Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hypocrisy in Worship

Elder Sophrony on the Calendar Issue

Europe’s Great Moral and Spiritual Vacuum

On Apophatic Theology

Did the Romans Hellenize Christianity or was Hellenism Christianized?

Note from St. Maximos On Returning to our Archetype, i.e. God.

"Western women is in an agnostic relation with her own body"

What is Orthodox Fundamentalism? (Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis)

The Philokalia: A Challenge To Western Culture (Christos Yannaras)

Professor E Michael Jones: Logos vs. Anti-Logos as the pivot of Human History

Baptismal Names

Violence in the Old Testament: A Patristic Perspective

History of the Georgian People

Legally protecting from those trying to redefine marriage

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Picture of the Modern World (Met. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

  1. Facing the Third Millennium
  2. Hedonism
  3. Pleasure and pain according to St. Maximus the Confessor
    1. The origin of pleasure and pain
    2. The purpose of Christ's incarnation
    3. Personal adoption of salvation
  4. The great contribution and value of Orthodox hesychasm

In all ages, men have been trying to understand the state of the world in which they live in order to be able to confront the problems that arise. If one does not study the state of the world, he will not be able to find solutions out of the impasse.

Today we observe that many people try to identify the picture of the modern world. Among them are philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, politicians, journalists, etc. However, we should also look at the views of the theologians, and, above all, of the Fathers of the Church which are timeless.

It is known that the Fathers of the Church believe that the human nature is in a fallen state, which means that it is ruled by sensual pleasure and pain, which constitute the original sin. Therefore, I think we should view the state of the modern world through the link between pleasure and pain and through their transcendence.

After a few introductory remarks, I will attempt to focus on a great saint of our Church who is able to help us with what we face in our times effectively, because he is noted for his great insight and mental capacity, as well as his broad experience in divine matters. He is St. Maximus the Confessor, who may well be considered a most modern Father, for he combines many talents, such as: a deep knowledge of human matters, of the philosophical trends of his time, experience of God, an outstanding writing style, and, generally, one could say, that he combines theological, philosophical, social, existential, and psychological knowledge.

1. Facing the Third Millennium

I believe we now stand on a distinctive turning point in history. Everyone talks about the Third Millennium which mankind is about to enter, and a lot of hopes have been raised. However, we will only be able to comprehend the present and assess the future, if we examine what has happened in the past carefully.

With the fear that I might fall into the temptation of generalizing what is only a detail, I would like to underline that there are some characteristic features of the past two millennia, in terms of the Church, at least.

The First Millennium is characterized, on the one hand, by the persecutions and the heresies which abounded in the domain of the Church and, of course, influenced society, and, on the other hand, by the Church’s martyrdom and the delineation of faith, achieved by the Ecumenical Councils, where great Fathers were at the forefront. Thus, in the First Millennium, there was a pronounced development of the spirit of martyrdom, martyrs who gave a good confession of faith appeared within the Church, and Orthodox teaching about Christ, the Triune God and the Church in general was also articulated. The Ecumenical Councils defined Orthodox Christology, Pneumatology, Trinitology, anthropology and Ecclessiology. This was also the period when Orthodox monasticism emerged as a reaction against the secularization of church life. It is known, of course, that monastic life is the experience of the prophetic, apostolic, martyrlike life, lived within the Orthodox Church.

The Second Millennium is characterized by the theological development of Orthodox hesychasm, which certainly existed before. So, after confronting the persecutions and the heretics and delineating revealed Orthodox Faith, the Church battled with secularism which took the form of departure from the orthodox theological criteria of theology, of a loss of the true prerequisites of Orthodox Theology. It is evident that this secularism is related to man’s turn towards the horizontal dimension of life and to a neglect of the vertical dimension towards God, as well as to scholasticism and moralism which developed in the West. The fact is that, during the Second Millennium, the Church, through its great Fathers, defined more precisely the methodology of Orthodox doctrine and of true spiritual life, which is hesychasm, in the full Orthodox meaning of the term. It is true that if we do not assign proper importance to Orthodox hesychasm, it is doubtful whether we will be able to comprehend the teaching of the Fathers on Christology, on theology, on Divine Oeconomy, on salvation.

In the First Millennium, after the Apostles, an important role was played by the Apostolic Fathers, the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. John of Damascus, and St. Photios the Great. In the Second Millennium, an important role was played by St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, and all the hesychastic Fathers through to St. Nicodemos the Athonite and other subsequent neptic Fathers.

We may pinpoint some major hesychastic milestones during the Second Millennium which determined the atmosphere of the Orthodox Church and demonstrated her difference with Western tradition. One such milestone is St. Symeon the New Theologian who lived at the beginning of the Second Millennium. Another is the hesychastic movement, expressed primarily by St. Gregory Palamas, and also includes previous hesychast Fathers, like St. Gregory of Sinai, and others that followed, which emerged around the middle of the millennium. A third is the movement of the Fathers of the Philokalia, the so-called Kollyvades, led by St. Nicodemos the Athonite, which extends to our days [ 1 ]. If one recalls that the Second Millennium started with the explosive presence of St. Symeon the New Theologian and ends with the search for the life according to the Philokalia, which is very relevant today, one may realize that hesychasm, or the so-called neptic life, is what constitutes the distinctive feature of the Second Millennium, as the latter approaches its end.

Faced now with the Third Millennium, we may point out that two major trends prevail. The first one is the force of power, based on both the intelligent and the passible part of the soul. It is characterized by secular life, a preoccupation with worldly matters, a dismissal of the last things, and the excitement of sensual pleasure and pain. The second one is that of a martyr-hesychast, found in persons who either have a great thirst for God or else are disappointed by an even life and search for something inner, existential and ontological.

Even if this search of hesychasm and the Philokalia can be observed in our days, it has to be stressed that the atmosphere of our age points in a different direction. That is, in the domain of the Church, the dominant trend is, by and large, that shaped by Stephanos of Nicomedia, with whom St. Symeon the New Theologian disagreed. In theology, even though we observe a radical shift today, the prevailing atmosphere is the one shaped by Barlaam the scholastic, who opposed the hesychasm of St. Gregory Palamas. In monasticism, the dominant trend has been formed by the "anti-Kollyvades", who opposed the spirit of the Philokalia of St. Nicodemos the Athonite and other like-minded Fathers. In social and church relationships, the spirit of George Gemistos Plethon and Bessarion of Nicaea prevails, rather than that of St. Mark of Ephesus and Gennadios Scholarios.

The seeking of pleasure and hedonism dominate our times, at all levels of life, and this is why there is profound pain and affliction. In my view, what can be observed today is the rule of sensual pleasure and pain. Therefore, the essential contribution of the Church is to help people transcend this nexus of the dualism of sensual pleasure and pain within the boundaries of their personal life. So-called social problems will be solved through the cure of this basic anthropological problem.

In the analysis that follows, there is an attempt to study the issue of contemporary hedonism in relation to the view held in the Orthodox Tradition about the dualism of pleasure and pain.

I believe that this issue has important consequences for modern life. It is actually an existential issue with serious repercussions on the personal and social level. It is what determines the whole way of life of modern man.

2. Hedonism

If we undertake a careful examination of modern societies we will observe that a pervasive hedonism prevails. Modern man cultivates it intensely, he experiences it in his personal life and, of course, all modern mass media are engaged in serving and praising it. TV stations, magazines, books, radio stations, cinema, theater, songs, literature, etc. all audio-visual means satisfy man's insatiable hunger and thirst for the enjoyment of sensual pleasure.

The philosophical system of hedonism, that existed in antiquity, is well known. According to this school of thought, pleasure is good, while sorrow and pain are bad. The founder of this school was Aristippus of Cyrene (435-355 BC). Because of his origin, the School itself was named Cyrenaic. According to Aristippus, both the past and the future escape man’s grip and, therefore, the only thing under his control is pleasure enjoyed in the present. This is actually a gnoseological empiricism, for it teaches that man's intellect cannot attain the experience of spiritual values and, therefore, such spiritual values cannot regulate human life. According to Aristippus, "pleasure is, by itself, preferable and good," regardless of the objects and the sources generating it. Man must enjoy pleasure, without, however, being ruled by it. He said: "I possess, I am not possessed". Pleasure precedes moral rules and the latter should step aside when they obstruct it.

Hedonism was developed as a system and experienced by Epicurianism. Epicurus's ethics start with pleasure which is "the beginning and end of living happily... it is the first and natural good ... for every pleasure is good ... like every pain is bad". Of course, Epicurus did not assign priority to material and sensual pleasures because he put spiritual pleasures first. He argued that the equation of pleasure with sensual enjoyment is wrong. Although material pleasures give enjoyment, they are connected with pain. Much more valuable are the pleasures of the soul. Overall, Epicurus's theory of knowledge is empirical and materialistic. [ 2 ]

Both Aristippus and Epicurus placed hedonism within their whole gnoseological system which was certainly materialistic. It is a philosophical theory based on gnoseological principles. This is also observed in later philosophers for whom hedonism constituted part of their philosophical system.

The difference with the modern reality of the experience of hedonism is that, first, pleasure today is separated from spiritual pleasures and remains solely within the sphere of bodily senses, and, second, it is not an outcome of a gnoseological theory, of a philosophical system, but rather a fruit of sensual indulgence, with no reflections and visions. It is a derivative state. While for the philosophers of hedonism pleasure is considered an existential issue, for modern man it is just an indulgence, it is not part of existential problems. Of course, on a deeper level, even the modern enjoyment of pleasure constitutes an existential search, but man does not feel it in this way and does not start to experience pleasure from this principle.

An extreme and non-philosophical hedonism and seeking of pleasure dominates modern societies. Here we use the term not in its original philosophical sense but with its common contemporary meaning. A pursuit of gratification exists. This is why pain, asceticism and deprivation are avoided in modern societies and there is a pursuit of indulgence by any means, and a predominance of individual rights. I believe the difference between Orthodox and anti-Orthodox life lies at this point. The Orthodox Church speaks about the Cross and the Crucifixion, all the time, and this is something incomprehensible for human mentality.

Next, we will present St. Maximus the Confessor’s teaching on pleasure and pain. It will be shown that in their entire theological work the holy Fathers continue the thinking of the ancient philosophers, as St. Maximus does here, answering their questions in the light of and with the experience of the Revelation.

3. Pleasure and pain according to St. Maximus the Confessor

In his Centuries on Theology St. Maximus the Confessor refers to the nexus of the dualism of pleasure and pain, which, by any standard, is an important subject. This means that we cannot discuss Orthodox Theology if we fail to face this crucial point, because the transcendence of pleasure and pain is, precisely, a prerequisite for correct Orthodox Theology. As St. Maximus the Confessor says, the transcendence of pleasure and pain proves that man has cleansed his heart from the passions.

As we pointed out above, the whole of modern life is governed by pleasure and pain, since, in our age, enjoyment and the gratification of the senses dominate, while at the same time deep grief, an inner pain prevails. In reality, modern man tries to escape pain through the satisfaction of sensual pleasure. All contemporary problems, such as AIDS and drugs, are to be found in this connection. This is why I believe it is extremely important to see this link between pleasure and pain, as elaborated by St. Maximus the Confessor.

a) The origin of pleasure and pain

The world was created by God in Trinity The most perfect creature is man, for he is the apex of creation, the microcosm in the macrocosm. Analyzing the issue of the creation of man and its relation to the birth and the origin of pleasure and pain, St. Maximus says that God the Word who created man's nature, made it without pleasure and pain. "He did not make the senses susceptible to either pleasure or pain."[ 3 ] He insists on this point by saying: "Pleasure and pain were not created simultaneously with the flesh." [ 4 ]

While there was no pleasure and pain in man before the fall, there was a noetic faculty towards pleasure, through which man could enjoy God ineffably. [ 5 ] But he misused this natural faculty. Man oriented the "the natural longing of the nous for God" to sensible things and thus "by the initial movement towards sensible things, the first man transferred this longing to his senses, and through them began to experience this pleasure in a way contrary to nature". [ 6 ] The words "according to nature" and "contrary to nature" show the complete ontological change that took place in man and depict his fallen state clearly.

Of course, man did not invent this mode of operation of the faculties of the soul on his own, but with the advice of the devil. The devil was motivated by jealously against man, for whom God had shown special care and attention. It is interesting that the devil envied not only man but God Himself: "Since the devil is jealous of both us and god, he persuaded man by guile that God was jealous of him, and so made him break the commandment" [ 7 ].

After the unnatural movement of the noetic capacity of the soul to sensible things and the birth of pleasure, God, being interested in man's salvation "implanted pain, as a kind of chastising force" [ 8 ]. Pain, which God, in His love for man, tied to sensual pleasure is the whole complex of the mortal and passible body, that is the law of death, which has, ever since then, been very closely connected to human nature. In this way, the "manic longing of the nous" which incites the unnatural inclination of the soul to sensible things, is restrained [ 9 ].

This whole analysis by St. Maximus the Confessor in no way reminds us of Platonic teaching about the movement of the immortal soul from the unborn realm of the ideas, and its confinement to a mortal body which is the prison of the soul. This is simply because St. Maximus the Confessor, being an integral member of the entire Orthodox tradition, makes no distinction between a naturally immortal soul and a naturally mortal body, he does not believe in an immortal and unborn realm of ideas, and, obviously, does not adopt a dualistic view of man, according to which salvation consists in his liberation from the prison of the soul, which is the body. In St. Maximus' teaching there is a clear reference to the unnatural movement of the faculties of the soul and to the "manic longing of the nous", which draws the body into situations and acts which are against nature.

It is clear, then, that ancestral sin consists of the "initial movement of the soul" toward sensible things and in the "law of death" granted by God's love for man. Therefore, pleasure and pain constitute so-called original sin. Pleasure is the soul's initial movement toward sensible things, while pain is the whole law of death which took roots in man's existence and constitutes the law of the mortal flesh.

St. Maximus makes some marvellous observations. He states that the transgression (of the commandment) devised pleasure "in order to corrupt the will", i.e. man's freedom, and also imposed pain (death) "to cause the dissolution of man's nature". This means that pleasure causes sin, which is a voluntary death of the soul, while pain, through the separation of soul and body, causes the disintegration of the flesh. This was, actually, the work and objective of the devil, but God allowed the link between pleasure and pain. That is, He allowed the death to come into man's existence on grounds of love and philanthropy, for pain is the refutation of pleasure. Thus, "God has providentially given man pain he has not chosen, together with death that follows from it, in order to chasten him for the pleasure he has chosen." [ 10 ]

On several occasions, St. Maximus refers to "voluntary pleasure" and "irrational pleasure", as well as to "involuntary" and "sensible" pain [ 11 ]. Pain balances the results of pleasure, that is, it subtracts pain, but does not completely revoke it [ 12 ].

Therefore, pleasure precedes pain, since all pain is caused by pleasure, and this is why it is called natural pain. For Adam and Eve, pleasure was without cause, that is, it was not preceded by pain, while pain, which is a natural consequence of pleasure, is an obligation, a debt, paid by all men who have the same human nature [ 13 ]. This is what happened to Adam and Eve. For their descendants, things are a little different; the experience of pain leads them to the enjoyment of pleasure.

After the Fall and the entry of the law of sin and death into his existence, man is in a tragic state, because, even though pain reverses pleasure and annuls its active movement, man cannot reverse and eliminate the law of death which is found within his being, and this law brings a new experience of pleasure. "Philosophy towards virtue", namely man's whole ascetic struggle brings dispassion in his will but in his nature, because asceticism cannot defeat death, which is found as a powerful law within man’s being. [ 14 ] Herein lies the tragedy of man, who may cure pleasure and obtain inner balance through voluntary pain (asceticism) and involuntary events (external grief, death) but is unable to liberate himself from pain, which is determined by the law of death [ 15 ].

b) The purpose of Christ's incarnation

So far we have described how the link between pleasure and pain was established after the Fall. Pleasure was a result of the irrational movement of the faculty of the soul , with its natural consequence the coming of pain, along with the entire law of death. This combination of pleasure and pain became a law of human nature. Obviously, while living a life contrary to nature, man could not be delivered from this state which had become natural. Christ's incarnation contributed to man's liberation from this connection between pleasure and pain. St. Maximus the Confessor also makes some marvellous observations on this point too.

It was absolutely impossible for human nature which had fallen to voluntary pleasure and involuntary pain to return to the former state "had the Creator not become man". The mystery of incarnation lies in the fact that Christ was born human, but the beginning and cause of His birth was not sensual pleasure, for He was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, outside the human way of generation, and He embraced pain and death by His own free choice [ 16 ]. For man, pain came as a result of sin, it was involuntary. While for Christ, who was born without sensual pleasure, pain was received by choice.

All humans born after the transgression, are born with sensual pleasure, which precedes their birth, because man is an offspring of his parents’ pleasure and, of course, no one is free, by nature, from impassioned generation provoked by pleasure. Thus man had the origin of his birth "in the corruption that comes from pleasure" and would finish his life "in the corruption that comes through death" [ 17 ]. Therefore, he was a complete slave to pleasure and pain "and he could not find the way to freedom" [ 18 ]. Humans are tortured by unjust pleasure and just pain and, of course, by their outcome which is death [ 19 ].

For man to return to his previous state and to be deified, an unjust pain and death without cause had to be invented. Death had to be without cause, not to be caused by pleasure, and unjust, not following an impassioned life. In this way, most unjust death would cure unjust pleasure which had caused just death and just pain. In this way mankind would enjoy freedom again, delivered from pleasure and pain. Christ became perfect man, having a noetic soul and a passible body, like ours, but without sin. He was born as a man by an immaculate conception and, thus, did not have any sensual pleasure whatsoever, but voluntarily accepted pain and death and suffered unjustly, out of love for man, in order to revoke the principle of human generation from unjust pleasure, which dominates human nature, and in order to eliminate nature’s just termination by death [ 20 ]. Thus, Christ's immaculate conception as man and His voluntary assumption of the passibility of human nature, as well as His unjust death, liberated mankind from sensual pleasure, pain and death.

Christ's birth as man took place in a way contrary to that of humans. After the Fall, human nature has its principle of generation in "pleasure-provoked conception by sperm" from the father. A direct consequence of this sensual birth is the end, namely "painful death through corruption." But Christ could not possibly be ruled over by death, because He was not born in this pleasure-provoked way [ 21 ]. With His incarnation, Christ offered a different principle of generation to man, the pleasure of the life to come, by means of pain. Adam, with his transgression, introduced a different way of generation, a generation originating in sensual pleasure and ending in pain, grief and death. Thus, everyone who descends from Adam according to the flesh, justly and painfully suffers the end from death. Christ offered a different way of generation, because, through His seedless generation (birth) and His voluntary and unjust death, He eliminated the principle of generation according to Adam (sensual pleasure) and the end which Adam came to (pain-death). In this way "he liberated from all those reborn spiritually in him" [ 22 ].

The way by which Christ became incarnate and cured human nature reveals indisputably that He is wise, just and powerful. He is wise because He became a true man according to nature without being subjected to any change. He is just, because He voluntarily assumed passible human flesh, out of great condescension and love for man. This is also why He did not make man's salvation tortuous. He is also powerful, because He created eternal life and unchangeable dispassion in nature, through suffering and death, and in this way He did not show Himself to be at all incapable of achieving the cure of human nature [ 23 ].

c) Personal adoption of salvation

Christ’s work and the purpose of His incarnation has to be experienced by man personally. Christ’s victory over death and pain has to become each human being’s own personal good. This means that a person who is associated with Christ must be freed from the tragic link between pleasure and pain, and especially get rid of the rule of death, which is deeply rooted in human nature. We must look how St. Maximus analyzes the functioning of pleasure and pain in man after the Fall, and how his freedom and cure are preserved, in more detail. This is an important point, because it shows the state of contemporary humanity as well as its way of liberation from the oppression of death.

St. Maximus makes the analysis that the domination of pleasure and pain exists in the passibility of nature. Since our generation (birth) takes place in a fallen way, sensual pleasure and pain are rooted in our existence. The power of sin lies in the passibility of nature, through pleasure and the dominion of death, of pain. That is to say, sin is caused by sensual pleasure and results in pain and, of course, death. But the experience of pain turns man to sensual indulgence as a comforting medicine. Thus, the renewed enjoyment of pleasure increases pain [ 24 ].

I think it is worth quoting here the full text by St. Maximus, because it is an outstanding passage:

"For the dominion of pleasure and pain clearly applies to what is passible in human nature. And we seek how to alleviate through pleasure the penalty of pain, thus in the nature of things increasing the penalty. For in our desire to escape pain we seek refuge in pleasure, and so try to bring relief to our nature, hard pressed as it is by the torment of pain. But through trying in this way to blunt pain with pleasure, we increase our sum of debts, for we cannot enjoy pleasure that does not lead to pain and suffering."[ 25 ].

In this passage by St. Maximus the Confessor, the tragedy of human nature, as experienced in modern times, is manifested in its entirety. We may emphasize three characteristic points.

First: The experience of sensual pleasure always brings a corresponding pain. That which happened to Adam, whereby initial pleasure brought pain and the experience of death, happens with every sin on a personal level. In committing a sin, man feels pleasure and then experiences terrible pain, not only due to remorse but also due to the whole spectre of death and the darkness of Hell. Many of David's Psalms analyze this state in detail: "For my soul is full of troubles and my life draws near to the grave" (88:3).

Second: The experience of pain and death leads man to seek comfort and consolation. Unaware of how to eliminate the disease-breeding cause of pain, which is pleasure, he ends up in sensual pleasure again, in indulgence to comfort his embittered nature. Thus, the experience of pain drives him to various pleasures in life, from sexual gratification to drugs, because he wrongly believes that in this way he will get rid of the spectre of death.

Third: The new experience of pleasure necessarily brings new pain, because pain is always the outcome of pleasure. So, a vicious circle occurs and man cannot be delivered in any way from the terrible combination of pleasure and pain.

Liberation from this tragedy takes place in Jesus Christ. As we said before, Christ, by way of His birth and His death, gave a new mode of spiritual generation to man. With His incarnation He gave mankind supra-natural Grace, namely deification (theosis), while with His passion He gave dispassion, with His sufferings He gave comfort and with His death granted eternal life to human nature [ 26 ].

This can be seen in the saints. Whoever is united with Christ and is born spiritually is freed from sensual pleasure, which originates in the law of sin. However, Christ allows the saints to accept death, not because death is an outcome of sin for them, but to condemn sin. The saints who are united with Christ do not have the sensual pleasure of generation, which comes from Adam, but do have the pain which comes from Adam. They have it as a way of refuting sin. Since its mother is not sensual pleasure, the death of a saint becomes a father of eternal life. As Adam's hedonistic life became a mother of death and corruption, similarly Christ's death for Adam becomes the parent of eternal life, because it is free of Adam's pleasure [ 27 ].

The saints, however, who attain deliverance from the torment of the chain of pleasure-pain, achieve it because they are united with Christ. Union with Christ is reached through a combination of sacramental (mystical) and ascetic life. St. Maximus insists on living an ascetic life, because Holy Communion and the partaking of Divine Grace through the sacraments is not without prerequisites. We will now see what St. Maximus says about this special way in which the saints experience the ascetic method and life, and how, united to Christ, they transcend pleasure and pain.

First he stresses that affording voluntary pain and bearing involuntary pain removes sensual pleasure and suppresses its impetus. [ 28 ]. Voluntary pains are all spiritual exercises, such as fasting, vigils, deprivation, and all voluntary ascetic effort in general, voluntarily bearing the painful cross of the struggle to transform the passions. Involuntary sufferings are all events that take place unwillingly and unexpectedly, such as illness, death, temptations and hardships. Man takes on voluntary temptations of his own free will, and endures involuntary ones with faith and endurance in God.

Of course, as already mentioned, St. Maximus teaches that sensual pleasure and pain are not revoked completely by human ascetic effort, because the Righteous in the Old Testament also made such an effort. Nevertheless, they were unable to free themselves from the chain of pleasure and pain, and, above all, were unable to free themselves ontologically from the dominion of death. This liberation of human nature was achieved in Jesus Christ and is experienced in the partaking of Divine Grace in the mysteries of the Church. However, each person must struggle in Jesus Christ to transcend pleasure and pain.

St. Maximus the Confessor makes a detailed elaboration of these issues and presents the way this revocation of pleasure and pain is achieved in personal life.

First, he divides pleasure and pain (grief) into two categories, a pleasure of the soul and a pleasure of the body, as well as a pain (grief) of the soul and of the body. Pleasure of the senses creates pain in the soul and pleasure of the soul creates pain to the senses. The experience of virtue brings pleasure and pain. That is, virtue is accompanied by pain of the flesh, because, by living according to God, man lacks the soft and friendly sense. It is also accompanied by the pleasure of the soul, because it enjoys the pure concepts, freed from every sensible thing. For this reason, anyone who desires the life of Christ, which is held in heaven and will be given as an inheritance through the rising of the dead, feels joy and delight in his soul, while feeling sorrow in the flesh, i.e., he feels the pain and grief caused by temptations [ 29 ].

Although he feels pain in the flesh because of voluntary or involuntary temptations, a person who lives in Christ is unceasingly happy, for he knows that in this way he is liberated from the law of sin and death. Redeeming pain is necessary for the cure of man, but this pain should be sound, not irrational [ 30 ].

We have already stressed in this presentation that modern human life is dominated by sensual pleasure and pain, because there is a vicious circle that has been planted in human nature due to Adam's fall, but also cultivated by every man. Only Christ, being perfect God and perfect man, transcended pleasure by his seedless generation by the Holy Spirit and from the Virgin Mary, while also defeating death and pain, by assuming the painful Cross. It is precisely for this reason that Christ is the perfect man and the model for all the faithful. Christ is both the archetype of our creation and our healer, the one who liberates us from the tragedy of sensual pleasure and pain. Asceticism according to Christ is to be seen in this perspective, which is clearly distinct from any other asceticism of the eastern kind, because it is not ruled by human effort, but by God's energy and man’s synergy.

4. The great contribution and value of Orthodox hesychasm

In the analysis above we established that sensual pleasure causes tremendous problems in the being of man, for all the tragic seeds of pain and death are hidden in the state of pleasure. When someone carries the cross of asceticism in Jesus Christ, he is freed from the tyranny of sensual pleasure. Therefore, the presence of pain in our life is beneficial, when we confront it with faith, patience, and in God. This implies that an intensive effort and a continuous struggle against our fallen human nature is required. We carry the seeds of tragedy within our existence. Man’s fundamental problem is not social evil, but the corruption of human nature. So, we continuously struggle to transform mortal nature into a person according to Christ.

This transformation is achieved through Orthodox hesychasm, which aims at the transcendence of pleasure and pain. It is not an old-fashioned and ungrounded method, but rather a most applicable and modern act. Orthodox hesychasm is closely connected to the cure of man. Today, men seek therapy because they are possessed by the tragedy of sensual pleasure and pain. It is on this point that I see the greatest value of Orthodox spirituality, which differs clearly from any other spirituality of either the Western or the Eastern type.

The fact that the modern world is characterized by the experience of tragedy, related to the enjoyment of sensual pleasure and the experiencing of pain, and that today's man seeks redemption and cure and finds it in Orthodox hesychasm, is something clearly demonstrated so many people who turn to Orthodox Theology in its authentic expression, both in Greece and in the West. The works of the neptic Fathers of the Church, the reading of Philokalia, which, in its final form, was completed by St. Nicodemos the Athonite along with St. Makarios Notaras, Bishop of Corinth, the spread of the works of St. Symeon the new Theologian, of St. Gregory Palamas and many other saints, the study of the works of the 4th century Fathers, through the neptic-hesychastic teaching of the Church, all demonstrate this search by contemporary man. Therefore, we should not just look at the negative conditions, such as the tragedy of sensual pleasure and pain, but also look at the search for a cure and what Orthodox Theology has to offer.

There is still a huge traditional layer of Orthodox life in our people. Unfortunately, however, this layer is sometimes exploited by irresponsible and self-seeking individuals.

In observing contemporary church life, one feels that there are many Christians who, even if they do not have any sound theological arguments, react against the scholasticism that has entered the sphere of Orthodox. Likewise, they react to the Vaticanization which is visible in church administration, to the moralism exhibited in the area of spiritual life, to the ecumenistic view of matters of church life. They are unable to combine these with the true Orthodox church life, as lived by their ancestors, which they also read about it in the works of the Church Fathers. Many of these people belong to the Old Calendarists. It is essential that we offer Orthodox life in its authentic expression, so that we attribute a correct ontology to their reactions and prevent them from derailing to minor details. This is also necessary in relation to the great movement observed in the West towards Orthodox Theology and Orthodox church life.

I believe that this is the work of the great Fathers of the Church throughout the centuries, for they gave a theological interpretation of all ecclesiastical currents. If there was no St. Symeon the New Theologian in the 11th century, perhaps the views of Stephanos, Metropolitan of Nicomedia, would have prevailed. These were purely cerebral and, I would dare claim, scholastic views. But St. Symeon showed in his works that the basis and purpose of Orthodox church life is man's deification (theosis), which is achieved by the energy of the Holy Spirit and the vision of the Uncreated Light.

In the 14th century, if it were not for the beneficial presence of St. Gregory Palamas, hesychasm might have been considered a heretical deviation from genuine church life according to the Gospel. But St. Gregory Palamas presented authoritatively and clearly the whole theology of hesychasm, what man is, how his union with God is achieved, what deification is, and the relationship between noetic prayer and man's ontology and salvation.

Further on, if the towering figure of St. Nicodemos the Athonite had not dominated the 18th century, the sizeable movement of Athonite monks that reacted to the reforms and the secularism of Orthodox life, and expressed its reaction by refusing to have memorial services on Sunday, would have been considered a heresy. St. Nicodemos, however, demonstrated clearly, in all his writings, that the movement of the so-called Kollyvades was the genuine spirit of the Philokalia, which constitutes the very essence of Orthodox church life.

I believe that if in the beginning of this century, when the calendar problem emerged, there had been a great Father of our Church, such as St. Symeon the new Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Nicodemos the Athonite, then he would have proved that the popular reaction to the introduction of the new calendar was, in reality, a reaction to the introduction of alien views from the West, a reaction to the secularization of Orthodox Theology. Unfortunately, however, the issue was not viewed in this perspective and they made the mistake of limiting people’s attention to the change in the calendar. The same mistake could have been made at the time of St. Gregory Palamas, if the debate had been confined only to the method of prayer without considering its theology. And this also holds true if, in the age of St. Nicodemos the Athonite, the whole issue had been restricted to the Sunday memorial services and the full meaning of the reaction to the spirit of secularism in Church had been overlooked.

All the above have been said in light of the fact that a deep layer of Orthodox life and conduct exists in Greece today. We have to cultivate and assign theological meaning and significance to this layer, because only in this way will the Orthodox roots of life remain alive in our people. And we must do the same for all the numerous converts to Orthodoxy in the Western world. Today, people in the West love Orthodoxy and are enthusiastic about it, because they read the writings of the neptic Fathers and seek this inner peace and communion with God. They look for this theology which can tell them how to get rid of sensual pleasure and pain.


The present state of the world is expressed vividly and in detail by St. Paul the Apostle, as preserved in his second Epistle to Timothy. There are two trends and two states of people.

Those living outside God belong to the first one. St. Paul writes: "Know this also, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemous, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanders, without self-control, brutal, despisers of those that are good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying its power: From such people turn away. For of this sort are those who creep into houses, and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away with by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they will progress no further: for their folly shall be manifest to all, as theirs also was" (II Tim. 3: 1-9).

In the second category are those who are united with Christ, the disciples of Christ who search for the truth and live in Christ, as expressed by the Apostle himself: "But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra - what persecutions I endured: but the Lord delivered me out of them all. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3, 10-12).

People of the first category are "evil men and seducers, ... deceiving, and being deceived," while people of the second category are those who are whole and complete, in the words of the Apostle: "that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3: 13-17).

I would like to believe that a strong current of people who live in the spirit of unspoiled church tradition also exists today. As well as others who are disappointed by the tragedy of hedonism and pain, and seek a way out of this tragic Hell. Rather than remaining idle when faced with negative situations and lamenting over the tragedy of the modern world, we should take a look at these positive aspects and feed those who are hungry and thirsty for God's righteousness. In this the way we will contribute to the revitalisation of Orthodox church life.


[ 1 ] George Mantzarides, "Person and Institutions", Pournara, Thessaloniki, 1997, p.147 on.
[ 2 ] "Religion and Ethics Encyclopedia", vol.6, p.7 and Greg.Kostaras, "Philosophical propaedia", 218 and 263.
[ 3 ] "The Philokalia", London, 1981, Trans. Palmer, Sherrard, Ware, Vol II. Fourth Century, 33, p243
[ 4 ] ibid., 34, p.244.
[ 5 ] ibid., 33, p.243.
[ 6 ] ibid., 33, p.243.
[ 7 ] ibid., 48, p.246.
[ 8 ] ibid., 33, p.243.
[ 9 ] ibid., 33, p.243.
[ 10 ] ibid., 34, p.244.
[ 11 ] ibid., 34, 35, p.244.
[ 12 ] ibid., 35, p.244.
[ 13 ] ibid., 37, p.244.
[ 14 ] ibid., 36, p.244.
[ 15 ] ibid., 36, p.244.
[ 16 ] ibid., 38, p.244.
[ 17 ] ibid., 39, pp.244-245.
[ 18 ] ibid., 39, p.244.
[ 19 ] ibid., 39, p.244.
[ 20 ] ibid., 39, p.245.
[ 21 ] ibid., 46, p.247.
[ 22 ] ibid., 44, p.246.
[ 23 ] ibid., 40, 41, 42, p.245.
[ 24 ] ibid., 42, p.245.
[ 25 ] ibid., 42, p.246.
[ 26 ] ibid., 43, p.246.
[ 27 ] ibid., 45, p.247.
[ 28 ] ibid., 36, p.244.
[ 29 ] ibid., 7, p.236.
[ 30 ] ibid., 8, 9, 10, p.236-237.

E N D .

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ten Basic Principles of Orthodox Psychotherapy (Met. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

2016 Clergy Symposium (Antiochian Archdiocese of North America)

Lecture 2, Part 2 (Notes):
1. Illness is an unnatural movement of the soul’s faculties.

  • Sin should not be viewed in legalistic terms but medical terms.
  • St. Nicholas Cabasilas speaks on this.
  • When God created man he put all the faculties of the soul and body as oriented towards God.
  • Before sin, the movement of the soul was natural or supernatural. Now it is unnatural and are turned against God, towards nature, making an idol of nature.
  • Christ is the New and Last Adam Who has come to correct the mistake of the First Adam. In Him, these faculties are cured and turned towards God again.
  • Christ turns the unnatural powers into natural and supernatural powers.

2. Within the Church and with all the means at the Church’s disposal, self-love is cured and becomes love for God and love for neighbor.

  • St. Maximos calls self-love the irrational love of the body where all powers of our soul are oriented towards our body.
  • Two types of love. One selfish, the other unselfish.
  • We really love ourselves more than others, the reason we love others is because we want from them. Selfish love says, “I love you, give me.” Unselfish love says, “I love you, I give to you.”
  • Basic principle is how to transform this selfish love to unselfish love. I love God and I love others and all creation as God’s gift to me and offer myself as a gift back.

3. Healing of the rational, desiring, and incensive parts of the soul.

  • The Fathers accepted this partition of the soul created by Plato.
  • These all are sick when one sins. The rational brings it up, the incensive desires it and the appetitive seeks satisfaction from it.
  • The way to cure these is by having good thoughts.
  • St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain spoke often on this.

4. The interconnection between pleasure and pain.

  • When man was created he did not have pleasure and pain in his body. Only pleasure in the soul to be oriented towards God.
  • At the Fall this pleasure of the mind was directed toward creation for use by the body.
  • This is why God introduced suffering and pain, in order to cure pleasure.
  • St. Maximos expands on this teaching very well.
  • Pain and suffering follow bodily pleasure.
  • Pleasure is voluntary, it is an act of the will. God allows involuntary pain in order to heal pleasure.
  • In general, people have a very bad relationship between pain, pleasure, and pain (for example, drugs bring pain and man retreats to drugs again giving him a double dose of pain, and repeats for a triple dose of pain and enters a vicious cycle.
  • God allows involuntary pain to cure voluntary pleasure.

5. The nous in relationship to blameworthy and blameless passions.

  • The nous is the finest attention and something different from reason.
  • Blameless passions are those without sin, hunger, thirst, sleep, for example.
  • These natural passions may be converted to blameworthy passions. Hunger can turn into over-indulgence in food.
  • The nous controls the passions so they remain blameless and not turn blameworthy.
  • A nous which is purified, illumined, and in prayer knows how to control how much to eat and these other things, and how to balance these other things.
  • When the nous is impure even the blameless passions become blameworthy. So we need to cure the nous achieved by pure thought and prayer.
  • When one prays continuously he receives grace from God to control the passions in the soul and body. Like a horserider and coach.

6. Christ is the spiritual doctor of mankind.

  • He is the Second Adam Who healed the sin of the First Adam.
  • He assumed the whole human nature in order to cure it.
  • St. Gregory the Theologian say what is not assumed would not be cured. This was in response to the heretic Apollinarios.

7. Christ cures people with Sacraments and Asceticism

  • Christ sent out His Disciples to the whole world to do two things. First baptize and then teaching. This is the Sacraments and the Ascetic life to keep Christ’s commandments.

8. The Church is a place for therapy.

  • The Church is the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • Christ exercises his therapeutic work in this Body.
9. The Saints are those who have been cured and are being cured.

  • Saints are not simply good people but those who share in the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection. They receive the purifying, illuminating, and deifying energy of God.
  • No one is perfect but are all oriented toward perfection.

10. Eternal life is related to therapy.

  • We remain in the Church for our healing and to see God as light instead of fire.

Friday, August 5, 2016

St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers (Archpriest George Florovsky)

"Following the Holy Fathers..." It was usual in the Ancient Church to introduce doctrinal statements by phrases like this. The Decree of Chalcedon opens precisely with these very words. The Seventh Ecumenical Council introduces its decision concerning the Holy Icons in a more elaborate way: "Following the Divinely inspired teaching of the Holy Fathers and the Tradition of the Catholic Church." The didaskalia of the Fathers is the formal and normative term of reference.

Now, this was much more than just an "appeal to antiquity." Indeed, the Church always stresses the permanence of her faith through the ages, from the very beginning. This identity, since the Apostolic times, is the most conspicuous sign and token of right faith-always the same. Yet, "antiquity" by itself is not an adequate proof of the true faith. Moreover, the Christian message was obviously a striking novelty" for the "ancient world," and, indeed, a call to radical "renovation." The "Old" has passed away, and everything has been "made New." On the other hand, heresies could also appeal to the past and invoke the authority of certain "traditions." In fact, heresies were often lingering in the past. [1] Archaic formulas can often be dangerously misleading. Vincent of Lérins himself was fully aware of this danger. It would suffice to quote this pathetic passage of his: "And now, what an amazing reversal of the situation I the authors of the same opinion are adjudged to be catholics, but the followers heretics; the masters are absolved, the disciples are condemned; the writers of the books will be children of the Kingdom, their followers will go to Gehenna" (Commonitorium, cap. 6). Vincent had in mind, of course, St. Cyprian and the Donatists. St. Cyprian himself faced the same situation. "Antiquity" as such may happen to be Just an inveterate prejudice: nam antiquitas sine veritate vetustas erroris est (Epist.74). It is to say —"old customs" as such do not guarantee the truth. "Truth" is not just a "habit."

The true tradition is only the tradition of truth, traditio veritatis. This tradition, according of St. Irenaeus, is grounded in, and secured by, that charisma veritatis certum [secure charisma of truth], which has been "deposited" in the Church from the very beginning and has been preserved by the uninterrupted succession of episcopal ministry. "Tradition" in the Church is not a continuity of human memory, or a permanence of rites and habits. It is a living tradition—depositum juvenescens, in the phrase of St. Irenaeus. Accordingly, it cannot be counted inter mortuas regulas [among dead rules]. Ultimately, tradition is a continuity of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, a continuity of Divine guidance and illumination. The Church is not bound by the "letter." Rather, she is constantly moved forth by the "Spirit." The same Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, which "spake through the Prophets," which guided the Apostles, is still continuously guiding the Church into the fuller comprehension and understanding of the Divine truth, from glory to glory.

"Following the Holy Fathers"… This is not a reference to some abstract tradition, in formulas and propositions. It is primarily an appeal to holy witnesses. Indeed, we appeal to the Apostles, and not just to an abstract "Apostolicity." In the similar manner do we refer to the Fathers. The witness of the Fathers belongs, intrinsically and integrally, to the very structure of Orthodox belief. The Church is equally committed to the kerygma of the Apostles and to the dogma of the Fathers. We may quote at this point an admirable ancient hymn (probably, from the pen of St. Romanus the Melode). "Preserving the kerygma of the Apostles and the dogmas of the Fathers, the Church has sealed the one faith and wearing the tunic of truth she shapes rightly the brocade of heavenly theology and praises the great mystery of piety." [2]

The Church is "Apostolic" indeed. But the Church is also "Patristic." She is intrinsically "the Church of the Fathers." These two "notes" cannot be separated. Only by being "Patristic" is the Church truly "Apostolic." The witness of the Fathers is much more than simply a historic feature, a voice from the past. Let us quote another hymn from the office of the Three Hierarchs. "By the word of knowledge you have composed the dogmas which the fisher men have established first in simple words, in knowledge by the power of the Spirit, for thus our simple piety had to acquire composition." There are, as it were, two basic stages in the proclamation of the Christian faith. "Our simple faith had to acquire composition." There was an inner urge, an inner logic, an internal necessity, in this transition from kerygma to dogma. Indeed, the teaching of the Fathers, and the dogma of the Church, are still the same "simple message" which has been once delivered and deposited, once for ever, by the Apostles. But now it is, as it were, properly and fully articulated. The Apostolic preaching is kept alive in the Church, not only merely preserved. In this sense, the teaching of the Fathers is a permanent category of Christian existence, a constant and ultimate measure and criterion of right faith. Fathers are not only witnesses of the old faith, testes antiquitatis. They are rather witnesses of the true faith, testes veritatis. "The mind of the Fathers" is an intrinsic term of reference in Orthodox theology, no less than the word of Holy Scripture, and indeed never separated from it. As it has been well said, "the Catholic Church of all ages is not merely a daughter of the Church of the Fathers—she is and remains the Church of the Fathers." [3]

The main distinctive mark of Patristic theology was its existential" character, if we may use this current neologism. The Fathers theologized, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus put it, "in the manner of the Apostles, not in that of Aristotle—alieutikos, ouk aristotelikos (Hom. 23. 12). Their theology was still a "message," a kerygma. Their theology was still "kerygmatic theology," even if it was often logically arranged and supplied with intellectual arguments. The ultimate reference was still to the vision of faith, to spiritual knowledge and experience. Apart from life in Christ theology carries no conviction and, if separated from the life of faith, theology may degenerate into empty dialectics, a vain polylogia, without any spiritual consequence. Patristic theology was existentially rooted in the decisive commitment of faith. It was not a self-explanatory "discipline" which could be presented argumentatively, that is aristotelikos, without any prior spiritual engagement. In the age of theological strife and incessant debates, the great Cappadocian Fathers formally protested against the use of dialectics, of "Aristotelian syllogisms," and endeavoured to refer theology back to the vision of faith. Patristic theology could be only preached" or "proclaimed"—preached from the pulpit, proclaimed also in the words of prayer and in the sacred rites, and indeed manifested in the total structure of Christian life. Theology of this kind can never be separated from the life of prayer and from the exercise of virtue. "The climax of purity is the beginning of theology," as St. John the Klimakos puts it: Telos de hagneias hypotheosis theologias (Scala Paradisi, grade 30).

On the other hand, theology of this type is always, as it were, "propaideutic," since its ultimate aim and purpose is to ascertain and to acknowledge the Mystery of the Living God, and indeed to bear witness to it, in word and deed. "Theology" is not an end in itself. It is always but a way. Theology, and even the "dogmas," present no more than an "intellectual contour" of the revealed truth, and a "noetic" testimony to it. Only in the act of faith is this "contour" filled with content. Christological formulas are fully meaningful only for those who have encountered the Living Christ, and have received and acknowledged Him as God and Saviour, and are dwelling by faith in Him, in His body, the Church. In this sense, theology is never a self-explanatory discipline. It is constantly appealing to the vision of faith. "What we have seen and have heard we announce to you." Apart from this "announcement" theological formulas are empty and of no consequence. For the same reason these formulas can never be taken "abstractly," that is, out of total context of belief. It is misleading to single out particular statements of the Fathers and to detach them from the total perspective in which they have been actually uttered, just as it is misleading to manipulate with detached quotations from the Scripture. It is a dangerous habit "to quote" the Fathers, that is, their isolated sayings and phrases, outside of that concrete setting in which only they have their full and proper meaning and are truly alive. "To follow" the Fathers does not mean just "to quote" them. "To follow" the Fathers means to acquire their "mind," their phronema.

Now, we have reached the crucial point. The name of "Church Fathers" is usually restricted to the teachers of the Ancient Church. And it is currently assumed that their authority depends upon their "antiquity," upon their comparative nearness to the "Primitive Church," to the initial "Age" of the Church. Already St. Jerome had to contest this idea. Indeed, there was no decrease of "authority," and no decrease in the immediacy of spiritual competence and knowledge, in the course of Christian history. In fact, however, this idea of "decrease" has strongly affected our modern theological thinking. In fact, it is too often assumed, consciously or unconsciously, that the Early Church was, as it were, closer to the spring of truth. As an admission of our own failure and inadequacy, as an act of humble self-criticism, such an assumption is sound and helpful. But it is dangerous to make of it the starting point or basis of our "theology of Church history," or even of our theology of the Church. Indeed, the Age of the Apostles should retain its unique position. Yet, it was just a beginning. It is widely assumed that the "Age of the Fathers" has also ended, and accordingly it is regarded just as an ancient formation, "antiquated" in a sense and "archaic." The limit of the "Patristic Age" is variously defined. It is usual to regard St. John of Damascus as the "last Father" in the East, and St. Gregory the Dialogos or Isidore of Seville as "the last" in the West. This periodization has been justly contested in recent times. Should not, for instance, St. Theodore of Studium, at least, be included among "the Fathers"? Mabillon has suggested that Bernard of Clairvaux, the Doctor mellifluous, was "the last of the Fathers, and surely not unequal to the earlier ones." [4] Actually, it is more than a question of periodization. From the Western point of view "the Age of the Fathers" has been succeeded, and indeed superseded, by "the Age of the Schoolmen," which was an essential step forward. Since the rise of Scholasticism "Patristic theology" has been antiquated, has become actually a "past age," a kind of archaic prelude. This point of view, legitimate for the West, has been, most unfortunately, accepted also by many in the East, blindly and uncritically. Accordingly, one has to face the alternative. Either one has to regret the "backwardness" of the East which never developed any "Scholasticism" of its own. Or one should retire into the "Ancient Age," in a more or less archeological manner, and practice what has been wittily described recently as a "theology of repetition." The latter, in fact, is just a peculiar form of imitative "scholasticism."

Now, it is not seldom suggested that, probably, "the Age of the Fathers" has ended much earlier than St. John of Damascus. Very often one does not proceed further than the Age of Justinian, or even already the Council of Chalcedon. Was not Leontius of Byzantium already "the first of the Scholastics"? Psychologically, this attitude is quite comprehensible, although it cannot be theologically justified. Indeed, the Fathers of the Fourth century are much more impressive, and their unique greatness cannot be denied. Yet, the Church remained fully alive also after Nicea and Chalcedon. The current overemphasis on the "first five centuries" dangerously distorts theological vision, and prevents the right understanding of the Chalcedonian dogma itself. The decree of the Sixth Ecumenical Council is often regarded as a kind of an "appendix" to Chalcedon, interesting only for theological specialists, and the great figure of St. Maximus the Confessor is almost completely ignored. Accordingly, the theological significance of the Seventh Ecumenical Council is dangerously obscured, and one is left to wonder, why the Feast of Orthodoxy should be related to the commemoration of the Church's victory over the Iconoclasts. Was it not just a "ritualistic controversy"? We often forget that the famous formula of the Consensus quinquesaecularis [agreement of five centuries], that is, actually, up to Chalcedon, was a Protestant formula, and reflected a peculiar Protestant "theology of history." It was a restrictive formula, as much as it seemed to be too inclusive to those who wanted to be secluded in the Apostolic Age. The point is, however, that the current Eastern formula of "the Seven Ecumenical Councils" is hardly much better, if it tends, as it usually does, to restrict or to limit the Church's spiritual authority to the first eight centuries, as if "the Golden Age" of Christianity has already passed and we are now, probably, already in an Iron Age, much lower on the scale of spiritual vigour and authority. Our theological thinking has been dangerously affected by the pattern of decay, adopted for the interpretation of Christian history in the West since the Reformation. The fullness of the Church was then interpreted in a static manner, and the attitude to Antiquity has been accordingly distorted and misconstrued. After all, it does not make much difference, whether we restrict the normative authority of the Church to one century, or to five, or to eight. There should he no restriction at all. Consequently, there is no room for any "theology of repetition." The Church is still fully authoritative as she has been in the ages past, since the Spirit of Truth quickens her now no less effectively as in the ancient times.

One of the immediate results of our careless periodization is that we simply ignore the legacy of Byzantine theology. We are prepared, now more than only a few decades ago, to admit the perennial authority of "the Fathers," especially since the revival of Patristic studies in the West. But we still tend to limit the scope of admission, and obviously "Byzantine theologians" are not readily counted among the "Fathers." We are inclined to discriminate rather rigidly between "Patristics"—in a more or less narrow sense—and "Byzantinism." We are still inclined to regard "Byzantinism" as an inferior sequel to the Patristic Age. We have still doubts about its normative relevance for theological thinking. Now, Byzantine theology was much more than just a "repetition" of Patristic theology, nor was that which was new in it of an inferior quality in comparison with "Christian Antiquity." Indeed, Byzantine theology was an organic continuation of the Patristic Age. Was there any break? Has the ethos of the Eastern Orthodox Church been ever changed, at a certain historic point or date, which, however, has never been unanimously identified, so that the "later" development was of lesser authority and importance, if of any? This admission seems to be silently implied in the restrictive commitment to the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Then, St. Symeon the New Theologian and St. Gregory Palamas are simply left out, and the great Hesychast Councils of the fourteenth century are ignored and forgotten. What is their position and authority in the Church?

Now, in fact, St. Symeon and St. Gregory are still authoritative masters and inspirers of all those who, in the Orthodox Church, are striving after perfection, and are living the life of prayer and contemplation, whether in the surviving monastic communities, or in the solitude of the desert, and even in the world. These faithful people are not aware of any alleged "break" between "Patristics" and "Byzantinism." The Philokalia, this great encyclopaedia of Eastern piety, which includes writings of many centuries, is, in our own days, increasingly becoming the manual of guidance and instruction for all those who are eager to practice Orthodoxy in our contemporary situation. The authority of its compiler, St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mount, has been recently recognized and enhanced by his formal canonization in the Church. In this sense, we are bound to say, "the Age of the Fathers" still continues in "the Worshipping Church." Should it not continue also in our theological pursuit and study, research and instruction? Should we not recover "the mind of the Fathers" also in our theological thinking and teaching? To recover it, indeed, not as an archaic manner or pose, and not just as a venerable relic, but as an existential attitude, as a spiritual orientation. Only in this way can our theology be reintegrated into the fullness of our Christian existence. It is not enough to keep a "Byzantine Liturgy," as we do, to restore Byzantine iconography and Byzantine music, as we are still reluctant to do consistently, and to practice certain Byzantine modes of devotion. One has to go to the very roots of this traditional "piety," and to recover the "Patristic mind . Otherwise we may be in danger of being inwardly split—as many in our midst actually are—between the "traditional" forms of "piety" and a very untraditional habit of theological thinking. It is a real danger. As "worshippers" we are still in "the tradition of the Fathers." Should we not stand, conscientiously and avowedly, in the same tradition also as "theologians," as witnesses and teachers of Orthodoxy? Can we retain our integrity in any other way?

All these preliminary considerations are highly relevant for our immediate purpose. What is the theological legacy of St. Gregory Palamas? St. Gregory was not a speculative theologian. He was a monk and a bishop. He was not concerned about abstract problems of philosophy, although he was well trained in this field too. He was concerned solely with problems of Christian existence. As a theologian, he was simply an interpreter of the spiritual experience of the Church. Almost all his writings, except probably his homilies, were occasional writings. He was wrestling with the problems of his own time. And it was a critical time, an age of controversy and anxiety. Indeed, it was also an age of spiritual renewal.

St. Gregory was suspected of subversive innovations by his enemies in his own time. This charge is still maintained against him in the West. In fact, however, St. Gregory was deeply rooted in tradition. It is not difficult to trace most of his views and motives back to the Cappadocian Fathers and to St. Maximus the Confessor, who was, by the way, one of the most popular masters of Byzantine thought and devotion. Indeed, St. Gregory was also intimately acquainted with the writings of [St.] Dionysius. He was rooted in the tradition. Yet, in no sense was his theology just a "theology of repetition." It was a creative extension of ancient tradition. Its starting point was Life in Christ.

Of all themes of St. Gregory's theology let us single out but one, the crucial one, and the most controversial. What is the basic character of Christian existence? The ultimate aim and purpose of human life was defined in the Patristic tradition as theosis [divinization]. The term is rather offensive for the modern ear. It cannot be adequately rendered in any modern language, nor even in Latin. Even in Greek it is rather heavy and pretentious. Indeed, it is a daring word. The meaning of the word is, however, simple and lucid. It was one of the crucial terms in the Patristic vocabulary. It would suffice to quote at this point but St. Athanasius. Gegonen gar anthropos, hin hemas en heauto theopoiese [He became man in order to divinize us in Himself (Ad Adelphium 4)]. Autos gar enenthropesen, hina hemeis theopoiethomen. [He became man in order that we might be divinized (De Incarnatione 54)]. St. Athanasius actually resumes here the favourite idea of St. Irenaeus: qui propter immensam dilectionem suam factus est quod sumus nos, uti nos perficeret esse quod est ipse [Who, through his immense love became what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself (Adv. Haeres. V, Praefatio)]. It was the common conviction of the Greek Fathers. One can quote at length St. Gregory of Nazianzus. St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Maximus, and indeed St. Symeon the New Theologian. Man ever remains what he is, that is, creature. But he is promised and granted, in Christ Jesus, the Word become man, an intimate sharing in what is Divine: Life Everlasting and incorruptible. The main characteristic of theosis is, according to the Fathers, precisely "immortality" or "incorruption." For God alone "has immortality"—ho monos echon athanasian (I Tim. 6:16). But man now is admitted into an intimate "communion" with God, through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. And this is much more than just a 'moral" communion, and much more than just a human perfection. Only the word theosis can render adequately the uniqueness of the promise and offer. The term theosis is indeed quite embarrassing, if we would think in "ontological" categories. Indeed, man simply cannot "become" god. But the Fathers were thinking in "personal" terms, and the mystery of personalcommunion was involved at this point. Theosis meant a personal encounter. It is that intimate intercourse of man with God, in which the whole of human existence is, as it were, permeated by the Divine Presence. [5]

Yet, the problem remains: How can even this intercourse be compatible with the Divine Transcendance? And this is the crucial point. Does man really encounter God, in this present life on earth? Does man encounter God, truly and verily, in his present life of prayer? Or, is there no more than an actio in distans? The common claim of the Eastern Fathers was that in his devotional ascent man actually encounters God and beholds His eternal Glory. Now, how is it possible, if God "abides in the light unapproachable"? The paradox was especially sharp in the Eastern theology, which has been always committed to the belief that God was absolutely "incomprehensible"—akataleptos—and unknowable in His nature or essence. This conviction was powerfully expressed by the Cappadocian Fathers, especially in their struggle against Eunomius, and also by St. John Chrysostom, in his magnificent discourses Peri Akataleptou. Thus, if God is absolutely "unapproachable" in His essence, and accordingly His essence simply cannot be "communicated," how can theosis be possible at all? "One insults God who seeks to apprehend His essential being," says Chrysostom. Already in St. Athanasius we find a clear distinction between God's very "essence" and His powers and bounty: Kai en pasi men esti kata ten heautou agathoteta, exo de ton panton palin esti kata ten idian physin [He is in everything by his love, but outside of everything by his own nature (De Decretis II)]. The same conception was carefully elaborated by the Cappadocians. The "essence of God" is absolutely inaccessible to man, says St. Basil (Adv. Eunomium 1:14). We know God only in His actions, and by His actions: Hemeis de ek men ton energeion gnorizein legomen ton Theon hemon, te de ousia prosengizein ouch hypischnoumetha hai men gar energeiai autou pros hemas katabainousin, he de ousia autou menei aprositos [We say that we know our God from his energies (activities), but we do not profess to approach his essence—for his energies descend to us, but his essence remains inaccessible (Epist. 234, ad Amphilochium)]. Yet, it is a true knowledge, not just a conjecture or deduction: hai energeiai autou pros hemas katabainousin. In the phrase of St. John of Damascus, these actions or "energies" of God are the true revelation of God Himself: he theia ellampsis kai energeia (De Fide Orth. 1: 14). It is a real presence, and not merely a certain praesentia operativa, sicut agens adest ei in quod agit [as the actor is present in the thing in which he acts]. This mysterious mode of Divine Presence, in spite of the absolute transcendence of the Divine Essence, passes all understanding. But it is no less certain for that reason.

St. Gregory Palamas stands in an ancient tradition at this point. In His "energies" the Unapproachable God mysteriously approaches man. And this Divine move effects encounter: proodos eis ta exo, in the phrase of St. Maximus (Scholia in De Div. Nom., 1: 5).

St. Gregory begins with the distinction between "grace" and "essence": he theia kai theopoios ellampsis kai charis ouk ousia, all’ energeia esti Theou [the Divine and Divinizing illumination and grace is not the essence, but the energy of God (Capita Phys., Theol., etc., 689)]. This basic distinction was formally accepted and elaborated at the Great Councils in Constantinople, 1341 and 1351. Those who would deny this distinction were anathematized and excommunicated. The anathematisms of the council of 651 were included in the rite for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in the Triodion. Orthodox theologians are bound by this decision. The essence of God is absolutely amethekte [incommunicable]. The source and the power of human theosis is not the Divine essence, but the "Grace of God": theopoios energeia, hes ta metechonta theountai, theia tis esti charis, all’ ouch he physis tou theou [the divinizing energy, by participation of which one is divinized, is a divine grace, but in no way the essence of God (ibid. 923)]. Charis is not identical with the ousia. It is theia kai aktistos charis kai energeia [Divine and uncreated Grace and Energy (ibid., 69)]. This distinction, however, does not imply or effect division or separation. Nor is it just an "accident," oute symbebekotos (ibid., 127). Energies "proceed" from God and manifest His own Being. The term proienai [proceed] simply suggests diakrisin [distinction], but not a division: ei kai dienenoche tes physeos, ou diaspatai he tou Pneumatos charis [the grace of the Spirit is different from the Substance, and yet not separated from it (Theophan, p. 940)].

Actually the whole teaching of St. Gregory presupposes the action of the Personal God. God moves toward man and embraces him by His own "grace" and action, without leaving that phos aprositon [light unapproachable], in which He eternally abides. The ultimate purpose of St. Gregory's theological teaching was to defend the reality of Christian experience. Salvation is more than forgiveness. It is a genuine renewal of man. And this renewal is effected not by the discharge, or release, of certain natural energies implied in man's own creaturely being, but by the "energies" of God Himself, who thereby encounters and encompasses man, and admits him into communion with Himself. In fact, the teaching of St. Gregory affects the whole system of theology, the whole body of Christian doctrine. It starts with the clear distinction between "nature" and "will" of God. This distinction was also characteristic of the Eastern tradition, at least since St. Athanasius. It may be asked at this point: Is this distinction compatible with the "simplicity" of God? Should we not rather regard all these distinctions as merely logical conjectures, necessary for us, but ultimately without any ontological significance? As a matter of fact, St. Gregory Palamas was attacked by his opponents precisely from that point of view. God's Being is simple, and in Him even all attributes coincide. Already St. Augustine diverged at this point from the Eastern tradition. Under Augustinian presuppositions the teaching of St. Gregory is unacceptable and absurd. St. Gregory himself anticipated the width of implications of his basic distinction. If one does not accept it, he argued, then it would be impossible to discern clearly between the "generation" of the Son and "creation" of the world, both being the acts of essence, and this would lead to utter confusion in the Trinitarian doctrine. St. Gregory was quite formal at that point.

If according to the delirious opponents and those who agree with them, the Divine energy in no way differs from the Divine essence, then the act of creating, which belongs to the will, will in no way differ from generation (gennan) and procession (ekporeuein), which belong to the essence. If to create is no different from generation and procession, then the creatures will in no way differ from the Begotten (gennematos) and the Projected (problematos). If such is the case according to them, then both the Son of God and the Holy Spirit will be no different from creatures, and the creatures will all be both the begotten (gennemata) and the projected (problemata) of God the Father, and creation will be deified and God will be arrayed with the creatures. For this reason the venerable Cyril, showing the difference between God's essence and energy, says that to generate belongs to the Divine nature, whereas to create belongs to His Divine energy. This he shows clearly saying, "nature and energy are not the same." If the Divine essence in no way differs from the Divine energy, then to beget (gennan) and to project (ekporeuein) will in no way differ from creating (poiein). God the Father creates by the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Thus He also begets and projects by the Son and in the Holy Spirit, according to the opinion of the opponents and those who agree with them. (Capita 96 and 97.)

St. Gregory quotes St. Cyril of Alexandria. But St. Cyril at this point was simply repeating St. Athanasius. St. Athanasius, in his refutation of Arianism, formally stressed the ultimate difference between ousia [essence] or physis [substance], on the one hand, and the boulesis [will], on the other. God exists, and then He also acts. There is a certain "necessity" in the Divine Being, indeed not a necessity of compulsion, and no fatum, but a necessity of being itself. God simply is what He is. But God's will is eminently free. He in no sense is necessitated to do what He does. Thus gennesis [generation] is always kata physin [according to essence], but creation is a bouleseos ergon [energy of the will] (Contra Arianos III. 646). These two dimensions, that of being and that of acting, are different, and must be clearly distinguished. Of course, this distinction in no way compromises the "Divine simplicity." Yet, it is a real distinction, and not just a logical device. St. Gregory was fully aware of the crucial importance of this distinction. At this point he was a true successor of the great Athanasius and of the Cappadocian hierarchs.

It has been recently suggested that the theology of St. Gregory, should be described in modern terms as an "existentialist theology." Indeed, it differed radically from modern conceptions which are currently denoted by this label. Yet, in any case, St. Gregory was definitely opposed to all kinds of "essentialist theologies" which fail to account for God's freedom, for the dynamism of God's will, for the reality of Divine action. St. Gregory would trace this trend back to Origen. It was the predicament of the Greek impersonalist metaphysics. If there is any room for Christian metaphysics at all, it must be a metaphysics of persons. The starting point of St. Gregory's theology was the history of salvation: on the larger scale, the Biblical story, which consisted of Divine acts, culminating in the Incarnation of the Word and His glorification through the Cross and Resurrection; on the smaller scale, the story of the Christian man, striving after perfection, and ascending step by step, till he encounters God in the vision of His glory. It was usual to describe the theology of St. Irenaeus as a "theology of facts." With no lesser justification we may describe also the theology of St. Gregory Palamas as a "theology of facts."

In our own time, we are coming more and more to the conviction that "theology of facts" is the only sound Orthodox theology. It is Biblical. It is Patristic. It is in complete conformity with the mind of the Church.

In this connection we may regard St. Gregory Palamas as our guide and teacher, in our endeavour to theologize from the heart of the Church.

Archpriest George Florovsky
9 марта 2015 г.

1. It has been recently suggested that Gnostics were actually the first to invoke formally the authority of an "Apostolic Tradition" and that it was their usage which moved St. Irenaeus to elaborate his own conception of Tradition. D. B. Reynders, "Paradosis: Le proges de l'idee de tradition jusqu'a Saint Irenee," in Recherches de Theologie ancienne et medievale, V (1933), Louvain, 155-191. In any case, Gnostics used to refer to "tradition."

2. Paul Maas, ed.. Fruhbyzantinische Kirchenpoesie, I (Bonn, 1910), p. 24.

3. Louis Bouyer, "Le renouveau des etudes patristiques," in La Vie Intellectuelle, XV (Fevrier 1947), 18.

4. Mabillon, Bernardi Opera, Praefatio generalis, n. 23 (Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, c. 26).

5. Cf. M. LotBorodine, "La doctrine de la deification dans I'Eglise grecque jusqu'au XI siecle," in Revue de l'histoire des religions, tome CV, Nr I (JanvierFevrier 1932), 5-43; tome CVI, Nr 2/3 (SeptembreDecembre 1932), 525-74; tome CVII, Nr I (JanvierFevrier 1933), 8-55.

From Ch. 7 of The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, Vol. I, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Vaduz, Europa: Buchervertriebsanstalt, 1987), pp. 105-120.