George Maloney (1924 - 2005) was a leading exponent of the Eastern Christian spiritual tradition. He joined the Jesuits in 1948 and was the founder and director of the John XXIII Institute for Eastern Christian Studies at Fordham University. He was the author of more than 80 books, journals, and popular articles. Ave Maria Press is re-issuing his 1981 work Prayer of the Heart, which is seen by many as one of his best and most influential books. It is designed as an introduction for Western readers to the profundities of Orthodox spirituality.
Maloney begins with a discussion of hesychasm, which he defines as a Christian form of living the spiritual life with a contemplative orientation and an emphasis on continuous prayer. The explorers of this tradition were the hermits that set up camp in the deserts of Egypt and Syria during the fourth century. They sought out this environment so they could focus all their attention on listening to the word of God that resides in the heart. They eventually developed the Jesus Prayer ("Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me").
The desert fathers emphasized silence and solitude as pathways to a total surrender to the Divine. Their practices only have meaning in that they in that they are able to bring about true love of God in our hearts:
"The prayer of the heart as an unceasing state of prayer is possible only in the light of the Spirit who at every moment pours into our hearts greater love of God. As this love unites us with God, it fills us also with a similar, unselfish love for the entire world."
Maloney delves into other aspects of Orthodox spirituality including the gift of tears, obstacles to a sorrowing heart, developing the virtues, loving others, guarding the heart, and transforming light. Prayer of the Heart fulfills its mission which is to introduce us to the vitalities of Orthodox spirituality.