The fire of love

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

AS for all of you, if you love noetic* prayer, mourn and weep while seeking Jesus.

He will reveal Himself as burning love which consumes all the passions. Then you will become like someone deeply in love whose heart leaps and whose eyes shed tears as soon as he thinks of the person he loves.

This is the kind of divine eros and the fire of love that must burn in your heart, so that as soon as you hear or say, “My Lord Jesus Christ, sweet love! My dearly sweet Mother, All holy Virgin!” tears should run.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast, in letters collected in “Monastic Wisdom”, p. 189. Available at Skete.

*The nous (ὁ νοῦς) is “the eye of the heart”, the faculty of spiritual sight. It is the nous by which the pure in heart may see God (Mt 5:8). “Noetic” is the adjective, i.e. “belonging to the nous”.

**

Song of Songs, Chapter 5

The Song of Songs was treasured by the Church Fathers, but in recent times it has become almost the forgotten book of the Old Testament. Elder Joseph helps us to read it as the Fathers did, as a potent parable of the longing of the soul (and indeed the Church) for her elusive, teasing Bridegroom, “our Lord Jesus Christ, sweet love”.

Here is the whole of Chapter 5. The applications to the Eucharist and to noetic prayer are as mesmerising as the imagery.

LET my kinsman come down into his garden, and eat the fruit of his choice berries. “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spices; I have eaten my bread with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends, and drink; yea, brethren, drink abundantly.”

I sleep, but my heart is awake: the voice of my kinsman knocks at the door, saying, “Open, open to me, my companion, my sister, my dove, my perfect one: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?”

My kinsman put forth his hand by the hole of the door, and my belly moved for him. I rose up to open to my kinsman; my hands dropped myrrh, my fingers choice myrrh, on the handles of the lock. I opened to my kinsman; my kinsman was gone: my soul failed at his speech: I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he answered me not.

The watchman that go their rounds in the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. I have charged you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the powers and the virtues of the field: if ye should find my kinsman, what are ye to say to him? That I am wounded with love.

“What is thy kinsman more than another kinsman, O thou beautiful among women? what is thy kinsman more than another kinsman, that thou hast so charged us?”

My kinsman is white and ruddy, chosen out from myriads. His head is as very fine gold, his locks are flowing, black as a raven. His eyes are as doves, by the pools of waters, washed with milk, sitting by the pools. His cheeks are as bowls of spices pouring forth perfumes: his lips are lilies, dropping choice myrrh. His hands are as turned gold set with beryl: his belly is an ivory tablet on a sapphire stone. His legs are marble pillars set on golden sockets: his form is as Libanus, choice as the cedars. His throat is most sweet, and altogether desirable.

This is my kinsman, and this is my companion, O daughters of Jerusalem.

See also Elder Porphyrios on devotion as a “wound of love”.

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