Thursday, 19 July 2007

Orthodox Monasticism 27 – St Barsanuphios on Various Origenist Doctrines

Questions 606 – 607

Question 606


Forgive me for the sake of the Lord, Father who loves Mankind, for I am greatly afflicted. For I was reading in a dogmatic book and I see that my heart has been agitated; and I am afraid to declare this matter to you and I am unable to be silent because of the tempting thoughts (logismoi). What therefore do you order me to do, Father?


Since the Devil wishes to put you into an occupation which is not beneficial, say what you want and God will not give him a place.

Question 607


Concerning the Resurrection of the bodies of the saints, tell me whether they are raised in this body in which we now are, which body has bones and sinews, or in an ethereal and spherical body.[1] For they also say that in the Resurrection to come the body of the Lord will be of such a sort [i.e. ethereal and spherical], denying that he rose from the dead in our own body, which very body he received for the sake of our salvation from the Holy and Ever-Virgin Mary, She Who Gave Birth to God. And they say that this is what the Apostle says: ‘He will transform the body of our humility so that it become conformed to the body of his glory.’ And, again, they say that the Apostle said: ‘Flesh and blood is not able to inherit the Kingdom of God.’ They then say this: ‘It is not possible for this body to continue through the Ages because it is constituted of food and in the Age to come there is no eating and drinking.’

And again they say that concerning our Lord Jesus Christ the Apostle says: ‘When all things are subjected to him, then he also, the Son, will be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, so that God [sc. the Father] be all things in all.’ And again, pronouncing that which is said in Ecclesiastes—‘It has already come to pass in the Ages which have occurred before us.’—they construct the pre-existence [of souls] here. And they assure us that the saying in the Gospels—‘You will not depart from there until you have paid the last coin.’— [means that there] is an end to Hell.

Therefore, for the sake of the Lord clarify these things for me, Master, so that the Enemy not deceive me and from ignorance I fall into his wicked snares, for out of my foolishness I am shaken on all sides since I did not keep your holy words and I did not from the beginning distance myself from discussion concerning these things, for they constitute a great danger to the soul.

And pray for me, good Father, so that in future I sober up and keep my mind on tears for my sins; and forgive me that I dared to ask you these things but as [you are] one who knows everything, permit me to speak.


Brother, I wrote to you previously that the Devil has sown in you an untimely occupation; for your time is to weep and to mourn for your sins. However, so that I not leave you in tempting thoughts (logismoi), if you wish to learn about the Resurrection, if you believe in the Prophets, God has shown us how it will be through Ezekiel the Prophet: how bone was brought together with bone and joint with joint, and veins and skin and sinews and thus they were raised.

And the Apostle, knowing that we are raised in bodies [of flesh and blood] taught, saying: ‘For this corruptible [body] must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal [body] be clothed with immortality.’ Do not be deceived: the bodies are raised together with the bones and sinews and hair and thus they will be to the Age, but, however, more luminous and more glorious, according to the saying of the Lord who says: ‘Then the righteous will shine as the sun in the Kingdom of Heaven.’ This glory is added to the bodies, as if I should say that a man enters into the presence of the King a countryman and the King makes him a Field Marshall and he goes out glorified. Is it not the same thing? Has not the body been changed? Or, as a man who is a deacon suddenly ordained bishop and he is immediately found glorified, thus also here.

And what now? As they are now men in the body do they not become bearers of God (theophoroi)? And how did Moses see the Lord, and before him Abraham and Jacob and Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles, and the others? Perhaps they were bodiless? Thus it will be in the Resurrection: on the one hand, these bodies; on the other hand, incorruptible and immortal and more glorious. For this reason, concerning the human body the Apostle says: ‘It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory; a body which is earthly (psychikon) is sown, a body which is spiritual is raised.’ He says these things because many saints are not known to men but instead are dishonourable in their eyes; and when there they receive glory as an ordination, they will be made known to all, that they are spiritual men. For that reason he says: ‘A body which is earthly (psychikon) in the sight of men is sown, a body which is spiritual and glorious is raised,’ and all will be in wonder. This then the Apostle says: ‘He will transform the body of our humility so that it become conformed to the body of his glory.’ He makes the [bodies] luminous according to his own body, as the Apostle John said: ‘When he will be made manifest, then we will be similar to him.’ For the Son of God is Light and they will be sons of God, according to the Apostle, and sons of Light. It is in this sense that he says ‘he will transform’.

Concerning the fact that he says, ‘When all things are subjected to him, then he also, the Son, will be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, so that God [sc. the Father] be all things in all,’ first learn to whom he wrote these things, the Corinthians. At that time paganism (hellenismos) was at its acme and there was this custom among certain of the [pagan] Greeks: when the son of their king came of age, he rose up and slew his own father. And so that they not, accepting the proclamation of the Apostle, according to their custom also understand the same sort of thing concerning the Son of God, he exiled this society[2] from them, saying to them: ‘When all things are subjected to him, then he also, the Son, will be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, so that God [sc. the Father] be all things in all.’ But [this will occur] when his enemies come bound beneath his feet—he means the Devil and his hosts and those who follow the Devil’s intentions. For this reason therefore the Apostles said: ‘We do not yet see all things subjected to him.’ Until when? Until the angels come of God the Father, he who said: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ He leads these enemies to the judgement of the Son of God: ‘For the Father judges no one; but he has given all judgement to the Son.’ And to learn how he will surrender the Kingdom to the God and Father, listen.

The Son of God, having been incarnated, came to call and to sanctify through his holy blood a holy nation, a people set apart, a people zealous for good works, a royal priesthood. And understand that once his enemies have been subjected to him and he judges them, then he himself as a model of subjection will surrender the Kingdom, which he has taken care of—the holy people—to the God and Father, saying: ‘Behold! I and the children you gave me.’ And to learn the equality [of the Son and the Father]: the Father has given all judgement to the Son, and the Son has given those whom he called to the Father. And thus the word is fulfilled: ‘When all things are subjected to him, then he also, the Son, will be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, so that God [sc. the Father] be all things in all.’

Concerning the Ages about which the Ecclesiast[3] spoke, know that every time (chronos) of man is his Age (aion).[4] For this reason he did not say: ‘It has already come to pass in the Ages which have occurred before this world,’ but ‘in the Ages of this world, which [Ages] are before us.’ And if you wish to learn that the uneducated and the unsupported pervert the Scriptures and allegorize according to the teaching of the Devil, the Apostle said, ‘Foods are for the belly and the belly for foods, but God will abolish this and those,’ speaking concerning gluttony and indifference and prodigality, so that he did not abolish the foods and the belly from the vessels. Knowing, therefore, he who is saying these things, that he is speaking on account of the passions and that the Lord abolished these things from him and from those close to him, the Apostle began to say ‘neither will we be judged if we eat nor will we be justified if we do not eat.’

Concerning the future, thus God spoke, ‘Men will be equal to the angels, neither eating nor drinking, nor desiring,’ and nothing is impossible to him. He showed this through Moses for he [i.e. Moses] made a fast for forty days and forty nights; and he [i.e. God] who did this is able to make man to be this way for all the years of the Age. However, if one were to babble and say, ‘But afterwards he ate, and concerning the Saviour the same,’ he showed a partial example of the future things, just as in the case of the Resurrection, for he raised the dead, showing us through the Apostles that there will be a Resurrection. And if after that they died, we should not therefore distance ourselves from the Resurrection. But, however, he says: ‘Man will not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding through the Spirit of God.’ What do you have to say to this, unless you wish to pervert it as also the remaining scriptures?

Concerning ‘Flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God, neither corruption incorruption,’ he calls ‘flesh and blood’ impurity and wickedness and the intentions [of the flesh]. And do you wish to learn that men become spiritual even being in the body? Hear the Lord saying to Nicodemus: ‘You must be born from above.’ Later, he said: ‘Through water and the Spirit’. ‘Being born of the Spirit, you are spiritual.’ And again he says: ‘Neither from bloods nor from the intention of a man, nor from the intention of the flesh, but from God were they born.’ And: ‘God is Spirit.’ If, then, still being here [on earth] they became spiritual, having been born of God, how will God be unable to make them spiritual there also?

Concerning ‘He will not go out from there until he renders up the last coin’, he said this signifying the Hell of those Ages. For from where will they render up? If a poor debtor is put into prison and he is ordered by the ruler not to get out until he pays up the debt which is owed, is it your judgement that he ever gets out? Things are not that way. Do not be deceived like a foolish man. No one makes progress there, but if someone has something there, he has it from here, whether good or rotten or enjoyable.

Well, leave this foolish talk and do not follow the demons and their teaching: once they lift up and once they throw down. Humble yourself before God, therefore, weeping for your sins and mourning for your passions. Keep in the mind the Scripture which says: ‘And now, Israel.’ And again: ‘And now I have begun.’ Pay attention to yourself.

Well, may God forgive you. Look where your heart inclines to investigate.

[1] This was a tenet of the Origenists.

[2] Thus the text. Probably a copyist’s error for ‘concept’.

[3] The Elder is now turning to the quotation proffered from Ecclesiastes (see above).

[4] This is unclear.

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