Theology and Praxis (Or, No Wonder I Understand Nothing at All!)

One of the differences between the eloquent philosophy of the Greeks and the Christian Faith is that the whole of Greek philosophy can clearly be expressed with words and comprehended by reading, while the Christian Faith cannot be clearly expressed by words and even less comprehended by reading alone. When you are expounding the Christian Faith, for its understanding and acceptance, both reading and the practice of what is read are necessary. When Patriarch Photius read the words of Mark the Ascetic concerning the spiritual life, he noticed in the author some unclarity that, he wisely said, “does not proceed from the obscurity of expression but from that truth which is expressed there; it is better understood by means of practice (rather than by means of words), and that cannot be explained by words only.” And this, the great patriarch adds, “is not the case only with these homilies nor with these men, but rather with all of those who attempted to expound the ascetical rules, passions, and instructions, which are better understood from practice alone.”

(From the Prologue from Ochrid, reflection for June 24)

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6 responses to “Theology and Praxis (Or, No Wonder I Understand Nothing at All!)

  1. Reminds me of Paul’s words that we’re living epistles, known and read of all men… Good stuff.

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  2. In our little book discussion we’re going through The Monk of Mt. Athos, which has a lot of relevant stuff to say about all this in the chapter on St. Silhouan’s approach to doctrine, which is exactly as you say.

    He uses as an example the saying of the Lord, “My doctrine is not mine, but [that] of him that has sent me. If any one desire to practise his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is of God, or [that] I speak from myself.

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  3. Understand the words of Holy Scripture by putting them into practice, and do not fill yourself with conceit by expatiating on theoretical ideas…He who neglects action and depends on theoretical knowledge holds a staff of reed instead of a double-edged sword; and when he confronts his enemies in time of war, ‘it will go into his hand, and pierce it’, injecting its natural poison.-St. Mark the Ascetic

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