“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
What is this word?
The whole content of the Word of the Apostles teaching is summed up, is contained within the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
One word summed up in one person.
A person, or rather the Person whom we meet face to face with, in our heart.
In connection with this verse from Romans, let us consider for a moment the practice of the Jesus Prayer.
The Jesus prayer is a brief prayer, consisting in its fullest form of the words – Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner. We are encouraged to pray this prayer frequently throughout the day and night, often with the aid of a prayer rope.
The Lord Jesus stands at the door of a person’s heart and knocks. But you, brothers and sisters, having been baptized and sealed with the Holy Spirit, ought to consider that he knocks, not from outside of the confines of your heart, but from within; calling you to recognition of this word that is ‘near to us, on our lips, and in our heart.’ You hear that knock when you are pierced by a word of scripture, and convicted of anger or lust, or envy, or hatred. You hear that knock when holy communion warms your soul. You hear it when you look back at your life with tears and long for the age to come when tears will be dried from our eyes. You hear it when you grieve over a fractured world.
I worry when I think perhaps that you don’t hear it anymore?
But hearing it, may we respond!
Having heard this gentle tapping within, let us respond by knocking ourselves, by tapping at the veil which has grown and separates us from participating fully, from attaining to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
So we Knock: Lord… Jesus… Christ… Son of God… have mercy on me, a sinner. Within his name, asking:
“Open to me the doors of repntance, O Life Give, for I have profaned my soul with shameful sins, and have wasted my life in laziness; but by your compassion, purify me of all impurity.”
We knock in his name because his name contains the whole content of the Gospel, of what we believe and confess.
Lord:God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ who appeared among men, full of grace and truth, full of light, against which darkness cannot, and will not ever prevail.
Jesus: Our Savior, the one who delivers from storms and peril, who quiets the storm. The anxiousness and restlessness of nature is stilled immediately by His Presence, because he himself is above and beyond all nature. All passion, all anger, lust, confusion, the slump into the waves of the flesh is curtailed by the presence of Jesus the Savior.
Christ: The anointed one of God. Anointed to bear our iniquities, chastisement, bruises, sins on the cross when a sinful woman broke a vile and the aroma of perfume filled the house; anointed the King of Kings who loses his life for the people, who enters into our death on the cross, revealing himself as truly the King of Glory.
Son of God: declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. Manifest as the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead, having ascended to the right hand of the Father.
In the fullness of this, his name, we pick at the thick wall we have made between our ‘life’ (if we dare to call it that) and the true life of what is, by grace, deep within us.
So many of you have seen the movie Shawshank Redemption, and how Andy, with the help of pressure and time carved a hole through the wall of a prison with a tiny rock hammer.
The name of Jesus, containing the whole content of our faith, also with pressure and time breaks through; but what we find is that while we thought we were working, it was the Lord himself who was working the whole way through.
It is only because his Father had run out to meet him, that it would seem to the Prodigal that they entered the house together; but truly, the father was already at home and ran out to meet his son, and drew him into the house. (Fr. Staniloae)
In knocking in the name of Jesus at our heart, we must know that he is already within and comes out to gather us home, within.
Our knocking was his knocking, our striving truly his striving.
This is how great the love of the Lord is for each one of us; that he cannot wait for us to come home, and so goes out to meet us, even as we have only begun to knock, or to seek.
So that while we perceive ourselves to step, truly, more than that we are drawn. While we perceive ourselves to speak, truly, more than that we are only hearing the whole content of our salvation in the name of Jesus Christ.
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware in a book on the Jesus prayer, titled the Power of the Name, writes, beginning by quoting Tito Colliander:
“‘When you pray,’ it has been wisely said by an Orthodox writer in Finland, ‘you yourself must be silent…You yourself must be silent; let the prayer speak.’ To achieve silence: this is of all things the hardest and most decisive in the art of prayer. [prayer is an art] Silence is not merely negative – a pause between words, a temporary cessation of speech – but, properly understood, it is highly positive: an attitude of attentive alertness, of vigilance, and above all of listening. The hesychast, the man who has attained hesychia, inward stillness or silence, is par excellence the one who listens. He listens to the voice of prayer in his own heart, and he understands that this voice is not his own but that of Another speaking within him.”
“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart…” The name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pray in his name, and repent, know that he is your repentance, your change of mind, your refuge and deliverance. Amen.