Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick and Unceasing Prayer of the Heart


In his Confession, Saint Patrick describes with some detail his glorification before being chosen by God to be a missionary to the Celts. Though he was a simple and uneducated youth, and though a slave, he was also a true Christian ascetic and lived his daily life as a hesychast. This, together with his persistent prayer, brought him through the purification of his heart to the illumination of the nous, as is borne witness through the gift of unceasing prayer. Below are two passages from his Confession which reveal the stages by which he acquired this unceasing prayer:

16. "But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of Him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day I said from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time."

25. "And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and I was as it were, inside my own body, and I heard Him above me—that is, above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the course of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed to me that it was the Spirit. And so I awoke and remembered the Apostle’s words: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for utterance.’ And again: ’The Lord our advocate intercedes for us.’"

The entire text can be read here.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
The Master revealed thee as a skillful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who honour thy memory.
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