Ineffable words in Hesychast life

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The Apostle Paul says that he heard ineffable words when he was caught up in paradise and experienced revelation of unutterable glory (2 Cor 12:2-4).  Hesychasts know that the Holy Name is an ‘ineffable word’ of the eternal Word when it reveals God in glory in the midst.  But they also know that the words they use to communicate this experience of revelation are created words just as the words of the Jesus Prayer before it is prayer of the Spirit in the heart are created words.  The Apostle writes in created words about his experience of uncreated words in the Third Heaven.  The Apostle is a hallowed seer before he is the writer of epistles in created words and his seeing is neither visual perception nor theoretical speculation, both of which are a created perception of the created.  Seeing is an uncreated union of seer and seen and not some sort of external visual perception of created, luminous phenomena.  The Apostle experiences glorification through glory in glory, and the eye of his heart is illumined in ineffable light through ineffable light, which is revelation of Holy Trinity in uncreated, ineffable words.  He transmits ineffable words by way of created words in his epistles, but he does so spiritually not literally.  His epistles bear witness to uncreated wisdom discerning the energy of glory, yet he writes in created words that show forth what cannot be said in literal, created words.  Ineffable words are unutterable because they cannot be spoken, but created words can point out what ineffable words of uncreated grace might mean for those who seek to assimilate them.

The wonder of wisdom is transmitted through prophecy to be assimilated by prayer in the awakened heart.  Created words can convey a partial knowledge, a ‘knowing in part,’ but uncreated words are indivisibly direct because they see ‘face to face,’ which wisdom knows when glory is both seer and seen.  ‘Face to face’ does not mean the external confrontation of the created by the created, but ineffable union and communion of the uncreated with the uncreated,  because ineffable words are not like created words, conditioned by external ways and means.  Scholasticism lost touch with ‘face to face’ seeing, because it was caught up in created words and concepts which Thomas Aquinus,  at the end of his life, wisely called mere straw.   Protestant scholasticism did not succeed in breaking free of this sophistry, and so it identified revelation with scriptural words, confusing ineffable words with created words.  This confusion led to bibliolatry, an idolatry of created scriptural words that cuts hearts off from inspired Scripture.  We are denied access to revelation when scripture is made to usurp revelation by any form of scriptural fundamentalism, leaving us longing for the directness of revelation but cut off from her mysteries by the external letter of scriptural words and concepts.

When wisdom is revealed in ineffable words spoken in the Spirit in the humble womb of wonder, revelation happens and the heart is punctured by a blessed wound.  All scholastic separation is severed by this two-edged sword and the Word utters ineffable words in our midst.  The Son is generated by the Father who reveals his ineffable Name to him as the Word, beyond words and concepts.  The Spirit proceeds from the Father to abide in the Son, revealing the mysteries of the ineffable words of the Word by bearing witness in us to the Name.  The ineffable words of the Spirit unveil the ineffable words of the Son in us so that we too bear witness to the Name of the Father in the Spirit, ascribing the power of ineffable words to the Father’s ineffable glory.  Scripture offers words and concepts to every generation, words that can be infused by the Spirit to be for us ineffable words of revelation, but created scriptural words and concepts are not confused by the Patristic tradition with uncreated revelation through ineffable words.   

Elders bear witness to revelation beyond created words and concepts, experiencing the same revelation of glory in ineffable words as the apostles, prophets and saints.  Elders transmit wisdom with the help of created words charged with uncreated energy, ineffable words with capacity to awaken hearts, ineffable words heard by the Spirit in the heart, ineffable words of glory glorifying the saints.  These ineffable revelatory words or logoi of the uncreated Word purify our logismoi or dissipated mental chatterings into graced purity of heart, which is not puritanical prudery but ecstatic, sober clarity.  The inspiration of Scripture inspires the Patristic tradition because in both, ineffable words underlie created words in the same way that ineffable words of the eternal Word stand under the created words of Jesus and the apostles.  The Arians were ignorant of the ineffable energy and uncreated grace of the Name so they taught that the Word was created.  This mistake cut them off from glorification because glory is uncreated not created, which is why elders, even in our own day, bear witness to the uncreated energy of the glory of the Name, knowing, as they do, that the glory of the Word is uncreated.  Heresy is dissolved by the same uncreated hallowing theopathy that cures the confusions that spawn division.  Orthodoxy is God’s healing glory curing vainglory of vanity, leaving glory free to ascribe glory to God.  Vainglory confuses words and concepts with God, which is idolatry, whereas right glorification sees through idolatrous vanity, enabling idols to be turned back by the Spirit into icons, luminously transparent to the glory of God.  

Revelation is not confused with created words in scripture or tradition because it springs from the uncreated flame of ineffable words which purify, illumine and glorify those who live them as ineffable tongues of fire.  It is the function of the Spirit to renew this Pentecost in the hearts of the saints through elders whose words are ineffable fire.  Scholastic sophistry clings to the literal exterior of words and substitutes sophisticated opinion and rational argument for the living flame of wisdom.  Protestant sophistry is nominalist idolatry confusing created words with the ineffable words of revelation.  Hesychast elders see through both sophistries, not by their own cleverness, but in the Spirit, preferring the pierced heart of humble revelation to clever sophistication, whether Scholastic or Protestant.  Compunction cures sclerosis of heart by cutting through delusion and leaping over division.  The sacred culture of revelation in Hesychast life is secured not by Scholastic sophistication or Protestant literalism but by the pierced heart that hears ineffable words which restore paradise.  The cultivation of purity of heart is not priggish piety but radiant openness, freeing ineffable words to rise as unutterable wisdom in the Kingdom of uncreated glory.