Did any of you watch 60 Minutes last Sunday night (April 24, 2011)? I really enjoyed it. As my husband will tell you, I’m a news hound. If there is a news show on, I want to watch it! We wrestle over the TV remote when it comes to news shows and baseball games that are on simultaneously. Thankfully, we do have a DVR.
Back to 60 Minutes. The show focused most of the hour on Mount Athos, a remote peninsula in northern Greece that is home to twenty Orthodox monasteries and more than two thousand Orthodox monks. http://bit.ly/myBfO2
Mount Athos is viewed by the Orthodox Church as the most holy place on the face of the earth. I found the depiction of the monks’ Spartan life of prayer, unchanged and uninterrupted for more than one thousand years, to be remarkable on many levels.
The monks practice silence most of the time. They eat in silence (two meals a day that last ten minutes each), and they work in silence (they grow all their own food and are completely self-sufficient on the peninsula). But whatever they are doing, they are praying.
Bob Simon, the 60 Minutes reporter covering the story said, “When you look at [the] monks, you can see that their lips never stop moving. Not for a second. They just keep reciting the Jesus prayer day and night: ‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.’ It becomes like breathing. Some monks say they can pray when they sleep, and they get no more than three hours sleep a night.”
They take very seriously the biblical injunction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
I was struck by a statement made by Michael Karzis, 60 Minutes producer, in the “Overtime” link about the background of making that show. http://bit.ly/kRDHlK
I could tell that Karzis was moved by the life of prayer he observed at Mount Athos. He said, “Monks are praying all the time—it’s like a blast furnace of prayer for the rest of the world. While you and I are going about our business Monday through Saturday, they are picking up the prayer for us.”
I imagine that to visit Mount Athos is to be able to feel tangibly the “heat” of the prayers of thousands of people over thousands of years in the very soil and walls of the place. I found myself grateful for those men (and yes, they are all men) who have made their very lives a prayer for the world. I think their prayers do make a difference in the world. I would like to think that I join my prayers with theirs as I, haltingly and stumblingly, try to pray and know what it means to “pray without ceasing.”
Robin Pippin, Editorial Director