A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

Synopsis

Nicodemos (1749-1809), a monk of Saint Athos dedicated to asceticism and learning, was one of the most influential Orthodox writers of the last two centuries. His Handbook, written during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, shares an exalted vision of human nature, but a vision that proceeds from the truths of revelation as interpreted by the Greek Fathers, not Descartes.

Excerpt

In the traditional spirituality of Orthodox Christianity, there is a memory of the mind and there is quite another memory of the soul. The former, through an amazing intellectual process, deposits impressions and knowledge in the mind externally. The latter, however, being a spiritual and incorruptible memory, produces an untaught knowledge in the depths of the purified soul. The one knowledge begins in this world and is rational, limited and determined by the philosophical categories of human thought. The other knowledge, revealed by God who enlightens both the physical and the spiritual world, is received according to the degree of purity of the heart and the degree of love for God and man that a person has.

In A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, St. Nicodemos holds that it is in the renewed and purified heart where true theology begins and where divine knowledge and teaching spring up by the grace of God. Had St. Nicodemos acquired only the external knowledge through the memory of his mind and not the purity of his heart, he would not have been able to draw out into the light of day from the depths of his soul the spiritual gifts of God, and to express them in terms that others can find beneficial. This is why Fr. Theokletos Dionysiatis, a contemporary monk of the Holy Mountain and a biographer of St. Nicodemos, observes that A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel is a virtual miracle and a creation ex nibilo. A work of such spiritual value that emanates the fragrance of the Holy Spirit is not the product of the memory of the mind alone; it is also the product of the memory of the soul imbued by God.

In the spiritual tradition of the Orthodox Church, the inner or the so-called mystical theology, the theology of the experience of holiness, is the one that comes first in importance to all other activities. This mystical union with God in the heart of the Christian believer is the . . .

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