Wisdom, Prophecy and Prayer

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Orthodox Hesychast wisdom was, from time to time, accused of the heresy of Gnosticism by those who thought they were its enemies, but Orthodox Hesychast wisdom has no real enemies except demonic hatred of God.  Hesychast prophecy was occasionally accused of heretical Montanism by those who saw themselves as its enemy, but the only enemy of holy prophecy is Antichrist.  Orthodox Hesychast prayer was sometimes accused of heretical Messalianism, but the only enemy of prayer of the heart is satanic envy of the mysteries of its glory.  Wisdom, prophecy and prayer are, in reality, Orthodox through and through, as Holy Orthodoxy has always, in the end, born witness, although this witness has often been tested and refined over the centuries.  It is, indeed, inevitable that those who are falling short of glorification confuse it with what it never was.  There was once a time when veneration of icons was accused of idolatrous worship, but Holy Orthodoxy dispelled this misconception at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 787.  More recently, Hesychast veneration of the deifying, divine Name was accused of being idolatrous worship of a word by those who did not understand glorification, but this time Holy Orthodoxy in Russia was plunged into decades of persecution under atheistic communism and so far has been unable to call a legitimate Council to clarify the matter.

In every generation, Hesychast wisdom. prophecy and prayer are inevitably misunderstood by those who fall short of wisdom’s glorification of the Name, which means that her martyred history is inevitably relived, again and again, in the lives of those who live glorification.  Orthodox wisdom, prophecy and prayer are key to wholesome glorification in every generation, so the flame of the Name refines and purifies hearts anew, again and again.  The Hesychast wisdom of Saint Gregory Palamas was accused of heresy by some orthodox influenced by Latin Scholasticism, but the Athonite Tome discerned these confusions and was canonised by the Palamite Councils of 1341 t0 1351, later called the Fifth Council of Constantinople.  Hesychast wisdom, prophecy and prayer were given canonical recognition by the Athonite Tome, inspired by the Hesychast bishop of Thessalonica, Saint Gregory Palamas, but this recognition was contested whenever Hesychast wisdom was lost and its prophecy and prayer accused of heresy by those who regarded purification, illumination and glorification as unorthodox.

How is the serenity of stillness possible, when its wisdom is again and again confused with heresy?  Desert elders have answered that these accusations and persecutions have no real power to distort genuine wisdom, quench the Spirit of prophecy or shatter the unceasing prayer of the Spirit in the heart, because such power is unable to disempower Christ’s glorification of the Father in the Holy Spirit.  Elders were always able to reassure saints that genuine glorification heals all falls from glorification, and therefore remains well able to cure the kinds of confusion that cause division.  But the wisdom of living prophecy and purifying prayer has to be renewed again in every generation, to purify and illumine hearts and to prevent confusion degenerating into division.  Gradually, however, stillness matures into unruffled serenity in the midst of false accusations and persecutions, from which the persecutor as well as the persecuted may both painfully learn to discern what is happening.  Orthodox wisdom is truly holy, precisely because it humbly learns from its confusions, as it is liberated from its divisions.  The serenity of stillness is right-glorifying and therefore Orthodox, because it is refined by the uncreated fire of martyrdom, which is the suffering of glorification in communion with Christ, enlightened in the Spirit through the hallowing wisdom of the Cross.  Elders are thereby able to assure Hesychast saints that uncreated wisdom generously renews revelatory prophecy and unceasing prayer through glorification, extending from generation to generation.