In the fifth chapter of The Compassion of the Father entitled “The Art of the Invocation of the Name,” Father Boris Bobrinskoy begins by describing the composition and spreading of the Philokalia in the last centuries which has gone hand in hand with a movement of spiritual renewal, both in the Orthodox Church and beyond its boundaries. Central to the texts of the Philokalia, which were spread over twelve centuries, is the theme of interior pray which “reaches the universal depths of the human being.” (100)
This “prayer of the heart” is deeply rooted in Scripture, and it is also linked to the Church’s liturgy.
The liturgy is not only the public form of the prayer of the people, of the Church. The liturgy also echoes in the depths of the heart, where the human person is the celebrant at an altar of inner sacrifice. God calls us to this inner sacrifice: “Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice” (M 9:13; 12:7). Numerous Old Testament passages recount God’s abhorrence of blood sacrifices because truth and justice do not accompany them. Likewise, St Paul admonishes: “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice; your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; and you are this temple” (1 Cor 3:16 and Rom 12:1). The Fathers developed the relationship between the public worship of the Church and this inner worship as a philokalic theme. (101)
In Jesus and the Mother of God we see summarized the entire contents of the Old Testament in the transition to the New Testament. Taught by the Spirit Jesus reveals to us the Name of the Father.
In Jesus, prayer was unceasing, perpetual; it embraced the entire space of His heart and being. Jesus is prayer, a prayer concentrated primarily in the Name of the Father. To say “Abba” constitutes Jesus’ being one with the Father: “The Father and I are one.” (Lk 10:30) (103)
In the life of the Mother of God we see the secrets of the prayer of the heart disclosed. Citing St Gregory Palamas’ homily on the Presentation in the Temple, Father Boris suggests that the feast signifies
the passage from the temple made by human hand to the temple “not made by human hand” – precisely, the Mother of God herself, who carries within the divine Word. Mary is called to become the sanctuary and temple of God. … In her, the Name of Jesus and the Name of God blended. The entire mystery of Mary lies in the unceasing and loving invocation of these two names. (103)
In His kenōsis Jesus shares with His disciples what rightly belongs to Him, giving us the right to call upon God as Father.
Only by entering into the heart of Jesus can the name of “Father” truly be heard. Discerned in the very heart of Jesus are the groaning of the Spirit. …
The invocation of the name of God is inseparable from the mystery of the heart, for there the Name is engraved, the presence of the beloved is lived. We can speak of the heart of God, of the heart of the Father, of His bowels of mercy. In the heart of the Father, the Name of the Son resides, just as in the heart of the Son the Name of the Father resides. Until the agony at Gethsemene and Golgotha, the Name of the Father and that of God are placed upon the lips of Jesus. However, the last cry from the Cross was not “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46), but “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Lk 23:46). (104)
In this kenōsis Jesus’ glory is revealed and He is acknowledged as the Lord. The early Christians were distinguished from Judaism through the invocation of the Name of the Lord. “Thus, since Pentecost, we pass from the prayer of Jesus to the prayer to Jesus.” (105) This invocation is continued in the liturgy in the Kyrie eleison.
Contrary to what is thought, Christian prayer is not a simply refrain to petitions by the deacon in a litany. The Kyrie eleison, properly speaking, is the prayer; the deacon gives only the intentions. Unquestionably, the great universal litany that follows the Gospel is an example of this: “Let us say, with our whole soul and our whole spirit; Kyrie eleison.” (106)
Father Boris concludes this essay by noting that the Philokalia is intended for all the Christian faithful. It is moreover, at text that links spirituality and dogma and seeks to show the inner effects of external observations, such as fasting. He concludes:
Reading a few texts of the Philokalia may give the impression – a wrong one – that prayer of the heart is self-sufficient. People request, “Teach us about hesychasm, and the prayer of the heart.” Prayer of the heart is part of a whole, the fulfilment of the commandments, the struggle against the passions, and spiritual asceticism … All this takes place in and through the life in the Church.” (107)