Diadochos of Photiki on Theology

All God’s gifts of grace are flawless and the source of everything good; but the gift which inflames our hearts and moves it to the love of his goodness more than any other is theology. It is the early offspring of God’s grace and bestows on the soul the greatest gifts. First of all, it leads us gladly to disregard all love of this life, since in the place of perishable desires we possess inexpressible riches, the oracles of God. Then it embraces our intellect with the light of a transforming fire, and so it makes it a partner of the angels in their liturgy. Therefore, when we have been made ready, we begin to long sincerely for this gift of contemplative vision, for it is full of beauty, frees us from every worldly care, and nourishes the intellect with divine truth in the radiance of inexpressible light. In brief, it is the gift which, through the help of the holy prophets, unites the deiform soul with God in unbreakable communion. So, among men as among angels, divine theology—like one who conducts the wedding feast—brings into harmony the voices of those who praise God’s majesty.

Our intellect often finds it hard to endure praying because of the straightness and concentration which this involves; but it joyfully turns to theology because of the broad and unhampered scope of divine speculation. Therefore, so as to keep the intellect from expressing itself too much in words or exalting itself unduly in its joy, we should spend most of our time in prayer, in singing psalms and reading the Holy Scriptures, yet without neglecting the speculations of wise men whose faith has been revealed in their writings. In this way we shall prevent the intellect from confusing its own utterances with the utterances of grace, and stop it from being led astray by self-esteem and dispersed through over-elation and loquacity. In the time of contemplation we must keep the intellect free of all fantasy and image, and so ensure that with almost all our thoughts we shed tears. When it is at peace in times of stillness, and above all when it is gladdened by the sweetness of prayer, not only does it escape the faults we have mentioned, but it is more and more renewed in its swift and effortless understanding of divine truth, and with great humility it advances in its knowledge of discrimination. There is, moreover, a prayer which is above even the broadest scope of speculation; but this prayer is granted only to those who fully and consciously perceive the plenitude of God’s grace within them. (Diadochos of Photiki, ‘On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination,’ §§67-68)

From the Philokalia. An utterly different understanding of the theological task than how we are led to think today. But may God heal our misconceptions.

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