Saint Sophrony the Hesychast

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Saint Sophrony the Hesychast bore witness to God’s Name ‘I AM,’ hallowing our age by restoring glory to God.  Wisdom unveils the ineffable oneness of ‘I AM,’ God’s awareness conjoined with deifying  presence in the timeless openness of glory, in the light of God’s embrace of our incompleteness within his consummate completeness.   Glory proceeds from glory to restore glory to the Father, revealed in the Spirit as the truth of God’s Name.  Christ anoints seers with the Chrism of his Name ‘I AM,’ revealed in ‘I AM’ sayings in the Gospel of John, ‘I AM’ with predicates like ”I AM’ the way, the truth and the life,’ and ‘I AM’ beyond predication such as:  ‘Before Abraham was, ‘I AM.” The Name with predicates reveals God from God; the Name without predicates unveils Godhead beyond God.  Both transmit union with God and communion through God without confusion, revealing mysteries of the indivisible oneness of wisdom and glory, uniting divine awareness and deifying presence.  Saint Sophrony loved the ‘I AM’ sayings in the Gospel of John together with the Sinai revelation of the Name, ‘I AM who I AM,’ (Ex 3:14).  

God’s Name is ‘I AM,’ revealing God the Father through God the Son, uncovering the wisdom and glory of the Spirit’s witness to Holy Trinity at the heart of the world.  The oneness of the Trinity is the Name unveiled, but this oneness unveils difference in God that never divides.  Awareness of presence sustains presence of awareness as oneness revealed.  ‘I AM’ is God, ‘I AM’ is one, ‘I AM’ from ‘I AM,’ God from God.  The Spirit bears witness to ‘I AM’ in God right here in the midst, and this witness verifies the testimony of prophets and apostles, confirmed in every generation by elders and saints.  Elders like Saint Sophrony point to what the Spirit sees, wisdom discerning glory through hallowing God’s Name.  Glorification is the consummation of Christ’s resurrection and ascension because it communicates the glory of Holy Trinity, completeness embracing incompleteness as beauty of holiness.

Wisdom is loved by the saints not as a new sophisticated philosophy but as divine radiance of love renewing hearts in glory.  The desert has its own transmission of wisdom which does not impart conditioned information but opens to the Spirit’s awakening of the eye of the heart through prophecy and prayer, wisdom and glory. Prophecy communicates the Word of wisdom that names the Name whilst prayer empowers the assimilation of love’s glory, glorification of the Name in wisdom.  This living grace of glorification is imparted by the Spirit through elders to the saints, opening wisdom to glory in the Holy of Holies as a Song of Songs.   Wisdom weds glory in the midst, opening awareness to presence and presence to awareness in God. Patristic wisdom unfolded her love in commentaries on the Song of Songs, wisdom embracing glory, whose symbolic expressions include the sacred gaze and the kiss of peace.  Prayer in the early hours breathes in this timeless inspiration of the Spirit beyond the many forms of verbal prayer prayed by the mind or with the lips.  Verbal prayer supports the mind when the heart has not yet awakened to spiritual prayer.  It upholds the mind until it turns and sees God in the midst.  When the Spirit prays in the heart, she draws the mind down into the heart, which means she awakens the heart to God at centre in the midst.

God-centred glorification begins with God’s purification of the heart, which is actually God’s illumination of the heart, not to be confused with the conditioned ways and means that we adopt before God enlightens the heart.  God-centred wisdom cures vainglory by restoring all glory to God.  Self-centred introspection is never confused with God-centred glorification, although wisdom does indeed turn to see and does not wander out into externalising concepts and images.  God-centred glorification gives glory to God, in the Spirit through the Son, restoring all glory to the Father.  Verbal expressions of glory may or may not ascribe glory to God.  Verbal repetition of the Lord’s Prayer may or may not hallow God’s Name.  Consequently, the Kingdom remains future because the Name is not hallowed. The differing scriptural eschatologies are varying reflections of our different spiritual states, not inconsistencies on a single rational plane of literal meanings.  The Eternal Gospel of glory is commonly read down to various versions of a temporal gospel when the Spirit’s prayer in the heart has not yet awakened.  It is wisdom, not our opinion and reasoning that sorts out how things stand.  Orthodox Hesychasm is simply Orthodoxy rising into the fullness of grace and glory.  It is not a sectarian faction nor a partisan school of thought, although some academic accounts of Hesychasm conditioned by a University environment rather than the desert, may give that misleading impression.

The oneness of God’s awareness and deifying presence is uncovered by wisdom’s insight into glory, not by scholastic reasoning or romantic sentiment.  The desert does generate mystical theology but it is the fruit of the Spirit’s awakening of the heart through the Name.  The saints and fathers of the Church are proof that mystical theology is alive and well when hearts are awake, although not all elders leave writings that bear witness to apostolic scope or prophetic inspiration.  Sometimes it is difficult to discover elders in an age when wisdom is despised, but the Spirit is not quenched in circles that hallow the Name.  The Kingdom of glory does not run dry nor is the scope of glorification narrowed by a shallow reduction of Orthodoxy to ethnic conventions.  The desert never ceases to bear witness to wisdom sustaining glorification, even in a secular age when wisdom’s neglect is rampant.   Indeed, the internal contradictions of secularism are actually fertile openings to wisdom and glory that conceal new paradigms, full of promise as old paradigms break down.  Completeness communicates great peace even as old conditions collapse.  The timeless openness of glory waits in stillness for the wisdom of the Name to be revealed anew, making all things new.

Again and again, wisdom renews Orthodox tradition in glory so that the Name is handed on as the Spirit’s witness to ‘ I AM,’ God’s oneness, awareness and presence in Holy Trinity.  Elders like the recently canonised Archimandrite, Saint Sophrony the Hesychast, founder of the Stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Essex in 1959, pointed to the Name ‘I AM’ and to the ineffable mysteries of first personhood in God and in us.  His writings return again and again to the theme of ‘I AM,’ and his witness to the Name revisioned Patristic Orthodoxy as living Palamite Hesychasm for this generation and for generations to come.  His years in an Athonite monastery and in a cave in the desert of the Holy Mountain were inspired by Saint Silouan the Athonite, whose prophetic witness to the mysteries of love was both accessible and profound.  

The recent canonisation of Saint Sophrony on Thursday November 27th 2019 has blessed these parched and troubled times by recognising his witness to the Name ‘I AM,’ opening this wisdom of the Name to mysteries of glorification that will continue to offer inexhaustible nourishment in times to come.  Many ancient Patristic texts were silent concerning the profounder mysteries of wisdom, glory and the Name, preferring to bear witness to them through ineffable sighs in hidden stillness.  In our day, wisdom is bubbling up because the Name opens to ineffable glory in ways which begin to answer pressing contemporary questions in fresh ways, renewing Hesychast tradition to renew the world.  Wisdom in Saint Sophrony opens to the Name anew, uncovering neglected dimensions of glory afresh, renewing the heart in God-centred awareness, hallowing God’s defying presence in his Name, revealed by the Spirit in the midst.