Self-Examination and Inner Watchfulness
“Attend to thyself, and keep thy heart diligently” ~ Deuteronomy 4:9
Heschasm, Confession, and Stillness
“Hesychasm and the mystery of confession can all be understood as intimate ways of personally experiencing the parable of the prodigal son” (Archimandrite Alexis 38). Confession is a “bath and a remedy…so wonderful that it transforms a sinner into a beautiful angel” (St. John Climacus).
Not Detered by Shame
“Though he be contrite, he does not let shame prevent him from approaching the mystery, for he knows full well that ‘the healthy do not go to a hospital’ and that he must ‘expose every snake’ in his heart if he hopes to avoid ‘wandering in trackless wastes” (Archimandrite Alexis 40).
Confession is About the Passion Beneath the Sin
“For every sinful act and unkind word that is confessed, the spiritual father will try to find the sinful thought that was the seed and the underlying passion that provided the soil for its growth” (Archimandrite Alexis 43).
A father-confessor should strive to “direct his spiritual child’s introspection to hidden motives and underlying passions in an effort to free the spiritual child to love God and neighbor more fully.” (Archimandrite Alexis 47). Preparing for Holy Confession
The active Christian “view confession as a beloved companion along the entire course of his life, for ‘the work of repentance is unending.’ He confesses grequently and with attention to detail, writing down his sins in thought, word, and deed in a notebook for confession…to refine his conscience as well as to increase his love for God and commitment to Christ” (Archimandrite Alexis 40).
A Life of Daily Self-Examination
A father-confessor should encourage his spiritual children to “adopt the hesychastic practice of a daily examination of conscience. This practice not only increases the believer’s prayerful longing for union with Christ, but also provides the believer with a full and honest picture of his or her inner condition. Were the examination of conscience to take place only directly prior to confession, much would be forgotten, thereby decreasing self-knowledge as well as the humility and contrition that such knowledge brings.”
Striving Hesychastic Self-Awareness
“Hesychastic self-awareness is by definition continuous and unceasing, not permitting the spiritual torpor of forgetfulness to extinguish the fire of repentance” (Archimandrite Alexis 49).
Awareness of One’s Inner Thoughts, Feelings, and Habits
“The exact knowledge or science of one’s thoughts [logismoi], feelings, and habits is in fact one definition of stillness. THis humbling knowledge not only calms the soul by freeing her of self-deceiving illusions, but also drives the soul to turn to Christ for help in acquiring luminous thoughts, loving sentiments, and God-pleasing habits” (Archimandrite Alexis 49).
How Thoughts Work
“In conjunction with this daily examination of conscience, hesychasts also struggle to maintain a continuous awareness of both the thoughts that flash through their mind and the extent to which they take root in thier heart. This ‘persistent fixing and halting of thoughts at the entrance of the heart’ requires mental labor and inner quiet. It means recognizing thoughts as distinct from the sel as soon as they appear on the horizong of consciousness and refusing to allow the heart to accept those thoughts without examination…Eventually, the believer learns to guard the heart and the heart becomes still” (Archimandrite Alexis 50).
The Result: Union with God and Inner Stillness
“What makes this more than just an alert state of heightened consciousness is keeping the memory of God always in the background and foreground of everything taking place in the mind…The hesychastic-minded spiritual child acquires ‘the calm of a free and joyful soul,’ being ‘effortlessly at rest even in great toils’ (Archimandrite Alexis 52). ______________________________________________________________________________ Extra Notes on Confession: “Confession is not an option which we can choose or not choose to do. It is absolutely necessary for our spiritual healing and well-being”~Metropolitan Joseph “For reception of Holy Communion more than once a month, Confession must be on a regular basis, and heard not less than once a month.”~Fr. Schmemann