Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer: A Review

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer:  A Pilgrimage to the Heart of an Ancient Spirituality
(DVD) 114 minute documentary, narrated by Norris Chumley and Rev. Dr. John A. McGuckin. 
 Language: English  1 Disc.  Released May 2011.

Because I’ve made several blog posts about meditation, I wanted to end this series with a review of “The Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer”(DVD) because it provides an insightful perspective on silence & prayer, thus aiding meditation.
This documentary is not just for those Christians seeking to understand the Jesus Prayer:  “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  It is for anyone who wants to learn more about Christian church history and the beginning of monasticism.  “Why do monastics remove themselves from the “world”?  “Why do they value silence so much?” These questions and more are beautifully addressed by modern day monastics in the Middle East, Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and Russia.
Norris Chumley and Rev. Dr. McGuckin have created a superb work in bringing the heart of Christian spirituality from the Ancient Faith into a format for our homes and churches.  It’s a moving work, in that the audience gets to hear, first hand, from those who have devoted much of their life to prayer and contemplation.  Those who are mastering their passions and experience internal peace;  something the West craves.  This documentary provides a goldmine for people who love Christ and seek a deeper connection to Him through prayer and stillness.
I enjoyed the rhythm of this film, too.  It provides a pace that makes you slow down, take notice of the visuals, the sounds... the blessed silence within communal living.  And I loved the accompanying soundtrack, which included music and sounds of nature from each locale.  Rich Devletian did an outstanding job in creating a harmony that lends depth and texture to support the documentary. 
The cinematography is very good and English captions are provided during some interviews where either the voices are hard to decipher or they are speaking a foreign language.   I watched the film one evening with my son and then the following day reviewed some scenes that I wanted to absorb deeply.  One of those was from the first monastery visited, in Egypt.  
The monk speaking to the narrators talks about external peace vs. internal peace.  About how the first is easier to find, but isn’t lasting... the second, internal peace, is much more difficult to acquire, but much longer lasting.  He said, [paraphrase] ‘in this way, when you acquire inner peace, you can be in the heart of Manhattan and have absolute peace.’  His words resonated with me.  They were words I needed to hear.
This is a film for young people as well as adults. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is a documentary for classrooms around the world.  Christian history is world history, too, and affects people of all race, color and creed. Discretion may be advised for very young children, as themes of death and burial are discussed.   
A friend loaned this DVD to me, but now I’ll be purchasing a copy of my own to watch again and again...and pass on! 

Watch the trailer here: 

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