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Chapter V -- 4

We now wish to turn to man’s vocation.

We have seen St John of Damascus’ description of the condition of Adam and Eve in Paradise before the Fall. There we saw that Adam and Eve were created in the image and in the likeness of God, and there we saw detailed descriptions of Adam and Eve’s life in Paradise which we ourselves remarked were not only descriptions of what has been lost by Adam’s descendants in the Fall of Adam, but also descriptions of the ideal to which Adam’s descendants might now attain both in this life and in the next: certainly the fullness of divinization (theosis) is attained not in this life, nor even in the next life, Heaven before the Resurrection, but after the General Resurrection. However, the foundation of the tradition of spirituality which we will address in the next two volumes is that man can in this life begin—and indeed must begin—the upward ascent towards God, the upward ascent towards his own divinization (theosis).

Let us now look at how this ascent is viewed from within the tradition of the Philokalia.

One of the authors represented in the Philokalia, St Diadochos of Photike (c.400–a.486), wrote a work called the Gnostic Chapters[1] which is quoted in On Sobriety, the work from the Philokalia that forms the subject of Volume III of this study. While the quotations from the Gnostic Chapters found in On Sobriety are not significant in themselves, they demonstrate a connection between the two works.

In several chapters of the Gnostic Chapters, St Diadochos discusses the relation between Baptism and the transformation of the man from the ‘in the image (kat’ eikona)’ to the ‘in the likeness (kath’ homoiosin)’. In Chapter 78, we find the following:

78 We are in the image (kat’ eikona) of God in the spiritual (noere) movement of the soul, for the body is just as the house of the soul. Therefore, since through the transgression of Adam not only the lines of the stamp (charakteras) of the soul were sullied, but also our body became subject to corruption, on account of this the Holy Word of God became flesh, as God granting us salvific water towards regeneration by means of his own Baptism. We are regenerated, then, in the operation (energeia) of the Holy and Vivifying Spirit by means of the water, whence we are directly cleansed in both body and soul—if, indeed, a man comes forth towards God with a complete and undivided disposition—the Holy Spirit on the one hand dwelling in us, sin on the other hand being expelled by that Holy Spirit. For it is not possible, since the stamp (charakteras) of the soul is one and simple, for two persons [i.e. the Holy Spirit and Satan] to dwell together in the soul, as certain persons have thought. For when by means of Holy Baptism, Divine Grace in a certain limitless affection adapts the soul to the lines of the kat’ eikona in a pledge of the likeness (homoiosis), where can the person of the wicked one find place, there being, certainly, no communion at all between light and darkness? We believe, then, we who are the runners in the sacred contests, that the multiform snake is expelled from the inner chambers of the mind (nous) by means of the bath of incorruption; and let us not wonder for what reason after Baptism we again think vicious things together with good things. For the bath of holiness on the one hand removes from us the stain which is from sin; it does not on the other hand now change the double nature of our will, neither does it at all prevent the demons from warring against us, nor from speaking words of deceit towards us, so that, receiving in the power of God the arms of righteousness, we preserve those things that we did not guard when we were earthly [psuchikoi].[2]

In Chapter 4, St Diadochos defines clearly the relation between the kat’ eikona and the kath’ homoiosin:

4 We are all men in the image (kat’ eikona) of God. The ‘in the likeness (kath’ homoiosin)’ is of those only who have through much love (agape) enslaved their own freedom to God. For when we are not of ourselves, then we are like (homoioi) him who reconciled us to himself by means of love. A man will not achieve this very thing except if he persuade his own soul not to be shaken in regard to the easy glory of this life.[3]

In Chapter 89, St Diadochos describes the ascent from the kat’ eikona to the kath’ homoiosin:

89 Holy Grace, by means of the Baptism of regeneration, procures for us two good things, of which the one infinitely surpasses the other. But the first is granted directly: for it renews us in the very water and brightens all the lines of the soul, that is to say the kat’ eikona, washing off from us every wrinkle of sin. The second waits so that it might work together with us, which very thing is the kath’ homoiosin. Therefore, when the mind (nous) begins to taste the goodness of the Holy Spirit in much perception (polle aisthesis), then we must know that Grace is beginning to paint as it were the kath’ homoiosin over the kat’ eikona. For just as painters first delineate the shape of the man with one colour, then, with colour bit by bit adorning colour, they thus preserve the form of the one who is being portrayed even up to the hairs—thus also the Grace of God first regulates the kat’ eikona by means of Baptism to whatever it was when man first came to be. When, however, Grace should see us desiring from every disposition the beauty of the likeness (homoiosis) and should see us standing naked and fearless in the studio of this Grace, then, with virtue adorning virtue, and leading the form of the soul up from glory to glory [cf. 2 Cor. 3, 18], it procures the stamp (charakteras) of the likeness (homoiosis) to Grace. For that reason, then, the perception (aisthesis) declares that we are being formed in the kath’ homoiosin; we will know the perfection of the likeness (homoiosis) from the illumination (photismos). For the mind (nous), progressing according to a certain measure and an unspeakable rhythm, receives all the virtues by means of this perception (aisthesis); one is not able, however, to acquire spiritual love (pneumatike agape) except if he be illumined with every inner spiritual assurance (plerophoria) by the Holy Spirit. For if the mind (nous) does not receive perfectly the kath’ homoiosin by means of the Divine Light, it can have almost all the other virtues but it remains yet without a share in perfect love. For when a man is made like to the virtue of God—as man is able to be made like to God, I say—then he also bears the likeness (homoiosis) of the divine love. For as in the case of those who are portrayed, the whole adorning colour of colours, added to the image, preserves the resemblance of him who is portrayed, thus also in the case of those who are again painted by Divine Grace in the divine likeness (homoiosis), the illumination (photismos) of love once added declares the kat’ eikona to be completely in the dignity of the kath’ homoiosin. For neither can any other virtue procure dispassion (apatheia) for the soul except love alone. The fulfilment of the Law is love. [Cf. Gal. 5, 14.] Therefore, then, our inner man is renewed from day to day in the taste of love; it is completed, however, in the perfection of love [Cf. Col. 3, 10].[4]

Let us discuss what is being said.

We will first interpret the literal meaning of the passages and then turn to the broader spiritual issues.

St Diadochos locates the image of God, the kat’ eikona, in the ‘spiritual (noera) movement of the soul’. This means just what it means both in St Gregory of Nyssa and in St John of Damascus: the soul itself of man, and especially the mind (nous) of man, is the image of God in man. Here we see St Diadochos to adopt a rather Platonic doctrine of the relation of the soul to the body: the body is just like the house of the soul. We have already in Chapter III seen this rather Platonic image in Evagrius Pontikos.[5] However, while it is well-known that St Diadochos was influenced by Evagrius, there is no trace of the Evagrian cosmology in the Gnostic Chapters, and, indeed, St Diadochos even adopts somewhat different opinions than Evagrius. Hence, the doctrine that the soul dwells in the body as in a house can be seen as merely the rather Platonic orientation of St Diadochos, an opinion not much different from the opinion of St Augustine, who died when St Diadochos was entering adulthood.[6]

We see the Fall of Adam. Eve was deceived by the serpent and Adam by Eve. They fell. We have implicitly seen in St John of Damascus that their sin was disobedience. Now, here, it is a matter of looking at the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve for the entire human race. As St Diadochos says in Chapter 4, all men bear the kat’ eikona: that was not lost in the Fall. All men alive are in the image of God. However, St Diadochos says, ‘the lines of the stamp (charakteras) of the soul were sullied.’ This means that the kat’ eikona was dirtied. We might say, disturbed, or, following Fr Sophrony (Sakharov), ‘distorted’. Simply put, while all men on the face of the earth are in the image of God, because of the fall of Adam there is a basic disturbance in the image. Moreover, St Diadochos says, ‘our body also became subject to corruption’. We became subject to sickness, ageing and death. God had said to Adam and Eve that they would die with death in the day that they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge,[7] and part of that death is the subjection of our body to corruption. All men die. All men grow ill. All men experience pain and suffering. This is the human condition. This is over and above the kath’ homoiosin that Adam and Eve lost, their likeness to God in virtue, the likeness that gave them their bold familiarity with God.

But ‘on account of this the Holy Word of God became flesh.’ Why? So that he might undo the damage wrought by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. How? ‘[A]s God granting us salvific water towards regeneration by means of his own Baptism.’ This is not to be construed as a doctrine intended to replace the doctrine of the Cross. St Diadochos is merely emphasizing the sanctification of the waters that Christ accomplished in his own Baptism at the hands of St John the Baptist in the Jordan, when the Holy Trinity was manifested in the Theophany.[8] Orthodoxy by no means negates the Cross but it has a more textured theology which includes the sanctification of the waters by the Christ when he himself was baptized. The Baptism of Christ sanctifies the waters of our own Baptism.

How does St Diadochos see Baptism? First, we are regenerated in the operation (energeia) of the Holy Spirit by means of the waters of Baptism, when we are directly cleansed in body and soul: the Holy Spirit takes up his abode in us, at the same time expelling the Devil. In a very important passage, St Diadochos adds that Grace, the Holy Spirit, restores the kat’ eikona to what it was when Adam and Eve were created: Baptism removes the dirt that sullies the kat’ eikona in each man, the disturbance and distortion (‘every wrinkle’) of the kat’ eikona that every man on the face of the earth has on account of the transgression of Adam.[9] St Diadochos goes on, however: this restoration of the kat’ eikona and all the other benefits of Baptism constitute the pledge of the kath’ homoiosin—the word used is that used for the pledge of two who have agreed to marry. St Diadochos then emphasizes that the multiform snake, Satan, is expelled from us by Baptism.[10] Our condition is radically changed in Baptism: before Baptism, the snake, Satan, dominates our mind (nous), making us unable to keep the commandments of Christ; however, he is expelled in Baptism by the Holy Spirit which then takes up its abode in our mind (nous).

St Diadochos makes another important assertion: although the multiform snake has been expelled in Baptism, let us not wonder why after Baptism we should again have bad thoughts. For although Baptism does remove the stain of sin—in addition to the restoration of the kat’ eikona, all our personal sins are completely washed away and forgiven in Baptism—Baptism does not change the double nature of our will: our will can tend, as we have seen in St John of Damascus, to good or it can tend to evil: the choice is up to us. Moreover, Baptism does not prevent the demons from warring against us, nor from speaking words of deceit towards us: in a word, Baptism does not prevent the demons from tempting us: recall the immaterial war of the thoughts that we spoke of in Chapter IV, above, when we were discussing St Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of the influence of the emotions on the reason. It is for us after our Baptism to take up the arms of righteousness in the power of God in order to keep the commandments of God—of the Old and New Testaments—that we did not keep when we were earthly (psuchikoi), that is, when we were yet unbaptized.

We here see the fundamental role of Baptism in the Jesus Prayer. We ourselves can only emphasize this aspect: it would be folly to pursue the spirituality of the Jesus Prayer and the Philokalia without Orthodox Baptism. In regard to the Jesus Prayer, there are these important aspects of Baptism: we are completely regenerated in Baptism; our sins are completely forgiven; the kat’ eikona is restored to its condition as it was at the time of Adam’s creation by God; Satan is expelled from our mind (nous) and the Holy Spirit takes up its abode in our mind (nous), so that our mind (nous) is cleansed, enlightened and found in a new and enduring condition.

In particular, the transformation of our mind (nous) by the personal advent in Baptism of the Holy Spirit is important in regard to the practice of the Jesus Prayer. The practice of the Jesus Prayer is called ‘mental prayer’. It is prayer by the mind (nous). It is something spiritual. It should be evident that we Orthodox have a much broader notion of the mind (nous) than the capacity to reason with propositions based on concepts abstracted from sense-perception or the capacity to intuit the validity of the law of the excluded middle. Moreover, the practice of the Jesus Prayer is not a practice of directed imagination, nor, in most cases, of directed sentiment or emotion: it is a use of the intuitive powers of our mind (nous). These intuitive powers of our mind (nous) might best be described as the spiritual faculties of our soul. But before Baptism we were under the dominion of Satan, while after Baptism we have been freed from Satan and our mind (nous) has received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This should not be considered to be mere words. We are changed. Necessarily, if our mind (nous) is under the dominion of Satan, then our use of the Jesus Prayer will be different than if the Holy Spirit dwells in our mind (nous). This is the flaw in treating the Jesus Prayer as a mantra: such an approach ignores this aspect of Christian life: the transformation of the mind (nous) in Baptism through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism we are made new creations in Christ.

The Philokalia presupposes these aspects of Baptism when the works in it address the spiritual ascent by means of the Jesus Prayer. We cannot say what would happen if someone were to presume to pray the Jesus Prayer without Orthodox Baptism.

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[1] Philokalia Volume I; critical edition: Diadochos.

[2] Diadochos pp. 135–6.

[3] Diadochos p. 86.

[4] Diadochos pp. 149–50.

[5] Kephalaia Gnostica IV, 68.

[6] It is known that there was intercourse between Photike, the diocese in Western Greece of which St Diadochos was bishop, and North Africa, but any theory of a link between St Diadochos and St Augustine would be completely speculative.

[7] Cf. Gen. 2, 17.

[8] Cf. Luke 3, 21–2; etc.

[9] St Diadochos completes his thought on the restoration of the kat’ eikona at the beginning of Chapter 89.

[10] St Diadochos is speaking against the Messalians, an heretical group.


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