The desert interprets the experience of purification and illumination as mystical ascent, completed by glorification, the experience of mystical descent. Ascent purifies the heart by dissolving confusion and burning up impurity, crystallising what is dissolved into translucent clarity. Descent gathers everything into the divine embrace of love, leaving nothing outside the scope of glorification. Seers often liken illumination to a crystalline expanse of translucent light, opening to ever-expanding awareness hallowing holy ones, hosts of angels or saints in God’s Kingdom of light and glory . Beyond this expanse or firmament, purifying the heart, translucent glory illumines, like a living flame of fire, from within the Holy of Holies of the heart. The experience of illumination initiates mystical ascent in uncreated light but glorification completes light with glory from within the Holy of Holies as uncreated fire of mystical descent. The seer ascends the mountain of transfiguration but the Bride descends from heavens of transfiguration, conjoined in glory with her Bridegroom.
The desert has always known these mysteries of ascent and descent, but most of its literature concentrated on purification, occasionally touching on ascending illumination but very rarely exploring in depth the transmutations of doxological energy that constitute mystical descent. Nevertheless, the threefold unfolding of turning, seeing and deifying union, of purification, illumination and glorification, was always at the heart of desert hermeneutics, ensuring that deifying completeness of glorification was never entirely forgotten. This meant that the inversion of all satanic inversions was never totally overlooked and the restoration of all things in glorification was never entirely ignored. This also meant that Orthodox Christian tradition, which the desert faithfully interprets, always bears witness to the completeness of deifying descent arising from the luminous translucence of ascent. It means that glorification opens in the midst of illumination, completing ascent with descent, illumination with deification.
Desert wisdom turns to see and sees to experience glory restoring glory to God, God-centred glorification of God, through God. Vision of Holy Trinity completes glorification and glorification unveils Holy Trinity. Purification and illumination of the heart was always the sure and trusted way of the Name that illumines the heart with Spirit of Truth. The experience of glorification arises when the eye of the heart opens to the timeless life of the Name, completing purification with illumination and illumination with glorification. It follows that the desert is never bereft of the wisdom which weds glory in the heart, opening to mysteries of the Bridal Chamber and the Holy of Holies. Elders never forgot these Scriptural mysteries and ensured they were continually revered and indeed lived at the heart of the tradition, even though such mysteries are inherently ineffable. They did not let shallow convention extinguish wisdom nor narrow opinions stifle glorification. It was often difficult for them to stand steadfast in wisdom because ecclesiastical powers were often seductive as well as powerful in their collusion with worldly powers. But withdrawal into solitude provided some protection and occasional bishops like St Gregory Palamas, who were themselves Hesychasts, were able to affirm the canonical authenticity of Hesychasm and preserve it from total extinction.
Christ’s glorification was always shared with those who indwell Christ and glorification bears witness to Christ’s purification of confusion to overcome satanic separation. Enthronement of Christ glorified was always integral to the desert’s vision of the union of wisdom and glory in the Name. Glorification opens to unfolding paradigm shifts which open expansive openness to ever-expanding openness, awareness opening to presence as wisdom unveiling glory. Desert elders always communicate this within the ineffable mysteries of Christ’s unfathomable humility because the Name is never taken in vain when glory is unveiled. This means that glory in Christ does not necessarily disintegrate into vainglory in the course of the process of transmission. It also explains why the desert preferred silence and became a ‘tradition of stillness,’ Hesychasm, rather than risk utterance when mystery is intrinsically ineffable.
Sacred symbol and holy image were traditional to ancient prophecy and were re-interpreted in each generation to enable wisdom to be communicated and glory to be operative in hallowed lives. The symbol of the winged throne became the angel chariot in countless mystical ascents, giving silence ancient ways to say what cannot literally be said. Angelic chant recurs in vision after vision, giving stillness regenerative ways to express wisdom song. Bridal symbolism informs countless echoes of the Song of Songs in ascetic literature, ensuring the mysteries of glorification and doxological descent were not utterly forgotten. Desert elders continue to speak from wisdom when prophecy awakens unceasing prayer of the Spirit in the heart and saints bear witness to glorification when they live the glory of the Kingdom. Wisdom sings of glory in stillness, bearing witness to luminous translucence, hallowing the Name as glory in the Kingdom come.