Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Word for the Day: Hesychasm

So a goodly part of the day was spent doing abstracts of previous lectures for my New Testament study group. Reading, analyzing, winnowing out the important factoids and themes. It's necessary work (our mid-terms are next week) but it's not the most rewarding stuff in the world.

I took a break to go to Evensong at 5:30. It was a wonderful and peaceful end to a rainy, cool day. I love the quiet. I love the singing. I love the meditation on Scripture (great reading from Jeremiah tonight). I love the incense. It's an opportunity to take the time to go deep into prayer, which is often very difficult to do. Mostly I love the darkness in the chapel (this service is lit by four candles and just a bit of light over our psalters) and the quiet.

After evensong, I came back home, finished up the fifth lecture write-up, and cooked dinner. I had grand plans for studying Hebrew, but I was too tired, so I went upstairs with my big book on icons, to research an icon of unknown provenance in the seminary's Oratory. I got what I needed (it's a Harrowing of Hell, probably a copy of something from early Moscow school), but I got lost in the wonderful book, reading and remembering why I love icons so much.

And I found out about hesychasts, who spent their life in silence so they could meditate and pray. They may have used repetition of the Jesus Prayer as a meditative tool. It's an ascetic practice from the 3rd C, noted by Chrysostom and the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

It also informs the work of some of the early icon writers. Some of the proponents of the practice were the subjects of icons as well.

The thought of quiet and a disciplined meditative practice seems very appealing right now, although I doubt I could sustain it for the long haul. Maybe just an evensong's worth of hesychasm...

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