Glossary of Terms

Akedia: Literally, fatigue or exhaustion, but in technical usage refers to the spiritual and physical lethargy. It can take the form of listlessness, dispersion of thoughts, or being inattentively immersed in useless activity.

Ascesis: It is so called man’s effort as well as the method he uses to pass through the three stages of the spiritual life: purification of heart, illumination of the nous and theosis. Since this is achieved through the commandments of Christ, ascesis is man’s struggle to keep the commandments of Christ. Thus ascesis is connected with the keeping of the commandments and the healing of man.

Discernment (diakrisis): A spiritual gift through which one discerns the inner states. It is not a sharpness of mind but the energy of the grace of God. It is a gift which pertains to the pure nous. It is mainly the ability to distinguish between uncreated and created things; between the energy of God and the energy of the devil but also between the energies of God and the psychophysical energies of man. Thus, one distinguishes emotional states from spiritual experiences.

Disciple (hypotactikos): In the narrow sense of the word it means the monk who obeys a Gerondas so that he gets healed and acquires theosis in the grace of God. In the wide sense of the word “disciple” means every Christian who receives spiritual guidance by his spiritual father.

Dispassion (apatheia): The soul has three powers aspects, that is: the intelligent power, the appetitive and the irascible power. The last two constitute what is called the passible aspect of the soul. Dispassion, then, is not the mortification of the passible aspect of the soul but its transfiguration. Generally, when all the powers of the soul turn to God and are directed to Him we have the state of dispassion.

Imagination – Fantasy: The covering of the noetic energy of the soul. It is an after–the–Fall phaenomenon. It is an energy of the soul which covers the nous and darkens it. The ascetic endeavour consists in purifying the nous from the energy of imagination–phantasy.

Gerondas: The priest or monk who has been healed by the grace of God and helps effectively his spiritual children –disciples– to be healed, that is to go through the purification of heart, the illumination of nous and to attain to theosis divinization.

Heart: The spiritual centre of man’s being. It is the do main which is manifested through ascesis in grace and within which God Himself is manifested. It is also called the centre of the powers–energies of the soul (intelligent power, appetitive and irascible power).

Hesychia: The peace of the heart, the undisturbed state of the nous, the liberation of heart from the thoughts (logismoi), from the passions and the influence of the environment; it is the dwelling in God. Hesychia is the only way for man to attain to theosis. External quietness is helpful so that man can reach the noetic hesychia. A hesychast is one who struggles to achieve the returning of the nous back into the heart, following a specific method.

Illumination: When all thoughts–logismoi come out of the heart the nous returns within it and the prayer operates unceasingly. This is called illumination of the nous. Thus the illumination of the nous is closely connected with noetic prayer.

Kingdom: The term ‘vasileia (glory, rule, kingdom) of God’, according to the patristic tradition and especially the teaching of St Gregory Palamas, means the uncreated Light of God.

Knowledge (gnosis): It is neither the intellectual engagement with God nor the knowledge of the reason about God but it is the personal experience of God. The knowledge of God is closely connected with the theoria (vision) of the uncreated Light. This knowledge is beyond any other created knowledge. It is achieved through man’s theosis. Theosis is man’s communion and union with God. And it is this union which engenders knowledge of God, which is of a higher order than and above any other human knowledge.

Mourning (penthos): Deep sorrow of the soul. The mourning according to God is an energy of the divine grace and is closely linked with repentance, weeping, tears. It is called gladdening sorrow because it does not cause any psychological anomaly but it brings inner peace and man’s yearning to adjust his life to the commandments of Christ.

Noetic Prayer: The prayer which is done with the nous. When the nous is liberated from its enslavement to reason, to the passions and the surrounding world and returns from its distraction within the heart, then noetic prayer starts. Thus noetic prayer is done with the nous within the heart, whereas the prayer of the intellect is done within the reason.

Nous: The word has various uses in Patristic teaching. It indicates either the soul or the heart or even an energy of the soul. Yet, the nous is mainly the eye of the soul; the purest part of the soul; the highest attention. It is also called noetic energy and it is not identified with reason. The human nous is the “eye of the heart or soul” or the “mind of the heart”. The soul of man is created by God in His image; man’s soul is intelligent and noetic. St Thalassios wrote that God created beings “with a capacity to receive the Spirit and to attain knowledge of Himself; He has brought into existence the senses and sensory perception to serve such beings”. Eastern Orthodox Christians hold that God did this by creating mankind with intelligence and noetic faculties. Angels have intelligence and nous, whereas men have reason – both logos and dianoia – nous and sensory perception. This follows the idea that man is a microcosm and an expression of the whole creation or macrocosmos. The human nous was darkened after the Fall of Man (which was the result of the rebellion of reason against the nous), but after the purification (healing or correction) of the nous (achieved through ascetic practices like hesychasm), the human nous (the “eye of the heart”) will see God’s uncreated Light (and feel God’s uncreated love and beauty, at which point the nous will start the unceasing prayer of the heart) and become illuminated, allowing the person to become an orthodox theologian.

Passion: The last stage of the development of sin. The stages of sin are: provocation through the thoughts, joining, assent, desire, action and passion. Passion is a repeated action which dominates man. In ascetic theology the movement of the powers of the soul contrary to nature is called passion.

Phronema: is a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia). Attaining phronema is regarded as the first step toward theosis, the state of glorification….These terms are part of what is called the “therapeutic method” of Orthodoxy, or the “therapeutic tradition.” Orthodox theology teaches that a faith is true if it heals spiritual sickness, and brings the faithful to “behold the uncreated Light.” Phronema refers to “the completely self-sacrificial trust and faith in religious and ethical truths… from the voice of God…. an unshakeable certainty about the truth of Faith… undiminished and vibrant throughout life, a continually verified daily experience,” “a growing feeling for and understanding of God’s and the practice of Orthodox piety—Orthodox Worship and behavior.” The phronema is vested in tradition “against all heresies and schisms of all times”. The “mind of the Fathers” is also termed phronema as is the “mind of the Church.” …Phronema in the biblico-patristic Tradition the whole turn of mind which prevails in a man from the way in which he lives, and from the relationship which he has with God. And literally, if the nous [i.e., the spiritual intellect, not to be confused with “reason”] is darkened, then the whole mind is carnal. But if the nous is illuminated, which means that is has the Holy Spirit within it, then the whole mind is a mind of spirit and, of course, a mind of the Church….

When we speak of having an orthodox mind we mean chiefly that our nous is the nous of Christ, as the Apostle Paul says, or at least that we accept the experience of the saints and have communion with them. This is the way of the life of the Orthodox Tradition and the way of life of Christ’s life. The orthodox mind is expressed by the dogmas of the Church, because, on the one hand, the dogmas express the life which the Church has and the revelation which the saints have received, and on the other hand, they lead the passionate people and the babes in Christ to unity and communion with God.

We must say at this point that the theology of the Church is ascetic, that is to say, it defines the methods of cure in order for man to attain deification….So the dogmas express the revelation and the life which the Church has and they also cure man and lead him towards deification. They are spiritual road signs. In this sense we can say that the dogmas save man and sanctify him. This happens because they cure him and give him the right orientation on his way towards God. (pp. 120, 122-123)

Pleasure: The pleasure that man feels enjoying an object, an idea etc. There is sensual pleasure and spiritual pleasure corresponding to the body and soul accordingly. The pleasure which derives from God is connected with peace whereas the pleasure which derives from sin and the devil causes disturbance. Also, a pleasure which causes pain and guilt comes from the devil and is connected with the passions.

Practical Man- Praxis: Praxis is the struggle to purify one’s heart and that is the first stage of spiritual life. Practical man is one who struggles to purify his heart. In patristic theology the practical man is also called a breeder because he tries to tame his passions, which are like animals.

Purification (Katharsis): Purification refers mainly to the soul. In patristic theology the term “katharsis” –purification– is employed to denote three states. The first one is the rejection of all thoughts (logismoi) from the heart. The thoughts-logismoi are so called because they must be in the reason (in Greek: logiki- logismoi). The second state is the ascetic effort so that the powers of the soul, intelligent, appetitive, irascible move in accordance with nature and above nature –which means they must turn towards God– and not contrary to nature. The third state is the ascetic method by means of which man reaches from selfish love to unselfish love.

Reason (logiki): The power of the soul through which we perceive the surrounding world and we develop our relation with it. We aquire experience of God by means of the nous and we formulate this experience, when required, by means of reason, in so far as it is attainable.

Remembrance of Death: It is not just the feeling that the end of our biological existence will come but the feeling of mortality –the garments of the flesh that man wore after the Fall. The remembrance of death is activated by the grace of God and creates desire for repentance. Remembrance of death is also the experience of the loss of the grace of God.

Remembrance of God: The incessant remembrance of the name of God. It is not just calling God to mind but it is a state attained through the purified nous. It is achieved and expressed by means of noetic prayer.

Sin: In theological terms sin is the darkening of the nous. When the nous goes away from the heart and ceases having remembrance of God and is distracted to creation through the senses, then it commits sin. This distraction is manifested in actions which are, thus, called sin. Sin starts with assent and evolves to desire, action and passion.

Slothfulness (acedia): The spiritual paralysis of the powers of the soul. It is this state during which there is an absolute indifference to prayer and fasting and, in general, an inertia about the keeping of the commandments of the gospel. Since man is a psychophysical being, spiritual slothfulness is reflected in the body too. It is a psychophysical weakness and slackness. A psychophysical paralysis.

Spirituality: The word “spirituality” (pnevmaticotis) comes from “spiritual” (pnevmatikos). Thus, spirituality is the state of the spiritual person. Spiritual man has a certain way of behaving, a certain mentality. He acts differently from the way non-spiritual people behave.

Sorrow: The inner pain of the soul. There is sorrow ac cording to God and sorrow according to the world. The former creates spiritual inspiration, that is it moves within an atmosphere of hope in God and urges man to spiritual struggle. It gives great strength and energy. Sorrow according to the world leads man to despair and to a psychophysical paralysis.

Theology – Theologian: Theology is the knowledge of God. It is not a result of studying books or exercising the reason; it is on the one hand a fruit of the knowledge of God and of the personal experience of Him; on the other hand it is the way which leads to the healing of man and the knowledge of God. A theologian is one who has passed through the purification of heart to the illumination of the nous and to theosis. Thus, he has acquired the knowledge of God and speaks about Him in an authentic way. A theologian can be even called one who accepts the experience of the saints, not having himself a personal experience of God. “He whose prayer is pure is a theologian”.

Theoria -Theoretical Man: Theoria is the vision of the glory of God. Theoria is identified with the vision of the uncreated Light, the uncreated energy of God, with the union of man with God, with mans theosis. Thus, theoria, vision and theosis are closely connected. Theoria has various degrees. There is illumination, vision of God and constant vision (for hours, days, weeks, even months). Noetic prayer is the first stage of theoria. Theoretical man is one who is at this stage. In patristic theology the theoretical man is characterised as the shepherd of the sheep.

Theosis : It is the participation in the uncreated grace of God. Theosis is identified and connected with the theoria (vision) of the uncreated Light. It is called theosis in grace because it is attained through the energy of the divine grace. It is a cooperation of God with man, since God is He Who operates and man is he who cooperates.

Thoughts – Logismoi: The thoughts which are connected with images as well as with the various stimulations originating from the senses and the imagination. The thoughts logismoi evolve to sin through the stages of desire, action and passion. They are called logismoi because they act in the reason (logiki).

Uncreated Light: It is the energy of God which can be seen as Light many times. This energy of God is the glory of divinity. It is called uncreated Light because it is divine and thus, uncreated. It is not the energy of a created being.

Vasileia: The term ‘vasileia (glory, rule, kingdom) of God’, according to the patristic tradition and especially the teaching of St Gregory Palamas, means the uncreated Light of God.

Watchfulness (nepsis): Spiritual alertness, constant attentiveness and readiness so that the thought won’t progress from the reason and enter into the heart. It is only the nous that must be within the heart and not the thoughts-logismoi. This spiritual alertness is called nepsis.

Glossary from the book: My Elder Joseph the Hesychast


Italicized words in these definitions are explained elsewhere in this glossary

Antidoron (άντίδωρον)

Antidoron is bread that is blessed (but not consecrated) for distribution after the Divine Liturgy. It is taken from the remaining loaves of bread from which portions are cut for consecration.

Ascesis (ασκησις)

Ascesis is man’s struggle to keep the commandments of Christ. It encompasses not only his bodily and spiritual effort, but also the method by which he passes through the three stages of the spiritual life, namely: purification of the heart, illumination of the nous, and theosis. Thus, it is an essential tool for one’s sanctification. According to St. Gregory Palamas, it is primarily “the evangelic life which is based on repentance. It is man’s preparation for his union with Christ.” See also praxis and theoria.

Assault (προσβολή)

Assault is the name given to the first stage of a temptation. See consent for more details.

Athos (Αθως)

Mount Athos, or the Holy Mountain, is a self-governed monastic community on a peninsula in Northern Greece. The term can also refer to the mountain at the tip of this peninsula, in which case it is abbreviated as “Mt. Athos” in this book. “Athonite” means relating to or characteristic of Mount Athos.

Blessing (ευλογία)

Besides  its  usual  meanings, a “blessing” can also mean the permission given by one’s spiritual father for a particular action.

Cenobite, Cenobium (κοινοβιά-της, κοινόβιον)

Cenobites are monastics who live together in a cenobitic monastery or cenobium, that is, a monastery where all things are held in common.

Consent (συγκατάθεσις)

Consent is one of the stages of temptation. St. John of the Ladder describes the stages as follows: “Assault is a simple conception or an image encountered for the first time, which has entered the heart. Coupling is mentally conversing with what has been encountered, accompanied by passion or dispassion. And consent (συγκατάθεσις) is the yielding of the soul to what has been presented to it, accompanied by delight. But captivity is a forcible and involuntary abduction of the heart, or a permanent association with what has been encountered which destroys the good condition of our soul. Struggle is power equal to the attacking force, which either wins or loses according to the soul’s desire. Passion is primarily that which nestles with persistence in the soul for a long time, forming a habit in the soul, by its long-standing association with it, since the soul of its own accord clings to it. The first of these states is without sin, the second not always, but the third is sinful or sinless according to the state of the struggler. Struggle can earn crowns or punishments. Captivity is judged differently, according to whether it occurs at the time of prayer or at other times; whether it happens in things neither good nor bad, or in the context of evil thoughts. But passion is unequivocally condemned in every situation, and requires either corresponding repentance or future punishment. Therefore, he who regards the first assault dispassionately cuts off with one blow all the rest which follow.” —The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 15:73

Contemplation (θεωρία)

The holy Fathers use the word θεωρία (theh-oh-ree’ah) in three different ways. Its first meaning is simply “seeing” or “beholding” physically. Its second meaning metaphorically refers to intellectual perception, that is: “consideration,” “speculation,” and “philosophical contemplation.” In this case, we chose to translate θεωρία with the word “contemplation.” Its third meaning refers to noetic contemplation which is the highest state of prayer. When used in reference to this noetic contemplation, we merely transliterated the word as “theoria,” instead of using the term “contemplation,” to avoid confusion with the second meaning of the word, i.e., intellectual contemplation. See also theoria.

Discern, discernment (διακρίνω, διάκρισις)

Discernment is a spiritual gift pertaining to the nous. Through discernment, one discerns the inner states of the spiritual life, distinguishing between uncreated and created things: between the energy of God and the energy of the devil. Through discernment, one is also able to distinguish between the energies of God and the psychosomatic energies of man, thereby distinguishing emotional states from spiritual experiences.

Disciple (υποτακτικός)

Taken in the broad sense, the word “disciple” refers to every Christian who receives spiritual guidance from his spiritual father. In the monastic life, though, it applies to a monk who obeys an elder so that his soul may be healed from the passions and attain theosis by the grace of God.

Dispassion (απάθεια)

Dispassion is achieved when all three aspects of the soul (i.e., the intelligent, appetitive, and incensive aspects) are directed towards God. It is the transfiguration of the passionate aspect of the soul (i.e., the aspect of the soul which is more vulnerable to passion, namely, the appetitive and incensive aspects), rather than its mortification. Thus, dispassion in this context does not signify a stoic indifference, but rather a transfiguration and sanctification of the powers of the soul and eventually of the body also.

Ecstasy (έκστασις)

One experiences ecstasy when, with the synergy of grace, one detaches his nous from reason and the surrounding environment and brings it back to the heart. Then “through the heart the nous ascends to God,” according to St. Gregory Palamas. During ecstasy the nous is found in a different, spiritual realm. It is not a respite of the actions of the soul and nous, but a respite of physical actions, such as eating, sleeping, etc.

Eros (έρως)

Although “eros” in contemporary culture is generally associated with sexual passion, the elder uses it in its patristic sense, which denotes the burning, intense longing of love (devoid of all sexual passion) that impels man toward union with God.

Fantasy (φαντασία)

In the patristic sense, a fantasy is a mental image formed in the nous either by oneself or by the demons. Fantasies are the chief instruments of the demons to lead man into sin. As St. Hesychios the Presbyter writes, “It is impossible for sin to enter the heart without first knocking at its door in the form of a fantasy provoked by the devil” (Philokalia, Vol. I, p. 173). Fantasies created in one’s own nous, though, can be either beneficial or harmful. For example, it is helpful to contemplate death, heaven, hell, etc. with our nous at the outset of prayer, because in this way one’s heart is predisposed to prayer. However, it is also possible with one’s nous to meditate on worldly or sinful things. Nevertheless, all fantasies are an obstacle to pure prayer, which requires an undistracted nous.

Geronda (Γέρων)

A geronda (pronounced “yeh-ron-da”) is a hieromonk, priest, or monk who, ideally, has reached dispassion by the grace of God. Thus, because of his own experience, he is able to lead his spiritual children to dispassion as well. In a broader sense, though, it is used as a respectful title for any spiritual father and any elderly hieromonk, priest, or monk. In this book we have chosen to transliterate this word as “geronda” when used as a name and to translate it as “elder” when used as a title.

Heart (καρδία)

In patristic usage, the heart is both spiritual and physical. The spiritual heart is: “deep” (Ps. 64:6), an “immeasurable abyss” (St. Makarios, Philokalia, Vol. Ill, pp. 321, 83), the “inner man” (St. Gregory Palamas, To Xeni, Gk. Philokalia, Vol. IV, p. 109), the “hidden person” (1 Pet. 3:4), the “battle-ground of the spiritual struggle” (Archimandrite Sophrony, Saint Silouan, p. 10), identified with nous (St. Maximos the Confessor, Philokalia, Vol. II, pp. 109, 73), into whose depths the grace of God enters through baptism (St. Diadochos of Photiki, Philokalia, Vol. 1, pp. 77, 279), where God may be made manifest (St. Theoleptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia, Writings, pp. 385f. Gk. Philokalia, Vol. IV, p. 6) and may dwell (Eph. 3:17) and writes His laws (Rom. 2:15 and St. Maximos, Philokalia, Vol. II, pp. 158, 81). It is located in the physical heart as in an organ (St. Gregory Palamas, Triads, 1, 2, 3, CWS p. 43), which is man’s “natural, paranatural, and supernatural center” (St. Nikodemos the Hagioritea Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, CWS, p.154-157), and is the path for the nous to return to the spiritual heart (Archimandrite Sophrony, Saint Silouan, p. 47).

Hesychast (ήσυχαστής)

A hesychast is someone who lives a life of hesychia in seclusion from the world and is wholly dedicated to God. His chief struggle is to bring his nous into his heart.

Hesychia (ησυχία)

The term ησυχία can mean either external stillness or internal, noetic stillness. In the former instance, the word is translated as “stillness,” whereas in the latter instance, it is transliterated in this book as “hesychia.” Hesychia is the ascetical practice of noetic stillness linked with watchfulness and deepened by the unceasing Jesus prayer. Hesychia is an undisturbed nous and a heart with peace, freed from thoughts, passions, and from influences of the environment. It is dwelling in God. The only way for man to achieve theosis is through hesychia. External stillness can help one achieve hesychia.

Hieromonk (ιερομόναχος)

A hieromonk is a monk who has been ordained to the priesthood.

Holy Mountain (το Άγιον Όρος)

See Athos.

Icon (είκών)

An icon is a two-dimensional sacred depiction of Christ, of His saints, or of a holy event. Icons are to be venerated, not worshipped, as worship is due to God alone. As St. Basil the Great has stated, the reverence given to icons is transferred to their prototype, that is, to the one portrayed.

Illumination (φώτισις)

Closely connected with noetic prayer, illumination of the nous occurs when the heart is purified from the passions, the nous returns within the heart, and the prayer operates unceasingly. At this stage, one weeps tears of repentance daily.

Imagination (φαντασία)

The imagination is one of the lower psychical faculties of man, operating in a realm between reason and sense. Although the imagination can be used by the nous to create beneficial contemplations, it is also the chief instrument evil spirits use to create fantasies of worldly or sinful things which distract one from prayer and lead one to wrong thinking, wrong feeling, and wrong doing.

Inner voice (ένδιάθετος λόγος)

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite explains the “inner voice” or “inner reason” in this manner: “Once you have brought your nous into the heart, it should not just stay there, looking and doing nothing, but should find reason. That is, the inner voice of the heart through which we think, compose essays, make judgments, analyze, and read whole books silently, without saying a single word with the mouth.

“After the nous has found this inner voice, do not let it say anything else except this short, single-phrased prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’ But this is not enough. It is also necessary to activate the soul’s will so that you say this prayer with all your will and power and love. To put it more clearly, let your inner voice say only the prayer, let your nous pay attention through its spiritual vision and hearing to the words of the prayer alone and especially to the meaning of the words, without imagining any forms, shapes, or any other perceptible or intelligible thing, internal or external, even if it is something good…. Let all your will cleave to the same words of the prayer with love, so that the nous, the inner voice, and the will—these three faculties of your soul—will be one, and the one three, for in this way man, who is an image of the Holy Trinity, is united with the Prototype, as St. Gregory Palamas, that great practitioner and teacher of noetic prayer and watchfulness, has said.” —A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, pp. 117-118 (Greek ed.).

Intellect/Reason (διάνοια)

The word “διάνοια” means the reason of man, that is, his discursive, conceptualizing, and logical faculty of conscious thinking and cogitation. It draws conclusions and formulates concepts from information either obtained by revelation or by the senses.

Jesus prayer (ευχή Ίησοϋ)

The Jesus prayer is a short prayer which is continually repeated, usually consisting of the words: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

Knowledge (γνωσις)

Through the process of theosis, man attains to a knowledge of a higher order than any human knowledge and beyond any other natural knowledge. It is neither an intellectual speculation about God nor knowledge about God, but it stems from personal experience of God, first through undistracted prayer accompanied by peace and love of God or joyous mourning, and later by means of theoria of His uncreated light.

Meditation (μελέτη)

The word “μελέτη” is used by the holy Fathers (and in this book) to indicate a thoughtful reflection or pondering upon a certain aspect of the faith (e.g., the Crucifixion, the Transfiguration, or anything from the Holy Scriptures) as a preparation for prayer. We chose to translate this word as “meditation,” although in other contexts, translating it as “study” would also be appropriate. This is distinct from the Orthodox techniques of arriving at psychophysiological calm and concentration  to   support prayer (which are described by Nikiphoros the Monk and others in the Philokalia), and it should not be confused with non-Orthodox meditative techniques.

Mourning (πένθος)

The elder uses the word “mourning” to mean godly mourning. Godly mourning is caused by grace and gives rise to repentance and sometimes tears. Godly mourning, as well as “joyous sadness” (χαρμολύπη), has a positive effect on the soul, bringing it peace and a determination to struggle harder to live a Christian way of life. Merely human mourning, though, is a destructive sorrow that leads one to despair and causes psychological and psychosomatic abnormalities.

Noetic (νοερός, νοητός)

Belonging to, characteristic of, or perceptible to the nous.

Noetic Prayer (νοερά προσευχή)

Noetic prayer is prayer done with the nous without distraction within the heart. Another name for it is “prayer of the heart.” It is contrasted with the prayer of the intellect which is done within the reason.

Nous (νους)

The English word that best conveys the meaning of the Greek word “νους” is the word “mind.” The Fathers use this term with several other meanings, too. They mainly refer to the nous as the soul (the “spiritual nature” of a man— St. Isaac the Syrian) and the heart (or “the essence of the soul”—vid. Philokalia, Vol. II, p. 109, 73). More specifically, it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St. Diadokos §§79, 88). However, they also refer to it as the “eye of the soul” (St. John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, FC Vol. 37, p. 236) or “the organ of theoria” (Makarian Homilies) which “is engaged in pure prayer” (St. Isaac the Syrian). They call the energy of the nous “a power of the soul” (St. Gregory Palamas, On the Holy Spirit, 2,9) “consisting of thoughts and conceptual images” (St. Gregory Palamas, On theHesychasts, p. 410, 3). However, the nous is more commonly known as the energy of the soul, whereas the heart is known as the essence of the soul.

Panagia (Παναγία)

This title  of the Virgin  Mary means “the all-holy one.”

Pascha (Πάσχα)

Pascha literally means “passover.” It is the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, known in Western Christianity as “Easter”.

Passion (πάθος)

A passion is a spiritual disease that dominates that soul. When one repeatedly falls into a certain sin, it becomes second nature—a passion—for him to keep falling into this sin. Thus, one who misuses the God-given powers of the soul of desire and anger, or one who continually succumbs to temptations of lust, hate, malice, or jealousy, or one who succumbs to pride and vainglory acquires those passions. It is primarily through obedience to an experienced spiritual father that one is cleansed or healed of the passions and reaches dispassion.

Passionate (εμπαθής)

The word “passionate” in this text is not used in any of the secular senses of the word, but is used to describe someone or something subject to the passions.

Patristic (πατερικός)

This adjective is used to describe something of, or relating to, the holy Fathers of the Church.

Praxis (πραςις)

Praxis is the practice of the virtues, in contrast with theoria. It refers to the external aspects of the ascetical life (namely, purification, fasting, vigils, prostrations, etc., and in general the keeping of the commandments) and is an indispensable prerequisite of theoria.

Prayer of the heart (καρδιακή προσευχή)

“Prayer of the heart” is the highest form of prayer in which the nous is kept in the heart by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and prays there without distraction. Beyond this form of prayer is theoria.

Prayer-rope (κομβοσχοίνι)

A prayer-rope is a cord with many knots (usually thirty-three or one hundred) which is used in prayer to help the nous concentrate. At each knot, one prayer (usually the Jesus prayer) is said.

Prayer rule (κανών)

A prayer rule consists of the prayers and prostrations which one does daily, under the guidance of one’s spiritual father.

Predisposition (πρόληψις)

Predisposition is “the involuntary presence of former sins in the memory” according to St. Mark the Ascetic. This state is caused by repeated sinful acts which predispose a person to yield to particular temptations. Even though in principle he retains free choice and can reject provocations from the demons, in practice the force of habit makes it progressively harder for him to resist.

Purification (κάθαρσις)

In Patristic Theology, purification refers to three states: (1) the rejection from the heart of all thoughts, (2) the ascetical effort by which the three powers of the soul are turned towards God, thereby moving in accordance with and above nature, and (3) the ascetical method by which man overcomes selfish love and achieves unselfish love.

Rebuttal (άντιλογία)

Rebuttal is the repulsing of a demonic thought at the moment of assault. See also consent.

Repentance (μετάνοια)

This Greek word for “repentance” does not mean merely regret or contrition, but it literally means a “change of mind” through which one directs his entire life towards God.

Schema (σχήμα)

The schema, usually called the “great schema” or “angelic schema,” is the habit of a fully tonsured monk. It is called the “angelic schema” because its bearer strives to live angelically in purity and devotion to God alone.

Skete (σκήτη)

A skete is a small monastic village, usually consisting of a central church and several huts or “cells.” Cells are monastic houses, each with its own brotherhood ana usually with its own chapel.

Theoria (θεωρία)

Theoria is the “vision of the spirit” or “a non-sensible revelation of the nous” (St. Isaac the Syrian) through which one attains spiritual knowledge. That is, through theoria, the Holy Spirit grants one understanding of the mysteries of God and creation which are hidden to the rational human intellect [dianoia]. Knowledge stemming from theoria is revelation from above. Theoria is not intellectual work, but an operation of the Holy Spirit which opens the eyes of the soul to behold mysteries. The Church Fathers often contrast it with praxis which is an indispensable prerequisite of theoria. In the first stage of theoria, the prayer is said without distraction and with a sense of the presence of God with love, peace. mourning, etc. In the next stage, the nous proceeds to feel what Adam felt in Paradise before the Fall, and it sees spiritually how all nature glorifies God. Furthermore, it sees His omnipotence, omniscience, and providence therein. St. Maximos the Confessor calls this the perception of the inner essences or principles of created beings (Philokalia, Vol. II, p. 69). In the final stage of theoria, one beholds God Himself in uncreated light. (Evagrios the Solitary, On Prayer, Philokalia, Vol. I, p. 61). See also contemplation.

Theosis (θέωσις)

Connected with the theoria of uncreated Light, theosis (theosis) is a participation in the uncreated grace of God. At this stage of perfection, one has reached dispassion. Through the cooperation of God with man, theosis is attained through the action of the transfigurative grace of God.

Theotokos (Θεοτόκος)

This is a title for the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Literally, it means, “God-birthgiver.” This title was approved of by the Third Ecumenical Synod because it declares that Christ was truly and fully God even before the incarnation.

Thoughts (λογισμοί)

In patristic usage, “thoughts” refers not merely to thoughts in the ordinary sense, but also to evil thoughts provoked by the demons. Only with watchfulness can we

prevent the demons’ assaults of thoughts from developing into sins.

Toll-houses (τελώνια)

Several of the holy Fathers used the word τελώνια, (lit. “customhouses”) to describe the noetic reality involving the “taxing” or examination of the soul by accusation from demonic powers that occurs at the time a person dies. [***See note below]

Tonsure (κουρά)

A monastic tonsure is the rite in which a novice becomes a monk or nun. The word “tonsure” may also refer to the clipping of the novice’s hair during the rite, which symbolizes the cutting off of self-will.

Watchful Fathers (Νηπτικοι Πατέρες)

The “Watchful Fathers” or “Neptic Fathers” are the Church Fathers who wrote about watchfulness.

Watchfulness (νήψις)

Watchfulness is unceasing attentiveness, alertness, or vigilance whereby one keeps watch over one’s inward thoughts and fantasies, so that they do not enter the heart; it is only the nous which must be within the heart.


Note regarding “Toll-houses (τελώνια)“…

Based on these [] three understandings, we understand that the visions of aerial toll houses are not a literal reality of something that happens to the soul after death and is experienced by all, not even by unrepentant sinners. St. Niketas teaches us that it is figurative of the ascent of the soul to perfection in this life, after undergoing various demonic trials through the stages of the purification of our passions and the illumination of our soul. Following the train of thought of St. Niketas, Elder Sophrony sees the toll houses as a symbolic reality of the soul that has not been purified of its passions in this life, and is now choked and stifled in the next life by the passions and attachments to this world which it cannot satisfy without a body. Lastly, St. Paisios views these visions as not a literal reality of every soul, but as visions in order to benefit others and teach them to repent, even if they repent at the last minute and escape what Elder Sophrony describes as the choking and stifling of the soul after death. All three of these interpretations compliment one another and form a complete and proper understanding of what the visions and references to the aerial toll houses signify in our Orthodox tradition. Those who have expanded this teaching to make it a literal reality do so not on the basis of Orthodox theology, but based on outside influences or a simplistic understanding of the matter.



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