The papers in this book were presented by the author at theological and scientific conferences and meetings, and show how contemporary social problems can be confronted from the perspective of Orthodox theology.
The book begins with a talk on ‘The Icon-Loving Spirit and Iconoclasm’. Reference is made to the key points which indicate the great worth and potential of the Greek Orthodox tradition, and it is emphasised that the victory of the icon-lovers was the triumph of Orthodoxy over heresy. It is not sufficient for us simply to be aware of the value of Orthodoxy: we have to know what the Church is. The aim of the Church is not just to work within society, or to give a logical answer to various problems, but to heal the human soul. ‘The Icon in Today’s World’ considers the indissoluble link between pleasure and pain, in accordance with St Maximos the Confessor’s teaching. The combination of sacramental and ascetic life helps to transcend both pleasure and pain. Even within the tragedy of today’s world we can observe an earnest search for truth, and many people are turning to the Orthodox tradition and way of life. The two papers on ‘The Church’s Objectives in Using the Media’ and ‘The Destruction of the Personal Element in Pastoral Care by Mass Media Intervention’ express the fact that the aims of the media are not compatible with the Church’s. It is clear that they increasingly restrict man to his rational element, and are content simply to provide information. Man is reduced to a consumer item. In ‘Religious and Ecclesiastical Education’ we see the difference between religion and the Church and the distinction between religious and ecclesiastical education. The holy Fathers talk about the ecclesiastical education and culture which one acquires when one lives within the Church. The way in which we pray, approach the Holy Liturgy and receive the Holy Gifts shows whether we are Orthodox or heretics. ‘East and West at Worship’ emphasises some of the obvious theological differences between East and West with regard to worship. ‘The Hierarchical System of the Church’ and ‘Authority and Power in the Orthodox Tradition’ are important for the whole of the Church’s life. St Dionysius the Areopagite speaks of the respect and obedience due to the Church’s hierarchy. The Triune God is the cornerstone of the Church and its authority. The Church’s administration is spiritual and in the Orthodox tradition the concept of power has absolutely no connection with secular power, authority is based on the Cross and the sacred service of love and sacrifice. The Bishop upholds the unity of the Church. The highest gift and honour is for someone to be a living member of the Body of Christ, to be an adopted son by grace. ‘The Person of the Priest’ analyses the basic principles laid down by the Church’s canons for someone entering priesthood. The characteristics of the psychologically-balanced and spiritually-regenerated priest are stated: without being indifferent, he should show unlimited respect for the freedom of his spiritual children, and not oppress them spiritually. The question of what exactly Orthodox theology is, and by what means someone can attain to participation in the knowledge of God, is explained in the paper ‘Orthodox Theology – What it is and how it works’. Theology is the voice of the Church, and when a Church does not approach theology in an Orthodox way, it shows that is has become secularised. ‘The Imitation of Christ according to Orthodox Tradition’ and ‘The Theology of Inspiration and the Inspired Theologian’ illustrate that the Christian’s life should be transformed each day by Christ’s life. The imitation of Christ is the same as the Christian’s union with Christ, which is attained through the sacraments and asceticism in Christ. It is not a matter of imitating Christ outwardly, but of experiencing His Cross, death and Resurrection. Man’s goal, and the task of the Church at the deepest level, is for him to become ‘a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). Inspiration is seen as an essential element of our spiritual life. The Christian ought to live with divine inspiration, which comes from God’s grace but also from our co-operation. The final chapter of the book, ‘The theology and theologian of inspiration’ looks at the characteristics of those who are divinely inspired and analyses Archimandrite Sophrony’s teaching concerning inspiration in his book Of Life and Spirit.
Μητροπολίτης Ναυπάκτου Ιερόθεος