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.

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