The Church as a Therapeutic Center: Theology as a Curing Science3 June 2015
The fact that the Church’s main task is to cure man implies that this is also the task of theology, which is the voice of the Church. Orthodox theology is not an academic science and reflection; it is not a rational occupation the goal of which is Protestant and philological research, but mostly the science of cure. Theology is either a fruit of the cure or the road to the cure. That is, an Orthodox theologian is he who was cured and acquired personal knowledge of God and also he who heals others.
Saint Gregory the Theologian says that theologians are “those who have passed in theoria who first cleansed soul and body or at least are in the process of cleansing. Theology is closely associated with Orthodox hesychia (stillness), that is, internal purification from images and fantasies that deceive man. These persons are able to help those with a sick soul.
Saint John of the Ladder links theology with perfect purity, man’s perfect cleansing: “… a complete state of purity is the foundation of theology”. This is the person who truly theologizes. And of course, theologizing is not related to intellectual expressions, but to the revelation of God and to the guidance of people to this knowledge.
All these Fathers show that theology is mostly a product of man’s therapy and not an intellectual science. Only the purified ones or at least those who are in the process of purification are able to be initiated to the ineffable mysteries and the great truths, to accept the Revelation and then confer it to the people. Therapy necessarily precedes theology, and then the theologian is able to cure others. This is why in the Orthodox Tradition the theologian is associated and identified with the spiritual father, and the spiritual father is the par excellence theologian, he who suffers the divine and is able to guide his spiritual children unerringly.
There is a magnificent apolytikion that illustrates what Orthodox theology is and what constitutes Orthodox Tradition and apostolic succession. Many of us believe that apostolic succession is just an uninterrupted line of ordinations. We cannot reject this truth, but apostolic succession has an internal aspect too. The apolytikion says:
You partook of the ways, you succeeded in the throne of the Apostles, you were inspired by God and found praxis to attain theoria; because of this you expressed unerringly the word of truth, and you struggled till blood, Holy Martyr Anthimos intercede with Christ God to save our souls.
The Holy Martyr Anthimos, like many other saints, became a successor of the Apostles and partook of the ways of the Apostles. He not only had the ordination of the Apostles, but also their way of life. This means he attained Pentecost, the experience of the Revelation of God, deification. This is why he became “God-inspired.” To reach this state he employed a special method. He ascended to the theoria of God through praxis. We know very well that praxis is the cleansing of the heart from the passions and theoria is the vision of the uncreated Light.
As a result, Holy Martyr Anthimos expressed unerringly the word of truth and became a martyr for the glory of God. Therefore, we infer that the unerring expression of the word of truth is not a product of intellectual knowledge, but a fruit of the experience of God. Also, martyrdom is not an outcome of a strong will, but of the Grace of God, which strengthened the entire personality, so it is a product of theoria.
This apolytikion manifests, in a most vivid way, what the Orthodox Tradition is, what apostolic succession is, who an Orthodox theologian is, how one is able to become God-inspired, and who the true shepherds of the people of God should be. These theologians guide in an Orthodox way, inspired by God and unerringly guiding their spiritual children toward deification and sanctification.
3. Saint Gregory the Theologian. Or. 27, 3. NPNFns, vol. 7, p. 285.
4. Saint John Climacus. The Ladder. Step 30. CWS p. 288.
5. An apolytikion is a dismissal hymn, otherwise known as a troparion.
This article was originally published by the Monastery of St. John, www.monasteryofstjohn.org, in The Divine Ascent Vol. 3/4.
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