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Grant, Lord, that we may be kept this night without sin.Blessed are You, Lord God of our Fathers,and praised and glorified is Your name for ever. Amen.May Your mercy be upon us, Lord,just as we have hoped in You.Blessed are You, Lord,teach me Your judgements.Blessed are You, Master,give me understanding of Your judgements.Blessed are You, Holy One,enlighten me with Your judgements.Lord, Your mercy endures for ever,do not disregard the works of Your hands.To You is due praise,to You is due song,glory is due to You.Father, Son and Holy Spirit,now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

three stages

RevdDr Doru Costache

Senior Lecturer in Patristics, SAGOTC

Kogarah Fellowship

12 / 03 / 12

Three Stages

Walking the Spiritual Path

the beginning of all becoming
The beginning of all becoming
  • The Christian lifestyle as a life-changing experience
  • The leap of faith or the beginning of the transformative process
  • Faith as change of mentality  adopting a new, Christ-centred and Christ-like worldview
walking the path
Walking the path
  • The Christian lifestyle as a dynamic process or reorientation, an ‘adventure’ (getting somewhere)
  • Faith is the premise of the journey but actually walking the path is what makes the journey an adventure
the method
The method
  • The journey is impossible without guidelines or a method
  • Ecclesial tradition provides us with the necessary method yet the latter is useless without a genuine faith commitment
three stages1
Three stages
  • The idea of a gradualprogress in the Christian life is omnipresent within tradition
    • Catechism – illumination – progress
    • Baptism – wedding/monastic tonsure – ordination
    • The Byzantine prayer “Grant, Lord”: learning – understanding – reaching enlightenment
    • Origen the Alexandrine observed a similar pattern in three Old Testament books: Proverbs – Ecclesiastes – The Song of Songs
three stages2
Three stages
  • The main Byzantine spiritual traditions held the three-stage pattern as central:
    • EvagriusPonticus: praxis – theory – theology
    • St Dionysius the Areopagite: purification – contemplation – illumination
three stages3
Three stages
  • Purification = an active change of life by the practice of virtues
  • Contemplation = renunciation to false interpretations, sharpening of one’s discernment
  • Illumination = reaching perfection, theosis/deification
three stages4
Three stages
  • Origen, First Homily on Genesis:
    • The first three days of creation: separations, putting behind the old self
    • The next three days of creation: embellishing of life by virtue and contemplation
    • The seventh day of creation: deification, resting in God
a misunderstanding
A misunderstanding
  • The three stages are represented sometimes as a gradual process of accumulation of virtues, which ultimately leads to theosis (i.e. purification + contemplation = deification)
a source of misunderstanding
A source of misunderstanding
  • St Dionysius defined theosis as likeness and union
  • Likeness = acquiring of virtues
  • Union = participation in God
a corrective
A corrective
  • St Maximus the Confessor distinguishes between what is natural and what is supernatural in the states of perfection experienced by the saints:
    • ‘Natural’ are the virtuous and contemplative efforts
    • ‘Supernatural’ is the actual deification, understood as a culminating union with God