View Podcast Page

The Power of the Name

October 17, 2011 Length: 15:40

When we are silently aware of the presence of Christ, the whisper of His name will bring healing to us and spill out to others.

Click to play
 
Printer-friendly

Transcript Transcript

During the last podcast, we reflected on God’s expressed desire for stillness. At the Red Sea, with Pharaoh’s warriors coming down upon the Israelites, God said, “I will fight for you; you have only to be still.”

When we are still, as God requests, we will know that we are loved by him, and when we know that we are loved by him, then we’ll also know that we have something to give, something left over, something going through us that actually heals others. God’s love in us will make us a healing presence to others.

I’d like to begin the podcast by having us listen to my lovely wife, though dead nineteen years, is still alive—very much alive in heaven and singing to us. In this song, she sings a lullaby from mother to child. Let’s hear it as a love song from the Lord Jesus Christ and all the heavenly host, including my wife, as a song of what stillness can teach us about how much we are loved, musically.

We’ll walk in the rain by your side.
We’ll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand.
We’ll do everything to help you understand
That we’ll love you as much as anybody can.

And the wind will whisper your name to you.
Little birds will sing along in time.
The trees will bow down when you walk by,
And morning bells will chime.

We’ll be there when you’re feeling down
To kiss away the tears from your eyes.
We’ll share with you all the happiness I’ve found,
A reflection of the love in your eyes.

And I’ll sing you a song of the rainbow,
A whisper of the joy that is mine.
And trees will bow down when you walk by,
And morning bells will chime.

We’ll walk in the rain by your side.
We’ll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand.
We’ll do everything to help you understand
That we’ll love you as much as anybody can.
Yes, we’ll love you as much as anybody can.

Stillness is about being, becoming music. Being loved. Being transformed, being notes floating in the air. Being different than I usually am. Being in God’s presence.

Let’s extend these thoughts. In Psalm 46, the inspired writer wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God.” And the converse is implied. If you’re not still, you may not know that I am God. That’s tragic. That possibility is tragic. Because if we don’t know God, then we don’t know ourselves, because we’re made in his image and likeness. If we don’t know him, then we don’t have an identity.

That’s why so many in our culture are having an identity crisis. “Who am I? Where am I? Look over here; look over there. Where’s my identity?” We can be looking all over outside of ourselves for our identity, but it’s not out there. In fact, our identity is not outside ourselves at all, but rather it’s inside. And stillness is the door into that identity, into the real self. I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me.

We begin the process of stillness by putting our mind—awareness—into the inside, into our body. At first, we become aware of our breathing. Our mind becomes aware of our body process. As St. John Climacus says, “Let the remembrance of Jesus be with you and with your every breath. Then indeed you will appreciate the value of stillness.”

Or put more simply by St. Maximus the Confessor, who said, “God is breath.” [Exhales.] That’s who God is. “God is breath.” [Exhales.] What do we breathe? We breathe [inhales], we breathe the name “Jesus.” His name is his presence. His person is mysteriously encapsulated in his name. As Zachariah says, “I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in his name.” In him. In his presence.

We’re told in Colossians that “whatever you do in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” We just breathe his name.

As Lev Gillet suggests, we “Let the name penetrate [our] soul as a drop of oil spreads out and impregnates a cloth. Let nothing of yourself escape. Surrender your whole self and enclose it within the Name.” Wrap the name around you.

I had a lovely little opportunity to illustrate this quote one day in class when I was teaching at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. I told the class the quote, and then I had along a piece of linen cloth, and I held it up. And then very clearly I put a drop of olive oil on the cloth. The seminarians and I saw the singular spot of oil on the cloth. The cloth is now spotted.

Then I put it down and gave the class. Near the end of the class, I picked up the cloth to show the students how the spot disappeared into the cloth. There was no evidence of a spot any longer, though the cloth had changed color just a little.

That’s the way the name of Jesus penetrates the soul. It slowly goes in into every part of us.

According to Lev Gillet, “The Name itself is a means of purification and perfection. [It’s] a touchstone, a filter”—an actual filter—“through which our thoughts, words and deeds have to pass to be freed from their impurities. None of them ought to be admitted”—come into us, to be admitted—“by us until we pass them through [the filter of] the Name, and the name excludes all sinful elements.” And, he adds, “This is a severe asceticism.”

I can speak out of my own shoes trying to do this ever so little; it is a severe asceticism. Because “It requires a forgetfulness of self, a dying to self, as the Holy Name grows [and penetrates] our souls.”

Popular bookstores are replete with books on living in the present moment. What does that really mean? When we live in the present moment, are we alone with just the moment? Our sensate data? Or is there something more?

Lev Gillet says, “Let us not regard our prayer in relation to fulfillment in the future.” I’m not praying about something that’s going to happen in the future or that I’ll get in the future or be repaid for in some sense in the future. No, no, no, no, no. Let’s not regard it “in relation to fulfillment in the future, but in relation to fulfillment in Jesus now.” There’s our answer. There’s the present moment. Fulfillment in Jesus in me now. “He is more than the giver of what [others and we] need…. He is both giver and gift, containing in Himself all good things…. The name of Jesus brings victory and peace”—victory over struggle, and peace—“when we are tempted.”

We become still by first becoming silent on the outside. Silence is a choice. I keep repeating that to myself and to you because repetition is the mother of learning. We need silence to still the chaos of the mind. As St. Gregory Palamas said, that’s why some teachers recommend beginners to “pay attention to the exhalation and [the] inhalation of their breath, and to restrain it [just] a little, so that while they are watching [the breathing] the intellect, too may be held in check.” So the intellect is held in check by focusing on the breathing so it can’t think of other stuff.

This all may seem very basic to me and to you, but in the culture in the world that we actually live in, and in our own lives, it isn’t so easy.

I can recall when my wife was alive and as a family we took the children camping, I would be amazed at the campground scene in the early evening. After supper and the dishes were all cleaned, many families would enter their tent for family time in the woods. Here we are in the woods with crickets and the smell of pine, and in many tents, I’d say perhaps most, the portable TV was on, and everyone sat in the tent watching what they would watch at home. Duh!

Or I can recall when we as a family would take a trip to Vermont and go downhill skiing, go up and try to appreciate the sights and the sounds the beauty of the majestic mountain, we would see many skiers with their trusty iPod, iBuds in their ears, listening to whatever they would listen to in their usual lives. Again, duh! Where is the silence?

We’re all tempted to squash silence, one way and another. That’s one way and another I do it, and perhaps you do it.

Bishop Kallistos Ware wrote a booklet entitled The Power of the Name. He begins with a quote that says, “When you pray, you yourself must be silent…. You… must be silent; let the prayer speak.” It’s a very interesting little paradox. We try to be silent and let the prayer speak, but if we’re making prayer, that’s not quite silent.

But the theology is, when we are praying in the interior praying, then in some mystical sense, we are listening. God speaks through the prayer—gentle, repetitive, open. And in that sense, silent listening prayer.

He says that “Silence is not merely negative—a pause between words…—but… highly positive: an attitude of attentive alertness, of vigilance, and above all… listening.”

Bishop Kallistos, along with so many others, says that “One way to embark on this journey inwards is through the Invocation of the Name. ‘Lord Jesus …’” Bishop Ware says this isn’t the only way, but it is a way of “utmost simplicity.”

In our silence, we try to become centered. I have sort of a center to me. I’m here, I’m a ball of centered energy. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov recommends we try to be aware of our “quiet, steady breathing.”

And St. Ignatius Brianchaninov goes on to say, “Breathe with care, gently and slowly.” And of course, when we’re bustling about—busy, busy, busy—the last thing we’re also aware of perhaps is our prayer.

Silence, coupled with an awareness of our breathing, gradually—gradually, gradually—opens our minds to God, the wonder of being loved and, therefore, of having something to give to others.

As my wife sang so beautifully, the Lord is always saying to us, “We’ll love you as much as anybody can.”

In our next podcast, we’ll try to go a little deeper into the role of prayer and stillness. Thank you.


« Back

"Your podcasts and broadcasts have hugely facilitated my development and growth in understanding of Orthodoxy. I do not think that I would have found my spiritual home without your role. I am more grateful to you all than can be expressed in words."

John Gabriel from Listowel, Ireland

 

Share this Episode