Solitude, silence and stillness are three ways in which the glory of the Holy Name reveals itself in the desert, three theophanies of wisdom in the sacred tradition of Orthodox Hesychasm. Solitude is outwardly a way of life in the desert called ihidaya, and inwardly a purification and simplification of the heart which humbles the soul. Silence is outwardly a characteristic of desert life and inwardly an illumination of the heart that transforms it into a dwelling place for wisdom. Stillness is outwardly an abiding in the solitude and silence of the desert and inwardly a participation in glorification which deifies creation when glory transfigures everything with the glory of the age to come.
Hesychast injunctions to turn and see impart the praxis of theoria to the desert which unites the inward work of turned solitude and seeing silence. Wisdom turns right round into God in the midst in solitude and lives from this metanoia by seeing God in God through God in silence. This labour of turned seeing in the heart is the inner work of solitude, sustaining silence which opens us right up at centre to the stillness of glory that works the mysteries of glorification. This is glory’s holy labour of stillness, the Spirit’s holy work of pure prayer in the hallowed stillness of the heart. The tradition of Orthodox Hesychasm transmits solitude, silence and stillness as outward ways and means and inward theophanies of glory, revelation of the mysteries of pure prayer in watchful solitude, wise silence and glorious stillness.
Purity of heart is guarded in solitude when watchful attention abides in the revelatory Name in silence, freeing glory to unveil its mysteries through the uncreated grace of stillness. The Hesychast is not a self-centred ascetic who knows nothing of uncreated grace, obsessed with feats of self-imposed external self-flagellation. Orthodox asceticism imparts a spiritual metanoia in solitude which is balanced with illumined theoria in silence, communicating glorification in stillness which heals exaggerated extremes as they arise, curing all forms of passion driven extremism. Orthodox Hesychasm transmits balanced solitude and mature silence because stillness cures the roots of imbalance in every moment, and because it is living from wisdom’s discernment of glory and not the divisive confusion of opinionated extremes.
Orthodox ascetics guard the heart so that in solitude pure prayer can arise as the prayer of the Spirit in the heart. The Spirit knows how to pray so that in silence, when we come to the end of ourselves, the Spirit bears witness to God in our midst, sighing Abba Father, revealing Christ at centre in whom the grace of uncreated filiation is unveiled. The inaudible groan of the Spirit comes to the aid of the Hesychast in stillness, turning solitude into communion with the one and only presence of Christ awake and aware in the midst, ihidaya. The hidden intercession of the Spirit in the heart listens in silence to the unheard whisper of the uncreated Word communicating the light of glory through the Name. Stillness imparts glory in wordless sighs and soundless groans, as the Spirit reveals hallowed heavens in our hopeless hells, transforming one hell after another into the heaven it was always meant to be, in the wisdom and glory of the Holiest of all Holies.
Afraid to be alone, solitude comes to help the solitary in the weakness that cures all fear. Unable to listen, silence comes to help the solitary in confusion to awaken the ear of the heart to communion. Unwilling to love, stillness comes to help weariness in its hopeless paralysis to free love to love with God’s love, hallowing the Name so that God’s Kingdom comes and God’s will is done. Pure prayer prays the Lord’s Prayer beyond created words in solitude, purifying the primordial image of God beyond images in silence, so that the mysteries of solitude and silence rise into the stillness of completeness that comes to meet incompleteness in glorification, glory in the midst saying Yes! Amen! to the descending glory of the age to come.
In its ineffable power, the Kingdom of glory comes in the radiance of the hallowed Name, as Christ glorified descends to empty hells and the healing Spirit is poured out in abundance over all. Stillness cures all extremism by interpenetrating the extremes so that solitude becomes union and silence communion, free of divisive separation as well as its roots in poisonous confusion. Wounded by love’s stillness, the Burning Bush of the Name consumes confusion and division but not the humble openness that sustains glorification in the Kingdom come.
Solitude makes the two one, the outer into the inner, transmitting humble oneness of being to every activity. Silence takes vulnerable openness and turns it into ineffable wisdom, the in-seeing energy of theoria, vision unveiled as wise obedience to the given in the ebb and flow of everyday life. Silence frees solitude from self-interested resistance when every activity springs from the praxis of translucent theoria. Stillness cleaves to the ineffable mysteries of glory in the Holy of Holies, transforming solitude into turned seeing and silence into illumined being in the Holiest of Holies. Stillness dies now to all that death can destroy, opening us to the glory of the age to come. Solitude practices turning so that silence becomes wisdom and stillness glory, turning the union of wisdom and glory into the eternal well-being of wisdom that glorifies the saints.