Sermon of Patriarch Daniel in the Holy Emperors Constantine and Helen Church in Sinassos
LOVE FOR IMPERISHABLE BEAUTY
AT THE CAPPADOCIAN FATHERS
While travelling as pilgrim to Cappadocia, our thoughts focus on the origin of the Philokalia, on its first authors, Saints Basil the Great (+379), and Gregory the Theologian (+389), who gathered the most beautiful texts from Origen's work under this title. Thus, in the course of time, they created a series of collection of theological, ascetic and moral writings aiming at the love for the imperishable spiritual beauty acquired by deliverance from selfish passions and by cultivating virtue, through the spiritual sight of beings spiritually and unceasing prayer.
The Holy Fathers of Philokalia teach us that every created beauty stems from God and ends with God, as He shares spiritual beauty to all creatures and at the same time, He calls them all, to Himself. The call addressed to creatures is their call to unity or to communion of all beings in God, the Creator.
The beauty of human being - teaches Saint Gregory of Nyssa - is the work "of the greatest Artist", who shaped our nature, so that human should fulfil his royal vocation (On man's origin, 4, SC 44, 136 b). Everything that God created is "very good", and man was adorned with a beauty that is "by far superior to all the other beauties", according to the divine beauty. This beauty is "the reflection and icon of eternal life", "with the royal seal of life in his image" (On man's origin, 4, SC 44, 136 b).
Beauty is a light of harmonies and distinctions stemming from the love of God for the world, and this is why it cannot be objectified or reduced to certain principles. The reason for the existence of the created beauty is to mysteriously reflect the uncreated beauty of the co-eternal divine Persons. Moreover, the visible beauty (physical) always conveys the unseen harmony and beauty. "The heaven was not created in the image of God, neither the moon, the sun, or the splendour of the clouds, nothing of all the things appeared in creation. It was only you (man) that were raised to the level of the image of Nature that exceeds all intelligence, resemblance of the perfect beauty, seal of the true deification, a meeting place of the joyful life" (Homily to the Song of Solomon, 2, PG 44, 805 d).
On the other hand, Saint Gregory the Theologian, or Gregory of Nazianz, teaches us that the experience of the authentic beauty is a charisma common to all Christians, accessible to all people, with no difference whatsoever, its renewal depending exclusively on the degree of faith and diligence of every human being. Every Christian has the vocation to be a theologian, as a person who knows from his experience of God, even though he/she will never be able to express this experience coherently. "Nothing would be more unjust - says Saint Gregory of Nazianz - than our faith accessible only to the wise ones and to the experts in words and in logic demonstrations, because in this case many people will miss it!"( Orationes 32, 26, PG 36, 204 AB). Saint Gregory the Theologian has repetitively shown in his Speeches, that it is much more important to have the apophatic experience of the rapprochement to God by giving up the sins and receiving the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, than the never-ending discussions of the improvised theologians and impostors of the Aryanism. Unfortunately it is not only them who are ready for "idle talk and from the sin of believing that in order to be wise is enough to want to be wise", mixing up the possession and linguistic manipulation of the verbal expressions of the mystery with very presence of God, neither understood nor describable.
The practical proof of knowing the spiritual beauty of man's communion with God is presented in The Lives of the Saints, either old or new in our Church, in which we meet, most of the times, ordinary people who, due to their humbleness, host in their beings the divine wisdom and beauty of holiness.
The spiritual beauty is a grace of God bestowed upon creation, as well as the power to receive this light.
The spiritual beauty in our Eastern Church is always shared through the Saints of the Church, whose living legacy is the richness of the faith of the Church. The shared beauty of the Holy Fathers must be kept by deepening the meaning of their words in Christian experience. This is why Saint Basil the Great shows that theology must not be brought down to human level by inventing new words, but the words received from the Holy Fathers must be conveyed to other people: "As for the confession of faith, we do not want to receive a newer one, as other people tried to present to us, but neither do we dare to make up another one stemmed from our mind, but only what the Holy Fathers taught us (...). Our salvation is not incorporated in inventing of concepts, but in the pure confession of the God in Whom we believe"( Epistle 175). The words of the Holy Fathers are bearers of spiritual beauty shared to those who have the vocation of the divine fostering according to the grace, to acquire holiness and foretaste the heavenly glory.
Christ, the Saviour, institutes the Sacrament of the Holy Communion with God, the Word, through nourishment. The Eucharistic state of gratefulness is permanent. "O, taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). The spiritual beauty is always new, as Saint Basil the Great teaches us through the Divine Liturgy, which is a new Liturgy every time is celebrated. The liturgical hymns, although old and always the same, every time facilitate a new encounter with God. The century old mystery, the unification of God with human beings, and the change of the matter into light is accomplished in the Divine Liturgy. The enlightenment and the penetration of the grace of God into the human nature is a Eucharistic movement or rising of the human into the life of the Holy Trinity.
Saint Gregory the Theologian insists especially - in his speeches and his other writings, just like Saint Simeon the New Theologian later on - on the spiritual or the philokalic dimension of theology, as being one of its constitutive elements. In this sense, a Romanian contemporary theologian makes the following assertion in this regard: "Through its insistence on contemplation and conscious experience of the grace, spirituality is an essential constituent part of the Orthodox theology. Theology and spirituality make up an indivisible whole. They must be neither separated, nor added one after the other. No matter if we like it or not, the genuine Orthodox theology is a contemplative theology of the divine Beauty. Theology without contemplation is a simple intellectual exercise or historical interpretation. Spirituality shows that the contemplation experience, namely raising the mind to a meta-intellectual level of knowledge, the only possible level of personal meeting with God, belongs to the nature of theology"( Bria, Homage to Prof. D. Staniloae... in Ortodoxia, issue 4/1978, p. 638). Rev. Dumitru Staniloae affirms, in his turn that, "without spirituality, Orthodoxy becomes a counterfeit Christianity; without Philokalia, the Eastern Christianity is only a simple collection of dogmas, canons and Byzantine rites" (D. Staniloae, Teologia Dogmatica Ortodoxa, vol. I, Bucharest, 1978, p. 104).
The consecrated time of the feast and the consecrated space of the place of worship relate us to the very beauty of God, as a praise offered to His holy eternal love. And the Holy Spirit is the divine Architect of this holy relation, the Light and Life of this communion of human being with God.
In Cappadocia, the beauty of nature, of faith and of culture urge us even more to look for the imperishable heavenly beauty of the divine love and of the communion of the praying and working saints (hermits), people of peace and of good deeds helping the poor, who showed that the kindness of the soul acquired through prayer and good deeds, is the greatest beauty of the human being created in the image of God always good and most merciful.
PATRIARCH OF THE ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH