The Son of Man partakes in what is ours so that the Son of God can give us what is his. Saint Symeon the New Theologian says the Son of God raises us to what is his by regenerating us in the Holy Spirit in his Kingdom. He opens us to the grace of the glory of his Kingdom by awakening the eye of our hearts to his uncreated light. When we hallow his Name aright, his Kingdom comes in our midst as it reigns for ever in heaven. His will is done when our life as light, awake to light in light, is hid with Christ in God’s triune uncreated light.
Saint Symeon bequeaths this doxological reciprocity to the hesychasts Gregory Palamas and Gregory of Sinai, Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony. The legacy of the Philokalia is this transmission of uncreated light, communicated from heart to heart as the mystery of the glory of the Holy Name. The Orthodox Christian tradition sometimes calls this living transmission a golden chain, pointing to the inexhaustible capacity of the uncreated creative energy of glory to illumine and deify. Hesychast injunctions to turn and see open us to a profound metanoia that purifies the heart, freeing us to unite the praxis of turning with enlightening theoria, in the noetic prayer of metanoesis. The words of Elder Sophrony transmitted the Word of God unveiling the Name ‘I AM,’ opening us to the mysteries of glory which renew the Patristic tradition in age after age.
Sometimes, some Orthodox live as if the age of the holy fathers ended long ago with John of Damascus or Photios, a perspective that was common in the west and among some orthodox influenced by the west, but which was refuted by Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast Councils of the fourteenth century. The Jesus Prayer was able to fulfil the practice of psalmody because it employed a Word of Scripture as prayed prophecy to express the quintessential mysteries of Christ, ‘Lord Jesus,’ and the Trinity, ‘Christ,’ (anointed by the Spirit) ‘Son of God’ (the Father), ‘have mercy upon us.’ The Jesus Prayer expresses the quintessential prophetic spirit of the Bible and the Fathers, embodied in Hesychast prayer. Prayed prophecy purifies the heart for enlightened wisdom, opening the heart to God-centred glorification of God.
External acts of asceticism such as fasting are no substitute for the internal asceticism of purity of heart, although the Gospel of grace does indeed fulfil the law and does not destroy it. Grace punctures the heart with holy compunction, penthos, curing sclerosis of heart by plunging it into uncreated oceans of light, cleansing it with holy tears. Through God, wisdom sees as God sees and to be seen as God is seen. Love’s glory takes over when a human being comes to the end of created strengths and God gives us himself as Holy Trinity, co-inherent Triune Life lived as turned seeing: illumined being, well-being and timeless, eternal being.
Orthodoxy without wisdom is Orthodoxy without heart. It may convey some literal surfaces but not the Spirit of right-glorifying Truth. The function of Hesycahsm in the Orthodox Church is to live in wisdom’s light so that God’s hidden glory is unveiled, revealing love’s hallowing energy at the heart of the whole world. Such love does not need to be recognised or thanked, but it is revealed when love prays for enemies and gives God glory in the midst of inexplicable suffering. When incomprehension threatens Hesychast life, angels and saints offer their invisible protection, inspiring prayer of the heart so that the hidden ways of the Spirit are not quenched. In the world’s eyes, Hesychast life is invisible and so often overlooked, but in the eyes of heaven it is the hallowed heart of the Holy Orthodoxy, renewing the suffering heart of the afflicted world.