Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Name of Jesus

36. The use of the Holy Name not only brings anew the knowledge of our own union with Jesus in His incarnation. The Name is also an instrument by which we may obtain a wider view of Our Lord's relation to all that God has made. The Name of Jesus helps us to transfigure the world into Christ (without any pantheistic confusion). Here is another aspect of the invocation of the Name: it is a method of transfiguration.

37. It is so in regard to nature. the natural universe may be considered the handwork of the Creator... It can be considered as the visible symbol of the invisible divine beauty... And yet all this is insufficient. Creation is not static. It moves, striving and groaning, towards Christ as its fulfilment and end. (Romans 8.21,22) What we call the inanimate world is carried along by a Christward movement. All things were converging towards the Incarnation. The natural elements and the products of the earth, rock and wood, water and oil, corn and wine, were to acquire a new meaning and to become signs and means of grace. All creation mysteriously utters the Name of Jesus: 'I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.' (Luke 19.40) It is the utterance of his Name that Christians should hear in nature. By pronouncing the Name of Jesus upon natural things, upon a stone or a tree, a fruit or a flower, the sea or a landscape, or whatever it is, the believer speaks aloud to the secret of these things, he brings them to their fulfilment, he give an answer to their long and apparently dumb waiting... We shall say the Name of Jesus in union with all creation...

38. The animal world may also be transfigured by us. When Jesus remained forty days in the wilderness, he 'was with the wild beasts.' (Mark 1.13) We do no know what happened then, but we may be assured that no living creature is lift untouched by Jesus' influence. Jesus himself said of the sparrows that 'not one of them is forgotten before God.' (Luke 12.6) We are like Adam when he had to give a name to all the animals... Scientists call them as they think fit. As to us, if we invoke the Name of Jesus upon the animals, we give them back their primitive dignity which we so easily forget--the dignity of living beings being created and cared for by God in Jesus and for Jesus...

On the Invocation of the Name of Jesus, Lev Gillet (A Monk of the Orthodox Church)
Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, 1949

This is one of the most extraordinary and profound passages on prayer that I have read. (The 'Invocation of the Name of Jesus' referred to is, of course, the Jesus Prayer, as the book explains elsewhere.) All that is necessary in prayer is to bring those we hold in our hearts, in our perception even, into the presence of Christ by this prayer of the Name.

Yet Gillet's theology of the Prayer is more radical even than this. (It is small wonder this little book is not better known nor more widely available!) Earlier he writes:

27. The Name of Jesus brings us more than his presence. Jesus is present in the Name as a Saviour, for the word 'Jesus' means just this: saviour or salvation... Jesus began his earthly mission by healing and forgiving...

28. The Name of Jesus not only helps us to obtain the fulfilment of our needs... (John 16.23-24) But the Name of Jesus already supplies our needs. When we require the succour of Our Lord we should pronounce his Name in faith and hope, believing that we already receive what we ask for. Jesus Himself is the supreme satisfaction of all men's needs. And He is that now, as we pray. Let us not regard our prayer in relation to fulfilment in the future, but in relation to fulfilment in Jesus now. He is more than the giver of what we and others need. He is also the gift. He is both giver and gift, containing in Himself all good things... This is quite another thing than if he had merely given them to us. Now we may find in his Name all that he is. Therefore the Name of Jesus, in so far as it links us with Jesus Himself, is already a mystery of salvation...

(ibid.)

When I discovered this little pamphlet (it is only 32 pages long) on the bookshelf in one of the guest houses at Hilfield Friary, it was like discovering that someone had put words to my own deepest intuitions and longings. It struck me speechless for a long time, and I am only just beginning to try and think through some of the implications, at least for my own life of prayer. I'll try to write more here shortly.

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