By: Rev. Dr. Ciprian Sas – Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (Milwaukee, WI)
On the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent we commemorate St. Gregory Palamas. This beloved saint of the church has taught us using the beautiful metaphor of the sun and its rays to help us understand the distinction between God’s essence and His energies, affirming that while we can never know and experience God in His uncreated essence, we can experience and know Him through His created energies. St. Gregory Palamas was also a fervent defender of Hesychast Spirituality.
To understand Hesychasm, the spiritual practice of intense inner prayer, we look to the Greek root word “ἡσυχία” which means stillness, silence, inner peace, quiet. Fasting, public worship & personal prayer, good deeds and alms giving are all tools that can help us achieve this stillness and silence. Liturgical exclamations such as Wisdom! Arise! Let us be attentive! Stand upright! and many others call us toward the same stillness and silence. During the Lenten Liturgies of Presanctified Gifts, the priest even carries the gifts during the Great Entrance and lays them upon the open Antimension on the Altar table in complete silence and no choir or cantor is singing. We are even told in Matthew 6:6 that “when [we] pray, [we should] go into [our] room, close [our] door and pray to [our] Father secretly”. But why is this stillness and silence so important?
St. John Climacus (of the Ladder), whom we commemorate on the 4th Sunday of Great Lent, tells us that “he who has achieved stillness has arrived at the very center of the mysteries”. Succinctly captured in Psalm 46:10 we are told to “be still and know that [He is] God”. But for this to happen, we need to silence our distractions by letting go and saying ‘no’ to our worries, concerns, and anxieties and by letting go and saying ‘no’ to our earthly desires and personal pleasures – with God [and in the Church] this is not impossible (Luke 1:37). This inner peace and stillness of our mind, body and soul will intensify our alertness toward God and enable us to truly feel His presence and experience His transformative energies in our very own hearts.