History

A spiritual discipline called hesychasm formed around the pursuit of the vision of Divine Light. Hesychia means "inner stillness." The hope is that perfect stillness will open the Christian to the experience of Divine Light. The hesychasts devoted themselves to achieving a prayer of silence, meaning prayers without images, words, or thoughts. Hesychasts employed physical exercises such as sitting and breathing rhythmically in order to integrate prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"), into their bodies and consciousness. The goal was to integrate the prayer into the very being of the Christian, so that it would pray itself when the heart of the hesychast beat, or the lungs drew breath. This would be the Christian's response to Paul's admonition to "pray continually" (1 Thess. 5:17). Hesychasm plays a significant role in modern Orthodox spirituality.


Study Questions:
1.     Why was Eastern Orthodoxy able to spread northward in the 9th century? Who were the key converts within its missionizing?
2.     How do iconoclasts differ from iconodules? Which did the Second Council of Nicea favor, and what was the end result?
3.     Where does Eastern Orthodoxy’s mysticism draw its inspiration? How is it still relevant today?

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