Prayer the Greatest Virtue

by Scott D. Hendricks

There is no other virtue that is either higher or more necessary than sacred Prayer, because all other virtues — I mean fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground, ascesis, chastity, almsgiving, and all the rest — even though they are ways of imitating God, even though they cannot be taken away from us and constitute the immortal ornaments of the soul — do not unite man with God, but only render man fit to be united.  Sacred Prayer, and it alone, unites.  It alone joins man with God and God with man, and makes the two one spirit.

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From this union of man with God, which is produced by sacred Prayer, what sublime gifts, rather what a fount of gifts, does not flow out to the man that is united with God?  From it is born the discrimination of truth from falsehood; the perception of the hidden mysteries of Nature; foresight and foreknowledge of things; Divine effulgence; illumination of heart; the amazing ecstatic eros [i.e., love] of God by all the powers of the soul; being caught up to the Lord; the revelation of the insoluble mysteries of God.  In a word, from this union is born the theosis of man, which is longed for by all, but which according to St. Isaac is enjoyed by exceedingly few in each generation; and which is the final end and purpose, God’s foremost and highest goal.

~ St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite

Constantine Cavarnos, Modern Orthodox Saints vol. 3: St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite (Belmont: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1974), 139-140.