The Way of a Pilgrim (1881)

SkyLight Illumination’s The Way of a Pilgrim was a delight to read. The annotations on the even-numbered pages made the text come to life.

The book is the tale of a pilgrim who set off on a journey looking for a way to pray continuously. He is eventually told about the Jesus Prayer and begins to practice it under the direction of a spiritual advisor, who first recommends 3,000 repetitions a day—then 5,000, 6,000 and subsequently 12,000. The prayer grows in the pilgrim and begins to be prayed in his heart, helping him achieve continual prayer. Through the course of the narrative, we see how he was introduced to the Scriptures and the Philokalia and later to persons who showed him hospitality on his travels, a garden keeper, a logger, and, most notably, a noble family. The book ends with the pilgrim ready to make a journey on to Jerusalem. This book fascinating is a source of motivation to practice the Jesus Prayer. The pilgrim receives grace to pray without ceasing rather quickly, which has not been my experience, but his story is nonetheless heartening and encouraging.

Quotes:

“Many good works are required of a Christian, but it is prayer that must come first and foremost…” (13).

“I concentrated only on precisely carrying out the starets’s instructions. And do you know what happened? I became so accustomed to the prayer that when I stopped praying, even for a brief time, I felt as though something were missing, as if I had lost something. When I began to pray again, I was immediately filled with an inner lightness and joy” (23).

[Effects of praying during bad weather and hungry times, p. 29.]

“Finally, after a short time, I felt that the prayer began to move of its own accord from my lips into my heart…and my thoughts were filled with such a love for Jesus Christ that it seemed to me that if I were to see Him, I would throw myself down, embrace His feet, and never let them go, kissing them tenderly and tearfully. And I would thank Him for His love and mercy in granting such consolation through His name to His unworthy and sinful creature!” (37).

“God desires that we come to Him as sons, that we be honest and delight in the redemptive union with Him in our hearts and souls—but only out of love and devotion to him [i.e., not out of fear of punishment or hope of reward]” (47).

“Indeed, in this respect the distinction between the monastic life and life ‘in the world’ is but relative: every human being, by virtue of the fact that he or she is created in the image of God, is summoned to be perfect, is summoned to love God with all his or her heart, soul, and mind. In this sense, all have the same vocation and all must follow the same spiritual path” (Palmer, et al., qtd. 52).

“At the beginning, you must give up an allotted part of your time, night and morning, exclusively to this prayer. Then you will find that it begins to bear fruit, as it lays hold of the heart and becomes deeply rooted in it” (56).

“Why don’t you make a habit of saying the Jesus prayer? It reaches out to God more directly than any other prayer…” (61).

“There have been many preachers, but there have also been many hermits. Each found his own unique calling and followed it, believing that through this God Himself was guiding him on the path to salvation” (63).

[Bodies of saints and relics’ power, p. 66.]

“Live by your conscience, do not cheat anyone, and above all else pray to God, for everything comes from Him. Do not place your hope in anything or anyone, but only in God. Go to church, read the Bible, and remember [your parents] in your prayers” (75).

“‘Beat the enemies,’ says St. John of the Ladder, ‘with the name of Jesus.’ and a stronger weapon you will not find either in heaven or earth” (qtd. 84).

“Apophatic prayer coexists with cataphatic, and each strengthens the other. The way of negation and the way of affirmation are not alternatives; they are complementary” (Kallistos Ware, qtd. 86).

[Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, p. 101.]

[Method: visualizing the heart at prayer, p.117.]

“How can one not love and be grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who manifests His grace to sinners, to the blind and the unwise! I thank you too for teaching me the work of the heart” (121).

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