[ Part 1 ] - [ Part 2 ] - [ Part 3 ]


© John S. Romanides
|Part 1| — |Part 2|
  1. Empirical Theology
  2. The Bible and Tradition
  3. Instruments, Observation, Concepts, and Language
  4. Diagnosis and Therapy
  5. The Rise of Monasticism, Its Contribution, and Decline
  6. Orthodox Spirituality, the Same in East and West
  7. Criteria for Reunion
|Part 3|

In part I we presented a summary of evidence which testifies that feudalism in Western Europe did not result from the commingling of the Roman and Germanic races and customs, as commonly believed, but rather from the subjugation of the West Romans to their conquerors. The Franks then turned their attention to the ecclesiastical and doctrinal enslavement of Papal Romania, attempting to cause a split between Papal and East Romania. This effort failed so long as the Roman nation remained in control of the Papal throne.

European and American histories treat the alienation between East and West as though it were inevitable, because of an alleged separation of the Roman Empire itself into East and West, because of alleged linguistic and cultural differences, and because of an alleged difference between the legal West and the speculative East.[ 1 ] Evidence strongly suggests that such attempts to explain the separation between East and West are conditioned by prejudices inherited from the cultural tradition of the Franks, and from the he centuries-old propaganda of the Frankish Papacy.

The evidence points clearly to the national, cultural, and even linguistic unity between East and West Romans (which at times almost brought Francia to her knees), and which survived to the time when the Roman popes were replaced by Franks. That the pre-Tusculan Roman popes never accepted the Frankish condemnation of the East Romans for alleged heresy, but, on the contrary, participated in the condemnation of the Franks, (albeit without naming them) are facts to be seriously considered.

The Decretal principles of juridical procedure had been a part of the Papacy for at least a hundred years before the East Franks took over. However, it is certain that Roman popes would never have thought of applying these principles to administration so that the local synods would be replaced by direct monarchical rule of the popes, as happened later. The Franks resisted the Roman popes's juridical surveillance. They would never have accepted a Roman pope's direct rule, just as the East Romans would never accept the direct rule of a Frankish pope.

Had the Franks not taken over the Papacy, it is very probably that the local synod of the Church of Rome (with the pope as president), elected according to the 769 election decree approved by the Eighth Ecumenical Synod in 879, would have survived, and that there would not have been any significant differences between the papacy and the other four Roman Patriarchates.

However, things did not turn out that way. The Papacy was alienated from the East by the Franks, so we now are faced with the history of that alienation when we contemplate the reunion of divided Christians. In any case, the administrative structure of the church cannot be judged and evaluated simply by whether or not it complies with ancient canon law and custom, as is usually done on the Orthodox side. Nor can one simply appeal to an alleged need of the Church to adapt itself to changing times and circumstances, in order to allegedly improve what is good by making it more efficient.

Many of today's Protestants would accept such an approach, but would not agree that the adaptation could not be elevated to dogma, as has been done by the Papacy itself. Orthodox, Latin, and Protestant theologians would agree that authentic Christianity has to have a continuity with its apostolic past, but at the same time must adapt to current situations and needs. This means that the interplay between theology and society is accepted as a normal necessity in the history of Christianity. Nevertheless, Christians are divided because each group sees the adaptation of the other as a serious break in continuity and, therefore, in authenticity.

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Empirical Theology

Perhaps the key to unwinding the mass of questions awaiting examination by the specialists in dialogue would be to adopt methods used in the positive sciences, and to relegate the methods already in use from the social sciences to a dependent level. Of course, one could not readily apply such methods to an examination of God and the life after death, but one could certainly do so for this life, with regard to spiritual experiences in the various religions.

In the Orthodox partisan tradition, genuine spiritual experience is the foundation of dogmatic formulations which, in turn, are necessary guides for leading to glorification. Translated into the language of science, this would mean that verification by observation is expressed in descriptive symbols which, in turn, act as guides for others to repeat this same verification by observation. Thus, the observations of prior astronomers, biologists, chemists, physicists, and doctors become the observations of their successors.

In exactly the same manner, the experience of glorification of the prophets, apostles, and saints are expressed in linguistic forms, whose purpose is to act as a guide to the same experience of glorification by their successors.

The tradition of empirical observation and verification is the cornerstone of sifting factual reality from hypotheses in all of the positive sciences. The very same is true of the Orthodox patristic theological method also.

A basic characteristic of the Frankish scholastic method, mislead by Augustinian Platonism and Thomistic Aristotelianism, had been its naive confidence in the objective existence of things rationally speculated about. By following Augustine, the Franks substituted the patristic concern for spiritual observation, (which they had found firmly established in Gaul when they first conquered the area) with a fascination for metaphysics. They did not suspect that such speculations had foundations neither in created nor in spiritual reality.

No one would today accept as true what is not empirically observable, or at least verifiable by inference, from an attested effect. so it is with patristic theology. Dialectical speculation about God and the Incarnation as such are rejected. Only those things which can be tested by the experience of the grace of God in the heart are to be accepted. "Be not carried about by divers and strange teachings. For it is good that the heart by confirmed by grace," a passage from Hebrews 13.9, quoted by the Fathers to this effect.

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The Bible and Tradition

The Fathers did not understand theology as a theoretical or speculative science, but as a positive science in all respects. This is why the patristic understanding of Biblical inspiration is similar to the inspiration of writings in the field of the positive sciences.[ 2 ]

Scientific manuals are inspired by the observations of specialists. For example, the astronomer records what he observes by means of the instruments at his disposal. Because of his training in the use of his instruments, he is inspired by the heavenly bodies, and sees things invisible to the naked eye. The same is true of all the positive sciences. However, books about science can never replace scientific observations. These writings are not the observations themselves, but about these observations.

This holds true even when photographic and acoustical equipment is used. This equipment does not replace observations, but simply aids in the observations and their recordings. Scientists cannot be replaced by the books they write, nor by the instruments they invent and use.

The same is true of the Orthodox understanding of the Bible and the writings of the Fathers. Neither the Bible nor the writings of the Fathers are revelation or the word of God. They are about the revelation and about the word of God.

Revelation is the appearance of God to the prophets, apostles, and saints. The Bible and the writings of the Fathers are about these appearances, but not the appearances themselves. This is why it is the prophet, apostle, and saint who sees God, and not those who simply read about their experiences of glorification. It is obvious that neither a book about glorification nor one who reads such a book can never replace the prophet, apostle, or saint who has the experience of glorification.

The writings of scientists are accompanied by a tradition of interpretation, headed by successor scientists, who, by training and experience, know w what their colleagues mean by the language used, and how to repeat the observations described. So it is in the Bible and the writings of the Fathers. Only those who have the same experience of glorification as their prophetic, apostolic, and patristic predecessors can understand what the Biblical and Patristic writings are saying about glorification and the spiritual stages leading to it. Those who have reached glorification know how they were guided there, as well as how to guide others, and they are the guarantors of the transmission of this same tradition.

This is the heart of the Orthodox understanding of tradition and apostolic succession which sets it apart from the Latin and Protestant traditions, both of which stem from the theology of the Franks.

Following Augustine, the Franks identified revelation with the Bible and believed that Christ gave the Church the Holy Spirit as a guide to its correct understanding. This would be similar to claiming that the books about biology were revealed by microbes and cells without the biologists having seen them with the microscope, and that these same microbes and cells inspire future teachers to correctly understand these books without the use of the microscope.

And, indeed, the Franks believed that the prophets and apostles did not see God himself, except possibly with the exception of Moses and Paul. What the prophets and apostles allegedly did see and hear were phantasmic symbols of God, whose purpose was to pass on concepts about God to human reason. Whereas these symbols passed into and out of existence, the human nature of Christ is a permanent reality and the best conveyor of concepts about God.

One does not, therefore, need telescopes, microscopes, or a vision of God, but rather, concepts about invisible reality, which human reason is by nature allegedly capable of understanding.

Historians have noted the naiveté of the Frankish religious mind which was shocked by the first claims for the primacy of observation over rational analysis. Even Galileo's telescopes could not shake this confidence. However, several centuries before Galileo, the Franks had been shocked by the East Roman claim, hurled by Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), of the primacy of experience and observation over reason in theology.

Today's Latin theologians, who still use their predecessor's metaphysical approach to theology, continue to present East Roman theologians, such as the hesychasts, as preferring ignorance to education in their ascent to union with God. This is equivalent to claiming that a scientist is against education because he insists on the use of telescopes and microscopes instead of philosophy in his search for descriptive analysis of natural phenomena.

The so-called humanist movement in Eastern Romania was an attempt to revive ancient Greek philosophy, whose tenets had already been rejected, long before modern science led to their replacement in the modern West. To present this so-called humanist movement as a revival of culture is to overlook the fact that the real issue was between the primacy of reason and that of observation and experience.

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Instruments, Observation, Concepts, and Language

Modern science has arisen by the accumulated techniques of testing with the aid of instruments the imaginative theories proposed by the intellect. Observation by means of these man-made instruments has opened up vast areas of knowledge which would have been absolutely impossible for the intellect to even begin to imagine.

The universe has turned out to be a much greater mystery to man than anyone was ever able to imagine, and indications are strong that it will yet prove to be an even greater mystery than man today can yet imagine. In the light of this, one thinks humorously of the bishops who could not grasp the reality, let alone the magnitude, of what they saw through Galileo's telescope. But the magnitude of Frankish naiveté becomes even greater when one realizes that these same church leaders who could not understand the meaning of a simple observation were claiming knowledge of God's essence and nature.

The Latin tradition could not understand the significance of an instrument by which the prophets, apostles, and saints had reached glorification.

Similar to today's sciences, Orthodox theology also depends on an instrument which is not identified with reason or the intellect. The Biblical name for this is the heart. Christ says, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."[ 3 ]

The heart is not normally clean, i.e., it does not normally function properly. Like the lens of a telescope or microscope, it must be polished so that light may pass through and allow man to focus his spiritual vision on things not visible to the naked eye.

In time, some Fathers gave the name nous (nouV) to the faculty of the soul which operates within the heart when restored to normal capacity, and reserved the names logos_(logoV) and dianoia (dianoia) for the intellect and reason, or for what we today would call the brain. In order to avoid confusion, we use the terms noetic faculty and noetic prayer to designate the activity of the nous in the heart called (noera euch).

The heart, and not the brain, is the area in which the theologian is formed. Theology includes the intellect as all sciences do, but it is in the heart that the intellect and all of man observes and experiences the rule of God.

One of the basic differences between science and Orthodox theology is that man has his heart or noetic faculty by nature, whereas he himself has created his instruments of scientific observation.

A second basic difference is the following: By means if his instruments, and the energy radiated by and/or upon what he observes, the scientist sees things which he can describe with words, even though at times inadequately. These words are symbols of accumulated human experience.

In contrast to this, the experience of glorification is to see God who has no similarity whatsoever to anything created, not even to the intellect or to the angels. God is literally unique and can in no way be described by comparison with anything that any creature may be, know or imagine. No aspect about God can be expressed in a concept or collection of concepts.

One can readily see why Plato's theory of ideas, even in Augustinian form (whereby creatures are literally copies of real archetypal prototypes in the divine mind), are consistently rejected by the Fathers of the Church.

Thus, the experience of glorification has no room either for Augustine's speculation about God by the use of psychological analogies, nor for the claim of some Russian theologians that the Fathers of the Church allegedly theologize about God on the basis of some kind of 'personalism.' Neither the term, nor the concept, is ever applied to God by the Fathers. The reason is clear. All the Fathers emphasize, and mean what they say, that there is absolutely no similarity between God and any of His creatures. This means that the names of God or language about God are not intended to be the means by which the human intellect can attain to concepts which reveal the essence of God to the intellect. Rather, the purpose of language about God is to be a guide in the hand of a spiritual father who leads his student through various stages of perfection and knowledge to glorification where one sees for himself what the saints before him insisted upon-that God is completely different from concepts used about Him.

It is for this reason that positive statements about God are counterbalanced by negative statements, not in order to purify the positive ones of their imperfections, but in order to make clear that God is in no way similar to the concepts conveyed by words, since God is above every name and concept ascribed to Him.

The Fathers insisted against the Eunomian heresy that language is a human development and not created by God. Arguing from the Old Testament itself, Saint Gregory of Nyssa claimed that Hebrew is one of the newer languages in the Middle East, a position considered today correct. Compare this with Dante's claim that God created Hebrew for Adam and Eve to speak, and preserved it so that Christ would speak this language of God also. Of course, Christ did not speak Hebrew, but Aramaic.

Nyssa's analysis of Biblical language has always been dominant among East Roman writers. I have found Dante-type theories so far only among the Eunomians and Nestorians. Given such presuppositions, one can see why the Fathers insist that to study the universe, or to engage in philosophical speculation adds nothing to the stages of perfection leading to glorification.

The doctrines of the Holy Trinity and of the incarnation, when taken out of their empirical or revelatory context, become and have become ridiculous. The same is true of the distinction between the essence and uncreated energy of God. We know this distinction from the experience of glorification since the time of the prophets. It was not invented by Saint Gregory Palamas. Even modern Jewish theologians continue to see this clearly in the Old Testament.

Although God created the universe, which continues to depend on Him, God and the universe do not belong to one category of truth. Truths concerning creation cannot apply to God, nor can the truth of God be applied to creation.

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Diagnosis and Therapy

Having reached this point, we will turn our attention to those aspects of differences between Roman and Frankish theologies which have had a strong impact on the development of difference is the doctrine of the Church. The basic difference may be listed under diagnosis of spiritual ills and their therapy.

Glorification is the vision of God in which the equality of all mean and the absolute value of each man is experienced. God loves all men equally and indiscriminately, regardless of even their moral statues. God loves with the same love, both the saint and the devil. To teach otherwise, as Augustine and the Franks did, would be adequate proof that they did not have the slightest idea of what glorification was.

God multiplies and divides himself in His uncreated energies undividedly among divided things, so that He is both present by act and absent by nature to each individual creature and everywhere present and absent at the same time. This is the fundamental mystery of the presence of God to His creatures and shows that universals do not exist in God and are, therefore, not part of the state of illumination as in the Augustinian tradition.

God himself is both heaven and hell, reward and punishment. All men have been created to see God unceasingly in His uncreated glory. Whether God will be for each man heaven or hell, reward or punishment, depends on man's response to God's love and on man's transformation from the state of selfish and self-centered love, to Godlike love which does not seek its own ends.

One can see how the Frankish understanding of heaven and hell, poetically described by Dante, John Milton, and James Joyce, are so foreign to the Orthodox tradition. This is another of the reasons why the so-called humanism of some East Romans (those who united with the Frankish papacy) was a serious regression and not an advance in culture.

Since all men will see God, no religion can claim for itself the power to send people either to heaven or to hell. This means that true spiritual fathers prepare their spiritual charges so that vision of God's glory will be heaven, and not hell, reward and not punishment. The primary purpose of Orthodox Christianity then, is to prepare its members for an experience which every human being will sooner or later have.

While the brain is the center of human adaptation to the environment, the noetic faculty in the heart is the primary organ for communion with God. The fall of man or the state of inherited sin is: a.) the failure of the noetic faculty to function properly, or to function at all; b.) its confusion with the functions of the brain and the body in general; and c.) its resulting enslavement to the environment.

Each individual experiences the fall of his own noetic faculty. One can see why the Augustinian understanding of the fall of man as an inherited guilt for the sin of Adam and Eve is not, and cannot, be accepted by the Orthodox tradition.

There are two known memory systems built into living beings, 1.) cell memory which determines the function and development of the individual in relation to itself, and 2.) brain cell memory which determines the function of the individual in relation to its environment. In addition to this, the patristic tradition is aware of the existence in human beings of a now normally non-functioning or sub-functioning memory in the heart, which when put into action via noetic prayer, includes unceasing memory of God, and therefore, the normalization of all other relations.

When the noetic faculty is not functioning properly, man is enslaved to fear an anxiety and his relations to others are essentially utilitarian. Thus, the root cause of all abnormal relations between God and man and among me is that fallen man, i.e., man with a malfunctioning noetic faculty, uses God, his fellow man, and nature for his own understanding of security and happiness. Man outside of glorification imagines the existence of god or gods which are psychological projections of his need for security and happiness.

That all men have this noetic faculty in the heart also means that all are in direct relation to God at various levels, depending on how much the individual personality resists enslavement to his physical and social surroundings and allows himself to be directed by God. Every individual is sustained by the uncreated glory of God and is the dwelling place of this uncreated glory of God and is the dwelling place of this uncreated creative and sustaining light, which is called the rule, power, grace, etc. of God. Human reaction to this direct relation or communion with God can range from the hardening of the heart (i.e., the snuffing out of the spark of grace) to the experience of glorification attained to by the prophets, apostles, and saints.

This means that all men are equal in possession of the noetic faculty, but not in quality or degree of function.

It is important to not the clear distinction between spirituality, which is rooted primarily in the heart's noetic faculty, and intellectuality, which is rooted in the brain. Thus:

1.) A person with little intellectual attainments can raise to the highest level of noetic perfection.

2..) On the other hand, a man of the highest intellectual attainments can fall to the lowest level of noetic imperfection.

3.) One may also reach both the highest intellectual attainments and noetic perfection.

Or 4.) One may be of meager intellectual accomplishment with the hardening of the heart.

The role of Christianity was originally more like that of the medical profession, especially that of today's psychologists and psychiatrists.

Man has a malfunctioning or non-functioning noetic faculty in the heart, and it is the task especially of the clergy to apply the cure of unceasing memory of God, otherwise called unceasing prayer or illumination.

Proper preparation for vision of God takes place in two stages: purification, and illumination of the noetic faculty. Without this, it is impossible for man's selfish love to be transformed into selfless love. This transformation takes place during the higher level of the stage of illumination called theoria, literally meaning vision-in this case vision by means of unceasing and uninterrupted memory of God.

Those who remain selfish and self-centered with a hardened hear, closed to God's love, w ill not see the glory of God in this life. However, they will God's glory eventually, but as an eternal and consuming fire and outer darkness.

In the state of theoria the noetic faculty is liberated from its enslavement to the intellect, passions, and environments, and prays unceasingly. It is influenced solely by this memory of God. Thus continual noetic prayer functions simultaneously with the normal activities of everyday life. It is when the noetic faculty is in such a state that man has become a temple of God.

Saint Basil the Great writes that "the indwelling of God is this-to have God established within ourself by means of memory. We thus become temples of God, when the continuity of memory is not interrupted by earthly cares, nor the noetic faculty shaken by unexpected sufferings, but escaping form all things this (noetic faculty ) friend of God retires to God, riving out the passions which tempt it to incontinence and abides in the practices which lead to virtues."[ 4 ]

Saint Gregory the Theologian points out that "we ought to remember God even more often than we draw out breath; and if it suffice to say this, we ought to do nothing else... or, to use Moses' words, whether a man lie asleep, or rise up, or walk by the way, or whatever else he is doing, he should also have this impressed in his memory for purity."[ 5 ]

Saint Gregory insists that to theologize "is permitted only to those who have passed examinations and have reached theoria, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at least are being purified."[ 6 ]

This state of theoria is twofold of has two stages: a.) unceasing memory of God and b.) glorification, the latter being a gift which God gives to His friends according to their needs and the needs of others. During this latter sate of glorification, unceasing noetic prayer is interrupted since it is replaced by a vision of the glory of God in Christ. The normal functions of the body, such as sleeping, eating, drinking, and digestion are suspended. In other respects, the intellect and the body function normally. One does not lose consciousness, as happens in the ecstatic mystical experiences of non-Orthodox Christian and pagan religions. One is fully aware and conversant with his environment and those around him, except that he sees everything and everyone saturated by the uncreated glory of God, which is neither light nor darkness, and nowhere and everywhere at the same time. This state may be of short, medium, or long duration. In the case of Moses it lasted for forty days and forty nights. The faces of those in this state of glorification give off an imposing radiance, like that of the face of Moses, and after they die, their bodies become holy relics. These relics give off a strange sweet smell, which at times can become strong. In many cases, these relics remain intact in a good state of preservation, without having been embalmed. They are completely stiff from head to toes, light, dry, and with no signs of putrefaction.

There is no metaphysical criterion for distinguishing between good and bad people. It is much more correct to distinguish between ill and more healthy persons. The sick ones are those whose noetic faculty is being cleansed and illumined.

These levels are incorporated into the very structure of the four Gospels and the liturgical life of the Church. Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke reflect the pre-baptismal catechism for cleansing the heart, and the Gospel of John reflects the post-baptismal catechism which leas to theoria by way of the stage of illumination. Christ himself is the spiritual Father who led the apostles, as He had done with Moses and the prophets, to glorification by means of purification and illumination.[ 7 ]

One can summarize these three stages of perfection as a.) that of the slave who performs the commandments because of fear of seeing God as a consuming fire; b.) that of the hireling whose motive is the reward of seeing God as glory, and c.) that of the friends of God whose noetic faculty is completely free, whose love has become selfless and, because of this, are willing to be damned for the salvation of their fellow man, and in the cases of Moses and Paul.

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The Rise of Monasticism, Its Contribution, and Decline

Theoretically, the clergy is supposed to be elected from among the faithful who have reached illumination or glorification. The historical outline of the process, whereby it became customary to elect bishops who had not reached the spiritual experience of which dogmas are a verbal expression, is described by Saint Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1042), recognized as one of the greatest Fathers of the Church. This means that his historical analysis is part of the Orthodox Church's self-understanding.

The three stages of perfection are three stages of spiritual understanding and, at one time, existed in each community. This is comparable to having in each community university students, graduate students, and professors. This would be the case when religious leaders are at the higher levels of illumination. However, it is possible that the religious leaders may not be spiritually at the level of the students.

The outcome of the collapse among the clergy in the spiritual life and understanding thus far described, was the rise of an ascetic movement parallel to the Episcopal communities. This became the monastic movement, which preserved the prophetic and apostolic tradition of spirituality and theology. When he custom prevailed that bishops were recruited mostly from monasticism, the ancient tradition of bishops as masters in spirituality and theology was greatly restored, due to the very powerful influence of Saint Symeon the New Theologian. This restoration was so strong that it gave the East Roman Churches the strength to not only survive the dissolution and disappearance of the Empire, but also to keep spirituality and theology at a surprisingly high level during the Ottoman occupation of the four East Roman Patriarchates, right down to the so-called "Greek" revolution.

Under the influence of the French citizen and agent Adamantios Koraes, officially recognized by the 1827 Hellenic Third National Assembly as the Father of Neo-Hellenism, the new Greek state decided the Church of Greece should follow the example of Russian Orthodox, because it was in an advanced state of Westernization, especially since the time of Peter the Great (1672-1725). The Greek state founded a Greek Church, and literally forced it to separate from the Ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople-New Rome, and at the same time declared war on monasticism. The unbelievable ignorance of Adamantios Koraes became the ideology upon which the Church of Greece's new spirituality and new theology was founded.

The Russian Church had dealt a blow to Orthodox spirituality and theology by condemning Maximos of Mount Athos and Trans-Volga elders in the sixteenth century. In other words, the Russian Church became like a keeper of books about astronomy, biology, and medicine, but had gotten rid of the telescopes, microscopes, and the scientist who used them. This made the Church ripe for Westernization under Peter the Great.

One of the amazing quirks in history is that while the Greek state was getting rid of theology and spirituality based on noetic prayer, this same tradition was being reintroduced into Russia by means of the spiritual children of Paisios Velitchkovsky of Moldavia who passed away in 1817.

It was extremely fortunate for Orthodoxy at the same time when Koraes' followers were in power that the Greek state did not extend to Mount Athos and the many monasteries within what was left of the Ottoman Empire. Otherwise, the imbecilities of Adamantios Koraes would have had an even more destructive effect on Roman Orthodoxy, now called Byzantine Orthodoxy, because of this same Adamantios Koraes who undertook to convince the inhabitants of Old Greece that they were not also Romans, but exclusively Greeks, who had allegedly forgotten their real national identity. The vision of Adamantios Koraes was to replace patristic spirituality, theology, and Roman nationality with Greek philosophy and nationalism as the basis of theology and political philosophy. It is perhaps not an accident that Napoleonic France revived such policies pertaining to East Romans which are similar to the Charlemagnian ones described in Lecture 1. Napoleon was, after all, a descendant from the Frankish nobility of Tuscany, established there since the time of Charlemagne.

Now this vision is dead, put into the grave by the further advances in modern science and the very strong revival of patristic theology and spirituality along with Roman or so-called Byzantine national identity.

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Orthodox Spirituality, the Same in East and West

In order to have a clear picture of what this means in terms of today's dialogues, we have only to be reminded that the theology and spirituality of Roman Christians was the same in both East and West, whether written in Greek or Latin, with, however, the exception of Augustine.

The later differences between Carolingian Frankish and Roman Orthodox theology are clearly visible in the differences between Augustine and Saint Ambrose, who is usually presented as Augustine's teacher. However, not only is there no evidence that there were intimate relations between the two, but their theologies point in different directions. We have pointed this out in some detail elsewhere.

However, we shall turn our attention to Gregory of Tours, who gives us clear testimony that during Merovingian Frankish rule, Orthodox spirituality and theology were flourishing in Francia. At the same time, they were not very well understood by the new class of aristocratic administrator bishops created by the Frankish kings. (We skip Saint John Cassian, since he is pre-Frankish and his identification with Eastern spirituality and theology is unquestioned.)

Gregory of Tours was a great admirer of the spirituality and theology described in this lecture. He recognizes and expresses his high regard for Saint Basil the Great and Saint John Cassian of Marseilles (one time deacon of Saint John Chrysostom) as the guides of monasticism in Gaul. IN his many writings, Gregory of Tours never mentions Augustine. Yet Gregory's understanding of the spirituality and theology of Saint Basil and Saint John Cassian is very limited and is colored by some basic and, at times, humorous errors.

Gregory reports that in the treasury of Saint Martin's Church, he found the relics of the Agaune Martyrs, members of the Theban Legion sent to Gaul in 287 to crush a revolt. Gregory writes that "the relics themselves were in a terrible state of putrefaction."[ 8 ] It is clear that Gregory did not know how to recognize holy relics. Corpses in even a slight, let alone terrible, state of putrefaction are not holy relics.

Gregory terminates his History of the Franks with the miracles and death of Saint Aredius Abbot of Limoges. He writes that, "One day when the clergy were chanting psalms in the cathedral, a dove flew down from the ceiling, fluttered gently around Aredius and then alighted on his head. This was, in my opinion, a clear sign that he was filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. He was embarrassed at what had happened and tried to drive the dove away. It flew around for a while and then settled down again, first on his head and then on his shoulder. Not only did this happen in the cathedral, but when Aredius went off to the bishop's cell, the dove accompanied him. This was repeated day after day..."[ 9 ]

Aredius clearly had reached the state of glorification of long duration. However, Gregory's ignorance of this tradition led him to confuse and substitute the linguistic symbol of the dove used to describe this experience, with a real bird. The attempt to drive the dove off is Gregory's understanding of Aredius' testing of the vision, to make sure it is not demonic or hallucinatory. That the dove left, and returned, and then remained on him day after day means that he was in a state of glory, first of short duration and then of long duration. That he went about his business as usual during this state, and that the state was in perceptible to those around him who themselves were in a state of illumination, was also evidence of his being in a state of glory.

Gregor's misunderstanding can also be seen in his description of the life of Patroklos the Recluse. Gregory writes that his "diet was bread soaked in water and sprinkled with salt. His eyes were never closed in sleep. He prayed unceasingly, or if he stopped praying for a moment, he spent his time reading or writing."[ 10 ]

Gregory believes that to pray unceasingly, one would have to somehow stay awake unceasingly. Also since Patroklos was known to spend time reading and writing, this means for Gregory that he had to stop praying to do so. Gregory was unaware that unceasing prayer continues without intermission, while asleep or while awake, and while reading, writing, walking, talking, toiling, etc.

In addition, Gregory's claim that Patroklos' "eyes were never closed in sleep" would be an unheard of miracle. When Patroklos was in a state of glorification, he not only did not sleep, but he did not eat bread or drink water either. But he was not unceasingly in such a state in this life. During this state he stopped praying. When he was not in this state of glory, he both slept his three or so hours per day, and prayed without any interruption whatsoever. However, at the time these misunderstandings were being recorder, there were many bishops in Francia who understanding was less that that of Gregory.

This can be seen in the case where certain bishops ordered the Lombard ascetic Vulfolaic to come down from his column, claiming that "It is not right what you are trying to do. Such an obscure person as you can never be compared with Symeon the Stylite of Antioch. The climate of the region makes it impossible for you to keep tormenting yourself in this way."[ 11 ] Evidently the life of Saint Daniel the Stylite of Constantinople was still unknown in Francia.

While in the state of noetic prayer or glory, wherein one passes back and forth between these two stages, one attains to such physical resources that one resists the normal effects of the environment. This has nothing to do with self torment or an attempt to appease God. Noetic prayer is also the key to understanding the spiritual power by which Orthodox Christians persevered in martyrdom, and also why those who renounced Christ under torture were considered to have fallen from the state of grace, i.e., illumination, or noetic prayer.

What is important for Gregory is that he presents Vulfolaic as saying "Now, it is considered a sin not to obey bishops, so of course, I came down...I have never dared to set up again the column...for that would be to disobey the commands of the bishops."[ 12 ]

Here we have an important distortion of the meaning of obedience. It is clear that neither Gregory nor his colleagues knew what Vulfolaic had been doing. However, what they did know is that they had to secure the obedience of the faithful in order to preserve, as much as possible, law and order for their master, the Frankish king, who appointed them. Therefore, disobedience to a bishop is a sin that has a special importance.

The effectiveness of the bishops as officers of the law was also enhanced by the pagan distinction between heaven and hell which we find in Augustine and Gregory of Tours. Both are unaware that the clergy are supposed to prepare people for the vision of God, which everyone will have either as heaven or as consuming fire. This unawareness is coupled with the peculiar shift of the need to change from man to God. For Gregory, God must be satisfied by obedience to the clergy and participation in their sacraments as the condition for man's entry into paradise.

Augustine's position had been even more consistent in that God had allegedly decided in advance who is going to heaven and who is to remain in hell. Because of the alleged inherited guilt of Adam and Eve, all are worthy of hell, so that those chosen for heaven have no merit of their own to warrant God's choice, which is therefore allegedly unconditioned and free. These ideas of Augustine would be quite humorous if it were not for the fact that so many millions of Europeans and Americans used to believe in them, and many still do.

[ Return ]

Criteria for Reunion

The criteria used for the reunion of divided Christians cannot be different from those used for the union of associations of scientists. Astronomers would be shocked at the idea that they would unite with astrologers. Members of a modern medial association would be shocked at the suggestion that they should become one with an association of quack doctors and tribal medicine men. In the same way, the Fathers would be shocked at the idea of a union between Orthodoxy and religious superstitions which has not the slightest idea about the production of authentic holy relics. Avoiding this issue by claiming that such a theology is for monks only, is like claiming that the cure of cancer is for doctors only.

The correct interplay between theology and society is not much different from a correct interplay between science and society. Thus, the question of organizational and administrative structure, as in the sciences, is resolved into the question of the success of theology in producing the results for which it exists.

"Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."

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[ 1 ] The European and Middle Eastern parts of the Roman Empire were carved out of areas which, among other linguistic elements, contained two bands, the Celtic and the Greek, which ran parallel to each other from the Atlantic to the Middle East. The Celtic band was north of the Greek band, except in Asia Minor, where Galatia had the Greek band to the east, the north, and the south. Northern Italy itself was part of the Celtic band and Southern Italy a part of the Greek band (here called Magna Graecia) which in the West covered Southern Spain, Gaul, and their Mediterranean islands. Due consideration should be given to the fact that both the Celtic and Greek bands were east and west of Roman Italy. The Romans first took over the Greek and Celtic parts of Italy and then the Greek and Celtic speaking peoples of the two bands. The Celtic band was almost completely Latinized, whereas, the Greek band, not only remained intact, but was even expanded by the Roman policy of completing the Hellenization of the Eastern provinces initiated by the Macedonians. The reason why the Celtic band, but not the Greek band, was Latinized was that the Romans were themselves bilingual in fact and in sentiment, since in the time of their explosive expansion they spoke both Latin and Greek, with a strong preference for the latter. Thus, one is obliged to speak of both the Western and Eastern parts of European Romania in terms of a Latin North and a Greek South, but certainly not of a Latin West and a Greek East, which is a Frankish myth, fabricated for the propagandistic reasons described in Lecture I, which survives in text books until today. Indeed, the Galatians of Asia Minor were in the fourth century still speaking the same dialect as the Treveri of the province of Belgica in the Roman diocese of Gaul. (Albert Grenier, Les Galois [Paris, 1970], p. 115.) That the Latin West/Greek East division of Europe is a Frankish myth is still witnessed to today by some 25 million Romans in the Balkans, who speak Romance dialects, and by the Greek speaking inhabitants of the Balkans and the Middle East, who call themselves Romans. It should be noted that it is very possible that the Galatians of Asia Minor still spoke the same language as the ancestors of the Walloons in the area of the Ardennes when the legate of Pope John XV, Abbot Leo, was at Mouzon pronouncing the condemnation of Gerbert d'Aurillac in 995.

[ 2 ] For further details on this subject one may consult my studies: "Critical Examination of the Applications of Theology," Proces - Verbaux du Deuxieme Congres de Theologie Orthodoxe. (Athens, 1978), pp. 413-41, and the various works quoted therein.

[ 3 ] Matthew 5.8.

[ 4 ] Epistle 2.

[ 5 ] Theological Oration 1.5.

[ 6 ] Ibid. 1.3

[ 7 ] On the relations between the Johanine and Synoptic gospel traditions see my study, "Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 4 (1958-59), pp. 115-39.

[ 8 ] The History of the Franks 10.31, trans. Lewis Thorpe (London, 1977), p. 601.

[ 9 ] Ibid. 10.20, p. 589.

[ 10 ] Ibid. 5.10, p. 265

[ 11 ] Ibid.8.15, p. 447.

[ 12 ] Ibid.

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