“A hesychast is one who tries to enshrine what is bodiless within his body.”…Do you see how St John [Klimakos] has shown, not simply from the spiritual but even from a human point of view, how vital it is for those who seek to be true masters of themselves, and to be monks according to their inner self, to install or possess the intellect within the body?
Nor is it out of place to teach beginners in particular to look within themselves and to bring their intellect within themselves by means of their breathing….Since the intellect of those recently embarked on the spiritual path continually darts away again as soon as it has been concentrated, they must continually bring it back once more; for in their inexperience they are unaware that of all things it is the most difficult to observe and the most mobile. That is why some teachers recommend them to pay attention to the exhalation and inhalation of their breath, and to restrain it a little, so that while they are watching it the intellect too may be held in check.
This they should do until they advance with God’s help to a higher stage and are able to prevent their intellect from going out to external things, to keep it uncompounded, and to gather it into what St Dionysios calls a state of “unified concentration”.
This control of the breathing may, indeed, be regarded as a spontaneous consequence of paying attention to the intellect; for the breath is always quietly inhaled and exhaled at moments of intense concentration, especially in the case of those who practice stillness both bodily and mentally.
Such people keep the Sabbath in a spiritual fashion and, so far as is possible, they rest from all personal activities; they strip their soul’s powers free from every transient, fleeting and compound form of knowledge, from every type of sense-perception and, in general, from every bodily act that is under our sway, and so far as they can, even from those not entirely under our sway, such as breathing.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, pp.336-337)
Thirdly, grief also arises from the shedding of possessions…this, we said, is to be conjoined with poverty of spirit, for it is only when all types of poverty are practiced together that they are perfected and pleasing to God….when a person bids farewell to all things, to both money and possessions, either casting them away or distributing them to the poor according to the commandment (cf. Luke 14:33), and weans his soul from anxiety about such things, he enables it to turn inwards to self-scrutiny, free now from all external attachments….
and whenever the intellect withdraws itself from all material things, emerges from the turbulence they generate, and becomes aware of our inner self, then first of all it sees the ugly mask it has wrought for itself…then the intellect withdraws untroubled into its true treasure-house and prays to the Father “in secret” (Matthew 6:6). And the Father bestows upon it peace of thoughts…then He makes it perfect in humility, which is the begetter and sustainer of every virtue…
The shedding of possessions gives birth to freedom from anxiety, this freedom to attentiveness and prayer, while attentiveness and prayer induce grief and tears. Grief and tears expunge passion-imbued predispositions. When these are expunged the path of virtue is made smooth, since the obstacles are removed, and the conscience is no longer full of reproach. As a consequence joy and the soul’s blessed laughter break through.
~St. Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, pp.314-315)
…if you do not keep an intelligent control over sensual pleasures and pains but, rather, allow yourself to be dominated by them through the misuse of your intelligence, you wrongly and profitlessly multiply them, even causing yourself great injury. For thereby you give sure and self-accusing evidence that you do not firmly adhere to God’s Gospel and to the prophets who preceded Him, and to those who came after Him and were His disciples and apostles. For these all teach that inexhaustible riches come through poverty, that ineffable glory comes through simplicity of life, that painless delight comes through self-control, and that through patiently enduring the trials and temptations that befall us we are delivered from the eternal tribulation and affliction held in store for those who choose an easy and soft life in this world instead of entering by the strait and narrow gate (cf. Matthew 7:14).
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.319)
There are, then, four types of spiritual poverty, and each gives birth to a corresponding kind of grief, as well as to a corresponding form of spiritual solace. In the first place, freely-embraced physical poverty and humility–and that means hunger, thirst, vigils and in general hardship and tribulation of body, as well as a reasonable restraint of the senses–begets not only grief, but also tears. For just as insensibility, callousness and hardness of heart develop as the result of ease, soft living and self-indulgence, so from a way of life marked by self-control and renunciation come contrition of heart and compunction, expelling all bitterness and generating a gentle gladness.
It is said that without contrition of heart it is impossible to be free from vice; and the heart is rendered contrite by a triple form of self-control, in sleep, food and bodily ease. When through such contrition the soul is freed from vice and bitterness, it will certainly receive spiritual delight in their place. This is the solace on account of which the Lord calls those who grieve blessed.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.313)
Unless we bear with patience the afflictions that come to us unsought, God will not bless those that we embrace deliberately. For our love for God is demonstrated above all by the way we endure trials and temptations.
First the soul has to surmount afflictions embraced willingly, thereby learning to spurn sensual pleasure and self-glory; and this in its turn will permit us readily to bear the afflictions that come unsought.
If for the sake of poverty of spirit you spurn such pleasure and self-glory, and also regard yourself as deserving the more drastic remedy of repentance, you will be ready to bear any affliction and will accept any temptation as your due, and you will rejoice when it comes, for you will see it as a cleansing-agent for your soul.
In addition, it will spur you to ardent and most efficacious prayer to God, and you will regard it as the source and protector of the soul’s health. Not only will you forgive those who afflict you, but you will be grateful to them and will pray for them as for your benefactors.
Thus you will not only receive forgiveness for your sins, as the Lord has promised (cf. Matthew 6:14), but you will also attain the kingdom of heaven and God’s benediction, for you will be blessed by the Lord for enduring with patience and a spirit of humility till the end.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.312)
If you do not cut off the inner flow of evil thoughts by means of prayer and humility, but fight against them merely with the weapons of fasting and bodily hardship, you will labor in vain. But if through prayer and humility you sanctify the root, as we said, you will attain outward sanctity as well. This it seems to me is what St Paul counsels when he exhorts us to gird our loins with truth (cf. Ephesians 6:14).
One of the fathers has excellently interpreted this as signifying that when the contemplative faculty of the soul tightly girds the appetitive faculty it also girds the passions manifested through the loins and genitals. The body, nevertheless, is in need of hardship and moderate abstention from food, lest it become unruly and more powerful than the intelligence. Thus all the passions of the flesh are healed solely by bodily hardship and prayer issuing from a humble heart, which indeed is the poverty in spirit that the Lord called blessed.
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.310)
This same thing happens to those who practice virtue in order to be praised by others. While they are called to be citizens of heaven, they “degrade their glory to the dust” (Psalm 7:5), and make their dwelling there, thus drawing upon themselves the curse of the Psalmist. For their prayer does not rise to heaven, and their every endeavor falls to earth, since it is not supported by the wings of divine love that raise aloft the works we do upon the earth….
This passion is the subtlest of all the passions, and for this reason the person who fights against it must not merely be on guard against coupling with it or avoid assenting to it, but he must regard the very provocation as assent and must shield himself from it….
Yet even before this the passion for popularity brings such injury upon those it masters that it shipwrecks faith itself (cf. 1 Timothy 1:19). Our Lord confirms this when He says, “How can you have faith in Me when you receive honor from one another and do not seek for the honor that comes from the only God?” (cf. John 5:44).
~St Gregory Palamas (Philokalia vol.4, p.308)