April 25, 2020

The Kollyvades Fathers: The Renaissance of Greek Orthodoxy

By Protopresbyter Fr. George D. Metallinos

I dedicate this summary to the Venerable Nikodemos the Hagiorite and Kollyva (+ 07/14/1809).

The appearance of the Kollyvades in the 18th century on the Holy Mountain, and more broadly throughout Greece, marks a dynamic return to the roots of Orthodox tradition and to Orthodox spirituality.

Their "movement", as it is called, was a renaissance, both traditional and progressive; it was patristic and thus genuinely Orthodox.

In the 18th century, which was difficult for our national history, the Kollyvades sought to oppose the then current atheistic enlightenment with the mystical experience of Orthodoxy, which is the only one that saves humanity.

A group of monks, who were living within the apostolic and patristic tradition of noetic prayer, took the occasion from a specific event (the celebration of Memorials on Saturday), not without theological implications, to illuminate the proper course of the Church.

Another occasion was given by the publication in 1777 of a book, which spoke of the need "for frequent divine communion" and came from the circle of the Kollyvades.

The book was condemned by the Patriarchate (1785), for allegedly creating scandal and discord.

Later, however, the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself overturned the condemnation. The same people, who supported the Memorials on Saturday (from the "kollyva" of Memorials they mockingly called their opponents the Kollyvades), also supported frequent divine communion, opposing the ancient ecclesiastical act influenced by the Western custom of the Orthodox communing a few times a year.

The Kollyvades had the patristic tradition as the center of their life, which is the genuine tradition of the Church.

They were accused of being "innovators", but their "innovation" was nothing more than an attempt to return to authenticity and purify ecclesiastical life from any foreign element that distorted its truth.

The place where the Kollyvades struggled was mostly centered around worship.

They recommended the frequent participation of the faithful, after continuous spiritual struggle and preparation, in the mystery of the divine eucharist, the strict observance of the ecclesiastical typikon, which ensures spiritual balance, and the study of patristic works, which ensures the continuity of the patristic phronema.

Their opponents, the Anti-kollyvades, fought them as hard as they could, because they were strangers to their spirit and expressed a falsified tradition, which saw the effort of the Kollyvades as a dangerous "innovation".

It is important, however, that the few Kollyvades, who were clearly involved in the dispute and became known in history, showed that on Mount Athos, the stronghold and the sacred ark of Orthodoxy over the centuries, the patristic-traditional line was not lost, which a large number of monks, who immediately sided with them, followed.

To them belongs the honor of keeping the patristic continuity in our Church, noetic prayer and hesychasm, asceticism and experience, which constitute the identity of Orthodoxy throughout the centuries.

To all of them this honor belongs, and above all to the protagonists of this spiritual struggle, who are:

a) Saint Makarios Notaras (1731-1805), a descendant of a well-known Byzantine family, born in Corinth, and Metropolitan of Corinth (1765-1769). He is the "inspirer" of the movement.

b) Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite (1749-1809), who was officially proclaimed a Saint in 1955. He was the "theologian" of the Kollyvades movement. An ardent father, a great ascetic-hesychast and a very experienced writer, who left about 100 voluminous books, in which the whole of patristic wisdom is recalled, so that we can unreservedly say that whoever reads the works of Saint Nikodemos is as if he has studied the whole of our patristic tradition. Needless to say, from this point of view, I also recommend to those who have no means of being able to study the ancient Church Fathers themselves, the works of Saint Nikodemos, which also helped Hellenism within the Ottoman Empire to get to know its hesychastic tradition. In particular, his Handbook of Counsels is the most representative new work on Orthodox spirituality.

c) Saint Athanasios the Parios (1722-1813), the most militant of the Kollyvades but also the most martyric. He also became a Saint of our Church in 1995. Between the years 1776-1781 he remained deposed as a heretic for his involvement in the movement. He fought with sacred passion Voltairism and atheism and was accused of being an obscurantist, because he advised parents not to send their children, who would become priests, to study in the West. He, however, did not fight education, which, when right, leads to Orthodoxy, but atheistic education and the arrogance of secular wisdom, which sacrifices divine truth to the Moloch of the supposed omnipotence of human reason.

These were the leaders of the struggle.

Only the fact that they are recognized Saints of our Church proves the repercussion and the subsequent recognition of their struggle in the consciousness of the Orthodox fullness.

The Kollyvades had a great influence on their time and on later generations.

Historian Sergios Makraios, Alexandros Papadiamantis and Alexandros Moraitidis are directly influenced by the Kollyvades.

The revival of patristic Orthodox spirituality is due to them. Even other Orthodox countries (Russia, Romania, etc.), directly or indirectly, have benefited from the influence of the Kollyvades, as can be seen in the rebirth of hesychasm in these countries as well.

The Kollyvades are still becoming our spiritual guides in the rediscovery and the correct continuation of our Greek Orthodox journey.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.