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Emotions vs. grace


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#1 Christina M.

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 07:10 PM

I was listening to Fr Irenei's special on AFR (please remember: it's a "special", not a "podcast") at: http://ancientfaith....y_and_mysticism, and on the first Q&A session, a young man asks about the difference between the spiritual "heart" (in the Orthodox sense of the term) and the "heart" (by worldly definition) as the seat of emotion. It was very interesting, and left me with a few more questions. Fr Irenei explains that if you are driven by emotions, "you're not there yet", and goes on to further explain why emotions many times are harmful for us.

My first question is: what do we call it when someone, on account of the grace of God, feels great love, peace, and joy? Do we call these emotions? Are they something else? How different are they from regular human emotions?
2nd question: According to the experience of the Holy Fathers, is it considered safe to try to use human emotions to invoke the grace of God, or is it considered dangerous?


(let's assume for the sake of the question that we are referring to actual gifts of the Holy Spirit, recognizing that in most cases Christians (myself included) are too quick to label emotional experiences as the "grace" of God)

Edited by Christina M., 23 January 2011 - 07:26 PM.
Added 2nd question


#2 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 05:56 PM

Just a thought but maybe when one feels great love, peace, and joy by the grace of God, these emotions are emotions but spiritual in a sense because they come from God's love touching ones spirit, from the interaction/communion of ones spirit with God and therefore differ from other emotions as they are true emotions not separated from ones spirit or the love of God, whereas the others are and are often confusing, conflicting and erratic, can lead to sin and are due to the fall and the affect of the fall on man. I can't explain fully what I mean but hopefully you'll understand what I mean. Please someone correct me if I be wrong.

#3 Christina M.

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Posted 26 January 2011 - 06:05 AM

Thank you for the response, Daniel. It seems you are mostly correct. I found a great passage from one of Metr. Hierotheos Vlachos' books, which I quote below:

-Emotion is mixed up with the passions of pleasure-loving. It is not completely identified with them, but is imbued by them to a great degree. A healthy man spiritually is a balanced man in all his manifestations. I said earlier that when man's nous is illumined -when man is at the illumination of the nous- he is not moved by God simply psychologically and emotionally, but has true communion with God. Moreover, he sees in all creation the "causes of beings" -the uncreated governing energy of God. He is not moved emotionally by nature and its beauty, but sees the energy of God in it. As St. Isaac the Syrian says, faith based on theoria -which man attains when he is at the illumination of the nous- "is a gate to the mysteries of God".

I will mention a simple example. St.Diadochos of Photiki says that the introductory joy is one thing and the perfecting joy is another. The first one, being strongly emotional, is mixed with phantasy, "is not devoid of fantasy", while perfecting joy is associated with humility. Between emotional joy and perfecting joy there is "god-loving sorrow and painless tears". Emotional joy, which is called introductory, is not entirely rejected, yet we must be led to the perfecting joy. This perfection and cure is achieved through the cross. "By the cross gladness prevails to all world". Thus within the Church we struggle to transform all emotions as well as everything mundane. The transformation of emotions to genuine and authentic experiences is accomplished by repentance. Repentance leads us from a painful and tragic monologue to a dialogue with the living God. Through repentance, self-condemnation and humility, we transform emotions to spiritual experiences. In this case also holds true what we mentioned about phantasy. The more a person is emotionally ill, the more he reveals the death and darkness of his nous. And the more a person's emotions are transformed, the more his nous is illumined; he is at the state of illumination. Can you see that the movement of the nous is very important? Can you see that it plays an important role whether the nous follows the movement according to nature or contrary to nature?

-Allow me, continued Irene, to ask you to explain even further how the emotions are transformed to spiritual experiences.

-I think I referred to the basic points. But since you wish I can expand more on the subject. The Fathers say that in the woman's soul psychological experiences are connected more with spiritual ones. In other words, many women consider the so-called psychological conditions to be spiritual experiences. They may for example feel an emotional sweetness, while praying, and think that it is the coming of the grace of God. A lot of attention is needed, because at this point many images of phantasy intervene and create the preconditions for serious psychological anomalies.



#4 Owen Jones

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Posted 26 January 2011 - 02:58 PM

Fantastic references to Vlachos, btw, and IMHO, he is right on the mark. Unfortunately, the term emotions is a modern secular invention which I do not believe existed in the Church Fathers, and I suspect Vlachos, knowing this, is simply condescending to the cultural environment to engage in a dialogue with his readers utilizing a term that people can readily identify with.

In any case, there are number of related technical terms in Orthodoxy that have precise meanings, such as passions, sensations, etc. The glossary in the back of each volume of the Philokalia is a good place to start.




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