On Monday March 18th 2019, the Harmony Project in the University of Lampeter, inspired by the Sophia Harmony Initiative of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, published an essay on the Harmony Project Website by Father Silouan, entitled: ‘The Practice of Harmony in Orthodox Christian Wisdom,’ There is a link to this at the bottom of the Wisdom Centuries page of this website. This recently published essay forms part of a series of Harmony Reflections, exploring ancient religious and philosophical traditions that speak of Harmony. The set of essays are being published on The Harmony Project’s website in conjunction with essays exploring Principles of Harmony, and Harmony in Practice. It is the hope that these essays will also be published as part of a student workbook on Harmony.
The practice of harmony in Orthodox Christian Wisdom derives inspiration from the harmony of wisdom, which is inspired in turn by wisdom in harmony. This very ancient formulation comes from a Second Century document known as the Acts of John and is to be found in chapter 98 on page 255 of M R James’ Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford 1924. It bears witness to an illumined vision of the Cross of Light imparted by Christ to the Apostle John, a vision that is essentially ineffable but is nevertheless unveiled as ‘the harmony of wisdom, being wisdom in harmony.’
The Acts of John says that the Cross of Light has many names such as Logos, Christ, door, Way, bread, resurrection, life, truth, faith and grace, all of which are familiar to us from the Gospel of John. But known in itself, it is revealed to us as it is in itself, namely, it is the harmony of wisdom, being wisdom in harmony. This very early witness to the harmony of wisdom being wisdom in harmony, reaches us from the heart of what today we call the Johannine Tradition, which springs from the witness of the Beloved Disciple, who inspired the Fourth Gospel, the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. It also inspired the Church’s earliest Hymnbook, known to us as the Odes of Solomon, which also speaks of the Cross as revelation of light and glory. Here, in the Acts of John, the Cross of Light reveals glory which unveils the harmony of wisdom, being wisdom in harmony.
Wisdom discerns glory as the harmony of wisdom because glory is always already wisdom in harmony. This is evident to wisdom but not to us when we fall from glory, not to us when vanity usurps God at centre, reducing glory to vainglory. Unconscious confusion between ourselves and God in the midst is revealed when wisdom dispels confusion between God’s uncreated ‘I AM’ and our created ‘me.’
Vainglory superimposes a deluded confusion between us and God here at centre so that we become self-centred, not God-centred. Pride fixates this delusion within us so that harmony between the divine and the human is destroyed. Disharmony then sets in as catastrophic cosmic disorder, destroying the primordial harmony of this world, divorcing heaven and earth. The visible world falls away from uncreated light illumining invisible realms, as creation ceases to be aware of the uncreated glory that transfigures it.
Wisdom reverses this disharmony by restoring right glorification of God at centre. The Cross of Light restores harmony by uncovering the wisdom of the Father in the luminous heart of the Son, discerned by the Spirit, unveiling, through prophecy, the universal harmony abiding in the midst of the Father and the Son. Through prayer of the heart, creation is regenerated in harmony with Holy Trinity, when hearts assimilate what prophecy communicates, in the grace of the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of the Cross of Glory reveals the harmony of wisdom as wisdom in harmony by imparting the sacred injunctions to turn and see.
Turning, metanoia, turns the mind right round so that it unites with God in the heart. Seeing, theoria, awakens to God, seeing God in God, Holy Trinity, restoring us to wisdom’s discernment of glory through God’s grace. Glory crowns all who awaken to the grace of uncreated light by turning, all who see the deifying light of Christ who sees as he is seen, seeing God, through God in God: Holy Trinity. Glorification or deification, theosis, is the action of grace restoring the harmony of wisdom as wisdom in harmony.
In the fallen state, it seems self evident that ‘I am me,’ that ‘I AM’ is ‘me.’ God’s glory is usurped by vanity so that self-centred delusion reigns. But when God’s Name is hallowed, we turn and see God at centre in the midst. God’s Kingdom comes when God’s Holy Name is hallowed and God’s will is done, as the Lord’s Prayer makes clear.
It is wisdom at the living heart of the Orthodox Christian Tradition that transmits the ‘I AM’ sayings in the Gospel of John. It is wisdom that discerns the glory of ‘I AM’ and remembers God in harmony. It is wisdom that restores our world by ascribing glory to God, unveiling the harmony of wisdom and wisdom in harmony. When we fall from glory, disharmony reigns, because confusion spawns division, but when the harmony of wisdom reigns, wisdom radiates harmony wherever we turn.
The practice of harmony in Orthodox Christian Wisdom has very ancient roots. The second century witness of the Acts of John to the harmony of wisdom bears witness in our disordered times, despite our disruption of harmony in so many spheres, to the renewal of wisdom in harmony.