February 9, 2010

St. Peter of Damascus: Eight Types of Knowledge

St. Peter the Damascene (Feast Day - February 9)

St. Peter of Damascus was a great ascetic and hesychast about whom we know little, yet his writings occupy more space in the Philokalia than anyone else, save for St. Maximus the Confessor. In the words of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, his work is "a recapitulation of holy watchfulness...a circle within a circle, a concentrated Philokalia within the more extended Philokalia."

Having shown in detail the state of our fallen nature subject to the passions, St. Peter explains how to return to God through obedience to His commandments and practice of the virtues. By following to the end this path of sacrifice and self-denial, guided by an experienced Elder, one can attain blessed impassibility (apatheia) and rest for the soul. The purified intellect can then rise up in joy from contemplation to contemplation, from knowledge to knowledge until meeting with God Himself in a mingling of love.

A Hymn of Praise to St. Peter of Damascus

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Damascene numbers eight types of knowledge
for men of spiritual and divine background:

The knowledge of sorrow and all temptations,

The knowledge of the sum of one's transgressions;
one's transgressions and God's forgiveness.

The knowledge of horror, pain and fear,
Before death, in death and after separation,
when before the righteous judgement, the soul stands.

The knowledge of Christ, the Savior,
His life and all the saints;
Of the saints, their deeds, patience and words,
Which, like a silver bell resounds throughout the ages.

The knowledge of natural attributes;
Of physical phenomenon, variation and change.

The knowledge of forms and things,
Natural phantoms and all sensory beings.

The knowledge of the world, rational and spiritual;
The angelic world and the world of Hades, both good and evil.

The knowledge of God,
The One, Holy, Mighty and Immortal.
This knowledge is called Theology
To it, few are rarely elevated;
The greatest purity, a theologian needs
For the impure heart, to heaven does not reach.

Damascene, the seven elementary knowledges appropriates,
And to the eighth, to the knowledge of God he reached.
And the eighth is given by God and by God bestowed,
This is neither learned nor deserved.