Christ in Eastern Thought: Origenism (3)

This chapter deals with the post-Chalcedonian problems created by Origen’s disciples.  I don’t have a dog in this fight since I think Origen’s own views are clear enough.  I think Maximus the Confessor and Gregory of Nyssa are far closer to Origen than many would care to admit.

“From its origin, monastic asceticism had suffered the temptation of Platonic spiritualism” (50).

Meyendorff insists that the anathemas of the Fifth Council refute the notion that Byzantine Christianity is Hellenistic (57).  He cites O. Cullman who argues that biblical time contrasts with Greek time, the latter being a circle and the former an ascending line.   True, the council did condemn some of the worst aspects of Hellenism.  I just maintain that the Byzantine church never made a full break with it (and for proof see the fathers on the goodness of married sexual intimacy).

Evagrian Spirituality

“Man, a fallen intellect, is called to come back to his primitive state, that is, a state of purely intellectual activity” (59).  Admittedly, much of Evagrian spirituality was condemned by the council.   Still, he remained influential in the east.  Meyendorff notes that for this tradition we see

“detachment from the passions, continuous concentation, the fight against all distraction, the superiority of mental prayer over psalmody (!!!!), the fear of any concept provoked by imagination, and the return of the mind upon itself as a condition of its union with God” (59-60)

There is nothing remotely Christian (or even Hebraic) about that sentence.  This was the teaching adopted by Maximus, Climacus, and Palamas.   They did make one key change:  intellectual prayer became “the Jesus Prayer…The heart, not the intellect–takes the central place” (60).

The chapter ends with a fine discussion of enhypostasis:  no nature without a hypostasis–the existence “within something” (67).

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