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Elder Joseph the Hesychast


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#1 Guest_Vladimir Deczynski

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 04:12 PM

Has the holy Elder Joseph the Hesychast been glorified as yet? I had heard that his glorification by the M.P. was this year. Any news in that area?
Thank you! Vladimir


#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 04:52 PM

As the Elder Joseph struggled on Mt Athos it would be the responsability of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to glorify him.

I am quite sure he has not yet been officially glorified.

Perhaps he will be in the future but others would know more about this.
In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 04:44 PM

Elder Joseph the Hesychast has been 'locally' canonized in several places, on the Holy Mountain and in Romania. However, this is not an official canonization, which can, as Fr. Raphael, points out, be performed only by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. 'Local' recognition of a person being a Saint is generally a prelude to full canonization. My own Spiritual Father, Archimandrite Sophrony (+1993) knew Elder Joseph well and in Fr. Sophrony's book about Saint Silouan the Athonite, Elder Joseph is one of the monks mentioned who was granted the gift of the 'Uncreated Light.' Certainly at Vatopedi and other monasteries founded by disciples of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, his absolutely extraordinary asceticism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit granted him, make his 'local' canonization worthy. As for full canonization that is the concern of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


#4 Guest_Yiannis Vitalis

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 12:22 AM

The relic of Elder Joseph's head is kept in St Anthony's monastery, in Arizona (USA), while the rest or his relics are kept in Vatopedi monastery. I have been told by serious people that his relics give always off a fragrance. The abbot of Vatopedi monastery, Fr Ephraim, spoke publicly in Athens about miracles performed through the intercession of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, even about some miraculous appearances of him.


#5 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 11:06 AM

The topic of Elder Joseph is very much alive, sometimes more so outside Greece than one would think. In Romania, he is already "locally" canonized. As regards formal canonization, as said previously, anyone, of any country of origin, or ancestry, if found in the situation that, certainly, pertains to Elder Joseph, is formally recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The reason for this is simple - the entirety of the Holy Mountain is under the Omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

I had the blessing to venerate his relics on Athos, at that time, his head reposed at the Holy Monastery of Philotheu.

The Fathers gathered by God's grace at the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, are also Spiritual (Grand) Children of Father Joseph the Hesychast. In fact, the Spiritual Father, is Father Joseph, (same name, different person) who himself, is a most remarkable disciple of the blessed Elder. The present Abbot, Ephraim, is a Spiritual Son of Father Joseph (both of whom live in the vast hallowed grounds of this Monastery) - Abbot Ephraim joined Father Joseph at New Skete.

For quite some time Father Joseph hid himself and lived the life of a hermit, after the repose of his beloved Spiritual Father in 1959.

However, as our Lord indicated, the salt sometimes loses its flavour. This, is not true in the case of any of the direct Sons of this most beloved and astonishing Elder.

There remain only two now - our Lord has called the others to Rest Eternal - Father Joseph (Holy Monastery of Vatopedi, Agion Oros, Greece) and the younger, Father Ephraim (Holy Monastery of St. Anthony the Great, Arizona, U.S.A.)

Father Joseph did his best to remain hidden at the end of the peninsula, the Garden of the Virgin Mary, but our Lord, had other plans. He was besieged by pilgrims, and then by pilgrims who wanted to stay and become monastic sons...amongst whom are the present Abbot, Ephraim.

Truly, I have to rub my eyes and have some Greek coffee just to take it all in.

My own beloved Father, Archimandrite Sophrony, knew the Elder very, very well, and very often talked about their encounters. As Father Joseph of the Monastery of Vatopedi writes in (forgive me, I read the Greek edition, and I do not know how it was titled - perhaps, something to the effect of, "Elder Joseph the Hesychast - Ascetic Struggles, Experiences"...at any rate, along that line) - Father Joseph himself remarked that if he were to write all that he remembered of his Elder, well...even what he has written leaves someone like myself in the dust.

Such an extraordinary life. Such a life infused by Grace, truly it is breath-taking, almost as breath-taking as 'To Perivoli Tis Panagia' herself.

I would encourage anyone to read the Letters of Elder Joseph penned by his own hand to his Spiritual Children and the books of Father Joseph of Vatopedi, (there are many, far too numerous to mention), and, if possible, to visit Father Ephraim in Arizona.

I knew Father Ephraim while he still resided on Agion Oros, as Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Philotheu. Arizona is a long hard road from where I presently dwell, but permit me to say it is the benevolence of Christ that this monk is present on the soil of the New World.

Both are quite advanced in age now, Father Joseph at Vatopedi is in his very late 80's and Father Ephraim is 77 years of age.

Anyone thirsting for living water, that Life which is bestowed by our Lord, would do well to visit these two monks.

You may need to have more than two cups of Greek coffee afterwards.

#6 James Aubuchon

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 08:04 PM

As close as I live to St Anthony's (I live one state over in New Mexico), you would think that I would have gone there by now, but I haven't. Every time I try to set up to go to an Orthodox monastery, the Lord seems to close the door on me. Is it that I am not ready to go to a monastery? I have been to Roman Catholic monasteries before for retreats before becoming Orthodox (as an evangelical). Also, when I went to San Francisco to visit the relics of St. John, the church was closed. I wish I could go and see the relics of Elder Joseph, but I feel that I shall never be able to.

Jim

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 09:28 PM

Also, when I went to San Francisco to visit the relics of St. John, the church was closed. I wish I could go and see the relics of Elder Joseph, but I feel that I shall never be able to.

Jim


Just as a point of information, Holy Virgin Cathedral where the relics of St John rest is open every day from 8am to about 9:30am (daily liturgy) and again in the evening from 6pm - 7:30pm (Vespers and Matins). There are some variations in that schedule due to various feasts etc during the week, but during these times every day of the week the Cathedral is generally open. Lots of times, people try to "drop in" whenever it is convenient for them, but no one is available to open the cathedral and so they are unable to venerate St John's relics - but if you plan to come during the advertised hours, then it is always possible. If you know someone at the cathedral, one of the priests or deacons, and you make prior arrangements, it is often possible to go in and venerate the relics at other times during the day - but these arrangements must be made in advance.

Fr David Moser

#8 James Aubuchon

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 11:36 PM

Mt point was not to criticize the church for not being open. It's just that it seems that God does not allow me to do these things. I attribute it to the fact that I am an undeserving and "cruddy" Orthodox Christian. I can't seem to keep the fasts, I don't seem to be able to do things like survive Holy Week, and I just generally feel that while I love and believe in Orthodoxy, I just can't practice it. I am not able to attend services regularly, I don't have a spiritual father, and when I read the services on my own, I don't know what I am doing completely and probably do them incorrectly. I can't "pray without ceasing" no matter how hard I try. I am not able to handle standing for an entire service without sitting down. I usually "space out" during liturgy and "daydream" rather than focus on the words of the liturgy. I "lose my faith" easily, and get caught up in all sorts of false notions. This might sound like some kind of false self-denigration, but its true. In fact, I have decided that if I can't keep all the fasts for this next year, I am going to go back to being a Protestant, deeming myself unworthy of even being Orthodox at all. I will "cast myself away" so to speak, since not practicing Orthodoxy makes claiming to be Orthodox entirely worthless to me. And yes I know that God is merciful. So what? I get to be saved anyway? Saved for what? Am I even a Christian? How can I even claim to be a "little Christ?"

Jim

#9 Clinton R. LeFort

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 02:18 PM

Has the holy Elder Joseph the Hesychast been glorified as yet? I had heard that his glorification by the M.P. was this year. Any news in that area?
Thank you! Vladimir

I'm of the Catholic Faith. I have a deep reverence for Orthodox Christianity. I have read two books on Elder Joseph. One on his life and the other of his letters. I was struck by the sotries related to his great virtue throughout his life. I was particularly interested in how he taught the Jesus Prayer. Nowhere have I found this parcilualr charism in the Catholic Saints, excepting St. Anthony whom is universally acclaiimed the Father of Monasticism. Elder Joseph's nous was so much in touch with the Holy Spirit that like St. Anthony he was united with the Divine prescience and see future events as they were taking place. He was a friend of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit infused this knowledge into his soul: for example the time of his death he knew for certain the the Panagia was going to take him on that day o he would promise to send someone a 'package' and it was later revealed to this persons that it was a divine illumination for the benefit of his soul. In other words, Spiritual direction was taken to a very profound level in his person.

I was very struck with awe on reading his biography by someone who knew and lived with him for many years, maybe it was Archimandrite Sophrony. His holiness is well attested by many.

In the Catholic Church there is a formal process undertaken by local people who witness to a persons holiness, their writings, deeds and how they lives their life. THis process takes usually several years. Like John Paul II whose life is being considered as a holy person, it may take years to collect all of the relevent data and witnesses.

One important facet of the Canonization process which usually indicates the holiness of aperson is the suspension of nature in a miracle which no one could perform except God on the behalf of his servants.

Could someone on this list please share with us the process of Glorifying a person in the Orthodox Church?

Thank you

Clinton LeFort

#10 Clinton R. LeFort

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 02:19 PM

Has the holy Elder Joseph the Hesychast been glorified as yet? I had heard that his glorification by the M.P. was this year. Any news in that area?
Thank you! Vladimir

I'm of the Catholic Faith. I have a deep reverence for Orthodox Christianity. I have read two books on Elder Joseph. One on his life and the other of his letters. I was struck by the sotries related to his great virtue throughout his life. I was particularly interested in how he taught the Jesus Prayer. Nowhere have I found this parcilualr charism in the Catholic Saints, excepting St. Anthony whom is universally acclaiimed the Father of Monasticism. Elder Joseph's nous was so much in touch with the Holy Spirit that like St. Anthony he was united with the Divine prescience and see future events as they were taking place. He was a friend of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit infused this knowledge into his soul: for example the time of his death he knew for certain the the Panagia was going to take him on that day o he would promise to send someone a 'package' and it was later revealed to this persons that it was a divine illumination for the benefit of his soul. In other words, Spiritual direction was taken to a very profound level in his person.

I was very struck with awe on reading his biography by someone who knew and lived with him for many years, maybe it was Archimandrite Sophrony. His holiness is well attested by many.

In the Catholic Church there is a formal process undertaken by local people who witness to a persons holiness, their writings, deeds and how they lives their life. THis process takes usually several years. Like John Paul II whose life is being considered as a holy person, it may take years to collect all of the relevent data and witnesses.

One important facet of the Canonization process which usually indicates the holiness of aperson is the suspension of nature in a miracle which no one could perform except God on the behalf of his servants.

Could someone on this list please share with us the process of Glorifying a person in the Orthodox Church?

Thank you

Clinton LeFort

#11 Father David Moser

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 02:52 PM

Could someone on this list please share with us the process of Glorifying a person in the Orthodox Church?


Well, its really quite simple. There is usually some form of local veneration which initially is brought to the attention of the local bishop. After a period of time (completely undefined) the local bishop may request that the life and miracles of the person be compiled (it usually is already done by those who venerate the memory of the person) - this is very much along the order of the books of the life and letters of the elder Joseph. Then the local bishop, if he deems it worthy of futher attention will take the matter to his synod where it will be discussed - possibly if there are questions about that person's life some sort of commission will be appointed to gather information. This information is presented to the Synod and they may or may not take further action. If a decision is made to enter this person into the formal commemoration of the saints, a service is commissioned and a time and place is scheduled for the glorification. At the glorification, many pannykhidi (commemoration for the dead) are said and then the finaly pannykhida is said and the vigil service begins using the newly composed text for the new saint. At the polyeleos, the new icon of the saint is revealed (along with the relics if there are any) and the magnification (velchaiyem) is sung. At the end of the polyeleos, the people come up to venerate the saint, his icon and to be annointed with the oil that was blessed during the litia while the canon and the rest of the service is chanted. The next day the divine liturgy is served and the saint is commemorated at that time and at the end of the liturgy the first molieben (prayer service) to the new saint is said. That's about it.

There is no "trial" as there is in R/C practice nor the structured steps of "sainthood" because in Orthodoxy we do not make a person a saint, nor do we decide who is and who isn't a saint - we simply recognize what God has done and the "glorification" is simply the action of the Church authorities to bless the public veneration of the saint on a Church wide scale. Glorification of a saint in Orthodoxy is much less of a formal process than what I perceive it to be in the Roman Catholic confession.

Fr David Moser

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 04:16 PM

I was very struck with awe on reading his biography by someone who knew and lived with him for many years, maybe it was Archimandrite Sophrony. His holiness is well attested by many.




There are also two other books well worth reading which relate to Elder Joseph.

One is about one of the co-strugglers of the Elder Joseph. It is called Elder Arsenios the cave Dweller- Fellow Ascetic of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

The other is about a spiritual child of the Elder. It is called Abbot Haralambos Dionysiotis (Teacher of Noetic Prayer).

Both of these books are just recently published & are by Monk Joseph Dionysiotis. They are really wonderful to read. Besides the wonderful spiritual counsel contained in them one senses in a genuine way the spiritual atmosphere of those who 'grew up' spiritually around the Elder Joseph.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 Clinton R. LeFort

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Posted 26 August 2006 - 05:33 PM

Father Moser,

Thank you and the others who have responded to my question. One clarification I would like to add that came to me during prayer today. My understanding ,along with yours-that is, the Holy Spirit who makes us to be the children of God [1Jn . 3:1] able to call him Father- is that the Saints were called and it was their accepting the call of Christ that they were 'glorifiable' to us. We understand that we work along with God to perfect his will in our lives and the glofication is the part of that work which glorifies him, though we only see the externals of the person called. In the case of Elder Joseph, when a person opens his soul, despite the vulnerability that comes with being attacked on all sides, is that we who have faith and some experience of the spiritual live, can understand some trace of what was taking place in the histry of this person. This is not a theoretical knowledge but a spiritual knowledge given by the Holy Spirit for the hope created in us. Also, we have a chance to understand how that person ,understands or understood, his call and how he conform(ed)s with it thru nature and grace. This, in the Catholic faith, is also somewhat of a Mystery how the Church has come up with a method of investigation over it many centuries of mistakes and trying to carry this burden: "If , you O Lord , should mark our guilt who could stand."
The miracle for me is that we as Church, have members, as Father Moser spoke and I, also, related in my message yesterday, have this charism or DISCRETION, which the the Apostolic Fathers on have valued [here I'm referring specifically to the Conferences of Cassian and the sayings of the Desert Fathers ] is these gifts which safeguard both individual faith and the faith of the Church. It is a heavy yet sweet burden Christ gives to those who are true shepherds. [It reminds me of the work the Late Jesuit fther, Irenee Hausherr spoke of in his book spiritual direction in the East, about the burden the gift of spiritual direction was for those who are called to it and they tried to not take this on themselves, since they realized it was carrying the sins of others. This is taken very lightly today in the Church as formulas rather than coming form real ascetical and mystical prayer and union with God. As I was saying, the true miracle is that some are called to recognize true gifts of holiness and confirm it within the Church's history. Unfortunately, our history has shown the separation which can come between selfish bickering over individual charism or schools of spirituality. Nontheless, the Unity that the Holy Trinity gives to those who worship in spirit and in truth, supersedes the divisions that come between human frailty[hierarchical structures] even though we are caught up in a division in time. May Christ, the logos of the Father, lead us all to this infinite and eternal unity we all share thru the free gift of his grace won for us at the price of his Most precious humiliations and Suffering now forever working for each of us at the right hand of the Father. I, too, must watch to make sure that the unity that Christ is already building in others is not torn down by my clumsy or stupid understanding given my own very real limitations.

Peace and Joy only the Spirit of God can bring,

Clinton R. LeFort

This is my short version of the addition.

Well, its really quite simple. There is usually some form of local veneration which initially is brought to the attention of the local bishop. After a period of time (completely undefined) the local bishop may request that the life and miracles of the person be compiled (it usually is already done by those who venerate the memory of the person) - this is very much along the order of the books of the life and letters of the elder Joseph. Then the local bishop, if he deems it worthy of futher attention will take the matter to his synod where it will be discussed - possibly if there are questions about that person's life some sort of commission will be appointed to gather information. This information is presented to the Synod and they may or may not take further action. If a decision is made to enter this person into the formal commemoration of the saints, a service is commissioned and a time and place is scheduled for the glorification. At the glorification, many pannykhidi (commemoration for the dead) are said and then the finaly pannykhida is said and the vigil service begins using the newly composed text for the new saint. At the polyeleos, the new icon of the saint is revealed (along with the relics if there are any) and the magnification (velchaiyem) is sung. At the end of the polyeleos, the people come up to venerate the saint, his icon and to be annointed with the oil that was blessed during the litia while the canon and the rest of the service is chanted. The next day the divine liturgy is served and the saint is commemorated at that time and at the end of the liturgy the first molieben (prayer service) to the new saint is said. That's about it.

There is no "trial" as there is in R/C practice nor the structured steps of "sainthood" because in Orthodoxy we do not make a person a saint, nor do we decide who is and who isn't a saint - we simply recognize what God has done and the "glorification" is simply the action of the Church authorities to bless the public veneration of the saint on a Church wide scale. Glorification of a saint in Orthodoxy is much less of a formal process than what I perceive it to be in the Roman Catholic confession.

Fr David Moser



#14 Christophoros

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 03:22 PM

There are also two other books well worth reading which relate to Elder Joseph.

One is about one of the co-strugglers of the Elder Joseph. It is called Elder Arsenios the cave Dweller- Fellow Ascetic of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.

The other is about a spiritual child of the Elder. It is called Abbot Haralambos Dionysiotis (Teacher of Noetic Prayer).

Both of these books are just recently published & are by Monk Joseph Dionysiotis. They are really wonderful to read. Besides the wonderful spiritual counsel contained in them one senses in a genuine way the spiritual atmosphere of those who 'grew up' spiritually around the Elder Joseph.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


Another excellent book related to Elder Joseph is "Obedience is Life: Elder Ephraim of Katounakia," by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi. This ascetic (+1998) provided priestly services for Elder Joseph's brotherhood when they were without a hieromonk, and remained a disciple of his until the elder's death. I also see in the new Light and Life supplement there is another book simply entitled "Elder Ephraim of Katounakia".

In Christ,
Christopher

#15 Paul Cowan

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 01:58 AM

Hello Jim:
This is my first post to any forum, so please bear with me as I learn how to operate the tools here. I beg the indulgence of others as well. I could not, not write about your pleas for help.

You wrote...

I attribute it to the fact that I am an undeserving and "cruddy" Orthodox Christian.
one that God loves
I can't seem to keep the fasts,
Join the crowd
I don't seem to be able to do things like survive Holy Week,
We are called to do our best
I just generally feel that while I love and believe in Orthodoxy, I just can't practice it.
fall down, get up, fall down, get up
I am not able to attend services regularly,
Again try your best and confess to your spiritual father
I don't have a spiritual father, and when I read the services on my own, I don't know what I am doing completely and probably do them incorrectly.
Get one! The church does not permit us to interrpret without guidance. Where do you live? Perhaps I can help you find a home church.
I can't "pray without ceasing" no matter how hard I try.
You sound human.
I am not able to handle standing for an entire service without sitting down.
Then sit down. It is not canon law to stand.
I usually "space out" during liturgy and "daydream" rather than focus on the words of the liturgy.
When you notice this, refocus.
I "lose my faith" easily, and get caught up in all sorts of false notions. This might sound like some kind of false self-denigration, but its true.
Back to your Spiritual Father

In fact, I have decided that if I can't keep all the fasts for this next year, I am going to go back to being a Protestant, deeming myself unworthy of even being Orthodox at all. I will "cast myself away" so to speak, since not practicing Orthodoxy makes claiming to be Orthodox entirely worthless to me.
So, if you can't live up to an "ideal" or is it Pride of Orthodox converts (of which I am one) you would rather just quit? Are you sure you can be fully Protestant then?, Buddhist?, Hindu? None of us can live up to an ideal.
And yes I know that God is merciful. So what? I get to be saved anyway? Saved for what? Am I even a Christian? How can I even claim to be a "little Christ?"
Forgive me, I am tyring to be understanding. I too have been right where you are and still am. As much as I want to lead the monastic life, I am not in that place yet. And God still loves me. Only God can judge whether you will be saved or not. Not me, not you. Saved from what? From not being with Him for eternity. Are you a Christian? Do you believe in Christ as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity? Guess what you are a Christian. We are called to be Christ-Like, not little Christs.

Jim: In a nut shell, You are right where you need to be to grow into what God calls you to. If you need direction for that, find a Spiritual Father and do what he says. Not more, not less. I am not trying to come across as knowing what I am talking about. I too am you. I too have been right where you are. The struggle is not to give up. The struggle is to get back up.

Love in Christ my Brother.
Paul

#16 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 05:37 AM

Dear Paul,

These are very blessed and grace-filled words of comfort, consolation and encouragement, not only for James but for all of us. Truly blessd are the poor in spirit.

Thank you.

#17 Clinton R. LeFort

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 12:06 AM

Elder Joseph the Hesychast has been 'locally' canonized in several places, on the Holy Mountain and in Romania. However, this is not an official canonization, which can, as Fr. Raphael, points out, be performed only by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. 'Local' recognition of a person being a Saint is generally a prelude to full canonization. My own Spiritual Father, Archimandrite Sophrony (+1993) knew Elder Joseph well and in Fr. Sophrony's book about Saint Silouan the Athonite, Elder Joseph is one of the monks mentioned who was granted the gift of the 'Uncreated Light.' Certainly at Vatopedi and other monasteries founded by disciples of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, his absolutely extraordinary asceticism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit granted him, make his 'local' canonization worthy. As for full canonization that is the concern of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.


Hello,

I have not posted to this group in a while, but now on returning I find your original post very interesting, since this is no doubt a great gift given to Elder Joseph. Would you please briefly explain in your own understanding or thru the literature of the Fathers of the Church and the Orthodox Tradition] what is the meaning of UNCREATED LIGHT. My only recollection of this term is in my reading of the Hymns of Divine Love of Symeon the New Theologian, trans. by Fr. George Maloney, S.J. On reading St. Symeon I understood that this gift came to him as one unmerited, yet making one realize one's creaturely position before God, both of which I understand from reading Elder Joseph's Letters and Counsels that he expressed this humility before God readily and continually.
The Catholic Tradition teaches also the Incomprehensibility of God, yet does nto refer to the UNCREATED LIGHT per se, yet thru the tradition of Aquinas and Augustine, Basil, Chrysostom, refer to the infinite distance between Creation and the Divine Essence. Here Chrysostom is very emphatic in his Holimiies against the Eunomians -see below; there is a great emphasis in the Western Church on the Humanity of the Divien Word and what is called CHRISTOLOGICAL PERICHORESIS or communication of idioms between the Dvine Logos and the Sacred Humanity he assumed thru the Hypostasis.' This we understand why Christ could call himself the 'way, the truth and the life,' for all who believe in Him. The UNCREATED LIGHT surely must be a reality which the saints in glory experience in some way, but it is not taught that it is a gift to the Mystics, though many have been given the gift of Union with the Word thru a spiritual marriage, as a pure gift. [Excuse the small digression.]


St. Diadochos of Photiki speaks of this light when he refers to the Word Incarnate [Jn. 1: 9-12], enabling all who seek to become children of God; that is, the Word draws them into this Mystery of His Own Light in the Eternal Father. There is another aspect of this UNCREATED LIGHT, since it bears witness to the INCOMPREHENSIBILITY of God (See John Chrysostom's Homilies against the Eunomians), which I think comes at a great cost of self, 'he who follows me will not walk in darkness.' Lastly, please could you tell me is it usuall for the Orthodox Saints to experience more the suffering of the Humanity of Christ as they near this UNCREATED LIGHT as when Jesus descended Tabor, or is it normally a STATE in which they are brought into. For St. Symeon it seemed ot be the later.

Thank you,

Clinton R. LeFort

#18 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 07:46 AM

'The vision of the uncreated Light'

'Within the two thousand or so pages of the currently published writings of Fr. Sophrony, we find continual reference made to the theme of uncreated divine Light. In four extensive chapters among his books, there is a systematic exposition and description of the conditions for the vision of uncreated Light, of its characteristic properties, and of what occurs when it is experienced. From page one of his first book, Saint Silouan the Athonite, and throughout the presentation of his existential theology, Fr. Sophrony testifies, both indirectly and directly, that the primary aim of man's existence, the vocation breathed into him at his creation by the unoriginate God, is 'to become for all eternity the habitation of His Light'. (We Shall See Him, p. 127. If Fr. Sophrony is justifiably and appropriately characterised as a theo-logian of the hypostatic principle, (Professor G. Mantzaridis in Prosopo kai Thesmoi, Thessaloniki, 1977, p. 19) it would be equally reasonable and legitimate to call him an initiate and teacher of the vision of uncreated Light. Since the time of St. Gregory Palamas, no-one else has expressed this experience with such knowledge and depth.

'According to the teaching of Scripture, and particularly of St. John the Evangelist, God is Light, and knowledge of Him is communion with Light [1 John 1:5-7]. This Light, which is accorded to man as a gift of God, makes him become also 'light in the Lord' [Eph. 5:8]. The fulness of this state is the heritage of the age to come, for which the evangelist John urges the children of God to purify themselves and be cleansed of every sin [1 John 3:3].

'The most important and absolutely vital condition for man's illumination is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He is the Light of Life, because 'in Him the fulness of the godhead dwells bodily' [Col. 2:9]. This great Light appeared in time and entered into the life and history of the world. (On Prayer, p. 130) He gave men the possibility of becoming children of God, reborn in the 'abundance' of life, receiving 'of his fulness' [John 10:10; 1:16].

excerpt from Archimandrite Zacharias, 'Christ, Our Way and Our Life, a Presentation of the Theology of Archimandrite Sophrony', pp., 193-194


'The Uncreated Light'

'Christian life is founded on the fact of the incarnation of God. In our flesh, created by Him, He made manifest His pre-eternal perfection, thereby enabling us to judge the extent to which we either fail to reach His stature or approach His supreme Being. If we resemble Him in the inner workings of our heart, in the manner of our thinking, in our reactions to all that happens to us on the earthly plane, we shall ipso facto become like unto Him in His Divinity, too. The Gospels furnish a clear enough picture of Him, while the Epistles describe the experience of life in Him. His commandments are the Uncreated Light in which He particularly reveals Himself to us 'as he is' [1 John 3:2]. 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life' [John 8:12]

'The effect upon us of this Light is amazing: we behold and marvel at the searchless miracle of our appearance in this world. The act of the creation of all things is a mystery drawing us to Him. But prior to this enlightening from on High, caught in the darkness of ignorance, lost and bewildered, we struggle, step by painful step, towards our affirmation in being. Why this intricate process - the genesis of our spirit in a body made of the dust of the earth - for the creation from non-being of sons of God? How is it possible to conjoin spirit - the likeness of the Absolute - and the material world? It is not easy for our spirit, by nature immortal, to be held fast in a body subject to disintegration and death. Hence the unremitting conflict between the spirit straining up towards God, anxious to have the body likewise incorruptible and able to follow in the ascent, and the body pulling downwards, to the earth from which it was taken, and communicating its mortality to the spirit.

excerpt from 'We Shall See Him As He Is', Archimandrite Sophrony, chapter 12
, The Uncreated Light, pp. 153-154


'Uncreated Divine Light and the Ways of Contemplation'

'Uncreated Divine Light by its nature is absolutely different from ordinary physical light. Contemplating it begets, first and foremost, an all-absorbing feeling of the living God - an immaterial feeling of the Immaterial One, a noetic, yet not a rational perception which with irresistible force transports man into another world but so warily that he neither realises when it happens nor knows whether he is in or out of the body. At the time he is more effectively, more deeply conscious of himself than he ever is in everyday life, yet he forgets both himself and the world, carried away by the sweetness of the love of God. In spirit he beholds the Invisible, breathes Him, is wholly in Him.

'The supramental, all-engulfing sensation of the living God is accompanied by a vision of light, of light essentially different from physical light. Man himself then abides in light, becomes assimilated with the light whch he contemplates, and is spiritualized by it. He then neither sees nor feels his own materiality or the materiality of the world.

'The vision comes incomprehensibly. Its approach is unexpected. It appears neither from without nor even from within but unaccountably encompasses the spirit of man, lifting him into the world of Divine Light; and afterwards he cannot say whether he was in ecstasy - whether his soul had left his body - because he did not notice any return to the body. (Thus there is nothing pathological about such an experience.)

'...Contemplation of Divine Light is unfettered by circumstance. Dark of night and light of day are alike propitious. Sometimes the Light comes to man in such a fashion that he remains conscious both of his own body and of the world outside. He can then stay open-eyed and simultaneously behold two lights, the physical and the Divine. It is this kind of vision that the holy Fathers called 'vision seen by the natural eye'. However, this does not mean that the beholding of light is analogous to the psycho-physiological process of natural vision, for Divine Light is of a different nature. It is the light of the mind, the light of the spirit, the light of love, the light of life.

'...When prayer for the first time progresses into a vision of Divine Light, what man then contemplates and lives is so novel, so unprecedented, that he can find no interpretation for it. He feels that the confines of his being have been so inexpressibly widened that the Light has translated him from death to life; but the magnitude of the experience leaves him wondering and bewildered. It is only after repeated visitations that he can appreciate the divine gift he has received. At the time of the vision and after, the soul is filled with deep peace and the sweetness of the love of God. She aspires to nothing, neither to glory nor wealth, nor any earthly happiness, not even to life itself. All these things seem to her of no account. Her entire impulse is towards the living boundlessness of Christ in Whom there is neither beginning nor end, neither darkness nor death.

excerpt from 'Saint Silouan the Athonite' by Archimandrite Sophrony, pp. 171-174

#19 Clinton R. LeFort

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 04:46 AM

I thank you for the exposition and quotations from Elder Sophrony and Elder Zecharias. What is particularly interesting in our Tradition of Faith , especially the Athonite Fathers and the Fathers of the Philokalia is the elucidation of the Mystical experience not abstractly but realistically, as you mentioned in your post and as a goal of the Christian Life; that is, to become a child of God by virtue of the call. I was struck this way particularly by the writings of St. Hesychios the Priest on Wakefulness and the ascetic struggle that this 'abiding in the Divine Light,' entails a struggle with the principalities of darkness who show their faces as reflected shadow of those who follow Christ.

I foudn your response very helpful and enlightening. May Christ be upon our paths always and guide us further than we can ask or imagine in our desire to be united with Him.

Sincerely,

Clinton R. LeFort

#20 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 06:28 AM

'The vision of uncreated Light' (continued)

'The word of God states that faith is necessary for any approach to God. ('Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him' [Heb. 11:6]. On this matter Fr. Sophrony confirms the viewpoint (and the experience) of the Fathers of the Church, who stress that, as St. Macarius puts it, 'the soul which has found the Lord [has done so] by seeking of the Spirit and faith and much patience.' Spiritual Homilies, 18:3, ed. cit., p. 152.) In the case of the vision of the uncreated Light, too, Fr. Sophrony affirms that man's faith is a prime prerequisite. He returns to this theme repeatedly, so as to explain and underline, in accordance with the New Testament, that without faith in Christ sin is not made manifest, and man is deprived of the grace of adoption; his life is consumed by the darkness of non-existence. Through faith, a personal relationship between Christ God and man is created, in the light of which, sin is envisioned as being no less than a violation of this very relationship. Without faith, man is also deprived of this relationship, and cannot even recognize sin. Thus, the Lord warned those who did not believe in Him: 'You will die in your sins' [cf. John 8:24].

'Of course, the faith we are speaking about is trust in Christ as God, which contains within it a salvific power, (We Shall See Him, p. 167) and gives wings for the flight out of the abyss of sin into 'the Light of the Theophany of our Lord [...], bringing victory over death.' (On Prayer, p. 75. See also We Shall See Him, pp. 68-69) Fr. Sophrony thus affirms categorically that the faith required - faith that leads man's spirit into the sphere of divine Light - is that which Christ Himself expects from us. That is, belief that He Himself is the Truth of indestructible Being. (We Shall See Him, p. 212) Only on this condition can man discover the divine origin and the absolute character of the creative word of Christ, the fulfilment of which will make him a collaborator with God, and transform everything into a wonderful divine Paradise. (Op. cit., p. 184)

'Unhesitating faith in the divinity of Jesus generates spiritual courage, which gives the believer the strength not to flinch or retreat before the fearful sight of the abyss he must cross to reach divine eternity. (Op. cit., pp. 68-69) For it is inevitable that Christian faith and discipleship place man in opposition to all the hostile powers, to every negative phenomenon in the spiritual world. At the same time, however, faith and discipleship also bestow on him the grace of always undertaking the best 'gamble': trusting with childlike simplicity in the victorious providence of God. (Op. cit., p. 69. For the concepts of trust in Providence and faith as a 'gamble', see Matthew 6:28-30; 10:29-31)

'Fr. Sophrony sees such living faith in Christ in the persons of the holy apostles. He observes that as soon as they had confessed Christ's divinity through the mouth of Peter, they were taken to Mount Tabor, where the word of the Lord was fulfilled: they saw the Light of His transfiguration, 'the kingdom of God come with power'. This link between the transfiguration of Christ and the vision of the kingdom of God 'in power' is commonly found in the patristic tradition.. Fr. Sophrony, though, attests from his own experience that the same sequence of events is repeated in the life of each of the faithful. (We Shall See Him, p. 157) When this apostolic faith is powerfully at work in the life of the disciple, and the righteousness of faith is fulfilled [cf. Rom. 3:26], he is then 'equipped for every good work' [2 Tim. 3:17], which will contribute to his enlightening.

'The main work of faith, which leads man's soul to be illumined by the Holy Spirit, is repentance. Fr. Sophrony comes back again and again to the subject of repentance. In his exposition of it, he repeats the same points many times, but with every repetition he presents new aspects and adds new elements. The repentance he continually alludes to is, as one may expect, the repentance which takes place on the ontological level...This heals man and strengthens his nature by grace, enabling him to bear the supernatural vision of divine Light.

'Someone who repents truly and humbly, with faith in Christ's word, is not looking out for heavenly visions. He concentrates all his strength on the battle against sins and passions. As his purification from these increases significantly, the vision of Light, the visit of divine grace, is prepared for naturally and without constraint. (We Shall See Him, p. 168; On Prayer, p. 148) The repentance we are referring to here must be thorough; it must reach an extreme intensity of despair. The blessed despair which accompanies deep and whole-hearted repentance generates an irrestible surge towards God and a desire 'unto death'. (We Shall See Him, pp. 178, 189) Man fixes his spiritual gaze on 'the abyss of outer darkness which opens out before him'. This mysterious vision inspires fervent prayer, which cleanses him from passions and prepares the way for the coming of divine Light. These two elements - despair and desire - bring about such a preoccupation with prayer that man's spirit 'is fixed upon God to the exclusion of self'. (Op. cit., p.185. See also pp. 167, 45)

'When prayer becomes frantic and shakes the whole being of the man who, in desperation, is living the hell of his personal repentance, he then 'apprends [the Lord's] love in the uncreated Light'. (Op. cit., pp. 52,59) The tribulation of repentance and the desire with which he seeks after the Lord give rise to extreme pain of love for God to the point of self-hatred. (On Prayer, p. 58) This holy agony of divine love, together with the dread despair born of self-knowledge, give rise to an unbearable longing for the living God, to the point that 'the upsurge of repentance is overpowering'. (Op. cit., p. 165) Then man's conscience suffers inconsolably in yearning for God, so that in his mind and in his heart no other thought remains but hatred of the evil darkness 'that so easily besets us' [Heb. 12:1] and the ardour of his longing for God His Saviour. Not only does man distance himself from all that is created, but his mind also strips itself of all concepts, of every thought and mental representation, (We Shall See Him, pp. 21, 67) to give all the 'space' to the Guest from on High whom he is expecting. Looking at this from another point of view, what we see here is the culmination of the monastic virtue of poverty, as it is understood in the patristic tradition. (St. Symeon the New Theologian interprets the disciples' words: 'Lo, we have left everything and followed thee' [Mt. 19:27] in this light: 'By the word everything He included lands, money, their own wills, to the point of contempt, and abhorrence for this transitory life in order that they may taste that life which is substantial and eternal. It is altogether sweeter and preferable, it is nothing else than God Himself.' Discourses, 34:12, ed. cit., p. 357) At this point, 'it is time for the Lord to act'. But the Lord, with His foresight and discernment, is likely to delay His coming. He does so out of His goodness, providentially allowing the one who repents to pass through a greater degree fo self-emptying, and Godforsakenness. In this way, man's spiritual stability is strengthened, and he attains a closer likeness to the Lord who descended before He ascended. (We Shall See Him, pp. 131-132, 135. The experiences described by Fr. Sophrony are, as we have seen, often expressed in the form of a spiritual law. For a further example, see op. cit., p. 88 'The fiercer the spiritual pain the more vigorous the attraction to God. The more dynamic our plunge into the depths of the shoreless ocean of suffering, the surer our spirit's ascent into heaven.')




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