‘Wisdom Songs’ is a collection of wisdom chapters in five ’Centuries’, written by Fr. Silouan between July 2009 and March 2010. It consists of:
1. A Century on the Holy Name,
2. A Century on the Song of Songs,
3. A Century on Holy Wisdom,
4. A Century on the Mysteries of Glory,
5. A Century on the Wisdom of Stillness.
The ’Century’ is an ancient monastic wisdom genre beloved of the fathers of the desert from Evagrius in the late 300’s to Callistus and Ignatius in the late 1300s.
Since then, the monastic genre of the ‘Century’ has been collected and treasured but not re-used in the eastern churches.
The best known anthology is the ‘PHILOKALIA,’ published in 1782, collected by Makarios and arranged by Nikodemus. It was translated into Slavonic, with additions, in 1793, renewing the sacred tradition in the Slav world. Regarded as out of date in 1782, wisdom centuries re-emerge in our time to address the recovery of wisdom.
The renewal of the tradition of Stillness probably owes as much to the Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian as to the Philokalia. Without the inspired scholarly labour of translation by Metropolitan Kallistos, Philip Sherrard, Sebastian Brock and others, the renewal of this wisdom tradition in the English speaking world could not be happening.
‘Wisdom Songs’ is a small contribution to the recovery of wisdom in our day. It is often assumed that Christianity has no wisdom and so has nothing to offer to this crucial unfolding. But the tradition of Stillness has nourished saints and seers for hundreds of years. It is no surprise to find it inspiring integral wisdom in our time.
Wisdom calls for wisdom everywhere. The crises of the ecological environment, informational technology, interfaith conflict and gender issues, all call for wisdom.
It is in this context that orthodox tradition employs again the wisdom genre of the ‘Century’, offering lyrical pondering of timeless mysteries, to renew the tradition to renew the world.
The ‘Century’ is a hundred chapters or page long sections, strung together on a theme, like knots on a prayer rope. Bound together into a little book for the pocket or the bag, it became a much loved support for the prayer of the heart. Christ’s mysteries of wisdom were kneaded into the heart day by day. Wisdom addresses the heart from the heart, calling the mind to descend into the heart, awakening to God in the midst.
Wisdom is the heart of sacred tradition. So when wisdom sings, it may be with Wisdom Songs. Songs of the Name awaken to wisdom so that songs of love embody wisdom in a Song of Songs. Songs of Holy Wisdom dissolve confusion and division into seeing, so that theophanies of wisdom reveal Mysteries of Glory. Finally,the whole is rounded with songs of Wise Stillness, endless, not closed, in wisdom’s embrace.
Wisdom Songs are doing their job when sometimes, suddenly, light lights light in the midst and sings. It is wisdom that is beautiful. It is wisdom that inspires love of beauty, PHILO-KALIA.