Saint Sophrony the Hesychast: Dynamic Stillness

Saints Sophrony the Hesychast lived ‘dynamic stillness’ throughout his long life.  He lived on Mount Athos in his younger days, so Athonites call him the Athonite, and in Essex in the last years of his life, so others call him, ‘of Essex.’ both of which accurately describe where he lived his earlier and later life.  He is also called ‘the Hesychast,’ by those who believe that domestic geography cannot properly define him, that Holy Hesychasm was definitive for him, because the ‘dynamic stillness’ of Hesychasm was decisive throughout his long life.  Saint Maximus the Confessor defined stillness as ‘ever-moving repose,’ a phrase he employed in the seventh century to describe the wisdom of Hesychasm.  For him, the Hesychast was a wayfarer who freely moves on as he abides in unbroken peace.  The freedom and the peace are both equally decisive.  The uncreated and the created reciprocally fuse into one unconfused whole when stillness is both dynamic and at rest.  The disadvantage of any name that derives from domestic geography is that it confines Saint Sophrony in a way that he was never in fact confined, although all definitions, it must be admitted, confine in one way or another.

‘Dynamic stillness’ was for Saint Maximus definitive of confessing holiness in its deifying glory.  Saints live out of this ‘ever-moving repose’ in which they abide, at peace even in times of strife and contention, such as our own.  Saints step back into God in whom they abide in peace with ‘freely-moving repose.’  In the case of Saint Sophrony, we are obliged to ask, is spacial geography decisive, or is the paradox of stillness and the uncreated mode of deified glorification decisive?  Saint Sophrony the Hesychast lived from the hallowed freedom of dynamic stillness, always inspired by the unconfined freedom of stillness.  He taught the children of God to love freedom, abiding in the stillness of the Great Peace (Isaiah 54:13).  Stillness was always grounded in Great Peace, but moves freely through the extremes of binary divisions without being bound by any of them.  Wisdom steps back and turns to face into God beyond fixated extremism, freely partaking through Christ in the Spirit, restoring glory to the Father.  The way of the Name is the Spirit of Truth in action, abiding in Holy Trinity.

Stillness turns and awakens to realms of uncreated light, discerning uncreated glory everywhere that wisdom turns and sees.  ‘NOW,’ in the present moment of salvation, is the time to awaken to the Holy Name, cutting through prevarication, leaping over mountainous resistance.  The Name presently unites awareness and presence in ecstatic joy, rejoicing in the unveiled Countenance of God.  For living saints, like Sophrony the Hesychast, stillness was decisive, not geographical space or historical time, because space and time ultimately dissolve into the timeless presence of God.  The harmony of uncreated glory and created incompleteness lies in the harmonious completeness of Christ, both uncreated and created.  Staretz Sophrony was a Hesychast elder who was Christ-centred in his exploration of the mysteries of God, through Christ, in the Spirit, always opening dogma to living experience.  The Hesychast harmony of transfiguring glory and transfigured creation was, for Staretz Sophrony, a direct experience, living evidence of the wholeness of Christ in the Spirit.