Sunday, February 25, 2018

Beauty and Hesychia

"In the dazzling flesh of divinity, you have shown natural beauty to be even more beautiful O blessed Virgin, we bless the One whom you bore."
Of the Athonite Life it is said: "Sacred matter, that which is given to God, is replete with divine grace.  The souls of the saints fly and flutter about, luminous and full of light.  The relics of the saints perpetually emit the same uncreated and scintillating light; and indescribable and uncreated fragrance pours from their tombs.  Everything around is filled by the beauty of their contrition and the fragrance of heaven."  Yet, if such is so for the monk, then such must also be true for every person filled with grace and part of the Body of Christ.  "True beauty is captivating; it pours forth love.  Furthermore it teaches man to love goodness, offering and sacrifice."  One's entire sojourn and journey along the Christian way proves to be a theological initiation - an initiation into the life of the Divine.  "It molds a person like a deifying womb and nurtures him for a new life.  One comes to believe in the Incarnation of the Logos of God and in the deification (theosis) of that which He assumed.  One comes to live and believe that God is love and perplexing beauty, that the unveiling of His love is a revelation of beauty, and that His beauty is an offering, freely given from the bounty of His goodness.  With this great beauty He refashioned our human substance by His Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection."  From out of the withering, fleeting prison of our sin, we pass through the hour of judgment which breaks us down and resurrects us, toward enduring beauty and the freedom of inexpressible loveliness and the maturity of stillness.  What we learn from the monk is that all men can be saved and become participants in the divine beauty through participation in the Lord's sufferings, through life-bearing mortification. To this end, Archimandrite Vasileios offers us the following reflection: 

The monk’s life is beautiful because it is associated with that awesome hour of judgment and liberation. The monk’s life is a life of repentance and in the final analysis, is also a life of Transfiguration. It is the life of asceticism, labor, pain, endurance and tears. For this reason, it is crowned with divine and mystical consolation, and the beauty of spontaneity, truth and stillness. It is a life of philokalia, the love of beauty.

The monk pursues his love of beauty through his asceticism. He is an artist who grapples not with mere paints, sounds, or words, but struggles instead with his own entire being. He fashions himself. He asked to be given totally to God, to be fashion and by Him so that he can say willingly: “Not my will but Thine be done.“ When this happens, everything is given to him in that hour when he least expects it. His whole life bears the seal of that hour of crucifixion and resurrection. All his life becomes that hour of judgment from which springs the beauty of freely given salvation and the maturity of everlasting hesychia.

Then he either speaks, or writes, or builds, or chooses to remain silent with a comfort and a source of strength which are different.  This is because Someone else is functioning instead of him.  Someone else is speaking and writing, building or remaining silent.

Every hour becomes his sacrifice, his self-offering and thus the emergence as well of a perplexing beauty.  Each of his trials becomes a blessing and so he remains silent and grateful.  His entire self becomes a wound; his entire self becomes a spring of rejoicing.  He lives Good Friday and the Resurrection at the same time.  Every day he dies and every day he is resurrected.  He does not live life as mere biological existence, but rather feels it breaking forth from the tomb at every hour to conquer death.  Everything is a divine gift and a wonderful revelation.  As the Lord said: "Do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say in that hour."  In that hour, which is eternity, everything is given to him most vividly.

The true and genuine monk, the authentic monk, puts on no pretenses of being something he is not, because he is true.  He moves and behaves unaffectedly.  His entire being radiates the beauty that is within him.  Better put, through his trials and endurance, divine beauty is revealed.  His youth passes, he grows old but is rejuvenated.  He becomes a "good" old man, a peaceful old man, in short, a monk.  There is a comfort and a light which is not created light.  There is a youth which is eternal, a humor which blossoms upon the tough branch of asceticism, and a life which ascends from the tomb.  Such a monk, since he is liberated, plays in the morning of the Resurrection like a carefree child upon the sandy beach of the sea, upon the same seashore on which walks the resurrected Christ.  He is tranquil because the Lord has mortified Hades with the lightning flash of His divinity.

A Beauty exists which abolishes death; a Stillness (hesychia) exists which abounds with eternal blessedness and splendor for all of us.

Archimandrite Vasileios
Abbot of Iveron Monastery, Mount Athos
Beauty and Hesychia in the Athonite Life

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