Exhortation to Hesychia

Adhortatio de silentio et quiete

«Παραίνεσις περὶ ἡσυχίας» (CPG 4021), Ed. K.G. Phrantzoles, Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα  6 (Thessaloniki: To Perivole tes Panagias, 1995), 42-46.

I

Acquire stillness as a firm fortification. For stillness raises you above the passions. You do battle from above, but they from below. Therefore, acquire the stillness that is in the fear of God and none of the arrows of the enemy shall harm you. For stillness yoked to the fear of God is a fiery chariot that transports him that acquires it to the heavens. Let the prophet Elias persuade you, who loved stillness and the fear of God and was taken up into heaven.

Stillness, thou progress of monks!
Stillness, thou celestial ladder!
Stillness, thou path of the kingdom of the heavens!
Stillness, thou mirror of sins, pointing out to man his trespasses!
Stillness, that dost pose no obstacle to tears!
Stillness, thou begetter of meekness!
Stillness, thou companion of humblemindedness!
Stillness, that dost lead man to a state of peace!
Stillness, that art yoked to the fear of God!
Stillness, thou illuminator of the mind!
Stillness, thou overseer of thoughts!
Stillness, thou collaborator of discernment!
Stillness, thou begetter of every good!
Stillness, thou fortress of fasting!
Stillness, thou obstacle to gluttony!
Stillness, thou school of prayer and reading!
Stillness, thou tranquility of thoughts!
Stillness, thou calm harbor!
Stillness, thou freedom of the soul from cares!
Stillness, thou joy of the soul and the heart!
Stillness, thou elimination of conceit!
Stillness, thou enemy of shamelessness!
Stillness, thou mother of reverence!
Stillness, thou prison-house of the passions!
Stillness, thou coworker of every virtue!
Stillness, thou friend of poverty!
Stillness, thou easy yoke and light burden, that dost give rest and carry him that carries thee![1]
Stillness, thou place of Christ that dost bear goodly fruits!
Stillness, that art yoked to the fear of God: wall and fortress of those who are willing to fight for the kingdom of the heavens!

Yea, brother: acquire this good portion, which Mary chose, and which will not be taken from her. You see, brother, what sort of thing stillness is, that the Lord himself praises him that acquires it.  Acquire this, my beloved brother, and revel in your Lord. Sit at his feet and cling to him alone, that you, too, may say with boldness, My soul has cleaved after thee; thy right hand has taken hold of me (Ps 62:9). Wherefore, as with lard and fatness may my soul be filled (Ps 62:5).

Yea, my brother: acquire this, which is sweeter than honey. For better is a morsel in salt with stillness and freedom from cares than a surplus of lavish foods in distractions and worries.[2] Listen to him that says, Come, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28). For the Lord wants to give you rest from cares, from anger, from the distractions and the afflictions of this age. He wants you to be free of the care of making bricks in Egypt. He wants to lead you into the desert, i.e., into stillness, in order to illuminate your paths with the pillar of cloud, to feed you with manna, that is, with the bread of stillness and freedom from cares, that you might inherit the Land of Promise.

Yea, beloved, acquire this, love this, that you might delight in the way of God’s testimonies as in all riches (Ps 118:14). Yea, brother, acquire stillness with the fear of God, and the God of peace will be with you. To whom be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 II

I entreat you, brethren beloved of the Lord, to hasten to remember these things daily, namely, faith, love, humility, the sealing of oneself with constant prayer, and with constant meditation on the divine Scriptures, in stillness. For when these things are present and abound in you, they do not leave you barren and fruitless in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For a monk that does not acquire these things, but neglects his salvation, is blind and unable to see, since he forgets his past sins (2 Pt 1:9). To him applies the description of that true proverb: a dog returning to its own vomit, and a clean pig to its wallowing in mire (2 Pt 2:22). For those who flee the defilements of the world in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, but have become entangled in them anew, the last state is worse than the first. For it was better for them not to have known the way of truth than, having known it, to turn back again (2 Pt 2:20-21).

Therefore, beloved and faithful servants, ye chosen soldiers and monks of Christs, let us take up the panoply of these aforementioned weapons in our heart, remembering them daily and without delay, that we may be able to fight the good fight and trample down every power of the enemy; that we may be delivered from the wrath that is to come upon the sons of unbelief and find mercy and grace on that dread day before the just judge, who gives to each according to his works. To whom be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.


[1] Cf. the eighth verse (Oikos 1) of the Akathist hymn, which utilizes a similar inversion: χαῖρε, ὅτι βαστάζεις τὸν βαστάζοντα πάντα (Rejoice, for thou dost bear him that beareth all things).

[2] Cf. Prov 17:1.

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