For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
St Paul tells us that God commanded light to shine out of darkness. It is this same God who shone light into our hearts. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware comments on the heart where God resides in us:
“In the words of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov, ‘The Name of Jesus, present in the human heart, confers upon it the power of deification.’ . . .
In the Hesychast tradition, the mystery of theosis has most often taken the outward form of a vision of light. This light which the saints behold in prayer is neither a symbolical light of the intellect, nor yet a physical and created light of the senses. It is nothing less than the divine and uncreated Light of the Godhead, which shown from Christ at his Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and which will illumine the whole world at his second coming on the Last Day. Here is a characteristic passage on the divine light taken from St Gregory Palamas. He is describing the Apostle’s vision when he was caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4):
Paul saw a light without limits below or above or to the sides; he saw no limit whatever to the light that appeared to him and shown around him, but it was like a sun infinitely brighter and vaster than the universe; and in the midst of this sun he himself stood, having become nothing but eye.
Such is the vision of glory to which we may approach through the Invocation of the Name.
The Jesus prayer causes the brightness of the Transfiguration to penetrate into every corner of our life. Constant repetition has two effects upon the anonymous author of THE WAY OF A PILGRIM. First, it transforms his relationship with the material creation around him, making all things transparent, changing them into a sacrament of God’s presence. He writes:
When I prayed with my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the earth, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man’s sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that everything proved the love of God for man, that all things pray to God and sang his praise. Thus it was that I came to understand what THE PHILOKALIA calls ‘the knowledge of the speech of all creatures’ . . . I felt a burning love for Jesus and for all God’s creatures.
In the words of Father Bulgakov, ‘Shining through the heart, the light of the Name of Jesus illuminates all the universe.’
In the second place, the Prayer transfigures the Pilgrim’s relation not only with the material creation but with other humans:
Again I started off on my wanderings. But now I did not walk along as before, filled with care. The Invocation of the Name of Jesus gladdened my way. Everybody was kind to me, it was as though everyone loved me. . . . If anyone harms me I have only to think, ‘How sweet is the Prayer of Jesus!’ and the injury and the anger alike pass away and I forget it all. (THE POWER OF THE NAME, pp 25-26)