Friday, 27 August 2010

Ecclesiological Dimensions in the Pentecostalist Practice of the Jesus Prayer

In our post called Pentecostalism and the Jesus Prayer, we made some remarks on the contrast between the operation of the charisms among Orthodox saints and among the Pentecostalists.  We received two comments, which we printed on the post, and exchanged emails with the persons making the comments.  In those comments a variety of issues were raised.
Before we turn to the comments, however, we would like to make a general remark about the study of Pentecostalism, especially in the United States.  We have been reading
This is the PhD dissertation of Mr. Holvast, who is a member of the Evangelical Church and formerly a missionary in Mali.  The dissertation is not hard to read.  It can be downloaded free by clicking on the title above.
‘Spiritual Mapping’ is a practice among certain Pentecostalists first of identifying ‘territorial demons’ that are preventing the spread of the Gospel in a region and then of attacking those demons in power through prayer and even through anointing whole towns with blessed oil.  Names associated with the practice include Ted Haggard, formerly of the New Life Church and now of St James Church, both in Colorado Springs; Reverend Muthee; and Sarah Palin—perhaps indirectly through others who practise a prayer ministry of spiritual warfare.  Also associated with this practice is the notion that what is involved when these ‘territorial demons’ are attacked is not only the spread of the Gospel but also the Christianization of all aspects of society, including government.  This is a doctrine usually known as Dominionism.  There is a great emphasis in this practice on relations of power.
Now Spiritual Mapping does not seem to be what is in play, at least obviously, at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  We will see what is in play, at least in part, below.  However, Mr. Horvast’s dissertation has historical information on the various contemporary Pentecostalist currents and their interconnections.  Since American Pentecostalism is a very complex phenomenon, the historical information in the dissertation is illuminating.
Before we begin we also have to discuss a related concept.  This is the restoration of the five-fold ministry to the Church.  This five-fold ministry derives from Ephesians 4, 11 where the five ministries are listed as: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  The Pentecostalists who believe in the restoration of the five-fold ministry literally mean that today God is through his Holy Spirit raising up Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers in the Church to prepare the Church for the End Times.  These charismatic ministers of the Church are thought to have divine authority over the Church of Christ.  This is particularly true of the Apostles and Prophets.
We cannot emphasize strongly enough that the doctrine is that just as the Apostle Peter was an Apostle, and the Apostle Paul, so today—not yesterday—there are Apostles in the Church raised up by God.  And these Apostles have authority from God to rule the Church.
Similarly, just as in Acts of the Apostles a prophet named Agabus bound Paul’s hands with his belt before Paul went up to Jerusalem prophesying that the Jews there would bind Paul’s hands in a similar way, so today—not yesterday—there are prophets of equal or perhaps even greater power in the Church of Christ.
Now an obvious question arises: what is the Church that these Apostles and Prophets have divine authority over?  Here we have to understand the ecclesiology[1] that underlies this doctrine.
The ecclesiology involved derives from the Protestant Reformation.  It teaches that the Church is an invisible, spiritual reality that is comprised of all the believers in Christ.  According to this theory the Church is not confined to any one denomination and is certainly not to be identified with either the Orthodox Church or the Roman Catholic Church.  Now we are a little uncertain whether this invisible Church is comprised only of all born-again believers in Christ, or merely of all people who think they believe in Christ even if they do not consider themselves born again.  Perhaps this is a doctrine that varies among the various Protestant groups.  Moreover, it is not at all clear whether Baptism (of whatever kind) is considered to be a criterion for membership in this invisible Church.  Some Evangelical and Pentecostalist groups give primacy not to Baptism but to the born-again experience or even to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as the criterion for membership in the invisible Church.
The Orthodox Church formally believes that it is the Church instituted by Jesus Christ.  That is different from what these people believe.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the true Church founded by Jesus Christ subsists in the Roman Catholic Church, whose head is the Pope.  That is different from what these people believe.
So we have a situation where a number of Pentecostalists believe that God has anointed them Apostles over the whole Church, which is comprised of the totality of all (born-again) believers in Christ, whether these believers recognize the Apostles’ authority or not.
Similarly for Prophets.  Certain prophets believe that they have prophetic authority over the whole Church, whether the Church’s members believe it or not.
That is what we understand to be the substance of the doctrine of the restoration of the five-fold ministry to the Church in these End Times.
It should be obvious from what we have said above that the Pentecostalists, especially those who subscribe to the theory of the restoration of the five-fold ministry, have a completely different theory of the Church than the Orthodox Church does.  Let us suppose that you believe in the restoration of the five-fold ministry.  If you believe that there are Apostles anointed by God walking the earth today who have genuine apostolic authority over the whole Church, how can you believe what the Orthodox Church believes?  For the Orthodox Church believes that that apostolic authority resides in the Orthodox bishops, especially in council.  Your divinely anointed Pentecostalist Apostles are not going to accept the authority of the Orthodox Bishops in council, and the Orthodox bishops in council are not going to accept the authority of your divinely anointed Pentecostalist Apostles.  So the Pentecostalist Apostles and the Orthodox bishops can’t both be right.  Someone has to be wrong.  Otherwise, it’s a matter of a house divided that cannot stand, as Jesus himself teaches in the Gospel.
Moreover, we imagine that the Roman Catholic Church might be surprised to hear that it is under the authority of divinely ordained Apostles who have nothing to do with the Pope.  Of course, the divinely ordained Pentecostalist Apostles don’t believe that the Roman Catholic Church has anything to do with God, so that might explain things.
Let us turn to the first comment, from Mr. Oystein Lid.  (We should point out that we have edited all comments and other material quoted for clarity and style.  The originals of the comments can be found in the original post.  In the case of other material we are quoting after editing, the original material is posted here in a footnote.)
Since I am a convert to orthodoxy from Pentecostalism (charismatic, third wave, Benny Hinn-style, Kenneth Hagin-style; however, not so much International House Of Prayer, Joel's Army, prophetic, Lakeland, Toronto-style) this topic very much interests me. Perhaps particularly what you write regarding the charismatic gifts as acquired after years of ascetic practice vs. the microwave, quick-fix, instant-anointing Pentecostal approach.  But in the years since I converted I have never really heard a good Orthodox exegesis of these key Bible verses which Pentecostals use as a foundation for their "restoration movement":
Mark 16, 17 – 18:
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe.  In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
In this passage Christ does not appear to limit the gift of healing to the specialists, does he? While the following Old Testament prophecy does not deal with the gift of healing specifically, there does seem to be an indication of a release of charismatic gifts to all, not only to those who lived on vegetables for 30 years.
Joel 2, 28 – 29:
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.  29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
Hence, the name “Joel's Army,”[2] by the way.
Another key passage for us charismatics back in the old days was this passage in John:
John 14, 12 – 14:
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do [it].
Is it not the case that the Orthodox Church recognizes many lay-saints who also possess(ed) the gift of healing?  An example here in Norway is the king-saint Olav. His vita (taken from the Orthodox Church in Norway's website) says among other things that:
St. Olav was not an ascetic saint [but a layman] who lived a virtuous life in piety and purity. His religiosity needed a long time to mature. ... When he travelled to Russia he let his Christian faith develop. There it became apparent that he possessed the gift of healing the sick, among others the blind son of Ingegjerd, Vladimir.
Another issue of course is that in Christianity great wonders and signs come second to the all-encompassing commandment of love. As Saint Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 13, 2:
And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
I am reminded here of St Silouan’s[3] praise of his father (non-monastic, but an Elder) a family man. "He never got angry, was always even-tempered and humble." "I have never reached my father’s stature" St. Silouan[4] said.
Is it therefore not also possible for laypeople to attain to a likeness to Christ and a higher level of spirituality while living in the world?
Let us look at what Mr. Lid is saying.  Let us look first at his request for exegesis of the prophetic passages about the descent of the Holy Spirit.
In evaluating the interpretation of the Scriptural passages that Mr. Lid brings forward, we have to consider the ecclesiological framework of the person giving the interpretation.  In other words, if you are a devout member of the Orthodox Church, you are going to read those Scriptural passages in the context of the Orthodox Church’s understanding of itself.  If you are a Pentecostalist, you are going to read those Scriptural passages in accordance with your own understanding of the nature of the Church.
And this is the basic issue in the interpretation of those passages.
Let us put it a little more clearly.  The Orthodox Church believes that Scripture belongs to the Orthodox Church.  The Orthodox Church has been on the face of the earth since the time of the first Pentecost 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ.  The Orthodox Church both wrote the New Testament and interprets it, also interpreting the prophecies of the Old Testament.
The signs that Our Lord speaks of in the passage from Matthew inhere in the Orthodox Church, not in individual believers outside the Orthodox Church.
In the second passage the eschatological outpouring of the Holy Spirit prophesied in Joel, for us, refers to the outpouring on Pentecost on the believers in Jesus, which outpouring formed the Orthodox Church.  All Orthodox receive the Holy Spirit in their Baptism and Chrismation.  Their Baptism renews them in Christ.  Their Baptism is the foundation of any spiritual life in Christ until they die.
Now the next Scriptural passage quoted, from the Gospel of John, concerns the greater works that a believer shall do.  The Orthodox Church, as we understand it, considers that this passage is indeed true but that it has to be understood in an Orthodox context.
Moreover, in assessing the significance of this Scriptural passage for the modern-day Pentecostalist movement, one has to balance it with the other passages of the New Testament that speak of false prophets.  Merely doing great works in the name of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re from Godeven if you do greater works than the works done by Christ himself.  Keeping the commandments of Christ and being a member of the Orthodox Church who believes what the Orthodox Church believes means you’re from God.
There are a number of passages of the Gospel that speak of false prophets, especially in the End Times.  The basic criterion for judging whether someone is a false or true prophet is by his fruits.  The same thing for miracle workers.  Are they keeping the commandments of Christ?
Moreover, the Sermon on the Mount is crystal clear.  Many will in the Day of Judgement say to Jesus that they did many mighty prophetic and charismatic works in his name and Jesus will say to them that he never knew them, sending them to Hell.  Jesus then goes on to say that he who builds his life on the commandments of the Gospel will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven, but that he who does not—whether or not he has done great prophetic or charismatic works—will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Nothing could be clearer.
Now the issue arises of the layman and the charismatic gifts in the Orthodox Church.  It is indeed true dogmatically that the charismatic gifts are in no way limited to monks.  What we wanted to do in the original post  was to emphasize the contrast between the rarity and difficulty in the Orthodox Church of finding authentic charismatic gifts, and the ease with which the charismatic gifts are exercised among Pentecostalists.  In this, see below, where we see a living example.
Even in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, there are passages which indicate that laypeople can exceed monks in sanctity.  Looking at our self, a monk, we can easily see that this is true.  The most famous example of the holy layman is the cobbler in Alexandria who was revealed by God to St. Anthony as exceeding St. Anthony in holiness.  So there is no problem with Saint Olaf.
Now let us turn to the second comment, from Seafra:
I would like to put some input into the discussion if I may.  The International House of Prayer (IHOP) is itself an inter-denominational center.  We have Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists and people from a variety of many other backgrounds.  In the early stages of IHOP there was a leader affiliated with the “latter rain movement” who tried to plant the “sons of God” heresy.  There was much trouble and he left but many people still seem to connect him to the center. Now talking about IHOP can be tricky because it is really only a prayer room.  However, as the IHOP prayer room grew a community church formed. As for our worship, it really does vary.  There is a lot of charismatic and contemporary music but hymns are also done and sometimes instrumental solos.   Now “IHOP” is a very broad label because there are many ministries that have been started by IHOP.  However common to all members of the leadership of IHOP is a belief in the five-fold ministry with the proviso that any believer can be used by God to operate in any situation.  Personally I am here to learn the model as I will be planting houses of prayer in Ireland.  However, I also plan to have more of an Orthodox focus.  I noticed that you have frequently referred to Orthodox monks; however my studies have shown me that all are able to pray the Jesus prayer.  At IHOP there is actually a strong emphasis on contemplative prayer.  In my understanding the Jesus Prayer is Orthodoxy’s primary form of contemplative prayer and since I am considering converting I naturally wanted to learn more about it. There are various books in our library here but they largely focus[5] on the Desert Fathers and the Church mystics from Catholicism so I wanted to obtain more instruction from an Orthodox point of view. That is my primary reason for seeking your help.  I realize that IHOP has a peculiar reputation and I’m in no way trying to defend it.  However, I do believe in IHOP’s mission of night and day prayer and I believe a model can be constructed that would actually make Orthodoxy more noticed in the west.
Now we are going to quote a passage from a second comment from Seafra:
Scripture teaches that every believer can operate in any gift but are for God’s own purpose more prominent in a certain gift. I have prophesied over complete strangers and told them their childhood; I have prayed over a comatose [woman] on her deathbed and saw her dancing two days later, but my primary gift is as an evangelist.[6]
We didn’t print the comment on the original post in accordance with one of Seafra’s emails to us:
Oops, could you ignore my second post.  I am doing this on my phone and misread what the other poster said.  Thanks also for informing me.  I believe you are referring to the Jesus prayer prayed with breath control and all the other techniques, correct?  But isn't there a way that laymen are encouraged to pray?   Also the Greek church I have been attending said the general thought is that if you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit you do indeed have the Holy Spirit—but you’re saying otherwise.  Any reason for the contradiction?[7]
First of all, let us point out that Seafra, judging from his photograph, is in his early twenties.  He has already “prophesied over complete strangers and told them their childhood; … prayed over a comatose [woman] on her deathbed and saw her dancing two days later.”  However, his “primary gift is as an evangelist”.  We take this to mean that Seafra has the divinely ordained ministry of Evangelist just like in the Acts of the Apostles, in accordance with the doctrine of the restoration of the five-fold ministry to the Church in the End Times—one of the ministries is Evangelist.
Now, frankly, if Seafra is a divinely anointed Evangelist who does these things, what does he need us for?  We’ve been an Orthodox monk for a long time.  We can’t do any of them. We suspect that Seafra has also raised people from the dead.  Really.  We’re not being sarcastic. He’s just too modest to admit it. 
Here’s the problem.  We have a situation in which a layman in his twenties has got involved with the Pentecostalists and now does miracles.  In the Orthodox Church, as we put it, St Seraphim of Sarov “… spends decades in the wilderness silently praying the Jesus Prayer as a hermit keeping a vow of complete and utter silence and living only on snits, a local weed, before by revelation he returns to the world as a great prophet and miracle worker.”  In the Orthodox Church, even if we suppose that a layman is going to do miracles we should be very surprised if it were without a decades-long period of ascesis of some sort.
Now, our miracle-working Evangelist in his twenties who as far as we can tell has no experience of Orthodox monasticism on the one hand is interested in joining the Orthodox Church and on the other hand wishes to go to Ireland to plant houses of Prayer modelled on the Pentecostalist International House of Prayer, where there are Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists and people from a variety of many other backgrounds living and praying in inter-denominational harmony.  And there, it appears, he wants to teach the Jesus Prayer.
Moreover, he says, “The Greek [Orthodox] church I have been attending said the general thought is that if you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit you do indeed have the Holy Spirit.”  So evidently the Orthodox Church has agreed with Seafra that Seafra has the Holy Spirit—so that Seafra must indeed be a miracle-working divinely ordained Evangelist just like it says in the Acts of the Apostles.  Presumably, since it’s the Holy Spirit that’s acting, it would be acceptable to the Orthodox Church once Seafra became a member for Seafra to go to Ireland to establish the inter-denominational Pentecostalist Houses of Prayer that he intends to establish there.  Evidently it would also be acceptable to the Orthodox Church for Seafra to teach the Jesus Prayer in those Houses of Prayer as part of his divinely anointed ministry of Evangelist.
It is in this context that Seafra wishes to learn about Hesychasm.
If Seafra has the Holy Spirit, he doesn’t need Hesychasm.  He needs someone to write his biography for the Lives of the Saints.
Hesychasm is for sinners who want to repent.
St. Diadochos of Photiki gives a very good explanation of the practice of the Jesus Prayer by the baptized Orthodox.  We refer all our readers to our translation and commentary: for the translation go to the archives for August, 2008, and for our commentary go to the archives starting in March, 2009 and ending in May, 2009.[8]
The Jesus Prayer is part of a whole method, called Hesychasm, which orients its practitioner to passing from the initial state of the restoration of the image of God in Baptism to the likeness to God in dispassion.  Baptism does not make a person perfect but restores the image of God in him or her.  After Baptism the Orthodox Christian practices an ascesis usually called Hesychasm until the likeness to God is restored, when by the grace of the merciful God the person is granted perfect love for God and man in an experience of light.  This is the broad path that St. Diadochos is describing.  This path is aimed at monastics, but laymen and laywomen participate in it under the guidance of an Elder to the extent of their abilities.  This path is not necessary for salvation, as St John of Sinai indicates in the Ladder of Divine Ascent.  It is moreover very difficult and only a very few monastics are able to carry it out in its entirety.  There is also another monastic road, of obedience in a coenobitic monastery, which, as St. Athanasios of Athos testifies, is of equal value before God.
The reason that the Orthodox Church expects people—whether laymen or monks—to go through a long period of ascesis is precisely to remove the passions that prevent God from restoring the likeness to God in them.  This period of ascesis is perhaps also necessary to remove from the soul the results of serious sin after baptism.  In this regard it might be useful to read about St. Silouan the Athonite.  Soon after his entry into the Russian Monastery of  St Panteleimon on Mt Athos Silouan had a vision of the risen Christ that was authentic.  He then spent close to twenty years praying the Jesus Prayer in a continuous fight against demons that were physically visible to him.  During this time he was deceived twice by false visions.  Only after this long and terrible ascesis was St. Silouan made perfect.
Now the whole point of Pentecostalism is that none of this is necessary.
So why would a miracle-working Pentecostalist be interested in the Jesus Prayer, in its mild form for laymen?
Part of it seems to be the idea that it should be possible in a Pentecostalist inter-denominational House of Prayer to engage in ‘contemplation’ by means of the Jesus Prayer.  Now, what we think these people understand by ‘contemplation’ is that having been baptized in the Holy Spirit they can engage in a mild form of the Jesus Prayer that keeps them united to the Holy Spirit.  What they are ignoring, however, is the whole apparatus of ascesis that is part and parcel of the practice of the Jesus Prayer—not to mention all the other issues involved.
Nothing good is going to come of this, Seafra.  Leave it alone.
Best wishes—
Orthodox Monk, the sinner who practises the Jesus Prayer

[1] Ecclesiology: the theology of the nature and structure of the Church, i.e. one’s beliefs about the nature and structure of the Church.
[2] Joel’s Army is a Pentecostalist Group associated with the Lakeland Outpouring.  It is noted for Revivals with miracles being worked, often in very striking ways.
[3] After an email correspondence with Mr. Lid, this has been corrected from ‘Elder Paisios’.
[4] See fn. 1.
[5]  It was hard for us to understand this sentence up to here.  This rendering is the best we can do.  See the original comment.
[6] Original Comment in full:  Oysten.... Regarding your comment you must keep in mind protestants don't age on anything some believe add you posted others believe in what I believe scripture teaches that every believer can operate in any gift but are for Gods own purpose more prominent in a certain gift. I have prophesied over complete strangers and told then their childhood, I have prayed over a comatose on her death bed and saw her dancing two days later, but my primary gifting is as an evangelist.
[7] Original text of email:  Oops could you ignore my second post I am doing this on my phone and misread what the other poster said... Thanks also thanks for informing me I believer you are referencing the Jesus prayer prayed with the breath control and all the other disciplined traits correct? but isn't there a way that laymen are encouraged to pray... Also the Greek church I have been attending said the general thought is that if you are baptized on the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit you do indeed have the holy spirit but your saying other wise any reason for the contradiction?

[8] Those who want can find another translation in the Philokalia Vol. I (trans. Palmer, Sherrard and Ware, published by Faber & Faber). 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

More on the Byzantine Catholic Forum Discussion of Our Post on the Jesus Prayer

After we wrote our post on the response of the Byzantine Catholic Forum to our original post on the Jesus Prayer in the Eastern Rite Catholic Church, we followed the further discussion on the thread on the Byzantine Catholic Forum and decided after what we thought was a wonderful, balanced post by Fr. Kimel to post a reply by means of an email.  Then Fr. Kimel replied with a very hard-line post refuting us.  We submitted another email containing our response to Fr. Kimel to Mr. John Vernoski, the Administrator of the Byzantine Catholic Forum Web Site.  Although Mr. Vernoski was kind enough to print our first email and even to engage in an email exchange with us, he seems to have refused to print this last email.  Instead he has printed a rather dogmatic personal ‘refutation’ of our position that supports Fr. Kimel.  Here is the email that aggravated Mr. Vernoski, and perhaps whomever he consulted:
Dear Mr. Vernoski:
Here is my last remark for the thread.  I will not be posting anything else.  It is a waste of time.
Start here:
We would like to close our contribution to the Byzantine Catholic Forum with these remarks:
Fr Kimel takes a rather hard-line approach to preserve the flock it seems.
He writes:
Here is the critical weakness of Orthodox Monk's argument. Orthodox Monk apparently believes that because Pius X and Benedict XVI strongly commended the theology of Thomas Aquinas that therefore it functions as the infallible touchstone for Catholic reflection. But of course, anyone who is acquainted with Catholic theology knows this is not the case. Thomas Aquinas will always have a special place within Catholic theology, but neither his philosophical principles nor his theological arguments are beyond debate and question. Just ask the Franciscans. Just ask just about any modern Catholic philosopher or theologian.
The Pope in question is Pius XI and the reference to Aquinas is a Papal Encyclical, STUDIORUM DUCEM (On St. Thomas Aquinas), issued in 1923.  It is too long to quote even in part.  It can be found here:
Popes have consistently taught over the centuries (see the Encyclical) that Thomism is a normative expression of Roman Catholic theology.  The Encyclical was establishing, inter alia, that Thomism determine  the course of studies in Roman Catholic seminaries [actually it refers to the then new provision of canon law that establishes that Thomism define the course of studies in the seminaries].  Perhaps one can argue that the Encyclical was not an infallible document.  But, guys, you're getting into an area where the only thing you're going to accept is another Vatican Council. Read Lumen Gentium on Vatican I and then Vatican I about the immediate ordinary jurisdiction of the Pope and his pastoral authority.  He's not the President of the United States; he's the Pope.
Fr. Kimel says:
Regarding Barlaam and Aquinas, all that needs to be said is that Barlaam was not a Thomist. His relationship to Western scholasticism is debatable. The dispute between Barlaam and Palamas was an inter-Eastern dispute, a dispute between two Orthodox students of Dionysius the Areopagite.
Here is what the last Pope said.  He's on the road to canonization, guys:
The hesychast controversy marked another distinctive moment in Eastern theology. In the East, hesychasm means a method of prayer characterized by a deep tranquillity of the spirit, which is engaged in constant contemplation of God by invoking the name of Jesus. There was no lack of tension with the Catholic viewpoint on certain aspects of this practice. However, we should acknowledge the good intentions which guided the defense of this spiritual method, that is, to emphasize the concrete possibility that man is given to unite himself with the Triune God in the intimacy of his heart, in that deep union of grace which Eastern theology likes to describe with the particularly powerful term of "theosis", "divinization".
(This is the allocution of John Paul II referenced in our original post.  Emphasis added.)
This is hardly an unreserved endorsement of Hesychasm.
Fr. Kimel thinks that Barlaam wasn't arguing from a Catholic point of view.  It would take too long to refute that.  But wasn't one of Barlaam's major arguments a denial of the notion that there could be a difference between energy and essence?  Is this not a Thomist position?  Pope John Paul II didn't have Fr. Kimel's subtlety and seems to suggest that Hesychasm had issues with Catholic doctrine.  So how was this merely an intra-Orthodox dispute?  Based merely on differing interpretations of Dionysius?  Moreover, Fr. Kimel, how is it that Barlaam ended a Roman Catholic bishop?
(Update: 26/08/10:  It seems that Fr. Kimel is rehearsing the arguments of the late Dr. John Meyendorff concerning the nature of the conflict between Barlaam and Palamas.  A refutation of this line of argumentation by the late Dr. John Romanides, quite persuasive, can be found in two parts as follows: part I and part IIDr. Romanides does not see Barlaam as a Thomist, true, but he does see Barlaam as very much inserted into Latin theology.  However, the refusal to accept a distinction between essence and energy, and the assertion that only the essence  of God is uncreated and only that is knowable after death, all grace known in this life being created, is certainly a Thomist position.)
My only argument to you people is that you be consistent with your own Catholicism.
Orthodox Monk
We would encourage all our readers to go to the thread on the Byzantine Catholic Forum, to read all the posts carefully and to draw their own conclusions.  However, we should respond to a remark of Mr. Vernoski:
Regarding the silliness of anyone concluding that St. Gregory Palamas is not a saint in the Catholic Church because one does not have a proper quote from a pope specifically stating this, anyone making such a conclusion must also state that both Catholicism and Orthodoxy don't really consider the Twelve Apostles to be saints, that they give them only titles of honor because one can't find on a Google search a link to each Church's formal declaration of sainthood for them (an a reaffirming statement by each succeeding pope, patriarch and bishop). And, of course, this is the same for all saints.
Actually, Mr. Vernoski, things aren’t quite as fluid as all that.  There is an official list of saints of the Roman Catholic Church called the New Roman Martyrology.  You can actually buy a copy from your bookseller.  It’s published by the Vatican.  It’s an official Vatican document.  It lists all the saints of the Roman Catholic Church.  Now we admit that we haven’t checked who’s on it.  We’ll leave that to you.
(Update 26/8/10: But the even more fundamental issue is whether the theology recognized by the Catholic magisterium as normative accepts Hesychasm.  That’s not a trivial matter in conscience.  But if you are merely pretend praying, who cares?  The issue arises if you want to pray in the soul.  Then it matters what you believe.  But this is impossible to understand if you are merely pretend praying.)
For the record, here is our own contribution that was published on the thread on the Byzantine Catholic Forum:

Some Comments on this Thread from Orthodox Monk

We would like to thank the Byzantine Catholic Forum for accepting to post our response to the comments in this thread, a response that we are sending by email.  In reading over the posts on this thread, we were struck by a number of issues to which we would like to respond.  Let us take them one-by-one.
A number of posters have taken the position that as Eastern Rite Catholics they are bound only by the ecumenical councils, the first seven, that are accepted by the Orthodox.  Our understanding of this matter is that all Catholics, whether Roman or Eastern Rite, are bound by all the councils recognized by the Holy See as ecumenical.
Here is what Lumen Gentium saysThis is also called The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church.  It is a document of Vatican II:
But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The supreme power in the universal Church, which this college enjoys, is exercised in a solemn way in an ecumenical council. A council is never ecumenical unless it is confirmed or at least accepted as such by the successor of Peter; and it is prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke these councils, to preside over them and to confirm them.(29*) This same collegiate power can be exercised together with the pope by the bishops living in all parts of the world, provided that the head of the college calls them to collegiate action, or at least approves of or freely accepts the united action of the scattered bishops, so that it is thereby made a collegiate act.
(Chapter III On The Hierarchical Structure Of The Church And In Particular On The Episcopate.  Emphasis added.  All excerpts are taken from translations found on the official Vatican Web Site.)
Now the assertion that the Roman Pontiff must approve a council for it to be considered ecumenical evidently arises out of a situation in the middle ages where a council met in Basel, we believe, and tried to force things on the Roman Church.  The emphasis on acceptance by a Pope for a council to be considered ecumenical responds to this perceived danger.  However, it also seems reasonable to infer from the above that what is also intended is the notion that if the Roman Pontiff says a council is ecumenical, it is.  That is, the list of ecumenical councils promulgated by the Roman Church is binding on all Catholics, whether Roman or Eastern Rite.  This is a matter of formal promulgation.  It isn’t something said off the cuff in a meeting.  The councils considered ecumenical by the Roman Pontiff can be found in any of the standard Roman Catholic collections of councils.  Hence, we understand that all Catholics, whether Roman or Eastern Rite, are bound by all the councils recognized as such by the Vatican, including Vatican I and II.  Now of course it would be necessary to confirm this with a Professor of Dogmatic Theology at a recognized Catholic university—say, Notre Dame.
Let us look here at the issue of the authority of Rome.  Because of our understanding of the binding nature of all ecumenical councils recognized as such by the Roman Pontiff, we understand that all Catholics, whether Roman or Eastern Rite, are bound by the contents of Lumen Gentium.  This passage concerns the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and the magisterium:
This Sacred Council [i.e. Vatican II], following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father;(136) and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion.(1*) And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful.           
(Chapter III On The Hierarchical Structure Of The Church And In Particular On The Episcopate.  Emphasis added.)
This second passage refers to the role within this framework of the individual Churches, including the Eastern Rite Churches:
In virtue of this catholicity [of the Church] each individual part contributes through its special gifts to the good of the other parts and of the whole Church. Through the common sharing of gifts and through the common effort to attain fullness in unity, the whole and each of the parts receive increase. Not only, then, is the people of God made up of different peoples but in its inner structure also it is composed of various ranks. This diversity among its members arises either by reason of their duties, as is the case with those who exercise the sacred ministry for the good of their brethren, or by reason of their condition and state of life, as is the case with those many who enter the religious state and, tending toward holiness by a narrower path, stimulate their brethren by their example. Moreover, within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity (11*) and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it. Between all the parts of the Church there remains a bond of close communion whereby they share spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal resources. For the members of the people of God are called to share these goods in common, and of each of the Churches the words of the Apostle hold good: "According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God".(123)
(Chapter II, On the People of God, Emphasis added.)
Now, converts to Orthodoxy from Protestantism, we believe that this is saying that nothing in an Eastern Church that joins to Rome can legitimately be retained which stands in serious dogmatic contradiction to positions of the Church of Rome.  Correct us if we are wrong.  However, if it were otherwise, why would reunion with the Orthodox Churches be so difficult?
If we go to the Decree On The Catholic Churches Of The Eastern Rite Orientalium Ecclesiarum, we find this:
2. The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it, for it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire and likewise that it should adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place.(2)
3. These individual Churches, whether of the East or the West, although they differ somewhat among themselves in rite (to use the current phrase), that is, in liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage, are, nevertheless, each as much as the others, entrusted to the pastoral government of the Roman Pontiff, the divinely appointed successor of St. Peter in primacy over the universal Church. They are consequently of equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others as regards rite and they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations, also in respect of preaching the Gospel to the whole world (cf. Mark 16, 15) under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff.
Hence, what the Eastern Rite Catholic Church retains when it comes into union with Rome is its rite, defined here as ‘liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage’.
However, this passage from Lumen Gentium might be important:
By divine Providence it has come about that various churches, established in various places by the apostles and their successors, have in the course of time coalesced into several groups, organically united, which, preserving the unity of faith and the unique divine constitution of the universal Church, enjoy their own discipline, their own liturgical usage, and their own theological and spiritual heritage. Some of these churches, notably the ancient patriarchal churches, as parent-stocks of the Faith, so to speak, have begotten others as daughter churches, with which they are connected down to our own time by a close bond of charity in their sacramental life and in their mutual respect for their rights and duties.(37*)
(Chapter III On The Hierarchical Structure Of The Church And In Particular On The Episcopate)
Now the issue, clearly, is whether an element of ‘liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and [theological and] spiritual heritage’ that stood in contradiction to a dogmatic position taught ex cathedra or even otherwise by the Roman Pontiff could be retained.  It is here that the Hesychast controversy enters in.  For as we pointed out, Thomism was around the turn of the 20th Century declared an authoritative exposition of the Catholic faith.  But the argument of Barlaam against St Gregory Palamas was a Thomist argument.  And Pope John-Paul II was a neo-Thomist, so his remarks on Hesychasm have to be read in that light.
A number of members of the Byzantine Catholic Forum submitted comments to the posts on our blog that we did not post.  One person taxed us harshly in an ad hominem attack.  When we asked for more reasoned arguments she sent us an article in broken English by someone who had published it on ‘Suite 101’, a paid Wikipedia.  One of her arguments was that we did not grasp that there was a Hesychasm of the West because our definition of Hesychasm was too narrow.  Given that another poster has claimed that the Jesus Prayer had no intrinsic connection to Hesychasm, implying that Hesychasm was some sort of mind-expanding yoga, we are simultaneously being attacked for being too narrow about Hesychasm and, it seems, too broad.
So let us look at what Hesychasm is.  As we pointed out on our blog, there is a historical evolution, broadly summarized by the Philokalia, that might be called the Hesychastic tradition of the Orthodox Church.  When we look at the matter historically, we are necessarily grounded in historical specificity.  That means that the claim that there is a Hesychasm of the West just won’t wash.  There is a mysticism of the West; that we don’t deny, without passing judgement on its validity one way or another.  However, Western mysticism is just not historical Hesychasm.  To see this all you have to do is read St Diadochos of Photiki and St John of the Ladder.  These authors speak of certain techniques.  Certain strategies of what a Westerner might call contemplation.  They also speak of grace.  They have a certain anthropology that underlies their conception of the mystical journey.  St. John of the Ladder speaks of restraining the immaterial mind within the material body.  He also speaks of the Jesus Prayer.  It seems that he intends that the mind be brought into the heart practising the Jesus Prayer and that there the Hesychast practise a mental ascesis of the rejection of tempting thoughts.  Now without saying that the Westerner does not have contemplation, no one in the West has ever practised what these authors are discussing.  Western contemplation is different, even when it is apophatic.  The author that comes closest is St. John Cassian.  And indeed certain aspects of the Hesychast tradition entered into the concrete Western traditions through St. John Cassian.  But by the time we get to the Carmelites or the Carthusians, there is no longer any great similarity between Hesychasm and Western mystical traditions.  This is the sort of historical fact that someone might study in graduate school.
Now Fr. Kimel in his very balanced discussion raises the question as to whether a Carmelite or Carthusian might practise Hesychasm without the theological apparatus of St. Gregory Palamas.  First of all, the distinction between essence and energy (or ‘action’ or ‘activity’) is already found in the Cappadocian Fathers in the 4th Century.  It is not an innovation of St Gregory Palamas.  Next, the Carmelites and the Carthusians have their own mystical traditions which are in harmony with the teachings of the Roman Pontiff.  Why would they want to try out something new that might not be in harmony?  What we were arguing in our blog post is that to the extent that there is a different underlying anthropology and theology of grace in the method you are using (Hesychasm) from what you believe (Thomism, neo-Thomism, etc.) you are going to create a tension (or worse) in your spiritual practice.  If you are a Westerner, why would you bother?  Do one or the other.  If you are an Eastern Rite Catholic, there is very great room for personal confusion or worse.  And we pointed out what we thought were the three options that faced the Eastern Rite Catholic faced with the possibility of choosing to practise Hesychasm or not.