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Hesychasm #121590 05/12/05 07:50 PM
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Myles Offline OP
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Can anyone give me an introduction to this topic? What is it? How do the Churches view it --East and West, Orthodox and Catholic??

Thanks
Myles


"We love, because he first loved us"--1 John 4:19
Re: Hesychasm #121591 05/13/05 05:32 PM
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Christos Anesti!
Alithos Anesti!

Hesychia means stillness and Hesychasm is the practice of stillness in the presence of God. And a hesychast is one who practices hesychasm.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Hesychia is particular to Orthodox spirituality in that it brings out one of the differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and their 2 understandings of the nature of grace. The Orthodox understanding of grace as being uncreated and the actual participation in the energies of God (the uncreated light of the Transfiguration) vs. the Catholic understanding of created grace and the differing categories of grace (sanctifying, actual, etc...), which was influenced heavily by Aquinas.

The 14th century Orthodox Church Father, St. Gregory Palamas is the best example of the Orthodox tradition and understanding of hesychasm and uncreated grace. He is a pillar of Orthodoxy because he was instrumental in preserving the Orthodox understanding, and most importanly the Orthodox experience, of grace and stillness. Because of St. Gregory, Orthodoxy was not influenced by the scholasticism which so heavily influenced the west.

The story of St. Gregory in a nutshell is that his contemporary, the heretic Barlaam and his followers were teaching that the monastics were wasting their time praying and practicing the life of Hesychia. Barlaam held that the path to knowledge of God is through the intellect and that the monastics should be concerning themselves with intellectual pursuits. St. Gregory Palamas, who had spent time on the Holy Mountain and was a Hesychast, knew from his experience that the rational intellect is not the highest faculty of man, but rather the Nous (the eye of the heart) and that Satan often attacks the intellect through Logismoi (thoughts).

Here is a quote from the book "Saint Gregory Palamas as a Hagiorite,"

"Hesychia, stillness, is essential for man's purification and perfection, which means his salvation. St. Gregory the Theologian says epigrammatically: "One must be still in order to have clear converse with God and to bring the nous a little away from those wandering in error". Through hesychia a man purifies his heart and nous from passions and thus attains communion and union with God. This communion with God, precisely because it is man's union with God, also constitutes man's salvation.

Hesychia is nothing other than "keeping one's heart away from giving and taking and pleasing people, and the other activities". When a person frees his heart from thoughts and passions, when all the powers of his soul are transformed and turned away from earthly things and towards God, then he is experiencing orthodox hesychia. St. John of the Ladder writes that stillness of soul is "the accurate knowledge of one's thoughts and is an unassailable mind". Therefore hesychia is an inner state; it is "dwelling in God".

The fruit of Hesychia saturates the pages of The Philokalia. Hesychia is a gift of God's uncreated grace through much struggle with the passions and unceasing prayer (particularly practice of the Jesus Prayer). Which brings to mind another difference in Orthodox and Roman Catholic spirituality: the Prayer Rope and the Rosary. The Rosary is a practice in meditation, meditating on the mysteries of the life of the Theotokos and Jesus. In meditating one keeps the mind/intellect engaged. Whereas the practice of the Prayer Rope and the Jesus Prayer is one of emptying the mind and descending into the heart (the Nous). In the Orthodox experience, the active meditation and emphasis on the working of the imagination and mind leaves one very vunerable to the wiles of the Evil One.

Having said all of this, because of the nature of Hesychia, it is always a danger to attmept to explain something that one has no direct experience of. In other words, communion with God is not based on head-knowledge but experience. It was once said that a Catholic priest/scholar visited Mt. Athos and spoke with St. Silouan. He asked him what books his monks read. St. Silouan replied with a lengthy list of the greatest spiritual books that one could call to mind. The priest was shocked that these simples monks were reading things that most academics struggle with for a lifetime. St. Silouan replied, "Not only do they read them, but if they did not have the books in their possession, they could write them as well." Their understanding was a divine gift through a purified Nous, not any understanding of well reasoned philosophical arguments.

Maria

Re: Hesychasm #121592 05/13/05 07:08 PM
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Maria,

Welcome to the forum! What a lovely answer to Myles and post on the topic of Hesychasm! There is much to prayerfully ponder.

Thank you. smile

In Christ and the Theotokos,

Porter.

Re: Hesychasm #121593 05/13/05 08:09 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Myles:
Can anyone give me an introduction to this topic? What is it? How do the Churches view it --East and West, Orthodox and Catholic??

Thanks
Myles
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Myles,

I found the following article worth reading on the subject of Hesychasm especially in regards to Mt. Athos. The sources for this article are listed at the end.

http://www.kat.gr/kat/history/Txt/Rl/Hesychasm.htm

In Christ,

Porter aka Mary Jo

Re: Hesychasm #121594 05/13/05 09:02 PM
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Dear Maria,

I read the same book on Saint Gregory Palamas. What I found was that I had to differentiate what were the exact words of our Saint from the interpretors slightly 'prejudicial' interpretation.

Now I'm not being judgemental, but rather aware that the interpreter, (not the translator), had come from a certain background, and was therefore unable to understand fully the Western mind...or rather our Western logic and reasoning. Something that is way different from the Greeks who tend to follow their passions (and imaginations) more readily. (Very Middle Eastern). Because of this, there can be gross misinterpretations about Catholic beliefs and practices... as well as about anything Western.

I think it would be nice if some 'brilliant' minds on this forum would give us their viewpoint on created versus uncreated, etc. I mean you: Alex and Myles as well as the administrator. But then again, Saint Gregory was fighting a defined heresy and had to give defined interpretations within a cultural understanding. Today that might be merely considered 'nit picking' and not in context with our Western train of thought...So forget it Alex and Myles.

As for me, I found that Saint Gregory Palamas' exact words reaffirmed positions that brought us closer to the RCC than I and others had been led to believe.

Don't tell me what anything I wrote has to do with Hesychasm. Sorry for my dissertation.

Zenovia

Re: Hesychasm #121595 05/13/05 10:39 PM
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Myles Offline OP
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Thanks for the help thus far peeps.

Quote
Today that might be merely considered 'nit picking' and not in context with our Western train of thought...So forget it Alex and Myles.
We're not that bad...ok well...maybe I am, just a bit. Or...well...maybe more than a bit. Perhaps a whole lot more than a bit. Ok, yeah, maybe in reflection I am that bad. But I dont mean to be Zen I'm sorry if I offend.

As for Dr Roman, he's class wink


"We love, because he first loved us"--1 John 4:19
Re: Hesychasm #121596 05/13/05 10:59 PM
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Re: Hesychasm #121597 05/14/05 02:12 AM
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Dear Zenovia,

Brilliant or not, here goes:

For me, "Uncreated energies" are like the rays of the sun, they proceed from the sun itself and mediate the warmth and health of the sun, but are not the sun itself - for then we would be burned up.

In similar manner, the Uncreated Energies deify us and allow us to participate in the Life of God.

"Created" refers to a kind of nominalist "substance" where Grace is considered something that while made by God, is not something by which God Himself communicates His Life to us.

In other words, in the Uncreated Energies, it is God Himself Who comes to make us His Temple so that He may dwell in us and so deify us through our participation in the Life in Christ.

In the notion of created grace - it is a non-personal substance communicated to us through prayer and the sacraments et al. that is intended to make us holy much in the same way that vitamins make us healthy.

As I see it, anyway.

Alex

Re: Hesychasm #121598 05/14/05 02:30 AM
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Dear Alex,

Okay now, I know what uncreated energies are and what created one are. What I don't know is if there is a difference in what the Orthodox believe in and what the RCC believes in.

Now as I see it, the RCC takes a different route in their 'reasoning' so that Created and uncreated are not the terms they use. Am I wrong, and if not can these reasonings be reconciled?

If you find it confusing don't worry, I sometimes wonder if I know what I'm talking about.

Waiting for your response.

Zenovia

Re: Hesychasm #121599 05/14/05 02:39 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Zenovia:
Dear Alex,

Okay now, I know what uncreated energies are and what created one are. What I don't know is if there is a difference in what the Orthodox believe in and what the RCC believes in.

Now as I see it, the RCC takes a different route in their 'reasoning' so that Created and uncreated are not the terms they use. Am I wrong, and if not can these reasonings be reconciled?

If you find it confusing don't worry, I sometimes wonder if I know what I'm talking about.

Waiting for your response.

Zenovia
Salvation is deification (theosis), and only that which is uncreated can deify man.

I wrote a brief paper on grace as God's uncreated energy, and if you would like to read it you can click the link below:

Grace as God\'s Uncreated Energy

Re: Hesychasm #121600 05/14/05 02:52 AM
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Dear Alex, Christ is Risen!
In Orthodox theology, grace is synonymous with God's Energies; the notion that Grace is created is considered heretical. Also, note that the RC notion of the "Beatific Vision" is considered heretical.

Photius


Quote
Originally posted by Orthodox Catholic:
Dear Zenovia,

Brilliant or not, here goes:

For me, "Uncreated energies" are like the rays of the sun, they proceed from the sun itself and mediate the warmth and health of the sun, but are not the sun itself - for then we would be burned up.

In similar manner, the Uncreated Energies deify us and allow us to participate in the Life of God.

"Created" refers to a kind of nominalist "substance" where Grace is considered something that while made by God, is not something by which God Himself communicates His Life to us.

In other words, in the Uncreated Energies, it is God Himself Who comes to make us His Temple so that He may dwell in us and so deify us through our participation in the Life in Christ.

In the notion of created grace - it is a non-personal substance communicated to us through prayer and the sacraments et al. that is intended to make us holy much in the same way that vitamins make us healthy.

As I see it, anyway.

Alex

Re: Hesychasm #121601 05/14/05 03:08 AM
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BEATIFIC VISION:

The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called "vision" to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed "beatific".


Forgive me, but I fail to see, as an Orthodox, how this is heretical.

To behold the shining face of God in Heaven as one's Creator in all His pure love-- enveloping one in a manner which cannot be described in human feelings or dimension, is exactly what Heaven is, and no theological terminology can dispute that for me...so, whatever tradition or theologian can call it whatever they want, whether it be 'final theosis' or 'beatific vision'...but that is what it will be. cool

In the Risen Christ,
Alice

Re: Hesychasm #121602 05/14/05 02:07 PM
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Dear Friends,

I appreciate the comments on this thread (especially Maria's explanation). Also I thought Apotheoun's comparison between the created and uncreated view of Grace was very helpful.

One thing I don't agree with is those who imply that the Energy/Essence distinction came from St. Gregory of Palamas. We Oriental Orthodox hold to this teaching as well. This is an indication that the above doctrine is rooted in the teachings of the ancient Eastern Church Fathers that we hold in common (i.e. with our Eastern Roman, so-called "Byzantine", Orthodox brethren.

If interested, here is a simple document I compiled from writers of both Orthodox families explaining the distinction and underlying the fact that this teaching comes from the early Church Fathers.

See: "Theosis: The Goal of Orthodox Christian Life" @
http://www.geocities.com/derghazar/tradition.html

Trusting in Christ's Light, Wm. Ghazar Der Ghazarian
Looys Kreesdosee: www.geocities.com/derghazar

"Doxa to Theo panton eneken" (Glory be to God for all things) The last words of St. John Chrysostom before he fell asleep in the Lord; the result of his exile to Armenia and continual forced marches untill his physical exhaustion and death: a glorious proto-martyr for the Armenian Church

Re: Hesychasm #121603 05/14/05 03:00 PM
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Quote

For me, "Uncreated energies" are like the rays of the sun, they proceed from the sun itself and mediate the warmth and health of the sun, but are not the sun itself - for then we would be burned up
This metaphor is often used in this context. But I find it troubling. The sun's rays are the sun in "substance"; matter-energy is strictly conserved in its operation; after emanating enough rays the sun will be exhausted. If one wishes to make distinctions on the basis of matter/energy categories, then the matter of the sun is converted to energy; the energy is created from the matter of the sun. ITSM that the operation of the sun is rather precisely what one does not want to say about uncreated energies. confused

Quote
Salvation is deification (theosis), and only that which is uncreated can deify man.
Another frequently given comment, that I also find troubling. Salvation is achieved by means pleasing to God, who alone fixes what is sufficient or insufficient, and certainly does so independent of our created philosophical categories, and thoughts about what He can and cannot do.

Fr. Kimmel, now Perichoresis, posted thoughtfully on this topic throughout on this thread:
http://www.byzcath.org/cgibin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=4;t=000814;p=1
One passage:
Quote
The West gets hit hard by the Orthodox for the traditional formulation of created grace. I do not want to either defend or criticize this category; but I will note that its true function is to protect the Creator/creature category. Orthodoxy accomplishes this task by another means, namely, its (problematic?) distinction between the being and energies of God.
This point of unity is, I think , a very important one. It separates us from the grossly distorted outlooks that range from the secularists on the one end of the spectrum to the New Agers and Mormons on the other.

Re: Hesychasm #121604 05/14/05 03:23 PM
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Apotheoun Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Ghazar:
One thing I don't agree with is those who imply that the Energy/Essence distinction came from St. Gregory of Palamas. We Oriental Orthodox hold to this teaching as well. This is an indication that the above doctrine is rooted in the teachings of the ancient Eastern Church Fathers that we hold in common (i.e. with our Eastern Roman, so-called "Byzantine", Orthodox brethren.

If interested, here is a simple document I compiled from writers of both Orthodox families explaining the distinction and underlying the fact that this teaching comes from the early Church Fathers.

See: "Theosis: The Goal of Orthodox Christian Life" @
http://www.geocities.com/derghazar/tradition.html

Trusting in Christ's Light, Wm. Ghazar Der Ghazarian
Looys Kreesdosee: www.geocities.com/derghazar

"Doxa to Theo panton eneken" (Glory be to God for all things) The last words of St. John Chrysostom before he fell asleep in the Lord; the result of his exile to Armenia and continual forced marches untill his physical exhaustion and death: a glorious proto-martyr for the Armenian Church
I agree with you. The distinction between 'created' and 'uncreated,' and the distinction between God's inaccessible essence and His uncreated activities goes back to the earliest Fathers (in various technical formulations). The first distinction, i.e., between created and uncreated, was clarified by the Nicene Council where Arianism was definitively rejected. The Arian idea that a created Logos could bring man into communion with God simply did not reflect the faith of the Church. As far as the distinction between God's essence and His energies is concerned, that idea can be found in St. Basil the Great, St. Maximos the Confessor, St. John Damascene, and many other authors prior to the time of St. Gregory Palamas, and so clearly it does not originate with him; instead, he is a synthesizer of the thought of those who preceded him.

Thank you for the web-link, I have put it into my favorites so that I can read the articles over the summer.

God bless,
Todd

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