Tomorrow I’m about to introduce what I feel is the latest significant entree into Pentecostal/charismatic dialogue with emergent/progressive followers of Jesus – but first, I’ve declared this Spirit week on my blog! My ongoing Wisdom Christianity series with Cynthia Bourgeault will be continued next week, but first I want to delve into some older, popular posts exploring the relation of Holy Spirit to fresh emergence. Starting here…
Remember how Thursday in the comments section of my entry I mentioned the 24/7 prayer movement? Okay, maybe not. Well anyway, my friend Lenz Philipp Müller emails me the other day and asks a great question that is related:
“Hi Michael, I’m curious about the book you’re currently reading –Punk Monk: New Monasticism and the Ancient Art of Breathing. [Not be confused with the other punk monk, my friend Brother Karekin M Yarian – though I think he and Andy Freeman would get along if they met!] I’d cherish your opinion of the book and am wondering if it’s about the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm? I’ve started an exploration of orthodox spirituality and would like to know if and how the new monastics dig into these parts of the cloud of witnesses. On the one side I’m fascinated by the early fathers, on the other hand I don’t see how hermitism is Biblical. So for now, I think even or especially the hermits acquired wisdom and methods and more that are worthy to be rediscovered in our day and age and might even be keys to a spiritual awakening of life in community. Is that an approach Freeman and Greig would ascribe to?”
Lenz is referring to my previous Myspace blog where I display what I’m reading with entries. Punk Monk has been a breath of fresh air to me as I’ve been moving from a kind of theological cynicism in certain places to a second naivete,’ a place of wonder, astonishment, and trust in God that comes out the other side of world-weariness and incredulity. Wow, that’s a mouthful! I’ll try and unpack it in some upcoming entries, not to mention the rest of my life.
So: This book has been a great ride, Lenz, a moving tribute to the power of street-level, embodied prayer and compassion…but it isn’t , alas, dealing directly with hesychasm or the Jesus Prayer–as the subtitle might lead one to suspect. In my reading so far, it doesn’t directly engage Eastern Orthodox spirituality much, though it certainly engages with the Western contemplative tradition, particularly Celtic saints as well as Benedictines and Franciscans. What the subtitle “The Ancient Art of Breathing” refers to is not breath prayer but rather the synergy of action and contemplation, “breathing in” with our lives rest in God’s presence, and “breathing out” with our lives hospitality and acts of compassion. They see this “art of breathing” as key to the spiritual awakening of life in community…and I’m inclined to agree! All in all, its an excellent addition to the growing body of New Monastic literature.
With that said, I’d like to see some post evangelical/charismatic engagements with East Orthodox spirituality–particularly hesychasm and the idea of theosis, or “divinization,” which I feel is a far sexier (or if that language offends you, more evocative) way of framing “sanctification” for the 21st century. Of course, there probably are just such works out there, and I’m just not familiar with ’em–input, anyone?
A fascinating paper comparing the “Glory Dust” phenomenon of certain chrarismatic gatherings for worship and the “Visible Glory” reported on the faces of practicing hesychasts in the East Orthodox tradition can be read here. What on earth is “glory dust,” you ask? I recount my own experiences with it in this blog archive from a few years back.