Prayer of Stillness

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The prayer of stillness anchored childhood and adolescence in a revelation of love and peace which was newly inspired, in the summer of 1965, by a meeting with Saint Sophrony the Hesychast, prior to a pilgrimage to Mount Athos, at the age of twenty, in the company of my father.  Saint Sophrony introduced me to the practice of Hesychast wisdom by communicating the Holy Name, leading to nine years of ripening practice, bearing fruit with the opening of the eye of the heart iDecember 1974.  Blessed by Saint Sophrony, the practice of turning and seeing became the way, truth and life of contemplative practice for a life-time.  With the warm support of Father Geoffrey Curtis CR, Douglas Harding, Dr Martin Israel, Father Gilbert Shaw, Mother Mary Clare SLG and Canon Roland Walls, the prayer of stillness deepened, and under the auspices of Saint Sophrony, led to gradual insight, sustained by reception into the Orthodox Church by Abbot Aemilianos Simonopetritis in the Monastery of Ormylia on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25th 1988, and monastic tonsure by Saint Sophrony in his Monastery of St John the Baptist at Tolleshunt Knights in Essex in 1990.  Ever since, the Hesychast practice of metanoia, turning, and theoria, seeing, has generated the prayer of stillness, turning the light of awareness round into the stillness of purification and grace of illumination of the heart.

It was clear that the prayer of stillness was neither the end of the path nor even a means to that end, since stillness, hesychia, was the wisdom practice that lay at the heart of all Orthodox right-glorification.  It was the way of metanoia that sustained both illumination and glorification.  It was the practice of theoria, contemplative awareness that unified the mind with the heart.  As monk in the monastery of Saint Sophrony, then after his death, as hermit for eighteen years in the Monastery of Saint Antony and Saint Cuthbert on the Stiperstones, the prayer of stillness was sustaining, turning the trials of Hesychast life into glorification, inspiring eremitical life in a Wisdom Hermitage in St Davids.  Humanly speaking, the Hesychast experience of glorification over many years is remembered, but spiritually speaking, timeless presence is unveiled, a hidden union of wisdom and glory.  In wisdom journal posts, this paradoxical conjunction of temporal unfolding and timeless enfolding was discerned, uniting the wisdom of timeless stillness with the temporal unfolding of Hesychast glorification, Holy Orthodoxy in practice.

Timeless presence of glory is accessible to wisdom but remains hidden without it, indicating that stillness always remains a mystery, baffling the rational understanding.  A life-time of the prayer of stillness is, therefore, strictly ineffable and incomprehensible, transcending both sense perception and rational comprehension, shattering time in time.  Holy completeness is, in fact, an utter paradox of temporal unfolding and timeless enfolding, a mystery that, although ineffable, is coherently co-inherent.  The prayer of stillness, whilst unfolding over seventy years, from childhood to old age, is conjoined with the experience of timeless glorification, which participates in a consensual communion of saints and angels in timeless glory.  If wisdom had to side with the timeless against time, it would be incomplete, since it would exclude temporal unfolding in the name of timeless enfolding.  If completeness were timeless enfolding alone, it would exclude temporal unfolding.  Baffling though paradox undoubtedly is, the grace of divine-human union alone is the completeness of timeless enfolding, unfolding in time.  We are, in consequence, inexplicable and irreducible paradox, aporetic and antinomic through and through, from childhood to old age.  Who can hold steady in this paradoxical co-inherence of time and timeless completeness?  Who can abide in this apparently impossible possibility?  The Name is hallowed in time, but the glory it reveals is forever timeless.