BIOGRAPHY

  

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St Vlassios, secular name Georgios Vlachos, was born in Ioannina in 1945. He studied at the Theological School of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki. He was elected Metropolitan in 1995, and, apart from his ecclesiastical work, he has made a major social contribution as President of thirteen charitable foundations in the city of Nafpaktos, which award grants to schoolchildren and students and for other activities. In 1996 he received an award from the Academy of Athens for the book To Prosopo stin Orthodoxi Paradosi [The Person in the Orthodox Tradition], as the best theological book of 1991-1995. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Department of Social Theology of the Theological School of the National Capodistrian University of Athens in 2008, and by the Department of Medicine of the School of Health Sciences of the University of Ioannina in 2016. He is an honorary member of the Society for Epirot Studies (2018).

He participated as a member of the Delegation of the Church of Greece in the ‘Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church’ that took place in Kolymvari, Crete (June 2016).

He was a Professor at the Balamand Theological School ‘St John of Damascus’ in the Patriarchate of Antioch, where he taught ethics and bioethics. In 2017, on account of the significant research that he has undertaken since his student days, he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Orthodox Pastoral Theology and Asceticism on the PhD Program at the Antiochian House of Studies in the USA, which is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

He has taken part in and taught at about 600 national and international conferences and seminars, and has given academic talks, at events organised by, among others, the Holy Cross School of Theology, Boston; the Orthodox Church of America in Vancouver, Canada; the University of Seattle; the Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, and at events held in Germany, Ukraine (Simferopol in the Crimea), Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg, Sergiyev Posad), Georgia, Romania (Bucharest, Iasi, Craiova, Alba Julia), Bulgaria (Sofia, Varna), Venice, Austria, Istanbul, Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol), the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. The papers he presented have been published in academic and other periodicals, and in collective and dedicatory volumes.

He writes articles for Athenian newspapers (To Vima, Eleftherotypia, Kathimerini, Ta Nea, Eleftheros Typos, Apogevmatini, Kosmos tou Ependyti), intervening in contemporary socio-political and ecclesiastical developments, and offering the Orthodox theological interpretation of events.

He has written 123 books with theological, ecclesiological, social and historical content, based on the teaching of the holy Fathers in relation to ancient and modern philosophy, psychology and sociology, and from these books 118 translations have been made into twenty-seven languages.

He is regarded as the most translated Greek writer after Nikos Kazantzakis. 

Activity as a Writer

His activity as a writer flows from his research, which he began as a student, when he recorded manuscripts surviving in the libraries of the Monasteries on the Holy Mountain and assisted in the critical edition of the works of St Gregory Palamas, under the guidance of Professor Panagiotis Christou. It is also the outcome of his having read nearly all the patristic writings (indexing about 20,000 passages), as well as classical and contemporary texts of secular scholarship (including works by the philosopher Martin Heidegger, the existential psychologist Viktor Frankl and the sociologist Max Weber), and  a consequence of his contact with ascetics and fathers on the Holy Mountain, with St Kallinikos, Metropolitan of Edessa, St Sophrony the Athonite, St Paisios, Fr Theoklitos of Dionysiou and Fr John Romanides.

Among his many books the following are landmarks:

1. A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain, which analyses topics relating to the prayer of the nous in the heart, “Lord Jesus Christ has mercy upon me”, and distinguishes between the Orthodox tradition and Eastern traditions linked with yoga. A related book is Orthodox Monasticism, as the Way of Life of Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs.

2. Orthodox Psychotherapy, which sets out the reason why we believe in Christ and associate ourselves with the Church. It describes the therapeutic treatment of the nous, which is the subtlest attention and distinct from the rational faculty, and analyses the transformation of the passions, the function of which has become distorted. It presents the hesychastic life, which is a method of curing human beings, and Orthodox epistemology, to which human beings attain when they acquire experience of God. Orthodox Psychotherapy was followed by the related books Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition, The Science of Spiritual Medicine, Yparxiaki Psychologia kai Orthodoxi Psychotherapia, and Hesychia and Theology.

3The Person in the Orthodox Tradition, which deals with issues concerning the relationship between the person and theology and philosophy; the asceticism of the person; the development of the terminology of the person; and the subject of freedom. Metapateriki theologia kai ekklisiastiki pateriki empeiria is a continuation of this book.

4. Life after Death, which is a book that leaves no question unanswered on the subjects it covers. It discusses the separation of the soul from the body, after-death experiences, the immortality of the soul, the purifying fire, the Second Coming of Christ, the meaning of Paradise and Hell, the controversial subject of the restoration of all things, and eternal life.

He has written historical and theological biographies of contemporary saints: Metropolitan Kallinikos of Edessa, Sophrony the Athonite and Paisios of the Holy Mountain. These books were included in the supporting documentation for the initial proposals for the canonisation of these saints.

5. Five books referring to Fr John Romanides, which demonstrate his significant and pioneering work. We refer simply to the titles:

    i) Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church, according to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides, Volume 1

    ii) Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church, according to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides, Volume 2

    iii) Patristic and Scholastic Theology in Perspective: Based on the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides

    iv) Ioannis Romanides, enas Koryfaios Dogmatikos Theologos tis Orthodoxou Katholikis Ekklisias

    v) Ioannis Romanides: to ergo kai i didaskalia tou (collective volume)

6. Oikoumeniko Patriarcheio kai Ekklisia tis Elladas, which deals with the development of the administrative system of the Church; the history of the institution; the tradition that it has handed down through the centuries; the declaration of autocephaly by the Church of Greece; historical and canonical issues; the crises that have occurred from time to time with the Church of Greece, among other subjects. This book is based on considerable research into the Proceedings of the Hierarchy and contemporary press reports. His treatment of this subject was completed by the books Ta Synodika kai Patriarchika keimena: Synodikos Tomos tou 1850 kai Patriarchiki Praxi tou 1928, and To synodiko kai ierarchiko politevma tis Ekklisias, me anafora sto Oukraniko zitima.

7. Palaia kai Nea Romi, Orthodoxi kai Dytiki Paradosi, which refers to Old Rome and the development of Western Christianity, and to New Rome and its spiritual foundation, as well as its resistance to occasional attempts at subversion. It also looks at divergences and approaches between Old and New Rome.

8. St Gregory Palamas as a Hagiorite. The saint lived in a difficult and troubled era. As an empirical theologian and an unerring interpreter of the Scriptures he expressed the whole patristic and ecclesiastical life and experience. He set out the theological prerequisites for noetic prayer and the uncreated Light. He dealt with the Zealots as a genuine hesychast, and he did not become involved in political contests. His teaching is the outcome of the hesychastic life that he lived on the Holy Mountain, and it is very relevant to our time, when the same philosophical, theological and social trends prevail. It should therefore be studied and put into practice.

9. Vioithiki kai viotheologia. Developments in the realm of genetic engineering and molecular biology and scientific research bring new discoveries to light that have created many problems and dangers. The science of bioethics attempts to set limits and boundaries, in order to deal with all the challenges and problems arising from biomedical research and the biotechnical revolution. The book Vioithiki kai viotheologia deals only with the basis of bioethical problems through the theology of the Church, and not with the details. Orthodox bioethics is not determined by ethical and deontological rules of behaviour, but always deals with bioethical problems on the basis of Orthodox criteria concerning life and death. It looks at every human being as made in God’s image, as a unique and unrepeatable entity who is led towards being in God’s likeness, in other words, deification.

10. The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology and The Feasts of the Mother of God: History and Theology of the Most Holy Theotokos. These are two significant dogmatic books referring to the theology of Christ and the Theotokos, which follow on from the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.

Translations of his Books

Metropolitan Hierotheos’s books began to be translated very shortly after their publication. The book A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain was translated into Arabic in 1986 and into English in 1991 and then it was translated into another twenty-two languages. Since 1994, the translation of the books into English, and their presentation on the website of the Monastery that publishes them, has aroused considerable interest among readers worldwide. This has prompted a wave of unsolicited translations into various languages, initially European languages (French, Spanish, German, Romanian), but also Asian languages: Chinese, Urdu, Korean and Indonesian), as well as Arabic. Many parishes of the Orthodox diaspora in America have also shown an interest in English translations of the books. To date 118 translations are known to have been made into 27 languages.

The attention paid to the Metropolitan’s books and their wide acceptance are illustrated by the fact that they are used as textbooks in theological schools and as reference books by psychotherapists. Two of them (Orthodox Psychotherapy and The Person in the Orthodox Tradition) have also been the subject of doctoral dissertations. A new doctoral dissertation is being prepared on his ecclesiology. In addition, Orthodox Psychotherapy is mentioned as a distinct method of psychotherapy in the Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Diversity published by the American Psychological Association, in an article by Tony R. Young PhD, ‘Psychotherapy with Eastern Orthodox Christians’.[1]

 

[1] Tony R. Young PhD, ‘Psychotherapy with Eastern Orthodox Christians’ in Handbook of Psychotherapy and Religious Diversity, ed. P. Scott Richards & Allen E. Bergin, American Psychological Association, Washington DC 1999, reprinted 2006

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Since 1982 the nuns of the Birth of the Theotokos Monastery have been publishing the books of Metropolitan Hierotheos, the founder and spiritual father of the community, and distributing them throughout the world.

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