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

Gospel Parables, An Orthodox Commentary (Potapov)

This blogpost is a summary of key ideas that may be linked to my forthcoming essay on the parables of the synoptic gospels. The source can be found here:

"Since the time of the primitive Christian Church, parable has been the term for a story told by the Lord Jesus Christ to illustrate His teaching. The Greek root-word, parabole, means comparison."

"So a parable is a spiritual lesson of a story developed by comparison to everyday life. The Lord's parables draw memorable details from nature, human, social, economic, or religious life of His time."

"Characteristically, all oral teachers of the eastern cast of mind teach by comparisons and riddles, using homely images to stir curiosity and reflection. So His parables use images from life in this world to discover spiritual truth."

"The Savior also told sacred insights in parables for three practical reasons.

First, His parables were hard for many listeners to grasp, but His listeners could recall the vivid details from ordinary life long enough to discover the wisdom behind the allegory.

Second, the Lord Jesus Christ told parables to make men expect a double meaning, and to make them want to discover the fullness of the divine plan for their conversion. Because the Church and Kingdom that our Lord founded differ so sharply from the Jewish expectation of the Messiah at that time, that the Lord's teaching had to be cautious and indirect. His parables use allegory to compare the recognizable world to the start, development, mixed character, and final triumph of Church and Kingdom. What may seem simple to us, of course, was a intriguing riddle to His contemporaries.

And third, the Lord used the parable format because His followers could not readily forget or misinterpret the commonplace images. The parable format preserves the purity of Christ's teaching in distinct but evocative images."

"Narrative parables have another advantage over oral lecturing. Parables teach how to live by divine law both in private and in public. Christ's parables have lost no clarity, immediacy, or beauty during 20 centuries across many civilizations in many translations. In all settings, His parables show the unified spiritual and physical worlds."

"Most parables try to describe the Heavenly Father or the Lord Jesus Christ in His historical mission or in His future glory. Parables with two main characters usually show the Father and the Son. The Father's love in sending His Son is the main teaching of the Lord Jesus. The parables disclose the new Kingdom that God plans for the world."

"Differing scholars may count all the parables as between 27 and 50 in number. One scholar may call a parable what another calls a metaphor. One can also count them in terms of the three periods of the Savior's earthly ministry." 

"The first group has the parables told by Christ soon after the Sermon on the Mount, between the second and third Passovers of His ministry. This first group tells about conditions for spreading and strengthening the Kingdom of God: the parables of the sower, of the tares, of the seed growing secretly, of the mustard seed, of the pearl of great price, and others."

"The Lord Jesus Christ told His second group of parables toward the end of the third year of His ministry. These parables tell of God's love and kindness toward repentant people. Here belong the parables of the lost sheep, the prodigal son, the unmerciful servant, the good Samaritan, the fool-hardy rich man, the wise builder, the unrighteous judge, and others."

"He told His third group of parables not long before His Passion on the Cross. They speak of God's kindness and man's accountability before God. These parables also foretell Christ's Second Coming, the Dreaded Judgment, the punishment that will befall unbelievers, and the reward of eternal life that will befall the righteous. Here are the parables of the fruitless fig tree, the wicked husbandmen, the great supper, the talents, the ten virgins, the laborers in the vineyard, and certain others."

"One cannot love by coercion. One can love only in freedom. Therefore love is the action, sign, and fact of freedom."

"As we have seen, the Lord frequently used parables to explain the truths of his teaching. The Lord began to use parables only after the final selection of His apostles, and even the parables often amazed even them, who would ask His further explanation. The Gospel parables comprise approximately one-third of the Savior's recorded words."

"We find moral value in all of the Savior's parables, and some are remarkable too as literature, such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. No day passes without our recalling images from Gospel parables. Often we call a compassionate man "a good Samaritan." We often cite such concepts as a "a far country" and "prodigal son." We acknowledge the importance of not hiding a "lamp under a bushel," and we grasp the necessary multiplication of "talents" given by God and not putting off our affairs until the "eleventh hour."

"This frequent recollection, however, does not mean that we have absorbed all their lessons. We must again and again turn to them to manage our spiritual lives. Despite 2000 years since their appearance, each is current and topical as part of the Good Tidings, the Gospel. The parables are filled with the mysteries "of the Kingdom of God" (Mark 4:11) that has drawn nigh, that the Sole Physician of men's souls and bodies has come, Who heals the lepers, Who takes from us the burden of the ancient curse, Who finds the lost sheep, Who opens the entry to the heavenly fatherland, Who invites the outcast and homeless to His Divine wedding banquet, Who generously recompenses those who have not earned full wages, and Who fills the hearts of the earthborn with great joy."

Why did Christ Speak in Parables?

I have been thinking deeply about the reason why Christ spoke in parables. Below is a short list of possible reasons, that I will continue to explore further support in the bibliography I have sourced already.

1. Christ spoke in parables, effectively stories with meaning, so that everyone could understand his teachings.

2. Christ's parables are unique in their manner. He hardly (if at all) spoke to the masses without using this approach.

3. Parables are illustrations set in-context that help people to remember to love others. It is easier to forget a list of commands versus a story that has a setting in everyday life. Everyone remembers stories because they are tangible and people can relate to them.

4. Christ's parables are unique, and beautiful, and moving to one's soul. They are better than the finest poetry or music. They often began or closed with rhetorical questions that Jesus himself went on to answer, or in fact a moral at the end- that take home message for each of us listening. They were therefore in some way participatory. The listener would be drawn in to hear His word.

5. Christ's parables have got more than one meaning as the traditional parables found in the Old Testament had only one single meaning (mashal). This shows the connection to allegory, and multiple meanings.

6. Christ spoke simply to give the masses a choice to believe in him through faith. The unbelievers would not understand even his simple parables, not because they were complex but because they maintained their unbelief through hardness of heart. Still because Christ was not speaking in sophisticated language to deliver his teachings, he gave each person a choice whether or not to follow him.

7. Christ's parables were universal, would withstand the test of time and continue to be relevant (Hebrews 13:8), and applicable to all even if they had not been in a given described context. E.g. we may not all sow seeds today but we have all seen in one way or another on television or the internet someone else sowing seeds. We get that seeds need to be thrown into furrows in soil in order to take root etc.

8. Christ did not come giving laws to be followed. He could have said: "I command you to do x or y." But he was not coercive and did not wish to force anything on anyone. Instead, he spoke lovingly and softly, and even gave the listener the opportunity to reflect on the interpretation of his story. E.g. Matthew 21:30-32 "Which of the two did the will of his father?”

9. A fine methodology ensues in the parables themselves. We the hearer of the Word, can place ourselves almost with certainty in the shoes of one or more of the characters depicted in the parable itself. We all know whom we'd like to be in the story, yet find ourselves challenged at various times having sinned against God and our fellow brothers and sisters in a manner that places us somewhere where we should not wish to be. I feel convicted especially in the parable of the sower Matthew 13, that I have sown seed by the wayside (v. 4), on stony places (v. 5), among thorns (v. 7). My hope is to always sow seed on "good ground" (v. 8) and that is our life-challenge.

10. Christ places himself on the same 'level playing field' as his fellow man by speaking to them using parables. The allegory is a strong device type but despite the simplicity of the stories they are so difficult to uphold morally.

11. Christ comes preaching a unique message in a unique way. There is something different about him. His message is perfect. It is fair, and it is true.

12. Christ employs empathic intelligence through the storytelling in his parables. There is something antonymic, almost paradoxical about his message. Often members who would otherwise be shunned by a community, are held up as an example to us, because they have repented of their ways. In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) the hero is the son who repented, not the second son who seemingly never sinned because he did not take his father's inheritance squandering it away in the world like the prodigal. This approach turns things upside down but does so legitimately. There is hope for even the greatest sinner. Are we willing to believe and grow in faith?

13. Christ pierces the conscience and personal thoughts and heart of every person through the parables. He takes us to that point so effortlessly it seems, until we recognise through a process of self-awareness that we need to continue to develop our character. So he might have preached to the masses, but inwardly, every individual would reflect on the person he/she was.

14. The parables were perfect, like the Logos. The parables are profound, like nothing that has ever been preached before. The moral of the stories are so convincing in terms of ethics, living by these principles would mean a life worth living.

* A quality about the parables as recorded by the evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke, is that they do not contradict each other in teaching.