“Snow can never emit flame.
Water can never issue fire.
A thorn bush can never produce a fig.
Just so, your heart can never be free
from oppressive thoughts, words, and actions
until it has purified itself internally.
Be eager to walk this path.
Watch your heart always.
Constantly say the prayer
‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’
Set your soul in quietness.”
As Jesus’ apprentices, we are called to embody his life into our world. However, in order to embody Christ, we must walk the long journey of transformation into Christ’s likeness — to become by grace what God is by nature. This doesn’t occur automatically, but in communion and cooperation with God’s presence in our life.
St Hesychios provides us with some spiritual tools for the journey:
1. We must eagerly desire to become like Christ. This is our vocation and not our hobby. God uses every aspect of our lives in the process of transformation. We must receive this process with thanksgiving regardless of how painful the delivery system is at the time.
2. We must be genuinely self-aware. We must be honest about the monsters that lurk in the shadow of our heart and how they find expression in our lives. Self-delusion short-circuits the process.
3. Our lives must be marinated with prayer. Our lives must be steeped in prayer so that prayer becomes the natural default posture of our heart. One great tool provided by St Hesychios is the Jesus Prayer.
4. Practice humility. Learn to seek the good for others before yourself. This might express itself in being quiet so others can talk. Or it might be quietly serving someone without drawing attention to yourself. Or it might be learning to be thankful.
5. Learn to practice silence. Incorporate moments of silence as a regular part of your daily life.
It’s crucial to remember a couple of things about spiritual tools. First, St Hesychios doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of spiritual tools. The Church offers many indispensable tools on our journey to Christ’s likeness.
Second, practicing these disciplines does not automatically equate into Christ’s likeness. There is not a one-to-one correlation between practice and transformation. It’s similar to going to the gym. Using the equipment doesn’t automatically result in physical health. Surely, it can contribute toward a healthy lifestyle. But there are other essential factors as well.
When properly practiced, the specific tools provided by St Hesychios, as well as all of the resources provided by the Church, create an environment of communion and cooperation with God in our lives. It is this relationship that forms the structure for transformation into Christ’s likeness.