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An ancient Christian prayer of meditation
will be highlighted in film and book early 2011

     "Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer"

New York, July 1, 2010 -- A little known 2000-year-old Christian prayer, still used by monks and nuns in far away caves and monasteries, is the subject of a documentary feature film and book slated for early 2011.

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer focuses on the prayer, Kyrie Eleison ("Lord Have mercy") that is thought to have been first practiced by the Apostles.

Traveling with cameras and crews to ancient lands of peace and solitude, the Very Rev. Dr. John McGuckin, Ane Marie and Bent Emil Nielsen Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies, Union Theological Seminary/Columbia University, and Dr. Norris J. Chumley, a media producer and columnist for Beliefnet, visited hermits, priests and nuns in caves and monasteries to record their use of this ancient mystical prayer.

Their film and companion book from HarperOne retraces their steps and beyond, bringing the wisdom of both ancient saints and modern Christian sages to worldwide audiences.

The film and book begin with a visit to St. Anthony's in Upper Egypt, the oldest existing monastery on earth, where Father Lazarus explains what the prayer is and how to use it. The authors' voyage continues to St. Catherine's monastery, in existence near Mt. Sinai since the fifth century, and to monastic communities in Eastern Europe, Romania, Ukraine and Russia.

The ancient prayer has been passed down through generations. Initially recited verbally, it was ultimately written in obscure instruction manuals intended only for monks. It was kept in secret, only to be revealed as part of a dedicated life of isolation. Some spiritual counselors advise using it only with the help of a disciplines guide, in the context of a life devoted to monasticism. Others say anyone can use it.

The Jesus Prayer has great power. It is available in short form, long form, and with multiple variations. The documentary feature film and companion book from HarperOne, Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer, will introduce this prayer taught directly by Christian spiritual masters early next year so that anyone can use it at any time and in any place.

Look for the book and film around Easter 2011. Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer is a production of Magnetic Arts, LLC, New York, The film is a not-for-profit project of the Hartley Film Foundation.

Serving on the Advisory Board of the project are Nikki Stephanopoulos, a member of the National Council of Churches Governing Board and NCC Communication Commission, and her husband, Father Robert Stephanopoulos.                      


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 36 member faith groups from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell), pjenks@ncccusa.org

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