Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we reflect on what we are grateful for even during these dark times, I am thankful for our connection with God Himself. The following is an excerpt from “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” by Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, on the Jesus Prayer:
“A young man from Bosnia used to come to me here. He lived in the world and prayed the Jesus Prayer. This young man had a friend who was married and had children and a job. This friend was not particularly pious at the time, but he was a good man. One day the young man mentioned the Jesus Prayer to his friend. “Why don’t you try praying the Jesus Prayer,” he said. “I can teach you how.” So he taught him and gave him a prayer rope. In a very short time his friend received the gift of Grace, and both he and his family were transformed. The first young man had been practicing the Jesus Prayer for so long, yet he did not receive the gift of Grace.
After a while, the other young man came to see me and said, “Father, it is as though I have been enlightened by a special kind of joy and a peace I cannot describe. In my heart I constantly hear the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I know what I was like before, the kind of thoughts that I had, but now there is nothing like that in my mind anymore. I used to have lustful thoughts for the opposite sex; I used to get angry for the slightest reason, but now—I cannot explain how—I just cannot get angry. I do not know what has happened to me. No bad thoughts come to me now, even if I want them to. . . The only feeling that is left in me now is joy—an ineffable joy has taken over my entire being.”
I told him that he had been given the gift of Grace and that he would have it for as long as he could keep his thoughts away from the cares of this world. If he were to do that [i.e., return his thought to the cares of the world], I told him, he would stop hearing the words of the Jesus Prayer in his heart, and then the joy and peace would gradually disappear from his heart. He would again become laden with the cumbersome thoughts generated by the prince of this world. I told him that if he wished to keep the gift of Grace he had been given, he was to pray to God ceaselessly in order to block the thoughts that come from the realm of the demons and thus preserve the joy and peace that he was feeling.”
I pray that all of us will find this beneficial. God bless!
With love in Christ,
Father Niko Bekris