The spiritual struggle in the modern world

  1. Lemma
  2. Der geistliche Kampf in der modernen Welt
  3. German
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Patristic studies - Concepts of knowledge and modes of reasoning > Mysticism and Orthodox spiritual experience - Ethics - Orthodox Anthropology - Ecology and the environment
  6. 2009
  7. Ware, (Metropolitan) Kallistos [Author]. The spiritual struggle in the modern world
  8. Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirchengemeinde zu Mariä Schutz in Graz (Moskauer Patriarchat)
  9. passions - Greek philosophy - Patristic theology - mardyrdom - Eucharist - charmolype - Prayer of the Heart - Descension to Hell
  10. Russisch-Orthodoxe Kirchengemeinde zu Mariä Schutz in Graz (Moskauer Patriarchat)
    1. <p>Ware, (Metropolitan) Kallistos (2009). <em>Der geistliche Kampf in der modernen Welt</em> [Transcript of a lecture delivered for the participants of the 17th International Ecumenical Conference, 08/10/2009].</p>
    1. This lecture of Kallistos is divided into two distinct sections, which are linked together on the common basis formed by the central question raised and discussed, that is, the vital, for any active Christian, problem of following a spiritual path in a world wherein sin has become a wearisome common-place.

      In the first section, the different meanings ascribed to the term ‘passion’, both in the pre-Patristic, Greek philosophy and the Patristic literature, are presented. Ancient Greek philosophers followed two different directions on that score: the early Stoics signified ‘passion’ in a negative way, as an excessive impulse, whereas Plato and, in an even more elaborate form, Aristotle acknowledged passions as integral parts of the structure of the soul, being as such neither good nor bad. Similarly, in the Patristic tradition two divergent lines of thought appear. The first, represented by Gregory of Nyssa and John Climacus, depicted passions under a generally unfavourable light, as parts of human nature that were acquired after the original act of creation, pertaining to the degraded status assigned to human beings in the wake of the Fall. Even so, evil is attributed to human will and not to passions as such. The second line of thought concerning passions in the Patristic tradition, represented by Abbas Isaias, defined them as κατὰ φύσιν, as constituting a legitimate, i.e. created by God, dimension of human personality. Later Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus the Confessor explicitly associated the word ‘passion’ with the mystical experience and the divine love. Concluding this section, Kallistos points out that, for an effective spiritual struggle in the modern world, it would be more useful to speak of a ‘transformation’ of the passions, instead of appealing for their deadening or  elimination.

      The second section of the lecture touches on three dismal, sorrowful topics: a) the descension to Hell, b) the martyrdom, and c) the kenosis or renunciation. By referring to examples drawn from the modern history of Christianity, Kallistos lays stress on the ambivalence of these spiritual experiences. Christian spiritual struggle is inherently and creatively antinomical: Descending to Hell, becoming a martyr in the cause of faith and giving up oneself for the sake of a fellow human being, despite being painful, are nonetheless powerful expressions of a victorious spirit, proving that the light may indeed shine in the deepest darkness. In order that the importance of this point be further emphasized, the sense of sorrow just induced is counterbalanced by the discussion of three other, joyful this time, topics: a) the illumination, b) the Eucharist, and c) the Prayer of the Heart. Using, once again, particular examples of modern sanctified Christians, and in the case of the Eucharist, underlining also the ecological significance of the all-embracing cosmical, not merely anthropological, dimension of the Eucharist, Kallistos argues that sorrow and joy are two complementary aspects of the spiritual struggle. The awareness of such an interplay is what John Climacus’ term ‘charmolype’ does signify.