The Seventh Thursday after Pascha. Silence, Awareness, and Contemplation

Stand diligently at the gate of the heart. —St. Philotheos The practice of stillness is full of joy and beauty. —Evagrius By the grace of creation and redemption, there is a grounding union between God and the human person. In the depths of this ground, the “between” cannot be perceived, for it is completely porous to the Divine Presence. Indeed, there is more Presence than preposition. While this is the simplest and most fundamental fact

The Second Tuesday after Pascha. CHRISTOS ANESTI! CHRIST IS RISEN! Staying by Oneself (Part II)

The inner attitude with which monks are supposed to sit in their cells is described by another elder in a drastic image: “When you dwell in the desert as a hesychast [a person who practices quietistic meditation], don’t imagine that you are doing something great. Instead, think of yourself as a dog that has been driven away from the crowd and tied up because he bites and bothers people.” The monks do not remain sitting

The Thirty-First Day of Great Lent. “. . . BUT BY PRAYER AND FASTING” (Part V)

Everyone will no doubt agree that the whole style of family existence has been radically altered by radio and television. These media of “mass communication” permeate today our whole life. One does not have to “go out” in order to “be out.” The whole world is permanently here within my reach. And, little by little, the elementary experience of living within an inner world, of the beauty of that “interiority,” simply disappears from our modern

Witnesses to Silence and Stillness (II)

Witnesses to Silence and Stillness (II) In a hospital room a number of years ago, a close friend lay dying. For years he had rebelled against God and against his Orthodox faith, expressing that rebellion by indifference to everything connected with the Church. In the last years of his life he had come home. With the simplicity and openness of a child he now turned his face to God and prayed. You could see in

Witnesses to Silence and Stillness (I)

Witnesses to Silence and Stillness (I) To close this series of reflections on silence, solitude and inner stillness, it seems most appropriate to share a few very modest, personal experiences that I have been blessed to undergo over the years. These involve encounters with unpretentious yet holy persons whose example can guide all of us who long to acquire these virtues or qualities for ourselves. In the early 1970s a community of French Roman Catholic

On Silence and Stillness (III)

On Silence and Stillness (III) Each of us will have to discover our own most effective means to acquire a measure of quiet and a disposition toward prayer. For many people, it is enough to select a certain space—an icon corner in the bedroom or study, for example—and to set as far as possible a fixed time each day. Alone, away from phones and other distractions, we can light a candle before an icon, then

On Silence and Stillness (II)

On Silence and Stillness (II) Silence is the prerequisite for inner stillness, and only inner stillness enables us truly to listen to God, to hear His voice, and to commune with Him in the depths of our being. Yet silence and stillness are, like prayer itself, gifts that God can and wants to bestow upon us. The greatest truth about us is that God has created us with a profound longing, a burning thirst for

On Silence and Stillness (I)

On Silence and Stillness (I) Although they are often used interchangeably, the terms “silence” and “stillness” are not synonymous. Silence implies in part an absence of ambient noise, together with an inner state or attitude that enables us to focus, to “center” on the presence of God and to hear His “still, small voice.” To silence, the virtue of stillness adds both tranquility and concentration. Stillness implies a state of bodily rest coupled with the

On Silence and Solitude (II)

On Silence and Solitude (II) A catena of sayings, drawn at random from the desert ascetics of the early Christian centuries, well expresses the value and necessity of authentic silence, silence of the heart. “A brother asked Abba Pambo if it is good to praise one’s neighbor, and the old man said to him, ‘It is better to be silent.’” “A brother asked Abba Poemen, ‘Is it better to speak or to be silent?’ The

Listening in Silence

Human discourse and writing about God and the things of God—yes, even the best of it, the Scriptures held sacred by Jews and Christians—are always inexact analogues, precisely because they are expressions limited by the specifics of culture. However necessary as a guide for faith, the Bible itself represents the attempts of human beings to express what is finally inexpressible: the identity, the nature, the meaning of God for the world. Behind the words are