Praxis of Theoria

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The practice of spiritual vision, which Orthodox Hesychast Tradition calls the ‘praxis of theoria,’ is the methodical activity that turns and sees what the Name reveals, purifying and illumining the awakened heart, opening mysteries of grace to hallowing glorification.  Elders explain this conceptually in order to point the saints beyond conceptuality to direct, non-conceptual awareness.  It is the practice of seeing in the Spirit that keeps the faith and trusts the Spirit to unveil the glory of grace,  sustaining the purification and illumination of the heart whilst restoring the wholeness of sound glorification.  Luminous heart-vision is direct, not discursive, so in an age of binary thinking, it looks profoundly counter-cultural.  It appears illogical in a world that excludes all but the simplistic ‘yes’ and ‘no’ of rational thinking, but makes good sense in a world that abides in the stillness and simplicity of awakened, spiritual vision.  For wisdom, grace is present here and now, not a future reward for good behaviour after death, so for wisdom that discerns the glory of grace, it is timeless, not a past or future state subject to temporal separation.  The vision of elders that nurtures saints is never decisively reified but is grounded in the ineffability of genuine wisdom, although Hesychast elders, like Saint Gregory Palamas, do indeed think conceptually in the service of this vision.  They speak the language of the Patristic Tradition, which lives in the Spirit, not the language of the theological academy, which thinks discursively about the tradition but in practice holds aloof from spiritual glorification.

For desert elders, however, the intellectual reverberations of rational reflection are expressions of the pellucidity of translucent vision, not mystical theology itself, which is wisdom, but theological reflection on the mysteries of glory.  To abide in Christ is to live, through the Spirit, in the glory the Father bestows on the Son, which is to abide in the timeless well-being of the Father’s glory in the eternal presence of God the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom abides in the Spirit who indwells Christ, whilst the glory of Christ restores all fallen glory to the Father.  The union of wisdom and glory is the heart-vision of the Holiest of Holy mysteries, hidden with Christ in God.  The Jesus Prayer is indeed the prayer of the Holy Name of God, but it empties into the prayer of the Holy Spirit in the heart, uniting mind and heart.  Prayer in the Spirit frees the heart from compulsions to grasp and cling, releasing into grace preceding and superseding every fall from grace, liberating them all into spontaneous freedom.  Grace as glory is completeness curing incompleteness of its confusions and divisions, but saints do not offer external evidence of the grace that blesses them, in the vain hope that curious observers will understand.  Instead, they abide in the stillness and silence of the completeness of that grace so that its uncreated energy may awaken pure awareness to deifying glory.

The Holy Fathers often speak of the circularity and the infallibility of the glory of grace, not because they think they themselves are infallible, but because no error can intrude between the Spirit and the Son in their infallible encircling of the Father.  This infallible life of self-emptying love cannot be sought or found just anywhere, since it is the divine life of Holy Trinity that has never been lost, that has never fallen from the glory of its ineffable completeness.  The Holy Trinity is, of course, everywhere, so awakening can happen anywhere.  The wisdom that beholds the glory of Christ crucified stands steadfast everywhere and holds steady in the midst because the throne of the slaughtered Lamb is timeless, free of the deceptions and delusions that fall from glory into the endless dissatisfaction of obdurate despair.  Christ is the Great Peace that never falls from glory even on Golgotha, restoring endless dissatisfaction to the timeless wholeness of ineffable completeness.  The Spirit’s beholding of Christ’s union with the Father is uninterrupted just as the Spirit’s prayer in the heart is unceasing, sharing deifying union with all.  The Spirit’s vision in uncreated light stands under illumination, grounding purification of the heart in the uncreated light of glory.  Intelligible spirit and sensible matter are one in the uncreated energy of light and glory, releasing into radiant freedom.  The practice of noetic wisdom, which Hesychast elders call the ‘praxis of theoria,’ unites heaven and earth, co-inhering through all intelligible and sensible worlds, sustaining communion in the uncreated light of glory, opening light to glory in God the Holy Trinity and to the ineffable Oneness of Godhead at the heart of Holy Trinity.