Philokalia

Philokalia

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Great Legacy to be Received from the Fathers of the Church

As was mentioned in earlier posts, the Philokalia must be read and taught about with great care (docility, humility) and not separated from the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.  There is always a a great danger when one tries to popularize theology or the writings of the Fathers for example.  The coming into fashion of the profoundest spiritual or theological writings is not necessarily a good thing.  It doesn't mean that we stop reading these things, but all of us must approach these Fathers with fear of God, humility and with a great distrust of our own wisdom and judgment - things sadly lacking in our day. Even the most beautiful of works (like the Philokalia) can be studied in a self willed way and presented in vain minded and banal fashion which leads to subtle deception.  Indeed, it is even a struggle, to be sure, for the orthodox Catholic Christian living in our day of puffed up knowledge to escape some of the pitfalls lying in wait for those who wish to read such works in their full meaning and content. Yet, having said this, the writings are concerned with themes of universal importance for all of those who are seeking to live holy lives in accord with the teachings of the Gospel - - watchfulness of heart, stillness, unceasing prayer and the struggle with the passions.  These writings are not only for monks but for all those who are striving for union with God.  St. Tikhon, it has been said, called on all Christians to become “untonsured monks.”  Such a return to the sources of our spiritual tradition is meant to accomplish just that - to bring the spirituality of the Philokalia into our everyday living.  The desired result of such an endeavor is to live holy lives that will bring glory to God.    One of the most beautiful invitations to read the Philokalia comes from St. Nicodemus who complied these great writings. I can't think of a more wonderful invitation to read the Philokalia than these words of St. Nicodemus:

"Come, therefore, come and eat the bread of knowledge and wisdom, and drink the wine which spiritually delights the heart and dispels all the material and immaterial things because of deification - which is caused by the liberation of ourselves - and become inebriated with the truly alert inebriation. Come all you who seek to find the kingdom of God which is hidden in the field of your heart. And this is the sweet Christ. Thus being freed from the imprisonment of this world and the wandering of the mind, with our heart purified from the passions, with the awesome unceasing invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ together with the collaborating virtues, which this book teaches, you will be united among yourselves, and united this way, you will be united with God, according to the prayer of our Lord to his Father, who said, "So they may be one, as we are one."