“The more the rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ’s holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it.” St Hesychios the Priest, #41, p.169.
“When combined with watchfulness and deep understanding the Jesus Prayer will erase from our heart even those thoughts rooted there against our will.” #137, p.186.
“Let us hold fast, therefore, to prayer and humility, for together with watchfulness they act like a burning sword against the demons.” #176, p. 193.
Agriculture was the major catalyst toward the technologically advanced societies of today. When people are able to plant and harvest things from the ground, and produce massive amounts of food, populations explode and life flourishes. However, there are several key components that, if not present, hinder the growth of plant life, and thus human life. The first is water. If there is no water, the ground is made hard and plants are deprived of nourishment. The second is someone to till the ground. Without the work of humans agriculture cannot even begin. Further, when a society has a bad harvest it is all the more susceptible to outside attack. The people are weakened and thus less able to fight against those who would seek to destroy them. So, a thriving crop is vital to the protection of life as well as its nourishment.
St Hesychios reminds us of the agricultural nature of soul work when he says, “The more the rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ’s holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it.” The rain, for Hesyshios, is the name of Jesus. Without this name the ground of the human heart becomes dry and hard, unsuitable for the fruits of the Spirit to be produced therein. This barrenness in turn leads to a lack of joy, and thus a lack of motivation or ability to defend our land against demonic attack. What about the human toil necessary for a successful harvest? Hesychios says we must “call upon it.” In order for the rain to fall we must ask for it. Not only that, but we must increase the frequency of our asking, and thus procure more rain.
Farming is hard work. Lack of rain, nobody to work the fields, and the threat of outside attack are ever present; but, unlike real farming, we have control over these factors in our spiritual labor. Every time we call upon the name of Jesus the soil of our heart is watered. We have the Spirit, the prayers of Jesus, the prayers of all the saints and angels, and each other to help us work the field of our soul. Hesychios argues that the Jesus Prayer, watchfulness, and humility become a “flaming sword” with which to slay the demons (# 176). Though the demonic forces continue to lay siege against our heart in order to kill us and steal the harvest, Jesus’ name becomes the walls of defense and the flaming sword in our hand.
Many in the house have commented on how they sing the Jesus Prayer song during the day. Indeed, this song is a powerful tool for keeping the Lord’s name on our lips and in our hearts at all times. I find myself humming it or singing it as I walk across campus or drive to work. Hesychios, however, challenges us to supercharge this discipline by combining this prayer with “watchfulness and deep understanding.” (#137) It is not that saying Jesus’ name is not enough. Rather, saying the name ought to lead to greater spiritual attentiveness and clarity. The coalescence of these virtuous disciplines will inevitably lead to the uprooting of all evil thoughts that have become weeds in the garden of our heart. So let us attend to the garden. May we pray the name until the soil is drenched. May we till the soil alongside the saints and protect the harvest with the flaming sword, which is the name of Jesus.