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Stillness (Hesychia)

“The person needs solitude as much as, if not more than, relationships to develop and blossom. This is borne out by the experience of hesychast spirituality, which grew up in the Christian East as the ultimate means of self-development. The term “hesychia” means calm, isolation, and solitude…Hesychia is a way of life that requires solitude, outer silence, and inner calm. These three things are indispensable for spiritual life, especially in one of its essential activities: concentrated attentive and vigilant prayer.” (Jean-Claude Larchet)

“The Scriptures tell us, “Be still and know that I am God.” But these words are read by a culture that knows almost nothing about true stillness (hesychia) and ceaselessly engages in activities to prevent its possibility. Stillness of this sort includes the silencing of the passions and emotions as well as discursive reasoning. It then becomes possible to be aware and to know wordlessly with a depth and stability that are the very bedrock of the spiritual life.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“The Philokalia defines hesychia as, “a state of inner tranquility or mental quietude and concentration which arises in conjunction with, and is deepened by, the practice of pure prayer and the guarding of the heart and intellect. Not simply silence, but an attitude of listening to God and of openness towards Him.” This kind of listening prayer is hesychastic because it requires a silencing of the mind. To achieve silence: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware says that “this is of all things is the hardest and the most decisive in the art of prayer. Silence is not merely negative – a pause between words, a temporary cessation of speech – but, properly understood, it is highly positive: an attitude of attentive alertness of vigilance, and above all listening. The hesychast, the person who has attained hesychia, inner stillness or silence, is par excellence, the one who listens. He listens to the voice of prayer in his own heart, and he understands that this voice is not his own but that of Another speaking within him.” (Rev. Fr. Apostolos Georgiafentis)

“When the early monastic Fathers and Mothers struggled to be “spiritual athletes” through ascesis [spiritual practice or struggle], one of the telltale signs that they were making progress was peace in their hearts or inner stillness. Our modern world desperately seeks after this hesychia [stillness], as the Fathers called it. People move from a big city to a small town to “slow down” their pace of life. Someone might take medicine to reduce the anxiety or stress levels. The problem is that true hesychia comes from within. No external change or medicine will do what the Sacramental life in communion with prayer, fasting and almsgiving will.” (Abouna Justin Rose)

“To be realistic, it is not easy. Even in monasteries, not so many monks find the true hesychastic way. Yet even in the world, some people do find hesychastic prayer. Above all, however, we need to surrender to the will of God in all things and make it a purpose to render thanksgiving to God more and more worthily. This creates a certain freedom, for surrendering to the will of God in every situation God helps us to rise above the difficulties. Thanksgiving and surrendering to the will of God constitutes the preparation for entering the peace and freedom of hesychia.” (Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou) 


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