Manoussakis on prayer.
As a sort of Ash Wednesday item, here is an interview on prayer given last February by Archimandrite John Panteleimon Manoussakis, a friend whose work has been featured on this blog before. Though I read the interview when it was first published, it's on my mind again today because another friend of ours shared it yesterday on the one-year anniversary of its publication. Here is a sample:
What is your prayer routine for an average day?To read the rest, click here. Prayers for all who are beginning the spiritual combat of Lent today. AMDG.
One could perhaps object to the conjunction of these two words, "prayer" and "routine." Yet this objection springs from our romantic ideas that fancy prayer to be some kind of "event." In reality, judged externally, when we pray nothing happens. In the eyes of the world that evaluates everything in terms of production and consumption, the time of prayer is a "dead" time, a waste even of time that could have been used more productively. It is precisely because we fight against such a perception that a “prayer routine” is essential. What is most difficult in prayer is persevering in it. Ideally, I would like to maintain a schedule of praying daily the liturgy of the hours, beginning with matins and concluding the day with compline. This practice bestows one's life with a rhythm that is transformative.
How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle those moments when you don’t?
Worldly cares and the old enemy of every life of prayer, acedia, always interfere with our best intentions and efforts. This should not discourage us (and I say this as one who has often been discouraged and frustrated). Prayer knows of other ways — it can, in fact, transform this very frustration into a prayerful cry. What I am trying to say is that carrying on with one's daily humble duties, attending to those same worldly cares that seem to be the stumbling block to our devotions might be itself a form of prayer. After all, our goal is not to carve out from our days a few hours dedicated to God, but to offer our whole life and all of our actions as a prayer to Him. The distinction between sacred time and secular time—a time for the world and a time for God — that this mentality presupposes is ultimately false and even dangerous.
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What is your current spiritual or devotional reading?
Literature, especially Dostoyevsky’s works. There is little that any devotional book could add to The Brothers Karamazov. I'm currently reading The Idiot. Speaking of spiritual or devotional practices, we should not forget that not all such practices need to involve "reading." Of equal importance, if not more, in the spiritual formation is the role played by music. Johann Sebastian Bach’s music is the pinnacle of Christianity’s expression in that medium. A similar observation can be made for the works of Arvo Pärt. Here, too, once could say a great deal about music's indispensable role in worship. We don't imagine angels reading thick volumes and with good reason. They sing.