ON PRAYER
 
Prologue; §1-16
  

Duke Jean prays to Christ. the Duke of Berry's
Petites Heures,
BNF Lat 18014.

Translation by Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.  (translation in public domain)
Greek text based on: PG 79.1165-1200; Philokalia; and Tugwell.[1]

  

 

153 Chapters on Prayer

Περι προσευχῆς. [ΛΟΓΟΣ ΠΝΓ´ ΚΕΦΑΛΙΑ ΔΙΕΙΛΗΜΜΕΝΟΣ]̈̈

  

 

PROLOGUE

ΠΡΟΟΙΜΙΟΝ.

  

 

I WAS feverish with the inflammation of the passions, when you revived me as you usually do with the [healing] touch of your godly letter, palliating my diseased nous (intellect) in its shameful deformity: and thus you blessedly imitated our great professor and teacher.

Πυρέττοντά με τῷ φλογμῷ τῶν παθῶν, συνήθως ἀνεκτήσω, τῇ τῶν θεοφιλῶν σου γραμμάτων ἐπαφῇ, τὸν κάμνοντά μου νοῦν ἐν τοῖς αἰσχίστοις παραμυθησάμενος, καὶ τὸν μέγαν μιμησάμενος καθηγητὴν, και διδάσκαλον μακαρίως·

  And this is no surprise: for your share was the marked ones like blessed Jacob: you served well for Rachel, received Leah; and now you seek the [real] object of your longing, having fulfilled ‘the week’ [of years] (Gen 29:15-30).

καὶ οὐ θαυμαστόν· σῆ γὰρ ἀεὶ μερὶς γέγονε τὰ ἐπίσημα, ὡς καί τοῦ εὐλογημένου  Ἰακώβ· καλῶς γὰρ δουλεύσας τῆς  ᾿Ραχὴλ χάριν, καὶ λαβὼν τὴν Λείαν, ζητεῖς καὶ τὴν ποθουμένην, ὡς καὶ ταύτης δήπου πληρώσας τὰ ἕβδομα.

  For I do not deny that I had toiled all night and caught nothing: but when at your word I let down my nets (Lk 5:5) I caught an abundance of fish: I do not think they are [very] large, but there are a hundred and fifty-three of them (Jn 21:11); and I am sending them to you in the basket of love (cf. Mt 15:37; Mk 8:8) in an equivalent number of chapters, thereby fulfilling your instructions.

̓Εγὼ δὲ οὐκ ἀρνηθείην, ὡς ὅλην τὴν νύκτα κοπιάσας, πεπίακα οὐδὲν, πλὴν αλλ' ἐπὶ τῷ σῷ λόγῶ χαλάσας τὸ δίκτυον ἤγρευσα ἰχθύων πληθὺν, οὐκ οἲμαι μὲν μεγάλων, ἑκατὸν δὲ ὅμως καὶ πεντήκοντα τριῶν, καὶ τούτους ἀπέσταιλα ἐν τῇ σπυρίδι τῆς ἀγάπης διὰ τῶν ἰσαρίθμων κεφαλαίων, τὴν πρόσταξίν σου πεπληρωκώς·

  I am amazed at you and very jealous of your excellent purpose.  For your do not simply yearn for these [texts] that came into existence through hands, ink, and paper; rather [you yearn] for chapters fixed in the nous (intellect) through love and forgetfulness of injury.

 θαυμάζω δέ σε, καὶ λίαν ζηλῶ τῆς ἀρίστης προθέσεως τῶν περὶ προσευχῆς ἐρῶντα κεφαλαίων. Οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς τούτων ἐρᾷς τῶν ὑπὸ χειρῶν, καὶ ἐν χάρτῃ διὰ μέλανος τὸ εἲναι ἐχόντων, ἀλλὰ τῶν ἐν νῷ ἰδρυμένων δι' ἀγάπης, καὶ ἀμνησικακίας.

  SINCE everything is twofold, each facing the other as the wise Jesus [Ben-Sirach] says (Sir. 42:24), receive these chapters 

   Ἀλλ' ἐπεὶ πάντα δισσὰ, ἓν κατ' ἔναντι τοῦ ἑνὸς, κατὰ τὸν σοφὸν 'Ιησοῦν, δέχοϋ

[2] both in letter;

[1] and in spirit. 

πρὸς τῷ γράμματι
καὶ τῷ πνεύματι·

 But understand that nous (intellect) takes complete precedence over the letter, since without [nous] there can be no letter.

̈καὶ σύνες, ὡς πάντως τοῦ γράμματος νοῦς προηγεῖται· οὐκ ὄντος γὰρ τούτου, οὐδὲ γράμμα ἔσται.

In the same way prayer also has a twofold mode: 

Οὐκοῦν καὶ προσευχῆς διττὸς ὁ τρόπος,̈

[1] one active;

[2] the other contemplative. 

ὁ μέν τις πρακτικὸς,
ὁ δὲ θεωρητικὸς,
̈

And it is the same with numbers: 

οὕτω καὶ ἀριθμοῦ,̈

[1] on the surface there is quantity;

[2] while the inner significance is quality

τὸ μὲν πρόχειρός ἐστι προσότης,
τὸ δὲ σημαινόμενον ποιότης·

THEREFORE, in dividing my saying[s] on prayer into one hundred and fifty-three I am catering for you a ‘fish-[dinner]’ from the gospels (cf. Jn 21:13), to delight you with a symbolic number in which you will find both a triangular and a hexagonal form. [These] signify both:

εἰς ἑκατὸν οὖν πεντήκοντα τριῶν τὸν περὶ προσευχῆς λόγον διειληφόντες, εὐαγγελικὸν ὀψώνιόν σοι πεπόμφαμεν, ἵνα εὕρῃς συμβολικοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τερπνότητα καὶ σχῆμα τρίγωνον, καὶ ἐξάγωνον,

[2] reverent knowledge of the Trinity;

[1] and the boundaries of the orderly arrangement of the universe.

ὁμοῦ μὲν εὐσεβῆ γνῶσιν Τριάδος,
ὁμοῦ δὲ καὶ τῆσδε τῆς διακοσμήσεως τὴν περιγραφὴν ὑποφαῖνον.

  So, while the number one hundred by itself is ‘square’, fifty-three is a combination  of ‘triangular’ and ‘spherical’; because twenty-eight is triangular, and twenty-five is spherical (five times five equals twenty-five). 

'Αλλ' ὁ ἑκατὸν ἀριθμὸς καθ' ἑαυτὸν τετράγωνός ἐστιν, ὁ δὲ πεντήκοντα τρὶς, τρίγωνος, καὶ σφαιρικὸς· ὁ γὰρ εἰκοστὸς ὄγδοος μὲν τρίγωνος. Σφαιρικὸς δὲ ὁ εἰκοστὸς πεμπτος· πεντάκις γὰρ πέντε κεφάλαια.̈  

  So you not only have a square number, on account of the tetrad of the virtues; but also the wise knowledge of this age that resembles the number twenty-five because of the spherical nature of time.  

Οὐκοῦν ἔχεις τὸ τετράγωνον σχῆμα, οὐ μόνον διὰ τῆς τετρακτύος τῶν ἀρετῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦδε τοῦ αιῶνος τὴν ἔνσοφον γνῶσιν τῷ εἰκοστῷ πέμπτῳ ἐοικυῖαν, διὰ τὸ σφαιρικὸν τῶν χρόνων. 

For week after week, month after month, year after year, [time] rolls on from season to season, as we see in the movements of sun and moon, spring and summer, and the rest.

 Ἑβδομὰς γὰρ ἐπὶ ἑβδομάδα, καὶ μὴν ἐπὶ μῆνα κινεῖται, καὶ ἐξ ἐνιαυτοῦ εἰς ἐνιααυτὸν ὁ χρόνος κυλινδεῖται καὶ καιρὸς  ἐπὶ καιρὸν, ὡς ἐπὶ κινήσεως ἡλίου, καὶ σελήνης, ἔαρος, καὶ τῶν ἑξῆς ὁρῶμεν.̈

THE triang[ular number] you may take as signifying the knowledge of the Holy Trinity.

Τὸ δὲ τρίγωνον σημαίνει ἄν σοι τὴν τῆς ἁγίας Τριάδος γνῶσιν. 

Or else, if you obtain a  hundred and fifty-three by adding up many numbers, since it is a triangular number, consider it to mean: 

  Ἄλλως· εὶ δὲ διὰ τῆς πληθύος τῶν ἀριθμῶν κομίζῃ τὸν ἑκατοστὸν τρίτον τρίγωνον ὄντα, νοεῖν προσήκεϊ̈

[1] praktiké [asceticism],
[2] physiké [natural science], and
[3] theologiké [theology]; or

πρακτικὴν,
φυσικὴν,
θεολογικὴν, ἢ καῒ

[1] faith
[2] hope, and
[3] love; or

πίστεως,
ἐλπίδος, και
ἀγάπης,
̈

[1] gold
[2] silver, and
[3] precious stones

χρυσὸν,
ἄργυρον,
λίθους τιμίους.

ENOUGH, then, of these numbers. The chapters themselves are humble, but you will not be contemptuous, since you have known both plenty and want; and you have certainly not forgotten him who, far from rejecting the widow’s two coins, welcomed then more than the wealth of the many.

'Αλλ' ὁ μὲν ἀριθμὸς τοιοῦτος, τῶν δὲ κεφαλαίων τὸ ταπεινὸν οὐ περιυβρίσειας, ὡς εἰδὼς καὶ χορτάζεσθαι, καὶ ὑστερεῖσθαι, ναὶ μὴν καὶ ὡς μεμνημένος τοῦ τὰ δύο τῆς χήρας λεπτὰ μὴ ἀποβεβληκότος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπὲρ πλοῦτον πολλῶν ετέρων ἀποδεξαμένου· ]

  You know how to preserve the fruit of goodwill and love of your genuine brethren; so pray for me in my illness that I may be healed, and then take up my bed and walk (Mk. 2:11) by the grace of Christ [our true God, to whom be the glory unto the ages of ages.] Amen.

οὐκοῦν εὐνοίας, καὶ ἀγάπης καρπὸν εἰδὼς, φυλάξεις σοῖς γνησίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐπιτρέπων προσεύχεσθαι ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἀρ̀ῥωστοῦντος, ὅπως ὑγιαίνῃ, καὶ ἑαυτοῦ τὸν κράββατον ἄρας, λοιπὸν πατήσῃ, χάριτι Χριστοῦ [τοῦ ἀληθινοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.]   Ἀμήν.


  

 

On Prayer, § 1-16

 

  

 

  1. IF one wishes to prepare fragrant incense, he should combine clear frankincense, cassia, onycha and oil [of myrrh] in equal amounts, according to the Law (Exod. 30:34-5). This signifies the tetrad of the virtues For if these four are fully [present] and equally balanced, the nous (intellect) will not be betrayed.

Α´.  Εἴ τις βούλοιτο εὐῶδες θυμίαμα σκευάσαι, τὸν διαφανῆ λίβανον, καὶ τὴν κασσίαν καὶ τὸν ὄνυχα, καὶ τὴν στάκτην ἐξίσου συνθήσει κατὰ τὸν νόμον.  Ταῦτα δέ ὲστιν ἡ τετρὰς τῶν ἀρετῶν· ἐὰν γὰρ πληρέσταται, καὶ ἴσαι τυγχάνωσιν, οὐ προδοθήσεται ὁ νοῦς.

  2. A SOUL purified by the fullness of the virtues establishes the nous in an unshakable position, rendering it receptive of the stable state it desires.

Β´.  Καθαρθεῖσα ψυχὴ διὰ τῆς τῶν ἀρετῶν πληρότηος ἀκλόνητον τὴν τάξιν τοῦ νοῦ κατασκευάζει, δεκτικὸν αὐτὸν ποιοῦσα τῆς ζητουμένης καταστάσεως.

  3. PRAYER is [intimate] conversation of the nous with God.  So then, what stable state must the nous possess to be able to stretch out unalterably toward its own Master and converse with him without any intermediary?

Γ´.  ̔Η προσευχὴ, ὁμιλία ἐστι νοῦ πρὸς Θεόν· ποίας οῦ̓ν δεῖται καταστάσεως ὁ νοῦς, ἵνα ἰσχυσῃ ἀμεταστρόφως ἐκταθῆναι  πρὸς τὸν οἰκεῖον Δεσπότην, καὶ συνομιλεῖν αὐτῷ μηδενὸς μεσιτεύοντος;

4. IF Moses was hindered when he attempted to approach the bush burning on earth, until he had taken off the shoes from [his] feet (Exod. 3:2-5); do you not think that if you wish to [both] see the One who is above every concept and perception and to converse with him, you should cast away from yourself every impassioned mental concept (noema)?

Δ´.  Εἰ τῇ ἐπὶ γῆς βάτῳ φλεγομένῃ προσεγγίσαι πειράσας Μωϋσῆς κωλύεται ἄχρις οῦ̔ λύσει τὸ ὑπόδημα τῶν ποδῶν, πῶς αὐτὸς τὸν ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν ἔννοιαν καὶ αἴσθησιν ἰδεῖν βουλόμενος, καὶ συνόμιλος αὐτῷ γενέσθαι, οὐ λύεις ἐκ σοῦ πὰν νόημα ἐμπαθές;

5. FIRST of all pray that you may receive tears, so that by means of sorrow (penthos) you may be able to calm the wildness within your soul; and by confessing your iniquity to the Lord, obtain forgiveness from him.

Ε´.  Πρότερον περὶ λήψεως δακρύων προσεύχου, ἵνα διὰ τοῦ πένθους μαλάξῃς τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ σου ἀγριότητα, καὶ ἐξαγορεύσας κατὰ σου τὴν ἀνομίαν σοῦ τῷ Κυρίῳ, παρ' αὐτοῦ ἀφέσεως τεύξῃ.

6. MAKE use of tears to realize every petition, for it delights your Master to receive prayer [offered] with tears.

ϟ´.  Κέχρησο τοῖς δάκρυσι πρὸς παντὸς αἰτήματος κατόρθωσιν· λίαν γὰρ χαίρει σου ὁ Δεσπότες ἐν δάκρυσι προσευχὴν δεχόμενος.

7. EVEN if you weep rivers of tears at your prayer, on no accout be inwardly haughty, as if you were superior to others. For your prayer has received this help so that you may be able to [more] easily confess your sins and propitiate the Lord by means of tears. So do not turn into passion the antidote to passions, lest you anger all the more the [One] who gave you this grace.

Ζ´.  ̓Εὰν πηγὰς δακρύων ἐκχέῃς ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ σου, μηδαμῶς ἐπαίρου ἐν σεαυτῷ ὡς ὑπὲρ τοὺς πολλοὺς ὤν· βοήθειαν γὰρ προσείληφεν ἡ προσευχή σου, ἵνα δυνηθῇς προθύμως ἐξαγορεύειν σου τὰς ἁμαρτίας, καὶ ἐξευμενίσασθαι τὸν Δεσπότην διὰ τῶν δακρύων. [Η´.]  Μὴ οῦ̓ν εἰς πάθος τρέψῃ τὸ τῶν παθῶν ἀλέξημα, ἵνα μὴ πλέον παροργίσῃς τὸν δεδωκότα τὴν χάριν·̈

  8. MANY who weep for their sins, have forgotten the purpose of their weeping, gone insane, and wandered away.

Η´.  πολλοὶ δακρύοντες ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν, επιλαθόμενοι τοῦ τῶν δακρύων σκοποῦ, μανέντες ἐξεπλάγησαν.

  9. STAND patiently toiling,

and pray well-toned,

Θ´.  Στῆθι ἐμπόνως,
καὶ προσεύχου ευ
̓τόνως,

and put to flight the assaults of anxieties and [tempting-]thoughts: they disturb and trouble you in order to make you relax your tone.

καὶ ἀποστρέφου τὰς τῶν φροντίδων καὶ διαλογισμῶν ἐπιτεύξεις· ταράττουσι γὰρ καὶ θορυβοῦσί σε, ἵνα ἐκλύσως τοῦ τόνου.

  10. WHEN the demons see that you are eager to truly pray, they insinuate mental concepts (noemata) of certain affairs that seem to demand attention; and within a short [time] they arouse the memory of these things and move the nous to seek them out. And failing to find them, it becomes very sorrowful and disheartened. Then when [the nous] stands for prayer, the demons remind it of the [matters] it had sought and remembered, so as to make it halfheartedly [seek] knowledge of them and thus lose the fruitfulness of  prayer.

Ι´.  ̔́Οταν ἴδωσιν οἱ δαίμονες προθυμούμενόν σε ἀληθῶς προσεύξασθαι, τότε ὑποτίθενται νοήματά τινων πραγμάτων δῆθεν ἀναγκαίων, καὶ μετὰ βραχὺ ἐπαίρουσι τὴν περὶ αὐτῶν μνήμην, κινοῦντες τὸν νοῦν πρὸς ζήτησιν αὐτῶν, καὶ ὡς μὴ εὑρίσκων σφόδρα λυπεῖται, καὶ ἀθυμεῖ· ἡνίκα δὲ στῇ εἰς προσευχὴν, ὑπομιμνήσκουσιν αὐτὸν τῶν ζητηθέντων, καὶ μνημονευθέντων, ἵνα χαυνωθεὶς ὁ νοῦς πρὸς γνῶσιν αὐτῶν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν εὐκαρπον προσευχήν.

 11. EXERT your nous to stand at the time of prayer [as if] deaf and dumb, and [then] you will be able to pray.

ΙΑ´.  ̓Αγωνίζου στῆσαι τὸν νοῦν σου, κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τῆς προσευχῆς κωφὸν, καὶ ἄλαλον, καὶ δυνήσῃ προσεύξασθαι.

 12. WHENEVER you encounter temptation, contradiction, or yearning; or when indignation (thumos) moves you to take revenge on your opponent or to break out yelling: remember prayer and the judgment that attends on prayer, and immediately the unruly movement within you will be quieted.

ΙΒ´.  ̔Ηνίκα ἀπαντήσει σοι πειρασμὸς, ἢ ἀντιλογία, ἢ ἐρεθίσῃ, ἢ πρὸς τὴν δι' ἐναντίας ἄμυναν κινῆσαι θυμὸν, ἢ ῥῆξαι φωνήν τινα, μνήσθητι τῆς προσευχῆς καὶ τοῦ κατ' αὐτὴν κρίματος· καὶ εὐθέως ἡ ἔν σοι ἄτακτος κίνησις ἠρεμήσει.

 13. IF you take any [kind of] revenge on a brother who has wronged you, it will all become a stumbling block for you at the time of prayer.

ΙΓ´.  ̔́Οσα ἂν ποιήσῃς πρὸς ἄμυναν ἀδελφοῦ ἠδικηκότος σε, ἅπαντα εἰς σκάνδαλόν σοι γενήσεται ἐν καιρῷ προσευχῆς.

 14. PRAYER is an offshoot of gentleness and freedom from anger.

ΙΔ´.  Προσευχή ἐστι πραότητος καὶ ἀοργησίας βλάστημα.

 15. PRAYER is the budding forth of joy and thankfulness.

ΙΕ´.  Προσευχή ἐστι χαρᾶς καὶ εὐχαριστίας πρόβλημα.

 16. PRAYER is an antidote to sadness and despondency.

Ιϟ´.  Προσευχή ἐστι λύπης καὶ ἀθυμίας ἀλέξημα.

 

[1] The best translation of De Oratione currently available, based on the most reliable manuscripts, is that of Sinkewicz: Evagrius Ponticus, The Greek Ascetic Corpus, (Oxford, 2003), pp. 183-209.

  The translation provided on these webpages makes liberal use of the melifluous version of Simon Tugwell, O.P: Evagrius Ponticus Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer, Faculty of Theology, Oxford, 1987.The Greek text used in this translation is based principally on PG 79,1165-1200 and Philokalia I (Athens, 1957), pp. 176-189This Greek text incorporates textual emendations suggested by: [1] Hausherr, Le Traité de l’Oraison d’Evagre le Pontique in Rev.d’Asc.et Mys.v.15, 1934; pp. 34-93, 113-170; and [2] Tugwell, Evagrius Ponticus: De oratione (Oxford: Faculty of Theology, 1981), Greek text based on six MSS.

  Additional (older) English translations of de Oratione may be found in: [1] Early Fathers from the Philokalia (Faber); [2] The Philocalia, vol. 1 (Faber); and [3] J. E. Bamberger, O.C.S.O, tr., Evagrius Ponticus, Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer (Cistercian).  


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