In Prayer and Fasting (Worship and Ascesis as the coordinates of Orthodox spiritual living)
1. Spiritual life and ecclesiastic theology
The composition of the Church’s life – in its local and its universal manifestation – has a unique and steadfast objective: to be the members’ path towards theosis (deification); the “thorough” (1 Thess. 5:23) incorporation of the members in the “Body of Christ”, which constitutes Christianity’s absolute purpose and objective. A chance deviation from this objective will automatically signify an altering of the Church (Her human part) and Her lapsing into a secular grouping (committee, society, and the like) and a consequent forfeiting of Her character. Besides, the most essential distortion of Christianity, which radically corrupts its very essence, is to view it as a “Christian” ideology or a system of “truths” (God does not reveal fleshless “truths”-ideas, but reveals Himself as the Self-Truth and the incarnate All-Truth.) that the believer is called upon to accept, in order to shape his life accordingly. If this were the case, one would “learn” Christianity, the way one learns a school lesson. But Christianity is not simply something to be “learnt”; more than anything, it is something that should be “felt”. Christianity is offered as life – as an incorporation into a “new”, “revealed-in-Christ” way of life; the way of life that was introduced into History by the Incarnate Logos of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is called upon to reach – through a specific course – that point, where he will apply to himself the confession of Apostle Paul: “no longer do I live, for Christ lives within me”. (Galatians 2:20). It is the “morphing” of Christ inside the believer (“so that Christ be formed within you” – Galatians 4:19). Man should become a Christ-divine man through Grace.
This course, which is equivalent to a therapeutic procedure of human existence (“Orthodox Psychotherapy”, by Reverend Hierotheos of Nafpaktos), is precisely what is known as “spiritual life” or “life in the Holy Spirit”. This means participation in the Uncreated Grace offered by the Holy Spirit, which is established within the believer as “the kingdom of the heavens” (heavenly kingdom), and is manifested as a course in the Holy Spirit. Man’s destination is to live inside the light of the Holy Trinity (for him to be a true human and fellow human), loving God and his fellow-man with sincerity, within the bounds of piety and loving selflessness, in accordance with the Apostle’s word: “let us live soberly, and righteously and piously in the present aeon”. (Titus 2:12)
Thus, the word “spiritual” in the linguistic code of the Orthodox Church does not imply the intellectually cultivated person; the intellectual or the wise person in the secular sense, but the wise man according to God (James 3:17) – the one who has become worthy of being a temple of the Holy Spirit, a “Spirit-bearer” (cf. I Corinthians 2:11-16). A truly “spiritual” person is the “theumen” (=the deified one); the Saint. An Orthodox temple is adorned with “hagiography”; it is filled with portrayed figures of Saints, so that there will be a permanent reminder that the objective of every believer is to walk the same path as the Saints, and that the Church is a permanent “workshop for sanctity”. As odd as this may sound nowadays, it signifies: a workshop for producing (creating) Saints and a “spiritual infirmary” (St. John the Chrysostom), a place of spiritual healing. These terms, which reveal the Church’s spiritually-dominated realism, are based on Her historicity – in other words, in Her persistence in the “world” (She is “in the world”, but not “of the world”: John 17:14) – “for the salvation of which” She exists in History.
Ecclesiastic theology and theologizing are the content and the expression of spiritual living. Through theology are expressed the experience of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and theosis. Ecclesiastic theology presupposes experience in the Holy Spirit. To speak of God presupposes a knowledge of God (Constantine Papapetros: “The Revelation of God and the Knowledge of Him” and “The essence of theology”). However, the knowledge of God can never be the fruit of contemplative, intellectual, or metaphysical study; only the fruit of a “communion of the Holy Spirit” (Divine Liturgy). According to Saint Gregory the Theologian, theologizing (=‘philosophizing about God”) presupposes a communion with God, which is why it pertains to “those who have examined themselves and have passed on to “theory” (i.e., in “theopty” – the sighting of God), prior to which, they have become cleansed in body and soul, or, have been cleansed to some extent” (Speech 27, 3). It is communion with God that renders a man a theologian; a Saint is a theologian. Theology originating from a “seeing” of God is stated in the Holy Bible as “prophecy”. A prophet (Greek, pro-phetes = he who utters things in the presence of), as the mouthpiece of God towards the people, speaks as one who has “seen” God, which is why he functions as a theologian (Greek, theo-logian = one who speaks of God. On the prerequisites of theologizing, see fr. John Romanides’ “Dogmatics and Symbolic Theology of the Orthodox Catholic Church” and “Roman or Romioi Fathers of the Church”.)
Consequently, spiritual life constitutes the essence of ecclesiasticity, in the form of “Christianity”. It is precisely why the purpose of the Church’s presence in the world is the assumption and the incorporation of mankind overall into the community of God, the “churchification” of the entire world. Because Man’s communion with God – through His Uncreated Grace – constitutes the (eternal) destination of human existence and the only possibility for realizing a true communion of selfless love between people. Inside the Church, as a communion in Christ, Christ’s words are realized: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I, in their midst.” (Matthew, 18:20).
2. The main constituents of spiritual life
These are: faith, ascesis and worship (fr. G.D.Metallinos’ “The theological witness of Ecclesiastic Worship”). Theology expresses the “what” of faith, as a self-revelation of Divine Love and as a daily glorification and confession of the Church as the Body of Christ. Ascesis and Worship constitute the “how” of life in Christ, as fidelity towards the divine calling and the conditions for its realization.
“Salvation in Christ is to restore man back on the path towards perfection and immortality, through communion with the Holy Spirit.” (fr.John S. Romanides, “The Cardinal Sin”) Upon attaining the “communion of the Holy Spirit”, man participates in God’s way of existence and is fulfilled as a “persona”, thereafter living the selflessness of the Triadic personal communion. This course is achieved through the incorporation of the entire human existence into the Body of Christ, by rendering it “in Christ”, so that man can become real and be enabled to know God (1 John 5:20), to be united with Him, and himself be deified.
This way of life and existence within the Body of Christ is called “ascesis” (exercise), because that is what the Lord required, when saying: “the kingdom of heaven is violable, and only violators will seize it.” (Matthew 11:12), and it is furthermore confirmed by Saint Paul’s proclamation: “I tame my body and subjugate it, lest, when preaching to others, I prove myself to be a phony.” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Ascesis is the basic constituent of life in Christ and it constitutes a permanent path to repentance, which renders man receptive of Divine Grace. Since man’s objective is to receive the Holy Spirit (“receive ye the Holy Spirit” – John 20:22), it is imperative for man to “open up” to Grace. Through ascesis, nature’s rebelliousness is deadened, so that its authenticity can be restored. The sanctification of human nature was realized, “once and for all”, with Christ’s redemptive work and His assumption of our nature. With ascesis, the specific human persona is deified and human nature is prepared for its union to the Uncreated – to Grace.
Ascesis, as a struggle by man as a whole, is – for the Church – the method (Greek, meth-odos = a path in parallel) required for theological knowledge. However, it must be clarified that the ascetic effort of the faithful is not of a moral nature; in other words, it does not aspire to a simple improvement of one’s character and his behaviors, but to a personal participation in the festivity and the joy of the Church, in the “celebration of the firstborn” (Hebr. 12:22). This is why it generates in the believer a feeling of an unspeakable joy – one that negates every (pharisaic) artificial deliberation and pretended dejection, which are nothing more than a feigned devoutness. Christian ascesis is to voluntarily participate in an obedience in Christ and His Saints; to deaden one’s personal will and to eventually identify with the will of Christ (Philippians 2:5) but beyond every legalistic conventionalism and utilitarian purpose: only an awareness of Christianity’s genuineness and the decision to surrender to it. Thus, ascesis leads to a permanent tasting of the divine-human reality, as a “theocentricity” (God-centeredness) and communion with God.
But the piety and the “spirituality” of Orthodoxy are liturgical. Albeit Orthodox life is not confined to the limits of a (formal) worship (D.S.Balanos “Is the Orthodox Greek Church only a community of worship?”)., worship does comprise the heart and the essence of its life. As observed by fr. George Florovsky, “Christianity is a liturgical religion. The Church is, above all, a worshipping community. Worship comes first, (dogmatic) teaching and discipline (ecclesiastic order) follow.” (“Orthodox Worship” in the volume: Themes of Orthodox Theology, p.159.) This means that it is in the “liturgical congregating” of the Church that “the source of life, its very center, are located; it is from here that the new teaching, its sanctifying grace and its manner of administration are found”.
The Church is realized as a worshipping community, since, throughout its lifetime, in its every detail, it is continuously transformed into a worship of God.The participation of the faithful in the ecclesiastic body’s worship reveals its desire “to be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). During worship, the faithful feels the way a baby feels in its mother’s arms: in his natural space. This is why he chants: “I delighted with those who said to me, ‘we are heading to the house of the Lord’.” (Psalms 122:1)
In any expression of ecclesiastic worship, a twofold movement takes place: man’s movement towards God for the glorification of God, and God’s movement towards man for the sanctification of man. There is no room here of course for the scholastic question of “who makes the first move”, given that Divine Love is in a perpetual movement towards the world, “for He first loved us” (1 John 4:10). Here, again, the words of the Chrysostom apply, that: “the most part – in fact almost everything – is God’s; to us, He has left but a small part”. (Fr. Basil Gontidakis, “Eisodikon. Elements of liturgical experiencing of the mystery of unity within the Orthodox Church”) Ecclesiastic worship is a secret dialogue, between the Creator and His creature; it is a mutual communion between them both.
Its result is an “actual” encounter of God and man, as it takes place “in the true God” (1 John 5:20). And “sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15) to God, an offer of the whole existence to its source according to the liturgical calling: “let us appose ourselves, and each other, and our entire life unto Christ our God”. Thus, worship becomes “the fruit of the lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebr. 13:14).
Moreover, the theological character of worship is also explicit; not only because the theological (Scriptural and Patristic) word becomes the word of worship, offered to the congregation.
Ecclesiastic worship is a school for reverence, which shapes the ecclesiastic mind (Phil. 2:5), the conscience of the ecclesiastic body. But, apart from that, the worship of the Church itself is a revelation of the triple mystery of life: the mystery of God, the mystery of Man and the mystery of Creation, as well as the relations between them simultaneously; it is a revelation of Man as a member of a human society (Gen. 2:18). That is why it is introduced in the God-given communion, which is defined by the following Eucharist coordinates: “let us lift up our hearts” and “let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. In Orthodox worship the believer experiences the mystery of the last time (1 Peter 1:5 that has broken into the world with the Incarnation of the Son of God and his victory on devil, sin, death. It is about the new mystery of “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1), where “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Rev.21:4). In our worship, our entire existence is placed under Christ’s authority (Matth. 28;18), because “we appose all earthy cares, so that we may receive the King of all” (Divine Liturgy), and we glorify the Triadic God, the way the angelic forces glorify him in Heaven (Isaiah 6:1 ff).
It is in this spirit that we can comprehend how asceticism and liturgical life are complementary to each other. Ecclesiastic worship is festive in its nature. Every day is a celebration for the Church – a festivity – because the commemoration of Saints confirms Christ’s victory over the world (John 16:33). Asceticism, furthermore, as a foretaste of the joy of this festivity, induces progress in the entry of the faithful to this festivity of the Church – to its spiritual celebration. It is the preparation for the participation of the whole man in the “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), which is revealed in worship. It is the path of return to the “per nature” state (κατά φύσιν), a basic prerequisite for the course and the ascent to the “hyper-natural”, to the “hyper-cosmic” state of worship. As indicated by the blessed Chrysostom, “what is sought after here (in worship) is a sedate soul, an alert mind, a solemn heart, a robust mentality, a cleansed conscience; if, having all these, you join God’s chorus, you will be able to stand next to David himself.”
Ascesis, together with the “incessant prayer” (1 Thess. 5:17), humility, impassiveness, fasting, and continuous participation in the act of worship, seeks to transform life into “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1); and this, so that life can finally rediscover its original beauty and genuineness and its true meaning. The ascesis of monks, primarily, finds a spiritual oasis in worship, which relaxes their harsh ascetic praxis. Furthermore, that which the faithful becomes charismatically through his ascesis – and mainly with the Divine Eucharist – becomes “churchified”; he becomes incorporated in the Body of Christ, the Church, and the “individual” event becomes a “communal” one – in other words, ecclesiastic. Because only then does it acquire a significance and is sanctified – when “individual” becomes “communal”. Outside Christ’s Body not only is there no salvation, but even the most perfect virtue is “like a woman’s dirty rag” (Is. 64:6).
Worship renders the believer’s entire life into an “in-Christ” life. Ascesis provides the potential to realize that aim, given that the unclean person is hindered by his passions and cannot glorify God properly. Let us remember the hymn of Easter “make us, the devout, glorify You with a cleansed heart”. The “cleansed heart” is the aim in Christian ascesis (cf Psalm 50:12 – “a cleansed heart build within me, o Lord……”). Only with a “cleansed heart” can man see God (Matth. 5:8); that is, to achieve the objective of his ecclesiastical existence. This is precisely what the words of the blessed John of Damascus express in his Paschal canon: “Let us be cleansed of our senses, and we shall see the inaccessible Light of the resurrection of Christ shining brightly.” (Ode a, Troparion 2)
Worship leads to theosis (deification), but only when there is a cleanliness of the heart and of the senses (= the inner prerequisite for worship) (Fr. G.D. Metallinos, as above, p.274), which is, of course, the fruit of Man’s unity with the same source of Man’s sanctification as well as ascetic life and worship: the Holy Trinity’s Grace. Moreover, God Himself, Who provided worship as a potential for sanctification, also appointed ascesis as a perpetual opening for mankind to sanctifying Grace. Consequently, if worship is the entry into the heavenly Kingdom, then ascesis is the way towards this Kingdom. Worship determines and reveals the purpose of our existence; ascesis helps to achieve this purpose.
With ascesis, moreover, as a Christian’s permanent way of life, his entire life is transformed into worship of God “in truth” (John 4:22), because the practicing Christian is wholly transformed into a “temple of God”, in which is officiated the mystery of salvation. But, just as those who prayed with the heart in the Church of Corinth (1 Cor.14), albeit possessing the “incessant prayer” (1 Thess. 5:17) of the Holy Spirit in their heart, they also participated in the congregation of the entire body, thus the one who is perfected in ascesis also participates in the congregation and worship of the body and “churchifies” his charismas. Without one’s communion, on the other hand, with his brothers in Christ, communion with Christ is rendered impossible (1 John 4:20).
Thus, what matters is the fact that ascesis does not function only as a preparatory factor for the believer for his participation in worship, but it also contributes towards the believer’s retaining the Grace that he receives when exiting the temple, and thereafter towards his relationship with God. This is also expounded by Saint Nicholas Kavasilas in a special chapter titled: “what the initiate who has safeguarded the grace derived from the sacraments becomes, through his willingness.” (“On Life in Christ”, Logos 7, PG 150, 625)
Ascesis, finally, contributes towards the projection and the extension of worship into one’s entire life, which is thus transformed into an incessant worship, as a “liturgy after the liturgy”.
3. Monasticism as a liturgical practice
Ecclesiastic monasticism preserves the link between ascesis and worship, by saving the spiritual props of God’s people in their spiritual course. A monk’s life is a genuine study of repentance (“στηλογραφών την ζωήν της μετανοίας”) (Canon 43, 6th Ecumenical Council). Given that repentance is the actual revolution that was introduced “in Christ” to the world, for the perpetual renovation of the world, monasticism preserves Christianity as a permanent (spiritual) revolution within the world, while in parallel it prolongs the spirituality of the first centuries, safeguarding the Church from the danger of secularization by acting as an inhibition for its propagation. Monasticism, in its absolute consistency in the struggle for deification, expresses in every era the “surplus” of Christian ascesis, the path of “excess” (1 Cor. 12:31), which becomes a rule in spiritual life. That is why it was called “the superior way”, “the jewel of the Church” – because, even though all Christians have been invited to “forcefully” receive the Grace of God, monks follow the Lord’s commandment more faithfully, through their more consistent and precise ascesis.
Consequently, all faithful strive for the same objective. Monks, however, fight with a broader spectrum of potentials. Their way is the experiencing of “End Times” (1 John 2:18) – that incessant alertness in expectation of “the coming Lord”. That is why monasticism is the most genuine form of Christian life and the “light” for the strugglers of the world. The incorporation of worship in the spiritual struggle of monks, albeit considered different to the initial view of worship by the Church, turned out to be the greatest blessing for the ecclesiastic body, for it is through monasticism that the link between worship and the “enthusiastic” element were continued, given that monasticism is the historical continuity of Christian martyrdom, in the form of “the martyrdom of conscience”. (Andr. Fytrakis, “Martyrdom and Monastic Living” and Fr. G.D.Metallinos, “The Saint and the Martyr as emulators of the passions of the Lord”)
Already, the apostolic community of Jerusalem presents itself par excellence as a worshipping one. The prayer of the faithful is addressed to God “with one mouth and one heart” (Rom.15:6, 1 Peter 4:1, Revel. 15:4, etc). Monks were to remain faithful to this same tradition of the ancient Church, as the continuers of the “enthusiastic trends” of the ancient Church. Their life was to be shaped as a life of worship, and they themselves would circulate as “corporeal angels” and “liturgical spirits”. A monk, moreover, is not merely (passively) nourished during worship; he actually becomes its communicant and officiator, thus participating in the way of existence of the Church as a body of Christ. With Saint Basil the Great as organizer, the monastic coenobium comprises a miniature of the Church as “a monastic parish”, where everyday life is expressed as a liturgical glorification. Through the coenobium, ecclesiastic worship develops its potential in the field of ascesis. (On the link between monasticism and worship, see the “Ascetic Works” of Saint Basil the Great, PG 31, 520-1428). At the geographical center of the monastic coenobium there is always the “Catholicon” or “Kyriakon”, the central temple for the liturgical congregation of the entire Monastery.
With the appearance of organized ascesis from the 4th century, worship was directly linked to ascesis. (Fr. G.D.Metallinos, “The Theological Witness…….” As above, p. 66) Monks incorporated genuflexion (kneeling) in their worship, borrowed from the imperial custom (of adoration) as an expression of their contrition, their self-accusation and their subjugation to God. Worship thus took on an ascetic character, as a form of perpetual repentance. This spirit is apparent in the words of Abba Pambo, which simultaneously reveal the differentiation from the form of worship by the Christians of the world: “For, monks did not depart to come to this desert, to stand before God and be absent-minded and sing songs and produce (musical) sounds and shake their arms and shift their feet about, but are obliged with much fear and terror, with tears and sighs, to offer their prayers to God with respect and in a solemn and moderate voice.” (W.Christ – W.Paranikas. Anthologia Graeca carminum Christianorum, Lipsiae 1871, XXIX). This text clearly expresses the spirit of monastic ascesis. Even though in later centuries monasticism was to acquire a worship far more embellished than that of the parishes of the world, thus becoming the chief factor of ecclesiastic worship’s development, that spirit will never be lost, which is linked to the entire spiritual elation preserved within it. Monasticism succeeds in rendering life an organic continuation of worship, precisely through ascesis.
A monk’s incorporation in prayer also demands increased participation in worship. A monk is realized during worship. That is why he desires to live in communion with God, like an infant that seeks the maternal embrace. A monk’s participation in worship maintains him in a God-centered communion, but also in communion with his brothers. For the monk, abstaining from worship is a withdrawal from Christ and a severing from the maternal body of Church. It is not, therefore, illogical for hermits-ascetics of every period to receive Holy Communion through monks living in a convent, in order to be able to receive Holy Communion every day, thus participating simultaneously in the ecclesiastic community.
Absolute ascesis, alienated from the worshipping community, cannot be considered ecclesiastically. Saint Basil the Great, major organizer of monasticism in the Church, prioritizes the liturgical praxis in his ascetic works, stressing that “prayers that are not recited in common, lose much of their power” (PG 32, 493B).
This praxis is strictly upheld in the Holy Mountain in our day, where the whole of Orthodoxy is represented. Within one ecclesiastic year, about 50 night-vigil services are held. In certain stricter coenobiums, vigils are held on every Saturday of the two, more extensive fasting periods (Christmas and Easter). A contemporary, well-known monk of the Holy Mountain (Fr. George Kapsanis) provides on this matter an important personal testimony:
“In the worship of the Church a monk surrenders himself with love to God and God surrenders Himself to him. A monk spends many of his hours every day inside the temple, worshipping the beloved Lord. To him, participation in worship is not “compulsory”, but a necessity of his soul, which thirsts for God. In the monasteries of the Holy Mountain, the Divine Liturgy is performed daily and the monks are not in a hurry for the service to finish, regardless how many hours its duration is, because they have nothing better to do than be in communion with the Saviour, the Mother of the Saviour and the friends of the Saviour […] Thus, worship is joy and celebration, the springtime of the soul and a foretasting of Paradise […] The priority that Monasticism gives to the worship of God reminds the Church and the world that if the Divine Liturgy and worship do not become once again the center of our life, our world has no possibility to be united and transformed; to transcend division, imbalance, the void and death, despite the sincere humanitarian systems and improvement programs of the world. Monasticism furthermore reminds us that the Divine Liturgy and worship are not merely “something” in our life, but are the center, the source of renovation and sanctification of all the aspects of our life” («Ευαγγελικός Μοναχισμός» – Evangelical Monasticism, in the periodical “Hossios Gregorios”, 1976, p.68, 70.) This passage is an important testimony on the link between ascesis and worship, as these have been instituted in Orthodoxy throughout the centuries.
However, ascesis has equally left its mark on ecclesiastic worship. Not only the forms but the content, the ideas and the themes of ecclesiastical worship also bear a vivid ascetic character. We will limit ourselves to mention only certain more characteristic examples:
a) The absolute prevalence of the monastic liturgical praxis in the (secular) “world” also, after the end of the Iconoclast period.
b) The notions of “following” Christ; of passion for the sake of Christ; of self-crucifixion – all purely ascetic themes – prevail predominantly in ecclesiastic hymnography.
c) Many feast-days and services are dedicated to ascetics -both men and women- who are presented as models of Orthodox spirituality (Most characteristic instances are the projection of the blessed personages of Saint Maria the Egyptian and Saint John of the Ladder. For the actual verification, see J.Tyciak, “Die Liturgie als Quelle oestlicher Froemmigkeit (Ecclesia Orans, 20) Freiburg 1937.).
d) The ascetic ideal prevails in the weekly liturgical praxis: Tuesday is dedicated to the Theotokos and John the Baptist – summits of ascetic life and guides for those striving in their ascetic labours. Virginity and continence are thus honored, liturgically, in the persons of the Theotokos and the Forerunner.
e) One could add here the reinstatement of the Iconostasis, the long periods of fasting, as well as the attire of the clergy, all of which are the fruits of a lengthy, ascetic-monastic tradition. Even the custom of the Orthodox to participate standing during worship, is ascribed to the influence of the monastic polity (the ascetic stance towards the body and the emulating of the praxis of the Angels during celestial worship, where they worship God standing). (John Foundoulis, “The spirit of divine worship” in “Liturgical Matters – A”, p. 21.)
The inter-embracing of worship and ascesis in the life of the Church is what incarnates the spirit of Orthodoxy, which is the “in pure heart” approach to the Kingdom of Grace. Particularly the participation in the Sacrament of Sacraments, the Divine Eucharist, according to the admission of the patristic conscience, demands the awareness of the faithful and their psychosomatic cleanness (2 Cor. 7:1). Worship (Eucharist) and a “clean life” – in the ascetic sense of the term, not the moralistic one – go together.
4. Monasticism and Theology
The preservation by Monasticism of the authentic link between asceticism and worship is its “power supply” for the development of its perennial potential in expressing ecclesiastic Theology. It is not coincidental that all the true Theologians of the Church (the Fathers) originate from the realm of ascesis and in fact, from its organized version – Monasticism – which is the natural continuity of the Church’s life-tradition. Monasticism preserves in its authentic dimensions the arms of theologizing, and on its wings its spiritual ascents. Consequently, from within the perspective of ecclesiastic ascesis and worship, Monasticism’s intrinsic association to theological Knowledge and its theologizing regarding the ecclesiastic body becomes apparent. That is also the reason why the author by conviction regards the sphere of academic Theology (Universities) merely as a potential to approach and analyze the impressions of the testimonies recorded during the historical course of the Church, but as a prerequisite of ecclesiastic (i.e. primary) theologizing; in other words, as a revelation of divine knowledge. This can be attained, only in the truly Theological School of the Church, in the realm of monastic experience, as established in chapters 12-14 of the 1st Epistle to Corinthians, where mention is made of “spiritual things” (charismas). Only those who are permanent students of this God-taught school of piety – as are the monks – are proven “from above” to be theologians of the Church. (Fr. G.D.Metallinos, “Theological education and ecclesiastic regime”, from “Ecclesia” 1993. p.127).