Hesychia and Psalmody Today
Keywords:hesychia, psalmody, psaltic, melos, rhythm
The Romanian Patriarchate declared that the year 2022 was to be devoted to the commemoration of the Hesychast saints Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, and Paisios of Neamț. This led us to the idea of discussing the connections between the tradition of Hesychasm and psalmody, even more so as Saint Paisios was one of the greatest supporters of psaltic music in the communities he shepherded. To what extent can we still speak of hesychia in psaltic chanting today, when many Orthodox parishes experience a state of stagnation or even degradation of chanting? Is hesychia an experience meant only for monks or can psalmody lead to hesychia even in the case of ordinary churchgoers?
When we talk of psalmody, in the broad sense of chanting hymnographic texts, we refer to a sacred act of prayer expressed through different states of mind. These moods or ethe are the true music that springs from the inside and overflows outside through outward forms of expression such as one’s posture, facial expression, spoken words, and, finally, intoned melodies. All these forms expressing one’s inner ethe generate, in turn, different moods in the souls of those who listen and pray to the words and melodies of the chants. According to the teachings of the Holy Fathers of the Eastern Church, liturgical chanting creates a direct, extremely strong and mysterious connection between the inner experiences of the chanter and those who listen and receive these states of mind directly by audition. Therefore, the psaltis or chanter must know and be able to control all the objective or subjective factors that can create certain states of mind.
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