October 3, 2013

The "Ecclesiastical Hierarchy" on the Metro

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

After the first day of the meeting with the Hierarchy, where several things were heard and done, I went home with the Metro. There I came upon a surprise I wanted to comment on.

In the seat opposite me sat a middle-aged lady with contemporary clothing. Immediately she opened her bag and pulled out a green bound book of the series Philokalia of the Sacred Neptics and began to read. She was reading the translation and sometimes looking at the original text, and she would here and there seem pleased by the look on her face. This made an impression on me. I also noticed she was reading "On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy" of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite.

Those who have a relationship with patristic texts know that it is an important text that shows what is the theological structure of the Church, what is the person and work of the Deacon, the Presbyter and the Bishop, and how does one achieve these ecclesiastical positions. Finally he presents the theological position that the constitution of the Church is hierarchical, that the three degrees of the Priesthood (Deacon-Presbyter-Bishop) are associated with the three Mysteries (Baptism-Chrismation-Divine Eucharist) as well as the three degrees of the spiritual life (Purification-Illumination-Perfection). The commentaries (scholia) made by Saint Maximus the Confessor on these texts are important together with the serious theological views that were passed down up to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite and contemporary theologians. They are important texts.

I got the courage and asked her if she liked the book she was reading. She replied in the affirmative. She then asked how much these texts express the views of Neoplatonism. I replied that in some places there are Neoplatonic terms, but these terms have a very different meaning and significance from the teachings of Neoplatonism. As an example I referred to the text where Saint Dionysios the Areopagite suggests that "theologians... at one time call Him (God) Eros and Love, and other times Lover and Beloved... by the one He is moved and by the other He moves" ("On the Divine Names"). This clearly differs from the views on love and God expressed by Plato and Aristotle.

Our conversation was interrupted because the train reached the station and we had to get off. I expressed my pleasure in meeting her without asking her name, and of course she didn't know or learn who she was conversing with.

But this event occupied me all day long. That night in the media I saw all the central news bulletins discussing about the illness of the Archbishop and of possible developments regarding his successor, etc., but on my mind was this scene of the encounter at the Metro. That is, I was thinking how many laypeople would like an ecclesiastical Hierarchy in accordance with patristic-ecclesiastical conditions, and also how many who hold pastoral positions in the Church unfortunately do not have the sensitivities that we encounter in the "spirit" of the content within "On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy" of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite. Many laypeople want Clergy who are therapists that ease the pain inside and replenish the existential void.

These are the basic problems of contemporary ecclesiastical life, and not the scheming for "key" positions.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Η «Εκκλησιαστική Ιεραρχία» στο «Μετρό»", October 2007. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.