Jesus said: The light of the body is the eye. If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light (Mt 6: 22). Desert elders interpreted this saying in the light of Jesus’ teaching on turning, metanoia, and the practice of seeing, the praxis of theoria. The single eye is the eye of wisdom, of wholeness and sound vision, the eye of uncreated light in which the body is unveiled as light. Union with Christ in his death opens to union with Christ in his resurrection, unveiling in him the body of resurrection which is a body of light. Union with Christ in his ascension and his glorification unveils in him the body of light to be a body of glory. When desert elders bore witness to the white martyrdom of their desert wisdom, they pointed to Christ’s death overcoming death through death, to resurrection with Christ in his resurrection, to participation by grace in his resurrected body of uncreated light. Wisdom’s single eye sees with Christ’s eye of sound wholeness, the eye of uncreated light that sees that the transfigured body is light, because transfiguration beholds what resurrection reveals. The eye of transfiguration sees light where blind eyes saw only gross matter, empowering the eye of light to see glory where deluded perception saw only physical phenomena. So when elders bear witness to hallowing, white martyrdom, they bear witness to uncreated light, in whose light transfiguring light is both seer and seen.
Red martyrdom lives white martyrdom even unto death, death that bears witness to Christ in his saving death and resurrection by bearing witness in a death like his to what white martyrdom is already witnessing, namely, wisdom’s single eye, beholding light where blind eyes see only gross matter. The sound wholeness of wisdom beholds the uncreated light of glory purify, illumine and deify perception, wisdom uniting mind and heart in wholeness of light and glory. The body of light is unveiled in illumination and the body of glory is revealed in glorification, deification embracing the body of light as a body of glory. Elders do not single out these mysteries on their own but include them within their transmission of the mysteries of Christ’s ascension and glorification. White martyrdom is simply a Christian’s participation in the grace of Baptism, union with Christ in his death and resurrection. It is participation in the grace of Chrismation, which rises through Illumination with Christ in his ascension and it is participation in the grace of the Eucharist, which is union with Christ in his glorification. Desert elders are not adding anything special to the mysteries of Christ that belong to all. They are bearing witness to the depths and heights of what belongs to each and to all, so that saints are freed to rise into the mysteries of Christ without hindrance.
Desert wisdom is simply Christian wisdom lived and loved in ways that were in danger of being forgotten in an age that had adopted Christianity as its imperial religion. White martyrdom bears witness to wisdom by continuing to live the depths and heights of red martyrdom through its own costly witness in the wasteland of the desert. Elders kept faith with the prophecy and prayer of the martyr’s costly witness to Christ’s death and resurrection, by renewing this same living prophecy and unceasing prayer, sustaining the saints with wisdom and glory in generation after generation to this day. The single eye and the body of light lie at the heart of this witness, opening the eye of wisdom in illumination and awakening to the body of glory in glorification. Awakening is sudden, instantaneous and whole but its assimilation takes place in time, either as one of many graduated paths of successive awakenings or as a wisdom path of timeless recognition and sustained remembrance of God. Wisdom is manifold in his limitless variety of ways and means, manifold also in her multi-dimensional transcendence of all ways and means. Whole-eyed wisdom is integral and indivisible, just as uncreated light is translucent as well as enlightening, turning gross perception from light into uncreated light, transfiguring glory with increasing glory. The single eye sees uncreated light because it is uncreated light, unveiling a body of light in Christ’s resurrected body of uncreated light, unveiling light as glory without end.
Feast of Saint Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938).