26. Such a thought I was expressing, and if not in this manner and in these words, still, O Lord, thou knowest that on that day we were talking thus and that this world, with all its joys, seemed cheap to us even as we spoke. Then my mother said: "Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here?" [/color]
On the subject of other spiritual autobiographies St Therese of Lisieux has been very influential in the Catholic world and beyond and repays reading. I do not know how the Orthodox view her of course.
"Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here?"
From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
:"In the vision at Ostia at Confessions IX.x.23-25, Augustine seems to suggest that the intelligible realm holds out the prospect of fulfilling our desire for the unity that we seek in friendship and love, a unity that can never really be achieved as long as we are immersed in the sensible world and separated by physical bodies subject to inevitable dissolution. The intelligible realm, with God as its source, promises the only lasting relief from the anxiety prompted by the transitory nature of the sensible realm.
The second way in which illumination enables us to surpass what we are able to accomplish by means of sense perception alone is even more tightly connected to Augustine's Neoplatonizing eudaimonism. For souls which have become immersed in the sensible world and which are thereby separated from other souls by bodies, illumination is crucial to our attempt to recapture our lost unity. Unlike the perspectival and private realm of sense perception, illumination holds out the prospect of fulfilling the yearning to which Augustine's eudaimonism gives such prominence, the yearning to find a realm wherein we can overcome the vulnerability that besets us and the moral distance that divides us from one another. Both Augustine's Confessions and De Civitate Dei in their own ways portray this sort of philosophical and spiritual pilgrimage, and one would be hard pressed to find a better example than the vision at Ostia at Confessions IX.10.23-25. There, Augustine and his mother Monica manage, albeit fleetingly, to find themselves in a place that is clearly not in space, united in a way that overcomes the distance imposed by their mortal bodies. This unification is for Augustine the eudaimonistic conclusion through which the pursuit of knowledge is vindicated and to which it is, ultimately, to be subordinated."
Augustine was attracted to Plato’s doctrine of the forms and Plotinus’ notion that evil is not part of reality, but rather the privation or lack of goodness.
The Bible and Tradition
A basic characteristic of the Frankish (Germanic-Latin) 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 and the "Latin" Roman Catholic Church substituted the patristic concern for spiritual observation, (which they had found firmly established in Gaul when they first conquered the area) with a Germanic fascination for metaphysics
In contrast to the Franks the Fathers of the Orthodox Church 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.
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
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 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 ever replace the prophet, apostle, or saint who has the experience of glorification.
This is the heart of the Orthodox understanding of tradition and apostolic succession which sets it apart from the "Latin" (in other words, Frankish-Germanic) 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 to 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!
Historians have noted the naivite 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 (Orthodox) claim, hurled by Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), of the primacy of experience and observation over "reason" in theology.
Instruments, Observation, Concepts, and Language
The universe has turned out to be a much greater mystery to man than anyone was ever able to imagine. 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 (Latin) bishops who could not grasp the reality, let alone the magnitude, of what they saw through Galileo's telescope. But the magnitude of Frankish naivite 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."
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 (nou'~) to the faculty of the soul which operates within the heart when restored to normal capacity, and reserved the names logos (lovgo") and dianoia (diavnoia)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 nou'~ in the heart called noerav eujchv.
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 of 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, and understood by those with the same or similar 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.
It is for this reason that in Orthodoxy 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. 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.
Diagnosis and Therapy
Let us turn our attention to those aspects of differences between Roman and Frankish theologies which have had a strong impact on the development of differences in the doctrine of the Church. The basic differences may be listed under diagnosis of spiritual ills and their therapy.
According to the Orthodox Church, the "East Romans," Glorification is the vision of God in which the equality of all men and the absolute value of each man is experienced. God loves all men equally and indiscriminately, regardless of even their moral status. 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.
had no patience with the teaching that the Angel of the Lord, the fire, the glory, the cloud, and the Pentecostal tongues of fire, were verbal symbols of the uncreated realities immediately communicated with by the prophets and apostles, since for him this would mean that all this language pointed to a vision of the divine substance. For the bishop of Hippo this vision is identical to the whole of what is uncreated, and could be seen only by a Neoplatonic type ecstasy of the soul, out of the body within the sphere of timeless and motionless eternity transcending all discursive reasoning. Since this is not what he found in the Bible, the visions therein described are not verbal symbols of real visions of God, but of creatures symbolizing eternal realities. The created verbal symbols of the Bible became created objective symbols. In other words, words which symbolized uncreated energies like fire, etc., became objectively real created fires, clouds, tongues, etc.
This failure of Augustine
to distinguish between the divine essence and its natural energies (of which some are communicated to the friends of God), led to a very peculiar reading of the Bible, wherein creatures or symbols come into existence in order to convey a divine message, and then pass out of existence. Thus, the Bible becomes full of unbelievable miracles and a text dictated by God.
Besides this, the biblical concept of heaven and hell also becomes distorted, since the eternal fires of hell and the outer darkness become creatures also whereas, they are the uncreated glory of God as seen by those who refuse to love. Thus, one ends up with the three-story universe problem, with God in a place, etc., necessitating a demythologizing of the Bible in order to salvage whatever one can of a quaint Christian tradition for modern man. However, it is not the Bible itself which needs demythologizing, but the Augustinian
Franco-Latin tradition and the caricature which it passed off in the West as "Greek" Patristic theology.
By not taking the above-mentioned foundations of Roman Patristic theology of the Ecumenical Synods seriously as the key to interpreting the Bible, modern biblical scholars have applied presuppositions latent in Augustine with such methodical consistency that they have destroyed the unity and identity of the Old and New Testaments, and have allowed themselves to be swayed by Judaic interpretations of the Old Testament rejected by Christ himself. Thus, instead of dealing with the concrete person of the Angel of God, Lord of Glory, Angel of Great Council, Wisdom of God and identifying Him with the Logos made flesh and Christ, and accepting this as the doctrine of the Trinity, most, if not all, Western scholars have ended up identifying Christ only with Old Testament Messiahship, and equating the doctrine of the Trinity with the development of extra Biblical Trinitarian terminology within what is really not a Patristic framework, but an Augustinian one. Thus, the so-called "Greek" Fathers are still read in the light of Augustine
, with the Russians after Peter Mogila joining in.
Another most devastating result of the Augustinian
presuppositions of the filioque is the destruction of the prophetic and apostolic understanding of grace and its replacement with the whole system of created graces distributed in Latin Christendom by the hocus pocus of the clergy.