Hesychasm

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Hesychasm (Greek: ἡσυχασμός, hesychasmos, from ἡσυχία, hesychia, "stillness, rest, quiet, silence")[1] is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised (Gk: ἡσυχάζω, hesychazo: "to keep stillness") by the Hesychast (Gr. Ἡσυχαστής, hesychastes).

Based on Christ's injunction in the Gospel of Matthew to "go into your closet to pray",[2] hesychasm in tradition has been the process of retiring inward by ceasing to register the senses, in order to achieve an experiential knowledge of God (see theoria).

Contents

Meanings of the term

Kallistos Ware distinguishes five distinct meanings of the term "hesychasm":

History of the term

The origin of the term hesychasmos, and of the related terms hesychastes, hesychia and hesychazo, is not entirely certain. According to the entries in Lampe's A Patristic Greek Lexicon, the basic terms hesychia and hesychazo appear as early as the 4th Century in such Fathers as St John Chrysostom and the Cappadocians. The terms also appear in the same period in Evagrius Pontikos (c. 345–399), who although he is writing in Egypt is out of the circle of the Cappadocians, and in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

The term Hesychast is used sparingly in Christian ascetical writings emanating from Egypt from the 4th century on, although the writings of Evagrius and the Sayings of the Desert Fathers do attest to it. In Egypt, the terms more often used are anchoretism (Gr. ἀναχώρησις, "withdrawal, retreat"), and anchorite (Gr. ἀναχωρητής, "one who withdraws or retreats, i.e. a hermit").

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