As early as
the Old Testament era, the Prophet Jeremiah had spoken
prophetically of a new Covenant with mankind that the
Lord was going to provide. It would differ greatly from
the Old Covenant, because it was to have the very Son of
the living God as its Guarantor (Hebr.7:22, 9:15-17),
and it was to be sealed with His death, by the spilling
of His precious and most holy Blood (Luke 22:20).
This Covenant was not going to be written on stone slabs
or paper, but in the hearts of His faithful - the new,
spiritual Israel. In the Lord's reborn people, as
the Apostle Paul had written: "but he
is a Jew who is
one inwardly; and circumcision
is that of
the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter [...]."
(Rom.2:29) God was going to
imprint His will inside their hearts and He would fill
them with knowledge of Him (theognosy), since
there would be no need for one to motivate the other to
know the Lord. They would be
acquiring that knowledge intimately and mystically.
prophesied by Jeremiah: "Behold,
days are coming, quoth the Lord, and I will make a new
covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Iouda.
It will not be like the covenant that I made with their
fathers in the day when I took them by their hand to
bring them out of the land of Egypt, because they did
not abide in my covenant, and I was unconcerned for
them, quoth the Lord, because this is the covenant that
I will make with the house of Israel after those days,
quoth the Lord. Giving I will give my laws in their
mind, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will
become a god to them, and they shall become a people to
me. And they shall not teach, each his fellow citizen
and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because
they shall all know me, from their small even to their
great, because I will be gracious regarding their
injustices, and remember their sins no more."
Himself had explicitly taught that this was to be
realized by the Holy Spirit - the third Person of the
Holy Trinity - with His direct teaching in the hearts of
the faithful: " “These
things I have spoken to you while being present with
you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father
will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and
bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."
(John 14:25-26) Also: "However,
when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide
you into all truth; for He will not speak on His
own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and
He will tell you things to come.
Apostle mentions : "But
the anointing which you have received from Him abides in
you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as
the same anointing teaches you concerning all things,
and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught
you, you will abide in Him.
But: just because these are written and we read them
nowadays, does that mean we have also made them our
acquisitions? The answer is No, if we want to be honest.
We can verify this, from what the saints themselves
mention - having had genuine experience of enlightenment
and deification themselves. A genuine experience of the
Patristic literature maintains is that
after the Fall, when man chose to
deify himself through disobedience and not become
deified through obedience, he forfeited the Holy
Spirit and his mind became clouded. Thereafter, he
remained far away from the experiential knowledge of
man needed was the
cleansing of human nature, illumination and deification,
in order for his ancient beauty to be restored. This was
possible to be attained, from the moment that the Logos
of God became flesh, taking on our own nature - the way
it was before the Fall.
Further along, we will
indicatively examine what the Fathers and the teachers
of the Church have said on the topic, and we shall see
how very careful they were on the theological points
that pertained to the knowledge of God.
begin with a quotation from the patrology of
S.Papadopoulos, on the prerequisites for "theologising"
as discerned by Basil the Great.
«His fear was so immense in the face of theology, that
he often avoided responding to theological questions and
would more often beg persistently that the faithful do
not raise issues of faith. People should be satisfied
with whatever has been formulated in the Church - in the
plain words of the Scripture and the ancient Tradition
(Epistle 258). But only when that same faithful - and
frequently a self-declared cacodox - creates problems
and doubts that cannot be confronted using the plain
words of the Bible and the extensively developed
Tradition of the Church, only then does Basil focus on
the problem and theologize; that is when he ministers to
the salvation of the faithful. And his ministry-theology
wants to presuppose (and indeed does presuppose) the
Time. One must
dedicate time in order to attain the theory of truth,
for theology, and be rid of external distractions: "One
must take every measure to move away from external
noises and to create every kind of quiet in the secrecy
of the heart's chamber, to thus achieve the theory of
the truth" ("On the Psalms", 3:3)
Catharsis (cleansing). The struggle
for cleansing constitutes the foremost opus of a
theologian. Catharsis restores man to his original
natural beauty - to his original Adamian state.
Fallen man has become carnal; he has a carnal conscience
and that is the reason his nous cannot theorize - cannot
visualize the truth: "Inasmuch as, the carnal
man, who has a nous that is un-exercised for theory
[...] is unable to look upon the spiritual light of
truth". ("On the Holy Spirit", 22)
The fact of illumination for the first time takes on its
vast dimensions: Ignatius, Irenaeus and Athanasius [...]
all spoke relatively on this matter. Thus, with the
cleansing of the nous, the heart (man in general)
resembles a clear eye, in which the Paraclete (Holy
Spirit) like a sun divulges divine reality [...] the
spirit-bearing soul becomes illumined and thereafter
illumines others. More specifically, in the area
of the theological opus, this state relates to the
distribution of the charismas of the Spirit [...].
The realization, the knowledge of the truth in man, is
accomplished through man's entrance into the active and
radiating reality of the Holy Spirit. According to
Basil, this is exactly what the Psalm excerpt of "in Thy
light shall we see light" signifies (Psalm 35:10).
This had also been underlined by Irenaeus at the end of
the second century AD. "Knowledge", Basil
stressed, "is attained in the Spirit". One must
enter the Holy Spirit, enter the divine reality (and
therefore the truth), in order to truly have the truth
and be able to express it genuinely. The truth -
which a theologian has to enter into - is characterized
as "sanctums" and "secrets", whose "sight" is
"inapproachable". Nevertheless, God does not leave
man without His mercy. When man seeks the truth -
that is, something of the "secrets", of the infinite
truth, He provides man with help and bestows him the
aforementioned condition." (Tome 2,
the major theologians of the Church moves along the same
lines: Saint Gregory the Theologian.
In his same work, S. Papadopoulos mentions:
"First among the great Fathers, Gregory provides a
special mention regarding theology, on account of the
swarm of improvised theologians, who were generally
encouraged by Arianism. Here too, it is characteristic
that his word is also autobiographical. When
speaking of theology, he eventually describes the
process that took place inside him, when he had
attempted to solve theological issues:
this happen to me, o friends and mystics and co-lovers
of the truth? Because I ran to catch up to God, I
ascended the mountain (=theologizing) and passed through
the cloud and found myself inside it [...] and when I
looked carefully, I caught only a glimpse of His back...
and there I stayed for a little." (Chapter
the mountain willingly - or, to say it more truthfully,
willingly and simultaneously struggling (the former for
the sake of hope, and the latter for the sake of
weakness), so that I may enter the cloud and be together
with God (for this is what God requires of me)....
seemed to me that is it is best to avoid being pleased
with images and shadows, these being things that are
deceptive [...] making use of the Spirit as guide,
having accepted here the illumination and preserving it
to the end..."
aim was to pass through the curtain of the world and "be
together" with God - that is, with the truth - which
alone can secure direct and sure knowledge. It is
the so-called "theopty" - the "sighting" of God that
Gregory speaks of, mainly in conjunction with
theological quests [...] Theopty - that is, the personal
experience of the truth - is connected to catharsis
(cleansing) [...] In Gregory's case, theopty
becomes absolutely theological; that is, it is the
process that leads to a greater degree of experience of
the divine truth, which however includes and is in
absolute relevance to the teaching-truth as already
expressed by the Church, and especially to the Holy
Bible [...] - the "most excellent theologian", as
Gregory characterizes the exceptionally gifted and
discernible person of the Church, Her hero, the
"God-viewer" who does not reach the sighting of God only
because of his spiritual pleasure, but chiefly thanks to
his profounder knowledge of the truth..."
things that all the major Fathers stress. Worth
mentioning are the words of Saint John Climacus (=of the
Ladder) - one of the most spiritual texts of the
Philokalia, and beyond every contestation:
profundity of dogmas is very deep, and the mind of the
hesychast jumps and sinks into them, not without danger.
It is dangerous for one to swim with his clothes on;
similarly, to touch theology whilst having passions."
27, On Quietness).
increment of fear is the beginning of love. And the
completion of purity is the prerequisite for theology.
He who has united his senses completely to God, is
initiated in theology by God Himself. But if the senses
have not been united to God, it is difficult and
dangerous of one to theologize. The hypostatized Logos
of God the Father will grant perfect purity and
cleanliness in the one that He will dwell in, by
mortifying death. After this mortification, the
disciple of Christ becomes illumined and knowledgeable
in theology. He who has not become acquainted with
God in this way, speaks of God scholastically."
30, On Love, Hope and Faith).
But the unsurpassable Saint Gregory Palamas also
admonishes us as follows:
who wants to say or hear something about God must
clearly know that not all the matters of theology and
salvation are ineffable nor are they all effable, and
likewise they are not all known or all unknown."
We know that even those of the divine things that we are
permitted to say are also beyond words, because they too
are the uppermost of words (i.e., they are not beyond
words because of their own insufficiency, but beyond the
sufficiency of our own words); both those that we have
inside us, as well as those that we project outwards,
for the hearing of others. For, not even the one who by
interpreting could present those things, nor could he on
his own reach them by examining them with studiousness.
We should therefore not permit ourselves to say things
pertaining to God, but should turn ourselves towards
those who speak in the Spirit of spiritual matters, and
when opponents demand a word." (150
Divine knowledge is supra-logical -
above human wording - and as such, we cannot actually
reach it, which is why we are obliged to heed the saints
who speak spiritually when it is asked of them, in order
to provide theological solutions to whatever heretics
have to say.
The blessed Chrysostom (the golden-tongued, as Gregory
Palamas mentions him), when pinpointing man's weakness
and the fact that struggles are required -in
collaboration with Divine Grace- in order for man
to be led from catharsis to illumination and from
illumination to deification, mentions that it is a sign
of our fall, when we have need of books, although the
perfect state would be for everyone to be taught
directly by the Holy Spirit.
In his first Homily on the Gospel of Matthew, he
"We ought not to be in need the help of writings, but
rather of offering such a pure life that the grace of
the Spirit takes the place of the books inside our
souls, and, just as they were imprinted with ink, thus
should our hearts be imprinted inside us by the Spirit.
Even with Noah, and with Abraham and his descendants, as
well as with Job and Moses, God never spoke to them
through writings, but directly, Himself, because He
found their minds pure.
But because the Hebrew people fell
into the depths of malice, they then needed writings and
tablets and the reminder of those things. And this can
be seen happening, not only in the saints of the Old but
also of the New Testaments. Because God did not
give any written words, not even to the Apostles;
instead of writings, He promised to give them the grace
of the Spirit ("But the Helper, the Holy
Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will
teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all
things that I said to you" - John 14:26)
And so that you learn that this was a
far better thing, listen to what He says through the
prophet: "I shall make a new covenant, and I shall give
them My laws in their minds and upon their hearts shall
write and everyone will be God-taught". Paul also,
when pointing out this sublimity, said that we received
the law, "not on stone tablets, but on the fleshy
tablets of the heart."
How truly difficult it is, for a person to "theologize"
while he is in the phase of catharsis and struggling
with his passions! How many heresies can arise
from a person's ambitious attempts to reach Divine
knowledge, without being suitably prepared for it!
God however did not call upon us to "theologize" but to
obey Him; and that through our obedience, the entire
Holy Trinity might enter into our heart, cleanse it and
anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father
will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home
How grateful we should be to God,
Who, through His saints has deposited holy knowledge
inside the Church - the everlasting pillar and ground of
"If you are a theologian, you will
pray sincerely; and if you pray sincerely, you are a
theologian" (Saint Nilus, On Prayer, 60)