[quote=Leao]So hesychasm is emphatically not regarded as a heresy within the Catholic Church? New Advent has muddled hesychasm up with Quietism.
Would it therefore be a viable argument to promote the veneration of icons in contemporary Catholicism and the hesychasm spirituality that is closely related to icon veneration?
First, the veneration of icons is a constant feature of Eastern worship and stands on it’s own merits, with or without the Jesus Prayer. Hesychasm is a mystical prayer practice that could exist without the use of icons, they are not joined at the hip.
It is important to understand the spirituality of icons, it might not be appropriate for Western Catholics. I’m not trying to express elitism or anything like that, it’s just that the East thinks of icons differently, and it took me a long time to grasp it myself and I am not so sure I will explain it well.
For instance, Westerners will usually think of icons as decorations. Even stations of the Cross in the West can be viewed that way: some are elaborate paintings in gilded frames, some are alabaster bas-reliefs, and some are bronze modern art. One looks at the image and is inspired to think about what it represents, in other words one intellectualizes about the theme or event and the whole topic is removed from the image and resides in the mind of the observer.
With icons, one is gazing through a window at the actual subject (saint or event) and experiencing it in the here and now. It is less intellectualized and more experienced. For instance, we know that at the Divine Liturgy the saints and angels, as well as Our Lord are present among us, and we are in a zone that intersects our world with the timelessness of God. It is a very cosmic notion.
The icons there are not merely images of past events or persons, but rather windows through the mist.
Is hesychasm and the mystical ascetic practice of St John of the Cross in general the same thing? If not what are the differences?
I don’t know, I don’t think so. Perhaps someone else can address this question.
I would like to point out that Carmel originated in Palestine with hermits that actually resided on Mt. Carmel. The cultural milieau was eastern there and the first hermits are likely to have been Jewish, eventually Christian hermits displaced or dwelled among the Jewish ones. These Christian hermits originated from all over the Byzantine empire and were Byzantine in practice and theology. Westerners did not become numerous there until the Crusading era and the community had Palestininan-Greek roots.
When the Carmelites began to flee to the West they brought their own unique spirituality with them, they even had their own liturgy until about the time of John of the Cross! (as I am told, don’t ask me to prove it) I am not sure of all of the details but I would not be surprised if the spirituality of the Carmelites share a lot of commonalities with the Eastern Christians of the first millenium.