I am currently a Coptic Orthodox Christian, although i was raised Catholic. The story is in itself an interesting one but too long and not important to this topic.
My problem is that ever since i made the decision to become Orthodox i have always had a nagging feeling of wanting to return to Roman Catholicism, which, no matter how far i get it from it i can’t shake this feeling. Every 6 months or so i have this overwhelming urge, start reading Catholic books and think about going back to the Traditional Latin Mass but sooner or later it passes and i go back to my happy life as an Orthodox Christian.
Of course the Catholics on this board would say that it is God telling me to return to Rome but i don’t agree. Why? I think the Roman church has lost some fundamental properties that were once universal to all Christians and are now kept alive only in the various Orthodox Churches.
I could list many of these properties, but the one that is nagging me the most right now is prayer, and it is too that i will now turn.
My claim: Rome, since the Schism, has completely lost a tradition of prayer that would be recognisable to the early church and the Desert Fathers. Specifically, the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, which to a serious and studied Orthodox Christian borders on a heresy because of it’s emphasis and use of the imagination.
For background reading as to what i mean:
"Eastern Orthodoxy displays a great degree of uniformity in following a path of stillness of thought and silence of mind to achieve the prayer of heart in private devotion. Saint John Climacus writes in The Ladder (28:19) that “the beginning of prayer consists in chasing away invading thoughts…” (285) The mind is to be freed from all thoughts and images and focused on the words of prayer. Further in the chapter on prayer (28), St. John instructs not to accept any sensual images during prayer, lest the mind falls into insanity (42; 289); and not to gaze upon even necessary and spiritual things (59; 292).
Unlike Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox Tradition does not encourage the use of mental imagery. In fact, it almost appears to forbid sensory imagination during prayer altogether. In the words of one of the contemporary Orthodox elders, Abbot Nikon (Vorobyev) (1894-1963), “that, which sternly, decisively, with threats and imploring is forbidden by the Eastern Fathers—Western ascetics strive to acquire through all efforts and means” (424).
Read more here:
So while i may be able to rationalise certain other polemical issues like the filioque and papal supremacy, it is really prayer that is most important to me, and how can i trust the Catholic Church when it teaches a method of prayer that is condemned in the Orthodox Church?
Can anyone make a defense of these Spiritual Exercises that would hold up under the scrutiny of the Orthodox Church and the Desert Fathers?
Thank you and God bless