Orthodoxy is no stranger to theological disagreement. Our most fundamental doctrinal affirmations emerge from the forge of heated debates about the person and nature(s) of Christ and the hypostasis (or lack thereof) of the Holy Spirit. Among the many larger than life figures that belong to the story of these events Ss. Athanasius and Maximus the Confessor loom particularly large, not only for the theological acumen of their contributions, but also because of the pathos of their lonely struggle for Orthodoxy in the face of overwhelming opposition. But for every critical doctrinal dispute, (more…)
The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee has ever been a cornerstone of Orthodox spirituality. But as the Desert Fathers remind us, it has eschatological significance as well.
In Late Antique Christian monasticism, there existed an interplay between scriptural exegesis and the mystagogy of prayer. Reading the Bible through the lens of asceticism, the monks looked for keys to understanding their spiritual practices. There are numerous biblical passages that deal directly with prayer, such as Jesus’ directive to ‘go into your closet to pray,’ which is generally interpreted in ascetical literature as entering into the heart when praying. But other passages are more subtle, such as Luke 18: ‘The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.’ And yet this parable greatly influenced the way in which monks have understood prayer. (more…)
An influential current of Orthodox thought has subtly undermined the teaching that nature is good. In so doing, it has also called into question the naturalness of ascetic striving. The patristic witness calls us to reclaim and embrace both nature and ascesis.
Ascesis stands at the heart of spiritual life, a praxis both internal and external. Internal praxis is the struggle against the passions and the cultivation of virtues through prayer, study, and meditation. External praxis is the same struggle through bodily work, including vigil, fasting, abstinence, moderation, and works of love. Such training involves the human person in the cultivation of human nature, toward the goal of spiritual life. But what is the connection between person, nature (physis), and ascesis, and how are they related to the goal of spiritual life?
The doctrine of the Divine Energies is significant not only as an account of how God manifests Himself to man, but also as a basis for understanding His trinitarian life.
The Palamite controversy began with the Trinity.1 According to Barlaam, the filioque was impermissible because of divine apophaticism: the human creature lacked the capacity to apprehend the divine nature. As such, the question of the Spirit’s procession could not be answered even in principle. St. Gregory Palamas, while agreeing that the filioque was impermissible, rejected Barlaam’s reasoning. The filioque was condemned precisely because God has made himself manifest and participable. In partaking of the uncreated energies, Palamas argued, the Church comes to know Father, Son, and Spirit, one God. It is (more…)