NR. 2 – 2020

Rezumate Studii Teologice 2020.2

Pr. Lect. Dr. Roger CORESCIUC — Experiența – cale a cunoașterii. Scurte repere patristice

Summary: Experience – a path to knowledge. Elements of Patristic theology

Spiritual life is based on experience. The Fathers we discuss in this study show that there can be no real knowledge of God except through direct experience of the relationship with God. We talk much about catechesis, about knowledge, but we ignore the fact that the Fathers saw knowledge as the close relationship between man and the Subject of knowledge, that is God. Not even the Scripture, the written word, is the only way to configure and develop the process of knowledge. The Scripture separated from its Subject, that is, from God, can only be a mere collection of texts. The moment we go beyond the text, to reach the real understanding of the stakes of the Scripture, we understand the extent to which God is the Subject of Scripture. The mysteries of God cannot be known before they are established in the experience of virtue. Only advancement in practical life entitles man to become acquainted with God. Any theorizing of Christianity, unless it is based on the practice of virtue, remains an imperfect intellectual effort. It is the ascetic experience that helps man to rediscover himself, a rediscovery so desired today. In the patristic tradition, experience becomes a way of authentic self-knowledge, which is not hindered by psychological leanings. At the same time, true self-knowledge engenders humility. The Fathers of the twentieth century show us, once again, that the political and social crises of this century cannot be overcome by a purely intellectual endeavor. This study states that science is limited, confined to the realm of created things. This does not mean that we deny the role of science, we only set the limits of its competence. It may excel in God’s creation, but the power of science ceases in the face of the mystery of uncreated realities. For this reason, the efforts of St. Gregory Palamas to clarify the relationship between the uncreated and the created is crucial to understanding the very possibility of knowing God. In a world that is increasingly tending to rely on the evidence that science gives us, we find that, very often, there are no answers to fundamental problems. The direct relationship with God is often ignored, and the role of theology is considered minor, with no real implications for the course of the world. Modern man considers, or has considered, that he can regulate all aspects of social and political life without regard for the transcendental aspects on which theology always draws attention. A self-governing world without clear guidelines for the realities beyond matter is a world that does not understand that true life in God, which presupposes a deep relationship with God, is the solution to the contemporary crisis. The contemporary theologians mentioned in this study lived in the world of the twentieth century. They experienced the pain and turmoil of this world and dealt with some of the greatest tragedies that could ever exist in human history. Totalitarian regimes that have taken over many parts of the world have shown once again that restricting human capabilities to the finite horizon can lead to incurable tragedies. Lack of God’s experience, based on one’s own logic and reason, can give birth to philosophical monsters, capable of mercilessly tearing apart any spiritual reality. Whether it is the contemporary Fathers or the Fathers of Philokalia, it is clear that all of them understood that God can be felt in history only by elevating history to eternal reality. The abandonment of which St. John of Damascus speaks is, in fact, man’s inability to perceive God’s presence in the world and to understand how this presence is constitutive for man of all times. The deepening crises that are afflicting the contemporary world are a sign that this world is somehow unconsciously accepting this apparent abandonment of God. Religious and social failings as well as man’s inability to rise above his own limited existence show very clearly that these crises are of a spiritual nature and are caused by a lifestyle that excludes the continuous relating to the experience of God. The Fathers mentioned in this study show that direct knowledge of God is, in fact, our relationship with God. This familiarity with God is not acquired, however, by isolating oneself in an ivory tower, but it is derived from two major virtues: humility and simplicity. Autonomous reason only prevents man from entering freely into this encounter and adventure which the condition of the son or brother of God presupposes. The man who always wants to know will not have time for love and for rest that can help him foretaste the beauty of the eternal age. These realities show us that even contemporary catechesis cannot have as its objective only the use of methods or instruments that pursue and use only reason. In a world of autonomous reason, the Church cannot afford to make the same mistakes that the world makes. The massive psychologization of the contemporary world is, unfortunately, a trend that is beginning to infiltrate the way contemporary theologians position themselves in relation to the realities of the world. The Fathers warn that self-knowledge must be honest. He who really knows himself can know God and have a living and true relationship with the Creator. The one who really knows himself does not seek social or political visibility. He is humble, knows his state of sinfulness, and does not distort his actual image. Every step he takes in the spiritual life does not aim to be visible in the eyes of others, but to grow in real self-knowledge and in the knowledge of God. Such knowledge is not proper and specific to this world, but is a state which elevates man to the reality of truth in which no lie finds any place, and which is configured only to provide the necessary interface for the relationship between man and God. Self-knowledge, as a premise of the relationship with God, cannot be understood without hesychia, without the state of tranquility in which man, without major existential disturbances, enjoys the experience of God, receives the joy of seeing the whole world clean, and rests in this joy which only the relationship with God gives him. He who has a direct relationship with God puts himself in the state of truth. Father Sophrony Sakharov insists on this aspect: he who wants to have the experience of God must be in the truth, that is, in that state in which the lie is removed and man tastes the presence of God. The drama of contemporary man is that he no longer really knows himself. His mind is dark and can no longer grasp reality correctly. This inability often leads to universal drama. The passionate man has a dark mind, he no longer sees God, he no longer feels Him, and in the end he no longer feels or knows his own limits. Ignorance of one’s own limits is similar to darkness, with a lack of authentic knowledge through experience. The texts selected by this study aim to raise awareness of the risk of empowerment and the inability to truly taste the divine life. The author brings forward these texts not so much in order to comment on them, but to show that the idea and reality of God’s experience is an idea that ran through the whole Orthodox theology, providing the framework for a proper understanding of the role of man in this world as well as in his relationship with God. Contemporary theology must provide a healthy patristic perspective to help the world emerge from the slump of ignorance of human self and God. If theology makes a pact with the philosophy of this world, it loses its prophetic vocation and ends up as another philosophy among so many philosophies.

Diac. Dr. Mihai-Iulian GROBNICU — Rugăciunea ca timp și loc al revelației dumnezeiești, în gândirea Sf. Simeon Noul Teolog

Summary: Prayer as time and place of divine revelation, according to Saint Symeon the New Theologian

The present study aims to raise awareness about the gnoseological dimension of praying, as illustrated by the writings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), one of the most significant mystical figures of the Eastern Christianity. The author beings by highlighting the experimental character of Saint Simeon’s theology. Summing up his thinking, the article emphasizes that for Saint Symeon the discourse on God must be preceded automatically by the awareness of God’s presence in one’s life, followed by the transformation produced by this conscious relationship with God. Without such an experience, one does not know who is the One he is talking about. That is because he is talking about God without having met Him. Therefore, the knowledge of God requires not only the exertion of mind and its capacity to abstract and formulate it but all the spiritual powers belonging to the human person. Ultimately, the author points out that the human being can speak of God when, at the end of one’s spiritual journey, characterized by the ascesis of body and soul, the experience of encounter with God transforms him/her and leaves traces in his mind and heart. From this moment on, one will see reality employing the new knowledge revealed during the encounter and companionship of God.

The writings of Saint Symeon abound in descriptions of his ecstatic experiences, in which God appears to him and speaks to him through and from within the uncreated divine Light. After such mystical experiences, Saint Symeon confirms that the Light is knowledge, not the other way around, in contrast to the modern epistemological discourse. Following this line of thought, the author indicates how Saint Symeon integrates the discoveries one may receive during one’s spiritual journey, following the mystical encounter with God, with what one knows about God from the Holy Scriptures. While emphasizing the importance of reading the Holy Scripture, Saint Symeon draws attention to the risk of using the Holy Book for informational or philosophical purposes, which would lead to limited and purely speculative knowledge of God. Unlike this idea of knowledge, the example put forward by Saint Symeon points to the inclusion of Scripture into one’s own life so that any reference to biblical events to raise echoes in one’s own spiritual life. In this way, it is not only Scripture that testifies how one should relate to God and the world, but also it is one’s own spiritual experience that confirms what was revealed by the Holy Scriptures. Hence, the spiritual life becomes a Scripture through which God reveals Himself to the whole world. Emphasizing the revelatory character of the Christian spiritual journey, the author points out that, for Saint Symeon the New Theologian, the proper place and time in which God reveals Himself to the human being is the act of praying. To him, prayer is no longer simply the moment when one asks for favors or gives glory to God but it is a moment of intense intimacy with God, the Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier of the World. Prayer is the event in which God reveals Himself as He did, in ancient times, through the prophets. Especially in his hymns, Symeon offers extensive descriptions concerning the divine revelations received during the moments of contemplative prayer. God addresses him as He did in the Old Testament period, revealing Himself to the human person, teaching, and guiding humanity on what to do. Moreover, in contrast to the practice observed in the Holy Scripture, where the revelation was recorded in writing long after the time God granted it to His prophets and apostles, Symeon is urged to write down what he saw and heard so that it may serve as a testimony, not only to contemporaries but to the next generations of Christians as well. Analyzing the writings of Saint Symeon, the author concludes that prayer is not only the place where one transmits to God what one wants but also the event where God reveals His identity to the human being, Who He is and what His plan is for the world.

Drd. Vlad-Alexandru IONAȘCU — Glorificarea întunericului prin celebrarea magică. Fenomenul Halloween

Summary: Glorification of darkness through magical celebration. The Halloween phenomenon

Although antiscientific, and opposing all rational dispositions, occult ideologies are becoming a constant of social and religious life. The manifestation of Halloween originates from the Celtic festival of Samhain, an old celebration of darkness and death, that often involved blood sacrifices, magic rituals and other deviant behavior. In the process of inculturation, Catholic missionaries exerted vigorous efforts to end the pagan superstitions, in an attempt to replace the ceremony of the dead with an event of memorialization for all the saints. This initiative failed, and many habits and practices were intertwined with local customs all over the world. The Great Famine produced a massive migration of Irish population to the United States of America, and consequently an import of some of the ancient beliefs. This major migration was a real turning point in the history of Halloween, the celebration turning from a hallmark of ethnic identity into a symbol of the American culture. As a result, the phenomenon has pervaded schools and kindergartens worldwide, and has become recognized in the Balkan countries, including Romania.

Contemporary folklore includes carved pumpkins, trick-or-treating, divination games, wearing scary costumes, communicating with the dead and other forms of abnormal activities. Interestingly enough, research has shown that one of the main aspects of this bizarre celebration targets mostly youngsters, harming their innocence. Disguising as ghosts, monsters or demons is an important attraction, that children learn to embrace and love. The hideous and malevolent appearances are camouflaged into an accepted typology. The reader can be inclined to assert that Halloween is not always revered as a metaphysical event, but instead is perceived as a consumerist holiday, abounding in cheap items and bad taste. Even if that is the case, it must be known that even the basic gestures of ritualic expression can and will cause spiritual decay. The present study demonstrates that fascination with evil can lead to threatening consequences for the religious perception, influencing both the mind and body.

Many scholars identify intrusive advertising campaigns, corruption and occultism often being propagated by the media, as violent and obscene aspects are always appreciated by the viewers. Without any doubt the promotion of Halloween is in line with the doctrine of secularism. Individuals tend to replace their traditional Orthodox faith with new or updated syncretic beliefs. An odd mixture of good and bad, normal and abnormal, holy and sacrilegious, takes over. In this context, an intriguing example is the manifestation of Krampus that recently reached the plains of Romania. The antithesis of characters indicates a strange dualism, by giving demons the divine authority to review the lives of children. Resemblance between this type of demonstrations and the Colectiv nightclub fire cannot be ignored.

Even if the current investigation does not detail the available missionary strategies against the occult expressions, it is mandatory to highlight the need to reiterate the words of the Holy Scripture, as genuine truth of all knowledge. Occasionally, the content encompasses portions of divine wisdom, offering the means to detach the victim from this spectacle of death and decadence. The context usually demonstrates a concrete fact: holy writings condemn all forms of occultism, regarding them as manifestations that are in direct contradiction with the teachings of Christian monotheism. The believer must always be reminded that he is made in the image of God and is forever called to defeat death and rise with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is safe to say that there is no room for a single drop of darkness on the path for salvation.

Drd. Dragoș ISBĂȘOIU — Priorități și exigențe catehetice actuale în gândirea părintelui Ilarion V. Felea

Summary: Contemporary catechetic priorities and necessities according to Fr. Ilarion V. Felea

The catechetic activity of Fr. Ilarion V. Felea was an outstanding one, remarkably expressed in his Orthodox teachings on the Church expounded in school, in various publications or in his own writings. The catechization of believers is not confined to conveying religious notions, but it also aims to eliminate disbelief or the pursuit of material welfare to the detriment of spirituality. The reverend professor worked relentlessly in order to bring Orthodox teachings to believers of all ages, dedicating himself to religious education in school, supporting young theologians to promote and confess different aspects of the Orthodox faith in the weekly publication „Biserica și Școala/ Church and School” and urging adults to be closer to God, the Church and to an authentic Christian life. Without any selfish concern, he considered the pastoral and missionary activity within the parish insufficient and he continued to take part in the preaching activity of Arad Diocese. Another important role which he held was that of contributor to „Biserica și Școala” gazette, which endorsed and defended the Christian Orthodox faith through numerous articles of clergymen, theologians, students, and where he himself published articles with catechetic, homiletic, apologetic character, or informed the readers about Church life.

Possessing a great understanding of the realities of his time, Fr. Felea aimed to present to believers his own answers to the questions which challenged Christian life. The two writings which any Christian should own, „Religia culturii/The Religion of Culture” and „Tâlcuirea Sfintei Liturghii/The Holy Liturgy Explained” are the fruit of his work, available to the readership only decades after his death. Through these two works, Fr. Felea aimed to demonstrate that anything is possible with God and that human life, however rich in culture, science and technological progress, is still incomplete because of the absence of God and the Church. Keeping this in mind, his message was that, without religion, culture and science can not offer people the necessary conditions for a fulfilling life, and, without a life centered around the Holy Liturgy and prayer, people, regardless of their scholarly education, are poor and disenchanted in the absence of religious understanding.

Throughout his life, Fr. Felea showed the path to knowledge, as demonstrates the way in which he supported the ideas presented in his writings. He did not confine himself to providing explanations from the Holy Scripture, the patristic writings or the liturgical texts of the Church, but he chose to put forward scientific justifications, thus encouraging the cultivation of knowledge for those interested. As a consequence, Fr. Felea’s style is not a classic one, since his writings contain religious conferences and meditations with a catechetic and even apologetic character rather than the usual catechesis, as demonstrate his works „Religia culturii” and „Tâlcuirea Sfintei Liturghii”. Thus, these two well documented writings can be considered a summary of the reverend professor’s entire catechetical activity, even though they share only the idea of religious culture. If „Religia culturii” is centered around the idea that there is no culture without religion, „Tâlcuirea Sfintei Liturghii” calls the reader to realize that without liturgical culture or, better said, without a culture centered around liturgical life, people cannot gain true culture. In other words, humans can acquire culture by educating themselves by resorting to bibliographical sources, but cannot live in close proximity to God without the help of the Holy Liturgy and of the liturgical life in the Church.

The work and writings of Fr. Ilarion V. Felea reveal a confessor who was not afraid of the consequences which he would have to endure because of the Christian views which he supported and preached in order to serve God as well as guide people to the Orthodox faith and to a responsible and confident Christian life. Thus, the man, priest and professor Ilarion V. Felea remains a role model for the clergy living in the modern world, providing various solutions and directions to meet the need for catechization and to respond to the attempts of those seeking to diminish and criticize the Orthodox teachings without understanding the contribution of the Church to culture and science. Unquestionably, the study of his work could offer an answer to questions which arise from skepticism, disbelief or from a sincere need for closeness to God and to the Church.

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