Prayer is the nature of the human person. Man is created as a Doxological (Praise) and Eucharistic (Thanksgiving) being. When is a human being manifesting what a human is really all about? Human beings are most the way they were created to be when in their right minds. When we are in our right minds we are in a state of prayer. When we are in our right minds we are centered and in a state of receptiveness to reality, to God.
Martyrs came without bitterness. They were calm, they were in their right minds. They did not swear and curse – this is one way we show our fallenness. In our right minds we can manifest within ourselves the dignity that God intended human nature to survive with. Psalmody, spiritual reading, liturgical prayer, ceaseless prayer arm us for adversity so that our first word is not cursing but blessing.
One of the goals of prayer is to arm us for adversity. Some, when facing protracted difficult situations shine through. The 20th century is considered by some to be the most enlightened but it has also had the greatest concentration of martyrs. 10s of millions of Christians have been killed.
I had the great blessing, while at seminary, to hear Vera Bouteneff guest lecture on Father Arseny. She is the translator of “Father Arseny 1893-1972 Priest Prisoner, Spiritual Father.”
Father Arseny was an art historian and later ordained a hieromonk. He found himself in the Russian gulag during the worst years of communism. He lived his life in Christ. His main teaching was to “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2.
Consider his character, dignity, God-centeredness. He was always in his right mind; a mind of prayer, praise and thanksgiving. His rootedness in prayer gave him an arsenal in the camp.
Reading the book she translated was life changing. Listening to Vera discuss the book was like hearing her speak about an old friend. Father Arseny lived a true spiritual life. He feared no one. He shows us that love is the result of work. Father Arseny was in prison for 18 years.