Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Application of Orthodox Theology

By Protopresbyter Fr. John Romanides

All men regardless of nationality, race, and color have the noetic faculty and therefore the possibility of reaching illumination by means of purification and then if God pleases they may experience glorification at its varying degrees.

In any case the varying levels of theoria are the highest experiences of Orthodox spiritual life and theology.

Such a spiritual life and theology is neither Greek, nor Russian, nor Bulgarian, nor Serbian, etc., but rather prophetic, apostolic, or simply christian.

In the light of this one may put the question, what is "Russian Spirituality", and why is it presented as something higher than or simply different from other Orthodox spiritualities?

It seems that once Orthodox theologians come to the realization that the highest form of theology is theoria, which is the ongoing tradition of Pentecost in history, then they can properly take up positions for examining this tradition in its historical setting in order to evaluate correctly the applications of this theology to the relations of the Church to society and the world at large.

The most powerful element in this understanding of theology before us is that its bearer is liberated from enslavement to his environment, not by means of escape from it, but by the liberation of the noetic faculty from influence and domination by the intellect, the passions and the environment in such wise that the intellect, the passions and the environment are transformed by those who have reached illumination and theoria.

It is quite obvious that Christ prayed for the union of the Apostles and their followers in the vision of the glory of the Father in Himself by the Holy Spirit "in order that the world may believe" that the Father sent Him.

The world does not believe because of Christians in general, since they are many times no better and even worse than members of other religions. Because of such Christians many people cannot see the sense in taking Christianity seriously, even though they may accept Christ as a great religious leader and moral teacher.

It is only because of Christians in the states of illumination and theoria that the world believes that the Father sent His Son. One can readily examine how those in theoria influence their environment by studying the cult of Saints especially centered in their icons and relics.

Having this tradition of theoria in mind one begins to realize that there are many idols and myths which have invaded the modern Orthodox understanding of history by means of the official Russian tradition which after Peter the Great betrayed the Orthodox Civilization of New Rome and joined the Feudal Civilization of Frankish Europe. The unceasing tradition of theoria means that as long as this tradition continues the Patristic tradition continues, meaning simply that the central core of the Orthodox tradition continues.

At the time of the fall of New Rome this tradition was very strong among the Romans of the Patriarchates of New Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

However, soon after the foundation of the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Church of Moskovy officially condemned hesychasm, to wit the Trans-Volga Elders, known as Non-Possessors, and supported a type of monasticism which is foreign to the tradition of theoria and more like the feudal monastic establishments of feudal Europe.

Yet there is a tendency to picture the Roman Orthodox under Arabic and Turkish occupation as second-rate Orthodox Christians, and Russian Orthodoxy as the best example of everything Orthodox.

It seems rather that Churches with a strong tradition of theoria are no better of worse than the other Churches with a strong tradition of theoria. Since theoria is the same wherever it is found, so the piety, spiritual life and theology is the same also.

In any case it is clear that once the Filioque controversy broke out between Franks and Romans, the Franks automatically were forced to terminate the Patristic tradition since the Roman Fathers after St. John Damascus actively wrote against and condemned the Frankish Filioque.

It is necessary to study and get a clear picture of when and why the Russians followed the Franks in terminating the Patristic tradition. It is this Russian tradition which was taken to the new kingdom of Greece with the establishment of the Theological School of the University of Athens.

It is very significant that the Council of 1368 in Constantinople New Rome declared that St. Gregory Palamas is a Father of the Church like the other great Fathers and excommunicates all who disagree. What this Council was actually doing is condemning those who agreed with the Franks who believed that their scholastic theology is better than Patristic theology which for the Franks ended in the 8th century.

It is also very clear that the Orthodox tradition of theoria has no room whatsoever for the Latin distinction between the so-called active life and the so-called contemplative life. Both these parts of the life of celibacy of the Latin tradition of monasticism and orders are foreign to Orthodoxy.

The reason is obvious. When the noetic faculty attains to and contains the unceasing memory of God alone, the intellect, the memory, the body, and the passions continue to function, with the difference that instead of being dominated by the environment they are dominated by the noetic faculty which is completely liberated.

Because love in this state is not selfish but selfless the individual in this stage of perfection does not love God alone, but also all men and creation. He is even willing to forego his own salvation for that of others.

This means that true glorification extends from the noetic faculty and saturates the soul and body and sanctifies the environment, i.e, social and material creation.

The Orthodox warrior does not seek escape from the material world, but the sanctification of the material world by its liberation from the devil and his followers. However, he first learns how to win battles from those who have become experts in this warfare and then he teaches others.

This is what the Critical Examination of the Applications of Theology seems to be all about.

Source: "Critical Examination of the Applications of Theology".

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