1. The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers


Published on Kung Kao Po, Chinese Catholic Weekly, on 5th July, 2020

The Diocese instigated on the Feast of Christ the King last year the theme for the liturgical year to be “Maranatha”, reminding the faithful to emulate the early church to pray with "Maranatha" in mutual support of each other in times of hardship while expecting the Lord.

"Maranatha" has a long, long history, originally dated back to the fourth century Desert Fathers and Mothers using this “Pure Prayer” of “worship in spirit and truth”, having entered into silence and stillness. This was by means of repeating quietly a prayer phrase to reach silence, focusing on the Lord. This was known as `Hesychia’ by the Christians in the East. John Cassian incorporated their teachings of this simple and quiet prayer into his book “Conference’, Chapter Nine.

He urged us to pray with a prayer phrase `formula’, following the teachings of the Gospel, and “go into your Inner Room” (Mt 6:6), detaching from our messy thoughts, running to the Lord.

Another Desert Father Evagrius considered that “Purity of the Heart” the good fruits of prayer as a result of such simple and direct encounter with the Lord. The initial formula was “Save me, O God" (Psalm: 69:2). It was first known as “the Prayer of the Name”, then “Prayer of the Heart”, and finally the "Arrow Prayer" as described in the “Jesus Prayer”. The origins of these references can be traced back to the cry of Bartimeus, the blind man, who shouted, “Jesus son of David, have mercy on me,” (Mark 10:47). The publican said, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18 10-14)

At a later stage St. Benedict often quoted in His “Rule” the teachings of Cassian and integrated this prayer formula with our routine work. This became the “Ecumenical Prayer” for numerous mystics over generations. It was established many years before the official split between the Roman Catholics and the East Orthodox Church.

Now this mantra is no longer the patent for the religious and the clergy. John Main OSB the Master of meditation from the 20th Century initiated in using “ Maranatha” to practice Christian meditation. He emphasized meditation is principally a prayer for the general public saying” Meditation is as natural for our spirit as breathing does for the human body.”

by Lina Lee, Hon Member, The World Community for Christian Meditation (Hong Kong)

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