November 1, 2014

On Inner Christianity (Excerpt)

By Archpriest John Zhuravsky
Fr. John Zhuravsky was born into a priestly family in Latvia in 1867, later graduating from the Riga Theological Seminary. As a young man he met St. John of Kronstadt, whose example he sought to emulate during the entire course of his pastoral ministry, not only in prayer and asceticism, but also in his labors to help the poor and imprisoned. Noted for his gift of clairvoyance, he reposed in the Lord in Riga in 1964.     
The Saints of God came to know the innermost Mystery hidden in the Name of God; they came to know by experience the saving effect of this Name on the whole person: on the body, the mind, and the heart. They came to know that the greatness of the Name of the Lord Jesus is loftier than any attainment of reasonable creatures, either earthly or heavenly. They came to know that the Name of the Lord Jesus is above all names: It is the source of joy, the source of Divine life. It is Spirit. It grants life, transforms, refines, and deifies.  

The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ contains within itself a special, divine strength. The strength of this Name heals the body of ailments and the soul of passions. The demons tremble before the Name of Jesus, tormented by the fear of the greatness of its Divinity; they flee from it. Therefore the Fathers said: flog the foe with the Name of Jesus, for there is no greater weapon in heaven or on earth (St. John of the Ladder). For the sake of the Name of Jesus, invoked by the one who prays, help from God descends upon him and he is granted remission of his sins. For the sake of the Name of the Lord, our sinful prayers are heard; and for the sake of this Name salvation is granted unto us.

The power of the Name of Jesus frees the mind from the wavering and whirling of empty thoughts, while the will is strengthened in the fulfillment of the Lord’s commandments. The power of this Name enlightens the mind and permits God-pleasing thoughts and feelings, which belong to immaculate human nature, to dwell in the soul. There is no room left in it for alien thoughts and feelings (Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov), vol. II, p. 282 [in Russian]).

By the Name of the Lord Jesus, revival is bestowed upon the soul and sin is put to death. Christ the Lord Jesus is Life – and His Name is vivifying and full of Life. “His Name is Life Eternal” (St. Symeon of Thessalonica).

It grants life to those who invoke it with faith, making them partakers of Life Eternal. The Name of the Lord Jesus is holy and sanctifying for those who invoke it: it sanctifies the mouth, the tongue, the heart, and the whole body; it even sanctifies the surrounding air.

God hath given Him a Name above every name, the Apostle writes, “That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

The saints of God came to know this innermost Mystery of the Name of God; they came to know it by experience, in a wondrous alteration of their human nature, which is why they call upon us, and invite us, and implore us – who are dark and unenlightened – to prayer in the Name of Jesus. They came to know the Mystery of the Name of the nameable God, revealed to us in His “new Name that was before the world existed” (St. Athanasius of Alexandria). To this Name they constructed churches throughout the whole world and created a harmonious Liturgical rite. They offered up all prayers in His Name and supplications for the sake of His Name. And everyone that belongs to God has been sanctified by the Name of Christ from his birth into this world. Everyone has learned to love this Name more than anything else on earth: to breathe this Name like air, to have it in his mind and on his lips, in his heart and thoughts, and to cry out: “Love this, love it – as one would love an Invocation that is brilliant, luminous, and sweeter than all that is sweet” (St. Meletios).   

For He Who bears this Brilliant and Luminous Name is Himself a Brilliant Light that is delectable, sweeter than all things, and worthy of being invoked and chanted to at all times, and not with simple voices, but with venerable ones, that is, voices like unto Him. Thus, the Holy Church chants in its Divinely inspired, stirring, touching, and majestically tender evening hymn: “O Joyous Light of the holy glory… O Jesus Christ…”

Yes, the venerable monks had this love for Christ the Saviour. They came to know by experience that He is worthy of being praised at all times by the righteous. And with what Angelic delight did they call upon His sweet Name! With what divine rapture did they love the radiant Name! And with what faith and love did they call upon Him! With what Angelic delight did they suffer every imaginable torment and martyrdom for this Name! And with what heavenly inspiration did they both speak and write about Him and glorify Him: “Every day will I bless Thee, and I will praise Thy Name for every, yea, for ever and ever” (Psalm 144:2). And they justified it with the words of the Prophet, who said: “And all shall glory in Thee that love Thy Name, for Thou shalt bless the righteous” (Psalm 5:12).

With what resolute detachment from the life of the corporeal flesh, from the earthly lusts of the flesh, did they retreat into the deserts and cliffs, into the forests and wilds for the sake of this Name! They left behind mothers and fathers, wives and children, brides and grooms, wealth, honor, and glory – and rushed to the strait and narrow path, to the path of afflictions and deprivation, for the sake of Him who delighted them with His Sweetest Name.

Their divine love for this Name and their mystical hearing were opened by the Holy Spirit to the mysteries of the heavenly depths, to the mysteries of the hidden life of the “noetic” world, to the world on high, where “All the orders of Angels in Heaven unceasingly glorify Thy most holy Name, O Jesus” (Akathist to the Sweetest Jesus).

They needed “to see and hear the voice of the liturgy of spiritual beings” (as St. Isaac the Syrian said in Homily 47 [70 in English]).

They heard this wondrous, immortal symphony of Heaven; this innumerable multitude of the most pure and sun-like “noetic beings” with their ineffable paradisiacal voices, merged into a single hymn – these harmonious, majestic chants of praise with the most reverent delight and love for this sweetest Name, this Source of Light and Joy, of Life and Heavenly rejoicing. With their illuminated genius, their purified and exquisite hearing, they heard this Divine Symphony of the Angelic world and imparted to us, who are deaf and needy, this paradisaical music of thoughts and feelings in the church services, in the church hymns, and especially in the Akathist to the Sweetest Jesus.

Yes, it would be impossible to define this Name in human language as anything other than Sweetest. This is the definition of an illumined heart. And this work is the inimitable work of a spiritual genius reflecting the Music of Heaven in itself.

We are deaf to all things divine, and therefore do not hear this Symphony. Our hearing perceives only the low, muffled sounds of the earth: the groaning of the earth and the groaning of our hearts, deafened by the poison of sin; our hearts are torn by the anguished cries of Hades that we bear within ourselves. We have not come to know the Mystery of the word vibrating in harmonic combinations of sounds. For us it is a dead sound. Therefore we do not hear the Heavenly Symphony that sounds forth in the Verbal Name of God. And therefore our deafened and sinful souls do not delight and rejoice in the remembrance of the Name of God. But the ancient Prophet knew this mysterious “remembrance,” he heard heavenly music in the sound of the Name of God, and therefore said: “I remembered God and I was gladdened” (Psalm 76:4).

But for us this remembrance is burdensome, boring, dull – it does not give us joy. We do not hear the joy of heaven in it. For us it is infinitely easier and more enjoyable pointlessly to go around in circles in our minds and in our empty thoughts, rather than to repeat this all-joyful Name.

After all, one comes to know the heavenly only here. The beginning of this knowledge starts here. It is here that the soul communes with this music of Heaven – in noetic labor. If it does not commune here, if it does not come to love this Name here, then it will not anywhere else. We will remove ourselves there, into our eternal Hell, and we will already eternally abide in the sounds of other music: the throes of eternal weeping and lamenting, where “there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth,” and the pain of belated, fruitless repentance. Therefore the Fathers implore us to practice here “this Invocation that is brilliant, luminous, and sweeter than all that is sweet,” this Heavenly Music.

Learn to love it here, before it is too late, for our time on earth is not given to us for empty thoughts and a flesh-loving life, but for the acquisition of an existence that is noetic and eternal; for the acquisition during our brief time on earth of the Eternal Heavenly Love: God.

Let us strive towards this “noetic” acquisition, and then we will come to know the joy of the invocation of this Name; and we, even here, will hear the Angelic doxology, joining in a single hymn together with them, having the heavenly joy of chanting the praise of the Wondrous Name of the Wondrous God. 

The Russian original of the book is found here: