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Hesychasm and Nepsis

Hesychasm is an eastern Christian form of living the spiritual life that has its roots in the first hermits who fled into the barren deserts of Egypt and Syria during the fourth century and succeeding ages. It is a spiritual system of essentially contemplative orientation which finds the perfection of the human person in union with the trinity through continuous prayer. Hesychasm comes from the Greek word hesychia. It means tranquility or peace. Hesychia is that state in which the Christian, through grace and his/her intense asceticism, reintegrates his/her whole being into a single person who is placed completely under the direct influence of the Trinity dwelling within that person.

It stresses an entire way of life in Christ that strives for total, loving surrender to the indwelling Trinity through a vigorous, even militant discipline of body, soul and spirit that was summarized in gospel terms as "purity of heart." The heart, in Scriptural language, is the seat of human life, of all that touches us in the depths of our personality-all affections, passions , desires, knowledge and thoughts. It is in our "heart" that we in prayer meet God in an I-Thou relationship. The heart, and not the mind, is considered in this spirituality of the christian east, as the center of our being, that which directs us in our ultimate values and choices. It is the inner chamber where, in secret, the heavenly Father sees us through and through. It is where we attain inner honesty, humility, integration and purity of heart...(G)Nostic Nunnery

  • NEPSIS is the kind of sober-minded vigilance that characterises the ascetic life of the Fathers. It is usually translated as watchfulness. The adjective is NEPTIC.
  • HESYCHIA means stillness, and the practice of stillness in the presence of God is called HESYCHASM...ORTHODOX PSYCHOTHERAPY
  • The Hesychastic Centres of Prayer
Hesychasm (from the Greek for ""stillness, rest, quiet, silence") is a mystical tradition and movement that originated with the Desert Fathers and was central to their practice of prayer. Hesychasm for the Desert Fathers was primarily the practice of "interior silence and continual prayer". It didn't become a formal movement of specific practices until the fourteenth century Byzantine revival of meditative prayer techniques, when it was more closely identified with the Prayer of the Heart (The Prayer of The Heart is considered to be the Unceasing Prayer that the apostle Paul advocates in the New Testament.), or "Jesus Prayer". That prayer's origin is also traced back to the Desert Fathers—the Prayer of the Heart was found inscribed in the ruins of a cell from that period in the Egyptian desert. The earliest written reference to the practice of the Prayer of the Heart may be in a text from the Philokalia by Abba Philimon, a Desert Father. Hesychast prayer was traditionally practiced in silence and with eyes closed—not as a form of discursive meditation on different incidents in the life of Christ."

The words hesychast and hesychia were frequently used in 4th and 5th century writings of Desert Fathers such as Macarius of Egypt, Evagrius Ponticus, and Gregory of Nyssa. The title hesychast was used in early times synonymously with "hermit", as compared to a cenobite who lived in community. Hesychasm can refer to inner or outer stillness, though in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers it referred to inner tranquility....Desert Fathers (Wikipedia)
" of the Christian Desert Fathers, the monk Evagrius Ponticus (345-399 A.D.), taught a form of hesychasm (Greek: quiet) in which one comes to see the conditioned links between thoughts and emotions, and then, through meditation and prayer, finds a deep calm called apatheia. In apatheia the mind is integrated and purified of its naturally tumultuous activity, allowing one to simply “be” in God’s presence or to pray without distraction. Monks such as Evagrius believed that virtue in one’s speech and behavior would follow freely from a mind that is emptied of distracting thoughts. Some other Christian contemplatives would describe this emptying as a kind of on-going detachment from chaotic thoughts. It’s not that thinking goes away--sometimes our thoughts may bring blessings or healings!--but that we experience an inward spaciousness so that we are not so caught up in our own thoughts and worries. When we have this kind of detachment, we are less likely to mistake our thoughts and opinions for our present reality."...Christian Mindfulness & Emptiness
Evagrius Ponticus:
Excerpts from The Philokalia

Contemporary References to Hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer
  • Jesus Prayer - Prayer of the Heart
  • The Jesus Prayer
    "The most normal form of unceasing prayer in the Orthodox tradition is the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer is the form of invocation used by those practicing mental prayer, also called the "prayer of the heart." The words of the prayer most usually said are "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." The choice of this particular verse has a theological and spiritual meaning."

    "The Jesus Prayer basically is used in three different ways. First as the verse used for the "prayer of the heart" in silence in the hesychast method of prayer. Second as the continual mental and unceasing prayer of the faithful outside the hesychast tradition. And third as the brief ejaculatory prayer used to ward off temptations. Of course, in the actual life of a person these three uses of the prayer are often interrelated and combined."

    "In the hesychast method of prayer the person sits alone in a bodily position with his head bowed and his eyes directed toward his chest or his stomach. He continually repeats the prayer with each aspiration and breath, placing his "mind in his heart" by concentrated attention. He empties his mind of all rational thoughts and discursive reasoning, and also voids his mind of every picture and image. Then, without thought or imagination, but with all proper attention and concentration he rhythmically repeats the Jesus Prayer in silence - hesychia means silence - and through this method of contemplative prayer is united to God by the indwelling of Christ in the Spirit. According to the fathers, such a prayer, when faithfully practiced within the total life of the Church, brings the experience of the uncreated divine light of God and unspeakable joy to the soul. Its purpose is to make man a servant of God."
  • On Practicing the Jesus St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
    "This is the general rule for practicing the Jesus Prayer, derived from the Sacred Scriptures and the works of the Holy Fathers, and from certain conversations with genuine men of prayer. Of the particular rules, especially for novices, I deem the following worthy of mention."
  • Introduction to the Jesus Mother Alexandra
    "The Jesus Prayer, or the Prayer of the Heart, centers on the Holy Name itself. It may be said in its entirety: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner"; it may be changed to "us sinners" or to other persons named, or it may be shortened. The power lies in the name of Jesus; thus "Jesus" alone, may fulfill the whole need of the one who prays."
  • Jesus Prayer - Prayer of the Heart
    "The Jesus Prayer according to numerous Church Fathers is "essential" to our spiritual growth. The Jesus Prayer proclaims our faith and humbles us by asking mercy for our sinfulness. The Jesus Prayer is thought to be as old as the Church itself."
  • Hesychasm (Wikipedia)
  • Hesychast controversy (Wikipedia)
  • The Jesus Prayer 1/3 (Youtube)
  • The Jesus Prayer 2/3 (Youtube)
  • The Jesus Prayer 3/3 (Youtube)
  • Jesus Prayer Meditation (YouTube)
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