Friday, May 11, 2012

Ressourcement and the Philokalia: "The Best Belongs to Everyone"

We are perhaps familiar these days with the term ressourcement as embodying the fundamental call of the Second Vatican Council to “return to the sources” (the scriptures and the Fathers of the Church) that we might be renewed in our understanding and practice of the faith.  It is interesting to note that the emergence of the Philokalia in the 18th century was part of another far reaching and radical program of ressourcement within Orthodox Christianity.  St. Nikodimos and St. Makarios, the compilers of the writings of the Philokalia, were a part of what is called the Kollyvades movement on Mount Athos that according to Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia, had three primary features.  The first centered on establishing a more faithful observance of the liturgical traditions and practices of the Church, e.g., celebrating Sunday as the day of the Lord Resurrection, not to be supplanted by any other memorial service and, more importantly, Ware notes, advocating the frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist.  The second feature is a patristic renaissance.  It is here that the Kollyvades initiated an ambitious program of publication which included the Philokalia.  Finally, Ware states, they emphasized above all the importance of the patristic teachings on Hesychasm which they believed was the “living heart of the Philokalia” and “gives to its varied contents a single unity.”  

Ware states:

“Such, then, is the cultural context of the Philokalia.  It forms part - a fundamental and primary part - of the Patristic ressourcement that the Kollyvades sought to promote.  The Kollyvades looked upon the Fathers, not simply as an archeological relic from the distant past, but as a living guide for contemporary Christians.  They therefore hoped that the Philokalia would not gather dust on the shelves of scholars, but that it would alter people’s lives.  They meant it to have a supremely practical purpose.  In this connection it is significant that St. Nikodimos and St. Makarios intended the Philokalia to be a book not just for monks but for the laity, not just for specialists but for all Christians. . . .In particular, St. Nikodimos maintains, the Pauline injunction, ‘Pray without ceasing‘ is intended not just for hermits in caves and on mountain-tops but for married Christians with responsibilities for a family, for farmers, merchants and lawyers, even for kings and courtiers living in palaces.‘  It is a universal command.  The best belongs to everyone.”

Quotes from, “The inner unity of the Philokalia and its influence in East and West” by Kallistos Ware.  Edit. Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, Athens 2004