Christ, for Orthodox Hesychasm, is the wisdom of God, all-embracing in his expansive openness but utterly specific in his rooted human transfigurement (1 Cor 1:24 & 30). Desert wisdom is intrinsically mystical theology because prophecy and prayer belong in the midst of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity. Prophecy in the desert communicates Christ’s witness to the Name, expressing the wholeness of the Father’s presence in the Son and the wholeness of the Spirit’s abiding in the Son, transmitting the Name as hallowing wholeness of Holy Trinity, communicating completeness through all, in all. Desert prayer of the Spirit in the heart is the Spirit’s unceasing glorification of the Father in his Name, inviting us into his ascending union through the Son, including us in his descending communion as the Holy Spirit. Thrice holy glorification is always simultaneously glorification of Oneness in the Father, as Oneness in the Son, in Oneness of the Spirit. Deifying Oneness is never divisible into three separate, divisible persons, just as deified Oneness never degenerates into a monism that confuses the three different persons.
The desert’s faithful transmission of apophatic mystical theology never abandoned precision of vision (theoria), but was careful not to allow its wisdom to degenerate into wars between exclusive extremes, wars that result in crippling hesitation between incompatible forms of heretical extremism. The Father of glory enlightens the heart, imparting wisdom that is not confused with academic theology or scholastic metaphysics. When it insisted the ‘I’ of Christ was one and indivisible, it never implied his ‘I’ was confused. Healthy difference was never preserved at the price of unhealthy division nor saving union at the price of unhealthy confusion. Desert wisdom in Byzantium loved to work within the parameters of the Chalcedonian Definition (AD 451), without excluding those who differed verbally but not in the vision (theoria) of hallowing wisdom that inspired them.
Desert wisdom was always truly first-personal without being ‘personalist’ in modern dualistic ways that drive divisions between nature and person that amounts to anti-essentialism. Elders prefer silence on matters that cannot be handled in exclusive, binary ways. Saint Maximus was silent on the Anaphora in his commentary on the Divine Liturgy, his Mystagogia, silent on the mysteries of thanksgiving, offering, remembrance, invocation and consecration. This sort of theologically intentional silence lies at the heart of Orthodox Hesychasm. It is not a mere rhetorical posture but a wisdom of profound stillness that itself transcends easy definitions. The desert was silent on the mysteries of the kiss of peace, the Bridal Chamber and the Holy of Holies, not because these mysteries of glory do not matter but because they matter too much to reduce to warring opinions or incompatible heresies. The absence of speech does not denote an absence of vision (theoria), rather, overwhelming presence of revelatory glory that stuns speech into reverent silence and awestruck wonder. ‘Dazzling darkness’ is not an absence but an excess of uncreated light. Desert silence is stillness that communicates more than even the most skilful speech can express. That is why the Apostle Paul tells us that the speech he heard in the third and highest heaven was ineffable (2 Cor 12: 2-6).
Silence reveres glory by ascribing glory to God, opening to God’s ineffable, God-centred glorification of God. Stillness preserves the mystery of uncreated presence so that it can abide within itself without limiting itself, transcending itself without loosing itself. The Spirit’s unceasing prayer in the heart is not silent out of culpable deficiency but silent out of dumb-struck awe that sees but cannot objectively observe, hears but cannot rationally think the mysteries that are unfolding in the midst. The mysteries of the Father’s Kingdom are unveiled in the Name but transcend rational speech that reifies what it objectifies. Even the veil of sacred images and mystical symbols is withdrawn when stillness descends as glory, unveiling the wonders of grace. The Father of glory unveils wisdom to discern the glory of grace as the Spirit reveals it in the death, resurrection, ascension and glorification of Christ. Glorification is Christ’s gift of himself, of his resurrection, ascension, and glorification that die to spiritual death in many inexplicable ways.
It is impossible to explain how future glory is already present in Christ without straining language to breaking point. It is impossible to say how Christ is both the gift and the giver of grace, how ascent is also descent and absence presence. Silence holds these paradoxes in healthy tension, embracing their tendency to fly apart into disintegration, holding healthy vision steady so as to maintain in stillness a wholesome if often very costly integration. God is all in all only because he is not something created among many other created things. Difference between the created and the uncreated is itself ineffable, since the uncreated is not something objectively knowable or conceptually definable, as are created things and their differences. As the wisdom of God, Christ imparts the wisdom that awakens hearts to glory but remains the radiant heart whose still centre frees wisdom to abide in the inexpressible. The desert loves to embrace Christ in the midst in stillness, knowing that his wisdom embraces glory whilst holding open the inexhaustible openness of glory’s inexpressible completeness.