Nicephorus, the Hesychast of Mount Athos

May 4 is the Feast of Saint Nicephorus (Nikiphoros )(the Solitary, the Hesychast) of Mount Athos, teacher of St. Gregory Palamas.
“Nikiphoros the Monk (also called Nikiphoros the Hesychast) was a 13th-century monk and spiritual writer of the Eastern Orthodox Church. According to Gregory Palamas, Nikiphoros was originally Roman Catholic but travelled to the Byzantine Empire where he converted to the Eastern Orthodox faith and became a monk at Mount Athos. Like Theoleptos of Philadelphia, Nikiphoros was a strong opponent of the union of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches which was agreed to at the Council of Lyons in 1274. Because of this, he was imprisoned and later wrote an account of his ordeal. The main theme of Nikiphoros’ spiritual writings in the Philokalia is ‘nepsis’ (Greek νήψις) which is usually translated as watchfulness or vigilance. For those inexperienced in prayer and spiritual self-control, the mind tends to wander and lapse into imagination. Nikiphoros described a method of breathing while praying to concentrate the mind within the heart in order to practice watchfulness.”

“Saint Nicephorus was the teacher of St Gregory Palamas (November 14). He grew up as a Roman Catholic, but he journeyed to the Byzantine Empire and became Orthodox. St Nicephorus lived as an ascetic on Mount Athos, and died before the year 1300. His treatise “On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart” is found in the fourth volume of the English PHILOKALIA.”
philokalia iv
“You know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air. The organ that serves for this is the lungs that lie round the heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops the heart. Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart. And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there.”
Nicephorus the Solitary:


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