09 November 2009

The Interior House of Prayer

For this Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, found in the writings of the fourteenth century Byzantine writer and mystic, Nicholas Cabasilas, are instructions concerning a house of prayer not built by human hands, that is, the heart and soul of man. This is written as a reflection of the Gosepl story of Jesus casting out those who sold and bought in the temple. Nicholas Cabasilas writes:

"Virtuous men keep prompt vigilance against the roots of evil and resist it from the outset; guarding their heart for God alone, dedicating it to Him as a temple, a remembrance of God. They know, in fact, that this sacred place should not be exposed to folly. They know that nothing equals the sacred soul that is consecrated to God. It must be very impenetrable to those who sell and buy, and be free from hawkers and moneychangers. For him who prays, this house of prayer must be free from turmoil. Truthfully, the term 'house of prayer' was not always present in the temple of Jerusalem where at times no one was praying. Instead, the expression 'house of prayer' well suits Christians, who according to the prescription of Saint Paul (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17), must be constantly devoted to union with God through constant prayer."

Nicholas Cabasilas continues by the explaining that the imagery of Christ driving them out with a scourge of little cords was “not to enforce the temple which He knew would be destroyed, but to emphasize to all of His faithful in which He promised to dwell,” that His Indwelling should keep us “free from worries and concerns.” He continues by writing that Jesus also “uses the whip to symbolize the boldness of our passions, and therefore there is much need of a strong heart and soul, of a sober mind and of maintaining vigilance, and above all that the intervening Hand of the Savior, for those who do not accept Him as such, cannot drive out the tumult of the soul. For anyone who lives in Christ, it is very important to maintain purity of soul from every disorder."

As this teaching continues, Nicholas Cabasilas writes about grace in the soul of the believer which comes through the sacraments; and that “grace, which dwells in the believer, is the Spirit of the Son of God crying out in our hearts: ‘Abba, Father.’ Scripture says that it is not right for us to leave the Word of God and serve tables" (cf. Acts 6:2). Nicholas Cabasilas explains that there are three reasons for this: "First, nothing is perpended ahead of God; next, because everything comes from the Supreme Distributor of every good; and finally, because the True God has promised those who seek first the Kingdom of heaven, to give the remainder in addition” (cf. Luke 12:31).

To close out his reflection on the interior house of prayer, Nicholas Cabasilas writes that Jesus “does not want us to tire ourselves fruitlessly. It takes the soul away from the remembrance of God and obscures the intellect.”