Monday, January 26, 2009

Am I Wrong in Saying Hesychasm is Contemplative Prayer in Every Sense of the Term?

I now quote the Encylopedia Britannica Online:

Hesychasm (Eastern Orthodoxy)

In Eastern Christianity, type of moanstic life in which practitioners seek divine quietness (Greek h─ôsychia) through the contemplation of God in uninterrupted prayer. Such prayer, involving the entire human being—soul, mind, and body—is often called “pure,” or “intellectual,” prayer or the Jesus prayer. St. John Climacus, one of the greatest writers of the Hesychast tradition, wrote, “Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of the h─ôsychia.” In the late 13th century, St. Nicephorus the Hesychast produced an even more precise “method of prayer,” advising novices to fix their eyes during prayer on the “middle of the body,” in order to achieve a more total attention, and to “attach the prayer to their breathing.” This practice was violently attacked in the first half of the 14th century by Barlaam the Calabrian, who called the Hesychasts omphalopsychoi, or people having their souls in their navels.

It seems clear to me that this practice is not about Christ, but about us and what we do to connect to God.

Again... Crux sola est nostra theologia (The Cross alone is our theology).


Rev. Todd Peperkorn said...

Now what is really interesting is that the Hesychasm had a number of proponents in the West, not the least of which were Johann Arndt and Philip Spener. It helps to explain both pietism and Lutheranism's attraction to the East, in my opinion.

Mike Baker said...

Welcome to my blog, Rev Peperkorn.

Your information is very interesting and informative. It is amazing how the Theology of Glory and Pietism go hand in hand.

This kind of thinking does not understand God's redemptive work properly. It insists that man must cooperate or use methods other than Word and Sacrament (which is really nothing other than Christ Himself) to draw near to God.

But Luther rightly said, "Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.....this is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good that it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person." LW 31.57

There is no need to seek a deeper communion with God. No way to the Father exists except through the Son.

Christ said, "I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me."

This Lutheran must then ask, "How does one go through Christ?" The answer is clear: The Means of Grace. How can one come to the Father except through Christ... Christ, the Logos, is found where He promises to be: the Word in the altar, the font, absolution, and the pulpit.

This comes down to Luther's Third Thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation:

"Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins."

This kind of work seems good and salutary to our eyes, but we are selfish and blinded by sin. When we place our hope in these things and think that they are methods to improve our standing with God, we push aside the cross in favor of man-centered mysticism and break the First Commandment. We make worship itself into an idol.