In this book, entitled “Hesychia and Theology: The Context for Man’s Healing in the Orthodox Church", seventeen texts are published which make clear how indispensable for the knowledge of God is the hesychastic and neptic Tradition of the Church, as presented in the writings and teaching of the holy Fathers.
The book is dedicated by the author to three recent Elders who “received, preserved and handed on the Sacred Tradition entrusted to them”, Father Paisios the Hagiorite, Father Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia and Father Sophrony the Hesychast, who lived the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and suffered, learnt and taught.
We shall mention very briefly the subjects examined in the subsequent chapters.
1.Sanctity in the Orthodox Tradition. The basic preconditions and criteria for sanctity are identified, because not every ‘good’ person is a saint.
2. The Covenant of God. Both the Old and New Covenants are directly linked with theology and hesychia, and contribute to man’s regeneration.
3. The Spiritual Law. The force and effect of the spiritual law, according to the teaching of St Mark the Ascetic in his text “On the Spiritual Law”, is examined, as well as how the spiritual law operates in the lives of Christians. Ignorance and transgression of the spiritual law result in trials in this present life, with eternal consequences.
4. The Neptic Theology of the Orthodox Church as a Method of Healing. Hesychia is a complete science relating to thoughts, the heart and the senses, and helps a person to be delivered from passions, to overcome death and be united with God.
5. The Sacrament of Repentance as the Church’s Therapeutic Praxis. The aim and work of repentance are directed towards man’s healing.
6. The Person of the Spiritual Father and the Gift of Discernment. Taking the person of the Spiritual Father as a starting point, the author stresses essential aspects of the meaning of ‘person-hypostasis’, a term which refers first and foremost to the Triune God, but by extension to man, principally to the deified man who receives the energies of the Holy Trinity.
7. Holy Scripture and Worship. We are shown evidence revealing the close relationship between Holy Scripture and worship in the Church.
8. Readings for the Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God. There is a brief exposition of the theology of the readings for the Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, and the reader is offered the chance to be initiated into the theological significance hidden within each feast.
9.From the Morning Watch until the Night. Using the verse from the psalm of David as a starting point, the author analyses the prayer composed by Elder Sophrony of blessed memory to be read in the morning after rising from sleep.
10 Spiritual Inspiration. An account is given of Elder Sophrony’s teaching about inspiration. A Christian ought to be possessed by the spirit of Christian inspiration, which proceeds from divine Grace and man’s co-operation, in order for his life to acquire content, high spiritual meaning and purpose. He should imitate the way an artist lives, and struggle to experience and retain spiritual inspiration, because this will help towards his complete transfiguration and rebirth.
11. The Path to Deification. As the theological lessons from the life of St Mary of Egypt are pointed out, we realise that it is possible for a person to be transformed by the energy of God’s grace, however bad the condition in which he finds himself. By his personal striving, which is mainly characterised by repentance, but above all through the power of God, he can attain to deification.
12. Nous and Perception according to St Diadochos of Photiki. An analysis is made of elements of the teaching of St Diadochos of Photiki contained in his work “One Hundred Texts on Spiritual Knowledge”, which are highly significant for man’s healing and his union with God. Consideration is given to what exactly the nous is, how it relates to reason and the senses, and how a person can acquire existential knowledge of God “with full and conscious perception”.
13. Ecumenism in Practice: in Theology and Asceticism. Various signs are identified which reveal that even today contemporary theologians have been influenced by Western theology.
14. Orthodox and Secularised Theology. By examining key points in the work of St Gregory of Nyssa entitled “The Life of Moses”, the author shows that Orthodox theology is the vision of God and has no connection with secular learning.
15. Monasticism according to St Eustathios of Thessaloniki.
16. Hesychia and Theology. This chapter presents various aspects of the saintly life and inspired teachings of Elder Paisios, as set out in the book called “The Life of Elder Paisios the Hagiorite”.
17. The Hesychastic Elements of the Holy Eucharist. As the reader studies this chapter he will see for himself how closely the Divine Liturgy is connected with the hesychastic life of the Orthodox Tradition.
The book “Hesychia and Theology” deals with a wide variety of subjects which demonstrate the depth of Orthodox ecclesiastical life.
Author: Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos