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Images of the theologian and pastor in the spiritual heritage of St. Paisius the Sacristy

Images of the theologian and pastor in the spiritual heritage of St. Paisius the Sacristy

Tags: Religion, Christianity

The Monk Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity is one of the most respected and widely revered saints of the 20th century. He is known not only for his holy life, but also for creations in which he touches upon various aspects of spiritual life. The topic of his article, Archpriest Timofei Fetisov, rector of the Don Theological Seminary, chose the image of pastoral care in the elder's heritage. Using the references to the books of the Athonite ascetic, the author tells us what it means to be guided by choosing the path of the priesthood, and what a modern priest should be to be deservedly called a shepherd.

Archpriest Timofey Fetisov

In most cases, a person who wants to prepare for the reception of a sacred dignity, enters the theological seminary, where he is offered to receive the necessary education in a faculty or department, which is usually called theological-pastoral. But do we really understand what this means for both teachers and students? Obviously, from the very beginning it is required to define the meaning, which is put into the concepts of "theologian" and "shepherd". It does not therefore require clarification that the questions of determining the criteria for true theology and the pastoral ideal should be given high priority. And the most correct and logical thing would be to apply for this to the spiritual heritage of those saints, in whom we find clear descriptions of both that are based on personal experience of the God-message. In this regard, the epistolary heritage of one of the most revered saints of our time, the recently celebrated Church of the Athonite monk Paisius the Svyatogorets, is an inexhaustible source of practical theology and pastoral wisdom. But, even more convincingly, the holy elder himself is the image of a great theologian and a pastor. He is a living witness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the efficacy of the promises, the fulfillment of which refers to the substantial signs of the real fulfillment of the New Testament.

As Vladimir Lossky wrote: "Theological inquiry involves the preliminary advent of the Seeking" [1]. In this context, the theology of monk Paisius is the personal reflection of God's chosen one, the human response of faith and love to the Word of God addressed to him. That's why the knowledge of God. Paisius was not rational and rational. His beginnings should be sought in the mystical experience of those meetings with God, which he described as the manifestations of Christ Himself. The intensity of the theological gnosis, which follows St. Paisius, is rooted in the mysterious words of the apostle John: "And you anoint the Imate from the Holy One, and the whole is all ... And you, the anointing that is received from Him, dwell in you and do not ask, but who teaches you: but as if the anointing itself teaches you about everything ... "(1 Jn. 2: 20, 27). The anointing here signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit in that unknowable area, which in Christian epistemology is traditionally called the heart. Although Archpriest Vasily Zenkovsky believed that Eastern theology has not yet developed the Christian theory of knowledge [2], we see that the biblical tradition allows us to judge the existence of a special mystical prayer practice in which the heart, as a synonym for the spiritual nucleus of the human person, is the main organ of the cognitive act. The mechanism and method of this cognition is in the very sense of the Hebrew verb ("know"), which means in the language of the Bible the connection of the cognizing with the knower, the subject with the object. Cognition in biblical language is "a real and responsible inclusion of oneself in life that causes profound consequences" [3]. This is what the Monk Paisii says: "By living on divine secrets, a person becomes a theologian, because he does not touch them with the mind, but experiences in reality. His faith is constantly multiplying, because he is moving in a different space, in the realm of divine events. " However, such a connection, firstly, can not be accomplished in a rational way and, secondly, only by the will of man. Ven. Paisius says this in the following figurative expressions: "The Holy Spirit condescends Himself - if he finds in man the necessary spiritual prerequisites for this. And the spiritual premise is that a man should clean his spiritual wires of rust and become a good conductor in order to receive the spiritual current of divine enlightenment. Thus, a person becomes a spiritual scholar, a theologian "[4]. "The word spoken from the intellect <...> is flesh," said the Rev. Paisius, - <...> therefore theology has nothing to do with a fruitless scientific spirit »[5]. In unison the thought of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) sounds: "Theology is neither science, nor art, nor profession: it is nothing more than a mystical ascension to God" [6]. The Rev. Paisii actively opposes the substitution of concepts and profanity of the term "theology", preferring to call things by their proper names: "The greatest evil is that by engaging in dry reasoning theology, we betray our reason for the Holy Spirit. And this is called "brainwashing," from which the Babylonian pandemonium is born "[7].

Pp. Paisius of the Holy Trinity

The reason why the prep. Paisii talks so much and so pointedly about the problems of theology, is dictated by his pain and love for the modern man, who suffers from the fact that he does not receive the proper spiritual medicine, because the preaching message "spoken from the intellect does not change the soul" [8]. The second reason was due to the fact that, in fact, Fr. Many Greek theologians sought advice from Paisius. Only there, in the monastic cell at the feet of the elder, they came to the realization that theological research should not become an end in itself. The purpose of the theological science must somehow have a soteriological meaning. After all, monk Paisii said: "Artificial words do not say anything to the soul of a man, as a beautiful statue can not talk" [9]. It is not necessary to compete in originality and strive for artificial scientific originality, since this testifies only to the inner emptiness and spiritual insolvency of the theologian. "On the contrary," he continues, "if a person has attained purity, followed by simplicity with his hot faith and reverence, then the Holy Trinity enters into him, and then with the help of divine enlightenment he easily finds the keys to divine thoughts, having the opportunity to explain the inspired words in a very simple and natural way, without breaking my head "[10]. "Anyone who thinks he can know the secrets of God with the help of an external scientific speculation is like a madman who wants to see heaven in a telescope" [11], elsewhere the saint says. Continuing the well-known ascetic tradition of his fellow countryman Evagrius Pontius, the elder Paisius denotes an epistemicological antinomy of reason and heart, methods of rational cognition and contemplative comprehension. Indeed, on the one hand, it can not be denied that theology operates in our historical, not yet transfigured world and is forced to use the accepted scientific tools and methodology to be understood, to use the language of science. On the other hand, resorting to επιστημη, theology should not be limited to this, but to lead a person further into that metaphysical realm where the thought itself stops. It is no coincidence that Vladimir Lossky wrote: "Theological teaching takes some difficult middle position between the conduct (γνωσις), as charisma and silence, contemplative and vital knowledge and επιστημη - science and reasoning. But, - concluded Lossky, - nevertheless, it should never forget contemplation »[12]. So, if the verbal representation of theological thinking is conditioned by the intellectual abilities and the cultural-educational experience of the individual, then the divine revelation itself is again contained in the heart [13].

The personal life of a true theologian should not differ from one's own words, it should not take place in a comfortable chair. The best preaching is always a personal example. You can not talk about mercy and have a cruel heart, you can not write about pride, not striving for humility. Rev. Paisii recalled: "One time a theologian in his sermon called on people to go to donate blood, because this was a necessity. And many were prompted by his preaching and gave a lot of blood. He himself, however, did not surrender a drop, although his blood, frankly speaking, was enough. People are tempted. "I," the theologian told them at the time, "by their sermon inspired the people to surrender their blood, and it's as if I gave up blood the most!" So he calmed his mind. Yes, it would be better for him not to preach a sermon, but go and give some blood himself without any noise! ​​"[14].

It is noteworthy that the Monk Paisii extends the usual concept of plagiarism and introduces a new spiritual dimension: "A person who does theology, using someone else's theology, does something wrong, because he looks like a childless man who adopts other people's children and then gives them out for his own , representing himself as having many children "[15]. If we are accustomed to consider plagiarism in science as the borrowing of other people's thoughts without a source, then, according to Fr. Paisius, such a kind of "spiritual plagiarism" occurs whenever the theologian freely, as his own learning, operates with transcendent concepts without a reverent and humble understanding that they are born of the mystical experience of the saints, which in its ontological depth is inaccessible to himself.

Speaking about the motivation for obtaining theological education, St. Paisius rejects as unsuitable two kinds of motivation: "One should not strive to acquire knowledge [16]:

1. in order to help others;

2. be able to say something clever. "

If the unfitness of the second motive is obvious because of his vainglory and lack of love, the first motive ("helping others") at first glance causes trust and sympathy. Is this not the case with the majority of students entering the seminary, answering the question about the purpose of admission? However, prep. Paisii looks at things as if from the future and foresees the futility of these intentions without understanding the necessity of what St. Gregory the Theologian wrote about: "It is necessary first to purify yourself, then to purify; to manage, then to manage; to become a light, then enlighten; approach God, then bring others to Him; sanctified, then sanctified "[17]. That is why the entrant who understands what the teacher says is more ready to enter a spiritual school. Paisiy: "Knowledge [in the field of theology] must be gained in order to help oneself" [18]. "If some [talkers] knew themselves, then, seeing their deplorable state, they would not dare open their mouth," concludes the elder [19]. And only after a certain experience of spiritual battle against, as expressed by Fr. Paisius, "evil and the fire of temptations," one can take out "from his heart a divine word to help the succeeding generations."

Without regard to the above conditions, theological education may even be destructive, warns Fr. Paisiy. Many of the current troubles of the Church, according to the Reverend, are due to the fact that many who received theological education "accepted the dogma with the mind, and not with the spirit of the holy fathers" [20]. The elder lamented that "the Church receives more damage from all of them than from the enemies of Orthodoxy" [21]. The truth of these words of the old man is widely confirmed by modern problems of media space, where we sometimes meet people who have received a wonderful intellectual education, graduated from theological academies, but have not been vaccinated to the fertile vine of the Church.

Speaking of about. Paisii as a holy theologian, one must agree with one of the researchers of his personality, Archimandrite Jacob Kanaki. This Greek theologian frankly remarked: "To exhaust the image of the elder Paisius is a very difficult undertaking, we can venture to only try to get to the understanding of the monk. Because, only a saint can understand a saint "[22]. Indeed, if the essence of an ordinary person is unknowable in its ontological depth, since its core constitutes the unknowable image of God, much more it refers to a saint who closely connected his image with God to the extent that he became similar to him, using the expression of St. Gregory of Nyssa, microtheos, in its incomprehensibility "revealing the imprint of nature impregnable." The very process of how exactly prep. Paisius, who had only a few elementary school classes, became a great theologian of the Church, and being a monk, having no degree of priesthood, became a mentor of pastoral and archpastoral care, will remain securely hidden in his being from empirical comprehension and will remain a mystery of the God-seeing. Therefore, the only way for us to transmit the patristic experience of the monk is to testify to the testimonies of people who had personal experience with him, such as Hierophy Vlachos and M. Athanasius of Limassol, as well as studying directly the written assets of the elder Paisius. It seems to us that the universal significance of the monk Paisius as a theologian is based on his profound knowledge not only of God, but of human nature and personality. And this experience proved to be extremely demanded in the modern Church living in the conditions of a secular epoch, which, according to the modern theologian Sergei Khoruzhy, was largely the result of "unrepresented, unread, non-articulated Christian anthropology" [23]. Arch. Sofroniy (Sakharov) asserted: "Now, when a person is so humiliated everywhere, the theme of the mystery of the origin of man and his high destiny in the world is especially important ..." [24]. Today, there is a growing understanding of the need for "in our time, theology becomes anthropology." Metropolitan Kalliste Ware states that the central focus of theological studies in the 21st century will focus on anthropology, and that this has already happened: "The key question will be:" What is the human person [25] "." But the answer will always lie in the field of Christology, describing the perfect person. Therefore, the relevance of simple, but no less significant, Christ-centered thoughts of Elder Paisius about man will be preserved and strengthened in the future, being an excellent illustration of those phenomena of moral consciousness that require modern patristic reflection in the anthropological program of theological studies.


Turning to the theme of the image of true pastoralism, I would like to note from the outset that, as in the case of the theological theme, we find in the depiction of the elder Paisius a description of two opposing types: ideal and negative. The first volume of his teachings contains a rather lengthy chapter "On the Clergy and the Church," which is entirely devoted to this problem and without exaggeration is a real textbook of pastoral theology and pastoral ethics. Overall, like the rest of the holy fathers and teachers, Paisii very highly raises the pastoral ministry, delivering it to a level higher than the angelic. However, when asked what God wants from the priest, the elder answers simply: "What God wants is very great, you do not have to touch it" [26]. In return, he prefers to talk about what people want from him: "Today people want from a priest two things: that he was not covetous and had love. If people find these two things in the priest, then they consider him a saint and run to church with all their might. And if they run to the Church, they are saved. "[27]. However, Fr. Paisii explains: "If the priest is in a high spiritual state, then he is a real priest and helps others more" [28].

The main goal of the shepherd is to bring people to Christ and salvation. One of the main obstacles to its achievement and the most important problem of modern shepherding prep. Paisiy considers secularism: "When Patriarch Dmitry, while in America, visited the Theological School of the Holy Cross, some reverent American students approached him and said:" Your Holiness, in our era, the clergy must become more modern! " And the Patriarch answered them: "Holy Cosmas Aetolian says that when clerics become laymen, the laity will become demons!" In becoming obsequious, a clergyman becomes a candidate for the devil. "[29] A typical sign of secularization Father Paisius found the then held in Greece discussion about the abolition of the obligatory wearing of cassocks by priests: "At that time, some came, hoping to receive a blessing from me!" Some were perplexed: "Does a man make a priest a priest?" To which the old man, in his humorous and figurative manner, "The priest is not so morbid - see, immoral" [30] .Thus, Father Paissy speaks not only of the internal arrangement of the shepherd, but also of his external appearance, considering them to be related to each other: "The spiritual state in which man is, gives it is radiant and external, it is spiritual beauty, Grace, Divine Grace, but how much other worshipers of the holy dignity repel from themselves: beautiful outwardly, but having a worldly spirit, shaken by the worldly wind! You see a perfectly secular person in front of you. "[31].

According to Archimandrite Georgy (Kapsanis): "The Church is the basis of Orthodox pastoral activity. Orthodox pastoral ministry is unthinkable outside or near the Church "[32]. Ecclesiasticality is therefore the main criterion of true shepherding. In some modern, as a rule, Protestant theological research has become a common place to oppose the prophecy and the priesthood, especially in the era of the ancient Church. Say, in these institutions themselves, there is an eternal contradiction and conflict between the official Church and charismatic personalities. However, the accusatory pathos about. Paisius never crossed the boundaries beyond which his connection with the Church would be lost and which he himself designated: "We need to be careful not to create problems in the Church and not to inflate the small human weaknesses that are happening so as not to do more evil and not give sly cause for joy "[33]. It is known that the Elder experienced reverence and respect for the bishops, deeply resigning before the hierarchs of the Church who addressed him for spiritual advice internally and externally - kneeling.

At the time when Father Paisius was making his teachings for the pastors, there was no blogosphere yet. Therefore, one has only to be reverently astonished at how prophetic and urgent are the following his words today: "As for what is happening in the Church, one can not openly express any position on all issues ... Those who convict others without reasoning are in spiritual obscurations ... Seeing somewhere the impurities that can not be removed, such people sprinkle them with something from above, so that they do not cause disgust for someone else. But people who pick trash and dirt of other people's sins are like chickens who dig into what is known ... The evangelical saying "the command of the Church" [34] does not mean that everything should become known, because today the Church is not everything. The Church is believers who live in the way Christ wants, and not those who fight against the Church. Because, making public some kind of moral sin, for example, we inform the warring against it about the Church and give them an excuse to start a war against it. And thus faith is weak in weak souls "[35].

Is there an effective recipe today of how you can become a true theologian and a shepherd? It is hardly possible to find a simpler answer to this question than the words of the Fr. Paisius: "In our era there are not enough living examples ... Nowadays words and books have multiplied, but life experiences have diminished. We only admire the holy ascetics of our Church, not understanding how great their work was. To understand this, we must work on ourselves, we must love the Saints and from the gentility, I make efforts to be similar to them "[36].

[1] Lossky V.N. Goddess / Faith and theology. Minsk, 2007. S. 275.

[2] Zenkovsky V.V. Fundamentals of Christian Philosophy. - M .: Canon +, 1997. S. 75.

[3] by the Orthodox Encyclopedia. Orthodox Encyclopedia. Edited by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II. Volume V. The Church and Science Center "Orthodox Encyclopedia". M., 2002. S. 476.

[4] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. TI, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 236.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev). Life and teaching of St. Gregory the Theologian. - Moscow: Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church: Veche, 2013. S. 267.

[7] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. TI, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 236.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. Letters. M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 124.

[10] Ibid. S. 126.

[11] Ibid. S. 125.

[12] Lossky V.N. Goddess / Faith and theology. Minsk, 2007. S. 273.

[13] Job. 8, 10; Mt. 12, 34.

[14] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. Spiritual awakening. T.II, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 52.

[15] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. Letters. M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 125.

[16] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. TI, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 238.

[17] by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev). Life and teaching of St. Gregory the Theologian. - Moscow: Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church: Veche, 2013. S. 201.

[18] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. TI, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 238.

[19] Ibid. S. 231.

[20] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. Letters. M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 131.

[21] Ibid.

[22] (Referral Date: 22.04.2017).

[23] S. Horuzhy. Orthodox-ascetic anthropology and the crisis of modern man // Orthodox doctrine of man. Theological conference of the Russian Orthodox Church. Moscow, 5-8 November 2001 Materials. Moscow: Synodal Theological Commission, 2004. S. 161.

[24] Sofroniy (Sakharov), archimandrite. Sacrament of the Christian life. - St. John the Baptist Monastery, Holy Trinity Sergius Lavra, 2009. S. 185.

[25] Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. Orthodox theology in the twenty-first century. WCC publication. Geneva, 2012. R. 25.

[26] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. TI, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 347.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid. S. 348.

[29] Ibid. S. 353.

[30] Ibid. S. 252.

[31] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. Spiritual awakening. T.II, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 339.

[32] Archimandrite George (Kapsanis). Pastoral service on the sacred canons. Publishing House "Holy Mountain", Moscow, 2006. S. 43.

[33] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. TI, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 360.

[34] Matt. 18, 17.

[35] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. TI, M .: Holy Mountain, 2008. S. 361.

[36] Elder Paisius of the Holy Trinity. The words. With pain and love about the modern man. T.I., M .: Svyataya Gora, 2008. S. 30-31.

Archpriest Timofey Fetisov
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