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Man and the Eucharist: according to the works of St. Theophan the Recluse

Man and the Eucharist: according to the works of St. Theophan the Recluse

August 3 2018
Tags: Religion, Christianity

The law of sin lives in us and tends our nature to the earth. Even understanding and realizing their sinfulness and depravity, realizing the fatalism of a wide path, a person can not leave him, can not move himself towards Christ. In this regard, it is necessary to reflect on the importance of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the personal salvation of each of us.

The Fall, or the choice between God and himself

"The nature of the human person proves the actual existence of God and justifies the truth of religious and moral consciousness in man. However, through this justification and proof only the reality of the riddle of man is affirmed, and the riddle itself is not at all explained. If it is true that the nature of the human person is actually given the image of unconditional being, then it goes without saying that man is not what he is in the world, and therefore he must not be what he can be under the conditions of his physical existence " [1], - with such words begins IX chapter 1-th volume of labor prof. Victor Nesmelov's "The Science of Man".

Man is an insoluble mystery, first of all for himself. Knowing yourself was an unattainable goal of many philosophers and wise men of antiquity. From the point of view of Christian theology, an antinomy is enclosed in man: man is the image of God, but at the same time, man is the slave of sin. "For I find pleasure in the law of God according to the inward man; but in my members I see another law opposing the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the sinful law that is in my members. I'm a poor man! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So, the same I serve my God's law with my mind, and the flesh with the law of sin, "we read from the holy Apostle Paul (7: 22-25).

By virtue of its two-component being, it can not but strive for a certain correspondence between its spiritual and bodily nature, in this striving, he always believed in the goal and the supreme good of his existence

The Monk John of Damascus calls man "a nature of sinless and self-reliant" [2]. Such a man was created, but with his autocracy he chose not the path of God-likeness, but the path of selfishness, began to realize his life without God. It was not even a choice between good and evil (since man did not yet know evil and sin), and the choice between God and himself is "I myself can be a god, achieve it myself." But this led man not to deification, but to death. The law of sin began to reign within a person, the evil became more and more mastered by the descendants of Adam. Only the Creator Himself could save man from the bondage of sin and destruction, who became man for man not only as Creator, but also as Savior. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3: 16-17).

The Lord Jesus Christ saved man from the bondage of sin, the devil and death. Therefore, each person has the opportunity of salvation and deification. And so, when the "great piety mystery: God appeared in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3: 16), the true Christian life in its highly moral sense is considered in terms of the economy of our salvation, is regarded as a sacrament, because no biological laws being, which concern only the external material structure of a human being, can not measure and determine the entire depth of the content and essence of man's spiritual nature. A complete and perfect person, as an image and likeness of God, can not be outside of communication with God and, therefore, can not receive the harmonious development, growth and perfection of his spiritual and moral nature.

Meanwhile, man, by virtue of his two-component being, can not but strive for a certain correspondence between his spiritual and bodily nature, in this striving he always believed in the goal and the supreme good of his existence.

For the true believing Christian man, the ideal of his life was and is the God-likeness or deification, as the pinnacle of spiritual and moral perfection according to the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Mt. 5: 48). But such spiritual and moral perfection presupposes the necessary connection of the human soul with God, whose divine grace is clothed in the beauty and glory of divine greatness, which is possible only in Christianity.

In a farewell conversation with the disciples, the Lord Jesus Christ told them, and in their person and all Christians: I am the vine, and you are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, he bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me you can not do anything (John 15: 5). This is the Savior's stay in the soul of a believing Christian and the communication of the latter with the Lord is through the Church and the Sacraments. The church is the body of Christ, and as Christ was the physician of a fallen human being, so the church is a medical unit, when a man comes into that man and does not leave without heed.

Almost all the written works of St. Theophanes contain reflections on the communion with God, since the communion of God, according to the saint, is the goal and the meaning of the existence of man.

The sacraments are visible instruments of the invisible grace of God, they help man in the making of his salvation. Undoubtedly, the most important sacraments of the Church are Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist, inextricably linked. It is not our task to consider all the indicated sacraments, but only the Sacrament of the Eucharist and its necessity for spiritual growth and salvation of man. And first of all, let us turn to the works of the saints Feofan the Recluse.

The meaning of the Eucharist in the spiritual life of a Christian is according to the works of St. Theophanes the Recluse

"The ultimate goal of man is in God, in fellowship or in a living union with God. Created in the image and likeness of God, man by his very nature is in some way a kind of God. Being of the same kind of God, he can not but seek communion with God, not only as his beginning and the prototype, but also as with the supreme good. "

St.. Theophan the Recluse

Let us turn to the works of one of the greatest spiritual writers and devotees of the nineteenth century, the saint Feofan (Govorov) Recluse. And first of all, we should say a few words about the life and works of St. Theophan as a whole.

St. Feofan (Georgy Vasilievich Govorov) (1815-1891) was born in Orel province in the family of a village priest. After graduating from the spiritual school and the Orel seminary as a gifted student, he was sent to the Kiev Theological Academy. Already in his student years, he discovered a writer's talent and desire for monastic life. He took tonsure at the last year (1841) and at the same time was ordained as a hieromonk. He taught Latin at the Kiev-Sofia Spiritual School, was a professor of philosophy and an inspector of the Novgorod Theological Seminary, and held a department of moral theology at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. In 1847, the future hierarch was sent to Palestine as part of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission. During his stay in the East, St. Theophanes collected and studied ancient manuscripts, especially the patristic writings. On his way back to Russia (1855) he visited Italy and Germany, where he got acquainted with Western theology and art. In the St. Petersburg Theological Academy he was instructed to teach church law. After this, St.. Theophan in the rank of archimandrite was appointed rector of the Olonets Theological Seminary. During the year (1856-1957) was the rector of the embassy church in Constantinople. In 1857, he became the rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and a professor of dogmatic theology. His favorite field of study was always the problems of Christian ethics and spiritual life. Less than two years later (1 June 1859) he was ordained to the bishop of Tambov and Shatsky, and in 1863 transferred to Vladimir's department.

Administrative work burdened the saint, all his life longed for solitude and monastic feat. In 1866, he submitted a petition to the Holy Synod for the retirement "for rest". He was transferred by the rector to the Wyssensk Desert (especially beloved by St. Theophanes during the administration of the Tambov diocese). But soon he refused from this post and lived in the desert on pension, appointed to him by the Holy Synod. In the 1872 year of St. Feofan almost completely stopped contact with the outside world, leaving in the bolt. But, having withdrawn from the world, the hierarch continued to lead many people with whom he was in correspondence (he received 20-40 letters daily). His epistolary heritage is an entire library on all issues of spiritual life. His letters were published in church magazines by the saint, they also appeared in separate editions. Years of the shutter were for him years of incessant prayer and work (literary and ascetic).

Saint Theophanes, as already mentioned, was a true Christian and ascetic, therefore his written works are nothing more than an exposition of spiritual experience. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him, and he with me, says the Savior (Rev. 3: 20), St. Theophanes opened the door of his soul to Christ and became the abode of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the literary works of the saint are filled with the grace of the Spirit.

Almost all the written works of St. Theophan contain reflections on the communion with God, since the communion of God, according to the saint, is the goal and the meaning of the existence of man. In one of his letters the saint writes: "You write: God created man for society *. Correct this idea: a man is created to communicate with God. This is his main goal. Therefore, when man fell away from God, the Only-begotten Son of God was pleased to descend to earth to reunite him with God! "[3]. That is, the goal of man is not the acquisition of a place or high position in earthly society, but the achievement of heavenly Jerusalem, the return to where humanity fell in the sin of Adam. In this matter of salvation, earthly society can only become a kind of help: "To enter into this communication (to communicate with God) and to become stronger in it, one needs to live a short moment on earth, and it is difficult for him to live here alone, public, not as the main thing, and the subordinate along with other worldly inclinations ... "[4].

St. Theophanes in his works examines all aspects of the Christian life. He defines Christianity as "the economy of our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ" [5], because it is in Christ that man enters into a living union with God, thereby achieving a true communion with God.

In very great detail, Saint Theophanes examines the process, if one may say so, of the union of man with God. He does this on the basis of the teachings of the Orthodox Church on the Sacraments. The beginning of the communion with God and the union of man with Christ is Baptism: "Baptism is the first Sacrament in Christianity that makes a Christian person worthy to be granted grace and through other Mysteries. Without it, one can not enter the Christian world - become a member of the Church. The Eternal Wisdom created Himself a house on earth: the door that leads into this house is the Sacrament of Baptism. This door not only enters the house of God, but with it they are also clothed in worthy clothes, receive a new name and sign, imprinted in the whole being of the person being baptized, by means of which he and the earthly and earthly things are discovered and distinguished. "[6]. In Baptism, a new life begins for man, as the Savior said in a conversation with Nicodemus: There was a certain Pharisees, named Nicodemus, [one] of the rulers of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to Him: Rabbi! we know that you are a teacher who came from God; For such miracles as You create, no one can do, if there is not with him God. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, unless a man be born again, he can not see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus says to Him: how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother's womb another time and be born again? Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he can not enter the kingdom of God. Born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised that I told you: you must be born again. The spirit breathes where it wants, and you hear its voice, but you do not know where it comes from and where it goes: it happens to everyone born of the Spirit (John 3: 1-8).

Interpreting this passage of the Gospel of John, bl. Theophylactus of Bulgaria writes that "Nicodemus, hearing the doctrine higher than the human, is astonished and by the nature of the feeble nature of man asks: how is this possible? This is a sign of disbelief. For where there is no faith, there are questions: how is it, why is it? The words of Nicodemus seem ridiculous, too, because he did not think about spiritual birth, but remembered the corporal belly. Hearing that if someone is not born "from above," he thought that he was used instead of "first," "again," for the second time, and he understood the meaning in this sense: if someone is not born "first", for the second time. Therefore he also says: How can he enter the womb of his mother when he is old? Two subjects for him were unintelligible: one - spiritual birth, the other - the Kingdom. For the Hebrews never heard the name of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now he is perplexed about birth. Christ reveals to him the way of spiritual birth more clearly. For man, consisting of two parts, from the soul and body, has also the image of the birth of the twofold. Water, apparently taken, acts to purify the body, and the Spirit, invisibly connecting, to the revival of the invisible soul. If you ask how water can give birth, then I will ask how the seed, which itself is water-like, can form into a human being? Therefore, as all the bodily seeds are done by the grace of God, so water is baptized, but everything is accomplished by the Spirit and prayerful calling, and especially the presence of God. For in this water signs and an image of burial and resurrection are made. Three dives - a sign of a three-day burial; then the person is resurrected (emerges), like the Lord, wearing a light and clean clothing of incorruption, and immuring the decay in water "[7].

Man is born in Baptism for a new life, in this sense St. Theophan the Recluse calls it "the door". "As the light of darkness, like the life of death, so the baptized is the opposite of the unbaptized ... The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the person being baptized by the very baptism" [8], continues St. Theophanes. Baptism opens the Kingdom of Christ within a person, and at the same time, the opportunity to associate with other sacraments comes off.

Vladimir Nikolaevich Lossky and Bishop Peter (Lulia) in his book "Interpretation on the Creed" indicate that "baptism marks the birth of spiritual life, the chrismation confirms the charismatic inclusion in the Christian congregation by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Usually the Christian initiation ends with participation in the sacrament of Communion. For a neophyte (a convert), this is a complete union with the Lord and a promise to a new Christian that he will become a party to the coming feast of the Kingdom. Then the process of the "transfiguration" of the "grafted" baptism and anointing is completed. Thus, the Christian initiation unites three sacraments - baptism, chrismation, Eucharist, and, as we have seen, this connection is by no means accidental. This is not a practical combination of the three services, but full of a deep mystical sense of the process "[9]. That is, we can say that Baptism in itself leads a person to other sacraments, to those that are most important for the salvation of man - to Chrismation and the Eucharist.

Now consider the thoughts of St.. Feofan actually about the Holy Eucharist. The saint re-starts his reasoning with an explanation of what the Christian life is: "Christian life is life in the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is clothed in Christ (ie, he is baptized, - Author) and lives by Him. The fallen one by baptism loses this grace; rising from the fall and returning to the Lord, he again needs to be honored by her [grace] - and is reconciled in Holy Communion. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him, says the Lord (John 6: 56). Here in the penitent and the beginning of life about Christ Jesus. The Lord said that He is the vine, and those who believe in Him are branches (John 15: 4-6). The branch does not live if it is not on the vine; so believers do not live, if not in the Lord. There is no true life anywhere in this vine. What is not on it, it's dead. Therefore, who wants to live true, he must be brought to her, taking from her the vitals of life and living by eating them. The initiation is made in Holy Communion: here the Christian becomes one with the Lord. When the Lord directed only a sinner to complete repentance, he pushed only in the door of the heart; when they are opened by contrition and repentance, He enters and evening with the communicant "[10].

The Acquisition of the Holy Gifts is the most important task for the Christian. After Baptism, a person falls into sin, because his strength is still weak, the will is not strengthened. Therefore, by sin, man again removes himself from the grace given to him in the sacrament of Baptism. A man grafts himself to a living vine, but sin does not allow him to open up, stops spiritual growth, withers and wants to tear him away from the living vineyard of Christ. Therefore, St.. Theophanes emphasizes that real life is possible only in conjunction with God. In the prologue of the Gospel of John, we read: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not embrace it (John 1: 1-5). Christ gives mankind a new life, a new opportunity for eternal life in paradise, from where humanity has fallen away through the ancestral sin. The connection with this new life begins in the Sacrament of Baptism, and then is fixed in the constant Sacrament of Communion.

But to become a true communicant, it is necessary to prepare ourselves for the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. In the works of St.. Feofan is also given considerable attention to this moment. Particularly vividly the meaning and significance of the preparation for Communion through fasting is revealed by St. Theophanes in his conversations and sermons spoken during the Lent. Here is an interesting and original analogy he holds in the sermon on the theme of the evangelical parable about the publican and the Pharisee: "There are patients who go to be treated for water. How from afar they begin to think about the forthcoming journey and how carefully they prepare everything to quickly and conveniently reach the healing waters and how much more fruitful to take advantage of the curative time of treatment! Here we are approaching our course of the saving healing of our souls - the Holy Fast. And we will be here: and bathe in the tearful waters of repentance, and receive inwardly a multi-heeled medicine - the Body and Blood of our Lord. It is necessary to prepare for him and us, and besides, how much the soul is above the body, so much our concern for this must be stronger and more effective than those of those "[11].

The main concern of a person is to take care of one's own salvation, therefore, just as we care about the health of our body, about our physical condition, we should care and not only more and more, but also pay attention to the spiritual state. The time of fasting is especially disposed to this person. In one of his letters svt. Theophan the Recluse characterizes the post in such a way: "Is tawing a time for entertainment? Crying befits! "[12]. With tears of repentance a person ishes himself from sinful filth, thus preparing to receive in himself the Lord and Savior Himself.

St. Theophanes wrote in another place and that no matter how great the sins of man, there is still no sin that would not overcome the mercy of God: "There is no sin that overcometh the mercy of God. The forgiveness of sins is not given according to our merit, but by the grace of a loving God, always ready to forgive, as soon as someone turns to Him with remorse "[13]. Repentance is very important in a person's life, because an impenitent person closes the doors of his heart to the Lord. And Communion in such a state is not good for a person, does not lead him to salvation, but is a sin against the Holy Mysteries of Christ, against the Savior Himself. Therefore, preparing for the Mystery of Communion is so important for a Christian.

In another of the conversations of St. Theophanes says: "Repentance with confession is the heart of the harassment. The previous feats were preparation for them, and the Holy Communion crowned and completed everything. Without true repentance and confessions and deeds remain fruitless, and holy Communion will not be in the healing of the soul and body "[14]. The whole Christian life must be built around Christ, the savior must occupy a central place in man. This can not be achieved except by accepting the Lord inward, by communing with His Body and Blood, "poured out over the belly of the world." Only through the Eucharist can man have a source of life in himself, as the Savior himself taught: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and died; The bread that comes down from heaven is such that the one who eats it will not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; He who eats this bread will live forever; The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Then the Jews began to argue with each other, saying: How can He give us His Flesh to eat? And Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, If ye eat not the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, then ye shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is truly food, and my blood is truly drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live by the Father, so he who eats me will live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers ate manna and died: the one who eats this bread will live forever (John 6: 46-58).

The Eucharist gives man eternal life, the source of living water, which can be inside a person, communicating to him inexhaustible spiritual forces. St. Theophanes again draws the attention of Christians to the fact that "the character of the life of the repentant must be communion with the Lord Jesus ... therefore, let him, in the first movements of this life, hasten to taste the Body and Blood of Christ in order to lay, so to speak, the basis of life, in accordance with Christ, and to create a living need of constant communion with Him through this eating "[15].

Such are the thoughts of Saint Theofan (Govorov) the Recluse concerning the Holy Eucharist. A red thread in his creations is the idea that Communion is a union with God, a true communion with God and a guarantee of salvation.


[1] Nesmelov V. The science of man: in 2 t. - T. I. - St. Petersburg., 2000. - S. 347.

[2] John of Damascus, pr. Exact statement of the Orthodox faith. - Book. 2. Ch. XII «About the man». - M, 2002. - S. 209.

[3] Theophanes the Recluse, sv. Letters of the Christian life. Instructions. - M., 1997. - S. 29.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Theophanes the Recluse, sv. About our salvation. - M., 2003. - S. 17.

[6] Ibid. S. 491.

[7] Theophylact of Bulgaria, bl. The evangelist. Book. 2. - M., 2004. - S. 52.

[8] Theophanes the Recluse, sv. About our salvation. - M., 2003. - S. 492.

[9] Lossky VN, Petr (Lullier), b. Interpretation on the Creed. - Kiev, 2000. - S. 48.

[10] Theophanes the Recluse, sv. About our salvation. - M., 2003. - S. 622.

[11] On repentance, the Holy Communion of the Holy Mysteries and the correction of life. The words of the Most Reverend Theophanes. - M., 1991. - S. 6.

[12] Theophanes the Recluse, sv. Letters of the Christian life. Instructions. - M., 1997. - S. 167.

[13] Theophanes the Recluse, sv. Creations. Collection of letters. Issue 3. - M., 1994. - S. 30.

[14] On repentance, the Holy Communion of the Holy Mysteries and the correction of life. The words of the Most Reverend Theophanes. - M., 1991. - S. 77.

[15] Theophanes the Recluse, sv. About our salvation. - M., 2003. - S. 623.

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