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  • THE NEPTIC AND HESYCHASTIC CHARACTER OF ORTHODOX ATHONITE MONASTICISM

    By Archimandrite Georgios
    Abbott of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios at Agion Oros


    *Explanations of terms can be found in the Glossary, at the end of this article.


    For yet another millennium, Athonite monasticism constitutes a genuine expression of Orthodox monasticism. Great monastic centers in Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor, Constantinople, Russia and the Balkans no longer exist. God’s providence maintains until today Agion Oros (“Mount Athos”) as a spiritually thriving Orthodox monastic center, under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patrhiarchate.

    As an institution of the Church, Agion Oros finds itself in unbroken dogmatic and spiritual union with the Church. This union assures and guards its neptic* and hesychastic character, and it allows it to offer to God’s people the fruits of neptic and hesychastic life. Orthodox monasticism, in its entirety, as carrier of the Apostolic and patristic tradition of the Church, is neptic and hesychastic. It does not aim towards the external reform of the world, as is the case with Western monastic orders, but it targets its transformation by means of repentance, cleansing from the passions and theosis. Furthermore, nepsis and hesychia constitute the essential point of life in accordance with the gospel. According to the holy fathers, nepsis is the vigilance of the nous and watchfulness at the gates of the heart, so that every thought that moves in it can be controlled . The neptic work is practiced in various ways , but in all its forms it presumes renunciation of the world, obedience and hesychia . Hesychia is distancing oneself from worldly distractions, while sacred hesychia of the heart is rejection of thoughts which are not according to God .

    The roots of neptic life and of hesychia in accordance with God are found in the Old Testament. The Prophet Moses received experience and knowledge of God on Mount Horeb, when faced by the strange sight of the blazing bush, which did not burn, he was initiated into rejecting every worldly belief, reflected in the removal of his sandals, and to contemplate in reflection and riddle the mystery of the divine Incarnation. According to the holy Fathers, this experience of Moses presumed a moving away from the noise and distractions of the world. Prophet Elijah also received experience of God, while in the desert of Mount Horeb and by praying in the hesychastic way of the noetic prayer of the heart. The light breeze, which the Prophet felt after the strong wind, the temblor and fire , were, according to the holy Fathers, a means by which God revealed Himself. And Prophet David says, in the psalms, that knowledge of God presumes the ceasing of dispersal in worldly occupations: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 45’ 11). The rest of the Prophets and the Just of the Old Testament also received experience of the Grace of God after neptic work.

    Principally, however, the hesychastic way of life is presented in the New Testament as the most suitable for one to arrive at knowledge and experience of God. The Just Forerunner wandered alone in the desert of Jordan from childhood, in extreme stillness, praying solely to God. There, in silence, he received the information that the one who will come to be baptized in the Jordan, and on whom he will see “the Spirit descending and resting”, is the anticipated Messiah (Jn. a’ 32-34).

    Lord Jesus Christ lived in silence for thirty years, while during the three years of His public activity he frequently retreated to the desert for prayer. According to St. Nikodimos the Athonite, the entire gospel and apostolic teachings, aim towards the purification of the interior man from the passions, and for preparation, so that the perfect Grace of the holy Baptism can again enlighten the whole man . With His divine Transfiguration, the Lord showed the way to true knowledge of God and the manner of contemplation of the uncreated Light of His Person. The way starts with the rejection of the low and earthly by the actual practice, continues with the elevation through the divine virtues to the purification of the spiritual senses, and concludes by means of deifying illumination. Finding himself in this divine state, man is enabled to contemplate the ineffable beauty of God.

    The Lady Theotokos gave us the perfect example of hesychastic life and neptic work, according to Gregory Palamas. In the Holy of Holies, in Solomon’s temple, she carried out the practice of the virtues and unceasing noetic prayer for twelve years, and through them she was able to unite her entire being with the Grace of the Holy Spirit: “Having then rejected these, the earthly relations, from the beginning of her life [writes St. Gregory, and St. Nikodimos the Athonite gives us in translation] the Virgin left the people… separated from every material bond; she ejected every relationship; she rose above every kind of love, including that of her own body, and thus she united her nous with itself, by means of a spin and by attention, and with divine and eternal prayer… and thus, she constructed a new stratum in the heavens, in other words the noetic (if I may call it so) stillness, in which having attached her nous, she rises above all creatures, and sees the glory of God more perfectly than Moses, and contemplates divine Grace, which is not comprehensible through the senses” .

    The holy Apostles worked exclusively in the world and in the midst of distractions, noise and danger, but deep inside they remained hesychasts and workers of nepsis and prayer . Their apostolic work was not a social reform program, but the rebirth of souls through Christ. The apostolic Fathers, and afterward the entire subsequent Church lived in the same neptic environment . St. Gregory the Theologian speaks about the practical virtues as cleansing, because they prepare the soul to receive Christ in the heart, and stillness as deifying, because it raises the nous to God . The divine father desires stillness, and he is distressed when they deprive Him of it, and they compel him to assume shepherding of the church. “For what reason are you slow as far as my speaking is concerned, friends and brothers, even though you are quick to upset, and even to take me away from the stillness of my refuge, which I above all preferred, both as associate and as mother of divine elation, and deifying, and which I preferred and embraced, and promoted my whole life?”

    Saint Basil the Great also, thanks to the neptic work that he practiced in the desert, and hesychia, was enabled to contemplate the divine and ineffable Light. About this Saint Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, writes: “Moses left Egypt after the death of the Egyptian, and in the following period he spent time in solitude. He moved away from the noises of the city and its material offerings, and finally ended up contemplating God with love. He was illuminated by divine light by the bush. We have something relative to this apparition, and about this matter we must say that even though it was night, light shone on him while he was praying at the house; and the light was immaterial, illuminating the building by means of divine power, without being dependent on any substance” .

    During the same period the desert is distinguished primarily as a place of nepsis and hesychastic life. Also, Saint Pachomios in Egypt, Saints Euthymios, Theodosios the Cenobite and Savvas the Sanctified in Palestine, established cenobitic monasticism. Both of these forms of monasticism had a hesychastic character. In the 14th century, the Athonite Saint Nikeforos Monazon refers to the hesychastic and neptic spirit of both the solitary and the cenobitic holy Fathers. I offer representative examples.

    About Saint Anthony: “that, seated at the mountain he held his heart still, with the Lord pointing to him from a distance. You see that by means of stillness of the heart, Anthony became a witness of God and foresaw the future; because by means of stillness of the heart God reveals Himself to the nous” .

    About Saint Theodosios Cenobiarch: “It is said, then, about these noetic energies of the soul, that it was exactly they that provoked many into considering him formidable. Even when accusing, he was desirable and sweet to all. He was this way, yet helpful even when he spoke to multitudes? Most capable of developing the senses and of refining the nous to those who lived amidst the noises and those who were in the desert, as if in an endless serenity. And yet he is the same, whether amidst the crowds or alone? And here is Great Theodosios who by means of development and internalization of the senses was wounded by the Creator’s love” .

    And about Saint Savvas the Sanctified: “In fact, the divine Savvas, the one who was persecuted, having learned precisely the educational cannon of the monks, he was able to guard the nous by himself and to fight against hostile thoughts, and even having accomplished knowledge of the essence of worldly things, then even as he provided a cell to Lavra … You see how the heavenly Savvas demanded of his students the guarding of the nous, and having thus provided them with a cell, he joined them?” .

    Nepsis and stillness in accordance with Christ also characterizes the life of the monasteries of Asia Minor and Constantinople. This is apparent from the life and writings of Saints Symeon the New Theologian and Nikitas Stithatos. “Evergetinos”, the basic ascetic writing, with which many generations of monks grew up spiritually, was composed in the Monastery of Theotokos Evergetissa in Constantinople by monk Paul, and it represents the spirit of monasticism in that period. Saint Theodoros Stouditis, representative of Cenobitic monasticism of his period and renowned for his confessional battles for the Faith, was not lacking in neptic conviction. This is what he testifies from his compositions, which are in use in Church services to this day, and from his spiritual advise to his spiritual children. “To the hermits, life is blissful, flying in divine Eros”, he writes characteristically (Paraklitiki, Anavathmi a’ sonnet). To his student Parthenios, who endured severe torture for the Orthodox Faith, in spite of these he does not neglect to remind him: “child, guard yourself, because inside as well the tyrant devil is always tempting with the passions. Practice, and with conscience, not to be overpowered by sin; cleanse yourself diligently every day, while always presuming that it is the last one of your life, so that thus in fear and trembling you will please God, on the one hand working with your hands, and on the other chanting and praying, no matter what else happens during the day” .

    * * *

    From the 6th century and following, the hesychastic tradition is also bequeathed to Athos, with Saint Euthymios the New, Saint Peter the Athonite and, later, Saint Athanasios, the builder of the Holy Monastery of Great Lavra, as its main exponents. Saint Gregory Palamas, in his eulogy of Saint Peter the Athonite, describes in strong colors the Saint’s longing to live as a monk in the incomparable desert of Agion Oros, his noetic wars against the demons and the visitations of Grace. Henceforth, other hermits follow the Saint’s example.

    In later centuries great hesychasts and neptic men are illuminated in Agion Oros, such as Saints Maximos, Nifon and Akakios the Kafsokalybite, Theofilos and Neilos Myroblitis, Saint Gregory of Sinai with his students, Saint Gregory the hesychast (the builder of the synonymous Athonite monastery) and the whole chorus of hesychast fathers of the 14th century, lead by Saint Gregory Palamas. Particularly the last developed and assured theologically the centuries-long neptic experience of the Church, he confronted the Westerner Barlaam’s doubts about it, he refuted the unjust accusations against the hesychastic method of the noetic prayer, and he formulated definitively the theology of hesychasm.

    A rationalist and not having tasted the experience of the divine Light, the Calabrian monk Barlaam accused the Athonite monks that the Light, which they insisted they saw by means of the hesychastic turning of the nous in the heart and the noetic prayer of the heart, was created light, light of the intellect, and not divine light. He considered the monks who practiced this noetic work as deluded.

    Saint Gregory Palamas had personal experience of the Grace of God. From this experience he knew that the light that these virtuous monks saw was divine, uncreated energy of God, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, lived as supernatural Light, which infuses the nous of the monks once it was cleansed of passions. By referring to the works of older distinguished teachers of the Church, and with his own heavenly wisdom, he proved theologically that the Light which is viewed by the hesychast monks is the uncreated Light of the Holy Trinity. In relation to this he writes: “It is for this reason then, that the lover of perfect communion with God avoids the technologically assisted life, and chooses the monastic and un-structured state, and he eagerly offers himself to the sanctuary of stillness, without the obligations or worries of life, relieved from all other (worldly) relationships. Thus, having released his soul from every material bond, to the extent that this is attainable, he attaches his nous to the unceasing prayer to God, and having, through it, concentrated the nous entirely into himself, he finds a new and secret ascent to the heavens, the intangible obscurity of the apocryphal stillness, as one would say. And having precisely concentrated his nous into himself with secret bliss, in a state of utterly simple but perfect and sweet tranquility, and in genuine silence and speechlessness, he flies above all creation. And thus, having been removed from himself and become entirely God’s, he sees the glory of God and contemplates divine light” .

    The confirmation of his theology by three great synods of Constantinople (1341, 1347 and 1351) distinguished him as the supreme defender and teacher of the neptic and hesychastic experience of the Church.

    But the cenobitic Athonite holy Fathers also gave a hesychastic-neptic character to Cenobitic Athonite monasticism, because they themselves were hesychasts and neptic men. Saint Nikodimos the Athonite wrote for Saint Athanasios the Athonite: “Like another Moses, having climbed on holy Athos, as if at another Mount Sinai, and having entered into the impenetrable obscurity of theoria, he received, as divinely inscribed tablets, the model, the orders and the teachings of both the Cenobitic life of the monks and the angelic rite of the Church, and he gave these to all the Fathers in Agion Oros” . It is apparent from the life of Athanasios the Athonite, and from his counsel to his students, that the practical commandments of daily Cenobitic life aim at purifying the monk from the passions and from selfishness.

    By the Grace of God, this counsel is kept to this day in the Athonite monasteries. Withdrawal from worldly concerns, obedience, poverty, altruism, readiness for Church psalmody and diakonia, perseverance in face of the difficulties of the cenovion, are the fundamental virtues that free the cenobitic monk from selfishness and egocentricity, and introduce him to the first stages of hesychia according to Christ. The populous cenobitic environment did not prevent cenobitic monks, who had already shined in the constellation of the holy Athonite Fathers, from practicing neptic work (Nifon and Leontios the Dionysiates, Ierotheos Ibiritis, Paisios Velikhovsky).

    The so-called Kollybades Fathers, more correctly and in the orthodox manner called Fathers of the Philokalia of the 18th century, renewed the hesychastic tradition in the monasteries, sketes and kellia, during the 18th century . Saint Nikodimos the Athonite is the most expressive representative of the hesychastic spirit of the movement of the Renaissance of the Philokalia. The books that he co-authored in stillness in the deserts of Agion Oros linger as the perfume of hesychastic life, and they constitute spiritual delight for contemporary monks. The enduring hesychastic tradition, which found continuity in the life of the monks of Agion Oros, becomes apparent in the classic work “Philokalia of the Holy Neptics”, which Saint Nikodimos edited and of which he wrote the foreword at the request of Saint Makarios, Bishop of Corinth.

    * * *

    In its millennial history to this day, Athonite monasticism, as a faithful expression of Orthodox monasticism, has retained its neptic and hesychastic character.

    The 20th century has distinguished a large number of hesychast monks, who performed high neptic work and displayed admirable gifts. Men of great learning, such as the Elders Daniel Katounakiotis and Gerasimos Menagias; monastery abbots, such as Ieronymos Simonopetritis, Athanasios Gregoriatis, Filaretos Konstamonitis and Kodratos Karakallinos; simple monks, such as Kallinikos the hesychast; cenobitic monks, such as Saint Silouanos the Athonite, and his student Sofronios Sakharov, the monks Isaac and Arsenios of Dionysiou monastery, were also distinguished themselves as admirable workers of the noetic prayer in the desert or in the noisy life of large cenobitic monasteries. All these continued the hesychastic tradition of the Kollybades of the 18th–19th centuries and the hesychasts of the late 19th century .

    Our age is not lacking in presenting selected representatives in the succession of neptic men in Agion Oros. The Elders Paisios the Agiorite, Porphyrios Kavsokalybitis, Efraim Katounakiotis, and Haralampos Dionysiatis are widely known. Their admirable contribution to the world did not hinder their neptic work. Rather, it presupposed it. The books which were lately written about them, and the living experience of those who knew them, are able to reveal in the most undisputed way that these blessed Elders were exceptional workers of the noetic prayer, and they accomplished the supernatural gifts of the Holly Spirit that follows it.

    In our days, many other, unrenowned hesychasts lived in the koenovia, the sketes and the kellia of Agion Oros. The contemporary literature of Agion Oros reveals, after they left the world, their life and neptic struggles. I will specifically mention the Elders Gerasimos Mikrayannanites and Modestos Danielides and the monk Auxentios Gregoriates . Among the “departed and yet surviving”, as Saint Maximos the Confessor would say, there are indefatigable maintainers of the sacred work of nepsis and of hesychia according to Christ at Agion Oros. They, even today, receive heavenly gifts in “fasting, wakefulness and prayer”. It would not be right for our personal experience of them to become public before their passing. The Athonite prudence does not permit haste on this matter. In spite of this, even today, these neptic workers become a pole of attraction of God-friendly souls, in other words of the monks who desire nepsis and prayer.

    But beyond these Fathers, whose life is testified as neptic and hesychastic, is the entire Athonite climate, which follows the neptic tradition of Agion Oros. The current generation of monks was nurtured by a series of neptic readings, such as the Philokalia, Evergetinos, Abba Isaac the Syrian and the lives of the old neptic Fathers. Today, monks know the lives and teachings of the sacred neptic figures and they strive to follow them. The writers of St. Silouanos the Athonite are a typical example.

    With the blessing of the Virgin, the Athonite monasteries have restored the cenobitic order, which is a foundation and a starting point towards their elevating, noetic work. In the monasteries, obedience is practiced, and the Athonite rules, which help in the cutting off of one’s will and in the freedom from self-love, are maintained . Struggle is waged for the practice of brotherly love, which is the foundation for overcoming egocentrism. To the extent that it is possible, hospitality is practiced, which is an expression of the monks’ love for our brothers who live in the world. Worship of God, long services at the Church, study and prayer in the cell, which help a novice cenoviatis to become grafted onto the monastic temperament, and help the one who is advanced to maintain the Grace of God in his heart and to guard from the noetic thieves, the demons, are duties of the monks.

    In the holy sketes and the kellia, the monks practice the virtues of obedience, poverty, patience, trust in God’s Providence, and prayer, making up for certain shortcomings of their cenobitic brothers.

    During the Athonite festivals, the people of the entire Agion Oros celebrate together, they glorify God, the Virgin and the Saints as one spiritual body. The monks visit the monasteries, exchange their respective monastic experiences, they renew their brotherly ties and set off Agion Oros as a living organism, an angelic legion, a chorus, a glorifying parade, a pan-Athonite family, children of a common Mother -- the All-Holy Theotokos, fragrant blooms of her garden.

    * * *

    Even so, some people are scandalized by the image that Agion Oros presents today. They accuse it of having lost its ascetic and neptic character, that it is becoming worldly, that its charismatic gerontes are of the past, that spiritual life has become shallow, and that it no longer fully satisfies contemporary man; that it operates more and more as a worldly institution, and that it is losing its other-worldly and hesychastic disposition.

    These critics do injustice to Agion Oros. They are unable to perceive that its external image must not be appraised by the premisses of older eras. Not having tasted the Athonite experience, they do not comprehend that the Athonite temperament is not altered by blameless human needs or by chance clumsiness and falings of the monks, but by alteration of theological and apostolic moral principles. And on this point Agion Oros does not differ today from the convictions and morals of previous generations. It retains its Orthodox convictions and its neptic-hesychastic character.

    The world and its convictions undoubtedly exert much more pressure on the monks today. Human nature is apparently more sickly than at other ages. Communication of the monks with the world uses modern means. The problems of the world spread, and they violate the gates of Agion Oros. If one does not take care to face many of these issues with the yardstick of love and charity, and to note that, in spite of all these problems, the neptic spirit does not cease to be cultivated, then it is possible for him to accuse the monks of Agion Oros.

    I think that I know sufficiently the spiritual state of today’s Athonite monks. I can pledge that the issues, which to some create the impression that Agion Oros is becoming worldly, constitute for today’s monks new causes for spiritual struggle and a wide field for askesis and saintliness. They are certainly not indications of abolition of the neptic and hesychastic character of this sacred place.

    Even today, the monks struggle to practice nepsis and hesychia in accordance with Christ. They abandon one world which offers them money and pleasures, and they limit themselves to the narrow space of the monastery, which is inviolable by people. The Athonite model presumes hours-long and exhausting services at the Church Nourishment follows the cenobitic rules. Diakonimata (assigned work tasks) assure sufficient hours of occupation, and the efforts of the monk are offered to the brothers of the monastery and to the pilgrims. Obedience to the Abbot or to the Gerontas of the group protects him from autonomous practice, and from its sad consequences. Even the use of modern means of transportation or new technologies, which are perennially spoken of negatively by people of the world, do not in themselves alter the neptic atmosphere of the monastery, as long as it is blessed by the Gerontas, and it does not satisfy the sick selfishness of the old person (his self-love). The external appearance of the monk continues to be simple and unadorned, gentle but humble; with his form and word, the monk transmits the spirit of repentance to the Christians who visit the monasteries. It is about a kind of internal mission, which is performed without him pursuing it.

    The occasional exit of monks to the outside world, especially Spiritual Fathers, for the purpose of confession of Christians or missionaries in the echelons of external missions, is a known fact of Athonite tradition. The monk who goes out in the world for a church mission, when he is invited by the Church and has the blessing of his Gerontas, does not go beyond the limits of his monastic vocation, nor does he abolish his hesychastic characteristic. He humbly executes his diakonia, and then returns to the rhythm of his monastic practice.

    Today, monks possibly fall short of imitating the ascetic battles of the earlier Fathers. Yet, they consciously desire the Lord, and they follow the hesychastic path toward Him. In 1953, the blessed Gerontas Gabriel Dionysiates wrote about the monks of his age, which still holds today: “Regardless of the status of things pertaining to monasticism today, and apparently that of Agion Oros, about which we are speaking, it constitutes the class of the ‘chosen’, the order of those who have been branded with the ‘love of the lamb’, eminent of the spirit, about whom the question in the scripture: ‘who are these flying like a cloud?’ (Is 60:8). If not equal to the angels, as required by their order and mission, today’s monks are undoubtedly the ones who lift the Lord’s burden, the carriers of the Cross of martyrdom, who by toil and pain consume the fare of asceticism, those tried in obedience and perseverance, for life” .

    By their way of living, even today, the monks cultivate the true theanthropic community and make real the words of Basil the Great: “Because I propose a perfect community of life, where the attribute of ownership takes place automatically, the community is freed from opposition, and every turbulence, squabble and quarrel end with the stomping of a foot; everything is owned in common, souls, opinions, bodies and all those by whom the bodies are fed and healed; God is in common, reverence is in common, salvation is in common, contests are in common, sufferings are in common, and so are the rewards, which are received by many; and no one is left alone, as he is always with the others. What else could equal such as state? Is there anything more blessed?” The community of love, the foundation of Athonite life!

    * * *

    The hesychastic character of Agion Oros is assured today, apart from the neptic spirit that was bequeathed by the holy founders of the monasteries and holy Fathers, it is also assured by two more aspects.

    The first is the ecclesiastical privilege to not be subject to the direct jurisdiction of a local bishop, but to belong in the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    The second is the state privilege of autonomy, enshrined in the Greek constitution. The avaton, a significant aspect of the autonomous status of Agion Oros, permits the monks to practice free from the troubles that the commingling of men and women provokes. The avaton of Agion Oros contributes to the utmost in keeping the Place hesychastic and the monk’s lives neptic. Abolition of the avaton, as demanded by certain feminists, in the name of so-called equality of European citizens, is incompatible with the hesychastic quality of Agion Oros. It is in the interest of the world for neptic and hesychastic monks to exist. It is realistic for one to accept that only when the monk achieves dispassion is he able to also love women dispassionately. In every age, men and women have a need for this dispassionate (without carnal passion) and whole love towards all. If the feminists wish to defend this women’s right as well, they are obligated to defend the avaton of Agion Oros, and not to demand its abolition .

    Nepsis and hesychia are the essence of monastic life at Agion Oros. Through them, the monk pursues his elevation towards God and union with Him in Christ. A tradition longer than a millennium continues today in Agion Oros.

    Our prayer is for the Lord to enable us to overcome our personal shortcomings and awkwardness, and to follow the calling to which we were summoned, in the footprints of the teachers of the monastic way, our holy Fathers who were enlightened through their askesis, “to worship Him in the manner of an angel, to serve Him entirely, to have faith (gr. pistis) in the Highest and to pursue the Highest; because, according to the Apostle, our authority exists in the Heavens” .


    GLOSSARY


    Agios (also written as "hagios", fem. "hagia"):
    "Holly" or "Saint". Either from the Sanscrit cognate yájati (from Protoindoeuropean yaj=to sacrifice) or yâjyah = worthy of reverence.

    Apathia:
    Dispassion. Passionlessness. The unrooting of the passions. Alternatively, a state in which the passions are exercised in accordance with their original purity and without committing a sin.

    Askesis:
    The effort or spiritual training waged by Christians to keep the commandments, to purify the heart from passions and to practice the virtues, together with prayer and related activities, so as to bring harmony between the body, soul and God.

    Avaton:
    The prohibition of women in Agion Oros. A mandated aspect of its autonomous status, which is enshrined in the constitution of Greece.

    Diakonia, diakonima, diakonimata (pl.):
    Service or ministration, in other words the assigned work tasks of a monk. [Anal. sanscr. "seva".]

    Eros:


    Evergetinos:
    A collection of texts, primarily short stanzas and anecdotes from monastic life, illustrating the struggles and rewards of monastic life.

    Faith:
    See pistis

    Gerontas, gerontes (pl.):
    Also called Elder, or Staretz, an honorific appellation of a spiritually developed monk or a senior monk in a monastery, such as the abbot.

    Gnosis:




    Hagios (fem. hagia; see agios):

    Hesychia, hesychast, hesychastic:
    Silence, stillness. Stilling of the thoughts, but not emptiness, whereby the nous may descend into the heart through the Jesus prayer. It is the inner attentiveness in prayer which brings the remembrance of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit.

    Kelli, kellia (pl.):
    A monk’s cell in a monastery. Also, in Agion Oros, a dwelling, something like a farmhouse with a small chapel, where the monks pray and work out their salvation.

    Koenovion, Cenobitic:
    A monastery where all monks follow the same rules.

    Lavra:
    A monastery.

    Logos:
    The Greek word for both "word" and "reason" is variably nuanced with several meanings in context. In many cases, I tend to include that of the "Final Cause" (pl.: "final causes") in the Aristotelian sense**, rather than the sense of "reason" (as in reasoning and logic), in my own understanding of it [but then, I am neither a theologian nor a philologist].

    Metanoia:
    Often translated as repentance. Radical change of heart and mind, accompanied by meekness/humility.

    Nepsis, neptic:
    Nepsis is vigilance of the nous and watchfulness at the gates of the heart, so that every thought that moves in it can be controlled. Neptic is an adjective pertaining to the method used for nepsis.

    Nous, noetic:
    Often translated as "mind" or "mind in the heart". The highest faculty of man, through which, upon purification, he can contemplate God, and the inner essences of created things, by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Noetic understanding is not intellectual, but it comes from immediate spiritual experience.

    Pistis:
    Faith. The modern idea of faith, based on Aquinas's differentiation of knowledge from blind belief, is not what is meant in the Orthodox tradition. Although it can be a component of what the fathers of the Church, such as Saint Maximos the Confessor, referred to as "introductory faith", it can only be considered an initial stage in our ascent towards knowledge and the Logos, which is true faith based on experience, a gift of God. At a higher stage, faith (gr. pistis) leads to noetic knowledge (gr. gnosis) that is founded on experience and completed by inspiration and, therefore, cannot be overthrown by reasoned argument. It changes the heart, it leads to substantial changes in being, it can move mountains, and it leads to salvation.


    Saint:
    See also agios:


    Skete:
    Typically similar in appearance to a small village, where kellia are built around a central Church. Each kelli performs its daily prayers independently except on Sundays and on feastdays, where theygather together in the main Church to worship.

    Theanthropic:
    Pertaining to theanthropos, man-god.

    Theoria:
    (gr. "Theos" = God, "oro" = to view) The perception or vision of the nous, through which one attains spiritual knowledge. Depending on the level of spiritual growth, theoria has two main stages: it may be either of the inner essences or principles of created beings or, at a higher stage, of God Himself. Some times translated as "contemplation": 'Contemplation is a matter, not of verbal statements but of living experience. In pure prayer the Father, Son and Spirit are seen in their consubstantial unity' [from Archimandrite Sophrony: His Life is Mine translated by Rosemary Edmonds, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Oxford, 1977]

    Theoritikos:
    An individual who has accomplished theoria.

    Theosis:
    The deification of man. According to the Orthodox tradition, man’s purpose in life is to achieve union with God, and to become god by grace. Self-realization. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

    THE NEPTIC AND HESYCHASTIC CHARACTER OF ORTHODOX ATHONITE MONASTICISM By Archimandrite Georgios Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios On Mount Athos



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