I loved this passage by Elder Aemilianos of the Holy Mountain on joy as the criterion of true prayer. I know that I could find other texts saying that tears are the criterion of true prayer, but that’s Orthodoxy for you. And I suspect that those statements would, at some deeper level, turn out to agree.
In order to practice this prayer, on must, according to the Fathers, possess and cultivate before all something particular. Just as we must pay attention to our health, in the same way, in order to give ourselves to prayer, we must attend to the health of our soul. This is why the Holy Fathers say that in order to practice the prayer, we must be joyous. If you cannot rise above your sorrow, the prayer will be dangerous for you. You can try it, but only if it gives you joy, for a prayer is only true if it fills us with gladness… Do you want to know if your prayer is genuine? Look to see if it produces, if it gives you, as its fruit, joy, and if it brings your soul to the feast… Since the prayer is communion with God, it always gives joy, and if it is not productive of joy, this means that we are harboring in ourselves something alien, and that our prayer is not authentic.
– Elder Aemilianos of Simonopetra, quoted in Archbishop Alexander Golitsyn’s The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain.
Image: Elder Aemilianos