Against those who, because of their own lack of experience and of faith in the saints, deny the mystical energies of the Spirit which, in greater ways than speech can express, are at work in those who live in accordance with the Spirit and which, though manifested in deeds, have not yet been demonstrated by words.
The mysteries of the Mosaic Law, once foreseen in the Spirit by the prophets alone, have now become doctrines known to all alike and openly proclaimed. Similarly the way of life according to the Gospel has also its own mysteries, and these are the blessings of the age to come which are promised to the saints, and which are now disclosed prophetically to those whom the Spirit accounts worthy, but only to a limited extent and as a pledge and a foretaste. If one of the Jews of old, lacking a proper spirit of reverence, were to hear the prophets proclaiming the Logos and the Spirit of God to be pre-eternal and co-eternal with God, he might have stopped up his ears, supposing that he heard things forbidden to piety and opposed to what was openly confessed by true believers, namely, The Lord your God is one Lord. Similarly a person today who without proper reverence hears of the mysteries of the Spirit that are known only by those who have been purified through virtue might react in the same way. Again, the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Old Testament showed the mysteries of that time to be concordant with what was later made manifest, so that now we believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the tri-hypostatic Godhead, one simple, non-composite, uncreated, unseen, incomprehensible nature. Similarly, when in its own time the age to come is revealed according to the ineffable manifestation of the one God in three perfect hypostaseis, it will be clear that the present mysteries accord with all that is then made manifest.
Yet we must also take into account the fact that, although the tri-hypostatic nature of the Godhead – that is in no way destroyed by the principle of unity – was in later times revealed to the ends of the earth, it was also fully known to the prophets prior to the fulfillment of the things prophesied and was readily accepted by those who trusted in them. In the same manner, even at this present time we are not ignorant of the doctrines of the Christian confession, both those which are openly proclaimed and those which are mystically and prophetically revealed by the Spirit to such as are accounted worthy. These are persons who have been initiated by actual experience, who have renounced possessions, human glory and the ugly pleasures of the body for the sake of the evangelical life; and not only this, but they have also strengthened their renunciation by submitting themselves to those who have attained spiritual maturity in Christ. Through the practice of the life of stillness they have devoted their attention undistractedly to themselves and to God, and by transcending themselves through sincere prayer and by establishing themselves in God through their mystical and supra-intellectual union with Him they have been initiated into what surpasses the intellect. Others again have learnt about these things through their reverence, faith and love for such persons.
When, therefore, we hear the great Dionysios in his second epistle to Gaios referring to God’s deifying gift as “divinity and the source of divinity and goodness,” we conclude that the God who grants this grace to those worthy to receive it surpasses this divinity; for God does not suffer multiplicity, nor can we speak thus of two divinities. And St. Maximos, when speaking about Melchisedec, writes that this deifying grace of God is “uncreated”, declaring it to be “eternally existent, proceeding from the eternally existing God”; and elsewhere in many places he says it is a light, ungenerated and completely real, that is manifested to the saints when they become worthy of receiving it, though it does not come into being merely at that moment. He also calls this light “the light of utterly inexpressible glory and the purity of angels”; while St. Makarios calls it the nourishment of the bodiless, the glory of the divine nature, the beauty of the age to come, divine and celestial fire, inexpressible noetic light, foretaste and pledge of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifying oil of gladness.
1. If, then, anyone condemns as Messalians those who declare this deifying grace of God to be uncreated, ungenerated and completely real, and calls them ditheists, he must know – if indeed there is such a person – that he is an adversary of the saints of God, and that if he does not repent he excludes himself from the inheritance of the redeemed and falls away from Him who by nature is the one and only God professed by the saints. But if anyone believes, is persuaded by and concurs with the saints and does not make excuses to justify sin, and if although ignorant of the manner of the mystery he does not because of his ignorance reject what is clearly proclaimed, let him not refuse to enquire and learn from those who do possess knowledge. For he will find that there is nothing inconsistent either in the divine words and acts, especially with respect to those things that are most essential and without which nothing can stand firm, or in the sound doctrine that concerns ourselves, or in the mystery that is altogether divine.
2. If anyone declares that perfect union with God is accomplished simply in an imitative and relative fashion, without the deifying grace of the Spirit and merely in the manner of persons who share the same disposition and who love one another, and that the deifying grace of God is a state of our intellectual nature acquired by imitation alone, but is not a supernatural illumination and an ineffable and divine energy beheld invisibly and conceived inconceivably by those privileged to participate in it, then he must know that he has fallen unawares into the delusion of the Messalians. For if deification is accomplished according to the capacity inherent in human nature and if it is encompassed within the bounds of nature, then of necessity the person deified is by nature God. Whoever thinks like this should not attempt, therefore, to foist his own delusion upon those who stand on secure ground and to impose a defiled creed upon those whose faith is undefiled; rather he should lay aside his presumption and learn from persons of experience or from their disciples that the grace of deification is entirely unconditional, and there is no faculty whatever in nature capable of achieving it since, if there were, this grace would no longer be grace but merely the manifestation of the operation of a natural capacity. Nor, if deification were in accord with a natural capacity, would there be anything miraculous in it; for then deification would truly be the work of nature, not the gift of God, and a man would be able to be and to be called a God by nature in the full sense of the words. For the natural capacity of every being is nothing other than the undeviating and natural disposition for active accomplishment. It is, indeed, incomprehensible how deification can raise the person deified outside or beyond himself if it is encompassed within the bounds of nature.
The grace of deification is, therefore, above nature, virtue and knowledge and, according to St. Maximos, all such things infinitely fall short of it. For all the virtue we can attain and such imitation of God as lies in our power does no more than fit us for union with the Deity, but it is through grace that this ineffable union is actually accomplished. Through grace God in His entirety penetrates the saints in their entirety, and the saints in their entirety penetrate God entirely, exchanging the whole of Him for themselves, and acquiring Him alone as the reward of their ascent towards Him; for He embraces them as the soul embraces the body, enabling them to be in Him as His own members.
3. If anyone asserts that those who regard the intellect as seated in the heart or in the head are Messalians, let him know that he is misguidedly attacking the saints. For St. Athansios the Great says that the soul’s intelligence resides in the head, and St. Makarios, who is in no way inferior, says that the intellect is active in the heart; and nearly all the saints concur with them. When St. Gregory of Nyssa writes that the intellect is neither within the body nor outside it for it is bodiless, this does not contradict what all these other saints affirm; for they say that the intellect is in the body because it is united to it, and thus they state the same thing in a different fashion, not in the least disagreeing with St. Gregory. For if someone says that the Logos of God once dwelt within a virginal and immaculate womb, out of ineffable divine compassion united there to our human substance, he does not contradict someone who maintains that whatever is divine is not contained within a place because it is unembodied.
4. If anyone maintains that the light which shone about the disciples on Mount Tabor was an apparition and a symbol of the kind that now is and now is not, but has no real being and is an effect that not only does not surpass comprehension, but is inferior to it, he clearly contends against the doctrines of the saints. For the saints both in hymns and in their writings call this light ineffable, uncreated, eternal, timeless, unapproachable, boundless, infinite, limitless, invisible to angels and men, archetypal and unchanging beauty, the glory of God, the glory of Christ, the glory of the Spirit, the ray of Divinity and so forth. The flesh of Christ, it is said, is glorified at the moment of its assumption and the glory of the Godhead becomes the body’s glory. But this glory was invisible in His visible body to those unable to perceive that upon which even the angels cannot gaze. Thus Christ was transfigured, not by the addition of something He was not, nor by a transformation into something He was not, but by the manifestation to His disciples of what He really was. He opened their eyes so that instead of being blind they could see. While He Himself remained the same, they could now see Him as other than He had appeared to them formerly. For He is the true light, the beauty of divine glory, and He shone forth like the sun – though this image is imperfect, since what is uncreated cannot be imaged in creation without some diminution.
5. If anyone maintains that only God’s essence is uncreated, while He eternal energies are not uncreated, and that as what energizes transcends all its energies, so God transcends all He energies, let him listen to St. Maximos, who says: “All immortal things and immortality itself, all living things and life itself, all holy things and holiness itself, all good things and goodness itself, all blessings and blessedness itself, all beings and being itself are manifestly works of God. Some began to be in time, for they have not always existed. Others did not begin to be in time, for goodness, blessedness, holiness and immortality have always existed.” And again he says: “Goodness, and all that is included in the principle of goodness, and – to be brief – all life, immortality, simplicity, immutability and infinity, and all other qualities that contemplative vision perceives as substantively appertaining to God, are realities of God which did not begin to be in time. For non-existence is never prior to goodness, nor to any of the other things we have listed, even if those thing which participate in them do in themselves have a beginning in time. All goodness is without beginning because there is no time prior to it: God is eternally the unique author of its being, and God is infinitely above all beings, whether participant or participable.” It is clear, therefore, from what has been said that not everything which issues from God is subject to time. For there are some things issuing from God that are without beginning, without this in the least impairing the principle of the Triadic Unity, that alone is intrinsically without beginning, or God’s super-essential simplicity. In the same way the intellect, which is the imperfect image of that transcendent indivisibility, is not in the least compound because of the variety of its inherent intellections.
6. If anyone does not acknowledge that spiritual dispositions are stamped upon the body as a consequence of the gifts of the Spirit that exist in the soul of those advancing on the spiritual path; and if he does not regard dispassion as a state of aspiration for higher things that leads a person to free himself from evil habits by completely spurning what is evil and to acquire good habits by espousing what is good, but considers it to be the deathlike condition of the soul’s passible aspect, then, by adhering to such views, he inevitably denies that we can enjoy an embodied life in the world of incorruption that is to come. For if in the age to come the body is to share with the soul in ineffable blessings, then it is evident that in this world as well it will also share according to its capacity in the grace mystically and ineffably bestowed by God upon the purified intellect, and it will experience the divine in conformity with its nature. For once the soul’s passible aspect is transformed and sanctified – but not reduced to a deathlike condition – through it the dispositions and energies of the body are also sanctified, since body and soul share a conjoint existence. As St. Diadochos states, in the case of those who have abandoned the delights of this age in the hope of enjoying the blessings of eternity, the intellect, because of its freedom from worldly cares, is able to act with its full vigor and becomes capable of perceiving the ineffable goodness of God. Then according to the measure of its own progress it communicates its joy to the body too, and this joy which then fills both soul and body is a true recalling of incorruptible life.
The intellect perceives one light, and the senses another. The senses perceive sensible light, which manifests sensory things as sensory. The light of the intellect is the spiritual knowledge inherent in intellection. Thus sight and intellect do not perceive the same light, but each operates to the limit of its nature in what is natural to it. When saintly people become happy possessors of spiritual and supernatural grace and power, they see both with the sense of sight and with the intellect that which surpasses both sense and intellect in a manner that – to use the expression of St. Gregory of Nazianzos – “God alone knows and those in whom these things are brought to pass.”
7. These things we have been taught by the Scriptures and have received from our Fathers; and we have come to know them from our own small experience. Having seen them set down in the treatise of our brother, the most reverend Hieromonk Gregory, In Defence of Those who Devoutly Practice a Life of Stillness, and acknowledging them to be fully consistent with the traditions of the saints, we have adjoined our signature for the assurance of those who read this present document.
The Protos of the venerable monasteries on the Holy Mountain, Isaac, hieromonk.
The abbot of the venerable, imperial, and holy monastery of Lavra, Theodosius, hieromonk.
The signature of the abbot of the monastery of the Georgians in his own language [i.e. in Georgian].
The abbot of the venerable and imperial monastery of Vatopedi, Ioannikios, hieromonk.
The signature of the abbot of the monastery of the Serbs, in his own language [i.e. in Slavonic].
I, the least of hieromonks, Philotheus, being of the same mind, have undersigned.
Amphilochios, the least among hieromonks and spiritual father of the venerable monastery of Esphigmenou.
I, Gerasimus, the lowly hieromonk, having seen and read what was has here been written with love for the truth, and having assented thereto, have signed.
I, moses, the lowly elder and least among monks, being of the same mind, have undersigned.
Theodosios, the least of hieromonks and the spiritual father of Vatopedi.
The abbot of the holy monastery of Koutloumousiou, Theostiriktos, Hieromonk
I, Gerontios Maroulis, the sinner, one of the council of elders of the venerable Lavra, being of the same mind, have undersigned.
Kallistos of Mouzalon, the least of monks.
I, the lowly and least of monks, Gregory Stravolagadites, and perhaps a hesychast, being of the same mind and opinion, have undersigned.
I, the elder from the Skete of Magoula and least among hieromonks, Isaias, being of the same mind, have undersigned.
Mark the Sinaite, the least of monks.
Kallistos of the Skete of Magoula and least among hieromonks.
The signature of the elder and hesychast from Syria, in his own language [in Arabic].
Sophronius, the least of monks.
Ioasaph, the least of monks.
I, Iakovos, the humble bishop of Hierissos and the Holy Mountain, who was reared on the traditions of the Holy Mountain and the Fathers, testify that by the signatures of these select men the entire Holy Mountain has undersigned with one accord, and I myself, assenting to these things and putting my seal thereto, have undersigned. I add, furthermore, together with all the rest, that we shall have no communion with anyone who is not in agreement with the saints, as we are, and as were the Fathers who immediately preceded us.