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Patristic Theology

Now what is the social aspect of our present subject? Take any human being, any person whatsoever, who lives in society and must function as a healthy social entity.

Earlier we referred to the healing of the human souls noetic energy. The completion of this course of treatment automatically results in the creation of a social human being, a person whose soul is healthy and who is prepared for all aspects of social activity. And such healed people, automatically and implicitly, are “ordained” doctors for others whose souls are sick. Here, the medical science called Orthodoxy differs from other sciences: once patients have been healed, they automatically become people who can heal others. For this reason, it is inconceivable for people who have been healed not to have spiritual children — that is to say, other people who depend on them spiritually, other people whom they advise and guide towards healing.

In the early Church, there was no special or official healer, because every Christian was a healer. Healing was the mission of the early Church. The missionary effort of the early Church was not like that of today’s Orthodox Church, which sometimes consists of advertising our beautiful beliefs and traditional form of worship as though they were nothing but products for sale. For example, we talk like this: “Take a look, folks! We have the most beautiful doctrines, the most beautiful worship, the most beautiful chanting, and the most beautiful vestments. See what a beautiful robe the bishop is wearing today!” And that sort of thing. We try to dazzle them with our staffs, our robes, and our head coverings so that we can carry out our missionary work. Of course, there is some sense and some success in doing missionary work this way, but it is not genuine missionary work like that of the early Church.

Today’s missionary work consists mainly of this: we enlighten superstitious people and make them Orthodox Christians, without trying to heal them. By doing this, however, we are just replacing or exchanging their former beliefs with a new set of beliefs. We are replacing one superstition with another. And I say this because when Orthodoxy is presented in this way and is offered in this way, how is it different from superstition? After all, when Orthodoxy is presented and offered as a Christianity that does not heal – despite the fact that healing is its primary task – how is it different from superstition?

There are Christians in the West who also have Christian dogmas and accept certain councils. On the basis of outward appearance, there does not seem to be such a great difference between the dogmas of the heretics and those of the Orthodox. The difference is not as huge as it is between Christians and idolaters. On the surface, Orthodox doctrine is not so strikingly different from that of heterodox Christians, especially given the fact that Orthodox doctrine, as taught today [this was said in 1983] in Greece, is unrelated to the therapeutic treatment found in Orthodox tradition. So from the perspective of doctrine, how is Orthodox tradition different from the tradition of the heterodox? And why should someone who is not Orthodox believe in Orthodoxy and not in some other Christian dogma? After all, in the way that they are presented, neither one of them is offered as a treatment or pathway towards healing, but as superstition.

These days we talk about changing our way of thinking, about changing our beliefs, about changing our outlook on life, and this is the way we view repentance. In other words, for Orthodoxy today repentance is identified merely with the acceptance of Christ. That is to say, we accept Christ. And because we accept Him, we go to Church, we light a candle or two, and we become good little boys and girls. If we are young, we go to Sunday school. If we are adults, we go to a religious meeting now and then. And supposedly we are living in repentance; supposedly we are repentant. Or else, if we have done something bad in our life, we show some regret and ask forgiveness and call what we are doing repentance. However, this is not repentance. It is simply regret. Regret is the beginning of repentance, but the human soul is not purified by mere regret. In order for one’s soul to be purified of the passions, the fear of God and repentance must first be present and continue throughout the stage of purification until it is completed with divine illumination, the illumination of our nous by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Since the [modern] Orthodox do not put this therapeutic treatment into practice, what makes them different from those who are not Orthodox? Is it doctrine? And what good are Orthodox doctrines if they are not used for the healing of the soul? When used in such a way, doctrine offers no benefit whatsoever.

Protopresbyter John Romanides (Patristic Theology: The University Lectures)


Holy Hierarchs