Guidance for a Good Beginning
Motto: “May God grant the entire country (world) to be a Burning Bush of prayer!”
(Elder Sofian Boghiu, †2002)
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
With the help of the Good God, with a Hierarchical blessing and the blessing of our spiritual fathers, on November 15, 2019, at the beginning of the Nativity Fast, and on the feast day of Saint Paisius of Neamt, we began a Vigil Lamp (a rule) of prayer addressed to all Orthodox Christians everywhere. This spiritual activity has as its patrons Elder Sofian Boghiu (you can read about Elder Sofian here) and other great men of prayer – Father Benedict Ghius, Ioan Kulighin, Daniil Sandu Tudor, Dumitru Staniloae, etc. – who participated from 1945 – 1948 in the Burning Bush spiritual movement at Antim Monastery in Bucharest, the capital of Romania (you can read more about the Burning Bush spiritual movement here and here).
Today, there is a very great need for our sacrifice of prayer to be united with repentance
We do not think there is much need to explain why it is so necessary nowadays for us to pray more and speak less. There is truly a need for a greater sacrifice of prayer from each of us. The greatest thing we can do to withstand the grave problems we confront as people, as families, as Orthodox scattered to all the corners of the world, the most significant thing we can do to strengthen the unity among believers and overcome the confusion of our times is to pray more, in a spirit of repentance. Saint Silouan the Athonite said: “It is best to pray without distraction because prayer is more precious than anything.”
For those who wish to be a part of this cooperative work of faith called the Burning Bush Lamp, it is good to have the blessing of their spiritual father to read the Psalter or receive his blessing as soon as possible.
The minimum amount of prayer asked of each participant is to read a kathisma per day. Saint Ephraim the Syrian speaks beautifully about the importance of reading the Psalter. He says the psalm “is a comfort to the soul, and a giver of peace”; it is “a gatherer of friends, a uniter of those estranged, and a reconciler of those at enmity”; it is “a light to the soul, and sanctification to the body;” it is “the joy of those who love God.” Saint Ephraim also tells us that “where the psalm is read with contrition, there is God with His angels.”
For those who desire to, and can, pray more, we recommend that you read – daily, or over the course of a few days – a number of beautiful prayers which you can read or download here and here. They are specifically prayers of repentance, since repentance is possibly the most important thing we now need. The Savior tells us that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7) And Saint John Chrysostom makes an apt comparison between our time on earth and that in eternity: “Now is the time for repentance; then, for judgement! Now is the time for battles; then, for crowns! Now is the time for struggle; then, for rest. Now is the time for work; then, for reward!”
We recommend that you say the short prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” as often as possible. Or the classic form of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner.” Let us try to say this short prayer at least one hundred times per day. When we say, “have mercy on me a sinner,” we do so in order to not fall into pride, not out of egotism. Saint Paisios the Athonite tells us that “the prayer of a humble person who considers himself worse than all others has greater value than the vigil another does with a proud mind. When we pray with pride, we fool ourselves.” The same Holy Father says: “We must help everyone with our prayer and not let the devil have his way. When one is pained by the prevailing condition of the world and prays, then people are helped. Pray with pain of heart! Then you will see what power prayer has.” Another form of calling on the Name of the Lord, which is very beneficial in our day, is: “Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and on all of Your world.” Elder Sofian Boghiu would encourage people to find time three times a day – morning, noon, and evening – to withdraw and recite the Jesus Prayer for three to fifteen minutes.
At the same time, we encourage you to read the prayers of commemoration found at the back of the Psalter at least once during each of the four fasts.
If health problems are not an obstacle, we recommend that at least during the periods in which you participate in this rule we have presented, you do at least 50 prostrations on normal days, and at least 100 bows on Sundays and Feast days.
How can we organize ourselves?
We recommend that you organize yourselves in groups of twenty people, in order to read the entire Psalter each day for at least one month. For this to work, one person must assume, with the blessing of his or her spiritual father, the responsibility of organizing a group that will read the Psalter from the beginning to the end of the respective month. This person will distribute a kathisma to each member of the group daily. Each member will read the same kathisma daily for a month. In this way, they can deepen their understanding of the psalm verses they have been given, learn certain psalms by heart, and will have more time to read commentary on their respective kathisma by the Holy Fathers. The organizer will also compose a small list of commemorations with the names of the people in the group, which he or she will hand out to each member of this small community to read after the kathismata. The organizer will choose a patron saint (or saints) for the group. The following month, each person will read the following kathisma. If at the end of the month, some members no longer wish to participate in this spiritual activity, then the organizer will have to find other Christians to replace the respective people.
We have provided the Psalter in the English language here, and an audio version of the Psalms here that you can use when you are tired and do not have the energy to read the kathisma.
In general, after we finish reading the Psalter, it is beneficial to commemorate at least a few names of the living and the dead. We can pray for those who love us and for those who hate us, for those who help us and those who wrong us, for people that are in pain, sickness, and great difficulties; for those who asked us to pray for them; for our benefactors and close ones. There are very many people who need to be commemorated in our prayers.
It would be good if such a rule of prayer were taken up, under the guidance of a canonical Orthodox clergyman, by various Orthodox communities in which the faithful know one another well, communicate among themselves well, and where Christians feel like they are a family. We, however, are addressing those believers in particular who do not have the opportunity to take part in such a community.
For any questions or suggestions regarding this spiritual program, please write to us at: email@example.com.
|With love in our Lord Jesus Christ,
On behalf of the organizers,
Fathers Teofan and Atanasie,
|June 18, 2023
Sunday of the Athonite Fathers