I’ve been reading Irma Zaleski’s just-published book Living the Jesus Prayer, which I would encourage anyone interested in this way of praying to read.
She says (pp.44-45):
The Jesus Prayer, because it is a path of reality, is a way of learning and accepting the tremendous truth, too often forgotten, that “only God is good.” (Matthew 19:17) We cannot be good, because we do not really know what good is. We can never comprehend the nature of God’s infinite goodness and love. We cannot be, strictly speaking, like God. No effort of our own can make us so…
I think it is true to say that as we walk the way of prayer, as we become more open to God, as we grow closer to him, we become more and more aware of how great an abyss separates us from God…
This longing, this sense of separation from God, is the heart of all true repentance. It is often a source of sadness for us, at times even of tears, that we seem to be so far away from what we have been called to be, so disappointing to ourselves and God. The Fathers often called it “bright sadness,” and considered it a great gift to receive, for it brings us always before the face of God. It teaches us the meaning of mercy and fills us with joy.
These word’s of Zaleski’s say what I have been wanting so much to say here, and have been quite unable to describe in my own words.
These last few weeks have been a strangely painful time, and yet good also. Irma Zaleski says, in the previous chapter:
The way of the Jesus prayer has been called “white martyrdom.” It is the way of the Cross, because there is no greater pain than to stand in the total poverty of our human weakness,to see clearly our misery, our inability to be good. The temptation to judge ourselves, to hate ourselves, would be irresistible if we did not know and had not experienced the merciful, healing power of Jesus.
I think that what has happened has been that this year, with the pilgrimages both to Walsingham and to Medjugorje, I have come so close to the presence of God that I have really not been able to bear the sight of myself in that mirror of glory. It has taken a long while, and much—though perhaps not enough—prayer to come to the point where I can write these words.
God knows where we go from here. I do know that the call (back) to the Jesus Prayer has been growing stronger and stronger since our return from Medjugorje. (The arrival of Living the Jesus Prayer in the post from Amazon, where I had pre-ordered it months ago and then forgotten all about, was one of those striking “coincidences” that God loves so much.)
I will try to be less sporadic in documenting this odd journey, in case it might help anyone reading this blog. It’s often hard, as I said above, to find words for this kind of thing; perhaps Irma Zaleski has given me a lever to crack the door of speechlessness a little ajar…