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Chirrut Imwe: A New Hope From An Ancient Practice

chirrut imwe and prayer

Chirrut Imwe, a character in the new Star Wars film, has a lesson to teach us about mystical prayer.

This week my family saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon. It’s also far better and more true to the original films than 2015’s The Force Awakens.

Rogue One introduces a gallery of new characters. It also fills in some of the backstory of the 1977 original film, subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope. The film reintroduces the mysticism present in A New Hope but missing in The Force Awakens through the person of Chirrut Imwe.

Imwe, played by Donnie Yen, is a blind Jedi warrior who comes to the aid of protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Despite his blindness, Imwe is a valiant and skilled fighter. What sets him apart is his practice of the Jedi disciplines of inner calm and reliance on the Force.

Throughout the film, Imwe utters a phrase over and over. This mantra gives the Jedi strength and courage to complete his mission.

“I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.”

Have your kids been chanting this since seeing the film? If so, it’s an opportunity to teach them about the ancient Christian practice of hesychasm.

An Ancient Practice

Hesychasm is the Orthodox Christian practice of mystical prayer. It emphasizes a mental and spiritual stillness, and involves creating an inner focus. One of the most common applications of this discipline is the use of the Jesus Prayer.

In its basic form, the Jesus Prayer is this:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Repetition of the Jesus Prayer can be a help in focusing and clearing the mind of unhelpful distraction. It is also a way of internalizing our reliance on Christ for mercy in our daily lives. The Jesus Prayer is a vital part of the Orthodox lifestyle. It disciplines our minds, and brings our thoughts into submission.

But the Jesus Prayer is not a mantra to be mindlessly repeated. it is a prayer one internalizes over time. It’s important to note that the guidance of a spiritual father is an integral part of this practice. Prayer is not an internal monologue; it is a window to the Divine, and should be treated with respect and sobriety.

In my daily life, I use the Jesus Prayer as a way of centering myself and focusing on Christ. Often I repeat it with the help of the prayer rope I wear on my wrist. It reminds me that I need God’s mercy everywhere, and at all times.

Seeing a character in a major Hollywood film practice what amounts to a prayer rule is refreshing. In a post-Christian America, it’s almost a shock to see a character with a an unabashed belief in something larger than himself.

In Rogue One, Chirrut Imwe demonstrates the Jedi commitment to inner strength through the Force. His discipline of inner stillness is one that has been practiced by Christians for centuries, and one that is open to all.


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Comments 2

  1. Enjoyed your post. As soon as Chirrut uttered his mantra, I thought about the Jesus Prayer. However, I know about the Prayer through Salinger’s Franny & Zooey. Are you familiar with the novel? The narrator of the Zooey portion of the book comments at one point that there is some argument in the family as to whether the story he’s telling is a mystical story or a love story. I think we can ask of Rogue One–is it a mystical story, a love story, or an action story. 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m not familiar with the novel, but the more I become acquainted with Orthodox practice, the more I find it everywhere. I think the Star Wars mythos does a good job of calling to mind generations of tales that call us to do good in the fight against evil.

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