April 7, 2023

Faith and Works: An Orthodox Philokalic Perspective (6 of 6)

 ...continued from part five.

6. Conclusions in the Form of an Epilogue

Guided by a Philokalic thread, I tried to briefly outline the relationship between faith and works (or theoria and praxis) from a soteriological point of view (justification as illumination and glorification as deification). From the previous analysis it became, I think, obvious:

a) Philokalic piety has nothing to do with any version of the "ethics of meritorious works" nor is it "prayerful" according to a conception that distorts prayer into an autonomous human work and betrays ignorance of its charismatic identity: "Grace is not only faith, but active prayer" (Saint Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia IV, 54). "Justification" is understood as the illumination of the heart, the first resurrection of the "hidden things of the heart" of man, and is achieved by the grace of God in the "person of Jesus Christ" through "justified faith" within the body of the Church. Grace does not exclude, but heals and activates human free will in order to preserve the treasure in the measure of the working of the divine "commandments", which are understood as a means of secret communion with God, an extension and concretization of baptismal grace. Consequently, good works cannot be considered "meritorious", nor can they provide psychological "certainty" of salvation which would undermine the living Christian hope in God's mercy and the lifelong "repentance" necessary for all.

b) The ascetic life constitutes the heart of the true worship of God "in Spirit and truth" in the Church of the New Testament and an expression of the prophetic and apostolic spirit. That is why it is time to realize the importance of hesychasm as the "habitat" par excellence of Orthodox doctrine.

c) To the extent that even in the Orthodox Church the "Philokalic consciousness" is lost or even recedes, to the extent that the organic relationship of "theoria and praxis" is ignored, with the resulting "hesychastic verification" of doctrine, and its importance for the treatment of human existence from selfishness, then the risk of discounting "institutionalism" is more than visible. Then healing in the life of Christ is replaced by a set of religious "duties" to which only hypocrites respond and from which mainly "Christianized Pharisees" emerge...

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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