The prayer of the Spirit in the heart is unceasing but unnoticed until wisdom discerns glory in enlightened vision (theoria). The Jesus prayer contains two divine Names, Lord (YHWH) and Jesus (YAH shuah), but the third revelatory Name, ‘I AM,’ (EHYEH), is implicit, because when it is God who speaks, the two third person Names, YHWH and YAH, are both revelations of ‘I AM,’ (EHYEH). Prophetic intuition in the desert discerns EHYEH in YHWH and in YAH, unveiling God personally in his Name. For mystical prophecy, there is indeed a union of presence uniting God and his Name in the case of all three of these primary revelations of the Name, YHWH, YAH and EHYEH. All three revelations of the Name are related to the root HAYAH, being, understood as personal presence rather than abstract being or ontological essence. The revelation of glory in the Burning Bush evades reification by refusing to subject God to the objectifying tendencies of the binary mind. God’s essence in his Name is unknowable but his personal presence is revealed in his energies of wisdom and glory. The Name ‘I AM,’ (EHYEH) is not an evasion that ends in nihilism but transmits a veiling of divine essence which unveils divine presence.
The wisdom of desert Hesychasts is transmitted through the Jesus Prayer. ‘I AM who I AM,’ (EHYEH ASHER EHYEH) does not yield up conceptual knowledge of God’s essence but direct experience of God’s personal presence. YAH, YHWH and EHYEH are not therefore conceptual descriptions of God’s essence but revelations of his presence discerned in wisdom and glory. This is the function of prophecy and prayer in the desert, which hold steady to the Covenant of the Name by direct communication of God’s presence in prophecy and direct assimilation of that presence in pure prayer. Elders have never claimed to supersede Moses and the glory of the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:13-15), nor did elders forget Elijah and the revelation of glory in the cleft of the rock (1Kings 19:9-18), because both Moses and Elijah are present on Mount Tabor, bearing witness to the transfiguration of Christ with the three disciples, Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:6-16-18). The desert knows that God is present in the midst of those who hallow his Name, revealing the Father’s love of his countless children awakened through the Name of his Son, a love that goes way beyond God’s being their Creator or their Sovereign Lord. The God of the fathers is ‘I AM,’ revealing his presence as the heavenly Father of ‘I AM.’ Desert elders hand these mysteries over from father to son, in the Son, to the glory of the Father. If this sounds Patriarchal, look closer, and you will discover that ‘I AM’ transcends gender altogether and always has.
The prayer of the Name in the desert is dialogical rather than dialectical or metaphysical, acknowledging an ineffable ‘THOU’ at the heart of ‘I AM,’ as the Baptism of Christ as well as the Holy Transfiguration make clear. ‘THOU art my Beloved Son,’ is said by the Father to the Son but it is the Spirit who unceasingly prays the Name ‘I AM’ as ‘ABBA’ in the heart, bringing to light God’s ‘THOU’ at the heart of ‘I AM.’ It follows that dialogical presence in the Name is not reducible to ontological essence, although in sound Hesychasm, there is no separation between presence and essence. Hesychast wisdom avoids the extremism that divides what wisdom does not confuse. God promises presence in prophecy and inspires aspiration that longs for presence in prayer, but unless prophecy and prayer unite in actual presence, actualising real presence, the desert knows no fulfilment. The Jesus Prayer recited by rote is not yet the prayer of the Spirit in the heart, any more than the Lord’s Prayer repeated verbally by heart is yet the prayer of the heart. The prayer of the Spirit in the heart is the ineffable mystery that unifies prophecy and prayer, fulfilling divine promise and human aspiration. It is the Spirit’s unceasing prayer that fulfils wisdom in the desert, unveiling glory as presence in the Name. It is the Spirit’s ineffable intercession that completes the mysteries of glory in the heart, ensuring the efficacy of purification, illumination and glorification in Christ, who is the image of God that unveils true likeness.