By Father El Meskeen*
Only through prayer can He rule our hearts
Orthodox Prayer, Part 5
Continuing our prayerful examination of the book Orthodox Prayer, by Matta El-Meskeen, Coptic monastic reformer and spiritual father of the Monastery of St, Macarius, we look at excerpts from Chapter one: Reflection on the Efficacy of Prayer
Christ is the true light that illumines the mind of man. This comes about when man accepts, through prayer, to live according to the truth and commandments of Christ. Christ is the vanquisher of the devil, the old serpent. He is thus able to bruise his head, defeat his counsel, and foil his seduction of man. This can be carried into effect only by prayer. For through prayer there now exists a true, constant, and intimate bond between man and Christ. Therefore, without a life of prayer with Christ, there can be neither life nor kingdom nor light nor victory over the devil.
Prayer is an effective power that brings us into contact with the Christ who is actually present within us. He is the source of every power, blessing, and life: “Whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). He who does not use the power of prayer never makes contact with the Christ who is within him. He thus lives alienated from God’s wisdom. He remains deprived of his righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. However hard we may try to know Christ without prayer, we would only know him as a Savior of people, a Redeemer of others, a Sanctifier of saints, a Justifier of sinners. We would remain deprived of all these gifts and graces. We will not receive them unless we first receive Christ through prayer within our lives. We should first make him at rest in our hearts so he may live with us. He should share everything with us and manage all our affairs.
Christ will never unite with one’s thought, emotions, will, or senses unless he first unites with one’s soul. So man should first open his whole being in prayer that Christ may rest within his soul…
Christ becomes king over man’s soul through man’s frequent prayer and the outpouring of his self. He becomes the true center of its being and movements. At that stage, man will never find rest in anything except in Christ alone, where the image would rest in its own likeness.
Since the soul has been created for immortality, it will thus find in Christ, when it unites with Him, its ultimate joy. Through His existence, He consummates its own existence and immortality: “For this reason we must first beg of God with struggle in the heart through faith that he grant us to discover his riches, the true treasure of Christ in our hearts, in the power and energy of the Spirit.
“In such a way, first, by finding the Lord to be our help within us and our salvation and eternal life, we may be of help and profit to others also, insofar as it is possible and attainable, by drawing upon Christ, the treasure within, for all goodness of spiritual discourses and in teaching the heavenly mysteries. “Thus the goodness of the Father was pleased to wish to dwell in every believer who asks this of Him.
“Christ says: ‘He that loves me, he will be loved by my Father and I will love him and I will manifest myself to him’(Jn 14.21). And again: ‘I and my Father will come and make our mansion in him’ (Jn 14.23). Thus the infinite kindness of the Father decreed; thus the incomprehensible love of Christ was pleased. Thus the ineffable good of the promised Spirit. Glory to the ineffable compassion of the Holy Trinity…” (St Macarius the Great, Homilies 18.6, 7, in Maloney, Intoxicated with God: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies of Macarius)