or The Solitary), and for some reason “not a saint”… which “as for me” bodes rather ominously.

Thus if and when I have a problem with catching anything in some of these texts, the fact is that yes, it is me. And sometimes, it’s simply better to move my nets to the other side of the boat. I won’t necessarily catch fish where others have. On the other hand, sometimes I might benefit from keeping at it. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Work where He is preparing us and the fish to come together. Leave aside that which isn’t working. And don’t stress about it. Conclusions are never conclusive, so don’t try to make them. Be pragmatic. If that thick book isn’t getting anywhere for you… maybe it’s the temptation of the thinner books surrounding it and not a fault of its own.

Ah… but that would lead to discussing my distraction. Distraction with prayer is a misunderstanding… and rather than a virtue, misconstrues the content of prayer as only one sort of discourse in body and spirit. I think we all have this… but surely it is mine especially to think I am only at prayer when there are words in my mind, my heart or on my lips. Putting them there may not serve, or may simply narrow my options, my worship, and my prayer offerings… and that is indeed a likelihood. Resolution is not action. Ah… but there’s the rub. And so rather than let down, let me throw the nets on the other side…. all this work, all these evenings and mornings, all these days of our lives, all these words… and where is my prayer? Where, Lord, is it found in these waters surrounding this vessel? Pray that you might tell me, and that if you tell me from afar, that I might hear and obey… here, near to my heart and in my life. Lord have mercy.


  1. Indeed. Most boats have two sides. I think mine has a dozen. I keep throwing nets hoping for a catch….

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