Awaiting Athanasius

Thanks to my series on St Isaac the Syrian, the number of visitors to Eclectic Orthodoxy jumped dramatically. If you are new to the blog, may I suggest that you take a look at the over two dozen articles on St Gregory the Theologian, beginning with Oration 38. If I do say so myself, I think they are pretty interesting and informative. As far as I can tell, few people have blogged on the Nazianzen. Take a gander and feel free to leave comments and start a conversation. I’ll be back with you next week (or the week after) with the first of my reflections on St Athanasius.

To my non-Orthodox readers, I bid you a blessed Triduum.

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6 Responses to Awaiting Athanasius

  1. mary benton says:

    I look forward to reading about St. Gregory. And I am touched by your wishes for those of us entering the Triduum. I am off to church this Holy Thursday evening and will pray for you and my other Orthodox friends as well.


  2. coffeezombie says:

    Thank you, Fr. Aidan, for not leaving us post-less! I’ll be checking out your posts on St. Gregory to tide myself over while awaiting your comments on St. Athanaisus.

    As a side note, for those of us interested in reading St. Gregory’s Orations, whose spouses might be a bit miffed that we bought yet another book (especially when we have such a backlog of books of all kinds), it looks like you can find a translation of St. Gregory’s Orations (1-40…I don’t know if there are any more?) for free at New Advent. Now if only I could put that on my Kindle… 😉


  3. yet another book (in my case yet more books as svspress shipped me some today): check
    BIG backlog of books: check
    miffed spouse: check
    Kindle (good place to “hide” yet another book from miffed spouse): check
    miffed spouse with 60+ acres to hide yet another young untrained unbroken horse that needs riding along with his own backlog of unridden horses so he cannot complain about “yet another book”: CHECK! 🙂


  4. maryeholste says:

    I would love to read your thoughts in integrating the teachings of St. Isaac on God’s boundless love with the teachings of St. Gregory on God’s holiness and the need for reverence and purification before approaching God. St. Isaac seems less likely to emphasize any precondition for interacting with God and more likely to stress God’s initiative to bridge any gap between us. I am exaggerating a disparity on purpose here just for clarity. I am hopeful that the two Fathers are actually in agreement with each other. Can you offer some insight on this question, Father?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Mary, you raise a really interesting question. There is no question that St Isaac speaks of the love of the Father with a warmth and intimacy that is not found in St Gregory’s orations, at least in the orations I have read. St Isaac is, of course, the ascetic par excellence. As Met Hilarion writes, for Isaac “repentance is the constant spiritual state of an ascetic; it should be forever present in the heart.” He speaks of the need for purification as emphatically as St Gregory, if not more so; yet it does have a somewhat different tone or feel than Gregory’s discourse on purification, as you observe.

      One thing to keep in mind, though: it’s important to remember the rhetorical aims and context of St Gregory’s orations. When St Gregory speaks of ascending the holy mountain in Oration 28, for example, and urges those who are not fully purified stay at the bottom or to stop part-way up, he is speaking principally of those who would dare to teach the Church. When it comes to the ministry of teaching, Gregory is no populist. He strongly disapproves of all the theological chit-chat and disputation that is happening in Constantinople. In his judgment Eunomius and his followers have divorced theological reflection from the life of prayer and asceticism–hence his emphasis on the divine holiness and the need for purification. He is also concerned to refute the Eunomian thesis of divine comprehensibility.

      One reason I began my blogging on Gregory with his Epiphany Orations was to expose my readers to the evangelical preaching of St Gregory. These homilies are less driven by the need to deal with heresy and therefore embody a more balanced presentation of the gospel. I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of his Festal Orations, if you have not already done so. If all one knew of St Gregory was Orations 27 and 28, one might conclude that all of us who are ascetical failures–and I count myself amongst the foremost–will never be worthy to approach the holy God (for example in Holy Communion). Such a conclusion would be unwarranted. St Gregory speaks some harsh words against the rigorism of the Novationists, for example.

      That being said, I am grateful that God raised up St Isaac. His emphatic declaration of the love and mercy of God fills a hole of sorts.


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