Posted by on Nov 22, 2010 in Reflections | 9 comments

 

Hold-on
 

 

“Pray without ceasing.”

- I Thessalonians 5:17 

 

 

All This and More

BY MARY KARR

 

The Devil’s tour of hell did not include   

a factory line where molten lead   

spilled into mouths held wide,

 

no electric drill spiraling screws

into hands and feet, nor giant pliers   

to lower you into simmering vats.

 

Instead, a circle of light

opened on your stuffed armchair,

whose chintz orchids did not boil and change,

 

and the Devil adjusted   

your new spiked antennae

almost delicately, with claws curled

 

and lacquered black, before he spread   

his leather wings to leap   

into the acid-green sky.

 

So your head became a tv hull,

a gargoyle mirror. Your doppelganger   

sloppy at the mouth

 

and swollen at the joints   

enacted your days in sinuous   

slow motion, your lines delivered

 

with a mocking sneer. Sometimes   

the frame froze, reversed, began   

again: the red eyes of a friend

 

you cursed, your girl child cowered   

behind the drapes, parents alive again   

and puzzled by this new form. That’s why

 

you clawed your way back to this life.

 

 

I'm exhausted. The drab fog enveloping my house, my van, my neighborhood is an appropriate backdrop for this spiritually comatose version of me. Raising my gaze up heavenward sounds about as doable as bench-pressing an elephant at the moment. I’ve gone weak in the soul for some reason, a startling reminder of how susceptible I am to apathy – a state of mind far more dangerous than seething anger or gut-wrenching fear. What does one do when they’re dry as bone to keep from deteriorating and becoming scattered like ashes when breathed upon by even the mildest gust of adversity?  

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy upon me a sinner!”

 

                                    “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy upon me a sinner!”

 

… is all I’ve got.  It is everything I’ve got. The Jesus Prayer is an umbilical cord connecting my emaciated spirit to the Source of sustenance, me being too sidetracked and clumsy to feed myself.  Reciting continuously, sometimes silently, sometimes out loud, this ancient prayer of the heart is paramount for keeping at bay the indifference, the numbing stimuli and the self-doubt more than capable of lobotomizing me.  With it, I too am clawing my way from out of mere existence and back into Life.

On Maxim number five of fifty-five, Father Thomas Hopko says, Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied with other things. This short prayer can simply be, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy.” A person might just say “God,” but just some short prayer that fills the mind when the mind is not working in order to have the remembrance of God in one’s life, in one’s heart.  

I swear it’s like a congested highway up in my head, what with all of those unconstructive thoughts, worries and ponderings merging, crashing, changing lanes, running out of fuel. Repeating Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me when I am lying in bed, washing dishes, driving around town, before opening my mouth to speak, etc., etc., and etc., quiets the noise and clears up the traffic holding my mind hostage, and pulls me into the present, where Christ resides. On an afternoon like this one,  when I’ve run out of steam, the Jesus Prayer becomes an incomparably palpable gift of grace by divinely filling my empty mouth and heart with an offering to God I haven't the wherewithal to produce on my own. 

 The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine name. The power and effect of that name are divine, omnipotent and salvific, and transcend our ability to comprehend it. With faith therefore, with confidence and sincerity, and with great piety and fear ought we to proceed to the doing of the great work which God has entrusted to us: to train ourselves in prayer by using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. "The incessant invocation of God's name," says Barsanuphius the Great, "is a medicine which mortifies not just the passions, but even their influence. Just as the physician puts medications or dressings on a wound that it might be healed, without the patient even knowing the manner of their operation, so also the name of God, when we invoke it, mortifies all passions, though we do not know how that happens"

     - St. Ignaty Brianchaninov

When faced with the indefinable Mystery of salvation, I find it best to proceed as simply and humbly as possible – to keep my head bowed alongside the publican, my attention transfixed on my own desperate need for a Savior, echoing his authentic plea for mercy within each season and situation that I find myself, seeking not things, satisfaction, approval, respect, but Christ. Christ alone. Less of me, more of Christ.

Today my cross is weariness; God help me to bear it patiently and keep forging ahead.