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Category: St. Gregory Palamas

St. Gregory Palamas

by Andrea Elizabeth

I thought I’d get back to The Saving Work of Christ, Sermons by St. Gregory Palamas in commemoration of his Sunday during Lent, which was yesterday. The only Lenten sermon is on Palm Sunday, so I’m reading his “On Epiphany I”. I’ve explored before the distinction between Christ’s uniting Himself to all of creation and taking on human nature in His Incarnation and what baptism into Christ accomplishes. I still don’t want to place a legalistic demand on baptism into Christ, which is influenced probably by my non-sacramental Protestant upbringing, God’s mercy, the saying, ‘we know where the Spirit is, but not where He is not’, the Scripture, ‘even if I made my bed in hell, You are there”, and being somewhat convinced by some non-Orthodox people’s relationship with God, even if they don’t have all the facts or procedures straight. Still, I don’t want to throw out the bathwater. Without further ado, here’s some quotes,

Repentance is the beginning, middle and end of the Christian way of life, so it is both sought and required before holy baptism, in holy baptism, and after holy baptism. We are asked to express our repentance in words at the time of our baptism, when we are questioned about our good conscience towards God, make a covenant with Him and promise to live a God-pleasing life that bears witness to our love for Him. For, having believed, we promise allegiance to Christ, who is good and surpasses all goodness, renouncing the evil and thoroughly depraved enemy, and we take it upon ourselves to hold with all our strength to God’s commandments, which bring about what is good, and to abstain from every evil thought and deed. When asked, we reply, either in person or, as happens in the case of infants being baptized, through our godparents, concerning what we have believed, inwardly accepted and agreed to with our minds. And since, according to the apostle, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10), when we make this good confession with our mouth we receive salvation through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). (p. 19)

This reminds me that in my daughter’s Protestant 4th grade Bible class, when teaching on Nicodemus, the teacher in paraphrasing the verse that says you must be born of water and spirit, said that you only need to be born of the spirit. So much for Sola Scriptura. Back to St. Gregory:

Water is a means of cleansing, but not for souls. It can remove dirt from those being baptized, but not the grime that comes from sin. For that reason the Healer of souls, the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9), Christ, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), enters the water before us to be baptized, as we celebrate today in advance. He draws the grace of the all-holy Spirit from above to dwell in the water with Him, so that later when those being baptized as He was enter the water, He is there, clothing them ineffably with His Spirit, attaching Himself to them, and filling them with the grace that purifies and illumines reasonable spirits. And this is what the divine Paul is referring to: “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). (p. 21,22)

On Chrismation:

For this reason, the bishop, having clothed the person who has been baptized in a radiant white garment, and anointed him with holy chrism, and having made him a communicant of Christ’s body and blood, then sends him on is way, showing that he has thenceforth become a child of light, both united in one body with Christ and a partaker of the Holy Spirit. For we are born again (cf. John 3:3-5) and become heavenly sons of God (cf. Rom 8:14-19, Phil 2:15, 1 John 3:1-2) instead of earthly beings, eternal instead of transient. God has mystically implanted heavenly grace in our hearts and set the seal of adoption as sons upon us through anointing with this holy chrism, sealing us by means of the all-holy Spirit for the day of redemption (cf. Eph. 4:30), provided we keep this confession firm to the end and fulfil our promise through deeds, though we may renew it through repentance if it drifts a little off course. That is why works of repentance are necessary even after baptism. But if they are absent the words of our promise to God are not only useless but also condemn us. “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Eccles. 5:5).

[…] Repentance means hating sin and loving virtue, turning away from evil and doing good (Ps. 34:14, 1 Pet. 3:11). These acts are preceded however, by condemning ourselves for our faults, being penitent before God, fleeing to Him for refuge with a contrite heart, and casting ourselves into the ocean of His mercy, considering ourselves unworthy to be counted among His sons. As the prodigal son said when he repented, “Lord, I am not worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (cf. Luke 15:19) (p. 22,23)

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St. Gregory on ‘The Presentation into the Temple’ and second marriages

by Andrea Elizabeth

One reason I began studying St. Dionysius was to better understand the context of St. Gregory Palamas’ writings. Today I thought I might read a bit from this Saint and found that my copy of The Saving Work of Christ, Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas begins with a sermon on Christmas. Not wanting to read that too soon in this season, I thought that the next sermon, On the Presentation, would be a good one at this time as we on the New Calendar just celebrated the Presentation of the Theotokos into the temple. St. Gregory was speaking on Christ’s presentation, but I thought there should be some corresponding insights. The opening teaches concerning Christ’s Incarnation, and thus Nativity, with a wonderful description of Christ’s healing human nature, and how each person must be healed by baptism into His Body, and a corresponding life of obedience. Then the topic switches to Saints Simeon and Anna who received Him in the temple.

I believe we can receive an Advent message from these two Saints in how they waited for Christ to come in the flesh to them. Saint Simeon’s prophesies about Christ’s and his mother’s sufferings are included, and then Saint Anna is described thusly,

The prophetess Anna, widow of Phanuel, was about eighty-four years old. Devoted to fasts and prayers, she never left the Temple. At that moment, more than ever in the power of the Holy Spirit, she gave thanks to God and announced the good tidings, that redemption, which she declared to be this infant, had come to those who were waiting for it (cf. Luke 2:38).

The Holy Spirit sent this dovelike pair into the Temple beforehand to meet Christ when He came, teaching us what sort of people those who receive Christ should be, and what sort of people women who have lost their husbands and men who have lost their wives should be. For this Anna, Phanuel’s widow, was both a widow and a prophetess. How was this possible? Because she renounced the worldly cares of everyday life and did not leave the Temple. She spent her days and nights in fasts, vigils, prayers and psalmody, and her life was blameless. So it stands to reason that she recognized the Lord, whom she served by her actions when He came. As the psalmist and prophet says of Him, “I will sing and I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me?” (Ps. 101: 1-2)

He spends the rest of the sermon on the virtue of not getting married a second time.

Men and women who choose, after being honourably widowed, to draw near to a life of virginity or to live with someone else, should be like this. If you altogether despise second marriages as something base, then hold fast to your purpose and follow in the footsteps of those who stayed unmarried all their lives.

He uses Peter as an example of how a person once married suffers no impediment to a virtuous life, and how he in some ways surpassed “the virgin John.” But if a person is widowed,

When desire is redirected from the flesh to the spirit it raises us to such heights. [I’ve talked about these type statements compared to gnosticism before, most memorably to me in St. Maximus’ 400 Chapters on Love. I don’t want to focus on that in particular right now.]

Be careful not to stand aloof from marriage as from something vulgar whilst at the same time failing to remain chaste because it is too difficult. In that case, you will drift away and fall unawares, for you are following neither what is according to the law nor what is superior to the law, but what is against the law. We regard widowed people who do not live chastely as worthy of condemnation, and even if they are lawfully joined in a second marriage we do not deem them completely blameless – for Paul says that they have cast off their first faith (cf: 1 Tim. 5:11-12, 1 Cor. 7:27, 39-40). So how much more to be condemned are those who prefer illicit pleasure to lawful marriage, and who live with their wives but do not abstain from fornication.

He goes on to give many examples of the evils of illicit pleasure and the consequences of such indulgence.

I have not hidden the fact that George and I were both married before. Five of our six, seven if you count our stillborn son, Isaac, were from previous marriages. I wish there were more passages in the Bible that address the needs of parents, single or otherwise, like turning the other cheek, which is much easier to do if children aren’t involved. Do what you want to me, but woe unto the person who touches my child. Anyway, in the passages above, St. Gregory at first “despises” second marriages, but then when he incorporates the Scriptures he downgrades it to “we do not deem them completely blameless”. Here are the scriptures he points to,[I’ll be lazy and paste the Bible Gateway NIV ones]

1 Tim. 5:11As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. 14So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

1 Cor. 7:27Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

39A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

I was divorced before I found the Orthodox Church, and as a Sola Scriptura Christian, I took the above and the following verse in the same passage to heart,

15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

I do not know what I would have done if I had been Orthodox. If I hadn’t had children I may have joined a monastery, but I may have had too many youthful passions to have been ready for such a commitment at that time. I believe the Orthodox Church will support a pure, virginal life more than a Protestant one would. The Church with her monasteries and full schedule of prayers has more barriers and safeguards available, not that we employ them enough, against secular and material temptations.

Beyond Being II

by Andrea Elizabeth

For if all the branches of knowledge belong to things that have being, and if their limits have reference to the existing world, then that which is beyond all Being must also be transcendent above all knowledge. (The Divine Names, Rolt translation, CCEL p. 59)

Everything above this is all gloriously positive, but this sentence seems a nonsequitur, or at least not the only option. Why does Being have to be confined to the existing world? Why can’t there be eternal beings, and finite beings? The eternal One in Three is of course above the finite created ones. But can’t we all belong to the classification of Being? I suppose I am advocating a hierarchy of Being, The One uncreated Source, then heavenly beings alternating with created humans (more honorable than the Cherubim), animals, plants, then inorganic matter. Yet the Divine is other than the created in a way that makes putting them in the same chain inappropriate. God is certainly above created beings, but why is it wrong to say that the Divine Being is above created beings in the following way, but editing out the word “Being” (leaving “Super-Essential” alone for now)?

5. But if It is greater than all Reason and all knowledge, and hath Its firm abode altogether beyond Mind and Being, and circumscribes, compacts, embraces and anticipates all things8787παντῶν . . . προληπτική—i.e. contains them eternally before their creation.// <![CDATA[// while Itself is altogether beyond the grasp of them all, and cannot be reached by any perception, imagination, conjecture, name, discourse, apprehension, or understanding, how then is our Discourse concerning the Divine Names to be accomplished, since we see that the Super-Essential Godhead is unutterable and nameless? Now, as we said when setting forth our Outlines of Divinity, the One, the Unknowable, the Super-Essential, the Absolute Good (I mean the Trinal Unity of Persons possessing the same Deity and Goodness), ‘tis impossible to describe or to conceive in Its ultimate Nature; (The Divine Names, Rolt, CCEL, p. 59)

I know it is considered presumptuous to “correct” a Church Father, and Frs. Meyendorf and Schmemann have been criticized for doing so. But many Orthodox bristle at the “neoplatonic” appellation attributed to St. Dionysius. I am in investigation mode right now, not judging mode. By the way, I found Fr. John D. Jones’s (OCA) translation on ebay for 13.99 including shipping, so I ordered it. Also, in the cited Ora Et Labora posts, St. Gregory Palamas is seen as a pivotal utilizer of St. Dionysius, though there is disagreement on if he corrected him or interpreted him correctly. I feel I need a background in St. Dionysius’ works first hand before I can try to understand how St. Gregory contextualizes him.

Good, Peace-Inducing News

by Andrea Elizabeth

It may be apparent that I got irritated reading the John Scottus Eriugena book. This morning I took Felix Culpa’s suggestion to watch Dr. David Bradshaw’s lecture on The Divine Energies in Eastern Orthodoxy (I couldn’t open the essays with my Mac). The lecture in Part 1 goes to about 70 minutes in, now I’m listening to the Q&A. He nicely shows what Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Sts. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, the Cappadocian Fathers, and, very briefly in the Q&A, Eriugena, whose writings were condemned, and St. Dionysius, meant by energies and essence. He is not as uptight about the ones who disagree with the further defined explanation of St. Gregory Palamas as I, and he’s wanting to get along with the Cambridge audience who disagrees more than I, so he makes some concessions about St. Palamas leaving a few loose ends. Perhaps he even tidies them up for him. He approaches it as they west is missing out on fuller revelation, and I’m fine with that.

St. Gregory Palamas Sunday

by Andrea Elizabeth

On the Importance of Prayer
– by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Today, on the second Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, who lived in the fourteenth century. He is known for his defense of the Hesychasm of Athonite monks and the Orthodox understanding of prayer against the attacks of theologians who were influenced by Western scholasticism.

Most of us, living in the world as we do, know very little about the Hesychast controversy, the works of Saint Gregory, or about the practice of Hesychasm. This is not because Orthodox theology and praxis is somehow more complicated than other areas of human knowledge and experience. We are often very successful at learning highly complex subject-matters, mastering very sophisticated skills, and becoming experts in our area of work or study. Yet, when it comes to prayer, too many Christians spend very little time and effort to learn about it and to practice it. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that among the multitude of very accomplished experts on a variety of subjects that attend our churches, very few are experts in prayer.

We often think of prayer as a compilation of formulas that have to be pronounced or tasks that have to be fulfilled: certain prayers in the morning, others in the evening, and different ones before communion. The goal of such exercises is rarely very lofty—usually people say prayers to quiet their own conscience: “I have fulfilled my morning obligation or “I have fulfilled my pre-communion obligation”—and they feel better about themselves. When prayers are missed, we feel guilty: “I have not done what I was supposed to do.” Prayer becomes a life-long conversation with one’s own self, but not with God.

Sometimes we want something, so we remember that there is a God, and we decide to make a deal with Him. We say a certain formula and expect that God will feel obliged to deliver. If it is something that we really want and we are not sure that He will feel obliged enough, we may lengthen our plea by putting in some extra prayers and readings, by doing a little extra to get something a little bigger. We try to manipulate God in the same way that a dog tries to manipulate its owner into throwing an extra biscuit or two by doing an extra trick. The only problem is that God did not die on the cross in order to get Himself a pet.

Prayer is not a formula to manipulate God into doing something for us, nor is it an obligation that was placed on us to fulfill. God knows what we need for our salvation much better than we do, and He delivered us from all bondage, including the burdens and obligations of the Law. Yet we see that the saints of both the Old and New Testaments prayed to God, Christ Himself spent time in prayer every chance He had, and the Church teaches us to do the same. Why is prayer so important?

In the same way that we cannot manipulate God, He does not want to manipulate us. He wants us to enter into communion with Him; He wants to live in us (Gal. 2:20), and us to live for Him (2 Cor. 5:15) and with Him (Rom. 6:8); “the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei 54). He wants our hearts, not our tricks aimed at getting a few extra biscuits. He needs us to be co-laborers with Him in the task of our salvation (1 Cor. 3:9). He wants to give us life abundantly (John 10:10), but He needs us to live it. And the breath of life in God is prayer.

Prayer is the communion of the Person of God with the person of man; and without our participation in it, this communion becomes impossible. Just as a close relationship between two people is impossible when one gives all, but the other in only interested in exchanging Christmas cards, a life with God is impossible when He gives us all of Himself, but we are only interested in giving Him a few minutes of recitations each day. Prayer is not what is written on a page in a book, but that which is written in our hearts. Perhaps this is why the most common and most meaningful prayer has always been the simple Jesus prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”

Prayer is not a mindless recitation of printed symbols, but a devotion of mind and heart. When we read or hear about the prayer of the mind that enters the heart, we are faced with the rejection of a purely mechanical recitation of words. We would find it unacceptable to offer a mindless recitation of words to our friends and loved ones; how dare we offer it to God day after day?!

The experience of the Athonite Hesychasts shows that through prayer we enter into communion with the very uncreated energies of God, or the direct way that God relates to the world and acts in it—not through created mediators, but directly enters into a relationship with us. And it is our response that makes this relationship possible. Look at the prayers that the Church offers to us as the morning and evening rules. Pay close attention to the words. They were composed by people whose hearts were ablaze with love for God, who responded to God’s gift of life with giving their own lives to God. Their prayers are not offered to us for recitations, but to guide our hearts and lives in the same direction, in the footsteps of the Fathers. We are to take these words written by other people and make them our own, coming directly from our hearts.

But this is not yet the life of prayer. If prayer is the breath of life, then it is impossible to live just by breathing for a few minutes twice a day. Apostle Paul instructs us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Many have said that this is impossible: how can one do anything without ceasing? But do we not breathe without ceasing? The saints who devoted their lives to God found that not only it is possible to pray without ceasing, but that it is unceasing prayer that makes life in God possible. The more we allow our soul to breathe prayer, the more alive in God it becomes.

Perhaps we cannot expect to spend our lives in solitude and contemplation, as do the Athonite Hesychasts. But we can and should make prayer both a state of our being and an active way of life in God. We do not have to study the works of Saint Gregory Palamas to make the simple Jesus prayer—“Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”—a part of everything we do throughout the day. We can apply effort to pay more attention to every word in our morning and evening prayers, to make them our own, and to try to pattern our own spiritual life after the model offered to us by the Fathers.

The breath of prayer is just as vital to the spiritual life as the breath of air is to the physical life. But just as a physical illness takes time and effort to heal, the spiritual illness caused by the lack of prayer will also take time and effort to recover. That is why it is so important to begin immediately, not tonight or tomorrow, but right now. When the Ethiopian eunuch learnt about Christ, he exclaimed to Philip: “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36) What hinders us from taking a breath of life this very moment?—“If you believe with all your heart, you may” (Acts 8:37).
H/T to Sophocles and Maxim

Pre-Lenten Retreat

by Andrea Elizabeth

(links corrected)

Saturday morning all eight of us got up early and took the van to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas to attend a Pre-Lenten Retreat which nourished us with breakfast and lunch, Orthodox Trinitarian Theology presented by Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Professor of Patristics at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and monastic wisdom from Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, as John (who I had the joy of meeting in person!) from Notes From a Common-Place Book said, is the Spiritual Child of Elder Sophrony, the Spiritual Child of St. Silouan. I also got to touch base with our dear friend, Eric (Jacob), Priests and other friends from St. Seraphim Cathedral and different parishes in the North Texas area, as well as some from our own parish, St. Barbara’s, like David Bryan, Audra and their Katie, Charles, Brad, Rex, Marilyn and William.

I took detailed notes of the two lectures and question and answer sessions because my memory has gotten hazy. But now I forgot where I put them so I’ll have to hurry and write down what I do remember so’s not to loose the entire thing. Not that permanent seeds weren’t planted, or changes made even if I don’t recall them.

Professor Veniamin spoke on St. Gregory Palamas and his Sunday during Great Lent. He said St. Gregory had a vision of milk overflowing and turning into wine which had a beautiful fragrance. The angel said the he needed to share this wine and not keep it to himself, like the parable of the talents. I forget what exactly he said the milk and wine represented. I believe he also talked on hesychasm as the way to salvation.

Elder Zacharias said that the three things Orthodox Christians need to focus on more than any other in order to be strengthened and energized are:

1. The Liturgy,

2. The Name of Christ,

3. The Word of Christ

I really wish I had my notes! He explained them in opposite order, but the priorities are as listed. He said that when we read the Bible we need to let the words inform us of His commandments so that we can become one with them and in being conformed by them, we attain godliness and then God will be present with us. That each word is like a stone, building us in the image of God as well as enlarging our hearts.

The name of Christ is called upon in the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. He said Elder Sophrony used to say that the reason we repeat it so many times is because we don’t know it yet. In it we confess who God is and who we are. This also enlarges our heart so that the Holy Spirit can fill us with His energy. He used the word energy a lot, and he indeed sparkled with it.

Then he said that in the Liturgy we make the great exchange. When we make the bread we are to pray for everyone in our hearts, and it comes to represent all that we are and have. Our very best. During the Liturgy we lift it all up to be exchanged for all that Christ is, and slowly, little by little we attain His fullness. This is why it is important to maintain the Liturgy our whole lives. We benefit the world when we lift it up to be exchanged. This counterbalances the effect of the world on us. He said that each generation has gotten weaker in that our predecessors attained greater heights of spiritual feats like raising the dead, and that each successive generation is half as good as the one preceding it. I think this was a humble way of comparing himself to Elder Sophrony and St. Silouan. Anyway, in the last days the greatest spiritual feat will be to keep the faith in the Liturgy.

All three of the ways of increasing God’s presence in the world were very encouraging, motivating and inspirational to me to feel that our prayers, readings, and Liturgy are all effective ways of increasing mercy and grace in ourselves and the world. Sometimes I get discouraged by our small numbers. Our parish is right next door to a Pentacostal mega-church. I have been discouraged by the disparity of numbers before, but in actuality, this disparity has not defeated us. We still have cars in the parking lot every Sunday and that is a victory for the world.

I believe both speakers mentioned the presentation of the Theotokos to the temple and how she realized her connection with creation and God. They are united in her. Elder Zacharias said that one day she was reading Isaiah’s “behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son”, and began repeating it enthusiastically and prayed, ‘may I be her handmaiden’. It was then that the angel Gabriel came to her to give her the good news.

Thankfully they recorded the lectures, and I believe the DVD’s will be available in a few weeks. Check North Texas Orthodox Missions for more details.

If anyone can add to or correct what I’ve written above, please feel free.

St. Maximus the Confessor

by Andrea Elizabeth

I want to catalogue this work on St. Maximus the Confessor for future reference. It and the gentlemen and scholars on Energetic Procession, who brought it to attention, inspired me to begin studying Dr. Farrell’s “The Disputation with Pyrrhus of our Father among the Saints Maximus the Confessor.”

Panayiotis Christou

Maximos Confessor on the Infinity Of Man

From: Felix Heinzer – Christoph Scönborn (ed.), Actes du Symposium sur Maxime le Confeseur (Fribourg, 2-5 september 1980), Éditions Universitaires, Fribourg Suisse, 1982.

Ι have chosen my subject for this conference, stimulated by my studies οn the writings of Gregory Ρalamas, which I have edited with the help of a group of my students in Thessaloniki.

Palamas in his attempt to emphasize difference between knowledge of a thing and participation in it, pretended in one of his treatises that those who praise Gοd through knowledge of his uncreated energies are merely pious, while those who participated in them become without beginning and without end by grace άναρχοι and ατελεύτητοι. He bases his optimistic perspective mainly on Maximos the Confessor, whose thought rules οn a high level over his argumentation during the middle period of his literary activity. Gregory Akindynos, against whom that treatise was addressed(1), of course rejects this aspect(2) and ironically questions how Palamas succeeded in becoming a man without beginning, since all men have a physical beginning(3). Ιn the sequel he refers to that haeresiarch, who was expelled from the Church οn the grounds that he merely had said that the human body of Jesus Christ was without beginning and heavenly. He obviously meant Apollinarius.

Palamas needed to return again to this subject and dedicated a few pages of his Antirretics(4). Though he was more extensive this time, he could not state all the complex thoughts, which led Maximos to the formation of his doctrine on this point.

Μan may certainly be considered as άναρχος and ατελεύτητος in the neoplatonic system, where all beings are of the same essence with the One. They come forth from tlιe Οne and return to it. Ιn this case however, tlιere is nο question of a personal existence, but οnly the idea of man or the cοmmοn existence of humanity. Τhe position of Maximos is personalictic and at first it certainly seems strange and inconceivable that man can enter the course of the uncreated. Τhe uncreated is that which really exists, and is not subjected to number and movement, the unique. Οn the other hand the created is that which came from nothing, which is subjected to number and movement, the multiform (5). Maximos sententiously states this fundamental doctrine of Christian theology: “the distance and difference between the uncreated and the created is infinite”(6). The words he ιιses in this reference κτιστόν and άκτιστον, differing from each other only by tlιe privative alpha-prefix, express two realities not merely different, but strange to eαch otlιer, two realities standing on two levels which do not meet each other anywhere. By limiting his reference only to man he characterises this distance as immense, as a “chasma”, as a gulf: “there is a real “chasma”, tremendous and great, between God and man”(7). Read the rest of this entry »

Orthodox Psychotherapy, The Science of the Fathers

by Andrea Elizabeth

By Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos

St. Gregory Palamas, citing passages from Scripture, such as the Apostle Paul’s words: “…even when we were dead in trespasses He made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2,5), the words of John the Evangelist: “There is sin leading to death” (1 John 5,16), and Christ’s words to his disciple: “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8,22), says that althought the soul is immortal by grace, nevertheless when “dissipated, abandoned to pleasures and self-indulgent, it is dead even while it lives”. This is the way he interprets the Apostle Paul’s words: “She (the widow) who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5,6). Although the soul is alive, it is dead, since it has not the true life which is the grace of God. When our ancestors withdrew from the remembrance and theoria of God and disregarded His command and took the side of the deathly spirit of Satan, they were stripped of “the luminous and living raiment of the supernal radiance and they too, alas, became dead in spirit like Satan”. This is how it always goes. When someone joins with Satan and does his own will, his soul dies, because Satan is not only a deathly spirit but he also brings death upon those who draw near to him.

When the soul is not working according to nature it is dead. “…when it is not healthy, though it retains a semblance of life, it is dead… When, for instance, it has no care for virtue, but is rapacious and transgresses the law, whence can I tell you that you have a soul? Because you walk? But this belongs to the irrational creatures as well.

In the teaching of the Apostle Paul the ‘dead’ man is called ‘carnal’ or ‘unspiritual’. In his letter to the Corinthians he writes: “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2,14). He also writes: “While there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not carnal, and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3,3) According to Prof. John Romanides the words used for ‘unspiritual’ (psychikos) and ‘carnal’ (sarkikos) and ‘behaving like mere men’ have the same meaning. (The Ancestral Sin, [in Greek]) In another place in his book he writes: “The carnal and unspiritual man is the whole man, soul and body, who lacks that energy of the Holy Spirit which renders one incorruptible. “When a man does not follow the Spirit, he is deprived of God’s life-giving energy and is rendered unspiritual”.