In the sixth chapter of The Compassion of the Fatherentitled “The Inner Eucharist”, Father Boris Bobrinskoy turns his attention to the relationship between the prayer of the heart and the Eucharist of the Church. He begins:

Our era is more sympathetic to an individualistic conception of salvation or to particular techniques of the prayer of the heart than to ecclesial, cosmic, and social implications. Nonetheless, personal sanctification restores the human being to the liturgical function and vocation to encompass the entire world, the totality of humankind, in a pacified and loving heart. Sanctification restores the liturgical and royal mediation of the human person in a world shot through with waves of hatred and death, obscured by the powers of darkness, a world that groans and waits for the liberation of the children of God (Rom 8:21). Inner transformation of the human heart necessarily restores the sacramental function of the Church, which is which is to unite all human life to the mystery of the dead and risen Christ and to become transparent to the sanctifying presence of the divine Spirit. The rediscovery of the human being as a liturgical being causes a celebration of praise to God and the inscription of these praises in all modalities of life and work. (109)

There is thus an inseparable, intimate link between common liturgical prayer centred on the Eucharist, and our personal intimate prayer which comprises a secret liturgy on the altar of our own hearts. Father Boris draws on the work of Father Dumitru Staniloaë which has helped to underline the dogmatic, ecclesial and eucharistic character of the texts of the Philokalia. He also cites the following patristic texts that are worth quoting here:

Saint Macarius: Just as wine mingles in all the members of the one who drinks it and is transformed in him and he in wine, so does the one who drinks the Blood of Christ quench his thirst with the divine spirit who comingles with his soul and the soul with Him. For, through the Eucharist, those who commune with dignity reach the ability to partake of the Holy Spirit, and in this manner souls can live eternally. (110)

Origen: You are, all of you, a priestly people. Consequently, you have access to the sanctuary; each one of you has in himself his holocaust and he himself kindles the altar of sacrifice, so that it burns continually. If I renounce all my possessions, if I carry my cross and follow Christ, I offer my holocaust on the altar of God. If I deliver my body in order to burn with charity, if I acquire the glory of martyrdom, I offer myself as a holocaust on the altar of God. If I love my brothers to the point of giving up my soul for them, if I fight to the death for justice and truth, I offer my holocaust on the altar of God. If I mortify my members of all carnal concupiscence, if the world is crucified to me and I to the world, I offer my holocaust on the altar of God and I become the priest of my own sacrifice. (111)

Saint Ephrem: [The solitaries] are ordained priests for themselves, and they offer their asceticism. Fasting is their offering and wakefulness their prayer; repentance and faith are the sanctuary, their meditations are the holocaust. Their contemplation is the priest who presides; their lips offer the sacrifice unceasingly, prayer that longs for inner peace. (111)

Saint Gregory the Sinaite: The heart freed from all thought is moved by the Holy Spirit Himself and has become a true temple even before the end of time. The liturgy is celebrated entirely according to the Spirit. The one who has not yet reached this state will, thanks to other virtues, perhaps be a good stone in the construction of this temple, but he himself is not yet the temple of the Spirit nor His high priest. (111)

To be continued…

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