NR. 3 – 2020

Rezumate Studii Teologice 2020.3

Prof. Dr. Savu TOTU — Despre credință și cunoaștere la Sf. Grigorie Palama. Exerciții de „filosofie creștină”

Summary: On Faith and Knowledge in Saint Gregory Palamas’ Writings. Exercises in „Christian Philosophy”

Starting from the investigation of the relationship between faith and reason, and the implications of its thematization through the use of logical principles, in natural logic, by philosophers „outside” the Christian faith, and also through the use of „theological principles” after the revelation of the divine Logos, according to the „logic” of faith, to which St. Gregory Palamas resorts, the author clarifies the meanings of the terms „faith” and „knowledge” in Christianity and dwells on their contents, in the light of Palamite (theo)logical-linguistic considerations on the respective relationship. The present paper discusses certain statements of St. Gregory Palamas, subsuming them under the „Christian philosophy”, understood as a form of illumination of human thought in what is known as the „working together” of man and God. The author therefore considers the question of the right relationship between the use of reasoning in philosophy and Christian theology, without undertaking a comprehensive analysis, but only identifying the issues investigated by a „Christian philosophy”.

The understanding of the terms „Christian philosophy” and „Christian theology” is a matter of a correct designation of the matters/realities under investigation. If, in this context, we were to equate theology with philosophy, in the Pauline understanding as wise living „in Christ”, we would not be wrong! When, however, philosophy „outside” Christianity is related in the Christian perspective to Christian theology, the phrase „Christian philosophy” becomes a necessary designation in establishing a Christian’s dialogue with the philosopher „from the outside” (but interior to the „fallen man”), a dialogue of the „spiritual”/”inward” man with the „outside”/worldly man, a dialogue like that initiated by St. Paul in the Areopagus with the Stoics and Epicureans. Therefore „Christian philosophy” is not, and cannot be, just another human doctrine, one at the intersection of philosophy, as a human activity, and Christian theology, as revealed teaching, but this phrase designates the Christian way of life, in this particular perspective.

Making a clear separation between the concept (ἔννοια) of God, as defined by philosophers, and the living God, St. Gregory Palamas compels Barlaam to accept that by practicing faith, by living „in Christ”, our mind accepts another „logic”, that of the Logos, without annulling the human one, which is transfigured together with the body in the process of knowledge through faith. Therefore, only through the „eyes of faith” can the human mind „contemplate God without seeing”! Otherwise, if the miracle on Mount Tabor had not been possible, that is, the miracle of seeing the uncreated light „in the flesh” but not bodily, then faith in the Lord’s Resurrection would no longer be possible because neither would the preparation of the disciples for understanding the Truth in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost have been possible.

Referring to the words of St. Dionysius Areopagite, who „[teaches us] clearly what theology is: on the one hand, the mystical one, liturgical-initiatic, ineffable, uncreated, beyond expression, which operates and establishes man in God through revealed mystagogies, and on the other hand, the philosophical and demonstrative one, which convinces and demonstrates the truth of what is asserted”, we can say that St. Gregory Palamas proves that „fallacies of faith” are the effects of employing, without true faith, the natural logic in divine matters and, above all, shows that one can only philosophize/theologize after seeing God – „the mystical, liturgical-initiatic, uncreated, unutterable” theology. Therefore, when we pursue the clarification of problems that arise in the relationship of theology with philosophy „outside” Christian faith, or of difficult parts of the Holy Scriptures or various writings of the Fathers, or various answers to questions aiming to explain them in a way that is understandable to all, „Christian philosophy” is the very „philosophical and demonstrative” theology.


Summary: Jesus (Joshua) Barabbas, the „Son of the Master” or „Son of the Father”, and His Patristic Interpretation in the Early Christian Centuries

First mentioned in the trial that sentenced Lord Jesus Christ to crucifixion (Mt 27, 15-26, Mk 15, 6-16, Lk 23, 13-25, Jn 18, 38-19, 16), Jesus (Yeshua/Joshua) Barabbas or simply Barabbas became for posterity a metonymic expression of privilegium paschale (pascal pardon). Although the biblical narrative places him in opposition to Christ during the Passion Week, the fact that the Roman procurator Pilate of Pontus mentions his name in his attempt to free Christ, Jesus Barabbas (אַבָּא בַּר יֵשׁוּעַ) or simply Barabbas (אַבָּא בַּר, Βαραββᾶς) – translated as either „son of the father” or „son of the teacher/master” – has aroused the interest of contemporary scholars as well as literature, fine arts and visual arts. It has been hypothesized, admittedly erroneously, that the historical event of Passion Week does not involve two distinct characters, as the biblical narrative suggests, but a single protagonist presented to Pilate and then by Pilate in an ambivalent manner: first it is [Jesus] Barabbas („son of the father”) who is released because he was not found guilty under Roman law, and then Jesus called (ὁ λεγόμενος) Χριστός, „King of the Jews” (τὸν βασιλέα τῶν Ἰουδαίων, Mk 15:9, Jn 18:39), found guilty and sentenced to crucifixion for the crime of high treason. We shall not go into details here since our study is definitely centered around the patristic perspective of the Barabbas „character” and not around hypotheses concerning the biblical text.

Of course, the significance of his name, coupled with its theological connotation, is not omitted by the patristic writings of the early Christian centuries. The present study dwells on the patristic perspective of the first five Christian centuries and on the period when this character is discussed by the Church Fathers or writers, commenting on the Old Testament celebration related to the name of Barabbas and especially on the hermeneutic connotations attached. Based on these facts, through a diachronic analysis of patristic sources, the study reaches the following three conclusions:

  1. a) a small number of Greek manuscripts and some New-Testament translations mention the compound proper noun „Jesus Barabbas”. This fact was also known in Origen’s time, since he mentions it in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. The name „Jesus Barabbas” is missing from contemporary translations of the Gospels, most likely in order to avoid confusion and to focus the soteriological message on the Person of Jesus Christ;
  2. b) until Origen, the theological interpretations of Barabbas are completely absent, since the Church Fathers were mainly concerned with the analysis of the soteriological event of the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross, placing it in direct relation to the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur. Identifying the New Testament event with the Jewish feast of the atonement, the writers of the first four centuries (except Origen) had in view both the dual nature of the Saviour and the eschatological plan of His second coming in the midst of creation;
  3. c) From Origen onwards, and certainly in connection with the Yom Kippur feast, that Barabbas is interpreted in the typological sense of the goat sent into the wilderness. The Alexandrian writer is the first to offer an allegorical perspective and place Barabbas in direct relation to the goat sent to Azazel. Much more trenchant in his interpretation of Barabbas is the Blessed Jerome who places his image under the sign of the Antichrist, who was accepted by the Jews through their refusal to save Christ from death.

Pr. Lect. Dr. Nichifor TĂNASE — Απαθεια & Ησυχια (etic și noetic) – Spiritualitatea isihastă a „virtuții de-dumnezei-făcătoare” (Αρετη θεοποιος)


The ascetic struggle is man’s continuous effort for purification and return both to God and to his true “self”, which is “enhypostathized in Christ” since Baptism. Our image becomes imprinted with the image of Christ (Ga 4:19), which becomes the “real self” of man. The intellect/mind will, however, be returned not only to the heart, but even to itself (Tr. 1.2.4: Ἡμεῖς δέ, μὴ μόνον εἴσω τοῦ σόματος καὶ τῆς καρδίας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν αὐτοῦ πάλιν εἴσω πεμπομεν τὸν νοῦν). In formulating this argument St. Gregory seems to rely mainly on the work Divine Names, where Dionysius distinguishes between three movements of the soul: the linear, circular and spiral movement (DN 4.9). Linear movement means reaching for the things around the soul, and from these things it is led from symbols to simple and unified contemplations. The circular motion is the entry of the soul into itself from outside things. This is described as a spinning, a unified turning (συνέλιξις) of its intellectual powers as in a kind of circle, by which the soul gathers into itself from the many external things and conducts its unified self to beauty and good. The spiral movement is the movement of the soul towards the enlightenment of divine knowledge.

Mind understood as soul is also threefold (νοῦς, λόγος, πνεῦμα) in the likeness of the Holy Trinity. But there is also a depth or interior of our mind unknown to us, called “heart” – with an epistemological function. It is a heart as the hidden center of the mind, and being turned towards God, (what we call the super-conscious or the trans-conscious) it is the inner part in which Christ dwelt since the Baptism. For father Dumitru Stăniloae, ‘the final step of man’ or his divine image is the human self (das Selbst), the purest expression of the subject. The path to self-discovery is, therefore, “towards Christ, through our depths”, through prayer that experimentally fills the mind with the apophatic (stillness of the mind through the contemplation of divine light). All this is comprehended by man through the “understanding sense” (νοερᾷ αἰσθήσει) and is called “sense” due to the fact that the body also shares the grace that operates in the mind, with which it acquires a “together sense (συναίσθησιν) of the unspeakable mystery, after the soul” (Tr. 1.3.30-31).

The Christological dimension of virtue (τοῦ θεοῦ μίμησις & τὸ ἔνθεο πάθος) is linked to the fact that moral life is not a ‘stoic’ phenomenon of self‑control, but the fruit of communion with Christ. Taking over the relation μαθεῖν-παθεῖν (Dionysius, Div. Nom. 2.9, PG 3.648B) which he traces in its development throughout the patristic tradition, Kallistos Ware argues that “this certainly implies that mystical experience is a πάθος (passion)”. The essential text is that of Tr . 3.1.27, “Above nature (ὑπὲρ ϕύσιν), therefore, and virtue (ἀρετὴν) and knowledge (γνῶσιν) is the grace of deification (θεόσεως χάρις),…through which permeates (περιχωρεῖ) the whole of God in the whole of worthy (ἀξίοις) (Ambigua, PG 91, 1076 C), and the saints traverse (περιχωροῦσιν) entirely whole in the whole God, acquiring the whole God in themselves and, as a reward of the ascent to Him, ‘united according to the image of the soul to the body (ψυχῦς πρὸς σῶμα περιϕύντα προπον) as with some of His limbs’ (Ambigua, PG 91, 1088 BC) and qualifying them to be in Him through the enhypostasiata adopting (τῆς ἐνυποστάτου υἱοθεσίας) the one according to the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when you hear that God dwells into us through virtues or that through remembrance we have Him dwelling in ourselves, you do not consider this to be deification, [namely] the acquisition of virtues, but the light and grace of God coming through virtues […]“.

It is not about an elimination of passion through a preparatory discipline for moral excellence (as in Stoicism), but a deified transformation of human passions into dispassion. Furthermore, both his theology of the body’s participation in the experience of uncreated light and his teachings on ethics and virtue have a common basis in his Christology and theology of the Holy Mysteries. Therefore, “true virtue”, which is man’s participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, actively covers every stage of his spiritual life. As a human endeavour, imitating the virtues of Christ will not enable man to attain theosis. ‘For the reward of virtue [is none other than] to become God (ἆθλον γὰρ ἀρετῆς θεὸν γενέσθαι) and to shine with the pure light’ (St. Gregory the Theologian, Epistle 178, PG 37, 293A and Tr. 3.1.34). And St. Gregory Palamas says, “it [could] be called god-making virtue (ἀρετὴ θεοποιός), but [only] in the sense that it enables us to receive that radiance…” (Epistles to Athanasius of Kyzic 13)

Virtue, on the other hand, simply prepares man for theosis, makes him open to grace (Tr. 3.1.27). As a human activity, prayer belongs to the category of virtues, and by itself it is not sufficient to acquire man’s deification. The moral life of the believer is not a ‘stoic’ phenomenon of self – control, but the fruit of communion with Christ. St. Gregory Palamas through the phrase ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ προσέχειν ἑαυτοῖς offers a hesychastic reply to the Stoic dictum ἐπιμέλη ἑαυτοῦ (self-care): “they chose to take heed in silence/hesychia to themselves (ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ προσέχειν ἑαυτοῖς), (they need) to turn and close their mind in the body (ἐπανάγειν καὶ ἐμπερικλείειν τῷ σώματι τὸν νοῦν) and even in the innermost body of the body, which we call the heart” (Tr. 1.2.3 in Works III, p. 113).

Through the phrase “the wedding garment of the spiritual is virtue” (Homily 41.14), St. Gregory Palamas makes a distinction between “body”, which is the garment of the soul, and “flesh” (in the sense of ‘intemperance’), which stains this garment, that is, the body that thus becomes a ‘torn tunic’: (Homily 41.16). But, when “God is active in you, every form of virtue is added” (Homily 33.7); “for when God works in us, the whole image of virtue is born in us. And when God does not work in us, everything we do is sin […] and those who have the fragrance of Christ, and proclaim the virtues of Him who called them out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Pt 2:9)”.

Virtue is also likeness to God, a “most high kinship” (Homily 27.14; 27.2). Morality and virtue are thus considered much higher than a pious disposition or mere ethical standards. The revival of Aristotelianism in recent academic moral philosophy and, above all, the presentation of Aristotelian moral thought, independent of its metaphysical and theological context, leads to the neglect of the role of the divine in Stagirite moral philosophy. On the part of Orthodox ethics, in reply, a redefinition of “liturgical self-awareness” is needed in contemporary thought categories. The principle that man has the power to walk firmly in the path of virtue is, historically speaking, false. This principle leads to pride, the denial of God, and the self-deification of man. Christian morality is perceived as the “energy of divine grace”: “Without Me, says the Lord, you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5), “for God is the One who works in you both to will and to do, according to His good will“ (Phil 2:13).

From Aristotle, the virtue (dianoetic, or virtues of the intellect and the others, which he calls ethics or morals), according to its essence, is called the middle way (between a lack or defect and an exaggeration), but, in terms of excellence, it is the extreme good (“the greatest good”). Including for St. Gregory Palamas, if the imitation of Christ’s life begins with holy baptism as a type of man’s participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, and if the end is the victory over the passions, then the “middle” is the virtuous life lived according to the Gospel (Homily 21.5). Gregory Palamas considers virtue as a way in the spiritual life of the believer and therefore establishes the boundaries of virtue (ἀpεtή) between Holy Baptism (υιοθεσία) and dispassion (ἀπάθεια). He reveals the dynamic dimension that virtue has in the renewal of man (theosis or christomorphosis) .

Virtues do not only bring man to himself, but Christ himself shines in man through every virtue, for Christ is the being or essence of the virtues, and the power of growth in Christ is divine grace. Therefore, that stoic “self-care” is transformed here into a conversation of the self with the self in a waiting-longing after the change of our body into a “body of glory” (1 Co 15:43) and the future direct contemplation of God.

Pr. Marian SAVA — Isihaștii și martirii – apărătorii Ortodoxiei și ai neamului


The year 2022 marks the thousandth anniversary of the repose in the Lord of St. Simeon the Theologian, born to a noble family in Constantinople, who dedicated his life to God, despite receiving legal training. Through his spiritual and hesychastic experience, he showed that, although man is burdened by the cares of this world, if he fulfils the words of the Saviour Christ: „When you pray, go into your closet and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:6), then he will be able to feel the presence and work of God in his soul, even while living is in the midst of the turmoil of the world; for when man prays, he is in communion with God, and God is at work in his heart in silence.

At the turn of the millennia when St. Simeon the Theologian lived, the process of formation of the Romanian people, who were born Christians, had already been completed, following the preaching in Scythia Minor of the first disciple of the Saviour, St. Andrew the Apostle. Evidence of Christian life and presence in the area of formation of the Romanian nation, within the ancient borders of Burebista’s Dacia, is provided by the Byzantinologist Gy. Moravcsik (Byzantium and the Magyars, Budapest, 1970, p. 114), who informs us that by the time of the Mongol invasion in 1241, about 600 Eastern monasteries were recorded in Hungary, compared to 170-180 Western-Christian monasteries, which demonstrates the spread of Orthodoxy within the Carpathian arc, beyond the current borders of Romania.

The year of St. Gregory Palama’s repose in the Lord – 1359 – coincides with the establishment of the Metropolitanate of Wallachia, following the founding of Wallachia in 1290, by the „dismounting” (arrival and settling) of voivode Radu Negru from Amlaș and Făgăraș in Transylvania and the affirmation of its independence in 1330, by Basarab I, following the victorious battle of Posada, against the Hungarian King Robert Charles of Anjou. In this Wallachian principality, hesychasm flourished during the same period, with the arrival from Mount Athos of Saint Nicodemus, who founded the cenobitic monastery of Tismana as well as other monastic establishments.

Also in 2022, three hundred years will be commemorated since the birth of the future saint Paisius Velichkovsky, seeker of spiritual fulfillment and perfection of the soul through the prayer of the heart and purification of the soul. His search began in three monasteries in Ukraine, continued in Moldavia, where he was a disciple of St. Vasile (Basil) of Poiana Mărului, then continued on Mount Athos for seventeen years and was completed in the monasteries of Neamț and Secu in Moldavia.

Hesychasm has been practiced continuously in the Romanian principalities at least since the 14th century. There were hermitages and monasteries on both sides of the Carpathians, which facilitated communication among Romanians from in all three Romanian provinces. The sketes with their hesychast dwellers in the south and east of Transylvania, at the foot of the Carpathians, were the greatest obstacle to the spread of uniatism in Transylvania after 1700 and were the hubs of Orthodoxy, encouraging many priests and lay people, who defended and professed the ancestral faith even at the cost of their lives. Thus 1763, the year of the return of Saint Paisius from Athos to Moldavia, is also the year of the martyrdom of the Năsăud saints: Atanasie Todoran of Bichigiu, Vasile of Telciu, Grigorie of Zagra and Vasile of Mocod.

Although the historical data were available, the study offers a new perspective on the events surrounding uniatism in Transylvania. In the same period, another movement with denominational (as well as national and social) character, was the uprising led by Horea, Cloșca and Crișan (1784). It involved 167 Orthodox priests, some of whom baptised those of other denominations into the „Romanian faith”.

One conclusion of the present study is that man can acquire holiness through God’s grace both by undertaking asceticism, prayer and fasting, as hesychasts did, and by martyrdom – confessing Christ at the cost of one’s life. The first saints of the Church were the Martyrs. By their lives, hesychasts as well as martyrs defended both the Orthodox faith, their homeland or area of formation of the nation („love of the land” – Mihail Eminescu, Third Epistle) and the Romanian nation: „I defend my poor land and the needs of a struggling nation”.

Drd. Florin ȘTEFAN — „Nu voia Mea, ci voia Ta să se facă” (Lc 22, 42) – considerații teologice și psihologice privind compatibilizarea voinței umane cu cea dumnezeiască

Summary: Not My Will, but Thy Will Be Done” (Lk 22:42) – Theological and Psychological Considerations on the Compatibility of the Human Will with the Divine Will

This article starts from the observation that many of those who resort to the prayer of petition have a purely material motivation, such as gaining a desired position professionally, and neglect the relationship of communion with God. This way of relating to God reflects an „earthly” mentality of the postmodern man, trapped in a consumer society, whose utilitarian attitude is however not recent, but it dates back to the time of the Philokalic Fathers, such as St. John of the Ladder. But St. John Cassian points out that the demand for „ephemeral” things is an insult to God, rather than enhancing the relationship of divine-human communion. Man who focuses too much on materiality loses sight of spirituality, which thus plays a secondary role, and this aspect is reflected in his manner of relating to God. It is important that man’s prayers also contain material requests because, by appealing to God in the concrete circumstances of life, man makes prayer part of his needs and of the context in which he finds himself; however if man calls for the divine help only in extreme situations, in fact, he believes that God can have a place in his life, but he admits that there is life without Him, referring to Him as a provider of services. The Philokalic Fathers assure us that the qualitative changes among the requests during the prayer, appear with the registration of a spiritual progress in the human life – intense awareness of the presence and the love of God. We understand, then, that at the beginning of the spiritual ascension, we do not know how to pray in an authentic way, and that as we ascend the steps of the spiritual life, we begin to change our attitude towards prayer. When it prays for ephemeral things, the human mind dwells on „exterior things”, „worthless things”, as St. Isaac the Syrian or Evagrius Ponticus explain. Praying with a consumerist mindset, man loses sight of the infinite and eternal gift of God’s love. But genuine prayer is the one that also has fruits in human life. The believer who has cultivated a deep relationship with God and has progressed on the path of virtues, turns his attention in prayer mainly to spiritual things, demanding, for example, the power to advance in actss of virtue or knowledge of the reasons for things (St. Maximus the Confessor)

Another subchapter of the study discusses the fact that God may listen to the prayers of petition by granting different answers. And this is demonstrated by the fact that not all those who pray for the cure of a disease or suffering will be healed, but there is, on an experiential level, a discrepancy between the things required and the concrete results of the prayer. Our daily experience shows that among those who seek healing in prayer, there will be few who receive it. In this sense, the miracle is always an exception to the rule, not the rule.

Religious skeptics or atheists claim that God is very selective in healing and helping people by unknown standards. However, research in the field of psychology reveals that, although the result of fervent prayers is not as expected, people do not deny the existence of God, but maintain the relationship with the sacred, citing other reasons why their request was not heard by God. Most of the time, believers feel that their prayers have not been answered because of their personal unworthiness, blaming the failure on their weak personal faith or on the divine wisdom that does not necessarily act in accordance with the will of men. In fact, it has been shown that believers do not have enough „faith” to demand changes of a biological or physical nature, but rather of a psychological nature. Many authors find that people do not truly believe that God will perform the miracle of healing, and that is why they often seek moral support. If the sick person demanded a cure for the disease and the request remained unfulfilled by the perfect and omnipotent person, then the mental discomfort would be overwhelming. There are also authors who claim that man uses God’s help as a coping mechanism, out of the pressing need to use a means of prevention or conservation in order to adapt to the new situation. However, there are studies that show that prayers for change in the environment or biological preservation are a recurring feature of the world’s religions. For example, for rainfall or for good harvests, for the prevention of natural disasters, for protection on the battlefield, for the cure of disease and for fertility etc.

Even if we do not know clearly the criteria by which God miraculously chooses to intervene in human life, the Philokalic Fathers found pertinent arguments to justify the failure of some of the prayer’s requests. In particular, the answer of divine providence is closely dependent on one’s worthiness. Our sins become obstacles to obeying God’s prayers. Also, insufficient faith in the possibility of healing can be a key reason for its failure to succeed. But what separates us from his affirmative answer is our wills. Therefore, man’s request is fulfilled according to his availability to cooperate with divine grace. On the other hand, by giving God the freedom to decide the right time for His intervention in his life, man accepts and trusts His will. Also, the perseverance with which one prays is also an important element in the prayer of petition. The Fathers urge us to ask in prayer with fervent zeal and long perseverance (St. Isaac the Syrian, Evagrius Ponticus). The story of Job shows us that God sometimes tests our perseverance in prayer, which generates qualitative changes in human life.

The article concludes with considerations on the ideal form of the prayer of petition, which is in accordance with the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer: „Thy will be done (on earth, as it is in heaven)”. This kind of prayer prescribes the responsibility of the servant (Iabed Yahweh), who becomes obedient to the will of Heavenly Father. According to St. John Cassian, through this request people become like angels, because only angels always fulfill the divine will in heaven. Important biblical characters (the prophet Samuel, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Paul the Apostle) are epitomes of accountability and openness to God’s call. They think alike and adhere to the holy words that stand as true commandments in their hearts: „Speak, Lord, Your servant listens!”. Anchoring in God’s will and faith in Him will give man the much-needed patience for His intervention „at the right time” in his life. Humility, patience, awareness, and the alignment of life’s aspirations and perceptions with the creative energy of divine grace are just a few attributes of the spiritual man who opens up to the deep reality of the world and is willing to accept the change that comes with responding to his prayer. The Holy Fathers declare that abolishing one’s own will and joining it to the divine will generates virtues in man. Reaching spiritual maturity, man overcomes the attitude of self-sufficiency, becomes more prepared to assume the will of the Father, the only criterion of true prayer (Theophilus the Fool for Christ).

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