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Prayer

The Sacrament

Liturgy and Spirituality

Prayer Liturgy, and Renewal

The Byzantine Rite Becomes Imperial

The Icon: Sacrament of the Kingdom

The Evolution of the Byzantine "Divine Liturgy"

Liturgy and Spirituality

Bishop of Zahumlje-Hercegovina Athanasije Jevtić, Deuxième Congrès de Théologie Orthodoxe,
(19-29 Ao ût 1976), publ. Prof. Savas Agouridès,
Athènes 1978, p. 112-123

 

1. The Liturgy is found at the very center of life, experience and understanding of the Orthodox Catholic Church of God, and conse­quently at the center of Orthodox Theology. For the being and life itself of the Orthodox Church consists of the Liturgy, because the very being of the Church of Christ is liturgical and Her very life eucharistic .

The whole creation of God, the whole world is conceived and created by God in such a way so as to become one great oikonomia (οἰκονομία - οἶκος - νέμω) of God in Christ, « the oikonomia of grace », according to the words of the Apostle Paul, which means to become one community (κοινωνία) of everything created with God, to become the Church: the Body of Christ and the House of the Father in the Spirit (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:21-22), to become one « blessed kingdom» of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of «the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fel­lowship of the Holy Spirit».

The life and the proper functioning of this world and of such a world having such a purpose as that of God' s created world, and es­pecially man as the crown of the entire creation, should have been one continuous liturgy (Λειτουργία), i.e. one permanent communion with God, the eucharistic way of living, acting, and participating with God and in God: everything is received from God as a gift of his Goodness and Love and everything is returned with gratitude (thanksgiving - εὐχαριστία, εὐ - χαριστέω) and offered as liturgy (anaphora), so that again everything would be returned by Him as divine grace for life and im­mortality. « Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all».

However, through the fall of man, this communion with God was broken, and liturgical and eucharistic living, offering and functioning of the world and man was distorted, ruined, and cut off. For that reason, man and with him all creation fell under the law of captivity and corruption, under « the law of death » , since there is no and can be no life free of incorruption without the eucharistic life in God and with God, without the serving of the eucharistic liturgy. Instead of the natural life in God and the attaining his own fullness and authenticity in Him, man slid into an unnatural and sick state of «living in death ». He experienced this because, as it was nicely stated, he experienced « a non- eucharistic life in a non- eucharistic world» (Fr. A. Schmemann, For the Life of the World). Instead of freely and thankfully serving - performing the liturgy (λειτουργεῖ) - the Good God in the Holy Spirit, and in that (act) finding his spiritual service (« πνευματική λατρεία ») and his spiritual life (πνευματική ζωή ), man came into captivity and chains of « bodily desires and passions » and therefore could no longer serve (λειτουργεῖν), no longer offer (προσφέρειν) his being and all creation, himself, and his life to God, and through these things commune (par­ticipate) in His life and holiness (I Peter 1,15-16; II Peter 1,3-4; Hebr. 12,10). Because «No one who is bound with the desires and pleasures of the flesh is worthy to approach or draw near or to serve Thee, O King of Glory» (Liturgy of St. Basil the Great), the only Holy One, for the holy things are given only to the holy.

However, even if man forsook God and communion with Him, God did not forsake man, but rather through His Son established a second communion (« δευτέραν κοινωνίαν » - S. Gregory Theol.) of God and man. Christ ' s oikonomia of salvation: Through the incarnation, voluntary suffering, the giving of Himself « for the life of the world» at the Last Supper, through offering Himself to death on the Cross, and by His glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and finally, through the granting and pouring forth of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost on everybody and all creation, -re-established and furthermore, exceeded abundantly that eucharistic liturgy in the world and among man. A new communion between God and man was created, the New Testament in the Blood of the God-Man, a new covenant between God and men - and that is the Church as the assembly (συναγωγή - σύναξις - σύνοδος), communion of the «first-born among many brothers)) (Rom. 8, 29), as the «communion (κοινωνία) of the Body and Blood of Christ » (I Cor. 10, 16-17). The realization of this is, in fact, first of all the Holy Liturgy of the Church - the Divine Eucharist as a God-assembled synaxis and gathering (σύνοδος) of the people of God, assembled and united in one Body - the Body of Christ - through the participation and unification of one Bread and one Spirit. Therefore, St. John of Damascus rightly says that the performing of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist (Liturgy) in the Church "fulfills in itself the entire spiritual (πνευματικήν) and supernatural economy of Christ ' s incarnation (PG. 95, 408C). This is most clear and every Orthodox theologian will agree with it: the Liturgy of Christ ' s Church is identified with the whole of Christ's economy of incarnation and salvation.

 

2. But why does St. John of Damascus use the words «the spiritual (πνευματικήν) economy» in the cited text when speaking of the incarnation of God the Word? And isn ' t the liturgy - the Eucharist of Christ - truly, first of all, the bread and wine, and then the Body and Blood of Christ, our true food and drink?

Yes, but it is not only that. In the Divine Liturgy the holy gifts of the bread and wine, which are offered by the Church to God, are truly changed into the Body and the Blood of Christ, but it is performed through «the invocation and descent of the Holy Spirit» (« διά τῆς ἐπικλήσεως καί ἐπιφοιτήσεως »), as it is said by the same saint, St. John of Damascus (De Fide IV, 13), and so repeated by so many other Orthodox theologians, among whom the liturgical Fathers are most prominent: St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Basil the Great, and St. John Chrysostom. Precisely because of this sacrificial activity of the Holy Spirit, the Liturgy is called in the Orthodox theological - liturgical tradition the «spiritual mysteries », (« πνευματικά μυστήρια »), « spiritual sacrifice », « spiritual service», « spiritual feast», « spiritual body » « spiritual chalice», «the source of the Spirit » πηγή Πνεύματος »).

Consequently, the Liturgy of our Church is fully pneumatic, but not in the sense of an « idealization » or « spiritualisation », not in the sense of any dematerialisation of the liturgical gifts and liturgical ser­vice (bread, wine, and water are material realities of this world which are truly changed into the true Reality - not a Docetic one - of the Body of Christ), but in the sense of their blessing, sanctification, con­secration, and pneumatisation by the power and energy of God ' s Spirit, of their fulfillment in the divine grace of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Church Fathers say that the Divine Liturgy, the eucharistic gifts which the Church offers and celebrates, and of which all the faithful partake, is not only bread and wine which become the Body and Blood, but it is at the same time the Divinity of Christ: «If Christ is God and man», says St. Symeon the New Theologian, «then His Holy Body is not just a body (σάρξ ) but the body and God indivisi­ble and unmingled, the visible bread and invisible Divinity» (The Ethical Sermon X. SC 129. p. 314; cf. 272). St. John of Damascus says that, in Holy Communion we faithful «are united with the Body of the Lord and His Spirit... For the Body of the Lord is the life-giving Spirit (« Πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν »), since it is conceived by the life-giving Spirit. For « that which is born of the Spirit is spirit » (Jn. 3:6). But this does not destroy the nature of the body, but I want to manifest its life-giving and its divinity (τό θεῖον αὐτοῦ)» (De Fide, IV, 13).

We think that it is not necessary to insist any longer that the Liturgy in the Orthodox Church is totally spiritual (πνευματική). This is testified to undoubtedly by the very texts of liturgical prayers (and they are the best confession and witness of the understanding of the Church), in which during the whole Liturgy, the Holy Spirit is called upon to descend «upon us (the celebrating priests) and upon these of­fered gifts and upon all the people» of God in order to consecrate by His spiritual power «the spiritual offering » upon «the spiritual table» and to unite all of us through « the one Bread and Cup », i.e. the Body and Blood of the One Christ, to unite into «the fellowship of the one Spirit» (Liturgy of St. Basil).

The spirituality (πνευματικότης ) of the Divine Liturgy, which is found in it due to the invocation and descent and action of the Holy Spirit, is characteristic not only for the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, but also for all other sacraments and all services of the Orthodox Church, and for each order, rite, act, and event in the Church of Christ on earth. In his brilliant book On the Holy Spirit, St. Basil the Great says: « For is it not all the beautification (διακόσμησις) of the Churches clearly and indisputably due to the action of the Holy Spirit? (in the Church). Then, quoting the well-known ecclesiological verse from I Corinthians 12:28, he adds: «That order (τάξις ) in the Church is given and ordered (διατέτακται ) by the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ». (Ch. 39). But, in the liturgical service of Pentecost, that same idea is expressed even more clearly: « The Holy Spirit gives everything (πάντα χορηγεῖ )... He constitutes and upholds (συγκροτεῖ ) the whole institution of the Church».

 

3. If this is so, if precisely the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church, truly fills, animates, and executes (accomplishes) all in the Church, and especially in Her Divine services and Liturgy, as the center and pinnacle of these, - is it then possible that the order, not less impor­tant side of the Church ' s being and existence, i.e. the other (remaining) rest life of the members of the Church organism, the life outside the Liturgy and common worship, be not from the Holy Sprit and without the Holy Spirit? Is it possible that the « non-liturgical» life of the faithful in the Church (if one can say such a thing), the so-called « moral » or even «spiritual » life in every-day living and work, not be from the Holy Spirit or be without the Holy Spirit?

The total experience of the Orthodox Church throughout the cen­turies testifies to the contrary. It testifies namely that all the rest of the Church ' s life through all her members, as members of Christ, is also spiritual (πνευματική), because it is nothing less than all from the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit. When we call that life, as we com­monly do, the « spiritual life », then, for the Orthodox experience throughout the centuries, in no way does this mean only the «moral », « ethical», « intellectual », « ideal », or « spiritual » life, for in that case, such a life would be only physical, bodily (σαρκική ), or in the best of cases, it would be only « sensual » (ψυχική), psychological. Even carrying the name of « spiritual » life, it would be the life « without the Spirit», without the Spirit of Christ, without the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox un­derstanding of the spiritual life, and consequently of spirituality, has always meant and means - the life from the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit or the life in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

This spiritual life among the faithful, the life in Christ through the grace of the Holy Spirit, is entirely liturgical in its origin and character. As the whole Divine Liturgy of the Church consists of the « proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ until He comes », so also the life of the faithful in Christ consists of the co-crucifixion and dying with Christ, and in resurrecting with Him (see Rom. 6, 4-14). And as in each Liturgy the whole economy of the God-man Christ the Savior is repeated and given, i.e. is actualized liturgically hie et hunc, so also the whole life of Christ is again experienced in the Chris­tian spiritual life of the Orthodox man, as is spoken by the Holy Apos­tles, especially by St. Paul and John, and likewise by nearly all the Holy Fathers. For example, St. Gregory of Sinai says: «Everyone who is baptized into Christ should pass through and achieve all of the heights of Christ (πάσας τάς μεθηλικιώσεις ). For to these Heights (man) has in advance been given the power, and he could attain and know (these heights) through the observance of the commandments » (Philokalia IV, 53). And further, finally, as in the Holy Liturgy, Christ is really and actively present and, by the changing grace of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine are changed into His Body and Blood, He gives Himself as food and life for all the faithful, so in the spiritual life of every faithful He forms Himself (μορφώνεται see Gal. 4:19) through the same grace of the Holy Spirit in every faithful and abides in him, so that in principle every member of the faithful can say with the Apostle: «It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in men (Gal. 2:20).

In this way, Christ reveals Himself not only as the foundation and basis and head of the Church as of His Body in general, and the Bread of Life for all the members of the Church collectively as members of His own Body, but He also becomes their continual life (see Col. 3: 3-4; 2:6 et. al.) and «the beginning and foundation and hypostasis of every virtue)) in them (St. Gregory of Sinai and St. Maximus the Confessor). The Liturgy and liturgical life of the Church are undoubtedly the foun­dation and source of the spiritual life for the faithful, whereas the further ascetical effort and life of the faithful is the result, fruit, and continuation of that same and unique life of the Christ among the faithful, and of the Faithful in Christ. This and this type of liturgical - ascetical experience and vision of life, the liturgical - ascetical ethos, which is so characteristic for Orthodoxy, reveals in fact that fun­damental truth of Christianity in general, the truth of the Gospels and the Holy Tradition: that « God so loved the world that He sent His Only - begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him (I John 4:9). Therefore, the liturgical-spiritual life and experience of Orthodoxy reveals to mankind and to the world that fundamental mystery of Christianity, according to which, on the one hand, in the Liturgy all the faithful as the Church, as the Body of Christ, are iden­tified with Christ and all become «one in Christ » as St. Paul says (Gal. 3:28), or as St. John Chrysostom says, all become «one Christ » (Homi­ly 8,2 on Colossians, PG 62:353). On the other hand, thanks to the in­corporation (ἐνσωμάτωσις) into Christ through baptism and eucharist, the faithful, in their greater ascetic life according to Christ, become anointed (κεχρισμένοι, χριστοί), they become christs -as says St. Methodius of Olympus, as well as many other Fathers: «become christs through the fellowship of the Spirit» (οἱονεί Χριστῶν γεγονότων τῶν πιστῶν κατά μετουσίαν τοῦ Πνεύματος - Συμπόσιον 8).

 

4. The Holy Spirit is the One who accomplishes and performs all things not only in baptism and the Liturgy but also in the ascetical ef­fort of the spiritual life of the faithful. He confirms and sanctifies the faithful by His grace and makes them Christ - like and Christbearers ; He makes them holy and Pneumatophors , spiritual. Without the Holy Spirit there is neither sanctification nor holiness and consequently no union and communion (fellowship) with God. «Without the Holy Spirit», says St. Athanasius the Great, « we are foreign to and far away from God, and only through the fellowship (μετοχῇ) of the Spirit are we un­ited with the Divinity» (Against the Arians, III, 24). Basil the Great says likewise: «There is no sanctification (and holiness) without the Holy Spirit» (On the Holy Spirit, 38), and St. John of Damascus testifies: «There is no union of God with men without the Holy Spirit » (Homily on the Nativity of the Theotokos, 3). And finally, St. Symeon the New Theologian says: «Nobody could be perfectly called a believer if he does not receive the Holy Spirit.... for only the fellowship in the Holy Spirit makes us communicants and partakers of the Divine Nature» (see II Peter 1:4. - Ethical Sermon IV, SC 129, p. 36 and X, p. 294. See also St. Athanasius the Great, Dialogue on the Holy Trinity, I, 7). All these quotations and testimonies of the Church Fathers confirm and reveal this other foundation of Christianity: that the Holy Spirit is, namely, sent from God and given by Christ in the Church to be in Her for all the faithful the Animator, and Inspirer and Conforter and Consecrator and Deifier, « that good agent of holiness (ἁγιοποιός) of the Church, Her helper, and defender, and great protector, and great teacher, steward of souls, solace of those in temptations, illuminator of those led astray, and giver of crowns to the victors - the Holy Spirit, the Comforter», as is said by St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechism 16, 14 and 19; 117, 13). For that reason the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has (possesses) the Holy Spirit, and thus is called Catholic (K αθολική) », having the total fulness of the gifts of grace of the Spirit. «It is called Catholic (καθολική) », says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, «also because entirely- catholicaly (καθολικῶς) has in itself every type of virtue, in words, in deeds and in every spritual gift» (καί ἐν πνευματικοῖς παντίοις χαρίσμασιν = in all types of gifts of grace, Catechesis 18, 23, cf. also 17,29 etc.).

In view of this, spirituality in the Orthodox Church completely originates from the Liturgy; it is completely liturgical, and therefore is totally Christological and Pneumatological , totally pneumatic, hence making those who experience it spiritual (πνευματικούς ). As St. Irenaeus of Lyon also says, « They are spiritual (πνευματικοί) by virtue of par­ticipation in the Spirit, and not by virtue of the subjugation of the body » (Against the Heresies V, 6, I). The spiritual man, thus, in Orthodoxy, i.e. the man who possesses and experiences spirituality does not mean simply a moral, virtuous man, but rather the man who has the Holy Spirit and the fruits of grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5, 22; Eph. 5,9), which can be then called the gifts of the Spirit, and are called in the ascetical literature of the East both works and ascetical efforts and virtues but always spiritual, of the Holy Spirit and of His grace. They are the fruits of those granted gifts (of the Holy Spirit), but also of those who have acquired the Holy Spirit, given in the liturgical being and life of the Church but also continually being ac­quired through God-pleasing ascetical efforts of the Holy Spirit. The texts of all Orthodox and liturgical and ascetical texts, and the writings of the Holy Fathers as well continually speak of these things, all resulting from the centuries-old Orthodox unified liturgical-ascetical effort and experience.

 

5. It is characteristic and very important that the hesychastic controversy in the 14th century was waged on two fronts simultaneously, against two heretical understandings of spirituality and spiritual life. On the one side, it was a war against non-ecclesial and non-liturgical «spirituality» of the Massalians, and on the other side against the Western scholastic non-Holy Spirit, a- charismatical « spirituality » (or, more correctly, created grace, i.e. non-divine, but only ethical, moralistic, and « humanistic spirituality »). Namely, as it is known, the ancient heresy of the Massalians or the « Euchits », which since the 7th century was revived in the neo- Manicheism (Paulikianism, Bogomilism), as well as in the pure Massalianism, denied the Church and the Church ' s liturgical life: the sacraments (baptism, eucharist, priesthoood), common worship, and all that in the name of a non-ecclesial and non-liturgical «spirituality ». To this the Orthodox ecclesial liturgical- hesychastic true spirituality responded vehemently with unanimous condemnation, such that this and this type of heretical « spirituality » fell under the same sharp condemnation, just as in the 4th century, so also in the 14th century, and that condemna­tion remains in effect today. (For this reason, it is senseless and historically and theologically unfounded that some Roman Catholic theologians and even some of our theologians suspect, for example, St. Simeon the New Theologian and St. Gregory Palamas of « Massalianism » or « unhealthy mysticism ».

The condemnation of the above Massalianismic « spirituality » was the result of the deep experience and understanding of Orthodox liturgical spirituality, all of the holy sacraments of the Church, and es­pecially baptism and eucharist (Liturgy) have always been and have remained the source and center from which that spirituality proceeds and feeds upon. From these two sacraments, according to the words of St. Gregory Palamas, « hinge the whole of our salvation, for in them are contained the recapitulation of the whole theandric economy » (Homily 60,3). On the basis of this true Orthodox spirituality, the Massalian heresy is cut at the roots, for it became impossible to suppose that a true spiritual life and experience was possible without and out­side of the Church ' s liturgical life and experience.

On the other hand, Orthodox hesychasts are also like this, and with the same commitment (resolve) also thrown out the Western moralistic-humanistic conception of spirituality, which was understood only as a moral «imitation » of Christ, or only as a «virtuous habit» (habitus) acquired by human asceticism, along with the help of the grace given by God, but created grace, not uncreated divine and deify­ing energy of the Holy Spirit. Such a conception of spirituality, such as Barlaam of Kalabria held in the 14th cent., negates the reality of the experience of the Saints, the experience while still in this world of the eternal and uncreated grace of Divinity (manifested as energy of light, of love, etc.), and blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, because the salvation in Christ and the spiritual life (life in the Holy Spirit) is reduced to mere « improvement » of the fallen human state and way of life, thus throwing out the divinization - θέωσις - of mankind as the true purpose and authenticity of man. Such a conception to which adhere many moralists and pietists both before and after Barlaam even today, and even if this concept would like to remain ecclesiastical in some way (i.e. to represent the spirituality of the Church), in reality it unconsciously reverts back to the non-ecclesiastical and non-charismatic spirituality of the Massalians, as St. Gregory Palamas says. This is testified to in the Tomos Arghioritikos : « He who says that perfect unity with God can come without the deifying grace of the Holy Spirit, but rather comes only through imitation and relation (like those who share the same ethic (ὁμοήθεις) and share common love of one another), and also likewise he who feels that the deifying grace of God is only a habit (habitus - ἕξιν) of intelligent beings acquired through imitation, but does not consider grace to be the supernatural and inex­pressible illumination and the divine Energy, which is invisibly seen and incomprehensibly understood by those who are made worthy, - such a man should know that he unknowingly has fallen into the error of Massalianism » (Syggrammata, II Tomos, p. 670).

From the above-stated words, it is not necessary to conclude that Orthodox spiritual life does not encompass true human morality, the moral-spiritual humanization of man and man ' s ascetic effort to im­itate God through virtue (St.Basil the Great and other Fathers say: « Christianity is the imitation of the divine nature »), but rather is necessary to understand that through virtue and imitation of God the whole depth of Orthodox spirituality is not exhausted. « Every virtue of ours and our imitation of God» says St. Gregory Palamas, « makes man more suitable (ἐπιτήδειον) for union of God, but that inexpressible union is accomplished only by the grace of the Holy Spirit» (Aghioritikos Tomos, 2, ibid. p. 571). The Orthodox spirituality is a theandric spirituality, made possible and given by the hypostatic union of God the Logos with our human nature, and subsequently in the Church is realized by the Holy Spirit as the union by grace of every believer with God. For this reason this is a liturgical spirituality, for it is entirely Christocentric (according to the standard and scope of the Chalcedonian Christology) and is thoroughly pneumatic - pneumatological (according to the Orthodox belief in the Holy Spirit and His grace). That spirituality is also liturgical because along with every God-pleasing effort - the effort of purification of self and one's own soul and body, the efforts of prayer and fasting, the effort of ac­quiring every physical and spiritual virtue, that spirituality represents the continuation and projection of the Church ' s liturgy, the projection of the liturgical offering of self and all one's being and life to God the Father through Christ in the holy Spirit. « Let us commend ourselves and each other and our whole lives unto Christ our God » - this is the liturgical norm realized in the Orthodox ascetical and spiritual life as continuous serving and worship (λατρεία και λειτουργία) to the living God «in Spirit and in Truth» (Jn. 4, 24), continually offering to God sacrifices - a «living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God » (Rom. 12,1), pneumatic sacrifices.

 

6. In closing, let us say a few words concerning the relation of Orthodox spirituality and true theology.

The authentic Orthodox spiritual life always has been most close­ly tied with theology. In Orthodox Tradition there was no true spirituality without theology and no true theology without spirituality. The well-known expression of one old ascetic and theologian has here its full significance and application: «If you are a theologian, you will pray in truth; if you truly pray you are a theologians («E ἰ θεολόγος εἶ, προσεύξῃ ἀληθῶς · και εἰ ἀληθπως προσεύχῃ, θεολόγος εἶ », St. Nilus of Sinai, Philokalia , II Tomos, p. 182). Even if this thought, wise and fully rooted in true experience, perhaps originates formally from Evagrius, it is really present with the Church Father and ascetics, just as it was before Evagrius, and after his condemnation. In this thought we find in the well-known words of St. Gregory the Theologian, and that precisely in his Theological Sermons in which this holy theologian par excellence manifests his tried observation on who can and when it is possible to theologize. It is necessary, he says, «to mystically speak of the mystical and to speak of the holy in a holy manner» (Theol. Sermon 1,5). «Therefore », continues the saint, « it is not for everyone to philosophize on God... but rather one must know who, when, and how much.... and I do not say this so that one does not commemorate (i.e. pray) God... no, rather we should commemorate (i.e. pray) God even more than we breathe » (μνημονευτέον γάρ Θεοῦ μᾶλλον ἤ ἀναπνευστέον), and if one can say such a thing, we should do nothing else but this (i.e. to pray to God)» (Theol. Sermon 1,4). From these words the holy ascetical theologians and theological ascetics obviously emanate the truth of the unqualified association and the reciprocal dependency of the spiritual life and theology.

Following the example of the highest and the most essential theology of the Church herself, i.e. the ecclesiastical liturgy and in general the prayerful theology of the Church, in the experience of Orthodox spirituality, theology is constantly a prayerful and doxological sanctifying action which simultaneously both feeds and up­holds spirituality, and that theology itself is fed and sustained by spirituality. As that famous word said by St. Irinaeus of Lyon, « our belief is in accordance with the Eucharist and the Eucharist confirms our belief» (Against the Heresies IV, 18,5), confirms the identity of the Church's Liturgy and the Church' s faith (and its theology as well), so also our Orthodox spirituality, which is baptismal and eucharistic (liturgical) in origin, is entirely in accordance with the faith and the theology and, on the other hand, it testifies and confirms the authen­ticity of the theology of the one having that spirituality.

The aim and the content of Orthodox spirituality is communion (κοινωνία) with God, and in the same way it is the climax and the aim of the authentic Orthodox theology. For that reason in Orthodoxy the theology is not only « περί τοῦ Θεοῦ τι λέγειν » (speaking about God) but firstly « τῷ Θεῷ συντυγχάνειν » (to be together with and to unite with God) as is said by St. Gregory Palamas (Triades I 3, 42). Only on the basis of that experience of communion with God can the theological testimony of those things seen and experienced, testimony in expressions worthy of God (or in words, concepts, or categories) and in God-pleasing and salvific confessions and doxologies.

 

7. However, « the theology » learned from books, ideas, and categories is known to us today and was known to the Holy Fathers long before us; but according to the Holy Fathers, such theology was never sufficient and certain, but rather, if it was without humility and merely proud «technology » («a skillful play on words » - St. Basil the Great), then it presents a direct danger, fantasy of heresy. As St. Si­meon the New Theologian says: «For if it were only through learning and study that we attain the true wisdom and knowledge of God (i.e. theology), to what end, then, would faith, the Divine Baptism, and the participation in the Holy Mysteries be used?» (Ethical Sermons IX, SC 129, p. 226).

By this the saint wants to say that without participating in the Holy Mysteries of the Church, mere theological scholarship (science) still does not represent the true theology. The same saint-ascetic-theologian continues: « May no one be deceived by empty and sophisticated words, that it is possible to conceive the divine mysteries of our faith without the Holy Spirit, Who initiates and illuminates; neither can anyone become a vessel of the gifts of grace of the Holy Spirit without the virtues of witness and humility of mind» (Ethical Sermon IX, SC 129, p. 252). St. Gregory Palamas is even more precise in this distinction of the academic theology from the authentic charismatic theology. In his Triades , written in apology of the hesychastical - charismatical theology, he writes: « There is a theory (contemplation) which contains a certain knowledge of God and God ' s dogmas and it is also called theology », but it is in no case certain and true theology. « Because, as our natural use and natural activity of our soul ' s powers and physical members transform in some way that reasonable image in ourselves, but is still not that perfect beauty of our heavenly nobility, so neither does that give us supernatural union with the Divine Light in that way. And only that union enables us to theologize with certainty and due to this unity our spiritual and physical powers in ourselves are able to function in a natural and nor­mal state and activity » (Triades 1,3, 15).

As was obvious from the former text of St. Simeon the New Theologian, that without the liturgical life there is no true theology, so it is easily seen from these stated words of St. Gregory Palamas that there is no true and authentic theology save that theology which proceeds from the spiritual experience of the union with the grace of God, i.e. which proceeds as the fruit of spirituality in the Holy Spirit. One can find a countless number of ascetical-theological testimonies from the centuries of Orthodox spirituality. We shall state some of these testimonies. For example, Diadohos of Photik : «The gift of g race (χάρισμα) of theology is not given by God to anyone who has not prepared himself» (Chapit. 66).Or Kallistos Kataphygiot : «When someone, living in the virtue and in humility of mind.... comes (abides) in the heart of the life-creating and eternal-spring (unoriginate) power and energy of the Holy Spirit, which illuminates greatly in him spiritual strength, such as the mind of man and the grace become « one spirit » (I Cor. 6,17), then the mind.... through the energy and light of the life-creating Holy Spirit achieve the revelation of the divine mysteries.... and he in humility and prayer is caught up (« ἐνεργούμενος » ) by God Himself in the Holy Spirit, then he is not out of the realm of theologizing, but rather at that very moment is the true and authentic theologian (αὐτόχρημα θεολόγος ), and he can do nothing but continually theologize» (Philokalia, t. V, p. 51-52). Finally, let us illustrate yet another characteristic passage of St. Simeon the New Theologian: « Who makes in himself a place for Christ, he should understand that he will learn the mysteries from the treasury of the Holy Spirit.... and will contain in his heart the whole Word of God and he will theologize both new and old theology (« θεολογίας θεολογήσεις καινάς τε και παλαιάς ») and he will understand and fully comprehend all theology ever written or spoken, and he will become a well tuned instrument which will play and speak better than every music». (Ethical Sermon XI, SC 129, p. 348). (Obviously, these last words of St. Simeon are repeated in other expressions in those liturgical hymns through which the Orthodox Church glorifies the Holy Fathers-theologians, and in which they are called the «lyre of the Holy Spirit)) and the « all-golden mouth of the Word », for they «clearly transmitted the mystery of theology to the Church»).

Out of all the things said, it becomes obvious that the closest relation between true Orthodox theology and true spirituality which is in Orthodoxy is always liturgical and full of grace, i.e. πνευματική. Without the experience of grace of that and that sort of spiritual life, it is dif­ficult for an Orthodox theologian to escape being «like many which corrupt the word of God; for in that case he does not theologize like the Holy Apostle « as of God, in the sight of God in Christ » (II Cor. 2: 17), and he does not theologize thusly because on the face of his soul and mind he doesn't reflect the transfigured and deified glory of the Lord, « as by the Spirit of the Lord » (« καθάπερ ἀπό ἁγίου Πνεύματος » - II Cor. 3: 18). Therefore Orthodox spirituality represents the proven ascetical and charismatical school of the initiation in the mystery of the Living and True God, a school of charismatic participation in a mystagogia into which the Holy Spirit makes us worthy and capable, « that we also may offer the wealth of Orthodox theology to God the Saviour of our souls », (« ἵνα προσφέρωμεν και ἡμεῖς ὀρθόδοξον πλουτισμόν θεολογίας τῷ Θεῷ και Σωτήρι τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν »). (Service of the Nativity of Our Lord; « Glory » on the « Priases »).

 

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