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Keep Your Mind Firmly Fixed on God

December 23, 2012

The title of this blog post is derived from Elder Sophrony’s book On Prayer in which he recognizes that the whole of the spiritual life may be summarized in this brief exhortation.  Those who keep their minds firmly fixed on God are not distracted or deterred by the passions.  However, if we are honest with ourselves, the simplicity of the statement does not solve the problem of the real difficulty that we encounter trying to follow this exhortation, because it requires that we offer up the entirety of our existence to God. To keep our minds firmly fixed on God, we need to make a spiritual sacrifice through the most intimate part of our being that defines who we are: the focus of our mind.  But how can we keep our mind firmly fixed on God?  Elder Sophrony counsels his spiritual children that keeping one’s mind firmly fixed on God is possible through frequent communion, study of the Gospel, and constant invocation of the Holy Name of Christ. In these three inter-related areas, we seek to meet Christ, to learn from Christ, to taste Christ, to breathe Christ, and to live entirely in Christ. Behavior, cognition, emotion, the musings of the heart—every psychological and spiritual aspect of our life—are centered on Christ and on Christ alone. As for the myriad of decisions we make every day, we find illumination and discernment by keeping the Gospel of Christ as a compass and the goal of communion with Christ as worthily as possible as an aim, and all along the name of Christ on our lips. Then, the Holy Lord Jesus becomes all in all for us and we keep our minds fixed on God. And what once seemed so difficult becomes now much easier, for with God, in truth, all things are possible.

St. SilouanOne source of spiritual guidance for the Elder Sophrony was Saint Theophan the Recluse who counseled, “As soon as you rise up in the morning, establish your mind in the heart, in the presence of God, and wind up your clock to run all day!  It is important to make a good beginning by setting our mind in the heart, and dwelling in the presence of God through the invocation of the Name.  In one of his talks to his monks toward the end of his life, Father Sophrony urged them:  ‘Do not come to the service without warming your hearts with prayer.  Before coming to the service, pray for at least ten minutes.  Come ready to stand in the presence of God, for the invocation of the Name!  Those of you who have the strength, do it for one or two hours, but you should do it for at least ten minutes.  Do not neglect it, otherwise you will dry up!’”

Through the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me a sinner,” the invocation of that Name enlightens and purifies the heart.  It also keeps the restless mind in the heart where the Lord abides.  Archimandrite Zacharias, himself a disciple of Elder Sophrony, notes, “perseverance in the single thought that is the Jesus Prayer restores the primordial breath of God in us.”

If we desire to be united with our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, if we desire to meet Him in the manger of our heart during this sacred season of His Nativity, let us reflect on the Holy Gospel and the truths contained therein, let us pray unceasingly through the invocation of the Holy Name, and let us prepare ourselves with repentance, humility, modesty, fasting, love, and faith for union with Him in Holy Communion, and then the stable of our hearts will become a place where Angels sing, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, good will towards men!” Then, we will know the ineffable joy of keeping our minds firmly fixed on God.

  1. Bruce permalink

    Father Bless!!!

    Thank you for these inspiring, pragmatic, and powerful thoughts so appropriate in the hours before our Savior’s birth.

    There is an enduring beauty and hope in the lowliness and unworthiness of the manger as the place where the incarnation of God into man becomes visible. It reminds us that God will find us wherever we are and that His birth in us is rooted in our willingness to accept His knock not in the worthiness of the ‘inn’ we can offer Him. He knows that whatever is material can be transformed into His Goodness and Light with our cooperation….and that without this cooperation we will always find ourselves with ‘fool’s gold’ as we attempt to manufacture what is only His without Him.

    May we all see clearly the manger of our own soul and allow the Christ child to be born in us. And in keeping our minds on Him; may we find what is Eternal and Unchanging yet ever New alive in us.

    I am so thankful for you and what you are doing with your book and this blog.

    Glory to God !!!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Holy Theophany: the Radiance of Divine Condescension for Our Salvation | Ancient Christian Wisdom
  2. The Sunday of Orthodoxy: The Victory of An Iconic Way of Seeing | Ancient Christian Wisdom
  3. The Sunday of Orthodoxy: The Victory of An Iconic Way of Seeing | Discerning Thoughts

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