#profile-container h2.sidebar-title {display:none;}

OS (Commentary) -- 27

163 To the supposedly simple and more dispassionate thoughts (logismoi) follow closely on the impassioned thoughts (logismoi), as we found from the experience and observation of many years; and the first

The supposedly simple and more dispassionate thoughts (logismoi). They are in fact impassioned.

become the place of entrance of the second,

The impassioned thoughts (logismoi).

and the dispassionate

Thoughts (logismoi). For this not to be repetitive, we must understand St Hesychios here to mean ‘genuinely dispassionate thoughts (logismoi)’.

of the impassioned.

Thoughts (logismoi).

First let us remark that this is not the principle that Evagrius brings forward in OTT 40 why we must divest ourselves of all mental representations in order to enter into Theology. There, as we discussed in the commentary on OTT 40,[1] the principle is that the mental representations of objects of sense block or prevent the higher spiritual mental representations which come to the monk in natural contemplation or Theology. St Hesychios accepts this doctrine of Evagrius, as we saw in his presentation of the relevant Evagrian material in OS 89 and in various other chapters of OS. Here, however, St Hesychios is adducing another reason why we must keep the heart free from all thoughts or mental representations: the good thoughts—whether merely ostensibly good or actually good—are Trojan horses for the bad thoughts.

This is clear enough. It is a fundamental principle of the psychology of mental prayer in the heart: the good thoughts, whether only apparently good or even genuinely good, are the opening wedge for the impassioned thoughts. Hence the injunction: cut off all thoughts; do not make an attempt to judge which thoughts are acceptable and which are not. The mental representations introduced by contemplation and by the Holy Spirit—the mental representations that leap like fish and turn somersaults like dolphins in a still sea fanned by a fine breeze—have a completely different character.

The next chapter is a meditation, although St Hesychios does not say it, on this Gospel passage: ‘If someone comes towards me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and yet even his own soul (or, life), he is not able to be my disciple.’ (Luke 14, 26.) Moreover, St Hesychios is in the next chapter introducing his doctrine concerning the bodily aspects of ascesis.

164 For in reality it is necessary to cut the man in two by deliberate intention;

What St Hesychios means is that by a deliberate act of the will we must divide ourselves in two. Earlier he has called these two parts of man the inner man, the man within, the mind (nous), represented in the Old Testament by Moses; and the outer man, the man without, the man of action, represented in the Old Testament by Aaron, the brother of Moses (see OS 139 and 140).

and, with a most wise purpose, it is needful to be divided, as I said;

Nowadays, we would say ‘against the old man’. The man is cut in two at the division of the new man and the old man. The new man is the image of Christ, the new Adam, that is being formed in us in a lifelong endeavour. The old man is the man of the passions.

and it is truly meet that one be an irreconcilable enemy of his own self,

In the sense just given.

as someone, therefore, who completely has a disposition

A grudge, a bad disposition, an evangelical hatred.

towards a certain man

Our old man, our passions.

who has very greatly and often afflicted and wronged [him]—

We must hate the old man. We must insist to ourselves on the cutting off of our passions, on helping the new man of virtue, not the old man of the passions. Recall the passage of St Paul, Rom. 7, 13–25, which discusses the conflict between the inner man, the mind (nous), and ‘the law of sin in my members’.

thus, or even much more, if indeed we wish to accomplish the first and great commandment, I say, truly, the way of life of Christ, the blessed humility, the incarnate way of life of God.

Here, St Hesychios is emphasizing humility as the therapy of all the passions in much the same way that Evagrius placed spiritual charity in TPL or meekness in OTT as the primary therapy of the passions of the soul. However, St Hesychios is also going further and saying that humility is the characteristic par excellence of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, so that if we wish to imitate him, we must acquire humility, and in the way that he is stating. Moreover, this passage can also be construed to refer under the name of humility to all the virtues.

Whence, the Apostle says: ‘Who will deliver me from the body of this death?’ [Rom. 7, 24.]

We quoted and discussed the whole passage of St Paul, Rom. 7, 18–25, in Volume II in our commentary on OTT 31, and the reader is referred to our discussion there.

Rom. 7, 24 is quoted and commented on in Homily 14 on Romans by St John Chrysostom, where he states:

When you hear him [St Paul] saying ‘Who will deliver me from the body of this death?’ do not think that he is condemning the flesh [in the sense of the physical body, not in the sense of the passions]. For he did not at all say ‘body of sin’, but ‘body of death’: that is, the mortal body, that which was conquered by death, not that which gave birth to death; which very thing is a proof not of the evil of the flesh [the physical body] but of the abuse that it has suffered… Thus also the ‘body’ is said ‘of death’, because it was conquered by it [i.e. death], not because it [i.e. the physical body] purveyed it [i.e. death]. For that reason, neither does he wish to be delivered from the ‘body’ [i.e. the physical body per se], but from the ‘body of death’, hinting what I have often said, that since the body became subject to the passions [patheton] it also has come easily to be attacked by sin.[2]

‘For to the Law of God it is not subject.’ [Rom. 8, 7.]

The actual text of St Paul is this: ‘Because the mindedness of the flesh is enmity with God, for it is not subject to the Law of God, for it is not at all able.’

Here, we must understand by ‘the mindedness of the flesh’, the passions, and not the physical body. In particular, it is well to recall that in the Evagrian system, there are two passions of the body: gluttony and fornication. It is against these passions, along with the six passions of the soul, that the ascetic must wage war, not against the body per se. This is clear, if difficult to convey in English, in the passage of St John Chrysostom’s homily just quoted.

However, although we ourselves recommend this interpretation to our Orthodox readers, we are obliged to point out that St Hesychios’ interpretation, which identifies the ‘flesh’ directly with the ‘body’, has its roots in both St Mark the Ascetic and in St Diadochos of Photike. That is, St Mark clearly identifies the flesh with the body, and St Diadochos appears to follow the same doctrine, although he gives a more frankly Platonic treatment of the relation of the soul to the body than St Mark. St Mark’s treatment can be found most explicitly in Chapter 21 of Discussion with a Lawyer.[3] St Diadochos’ treatment can be found in his discussion of the nature of Baptism in GC 76–85, notably GC 82, where he clearly identifies the ‘flesh’ with the body.[4]

For the Platonic treatment by St Diadochos of the relation between the soul and body, see GC 78: ‘We are in the image of God (kat’ eikona) in the mental (noero) movement of the soul, for the body is as its [i.e. the soul’s] house.’[5] KG IV, 68 has a similar doctrine of the relation of the soul to the body,[6] as indeed does the Ladder of St John of Sinai. St John of Damascus advances much the same doctrine of the relation of the soul to the body in the Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.[7] There are also passages of OS that use the image of the body as the house of the soul.

Showing, then, that to subject the body to the will of God is one of those things that are within our power, he said: ‘For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged; being judged, however, we are chastised by the Lord.’ [Cf. 1 Cor. 11, 31–2.]

What St Hesychios is alluding to here is the use of the lash or the stick on the rebellious flesh. As a theory of ascesis, this is weak. We think that St John of Sinai in all of the Ladder has a more balanced attitude to praktike, the immaterial war of the thoughts and the ascetical struggle to purify oneself from the passions. On the passions of the body, St John himself remarks that the problem is precisely that they arise out of the nature of the body, and that that is why they are difficult to overcome—because the body will remain with the ascetic until death and, after the General Resurrection, until eternity, so that the ascetic cannot simply destroy it. Although Evagrius himself had some quite heterodox ideas about the eschatological fate of the body and also a rather severe bodily ascesis in his personal ascetical program, his attitude to the body was, at the theoretical level, quite positive. In TPL 29 he says this:

29 Our holy and most practical teacher used to say: ‘Thus must one ever prepare the monk, as one who will die tomorrow; and thus, again, to use the body, as living together [with the monk] for many years. The one cuts off the thoughts of accidie,’ he said, ‘and makes the monk more zealous, while the other guards the body whole, and ever preserves the continence in equal measure to the body.’

In TPL 53, he says this:

53 Let those who evilly nurture the flesh and ‘provide for it towards desire’ [Rom. 13, 14] condemn themselves and not this very flesh. For those who have acquired dispassion of the soul by means of this very body, and who have to an extent given their attention to the contemplation of existent things, know the grace of the Creator.

We think that the ascetical theory contained in these two passages of Evagrius is more balanced than what St Hesychios has just presented in this chapter.

That having been said, ‘to subject the body to the will of God is one of those things that are within our power’ is quite sound theology even for the layman, and not only for the Hesychast in the hermitage. We must subdue the body, but with the nuances that are conveyed by St John Chrysostom’s homily on the passage in question of Romans and even by Evagrius’ own moderating remarks. For even St Paul says this: ‘I pummel my body and treat it as a slave, lest, having preached to others, I myself become reprobate.’ (1 Cor. 9, 27.)

It seems to us that St Hesychios is introducing the matter of bodily asceticism because of the important role that the custody of the body, and, especially, of the senses, plays in the ascetical ascent to contemplation. In the next chapter, he continues his discussion of bodily asceticism, putting it into in the context of this ascent:

165 The beginning of the fruit-bearing: the flower. The beginning, however, of keeping of the mind (nous): continence in food and drink, and a denial of and abstention from all thoughts (logismoi), and stillness (hesychia) of heart.

Compare OS 66, where the source is ‘St Neilos the Ascetic’ (Evagrius), On the Eight Spirits of Malice.

Here, St Hesychios is repeating the sentiment of the opening line of On the Eight Spirits of Malice without making a direct quotation as in OS 66.

St Hesychios has adapted the opening line of On the Eight Spirits of Malice to his own purposes here, for in addition to continence in food and drink he alludes to the characteristics that he himself has defined in OS 3 of the guard of the mind: ‘stillness (hesychia) of heart’ and ‘abstention from all thoughts (logismoi)’. Here ‘abstention from all thoughts (logismoi)’ is to be understood to be equivalent to the ‘without images’ of OS 3; what is being referred to is the practice of the immaterial war in the heart with the attainment of a condition in which there is no thought or mental representation at all in the intellect, which is itself centred in the heart. This corresponds to Evagrian dispassion.

We have already seen that in the Hesychian system, after entry into the guard of the mind, the ascetic enters into contemplation and then into the ‘condition constituted from Jesus’, defined as conscious and habitual union with the Holy Spirit.

St Hesychios is here preparing to discuss the stages of contemplation and Theology which follow attainment to the guard of the mind. He is discussing the basis of the contemplative ascent.

In this chapter of OS, the ‘keeping (teresis)’ of the mind is defined in a way perfectly equivalent to the ‘guard (phulake)’ of the mind; these terms are at least partially synonymous in St Hesychios. We say ‘at least partially synonymous’ because St Hesychios does not seem to have a fixed technical vocabulary each term of which would have an invariant meaning: much depends on his context.

In his discussions until now of the guard of the mind, St Hesychios has not emphasized continence in food and drink. He has indicated that continence in food in drink is important to the immaterial war, but his orientation has been to an inner ascesis which is supported but not supplanted by a bodily ascesis. Evagrius himself says very little about the role of bodily ascesis—continence in food and drink—in the purification of the mind (nous) as distinct from the purification of the bodily passions of gluttony and fornication. He does imply in OTT 35 that there is a connection:

For I wonder if someone satiated with bread and water will able to take upon himself the crown of dispassion, dispassion, I say, not that which impedes sins in act—for this is called continence—but that which cuts off the impassioned thoughts in the intellect, which very thing Saint Paul called the spiritual circumcision of the spiritual Jew [cf. Rom. 2, 29]. If one is discouraged by what has been said, let him remember the Apostle who was the ‘vessel of election’ [Acts 9, 15] and who completed his course ‘in hunger and thirst’ [2 Cor. 11, 27].

However, nowhere in the texts that we presented in Volume II does Evagrius say explicitly that continence in food and drink clarifies or purifies directly, in and of itself, the mind (nous). We must therefore take the doctrine that St Hesychios is presenting in this chapter to derive from another tradition of asceticism, one that sees a positive value in continence in food and drink in making the ascetic better able to practise the guard of the mind. This point of view can be heard on Mount Athos even today. It is found even in the Catechisms of the late Tenth Century of St Symeon the New Theologian.[8] It is well to bear in mind that St Hesychios is speaking with the proficient ascetic before his mind’s eye: the requirement of OTT 40 that all mental representations be divested for the ascent to Theology requires for its attainment strict continence: this is the sense of Evagrius in OTT 35.

The rest of the chapter is consistent with what St Hesychios has already said many a time: the guard of the mind depends on abstention from all thoughts and on stillness (hesychia) in the heart. It is well to remember that the guard of the mind is not simply the immaterial war, but the state of attention or stillness (hesychia) in the heart free from all thoughts that is the precondition of contemplation.

Hence, we must here take St Hesychios to be counselling continence in food and drink to the proficient Hesychast as means to achieve the attention which supports the guard of the mind, which guard of the mind is free of thoughts and practised in stillness (hesychia) of the heart and which makes the Hesychast ready for contemplation.

On this interpretation we now begin to see what St Hesychios means when he writes the next chapter:

166 To those who are strengthened in Christ Jesus

This is not the beginner. We take St Hesychios to be addressing the proficient Hesychast in this series of chapters.

and who have begun to run in the sobriety which is certain,

‘Certain’ might also be rendered ‘sure’. An unusual word. We think the sense that St Hesychios wants to convey is given by this passage from OS 157:

He will undoubtedly be freed of perplexity when he has acquired keeping of the mind (nous)—which is and is said to be intellectual philosophy or practical philosophy of mind (nous)—as having found the Way who said ‘I am the Way, the Resurrection and the Life.’ [Cf. John 11, 25; 14, 6.]

We do not think that St Hesychios is here assuming that the Hesychast, proficient as he might be, has attained this state of union with the Holy Spirit. Rather we think that he is emphasizing the sureness of the road that he is describing, towards that state and beyond: continence in food and drink and the guard of the mind.

In this interpretation then, St Hesychios is speaking, in Evagrian terms, to the gnostic, and the proficient Hesychast that he is addressing is one whose state would correspond to dispassion in the Evagrian system—but not yet to dispassion in the sense of St John of Sinai. What is being discussed, again in Evagrian terms, is the transformation from dispassion to second natural contemplation, and beyond.

In this interpretation, then, the three stages about to be described by St Hesychios can be taken as second natural contemplation, first natural contemplation and Theology. That the third stage corresponds to Theology is certain. That the second stage corresponds to first natural contemplation is certain. The only question arises concerning the first stage: is it a stage that anyone practising praktike, the immaterial war, Hesychian sobriety, might experience, even before he has attained to the guard of the mind? Is it a stage that one attains when one commences the guard of the mind? Or is it a stage of contemplation after attainment of the guard of the mind, as we ourselves think?

In one view, Jesus first appears to the mind as a small torch in praktike, via the Prayer of Jesus, as St Hesychios himself suggests in OS 152, above. However, here, this view is moderated by St Hesychios’ comment that the small torch is ‘guiding us in the paths of the intellect (dianoia)’, since this surely is to be construed as second natural contemplation.

The image of the moon, which we take to refer to first natural contemplation, can be explained thus: The light of the moon is reflected, but the moon is the greatest light in the sky after the sun itself. Similarly, while in second natural contemplation we see the divinity of God reflected in his creatures as wisdom, in first natural contemplation, we see the divinity of God reflected in his living creatures, the angelic powers, both in his wisdom and in his holiness.

The third stage, that of the sun, needs no explanation. From what we have seen both in Evagrius and in St Hesychios, St Hesychios himself means Theology pure and simple.

In the interpretation we prefer, St Hesychios is addressing the proficient Hesychast, in Evagrian language the gnostic, and the three stages of the torch, the moon and the sun refer to second natural contemplation, first natural contemplation and Theology respectively. Of course, St Hesychios could be addressing the gnostic Hesychast and still be intending the interpretation praktike – contemplation – Theology: he is not so systematic a thinker that this can be excluded out of hand.

Let us now see what St Hesychios has to say:

he first appears to us in the mind (nous) as a small torch held by us, so to say, in the hand of the mind (nous) and guiding us in the paths of the intellect (dianoia);

On our preferred interpretation, this is second natural contemplation.

then as a radiant moon making its circuit in the firmament of the heart;

This is first natural contemplation.

and, after that, then, Jesus appears to us as the sun beaming justice, that is to say, showing himself


and the completely radiant lights of his own contemplations.

These could be considered to be either the higher contemplations of first natural contemplation or the contemplations related to Theology itself.

The next chapter is very important.

167 For he reveals these things secretly to the mind (nous) which abides in his commandment that says: ‘And you will circumcise your hardness of heart.’ [Deut. 10, 16.]

What does St Hesychios mean by this quotation? Does he mean humility or does he mean the immaterial war? We think the latter: as Evagrius states, the spiritual circumcision is (Evagrian) dispassion.[9] We think that, similarly, St Hesychios must intend the ‘cutting off’ of the impassioned mental representations, as in fact he emphasizes in OS 169, below.

The importance of this chapter, however, rests in what St Hesychios has said at the beginning, that Jesus ‘reveals these things secretly to the mind…’. For this tells us how contemplation or gnosis works: it is the secret revelation of the Holy Spirit to the praying mind.

St Hesychios states that the practice of the guard of the mind—for that is surely his meaning in the phrase ‘abides in his commandment which says…’—leads with certainty to contemplations—for that is surely his meaning in the phrase ‘reveals these things secretly’: ‘these things’ are the torch, the moon and the sun of the previous chapter.

And this is the theoretical criterion of true gnosis as opposed to false gnosis: true gnosis is the revelation of God. This is not to deny that the ascetic might contemplate the reasons (logoi) of created things in second natural contemplation, or that God might send a saint or angel to illumine the ascetic, but the saint or angel must be genuine—from God, endued with the energies and holiness of God himself, not with demonic energies. This distinguishes true gnosis from demonically inspired mental representations.

Moreover, the mental representations that come from true contemplation are spiritual. They do not imprint or form figures in the mind, to use the terminology of OTT 41.

Demonic mental representations, however, necessarily imprint and form figures in the mind; this is usually expressed by saying that they are fantasies. And this is why it is said by the Fathers that if a light should have colour or form, then it is not the Uncreated Light. An example of such a clear Patristic doctrine can be found in GC 36 and 40.[10] The Uncreated Light does not imprint or form figures in the mind; hence it cannot have colour or form. The demonic mental representations, not being spiritual, must imprint and form figures in the mind that are in the nature of fantasy; hence they cannot avoid having colour and form. Of course, this is not the whole matter of the discernment of true gnosis from demonic gnosis; it is merely one theoretical aspect of that discernment.

And, as has been said, earnest sobriety teaches the man extraordinary conceptions (ennoies).

As we have discussed previously, especially in the commentary on OS 134, ‘conceptions (ennoies)’ in this context of St Hesychios corresponds to the ‘mental representations’ of Evagrius in OTT 41 that are related to spiritual gnosis. St Hesychios is referring to contemplations which enlighten the Hesychast’s mind (nous).

We take ‘earnest sobriety’—this might be rendered ‘zealous sobriety’—to refer to the guard of the mind.

For the Divinity is no respecter of persons [cf. Rom. 2, 11].

St Hesychios is emphatic that Hesychasts are made through the practice of sobriety, not born.

Whence, the Lord says: ‘Hear me and understand. For whosoever should have, to him it shall be given and it shall be made to abound. Whosoever, then, should not have, even what it appears that he has will be taken from him.’ [Cf. Matt. 13, 12; Luke 8, 18.]

Why should St Hesychios have put this quotation here—a conflation of two Gospel passages on the same subject?

The use of the quotation hinges on the ‘earnest’ or ‘zealous’ in ‘earnest sobriety’ or ‘zealous sobriety’. St Hesychios is saying: If you practise sobriety, here taken to be the guard of the mind, you will have in abundance the ‘extraordinary spiritual conceptions (ennoies)’, the gnosis, the contemplations. If, however, you do not practise the guard of the mind sedulously, then even what it appears that you have will be taken from you: you will lose your pre-existing spiritual condition.

And: ‘All things work together for those who love God.’ [Rom. 8, 28.] Much more, therefore, the virtues work together for him.

Before we discuss why St Hesychios says this, let us discuss what he means. The passage from Romans means that for those who love God, all things—good, bad or neutral—work together for the good according to divine providence. St Hesychios then goes on to say, ‘Well, how much more will the virtues work together for the good, then, for those who love God!’

Why does he say this?

St Hesychios has said nothing about the virtues for some time, and certainly not in this chapter. Evagrian dispassion is characterized by the presence of virtue: the operation of the three parts of the soul according to nature is the positive aspect of Evagrian dispassion; the negative aspect is the emptying, cutting off, or mortification of the eight most general passions, the moral passions, the tendencies of the passionate part of the soul to operate contrary to nature. Although Evagrius does not emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in the attainment of dispassion, TPL 96, Didymus the Blind, is clear that virtue is, finally, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the soul and that the various virtues are simply operations of the one Holy Spirit in the various parts or powers of the soul.

Hence, what St Hesychios has in mind is this: The gnostic (the one who has attained to Evagrian dispassion, here the Hesychian guard of the mind, and who has begun to contemplate) has acquired virtue. It is the Holy Spirit which enables him to make progress, the same Holy Spirit which has infused the virtues into him.

But St Hesychios here has in mind certain specific virtues: those which directly support the guard of the mind. Hence, he who is zealous, at this stage of his sobriety—that is, he who is zealous in the guard of the mind, that lofty attainment of Hesychasts who are dispassionate—will have even the Hesychast virtues which he has attained working with him in the good, which good is here contemplation, that contemplation which is progressing towards Theology or divinization, dispassion in the sense of St John of Sinai.

The next chapter makes this clear:

168 A ship will not go many miles without waters, and the keeping of the mind (nous) will not advance at all without sobriety together with humility and the prayer (euche) of Jesus, [and these practised] totally.

It is now clear just which virtues St Hesychios had in mind in the previous chapter: sobriety, humility and the Prayer of Jesus.

It is difficult to convey here the sense of the single Greek adverb rendered ‘totally’. What St Hesychios means is that to be able to maintain the guard of the mind (nous), the highest stage of sobriety before contemplation, the ascetic must practise sobriety with humility and the prayer (euche) of Jesus on a total basis twenty-four hours a day, sixty minutes an hour, sixty seconds a minute without cease.

In the next chapter, however, the virtue that St Hesychios is referring to is the guard of the mind itself.

169 Stones are the foundation of a house; of this virtue, however, both the foundations and the roof are the worshipful and holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

St Hesychios is insistent on the necessity of invoking Jesus Christ at every stage of spiritual growth. And, as is now clear from the many references to the Prayer of Jesus, this is invocation by means of a formula prayed repetitively by the mind in the heart.

And a foolish captain will easily shipwreck in time of storm, having cast the sailors out and having thrown the oars and sails into the sea and himself sleeping;

St Hesychios himself explains below what he means, but here we have an image of the gnostic, the advanced and proficient Hesychast, who has fallen prey to lethe (insensibility or accidie) and who has become negligent, abandoning his tackle and his equipment. Negligent of what? Let us see how St Hesychios put it:

a soul will be more easily drowned by the demons in the sea, however,

The intelligible sea.

if it neglects sobriety and to call upon the name of Jesus Christ in the assaults when they are beginning.

By being negligent of the basic method of Hesychian sobriety—the immaterial war and the Prayer of Jesus—the gnostic, foolishly thinking that he is an advanced contemplative, has ignored the impassioned mental representations which have grown up into a storm. Recall that in TPL 36 Evagrius asserts that the demons that rule over the passions of the soul persist until death.

Hence, the basic method must always be in operation. In the advanced Hesychast, the gnostic, the basic method takes the form of the guard of the mind supported by the Holy Spirit. But the support of the Holy Spirit cannot be taken for granted by the Hesychast; we have already seen that that support can be lost through negligence. The Hesychast must zealously make his own efforts to maintain the guard of the mind in the face of temptations to negligence and to lethe.

The next chapter has the air of a peroration.

170 What we know, we say, writing; and what we have seen crossing over the road,

‘Crossing over the road’: This means ‘passing along the road towards Theology’, not ‘crossing over to the other side of the street’. St Hesychios means both the good, the theophanies that he has seen, and the bad.

we bear witness to

He has a clear conscience, just as St Paul had: ‘For I was not dissembling so as not to report to you all the counsel of God.’[11]

for those who want,

It’s up to you.

if indeed you wish to accept those things that have been said.

St Hesychios again insists on the moral obligation of the Hesychast:

For he has said: ‘If someone should not remain in me, he will be cast out as the vine-branch, and they gather it and cast it into the fire and it is burned. He, then, who remains in me, I also [remain] in him.’ [Cf. John 15, 6–7.]

Note that in OS 157 St Hesychios spoke of the personal advent of the Holy Spirit on the Hesychast, that in OS 166 he spoke of the Hesychasts ‘who are strengthened in Christ Jesus and who have begun to run in the sobriety which is certain’. Here, he is saying: you can lose the abiding of the Holy Spirit within you, you can lose the abiding of Jesus within you, you can end by burning. He explains:

For just as it is not possible for the sun to shine without light, thus it is impossible for the heart to be purified of the filth of thoughts (logismoi) of destruction without the prayer (euche) of the name of Jesus.

First, let us remark that this formulation of St Hesychios—‘the prayer (euche) of the name of Jesus’—clearly indicates a specific formula of prayer and that involving the name of Jesus. That, coupled to the reference to the ‘sword very densely turned round in a solitary heart’ (OS 152), and to many other connected expressions, justifies our interpretation of this prayer as the Prayer of Jesus known today, although perhaps not with precisely the same verbal formula.

Next, let us remark that St Hesychios is here addressing the temptation of the advanced Hesychast to stop the continual repetition of the formula.

If, then, this is true, as I see [it is], let us make use of this as our own breath.

Here we also have the attachment of the Prayer to the breathing. We take this to be the normal breathing; we have seen nothing in OS which might be construed to be an overt or covert reference to breath retention.

For the one is light; the others, darkness.

If the text has not been damaged in transmission, ‘the one’ here cannot refer to God; it is in the wrong gender. Nor for the same reason can it refer to the Prayer. We think it refers to ‘the name of Jesus’, which is in the right gender. ‘The others’, of course, are ‘the demons’.

And the One is God and Master;

This is clear grammatically.

the others, slaves of demons.

A marginal note in Philokalia G, referring to ‘other manuscripts’, corrects this to ‘slaves and demons’, which is what we would have expected to see.

In the next chapters, St Hesychios again advances a notch. His discussions become far more comprehensive and more theoretically grounded. The next chapter is very important for the theology of light, for its emphasis that Hesychasts are made not born, for its discussion of Theology and for its paean to the Hesychasts who have attained to Theology.

previous | Table of Contents | next

[1] Volume II.

[2] St John Chrysostom, Commentaries on Romans, Homily 14, 5 (Chr–Rom G).

[3] Mark Volume II, p. 88–92.

[4] Diadochos p. 142, ll. 11–13.

[5] Diadochos p. 135, ll. 21–2.

[6] See Volume II.

[7] Chapter II, 12: Damascus p. 79, ll. 91–3. We discussed this in Chapter V of Volume I.

[8] Symeon Volume II, Catechism 11 (= Homily 76 in Zagoraios), p. 156, l. 42–p. 160, l. 109.

[9] See the passage of OTT 35 quoted in the commentary on OS 165; see also KG IV, 12; etc.

[10] Diadochos pp. 105 and 108.

[11] Acts 20, 27.


Post a Comment

<< Home