How to meditate

A brother named John came from the coast to Father Philimon and, clasping his feet, said to him: “What shall I do to be saved? For my intellect vacillates to and fro and strays after all the wrong things.” After a pause, the father replied: “This is one of the outer passions and it stays with you because you still have not acquired a perfect longing for God. The warmth of this longing and of the knowledge of God has not yet come to you.” The brother said to him: “What shall I do, father?”

Abba Philimon replied: “Meditate inwardly for a while, deep in your heart; for this can cleanse your intellect of these things.”

The brother, not understanding what was said, asked the Elder: “What is inward meditation, father?”

The Elder replied: “Keep watch in your heart; and with watchfulness say in your mind with awe and trembling: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.’ For this is the advice which the blessed Diadochos gave to beginners.”

The brother departed; and with the help of God and the Elder’s prayers he found stillness and for a while was filled with sweetness by this meditation. But then it suddenly left him and he could not practice it or pray watchfully. So he went again to the Elder and told him what had happened.

And the Elder said to him: “You have had a brief taste of stillness and inner work, and have experienced the sweetness that comes from them. This is what you should always be doing in your heart: whether eating or drinking, in company or outside your cell, or on a journey, repeat that prayer with a watchful mind and an undeflected intellect; also sing and meditate on prayers and psalms. Even when carrying out needful tasks, do not let your intellect be idle, but keep it meditating inwardly and praying. For in this way you can grasp the depths of divine Scripture and the power hidden in it, and give unceasing work to the intellect, thus fulfilling the apostolic command: ‘Pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:17). Pay strict attention to your heart and watch over it, so that it does not give admittance to thoughts that are evil or in any way vain and useless. Without interruption, whether asleep or awake, eating, drinking, or in company, let your heart inwardly and mentally at times be meditating on the psalms, at other times be repeating the prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.’ And when you sing, make sure that your mouth is not saying one thing while your mind is thinking about another.”

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Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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