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Hesychasm: The term

he term hesychasm comes from the verb "hesychazo" (to be quiet, to rest) and its derivative is "hesychia". Already in the works of the Church Fathers of the 4th and 5th century, "hesychia" meant a kind of prayer to God, through spiritual introspection. This manner of praying was practised by monks and was disseminated by important monastic centres such as the monastery of St Catherine at Sinai. Thus, the word "hesychast" in the writings of that period became synonymous with hermit monk. Hesychasm was a conventional term to describe this method of prayer and contemplation by monks, which was designed to attain communication with God through internal quietude. The term was used, moreover, to describe not only this psychosomatic method of prayer, but also a whole intellectual "school" in Byzantine society, which claimed that God may reveal himself to man in a direct communication with him, when man constantly seeks him through the "prayer of the mind" or of "the heart".

In the late Byzantine period this belief constituted not only the core of an intellectual movement but also the main point of disagreement between social groups. Furthermore, it was incorporated into a wide context of political, religious and social disputes, which took place duirng that period. Thus, the term hesychasm was also used to refer to these religious and social conflicts of the 14th and 15th centuries in Byzantium.