CF105 - Ascent to Holiness Topics

Topic 1 - Holiness in the Old and New Testaments by Revd. Dr. Nikolai Sakharov

Elder Sophrony of Essex: We Shall See Him As He Is (Chapter 13)

Archimandrite Zacharias Christ Our Way and Our Life (Chapt. 1)

Achimandrite Zacharias The Hidden Man of the Heart (Chapter 6)

Panagiotis Nellas Why did God Became Man?

Professor Georgios Mantzarides The Deification of Man (Chapter 1)

Lossky The Theological Notion of the Human Person

Archimandrite George of St Gregoriou Monastery, Mt Athos, on Theosis

Fr George Florovsky The Ascetic Ideal and New Testament

Rev. John Chrysavgis: Obedience and Authority: Dimensions of a Hierarchical Church

Topic 2 - On Discernment by Dr George Bebawi


Dr George Bebawi- On Discernment (the paper from his Lecture)

St John of Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Step 26: On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues; on expert discernment)

Archbishop Sergius The Spiritual Life in the World

Pope St. Gregory the Great (+605), Menstruation and Holy Communion

Topic 3 - True and False Holiness by Revd Dr Fraser Watts

The Essence of Prayer- God and Man (Chapter 4) by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Fr Demetrios Constantelos- The Human Being- A mask or a person?

J. Moran- Orthodoxy and Modern Depth Psychology- Chapter 8 in Walker and Carras, eds., Living Orthodoxy (St Vladimir's Press, 1999)

Topic 4 - The Holy Man in Late Antiquity by Revd Professor Andrew Louth

Peter Brown The Rise and Function of Holy Man in Late Antiquity

Stofferahn The Power, the Body, the Holy

Paul Ferderer Uncertain Transformation

Prof. Fr Andrew Louth: The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology in Christensen and Wittung: Partakers of the Divine Nature (pp. 32-44)

St Jerome: The Life of Paulus the First Hermit

St Pafnoutios: St Onnoprhios the Anchorite

Palladius: The Lausiac History (a compilation from the life of the early anchorite and other desert fathers)

Zosimus: Concerning the Life of the Blessed

Topic 5 - Holiness in East and West by Dr George Bebawi

Transcript of Dr George Bebawi's Lecture on Holiness in East and West

St Gregory Palamas: One Hundred and Fifty Texts (from the Philokalia in English translation, Vol. 4)

Dr George Bebawi's Handout 1: Cyril and the Cappadocians on Holiness

Dr George Bebawi's Handout 2: Chrestos Yannaras on Uncreated Energies

St Gregory Palamas, Triads (English translation with an introduction by J. Meyendorf) Paulist Press, 1983 (Google Books, read esp. pp. 32-40)

Professor Panagiotis Chrestou: Double Knowledge according to St Gregory Palamas

Deacon Professor Matthew Steenberg, Knowledge, Prayer and Vision in St Gregory Palamas

Philip Sherrard From Theology to Philosophy in the Latin West

Professor Chrestos Yannaras The Historical and Social Dimensions of the Church's Ethos

Professor Chrestos Yannaras Orthodoxy and the West

St Mark the Ascetic On Those who Think They Are Made Righteous by Works

Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos Orthodox Spirituality

Topic 6 - Holiness in Song: St Ephrem the Syrian’ by Dr Sebastian Brock

St Ephrem the Syrian- Hymns (Google Books)

Sebastian Brock- St Ephraem- Hymns on Paradise (Google Books)

Topic 7 - Holiness in Eastern Religion: an Orthodox Perspective by Dr Christine Mangala

Dr Christine-Mangala Frost: List of Differences between New Age religions and Christianity

Dr. Christine Frost- Visual Aids for her Lecture

Dr Christine-Mangala Frost Interview at Ancient Faith Radio on whether Yoga and Orthodox Christianity are compatible

Elder Sophrony of Essex Jesus Prayer

Fr Basil Sakkas Do we have the same God that Non-Christians Have? from Fr. Seraphim Rose's Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future

St John of Karpathos For the encouragement of the monks in India

Dionysios Farasiotes: The Jesus Prayer and the Hindu Mantra

Topic 8 - Experiencing Holiness: St Macarius by Dr Marcus Plested

Dr Marcus Plested- The Macarian Legacy (Google Books) pp. 31-35, 38-41

A Testimony to Christianity as Transfiguration: The Macarian Homilies and Orthodox Spirituality by Alexander Golitzin

Andrei Orlov and Alexander Golitzin: "Many Lamps are Lightened from the One": Paradigms of the Transformational Vision in Macarian Homilies"

Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Macarius the Egyptian

Macarius, Homilies 1-5

Selections from Evergetinos (with stories from the Desert Fathers and Makarios)

Topic 9 - Professor David Frost: Shakespeare and Nous: Holy Fools in King Lear

Prof. David Frost- The text from his Lecture

Bishop Alexander - On Saints

St Diadochos of Photiki- Gnostic Chapters

Topic 10 - What is a Saint? by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

Excerpts from the Orthodox Way by Metropolitan Kallistos

Metropolitan Kallistos on St John of Kronstadt

Metropolitan Kallistos on the Passions

Metropolitan Kallistos: Through Creation to the Creator

Professor Stanley Harakas Orthodox Christian Beliefs (On Saints)

P. Evdokimov: Holiness in the Orthodox tradition- in Man's Concern with Holiness (ed. by M. Chavchavadze)

Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky: The Glorification of Saints

Coniaris What we believe about the Saints

Fr George Florovsky On the Veneration of Saints

The Life of St Mary of Egypt

Topic 11 - Sober Drunkenness: Holiness in the Liturgy’ by Archimandrite Ephrem Lash

Fr. A. Schmemann Theology and Eucharist

St Nicholaos Cabasilas A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy (esp. pp. 96-108)

Fr Pavlos Koumarianos Symbol and Reality in Divine Liturgy

Topic 12

Summer Course on the Ascent to Holiness: A Critical Perspective by Rev. Dr. Alexander Tefft

Topic 14 - Optional Resources

Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex on St Silouan the Athonite

Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex: Movement of the Prayer in the Heart and Monasticism as the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Archimandrite Symeon of Essex on The Mystery of the Human Person

Dcn Prof. Matthew Steenberg: Monasticism and Saints of Holy Mount Athos

Sister Nona- Beginnings of Monasticism in the Greek World

Dr Mary Cunningham- Monasticism in the Byzantine World- Theodore Stoudite

Hieromonk Justin- The Life in Christ is a Mystery- Monasticism in Mt Sinai

St Nicholaos Cabasilas: The Life in Christ (Google Books)

St Gregory Palamas: The Triads (Google Books)

John Meyendorff: St Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality (Google Books)

Staniloae et al.: The Experience of God (Google Books)

Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Zizioulas): Being as Communion (esp. Chapter 3- Google Books)

Christensen and Wittung: Partakers of the Divine Nature (Google Books)

St John of Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Google Books)

Mamalakis on Marriage as a Path to Holliness (Ancient Faith Radio recording)

St Gregory of Nyssa: The Making of Man

St Gregory Palamas: Calling Everything Near Him

St Nicholaos Cabasilas: The Old and the New Adam

St Maximus the Confessor: The Spirit is in Everything

St Cyril of Alexandria: Becoming Temples of God

The Power of Repentance: A collection of sayings from the Church Fathers

Monastery of St Gregorios, Mt Athos: Key Orthodox Theology Terms in English and Greek

Archimandrite Ephrem- The works of St Theodore the Stoudite

Archimandrite Ephrem- The works of St Ephrem the Syrian

Professor Panagiotis Chrestou- Double Knowledge

Professor Panagiotis Chrestou- On St. Maximus- Infinity of Man

Peter Chopelas- The Uncreated Energies

St Gregory Palamas- Homily on the Holy Transfiguration

Metropolitan Paul- Monasticism in St Gregory Palamas

Professor Tselengides- St Gregory Palamas- Hysechasm- Life in the Holy Spirit

Collection of translated works of St Ephrem the Syrian into English at St Pachomius Library

Bishop Alexander: On the Virtue of Humility

The Life of our Holy Mother Mary of Egypt

Bishop Alexander: Lives of the Saints

Bishop Alexander: Elder Paisios of Mt Athos; Life and Teachings

St John of Klimacus: On Vainglory (from the Ladder of Divine Ascent)

Fr John Romanides- The Sickness of Religion and Its Cure

Archmindrite Georgios of St Gregoriou Monastery, Mt Athos: The Neptic and Hesychastic Character of Athonite Monasticism

Fr John Romanides- Original Sin according to St Paul

Fr John Romanides- Christ, the Life of the World

Fr John Romanides- Yaweh of Glory- Augustine and Barlaam

St Seraphim of Sarov- On Acquisition of the Holy Spirit

Kallistos Katafygiotis- On the Union with God

Professor Coniaris- What is a Saint?

Veniamin- Theosis in Sophrony of Essex

Prof. Georgios Mantzarides on Monasticism (from the book: Images of Athos by Monk Chariton)

Professor David Bradshaw Drawing the Mind to the Heart

Paul Evdokimov Holiness, in In the World of the Church: A Paul Evdokimov Reader (Google Books)

Fr George Metallinos Heaven and Hell

R. Pevear: Dostoyevsky's View of Evil

Fr John Breck The Role of Conscience

Mother Maria Rule Saints and Spirit-Bearers

Topic Lecture 4 - The Gospel of Luke

These notes are assembled after listening to the lecture delivered by Rev. Dr. Nikolai Sakharov. Disclaimer: Any errors are completely my own as I intertwine the lecture material with my own reflections and additional source material.

Luke's Gospel received particular popularity in modern times. Why? The reason behind this is perhaps this is the most inward Gospel, Jesus the man is in the focus. Luke is very sensitive to our concerns, Luke speaks about the role of women, people on the fringes of society, the poor and destitute, tax collectors, sinners et cetera.

In addition exclusively we read here on the parable of the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the rich man Lazarus et cetera. So we may say that essential and the evangelists has shaped our church dogmatically, Luke has shaped Christianity in a popular and accessible way.


the uniform belief of the ancient church, is that it was Luke the physician that was the author of the Gospel of Luke. This is the same Luke the Paul mentions in Colossians, who is his companion. In 2008 a new theory appeared, that it was Luke the priest not a doctor that was the author. But then we have an early Christian writings, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, I Origen, Jerome, so we do know that he was Luke the doctor. And in fact there is a great deal of support they was Luke the doctor. There was a book by William Holbert, which analysed the medical language in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke probably wrote his gospel between 80 – 85 A.D, not far from the time that Matthew wrote his gospel. They both responded to this common situation when the vast majority of Jewish people had rejected the Gospel of Christ, and its future seems to lie with the Gentiles.

One of the reasons for the popularity of Luke's Gospel was its style. His writings are very close to poetry. If you look at our orthodox services, quite a few liturgical texts, are taken from the Gospel of Luke. For example the Magnificat "my soul does magnify the Lord", and elsewhere "let now thy servants depart in peace". We read this prayer in our Vespers.

There are other features that are endearing in this gospel. Luke brings the message of Christ down to earth as it were. He immerses the good news into the realm of history of mankind. It is because of mainly sent Luke that we cannot apply this fashionable word myth to the story of Jesus. Because to St Luke, Christ is not a myth, he is a person who worked and acted in history. And to ground this Christ event further, into history of mankind, he wrote a sequel to his gospel, the acts of the apostle. Perhaps you know, that sent Luke's Gospel and the acts of the Apostles were one and the same document and they were divided into two sections 1 the Gospel of Luke and one the acts of the apostle, by the early church. But for sent Luke, in his writing, it was one and the same event. The coming of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the apostles and Christ disciples and their mission to the world was one and the same event.

Thematic approach to the Gospel of Luke

The very first theme is a very obvious one, this perspective in sent Luke, that moves all the acts of Christ towards the greatest event the Pentecost. The Gospel actually finishes of how the apostles remained in the temple waiting for the Holy Spirit, the outpouring. So it is no coincidence that some of the scholars describe the acts of the apostles, but the acts of the Holy Spirit. It is because of the activity of the Holy Spirit, the outpouring on the disciples. His last promise according to St Luke's Gospel, Jesus dispenses the spirit onto the disciples in chapter 24: "behold I send the promise of my father on you to sit in the seat of Jerusalem until you are clothed from power from on high".

If you look at the old Testament, you won't find many prophecies about Christ resurrection, or Christ's crucifixion. There are far more many prophecies about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is there that the heart of the Christ event lies. It is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is the result of Christ's ministry. The prophecies are the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We find in the Ezekiel chapter 36, and the prophet Jeremiah chapter 36.

For the Jews, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, meant that the final one has arrived. It was the final apocalyptic event. No wonder that, that the Gospels are classified in apocalyptic genre at times. Why is this a distress on the Holy Spirit? If we, go back to Adam, he was created, as the son of God. And where was the last reference to the "sons of God" in the Bible, before the coming of Christ? Yes it was with respect to the sons of men. So what does it mean, is that Adam who was the disciple by virtue of his position of the Holy Spirit has lost this Sonship through losing the Holy Spirit. Recollect when the Lord said, "my spirit shall no longer strive with man, given his corruptions for his flesh". So possession of the Holy Spirit meant Sonship with God. These ideas you'll find in most of the fathers, especially St Athanasius, St Cyril of Alexandria who equates possession of the Holy Spirit with divine Sonship. And what we have now in the Christ event, is that we see a human being, born of the Holy Spirit, and Adam is restored. This is so important for sent Luke, this concentration of this period bearing capacity of humankind. 

Recollect how Luke opens the very first preaching of Christ. Christ says: "the spirit of the Lord is on me." If you compare how the Holy Spirit operated in the old Testament, and in the new Testament, what is the difference? Because the prophets did speak through the power of the Holy Spirit. So in the old Testament prophets, the spirit of the Lord would come and descend on the prophet, and the prophet would at a prophecy, and in the spirit would leave there was no ontological union between man and the Holy Spirit. And in fact, in some of the scholars like Conzleman (?) believe that in the first chapter of Luke, we have this recreation of this prophetic equal, as we hear about prophets like Zechariah, then Elizabeth was blessed by the Holy Spirit at the prophecy, and then St John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach: "behold". And also a reference to the Holy Spirit is given to us by the city of the just, the Holy Spirit was on him not in him when he prophesied. He is instructed by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel says. And now we have completely new phenomenon in the history of mankind, since the fall of Adam. Luke chapter 1 verse 35, the angel answers and says to Mary "the Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the highest will overshadow you". Additionally, "the holy one that is born of you will be called son of God". So we have the restoration of divine Sonship of Christ man is born by the Holy Spirit.

Where else to be find in the new Testament immense capacity to bear the Holy Spirit? St Paul says:" that the first man Adam became a living soul, the last Adam was a living spirit." That is why Luke is eager to emphasise that he was a new category of human being ontologically united with Holy Spirit. And that is why Luke is eager to write every detail of Christ, every detail about the Holy Spirit. "The Holy Spirit will come on you through the power of the highest". And later on throughout the narrative, Luke never loses sight of the spirit bearing capacity is in Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells in him. It just doesn't come upon him it was on him. 

There are differences for instance in how sent Luke understands the function of the Holy Spirit, with how Mark in his gospel does. In Mark we find a rather old Testament perspective of the Holy Spirit. For Mark, the Holy Spirit somewhat forces someone to do something, a common understanding as it were in the old Testament. E.g. consider how the old Testament prophets were forced at a prophecy almost under coercion of the Holy Spirit. In Mark was in interesting reference, where Christ was virtually driven out by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness "ekvalis" in Greek, which means thrown out into the desert by the Holy Spirit. But in Luke, the words "full of the Holy Spirit, and was led in the spirit into the wilderness", we have a sense of union between the human and the divine spirit, there is a sense of synergy. This is a great word to express this new anthropology which we find in Saint Luke.

And the very first words of Christ: "the spirit of the Lord is on me", and we learn that the whole of his ministry proceeds from his power of the Holy Spirit. And given this, the position of the Holy Spirit, he has anointed me, to deliver the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. It is not only Christ himself the possesses the Holy Spirit, but everyone who is born of the Holy Spirit. It is the whole new Christian way. See in Luke chapter 11, we are given instruction what we should pray for, and Christ's words recorded there: "how much more should your heavenly Father give you the Holy Spirit of those who ask him".

It is a great joy for us as Orthodox Christians, to hear the same words from the Saints. Remember what St Seraphim said to Motovilov: "what is the aim of the Christian life?" The aim of Christian life censor of them said is to acquire the Holy Spirit. This is the main focus of our life, to be a god bearing person, spirit bearing person. And is something about Luke's concern of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

There is another interesting theme in the Gospel that was highlighted by the German scholar Hands Conzleman (?). He says that Luke has his own way of relating to the old Testament. In Matthew Christ is the fulfilment of the law. In Luke we find a slightly different approach yet similar in essence. In Luke we find, yes, now that the time of the profits is finished, with the coming of Christ to have a new period in the history of mankind, and then with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we have yet a third period in history of mankind. We see that Luke is very eager to separate the Epoch of the prophets, from the Ministry of Christ. That is why he gives all the stories of St John the Baptist, his imprisonment and his preaching, before Christ begins his ministry. When St John the Baptist disappears from the scene, this is when Christ begins his ministry. And Conzleman's book is called the middle of time. It means that the Gospel is about this middle time, the time of Christ.

Sent Luke tries to reduce this apocalyptic agiotage, about the coming end. You will see in St Luke's Gospel there are moments where he speaks about the delay of the second coming of Christ. Because now it is about the time not of the second coming of Christ but the time of the church. When the Holy Spirit acts to bring the whole of mankind to the faith of Christ. And one of the interesting pictures of Luke's Gospel if we really divide into these periods, we see that Luke is at pains, to show that there is a time of Christ to act, and then a time for his disciples to act after Christ's resurrection. That is why in the first chapters Luke is at pains to focus attention on Jesus alone, not on his disciples but on Jesus who is in the middle, in the focus he is the main hero. By chapter 5, when Christ called his first disciples, Christ has already accomplished quite a bit of his ministry, so much so that he was almost killed after his first sermon in the synagogue see chapter 4. By the time Christ meets his disciples, his popularity, seem to have reached quite a substantial level. Crowds pressed to hear him, chapter 5.

For Luke it is important to emphasise that the Epoch of the old Testament is finished and Christ has come on now what we have is continuation of the Christ event in the life of the church. Luke is very eager to emphasise that there is a direct connection between our life in the church and the events that happened 2000 years ago of Christ's death and resurrection. Because it is to continue the work of the apostolic ministry, in the life of the church.

Luke tries to diminish somewhat this apocalyptic agiotage, this apocalyptic excitement among Christians. He speaks about delay. And he tries to focus his attention on our daily life. He tries to convey details which are important enough on a daily Christian life, which somehow for instance in the Gospel of Mark is absent. Because in Mark's Gospel we have action, and buildup of this apocalyptic discourse in Christ's death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Luke somehow tries to calm things down, and he focuses our attention, onto the details of Christ daily life.

For example Christ is said to be praying, get a sense that Christ was praying all the time, and more importantly he was praying at the most important moments of his ministry are key points of his ministry. E.g. chapter 3 Christ's baptism: "Jesus also been baptised, and praying", Jesus was praying to the evangelists before the Holy Spirit descended; another moment was in the appointment of the 12, he was praying all night before he chose his disciples; and at the moment of transfiguration, once again Christ is praying to God the Father; we get a sense that everything that happens to Christ doesn't happen automatically. But comes as a result of Christ's continuous dialogue with the father.

And the same legacy of Luke, he speaks of our need for prayer. In Luke there is great attention the Christ taught his disciples how to pray. If in Matthew's Gospel, the Lord's Gospel is given just as an example of prayer, in Luke we get a sense that Christ was trying to teach his disciples how to pray. In Chapter 11 we read, "it happened as he was praying in a certain place" and, and when he stopped one of his disciples said to him: "Lord teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples". And in other places we see how Christ speaks about perseverance in prayer, what we should ask of in prayer, it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. A good example is of the parable of the unjust judge, chapter 18. It is really all about the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.

When we are speaking about the Gospels, and in fact the whole of the new Testament, we should keep in mind that we are dealing here with divinely inspired text. Sometimes perhaps even in our daily practice, God can inspire even ordinary people to say certain things.

Story of Fr Porphyri who was visited by a US citizen. US citizen was adamant he spoke in English but Fr doesn't know any English.

Peter confesses Christ is the son of the living God. And Christ actually prayed for the apostles, that God gives them understanding to reveal who he is- the son of God. This prayer again took place in Gesthemane and at the Resurrection: "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do". And again it seems Christ prayed for his disciples continuously, "Simon Simon... To sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you." It is only in Luke that we see this kind of dialogue. 


it was indeed a major concern for sent Luke to prove and to show that Christ is the saviour of the whole world, not just of the Jewish nation. The consensus from the very beginning. Remember in Matthew we have genealogies, it goes back to Abraham. But in Luke the same genealogy goes to Adam himself, is Father of the whole human nation because it was important to emphasise this universalistic ring of the gospel. From the very beginning there is a universal message to the Gospel of Luke. Remember what the angel said: "give to you a tidying of great joy, it shall be to all people to all mankind." And again, "my eyes have seen the salvation, which now has prepared in the face of all the peoples". In Matthew and Mark, we see a very short quotation from Isaiah. But Luke goes further. And why does he want to give a full quotation? "And all flesh see the salvation of God." So he we have the universalistic vision of St Luke.

And for us as Orthodox Christians, it is very important to have this universalistic dimension to the message of Christ. The whole of our history of salvation of mankind is about universalism. Let us go back to the old Testament, and the human race. After the fall of Adam, which was the first covenant? He was it was with Noah. It was with a family: "you and your seed to have my blessing". After the fall of Adam everything disintegrated, there was no connection with universalism. It was rather individualism. Humankind became atomised. An atom is something which cannot be divided. So the human race disintegrated into the small atoms that were not connected. Remember the first thing that Adam said to God after his fall: "it is this wife, which you gave me, she gave me to eat". He immediately separated himself from Eve. So the first chance God created covenant with the family of Noah, so that there would be harmony love and peace within themselves and each other.

So the next covenant in history, was with Abraham. It was to create a nation. Once this level of unity was credit in the family, then God took on the nation. So God creates a nation. In fact it is a very Jewish concept, because before Israel there were no nations. Even until now if you go to the Middle East people live in clans, in families, in groups. So as a Christian nation, we inherited this concept from Israel. And today it is about achieving a larger unity, in a nation.

But what is the next level after a nation? It is the whole of mankind, and it is when Christ comes. It is the unity of the whole of mankind. Remember what we sing in Pentecost at the celebration of the Holy Spirit: "calling all man to unity". This is absolutely essential to Christian thinking. To think in these universal ways. Of course for sent Paul, but is to send Luke especially. For him it was important to emphasise this universalistic dimension of Christianity.

The history of the old Testament, the last book, which came into circulation, it was the book of Jonah. In the book of Jonah, God began to move slowly from this notion of a nation to the whole world. Prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh to preach repentance, and Nineveh was the capital of Babylon. And that is where the Israelites were held captive. God sent his prophets, to preach even to the worst enemies of Israel.

The Outcasts in Luke's Gospel

there are the anonymous masses of people who suffered, they are the suffering masses, their names are lost to history. Now in Christ, there is no more of these little ones who are forgotten. From the time on of Christianity, there are no more outcasts for Christ. Those who are excluded from the covenants, outcasts, sinners, Gentiles, women, the ill and unclean people. Now they are all incorporated to this mighty nation of the children of God.

Remember how Christ begins his first preaching in the Gospel of Luke: "the spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim the gospel to the poor, he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim to the captives to give sight to the blind.. Those who have been crushed." 

Many scholars have picked up on this, and said that we are dealing in the Gospel of Luke with a political message. And in South America in particular you'll find that many theologians like to speculate about liberation Christology. A Brazilian author wrote, Christos Libertargo (?). So some scholars have taken the Christian message in the Gospel of Luke is a political message. Christ is for the poor, the underprivileged. "Christ loves everyone, he is against the rich because he loves the poor"... note this is from a liberation christology point of view. But we should be very careful not to politicise Christ's message. We should remember what Christ said:" my kingdom is not of this world".

We get a sense, in Luke's Gospel, the Christ seemed to promote poverty. If in St Matthew's Gospel we have the notion: "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ", in Luke we have a straightforward "Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Consider also the parable of the rich man in chapter 12. Christ speaks against those who have laid up treasures for themselves in this world. And in chapter 15 he calls the poor, the lame..." 

So is Christ against riches, what do you think? We must remember that poverty in itself is not a virtue. This is the same as riches in themselves they are not a sin. It is what you do with these riches that matters. Because if we notice, every gift in our church of the Holy Spirit is a service toward other people. There is nothing that it is oriented towards ourselves. Riches, if you take them as something that is given to you, and that you use for yourself, this is turning into yourself. But if you consider it as a gift of God which is gift to you which is used to minister to others, then it becomes a gift of salvation.

We can consider this, when we recollect St John of Kronstadt, who received so many gifts from people that he didn't have enough time even to distribute them at times. There is a famous story where he was once given a bundle of money in an envelope by a rich man, and as soon as he received the money, he gave it to a poor person who needed it. The response of the rich man was a tell St John of constant but do you know there was money enough in this envelope to buy all of St Petersburg, St John replied to the rich man yes I know there was a lot of money in the envelope, but this man needed it desperately. He was ready to receive this gift.


This term soteriology, is related to our salvation. Looking at material recorded by Saint Luke, we can build a very clear picture of what this is. 

There was an account of Rowan Williams, the revered Archbishop in the UK in the BBC. He was visiting Cardiff, and many reporters came there to ask, is the church sexist, what is the definition of sin? And he was also asked what is hell like and who is going there? And the Archbishop replied in a wonderful way hell is being by yourself forever. Who is going there, God knows. This is a wonderful definition. When you turn your existential orientation towards yourself, then you don't see other people, then you are not human. For example let's take the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man would dress up look luxurious, and eat luxurious foods and this poor man Lazarus was lying at his gates without any help. What was wrong with this man? He simply didn't notice the other human being. He didn't notice another person who was in need of help. Certainly if he would have noticed he would have given him something, food and clothes. Notice something important, that the rich man doesn't even have a name. It is because he is not human, and Lazarus is human. In suffering, Lazarus perhaps was educated in compassion and love. But this rich man was unable to see another person.

So what is the outward dimension of our whole Christian message? What is the eschato of the gospel? What is the last theme that we shall experience in our temporal being, in the dimension of time? 

In Matthew's Gospel, we have a parable about the last judgement. But there will be one simple criteria whether we pass on what do not pass. We notice these little ones, people who suffer, they give them food, they clothe them, they visit them in prisons. Then you are human, and then you are saved. Then your fits for the kingdom of heaven if you haven't there is no space for you, in the kingdom of heaven. And this is a very powerful message because Christ equates with himself little ones: "it was me who you clothed, and fed  and in prison". It is the ultimate dimension of the gospel, the result of the whole history of mankind. It comes to these very simple facts of our life. If we see another person next to us there is a need many to help them.

If we look at Luke on the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, he was praying in the temple. And the Pharisee was proud of himself and he was saying to himself to the Lord thank you that I'm not like other people. While the poor tax collector was beating his breasts, and shouting "Lord have mercy". What was wrong with the Pharisee? He didn't do anything for instance, that was against the law, he was simply praying and thanking God. What was wrong with this? In the Greek text we read that the Pharisee was standing unto himself praying. But when we have this orientation towards ourselves, our ego, we do not develop as human beings. The principle of whole creation, the logos, is toward God, facing God "pros ton Theon". Towards the other, not towards oneself.

The same went for the rich man. He said to his soul, eat and drink and be merry. I have enough goods for you for many years. And the problem with this approach, he never mentioned another human being. He always thought about himself he did not think about other people. He did not serve the others he built up his own ego. 

In St Macarius of Egypt we have quite an interesting description of hell. He walk through the desert and found a human skull. His thoughts, I wonder who this man is, and where he is now? And he started to pray for this person. And this goal spoke to him and said, I used to be a pagan priest. Saint Macarius asked him: "where is your soul now"? In the sky replied, "I am burning in hell, and the joy for me, is once in a while, I can see a face of another person". This is really hell, to echo the words of the Archbishop Rowan. Hell is being by yourself forever.

And this is something we can create through our riches for ourselves, we can be shut out. A survey should communion and compassion. In Matthew we have: "be perfect just like a father in heaven is perfect", but in Saint Luke we have: "be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful". This is the key message of Saint Luke, concern for the suffering ones.


there is of course a feminist reading of Saint Luke's Gospel. Is an interesting that the church starts its commemoration of Easter with women the myrrh bearing women. It has become a landmark of Christianity. This is how Christ opened his ministry. To heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance, to set at liberty. And the first people he would have been speaking about was women. If we look old Testament, women were not even counted as human beings, were not part of the Covenant because of circumcision which was a very male thing, and women were not even a part of the covenant, they were part of possessions that man had. Men had cattle that had women and other possessions. 

To Christ brought to us much. He brought the notion of marriage. There was no marriage before Christianity. Something that year from Judaism or Islam now was borrowed from Christianity, in the idea of marriage. Because it was so wonderful, splendid in its idea, no one could contest its. Even marriage has been brought to us through Christianity. It is because Christ change the perception of women. Now a woman is a person a human being, on the image of God, on par with men. Thank you to Saint Luke, this wonderful picture with from within the text, of the daughters of Jerusalem, emerged. From the very first opening chapters in Luke we see the discussion on women, the stories are numerous. We hear about Elizabeth, we hear about Mary, Anna the widow of nine, Mary Magdalene who showed great love for Christ, Joanna Susanna, and the list of women mentioned goes on and on, Martha and Mary, women in the parables, et cetera. There is the widow demanding justice, the women lamenting Christ, etc. women are allowed a prominent place. And many types of womanhood are placed before us.

If you look at the presence of women around Christ in this gospel, it is really remarkable, they are almost always there, they are among the disciples. In chapter 8: 1-3. "And also certain women..." We have this constant, silent, presence of women around Christ. And the women were the ones who were faithful to Christ to the very end. In chapter 23, it was women who were at the cross not the disciples, they were the ones who stayed until the end. It is because of women that we know where cross was buried. Luke notices that the commitment of women to Christ was much deeper at times than it was from men. In chapter 23, we hear "a great multitude of people followed him, and women also work bewailing and lamenting him. And Christ said to them, "daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children." This is the last teaching of Christ addressed to women, as men were unable to listen or to hear. The question then is, women had authority whether in fact Christ would ever have been crucified, because women were lamenting together, for the male world who condemned him. This is just a glimpse of a feminist reading.

The very first sight of Christ after his resurrection, is when Mary comes to the sepulchre. And she asked: "where is my teacher buried?" Then Christ said to the woman away you crying? And she replied I do not know when my master is, and where they buried him. And then Christ said Mary, and she immediately recognised him. Why did she recognise him when he called her by name? And of course what we have to remember is at that time nobody called women by their first names. No one even noticed them. For instance, the Pharisee is addressed Mary, who came to the house as: "that sinful woman". She wasn't even a person in the eyes of those people. But it was Christ who treated her as a person. Therefore she immediately recognised that it was him. But his appearance was different. But she recognised him from his attitude. This is a very powerful story.

Now with respect to women in Orthodox tradition. Yes there are some times hiccups concerning women in our tradition, especially in monasticism. Those who write about chastity, for example may write about women in negative ways. But God massively and kindly corrects those stories. Remember the story of St John Cassian, who was a monk who was trying to achieve the highest level of purity, and he talked himself to hate women. He was known even to have a fit for example, when he saw a woman. And it was providence of God, that the monks who served him, were nuns in disguise. So he changed his attitude ever so quickly. For instance, remember what John (H)? Used to say before he met his spiritual friend Olympiada, who became his closest friend.

So at times, the orthodox position on women has been harsh, but God corrects this. The reason why monks can be so negative about women sometimes is because I haven't learnt to see a woman as a person above all, not an object, not a perceived human being. And this is what monks learn to do, they go and hide until they can learn to treat women equally, as persons.

In the Soviet Union, churches were filled with women, all these babushkas, old women who save the church, who preserved the Orthodox faith in Russia. It was like an army of women who supported the bearded men. Their deserve the highest respect for the dedication and faith.

Q&A. We can say, for example, today we have the same pattern of attendance, is mainly women again who attend the services.

Saint Luke is very sensitive to this issue. It is very important to us as Christians. The authenticity of any religion, is likely measured by its acceptance of women. 

We should consider, that the closer we get to God when we study women in the church, the greater those women were elevated. In the Orthodox church, as well is in the Catholic, we have highest image of the mother of God. She was a human being, a woman who was elevated above the cherubims and the seraphims, above any other being created in this world. She is next to God, even in our iconography. This is a very powerful message. But if you look at Islam, do you know of any woman who is mentioned in the Quran? It is Mary again. Only Mary.

So you will see in our Orthodox Church, in our Orthodox faith, women are given tremendous roles. It is often said that without women the church would not exist. It is not only their parental duties which make them so significant, but also their presence, their prayers, and their ministry. They are not servants of the church but ministers of the church.

Topic 6: The Synoptic Gospels - Eschatology

These notes are assembled after listening to the lecture delivered by Rev. Dr. Nikolai Sakharov. Disclaimer: Any errors are completely my own as I intertwine the lecture material with my own reflections and additional source material.

Very relevant to Christian life today. There is a preoccupation in some cultures to talk of the end, the contents of the Book of Revelation, for instance. Typically in Russian and Greek cultures.

So what do the gospels say about the end of the world, in eschatology.

How did eschatology emerge?

Jewish Apocalyptic: speaks of the emergence of eschatology, after the Babylonian exile. And the reason why eschatology entered to begin with? If you read from the Old Testament, the law (the Pentateuch), does not say anything about life after death. The Old Testament could provide a manual for you on how to live in this life. Once you die, the belief was you are shut away, from all the blessings of this life. That is why the Torah, is a kind of a manual for well-being in this life.

But once you deal with such issues as suffering, and death, then what? For example, what does the law have to say but what of the Maccabean martyrs? But what's the point, what was the reward for them, in dying for the law, if there was no eternal life? There is no point dying, if there is nothing beyond.

And that is why there was a necessity in Israel to provide theological foundation, for the teaching about life after death. For instance it was God who moved this issue to be number one within the Israelite community, at the time of Christ's coming. Recollect, that the Pharisees would say there is eternal life, and the Sadducees would say there is no eternal life. It was the major issue at the time of Israel. Christ said: "I am the life and the resurrection."

Now there are a few characteristics of apocalyptic literature. First of all it speaks about the history of the world of being entirely under control of divine powers. That God has planned something for mankind, and everything unfolds according to this plan. E.g. the book of Daniel. Secondly you have quite a prominent place, you have heavenly powers actively taking steps to change the course of history. For example, angels, archangels, evil powers. Third apocalyptic literature is characterised by trying to explain why there is so much pain and suffering in this world. And so usually the story goes that this world is ruled by evil powers and that Christ will intervene and make things or write. And after this there will be a time with Christ will reign and there will be a wonderful life, simply.

For only Christians the coming of Christ, was actually the coming of the end of the world. It was the time of the coming of the mighty intervention of God, into human history where God would put things right. As Christopher Dodd wrote: the more we try to penetrate imagination of the first Christians, the more we are driven to think of the coming of Christ, and His resurrection, as a single event. So for early Christians the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was but one significant portion of the end of the world.

But Christ did not come covered in glory. So the church had to adjust to this new situation. Why is there delay and how should we explain this?

Now if we look at Mark's Gospel which is the most apocalyptic, you have this sense of urgency that it is time for you to leave Jerusalem and flee to the mountains and hide from the wrath of God. Mark's Gospel is full of this kind of apocalyptic imagery. You get the sense that this whole books climax is built up to this chapter 13, which is known as the small Markan apocalypse. It is the biggest block of teaching, in the whole gospel, relevant to apocalyptic. Here is where Christ speaks of the suffering coming upon mankind. And when you come to St Luke's Gospel, you will see that this is eschatological tension is somehow diluted. And this is a movement that scholars see in the apocalyptic beliefs of the Church in the first century. Because Jesus didn't return straight away after his resurrection, Church had to rethink its position and beliefs on eschatological events.

That is why this simple futuristic eschatology, that Christ is coming, all has been broken down into various types.

For example, "the kingdom of God is at hand." What does that mean? Where is it? Has it come? Is it coming? Where is it? This is known as inaugurated eschatology. For example, if someone knocks on the door, and he is just behind, just about to enter, I know this is just about to happen. But he is not there yet, but I know he will come in because he just knocked. This is imminent eschatology because it is about to happen. E.g. Gospel of Matthew. The axe is laid to the root of the trees. The axe is there, but not yet cut down the tree. Another type of eschatology is anticipated eschatology. For example, we see in movies that at times, they begin with a scene, and then they present how they got to that scene throughout the whole lifespan. It is like the scene at the beginning is used as the mechanism for which to build up to, throughout the movie. This is how anticipated eschatology built up to the coming of Christ. Christ anticipates what will happen at the end of the world. Remember how in Matthew chapter 8, the demons cried: what do we have to do with you Jesus son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? That is Jesus came before the time, anticipating what would happen in the future. There is yet another type of eschatology called consistent eschatology. This is when the battle has been won, and the king has overcome the enemy. His authority has been established, and what is left for his army is just to do a mopping up operation (pockets of resistance). What is left is to finish it off in various places. E.g. Gospel of John: 'the prince of the word has been cast out and condemned (ch 16). Christ has already overcome the world'. What is left for the disciples is just to enforce this victory of Christ. And finally, in John's Gospel we have realised eschatology. When eschaton has already arrived, we have already passed from death unto life, the Kingdom of God has already come to power. Now let us consider St Luke's eschatology. We can see that St Luke is concerned to explain why the end is postponed. He speaks to the faithful trying to communicate that Christ's coming is not happening straight away. Luke attempts to tone down this eschatological tension (e.g. Luke 31:8). 'Heed that many will come in my name saying 'I am'... do not go after them'... So Luke clearly warns against this eschatological agiotage. Then in Luke we have these tiny additions in Luke 8 when we can hear the word of God with patience. He shifts slightly from the apocalyptic urgency. He talks about the Christian life, and builds up the importance of Christian ethics. He speaks about repentance, prayer, and persistence in prayer. He says, 'if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.' Versus, in St Luke's Gospel, take up his cross, "daily". So it becomes a daily reality for us. There is a sense of continuation of life, in regards to his coming/not coming straight away. So again, we are dealing here with certain antinonyms.

So on the one hand all the gospels speak of an imminent coming of Christ, and on the other hand the gospels speak of the delaying of Christ's coming. How can we reconcile these antinomies?

When Christ spoke: 'this generation will not pass away until these things happen?', was it a mistake? How can we interpret these eschatological predictions? Did the church make a mistake? See Matthew 34 'nation against nation... earthquakes... famines, pestilences... beginning of sorrows... you will be afflicted and they will kill you... you will be hated for my names sake... there will be great tribulations... unless those days would be shortened... false prophets... see son of man in clouds of heaven... 'this generation'... so what happened? "This" generation as in 'his' generation. If we consider anticipatory eschatology, all of these events took place in Christ himself. 

If we consider John Meyer's view of Matthian eschatology, EVERYTHING was fulfilled in Christ. And the same goes for synoptic eschatology. And this is present even in the Gospel of John. John 11, 'do not weep your brother shall rise again...' And Martha replied, 'yes, I know he will rise again in the resurrection of the last day', but Christ corrected her view and says 'I am the resurrection and the life'. So we see how Christ tries to speak on the events of the last days being fulfilled in himself. 

So how were things fulfilled?

When Christ was sending his disciples in their first mission, he said 'Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves... they shall scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be brought to governors and kings for my sake'... 'Spirit of your father will speak in you, as they will cause you to be put to death'... So we do not know, what his disciples experienced in their first mission, but we trust they experienced persecution already in their first mission. So Christ's prophecies were fulfilled already in his lifetime, in himself.

The cross from a distance (2004), says, that his suffering on the Cross, was the greatest suffering this world would ever know, or will ever be. Indeed who can suffer more than Christ? He suffered all this affliction on the Cross. Interesting parallels, how things were fulfilled in Christ, especially in Mark's gospel. Christ predicts about that day and that hour, 'which no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son but the Father... for you don't know when the time is coming.' One chapter later, he finds his disciplines sleeping... 'the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.' It is exactly what Christ predicts in the preceding chapter- 'lest he comes and finds you sleeping'. The hour does actually come when the disciple is sleeping, but there is more detailed fulfillment in the Gospel of Matthew, in chapter 24 when Christ predicts, prophecies the end of the world, he speaks of great tribulation. And then 2 chapters later (in Greek), 'my soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death'. The affliction and put to death described in chapter 24, is exactly what is fulfilled in chapter 27 (Pilate etc). The sun, and the earthquake etc, are recorded again in 27, in Christ's own death and resurrection.

St Silouan was praying for whole world, for people born before and who are yet to be born. He already lives in their own history, and their own destiny, in his own heart and in his own being.  

What is the difference between Christian prophecy and prophecy that we see in Nostradamus or fortune tellers? Is it the same? No, it is different. In Christian prophecy, in association with mankind, a person lives through these things as all embracing prayer. E.g. When St John the Divine wrote down the Apocalypse, he experienced everything that was written down by virtue of his association through love.

This is why St Silouan said the ultimate goal of monastic life is to achieve this prayerful state for the whole world. A man prays for the whole Adam, for the whole of mankind as for himself. In the liturgy we celebrate the second coming of Christ as if it has already taken place. Isn't it a glimpse of this hypostatic eschatology in our Scripture.

Another example of hypostatic eschatology (when we associate ourselves with the history of mankind). St Andrew of Crete. 'It's me. I am like this person, I am the one who has done this and that'. 

We have a hypostatic view of history. E.g. in Great Lent why do we sing Psalms 'of all the rivers of Babylon' because we associate ourselves, our life, the history of Israel, we live it in our personal life. Ascetic fathers, in the writing of St John Climacus, they like to interpret our personal life as in the history of Israel. 

The highest virtue of Christian life is prayer for the whole world. 

So when we look at the Epistles, of Peter and John, and they discuss the last times, what do they mean? E.g. 'the last hours'... Do they speak about imminent coming of Christ, or something else into the future? How would you interpret this apocalyptic tension?

And something important to add, is that the last time, began with the Incarnation. Because from that time on, God has given to us the ultimate revelation. There can be no other added to the Gospels. This is God as he is. The eternal reality has broken through, manifested itself in history. There is no other possible revelation.

Fr Sophrony: what is the meaning of such expressions as last times and last age? In the Liturgy of St Chrysostom, granted to us "Thy Kingdom Come", or St Basil the Great "We have seen the image of thy resurrection..." And yet also, by virtue of their immediate communion, the divine hypostastis of the Logos, still living on earth in the spirit is binded already in eternity. For them, as for any man, they learn that time reaches its end. Hence these strange words... their perception of time is different to those of philosophers (Newton or Einstein) or gnostics... TIME is a space that one can move from one end to an another. At the end of these days, will be the ultimate meeting with him that will be without end. 

This is important in understand the different perception of time in the Apostles and the NT as a whole. The ascetic fathers have a notion of the "watchfulness of the soul". And it relates about not the fact that Christ is coming imminently, but the state of the mind. The Christian who is expected to live in the day, and in the time, watchfully, throughout the course of his life. In every moment of every time, Christ can be present.