A few days ago, we published the Confession of St. Patrick, in honor of that great Enlightener of Ireland. John Sanidopoulos, over at Mystagogy blog, posted a section of this Confession, pointing out St. Patrick’s experience in the hesychast tradition. Astonishing news to some, but this saint was clearly in the Orthodox tradition of interior prayer, ascetic discipline and stillness!
In his Confession, Saint Patrick describes with some detail his glorification before being chosen by God to be a missionary to the Celts. Though he was a simple and uneducated youth, and though a slave, he was also a true Christian ascetic and lived his daily life as a hesychast. This, together with his persistent prayer, brought him through the purification of his heart to the illumination of the nous, as is borne witness through the gift of unceasing prayer. Below are two passages from his Confession which reveal the stages by which he acquired this unceasing prayer:
16. “But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of Him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.”
25. “And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and I was as it were, inside my own body , and I heard Him above me—that is, above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the course of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed to me that it was the Spirit. And so I awoke and remembered the Apostle’s words: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for utterance.’ And again: ’The Lord our advocate intercedes for us.’”
The entire text can be read here.