Friday, 22 May 2009

Commentary on the Our Father

Here is a little commentary on the Our Father.


Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς,

Our Father, you who are in the Heavens,

ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·

May your name be sanctified;

ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·

May your Kingdom come;

γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

May what you will come to pass, as in the Heavens so upon the earth.

τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·

Give us today our daily bread;

καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,

And forgive us our debts,

ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·

As we also forgive our debtors;

καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,

And do not lead us into temptation,

ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

But deliver us from the Evil One.


Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς,

Our Father, you who are in the Heavens,

Unusually in the history of religion, the fundamental Christian prayer begins in the plural. One possible explanation is that the text that we have is actually a liturgical text. Such a liturgical text would necessarily be in the plural because it would be part of the practice of group worship. That this might be so is witnessed by the liturgical doxology which follows the prayer. And indeed the Our Father is prayed corporately in the Divine Liturgy.

However, there is no tradition in the Orthodox Church that the Our Father is merely a liturgical prayer; rather the Fathers consider the prayer the fundamental prayer of Christians, a prayer taught by God.

And, indeed, it seems to us that the Our Father contains the Gospel in a nutshell.

Hence, we must take the plural as conveying something deeper than merely an original liturgical setting of the Our Father.

The basic message we take from the plural is that we are not saved as isolated individuals but as members of the Church. The Church is so fundamental a concept in Christianity that it behoves us to pray for all members of the Church even when we are praying just for ourselves.

Next, is the appellation of God, ‘Father’. We are able to call God ‘Father’ because we are baptized. As we have learned, in baptism we have received the Holy Spirit and it has taken up its abode in our nous, our created spirit, restoring in us the image of God. This restored image of God is not a mere resemblance but so close and intimate that we are able to address God as our Father.

This is not metaphor: in Baptism we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. But as we have learned, with baptism we have not acquired the fullness of adoption as sons and daughters of God, the fullness of the ‘in the likeness’. Rather, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit we struggle in our personal ascetical endeavour to realize our calling.

We can see, however, that it as members of the Church that we engage in this personal ascetical struggle.

Not only is this a matter of social solidarity—say, going to Church on Sundays—but a matter of participation in the mysterial or sacramental life of the Church: we engage in our personal ascetical effort to pass from the ‘in the image’ of the baptized Orthodox Christian to the ‘in the likeness’ of the sanctified Orthodox Christian by participating in the mysteries or sacraments of the Orthodox Church according to the rules and norms (typika) of the Church. We do not cut our own road, being smarter than the Fathers who wrote the rules under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That is foolish. That is not consistent with our praying the Our Father.

Another way to put this is that through entry into the Orthodox Church in baptism having been adopted as sons and daughters of God, we must struggle to become sons and daughters of God in fullness: with the assistance of Grace we must struggle to become sons and daughters of God in the sense that Jesus taught: be ye therefore perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. We must come to be sons and daughters of God who share in the love of God perfectly and who give that love of God perfectly to their neighbours and especially to their brothers and sisters.

‘Neighbour’ includes those who are not in the Church; ‘brother and sister’ refers to those in the Church.

Part of giving that love perfectly to our brothers and sisters is to pray ‘Our Father…’

The next part of this petition is ‘you who are in the Heavens’. It might be more exact to translate the beginning of the prayer ‘Our Father in the Heavens’.

Why would ‘you who are in the Heavens’ have been added by the Word of God made flesh to the Prayer he taught?

To which father are we praying? To our earthly father? To a political leader? To ‘Il Duce’? To a guru?

We are praying to ‘Our Father in the Heavens’, him who made Heaven, him who made the earth; him who made each of us, fashioning each of us in the womb when we were conceived. This it is to whom we are praying.

To invoke something in prayer is to render it present to us charismatically; it is to commune with it. Hence, when we pray ‘Our Father, you who are in the Heavens’ we are invoking the God of Gods, the Lord of Hosts, Him Who Is; we are rendering that God charismatically present in our hearts and minds; we are communing with him.

But if this is so, then immediately after we cannot turn to the Devil and the works of the Devil. That is to say, by invoking God in this way, we are purifying ourselves. We turn away from the profane to the holy, from sin and evil to justice and the good. We are sanctifying ourselves.

Our God is a holy God; our God is a jealous God. Before him there are no other gods. Hence, praying this way we develop an attitude of deep reverence for our Father, him who is in the Heavens.

When we are spiritually infants we might have a childish boldness before our Father in the Heavens, but when we mature, we must develop a profound reverence for the holiness of God, for Our Father, him who is in the Heavens.

This is the ‘idea of the holy’.

St Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews makes the observation that we have not been to the Mountain of Sinai when God descended and even a wild animal that approached the Mountain was to be stoned—stoned because that was the one sure way to put the animal to death without touching it—, and what was seen was so frightful that Moses himself said: ‘I am frightened and trembling.’ Instead, St Paul says, we have been called to myriads of angels and to the festival and assembly of the first-born who have been registered in the Heavens. Even though this is true, however, St Paul would not obliterate the notion that God is holy in the traditional Jewish sense conveyed by his description of the scene on Mt Sinai.

‘The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.’ The reverence we have for God must include the fear of him: not the slavish fear a demon or sinner might have that knows that it or he is going to suffer eternal punishment, but the fear that is engendered by holiness: we have tasted the holiness of the Lord and know that he is holy, the Fear of Isaac.

Here is what Psalm 118, 120 says:

Nail my flesh with your fear[1]; on account of your judgements I have feared.

ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·

May your name be sanctified;

When we speak of something’s name, we are speaking of what conveys that thing’s true inner essence.

There is no sense in this epoch that a name is merely a convention pointing to an object in a language game the rules of which have been arbitrarily set. Such an analysis of ‘God-language’ has nothing to do with Christianity.

No, when we pronounce the name of someone, we mean his nature—who he really is. Recall that Moses asked the voice in the Burning Bush what his name was. ‘Who shall I say has sent me?’ Moses asked. And the answer came: ‘Say that “I am” has sent you.’ (This is the Septuagint rendering.)

That is why icons of Christ Pantocrator (‘The Ruler of All Things’) have ὬΝ (‘He Who Is’) written above Christ’s head in the halo: As the Word of God made flesh, Christ is ‘He Who Is’, the ‘I am’ who sent Moses.

That is why Christ himself says in the Eighth Chapter of the Gospel of John that ‘…you will die in your sins if you do not believe that “I am”.’

That is why when the crowd came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked them who it was they wanted. The crowd replied ‘Jesus, the Nazarene’. He replied ‘I am’ and they fell to the ground, before their Creator.

Hence, what is it that we are asking? We are not really asking anything. We are blessing God. We are saying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts’, but in a voice suited to a mortal upon the earth.

We are blessing God.

When we bless God in this way, there is a self-negation that we assert: when we pray that God’s name be sanctified, we are denying our own self-love; we are denying ourselves. We are negating ourselves so that God might be sanctified, so that his name might be made holy.

Moreover, when we bless God’s name in this way, we are denying the evil in us. For us to pray from the heart that God’s name be sanctified is to deny sin. It is to say that we have turned to God and away from the Devil, away from his pomps.

There is a sense in which we are in fact petitioning God that his name be hallowed: we are asking that in a world in which darkness is the norm, in an impure heart such as our own, that the name of God be hallowed: that the name of God be hallowed by the advent of justice both in the world and in our own being.

ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·

May your Kingdom come;

This is more clearly a petition. However, it also contains an element similar to the preceding: for us to wish and ask God that his Kingdom come is to deny ourselves and our own petty kingdoms; it is to turn ourselves over to the Kingdom of God; it is to open our hearts to God and to his Kingdom. Recall that the Kingdom of God is within you. There is no sense in the Our Father that we are to engage in a holy war to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. There is no sense that we are committed to the forcible conversion of the pagans. For recall that entry into the Kingdom of God is something that begins with a voluntary approach to the baptismal font and continues with a fundamental reorientation of all one’s life so as to pass from the ‘according to the image’ received in baptism to the ‘according the likeness’ that we accomplish through the Grace of the Holy Spirit when we are willing co-workers with the Holy Spirit in our ascetical endeavours. All of this is implied in the petition.

This is not to deny that the Church has a missionary role to play in the world. It is to deny that the petition is for the establishment of a worldly kingdom that is to be accomplished by violence. ‘For my Kingdom is not of this world.’

In praying ‘May your Kingdom come,’ we recognize that we ourselves can not bring about the passage from the ‘according to the image’ to the ‘according to the likeness’; this is something that ultimately and fundamentally must be wrought by God. Recall that the culmination of the ascetical ascent is the Divine Illumination by the Holy Spirit that confers a participation in the Divine Love, so much so that we are no longer subject to the eight passions. If the Kingdom of God is within us, then it might be thought that in such a case that the Kingdom of God has come. This is true, but to the extent that this is possible for a person on earth before departure from the body.

Indeed, that is how the Fathers interpret the Transfiguration of Mt Tabor: The Transfiguration occurred a week after Christ said that ‘there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God coming in power.’ The Fathers understand that this reference is to the event of the Transfiguration.

As St Peter said, ‘It is well for us to be here.’ As the icons of the transfiguration portray, the three apostles are struck by the revelation of the Trinity but St John, the author is the Fourth Gospel, is particularly lost in reflection: it is he who will convey the deepest sense of the revelation.

It might be remembered that St Gregory Palamas prayed continually to be enlightened by the Light of God and other saints have prayed similarly: in praying the Our Father we too are praying God to grant us this Divine Illumination that will transform us fully into sons or daughters of God by grace, when the Kingdom of God has come within us and we no longer are subject to the passions but participate in the Love of God that Jesus had and conveyed to his disciples when he washed their feet; when he came to them on the evening of the first day, the doors being barred, and said ‘Peace to you;’ when he asked them after a fruitless night fishing, ‘Children, do you have anything to eat;’ when he himself prepared a meal for them on the beach while they were hauling in the catch.

γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

May what you will come to be, as in the Heavens so upon the earth.

We have translated more literally than is customary. This is so we can discuss the deeper meaning of the petition with greater clarity than might be possible with the customary translation.

The Greek word θλημα conveys the thing that someone wills, not the faculty of the will that all men have. That is, if it is my will to go to New York, then that is my θλημα. My faculty of will is called my θλησις.

So what is it we are asking in this petition? Let us suppose that it is my will to go to New York tomorrow. Well, I can get in my car or boat or airplane or whatever and go to New York. But let us suppose that I pray the Our Father in earnest. Then what I am praying is that what God wants be done. Now some people say that God is most often indifferent if we go to New York or not; it’s how we live when we go to New York that is important.

We look at the matter somewhat differently. Jesus said that he came not to do his own will but the will of his Heavenly Father. When we pray the Our Father we are asking that what Jesus wanted happen to us to: that we no longer seek to do our own will, but the will of our Heavenly Father.

Hence, what this petition requires is a continual struggle of ‘kenosis’ or emptying. This is a big Greek word. What it means is that we empty ourselves of ourselves so that God might fill up the empty space that we have left by getting rid of ourselves. Each time we pray that the will of God be done, we are emptying ourselves, negating ourselves, turning ourselves over to God in trust that what he wants is better than what we want; we are passing from being spiritual children to spiritual adults who no longer have temper tantrums is they do not get their way, but love their Father and revere his name.

τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·

Give us today our daily bread;

We all have needs. One of the deepest messages of the Gospel is to trust in the Providence of God. This is a very deep lesson for the Christian. Early Christians sometimes took it to mean that they didn’t have to work; St Paul in Thessalonians was obliged to combat this false notion. There was a tradition in Syrian and Sinaite monasticism that the monk would not work but wait on the Providence of God; we have discussed this. However, even if we work according to strength, we have to change our orientation. Yes we work, but it is not ‘all about us’ anymore. It is about God’s providence which provides for our needs. It is no longer an ego trip, no longer a matter of my inheritance, my salary, my income, my astuteness as an investor or designer of financial instruments—it is a matter of the love of God for us and what he provides us. It is clear that this orientation has been lost in America, even among Protestants.

Moreover, there is a false doctrine among Calvinists that wealth is a sign of God’s smile upon us, a sign of our election to salvation. There is no such doctrine in Orthodoxy. It is true that sometimes God showers material blessings on a Christian just as he did on Job both before and after his trial; it is also true that sometimes God allows the Christian to be tempted by poverty so that he might see whether he or she really loves God—and not just the material possessions that God has given or allowed the person to gather.

However, a much more fundamental doctrine in Orthodoxy is that personal wealth is no particular indicator of sanctity and value in the eyes of God: it is possible to be wealthy and a friend of God; it is possible to be poor and a friend of God; the opposite in each case is possible. What matters is our spiritual wealth, our virtue. We can’t take our material possessions with us, but we can and do take our virtue—or lack of it—with us when we die. And we all surely must die. In Orthodoxy the wealthy man is the man of love, the man who cares.

Recall that one of the Beatitudes is ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.’ What this means is that the humble inherit the Kingdom of God.

Finally, it should be noted that the petition we have is not for fast cars and women and motorcycles and speed boats—it is for our daily bread. This petition entails humility: we have to humble ourselves and realize that just like anyone else we are in need of our daily bread from God. Not for anything fancy or special—let them eat cake!—but for our daily bread, the food of peasants and the poor of the earth.

So in praying this petition we are humbling ourselves before our Creator and asking him for our basic needs.

In common with the patristic understanding, we take praying for our daily bread as being to pray for our shoes, our heating bill, our rent, our kid’s clothes, and so on and so forth: for our genuine needs. It might be worth reflecting on among those of our readers who are unemployed and with no prospects of employment: Jesus Christ taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father for our daily needs; he taught us that God hears our prayers; he went so far as to speak the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge: the widow never gave up. Hence, we must continually pray to God to provide for our daily needs with the faith and hope that he will be faithful to his word—and he cannot be unfaithful to himself—and provide us our daily needs.

We had the occasion to speak to a priest recently about the burden of his pastoral duties. He remarked that the economic crash has come very heavily and very quickly, so much so that people are out on the streets without a place to live anymore, so much so that people are committing suicide.

For those in despair over their economic situation, trust in the Providence of God is very important, as is prayer for their daily bread.

καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,

And forgive us our debts,

Now we come to the heart of the Gospel. This is a very, very deep petition. Who can say that he is without sin? Who has repented from the depths of his heart so that he no longer needs to repent? Who is so humble that he no longer needs to humble himself to ask forgiveness for his sins? And God will hear us.

Recall that St Silouan wrote that before he went to the monastery he met a convicted murderer who after he had served his time was gaily dancing at a party. Intrigued, St Silouan asked the fellow how, a murderer, he could dance so gaily at the party. The man replied: when I was in prison, I prayed and prayed and prayed for God to forgive me my sin, and he heard me and now I can sing and dance.

So we must be: while we are yet in prison, we must pray and pray and pray for the forgiveness of our sin so that God might hear us and grant us forgiveness. For as the ascetical Fathers teach, in whatever condition God finds us at the hour of our death, in that condition we will go to eternity. Hence, before we die we must pray for God to forgive us our debts. Moreover, the Fathers such as St John of Sinai are clear that without such a sure sense of the forgiveness of our sins and of the concomitant presence of the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are in trouble if we die unless we are distinguished by our humility. It is now that is the time of our prison, now the time that we must implore God to forgive us our sins. And here is that petition.

ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·

As we also forgive our debtors;

This is God’s ‘catch-22’ for us sinners. We want to obtain—if we are serious Christians—the forgiveness of our sins and bold assurance before God. But we can attain to this only if we forgive our own debtors. God is very clear on this. We forgive; he forgives; we don’t forgive; he doesn’t forgive. Nothing in the Gospel could be clearer. That’s the deal. Take it and forgive to receive forgiveness; or don’t take it and enter eternity without bold assurance before the Lord of Hosts, the Creator of your soul.

This is a very deep struggle. For while we are sinners, that does not mean that we can’t be sinned against, wounded, sometimes seriously, sometimes grievously. But there’s no other way: we have to purify our hearts and forgive. This can be a great struggle.

καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,

And do not lead us into temptation,

A humble man who has ‘been around the block’—who has some experience—will pray this petition with feeling. In fact, an index of spiritual maturity is how seriously a man will pray this petition. The more serious he is, the more he will get down on his knees and ask his Heavenly Father not to lead him into temptation. He has learned. There is no longer any time for fooling around.

What are these temptations?

As we have learned, there are eight passions. These passions map into eight types of sin. Hence, there are eight basic types of temptation. We are praying in utter sincerity for God not to lead us into temptation.

Recall that we learned in the petition above to subordinate our own will to the will of God. Perhaps God does not want us to go to New York. More importantly, whether or not we go to New York, the Devil will find a way to meet us on the way. When we pray that God not lead us into temptation, we are praying that he guide our steps so that we not run into the Devil on our way. Those of us who are spiritually blind, and don’t know where to go and where they are going, for those of us who are wandering like lost sheep must pray that God not lead them into temptation. The spiritually mature, those who see their blindness, will pray not only that God’s will be done completely in their lives, but also that God not lead them into temptation.

ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

But deliver us from the Evil One.

This is even more important. This is not only a matter of being delivered from the human condition of bondage to sin so as to attain to the fullness of the ‘in the likeness’ of a son or daughter or God who manifests a likeness to God in all the virtues, especially the virtue of love. It is a matter of being delivered from the Devil. Just as in the previous petition, the sensible Christian and monk will pray to be delivered from the Devil. The Devil, to use a metaphor, has many tentacles and gets mixed up in many things. Sometimes we don’t realize that we have been affected by evil, by the Devil, by our passions, by the demons, put it how you will. But here we pray seriously to our Heavenly Father for him to deliver us from the Evil One.

It is no longer a matter of me, but of the Lord: To pray the Our Father in utter seriousness, I have to convert; I have to be baptized; but above all I have to repent.

And here we can see what repentance is: it is an emptying of ourselves, of our pride and egotism so that God be all things in all.

[1] Thus the Septuagint. A translation based on the Hebrew would more likely read ‘My flesh bristled with the fear of you; on account of your judgements I have feared.’

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Commentary on Diadochos 88 - 100

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

Just as, when one is standing some place in the winter-time at the beginning of day and looking wholly towards the east, all his front parts are warmed by the sun whereas all his back parts have no share in the warmth because the sun is not directly over his head, thus also those who are in the beginning of spiritual activity[1] are partially warmed round in the heart by Divine Grace. Wherefore also the mind of such persons begins at that time to bear as fruit spiritual habits of thought, but obvious parts of the mind remain with habits of thought according to the flesh, since all the parts of the heart have not yet been completely illuminated with the light of Divine Grace in deep [spiritual] perception. (Certain persons, however, not understanding this very thing, have in themselves thought that in the minds of those who are struggling [ascetically] there are two hypostases[2] set over against one another.) Therefore it thus happens that the mind thinks good things and not good things in the same instant, in the same way that the man in the example both shivers and is warmed in the same instant. For from the time that our mind slid away into the duality of <judgement>[3], from that time it has a need to bear, even if it should not want, both good and bad thoughts[4], and certainly even among those who have come into subtlety of discernment. For as it ever makes an effort to think the good, directly it also recalls evil, because the memory of man is split into a dual conception from the time of Adam’s disobedience. Therefore if we begin with warm zeal to practise the commandments of God, thenceforth Grace, illuminating in a certain deep [spiritual] perception all our [spiritual] organs of sense, burns up as it were all our recollections, and, sweetening our heart in a certain peace of unwavering friendship,[5] prepares us to think certain spiritual things and no longer according to the flesh. This occurs extremely often to those who are approaching perfection, those who unceasingly have in their heart the memory of the Lord Jesus.
This is an important chapter. It continues the notion that because of the Fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise, Man henceforward has a ‘duality of judgement’ that is only overcome in the advanced stages of Orthodox spiritual growth. The chapter itself is conceptually simple, although, as always, the author’s diction can be difficult to construe.
The basic notion that the author here has is that once we have been baptized, we have Grace, the Holy Spirit, in the depths of our nous or created spirit. Despite that, because of the human condition we still think bad thoughts. Again he is adamant to insist that this is not due to the hypostatic (personal) presence of evil in the baptized Orthodox Christian. It is due to the Fall.
Thus, even among those who are so spiritually advanced as to possess the charism of discernment in power, good thoughts and bad thoughts are intermingled in their thought processes. However, among those who have progressed spiritually to the point that they ‘unceasingly have in their heart the memory of the Lord Jesus’—this corresponds to their being in a state of continual contemplation (to use the Roman Catholic term); it corresponds to the biblical statement of David that he had the Lord ever before him at his right hand to guide him—then there is no longer this duality: they have restored, or are very close to having restored, the similarity to God that Adam and Eve lost in the Fall. This is a rather rare condition: one might be an Elder and still be subject to evil thoughts, although certainly not subject to the degree of a beginner.
Holy Grace procures two things for us in our Baptism of Rebirth, of which the one limitlessly exceeds the other. But the lesser[6] is granted immediately: it renews us in the very water and makes bright all the lines of the soul—that is, the ‘according to the image’—, washing away every stain of sin. The greater[7] expects that it work with us, which very thing is the ‘according to the likeness’. When the mind therefore begins to taste the goodness of the Holy Spirit in great [spiritual] perception, then we should know that Grace is beginning as it were to paint the ‘according to the likeness’ on the ‘according to the image’. For in the same way that painters first delineate in one colour the figure of the man, then, adorning tint little by little with tint, thus capture up to the strands of hair the form of the man being portrayed—thus also the Grace of God first regulates the ‘according to the image’ by means of Baptism to whatever it was when Man came to be. But when it sees us desiring from every intention the beauty of the ‘according to the likeness’ and standing naked and unskakeable in its workshop, then, adorning virtue with virtue and bringing the form of the soul back from glory to glory it procures for it the very character[8] of the ‘according to the likeness’. Therefore on the one hand the [spiritual] perception declares that we are being formed in the ‘according to the likeness’; on the other hand we will know the perfection of the likeness from the illumination. For the mind receives all the virtues by means of the [spiritual] sense according to a certain measure and unspeakable rhythm; one cannot acquire spiritual love, however, unless he be illuminated by the Holy Spirit in every [spiritual] assurance.[9] If the mind does not receive the ‘according to the likeness’ by means of the Divine Light, on the one hand it is able to have almost all the other virtues but on the other hand it yet remains without a share in perfect love. For when it becomes like to the virtue of God—as much as a man has room to become like to God, I say—then it also bears the likeness of the divine love. For just as among those who are being portrayed the whole splendid colour of colours[10] added to the image preserves the resemblance of him who is being portrayed right up to the smile, thus also among those who are being painted by Divine Grace wholly to the divine likeness, the illumination of love added to the ‘according to the likeness’ declares the ‘according to the image’ to be a completely good resemblance.[11] For no other virtue except only love is able to procure dispassion for the soul. For the fullness of the Law is love. So, then, our inner man is renewed from day to day in the taste of love; it is completed in love’s perfection.
This chapter is the heart of the treatise. It behoves the reader to study it very carefully.
The argument goes like this. When we are baptized, we receive certain goods. First of all, we receive the Holy Spirit into our nous or created spirit while at the same time all other spirits are expelled from us.
Next, our sins are forgiven.
Finally, most important for the purposes of the argument of this chapter, the image of God is restored in us to the state that Adam and Eve had in Paradise. Note that, as we have remarked earlier, if a person has damaged his nous spiritually through non-Orthodox spiritual practices, this does not mean that that damage is reversed at this stage. That appears to be something that comes later according to the scheme that the author is defining in this chapter. However, Baptism ‘makes bright all the lines of the soul’. There is a fundamental change. This is the restoration of the ‘according to the image’.
But these are the lesser goods of Baptism. What, then, is the greater?
This ‘very thing is the “according to the likeness”’. What is the author getting at?
The author uses the metaphor of portraiture. The ‘according to the image’ is the artist’s preliminary sketch for a portrait. What the author is saying is that before Orthodox Baptism, the sketch is smudged although not unrecognizable. Baptism, however, restores the artist’s sketch to its original beauty. However, it is something lesser because it remains only a sketch. The greater is the full portrait. The full portrait is done after Baptism when the baptized Orthodox takes it upon himself or herself to cooperate with Grace to execute the full portrait—to strive to come into the ‘according to the likeness’. ‘When the mind therefore begins to taste the goodness of the Holy Spirit in great [spiritual] perception, then we should know that Grace is beginning as it were to paint the “according to the likeness” on the “according to the image”. For in the same way that painters first delineate in one colour the figure of the man, then, adorning tint little by little with tint, thus capture up to the strands of hair the form of the man being portrayed—thus also the Grace of God first regulates the “according to the image” by means of Baptism to whatever it was when Man came to be. But when it sees us desiring from every intention the beauty of the “according to the likeness” and standing naked and unskakeable in its workshop, then, adorning virtue with virtue and bringing the form of the soul back from glory to glory it procures for it the very character of the “according to the likeness”.
This is what it’s all about. No more. No less.
The author then asserts that while all the other virtues come to the person through the spiritual sense, the crowning virtue of love comes to him by Divine Illumination. Earlier we remarked that the author’s theology of salvation was a theology of illumination by the Divine Light. Here we can see that he expects the culmination of that illumination to be our ability to love in the way that Jesus loved.
The author has already discussed the fact that we retain up to the last stages of our spiritual growth a duality of thought which allows and indeed causes us to think bad thoughts with the good thoughts. It is clear that he foresees that this duality of thought will cease when the person arrives at the illumination with the Divine Light which confers on him or her the ability to love with the love of Jesus Christ. For this is the fullness of the Law. It is the fullness of the Christian vocation; it is the fullness of the restoration of the ‘according to the likeness’ of God.
This is the Orthodox Christian vocation.
In the beginning of our progress, if indeed we ardently and warmly desire the virtue of God, the Holy Spirit makes the mind taste in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance the sweetness of God, so that the mind know in exact knowledge the perfect reward of the God-loving ascetic practices. Thenceforward, however, it hides for much time the extravagance of this vivifying gift so that even if we should work all the other virtues completely we consider ourselves to be wholly nothing because we do not yet have the divine love as it were in habit. Thus, therefore, the demon of hatred thereafter afflicts the soul of those who are struggling [ascetically], so that it slander even those who love them with the goal of inciting hatred, and bears the corrupting activity of hatred almost up to the kiss. Whence, thereafter the soul is pained, bearing on the one hand the memory of spiritual love but on the other hand not being able to acquire it in [spiritual] perception because of the lack of the most perfect ascetic practices. Therefore it is necessary that in the meantime we work this by violence, so that we attain to its taste in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance.[12] For no one in this flesh can acquire the perfection of this love except those saints who have come as far as martyrdom and perfect confession.[13] For he whose lot this is, is wholly changed and does not easily desire food. For to him who is nourished by divine love what desire is there for the good things in the world? For this reason, the wisest Paul, the great receptacle of gnosis, announcing to us from his own spiritual experience[14] the good news of the luxuriousness of the first just men[15] which is going to be, speaks thus: ‘For the Kingdom of Heaven is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and grace in the Holy Spirit;’ which things are the fruit of perfect love. So, then, those who are progressing in perfection are here able to taste this continually, but no one is able to acquire this perfectly except when that which is mortal is swallowed up by Life.[16]
What the author is saying here is not always true. It was true in the life of St Silouan the Athonite and in the life of St Symeon the New Theologian, who read St Diadochos when he was a novice. However, there are sometimes other roads that the Orthodox is led on by the Holy Spirit. These are the judgements of God.
However, in the case that the author is addressing what he has in mind is this: God grants us a taste of perfection in the beginning of our ascetical road so that we know where we are going. Then he hides his Grace to let us ‘fight it out’. However, we can never attain by our own efforts to possessing constantly (habitually) what we had tasted at the beginning (this divine love), and this fact works for our humility. It also makes us more zealous for our asceticism. However, paradoxically, even though we have tasted this divine love and wish to attain to its habitual possession and exercise, not only can we not do it but we are tempted to outright hatred ‘almost up to the kiss’. It is not quite clear what the author means here. He could mean that we are tempted right up to Judas’ kiss of betrayal; he could mean that our duality of thought introduces hateful thoughts even right up to the instant that we kiss someone or something such as an icon—or even right up to the moment we receive communion. It should be understood that these involuntary hateful thoughts—even at the moment of communion, say—can be very painful for us to experience when we have tasted the divine love and seek to possess that divine love as our own.
The author states that in this condition we must redouble our ascetic efforts—remember that here he is talking to very advanced Hesychasts.
Moreover, the author makes a very astute and profound remark. It is impossible to completely overcome the flesh and live this divine love unless we arrive at martyrdom. For if we should survive the martyrdom, we are, as St Paul remarks, no longer in the flesh. However, the advanced Hesychast can experience this Divine Love continually, although not perfectly until ‘that which is mortal is swallowed up by Life’.
One of those who love the Lord with a certain insatiable judgement[17] narrated to me as follows: ‘To me who desired to know it with knowledge,[18] the Good One provided the love of God in much [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance[19]; and I was so much clothed with such an activity[20] that my soul hasted with a certain unspeakable joy and love to go out from the body and depart towards the Lord, and to ignore as it were this temporal way of life itself.’ Even if he who in experience [21] this love should be insulted or injured by someone a myriad of times (for it happens that he is yet going to have one of these sorts of things to work on with labour) he does not grow wrathful with him but remains as if glued even to the soul of him who has despised or even injured him. He is kindled only against those who come either against the poor or against God (as Scripture says, ‘They speak evil;’) or who otherwise lead to a certain extent an evil way of life. For he who henceforward loves God beyond himself—or, rather, no longer loves himself but only God—no longer avenges his own honour but wants only the righteousness to be honoured of him who has honoured him in eternal honour.[22] He no longer has this disposition as deriving from some small bit of will but thenceforth on account of the great experience of divine love has this disposition as it were as a habit. It must be known in addition to these things that he who is put by God into the activity of such a love as this comes to be above even faith at the time of such an activity, through the great love holding on in [spiritual] perception in his heart to him who is honoured in faith.[23] The holy Apostle clearly signifies this very thing, saying: ‘Now there remain these three things, faith, hope and love; of these the greatest is love.’ For he who is in the wealth of love holding on to God, as I said, is at that time much greater than his own faith, as being wholly in longing.[24]
It is generally considered that the author is referring to himself, using the third person out of humility.
This chapter, very important as a statement of mystical experience, is quite clear. We only need remark on a few passages.
First, ‘He no longer has this disposition as deriving from some small bit of will but thenceforth on account of the great experience of divine love has this disposition as it were as a habit.’ In the previous chapter, the author discussed the case where the advanced ascetic had a more or less continual experience of the divine love but did not have it habitually. Here he is addressing the case where the ascetic has this divine love habitually.
Second, ‘It must be known in addition to these things that he who is put by God into the activity of such a love as this comes to be above even faith at the time of such an activity, through the great love holding on in [spiritual] perception in his heart to him who is honoured in faith. The holy Apostle clearly signifies this very thing, saying: “Now there remain these three things, faith, hope and love; of these the greatest is love.” For he who is in the wealth of love holding on to God, as I said, is at that time much greater than his own faith, as being wholly in longing.’ Essentially what the author is saying is that in these states of rapture the ascetic is in spiritual union with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and it is not a matter of faith during the experience: the expression ‘in the wealth of love holding on to God’ is a description of an experience of intense union with God. ‘As being wholly in longing’ is a description of affective ecstasy.
If one meets a person who has had the experiences the author is describing, his whole life can change, although not always—for even in the case of the Word made flesh, not everyone’s life changed when they met Christ in Galilee.
The intermediate state of divine love prepares us to be not a little sorrowed when because of some quarrel we make someone our enemy by insulting him. Wherefore they[25] never cease to prick our conscience until through much rendering of accounts we lead the one who was insulted back to his previous disposition. Even when one of the people leading a worldly life has unjustly grown wroth with us, the most extreme compunction concerning this matter makes us meditate and take much thought since we have wholly become a stumbling block to someone of this Age[26]. Whence the mind even becomes idle in regard to contemplation[27]. For since the word of gnosis is wholly love, it does not allow the intellect to be broadened towards divine contemplations[28] unless we first regain in love even him who without purpose is wrathful with us. If, then, that person does not want this to happen or, again, has departed from our paths, the word of gnosis thenceforth hastes us to add the character of his face to our own soul in a certain unformed humour[29],[30] thus in disposition to fulfil the law of love in the depth of the heart. For he says:[31] ‘Those who wish to have the gnosis of God must in their own intellect look upon, without choleric conception, even the faces of those who are choleric out of season.’ This having come to pass, the mind is not only faultlessly set into motion as regards theology but will also ascend to the love of God with great boldness of spirit[32], hastening unimpededly from the second step to the first.[33]
We need only comment on a few sentences here. Otherwise the chapter should be clear given the preceding.
‘For since the word of gnosis is wholly love, it does not allow the intellect to be broadened towards divine contemplations unless we first regain in love even him who without purpose is wrathful with us.’ This is an important remark. If we have sinned—even slightly and even if the sin isn’t really our fault—we can find it very difficult to engage in our customary activity of prayer until things are sorted out and we are reconciled.
It is worth remarking that the Grace of God may intervene so as to free us from our choleric conception without reconciling us to the other party physically: the situation may be such that Grace finds it necessary to invoke the Gospel: ‘if he does not listen to the Church, let him be to you as a tax-collector and sinner’.
To those who are beginning to desire piety ardently the way of virtue seems extremely rough and very gloomy not because it is that sort of thing but because directly from the womb human nature consorts with the full range of the pleasures. To those who are able to come to middle of it, the way is shown to be wholly approachable and comfortable, for having been subordinated through the activity[34] of the good, the bad is destroyed by the good habit along with the memory of the irrational passions.[35] Whence, thenceforth the soul gladly passes through the all the paths of the virtues. For this reason, the Lord, introducing us to the road of salvations, says: ‘How narrow and strait is the road leading to the Kingdom and few are they that enter in by it.’ To those who with much intention wish to come forth to the keeping of his holy commandments, he says: ‘For my yoke is good and my load is light.’ Therefore, in the beginning of the struggle it is necessary to work the holy commandments of God with a certain violent act of the will, so that seeing our purpose and effort the good Lord send us a certain act of the will very much ready to serve his glorious wishes.[36] For then: ‘The will[37] is prepared by the Lord;’ so that we unceasingly work the good in a certain great joy. For then, really, we will perceive that: ‘God is he who acts in us both to want and to act beyond expectation.’[38]
The only thing to point out here is that the author understands that our being given over to the pleasures of the flesh is something that we have directly from the womb: it is part of the human condition. Of course that is why we are baptized and engage with the assistance of God in the ascetic struggle to attain to the ‘according to the likeness’.
In the same way that wax that has not been heated or softened for a long time is not able to accept the seal which has been placed on it, thus neither is a man, unless he be tried by [ascetic] labours and infirmities[39], able to find place for the seal of divine virtue.[40] For this reason the Lord says to the divine Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in infirmity[41].’ And the Apostle himself boasts, saying: ‘Therefore I would rather boast gladly of my infirmities so that the power of Christ dwell upon me.’ And in Proverbs it has been written: ‘The Lord chastises him who he loves; he whips every son whom he receives.’ And the Apostle calls ‘infirmities’ the rebellions of the enemies of the Cross which continually happened to him and to all the saints of that day so that they not be puffed up, as he himself says, at the abundance of revelations—but they remained, rather, in the characteristic property of perfection, through lowliness devoutly guarding the divine gift by means of the frequent episodes of contempt. But now we call ‘infirmities’ the evil thoughts and the bodily anomalies. For, then, because the bodies of the saints who were struggling against sin were delivered up to deadly tortures and various other afflictions, their bodies were much higher than the passions which have entered into human nature out of sin. Now, however, because the peace of the Churches[42] is multiplied on account of the Lord, it is necessary on account of this that the body of the strugglers of piety be tried by means of continual anomalies, and their soul by means of wicked thoughts—certainly even among those in whom gnosis is active in every [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance—so that they both be able to be beyond every vainglory, or vain imagining even, and by means of the great lowliness be able to find space in their hearts, as I said, for the seal of the beauty of God, according to the saint who said: ‘For the light of your Face has been stamped upon us, O Lord.’ Therefore, giving thanks, we must await the counsel of the Lord.[43] For the continuality of the sicknesses and the battle against the demonic thoughts will be reckoned for us to the account of a second martyrdom. For he who at that time said to the holy martyrs by means of those lawless rulers, ‘Deny Christ; long for the glories of this present life!’ even now stands against them in person, unceasingly saying the very same things. He who at that time pained the bodies of the righteous and insulted to the utmost the teachers of honour through those ministering to those diabolical habits of thought—that very same one even now leads the various passions against the confessors of piety with many insults and acts of contempt, and certainly when for the sake of the glory of the Lord they help the poor who are extremely afflicted. For that reason it is necessary to work with sureness and patience on the martyrdom of our conscience before the Lord. For he says: ‘Waiting patiently, I patiently awaited the Lord and he took heed to me.’
Here is the gist of this chapter and the thought underlying much of what the author has already written about the imperfection of the ascetic: ‘…they remained, rather, in the characteristic property of perfection, through lowliness devoutly guarding the divine gift by means of the frequent episodes of contempt.’ What the author means is that, as St Isaac the Syrian puts it, humility is the garment of the Divinity. Hence, all the imperfections we experience, all the infirmities, all of the weakness—these are all meant to ensure our humility so that God might be glorified in us through his presence, especially as divine love.
The author also explains after a fashion what is meant by the expression ‘the martyrdom of conscience’. This is the state of being afflicted by tempting thoughts—bad thoughts that we do not want. These call us to sins that we do not want. This struggle has the following good results: we are purified; we learn the ruses of the demons; we grow in humility; and we show to God that we are serious in our love for him. In such situations, we must exercise patience, waiting on the Lord as the Psalmist puts it.
The author now proceeds in the next chapter to discuss humility.
Humility is a hard thing to procure. For in the measure of its greatness, that much it is attained with many struggles. It comes to those who participate in holy gnosis in two ways. First, when he is in the intermediate stage of spiritual experience, then either on account of infirmity of the body or on account of those who show enmity to those who take a care for what is right or on account of evil thoughts, the struggler of piety has a somewhat lowlier habit of thought. Second, when the mind is illuminated in much [spiritual] perception and inner spiritual assurance by Divine Grace, then the soul has humility as it were as a natural attribute. For fattened by the divine Goodness, it is no longer able to be puffed up by the pretension of ambition and, even if it unceasingly works the commandments of God, considers itself lower than all men on account of the fellowship of the divine forbearance.[44] The first humility most often has sorrow and discouragement; the second, joy with an all-wise respect for others. Wherefore, as I said, the first humility comes to those who are in the middle of the struggles but the second is sent down to those who are approaching perfection. On account of this, the first is often damaged by the successes of this life,[45] while the second neither perceives the terrible arrows of sin in any way nor is shaken even if someone were to offer it all the Kingdoms of the world—for being wholly spiritual it completely ignores bodily glories. To come into the second humility it is in every respect necessary that the [ascetic] struggler come by means of the first. For unless Grace by means of the first humility first softens our free will in the application of the pedagogic passions—voluntarily and not by necessity[46]—it will not grant us the splendour of the second humility.
This is quite clear and very important. The only thing that might be ambiguous is the notion of the humility that comes to the perfect. This is a god-given humility that St John of Sinai remarks on; this is the humility that is the garment of the Divine. But we can only receive this second humility if we have struggled through the first, which is the humility of the weak man struggling to advance up the hard mountain of love.
Those who are friends of the pleasures of this world come to the actual missteps from the thoughts[47]. For borne by an undiscerning judgement they desire to bring almost all their impassioned conceptions[48] to lawless words and unholy works. Those however who are endeavouring to accomplish the ascetic way of life come from the actual missteps to the evil thoughts and to certain evil and damaging words. For if the demons see such persons gladly tolerating abuse [of others] or speaking certain idle or unseasonable things or laughing as it should not be or angered immoderately or desiring to see empty and vain glory, then in a group they arm themselves against them. Moreover, taking [the ascetic’s] ambition as an excuse for their own evil they jump as it were through a certain dark window and plunder the soul. Therefore it is necessary that those who wish to dwell together with the multitude of virtues not seek glory, nor meet with many people, nor make use of continual departures [from the monastery] or abuse certain persons (even if those who are abused are worthy of the abuse), nor speak much even if they are able to say all things well. For dispersing the mind without measure, garrulity not only makes the mind idle in relation to its spiritual labour but also delivers it to the demon of accidie[49], which weakening it without measure delivers it thenceforth to the demons of sorrow and to the demons of anger. The mind must therefore ever be occupied with the keeping of the holy commandments and with the deep remembrance of the Lord of Glory. For he says: ‘He who keeps the commandment will not know an evil word;’ that is, will not deviate into bad thoughts or words.
This is a very astute psychological analysis. What the author means is this. Worldly people strive to put into practice whatever comes into their head without discriminating where the thought is coming from. The reason for this, of course, is that these thoughts are stimulating the worldly person to act on one of the passions and that person is a slave to his passions.
However, the author says, things are different when it is a matter of an ascetic. The ascetic has reached the stage where he knows something about the thoughts and he is not about to act out any old thought he has. However, he might expose himself to the demons by his actions—by engaging in idle talk, ribaldry, condemnation of others and so on and so forth.
Moreover, if the ascetic has ambition—not impossible; ordinary men and women become ascetics; saints are made not born; we all have our share of all the passions—then the demons have a ‘field day’.
The rest of the chapter should be clear. The discussion of the interrelations of the passions is important, but it would take us too far afield to analyze the discussion in detail. Other ascetic writers discuss the relationships among the passions.
When the heart receives the bows and arrows of the demons with a certain warm pain in such a way that it suspects that he who is at war[50] bears real arrows, the soul hates the passions with pain, as being in the beginning of being purified. For if the soul should not suffer great pain on account of the impudence of sin it would not rejoice richly over the goodness of righteousness. Therefore let him who wants to purify his heart set it on fire with the memory of the Lord Jesus, having only this as a meditation and ceaseless work. For those who volunteer to put off their own rot must not pray[51] at one time and at another time not pray, but ever occupy themselves with the prayer[52] in the keeping of the mind, even if they should have their abode somewhere outside the houses of prayer. In the way that someone who wishes to purify gold, again makes hard the material being purified if he lets the fire go out under the crucible even if for only a short time—in that same way he who at one time remembers God and at another time does not, loses though the idleness whatever he thinks to acquire by the prayer[53]. It is characteristic of the man who loves virtue ever to consume what is earthy in his heart by means of the memory of God so that bit by bit the bad is thus expended by the fire of the memory of the Good and the soul come back completely to its natural brightness, with greater glory.
The only thing that needs to be emphasized here is that the author foresees the continual practice of the Jesus Prayer, its continual practice being something quite necessary.
Dispassion is not the state of not being warred against by the demons, since we would then need to have gone out of the world, according to the Apostle, but the state in which those who are warred against remain not warred against.[54] For the warriors who wear armour have arrows shot at them by their opponents and hear the sound of the archery—and they also see almost all the arrows sent against them—yet they are not wounded because of the hardness of the armour. Being fenced by iron they have the quality of not being warred against when they are in battle; let us, however, by means of all good works armed fully with the panoply of the Holy Light and the helmet of salvation, cut through the dark phalanxes of the demons. For purity is not brought about merely by stopping to do bad things, but by setting aside evil in power through attending assiduously to the good.
This is clear enough. The only important thing to remark on is that the author views ‘dispassion’ as a state of freedom from the passions. As should be clear, he does not make dispassion the end point of the mystical journey, but the reception of divine love in habit through habitual union with the Trinity, this being conferred on the person through an experience of divine illumination.
When the man of God has conquered almost all the passions, two demons remain behind to fight. The first of these annoys the soul so that it come from much love of God to an unseasonable zeal such that it does not want any one else to please God in the way that it does; the second annoys the body, moving it with a certain burning activity to the desire for intercourse. This happens to the body because, first, this pleasure is a property of nature as on account of child-bearing and for that reason easily defeated; and, further, also on account of the permission of God. For when the Lord sees one of the strugglers flourishing in the multitude of virtues, he on occasion permits him to be sullied by this demon so that he suppose himself to be worse than all the men who lead a secular life. Doubtless, annoyance by this passion either follows the attainments or, on occasion, comes before them so that, in the sudden attack of the passion, the soul seem in anticipation somewhat useless whatever its great accomplishments might [come to] be. But let us battle the first passion in great humility and love, and the second passion in temperance and freedom from wrath and the deep conception[55] of death, so that from these things ceaselessly tasting the activity of the Holy Spirit we come in the Lord to be above these very passions.
This chapter is relatively clear. The author by experience knows that those approaching perfection are subject to two special temptations—an envy that doesn’t accept that others might also become saints, and disturbances of the flesh.
As many of us become participants in divine gnosis will render an account of even our involuntary vain imaginings. For Job says: ‘You have taken note even if I have transgressed involuntarily in something;’—and justly so. For if one were not to cease to remember God and not to neglect his holy commandments, one would not fall into either a voluntary or an involuntary fault. It is therefore necessary to offer firm confession to the Master even in connection with our involuntary faults, that is, in connection with the labour of the customary canon[56] (for there is no one who is a man who has not miss-stepped humanly), up to the time that in tears of love our conscience assure us spiritually concerning the remission of these things. He says: ‘For if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just so that he forgive our sins and purify us from every injustice.’ It is necessary to attend unceasingly to the [spiritual] perception of confession so that our conscience certainly not taste itself in the condition of supposing that it has confessed adequately to God, for the judgement of God is mightier than our conscience even if in complete spiritual assurance someone should know of nothing in himself[57], as the wisest Paul teaches us, saying: ‘But I do not interrogate myself; for I know of nothing in myself; but I have not been justified in that; the Lord is he who interrogates me.’[58] For if we do not confess properly concerning these things then at the time of our departure we will find a certain secret cowardice in ourselves. We who love the Lord must pray to be found without fear in that hour for he who is then found in fear will not pass by the Tartarian rulers in a free way, for they have that fear of the soul as an lawyer, as it were, on behalf of their own evil. But in the hour of dissolution the soul which exults in the love of God is borne with the angels above all the dark ranks. It is as it were given wings by the spiritual love, bearing love without lack as the fullness of the Law. Wherefore even in the Second Coming of the Lord those who depart from this life with such boldness will be taken up in rapture with all the saints. But those who are a little cowardly in the time of death will be left behind with the multitude of other men as being under judgement, so that having been tried by the fire of judgement they receive in accordance to their own practices the inheritance owed to them from our good God and King Jesus Christ; for he is the God of Justice and over us who love him his is the wealth of the goodness of his Kingdom to the Ages of Ages. Amen.
This final chapter has some important points. The author is now speaking to the perfect and to the almost-perfect. They are obliged, he is saying, to engage continually in the contemplation of God because they will be held accountable by God even for their involuntary transgressions. He makes the very astute remark, reminiscent of St John of Damascus, who was many centuries after him, that if we were to remain in contemplation of God continually, we would have no falls, either voluntary or involuntary.
Next, the author remarks on the disposition of continual confession of our faults to God. This might be a little dangerous for a not-so-spiritually-advanced reader with temptations to obsessive-compulsive behaviour (scruples), so let us remark that the author is speaking to very advanced Hesychasts, essentially to saints.
Our author and saint then continues with a very subtle discussion of the psychology of dying. If we have the least soil on our conscience, we will have a certain cowardice at the time of our death. That cowardice will prevent us from being borne up to the Lord by the angels at the hour of our death (for an explanation of this see the Sayings of the Desert Fathers) and we will ultimately be left with the multitude of men to be tested by fire in the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory, love and honour now and to the Ages. Amen.
Ascetic homilies of Saint Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki in Illyria. 100 Chapters, 2,300 lines.[59]

[1] Greek: energeias. According to the context, this activity is the activity of Holy Spirit on the person, not the efforts of the person himself to lead a pious life.
[2] Greek: upostases. Until now the author has used the more Western word, person (Greek: prosopon). He clearly means the same thing: the supposed co-existence of a personal principle of holiness, the Holy Spirit, and of a personal principal of evil, the Devil or Satan, in the one person. It should be remarked that the author’s see was on the Western side of mainland Greece and that it might very well have had communication with the West. Another possible interpretation is that previously the author was ‘dumbing down’ his terminology but as he goes on thinks he is able to speak more precisely and theologically.
[3] <gnomes'>. The text here has ‘knowledge (Greek: gnoseos)’. While the critical apparatus does not show our reading, it seems to be required by the text. As the author has already said, the Fall introduced a duality of the will towards good or evil. However, there is nothing in his doctrine of gnosis that would suggest that the Fall also introduced a duality of intuitive knowledge or illumination, although the author certainly recognizes the possibility of demonic delusion. Judgement (gnome) does bear the sense of a personal judgement leading to a choice made by the free will. See further below in this chapter, where the duality is applied to the memory.
[4] Greek: dianoemata.
[5] This is unclear.
[6] Literally, ‘the latter’.
[7] Literally, ‘the former’.
[8] ‘Very character’: Greek: charakter. This word means ‘engraving’, ‘engraved image’. The word is used by the Apostle Paul of the relation between Jesus Christ and the Father. Hence, here, the ‘very character’.
[9] ‘[Spiritual] assurance’: Greek: plerophoria. Here, the word means ‘consciousness’. I.e. while all the other virtues are received by means of the spiritual sense, the virtue of spiritual love is received only in a conscious illumination of the mind by the Holy Spirit. What is usually called, it seems, the Uncreated Light.
[10] This is unclear.
[11] This sentence is difficult, but it means that once the divine illumination of perfect love is added to the ‘according to the likeness’, then the soul has become a completely good resemblance to God in whose image it was created—as much, the author says, as this is possible to Man.
[12] The author means that since by the deprivation of Grace for the sake of our purification we no longer have any spiritual perception of perfect love, but even rather are tempted to the hatred of others, we must in this condition force ourselves to love so that we ultimately attain to the perfection of love in full consciousness and assurance.
[13] In the sense, evidently of the Confessors of the Faith who had gone to the stadium for martyrdom but who have survived alive.
[14] ‘Spiritual experience’: Greek: plerophoria. This is the second meaning of plerophoria—an actual illumination.
[15] Normally this refers to Adam and Eve before the Fall.
[16] I.e. after death.
[17] Greek: gnome. As we remarked previously, this word has to do with judgement leading to intention. In part it means the ‘intellectual attitude’ or ‘opinion’ on the basis of which one acts.
[18] Greek: gnostos gnonai. Thus the text. The author is emphasizing the desire to know consciously the love of the Lord.
[19] Greek: plerophoria.
[20] Greek: energeia, as elsewhere in this and other chapters.
[21]geuomenos)>’. Reading this on the basis of context and the author’s style instead of the text ‘becoming (genomenos)’.
[22] Thus the text.
[23] The author means that this condition of the experience of divine love unites the ascetic to God in the ascetic’s heart so that for the duration of the experience of being united to God he is beyond faith.
[24] Greek: potho. Here, this seems to mean affective ecstasy. The chapter is describing an advanced stage of mystic union. This chapter is difficult to render so that it reads easily and clearly but we have wanted to tamper as little as possible with such an important description of mystical union.
[25] The text does not have a referent for this verb. Perhaps it is the demons.
[26] I.e. the world.
[27] Greek: theorias.
[28] Greek: theoremata.
[29] Greek: chumati. This is one of the four humours, but as applied to the soul, not a matter of ‘humour’ as jokes or ‘humour’ as disposition.
[30] The text is a little difficult here. What the author means is that if we cannot be reconciled with the other party then, even if we are not at fault at all, we should introduce his face into our soul in a certain vague way so as to have it before us in love when we are praying. This does not seem to be a prescription to engage in visualization exercises but rather to keep the ‘idea’ of the person in our heart while we are praying.
[31] This is not a passage of Scripture, nor do any of the other editors or translators provide a citation. We are not aware of any work containing this passage.
[32] ‘Boldness of spirit’: parrisia. This is the good boldness before God.
[33] I.e. from the intermediate degree of love being discussed in this chapter to the first degree of love discussed in the previous chapter and elsewhere.
[34] Greek: energeia. It should be remarked that energeia is a philosophical concept having to do with the metaphysical nature of action. It doesn’t have the moral contextualization that we might suppose. That is, when the author writes that that something happens through the activity or energeia of the good, he doesn’t mean that it happens because we go to Church on time and so on and so forth—not that we shouldn’t—but that metaphysically something has an ontological activity—here, the good, including good practices—that has an effect, in the way we speak today, in a different metaphysics, of cause and effect. Energeia is an ontological not a moral concept. It means the action of something being what it is essentially; the concept is of course related to entelechy. Entelechy is what something is and does when it is and does what it is supposed to be and do: it is the perfection of the instantiation of an essence. Energeia is the action of something when it is in its entelechy.
[35] The author means that for those who have attained to the middle of the way of virtue, it is shown to be accessible and comfortable because the bad—which the author has already remarked does not exist substantially—is destroyed by the good habit (here he uses the word ‘custom’) together with the memory of the pleasures of procreation.
[36] Greek: thelemasi. This is the same word that we have been translating ‘acts of the will’. The author is fond of this sort of repetition of a word and its cognates.
[37] Greek: thelesis. The author does not use the language of ‘faculties’, which is a much later Western approach, but thelesis is the will as a faculty and thelema something willed by the thelesis.
[38] What the author is saying is that at a certain advanced spiritual stage, God heals the will so that virtue becomes easier and more joyful. We do not, however, think that the author means that the person is no longer capable of sin—that will happen in the Second Coming.
[39] Greek: astheneion.
[40] Elder Paisios (1924 – 1974) is said to have remarked that he received more spiritual benefit from his illnesses than from his (considerable) ascetic labours.
[41] Greek: astheneia.
[42] Greek: ekklesion.
[43] I.e. in our afflictions.
[44] I.e. the ascetic is humbled by his fellowship with God.
[45] Literally: ‘reproached’.
[46] This seems to mean that it is not merely a matter of long-suffering: the ascetic must accept his sufferings.
[47] Greek: logismon.
[48] Greek: ennoias.
[49] I.e. sloth.
[50] I.e. the ascetic. He is in such pain that he begins to suspect that he is being shot at with real arrows.
[51] Greek: euchesthai. This refers to the Jesus Prayer, as should be evident from the context.
[52] Greek: proseuche.
[53] Greek: euche.
[54] Thus the text. The author means that dispassion is a state in which the demons try and try and try—and don’t get anywhere.
[55] Greek: ennoia. Here ennoia means ‘meditation’ or ‘contemplation’ within the mind: a deep consideration of our coming death.
[56] Greek: kanonos. This is the customary rule of private prayer and asceticism of the monk.
[57] I.e. be conscious of no fault in himself, as further on in the quotation from St Paul.
[58] Note the legal language. The conscience is treated with legal concepts both in the text and in St Paul.
[59] This is the closing note in the manuscript. Illyria is present day Albania, somewhat north of Photiki.