St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain was born in 1749 on the island of Naxos. He was baptised Nicolas and received his early education from the local priest. He entered Dionysiou Monastery on Mt Athos in 1775, and soon after was clothed with the Monastic Habit and given the name Nicodemus.
St Andrew of Crete (660-740 AD) was a bishop, born in Damascus, who served the Church in various ways until being sent to Crete, which was his final place of office. He is counted as one of the most prolific and important hymnographers of the Orthodox Church, traditionally being known as the first hymnographer to write the type of hymn known as the canon.
In the lead up to Pascha, we are slowly but steadily initiated into the Orthodox way of life through the period of Great Lent. Throughout these six weeks preceding Holy Week we are encouraged to: fast in order to detach from our desires; give alms so that we may connect with our neighbour; and, pray more than we usually do to be filled with the grace of God.
Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex was born in Russia in 1896, but departed as a young man in 1921 for the intellectual and artistic hubs of Europe. He finally settled in Paris where he found success as an artist. During this time, he engaged in the practices of oriental mysticism.
In his conversation with Nicholas Motovilov, St Seraphim of Sarov instructs that the aim of the Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit. Practising the virtues should not be the goal of our spiritual life; rather the virtues should be the means by which the goal is achieved.
The great treasure of Christian literature known as the Evergetinos takes its name from the monk Paul Evergetinos, the founder of an 11th century monastery in Constantinople dedicated to the Theotokos “the Benefactress” (ἡ μονὴ τῆς Εὐεργέτιδος)
St Gregory Palamas in his homily on the ‘Dormition of Our Supreme Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary’ reveals the mystery that is the Theotokos. He explains how Panagia, through her obedience to the divine plan of God, ‘to things heavenly rather than things earthly,’ made ‘earth heavenly, (since) she deified the human race’.
So much could be said about this topic. This article will start off by answering a couple of basic questions about prayer in order to get the ball rolling.
Just a short disclaimer here, this article doesn’t come from some great authority on prayer and the ascetic struggle. It comes from a struggling student. However, I will quote from real experts, saints who lived the words of St Paul to “pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
St John of Damascus was born in 675 or 676 in Damascus to a family of civil servants. His father and grandfather were notable administrators in the Muslim court at that time and it is possible that St John also occupied this role for a time. Brought up with a Hellenic education as well as one in the culture of the Muslim Caliphate, St John used both in the service of Christ. The first was used to defend the veneration of icons when he was a monk at the Mar Saba Monastery near Jerusalem, and the second used to critique and highlight the inconsistencies within Islam. He reposed in the Lord in the year 749 at the Mar Saba Monastery.
St Ephraim the Syrian was a fourth century deacon, hymnographer and theologian. He wrote on a variety of themes and was extremely prolific. His hymns alone cover topics ranging from the Nativity to refuting heresies, and his prose writings on the books of Genesis and Exodus are still read.
Before closely analysing the words of this Lenten Prayer, it is necessary to go into why this Prayer is recited during the Lenten period. Our Church understands that this Prayer captures the penitent aspect of the spirit of Great Lent, and this is prayed in the weekday Lenten services.