Revista Studii Teologice


JA slide show

Sfântul Paisie Velicicovski — teologie patristică şi povăţuire duhovnicească

Saint Paisius Velicicovski (Velichkovsky): patristical theology and spiritual guidance

Autor(i): Cristian ANTONESCU

The importance of St. Paisius Velichkovski’s theological contribution lies in the fact that he was among the most prominent theologians to rediscover the patristic tradition, thus prompting interest in the authentic sources of Church teachings. For this reason, it is very important for us to know how one of the most important researchers into patristic theology understood and applied the Holy Fathers’ teachings. Due to the maturity reached by his in-depth study of the divinely-inspired writings of the Holy Fathers, the theology of St. Paisius Velichkovski provides us with guidelines towards salvation. The most important things people need to become dispassionate and perfect Christians are presented in the teachings of St. Paisius that explain the cause-effect relationships, so that the seekers for life-giving words will be fully satisfied by the great father’s explanatory discourse. Such relationship is that between ascesis and the right faith. Thus, St. Paisius shows that if one lacks the right faith, then his ascesis is misdirected and he cannot reach the final goal: salvation.
One of St. Paisius’ major theological contributions is his teaching on the prayer of the heart. He calls attention to the fact that only those who actually lack faith dare to disregard this prayer. Those who do so are stirred by the devil’s envy and contrivance: seeing that this prayer is a safe path to heaven, the devil has always sought various ways of discrediting it. Since the prayer of the heart is so important, St. Paisius points out that it should not be undertaken without the guidance of a spiritual director, lest temptations should overcome the one who dares to do so. Whoever teaches another to pray must be an experienced advisor; otherwise the prayer of the heart cannot be learned. St. Paisius admits that the prayer of the heart might be acquired without the guidace of a spiritual father, only by the struggler’s own effort and his unwavering faith in God’s aid and mercy, but he points out that these are exceptional cases, which a monk should not take for a general rule.
St. Paisius’ teachings on the prayer of the heart are closely related to those on obedience. Whoever fails to obey cannot serve God properly. This is why God established obedience in heaven and on earth, so that all His creatures can serve and worship Him properly. Even love for God and one’s neighbour, which are «the essence of all evangelic commandments», are accomplished by obedience, because those who keep these commandments do nothing but obey The One who says: «He who does not love Me does not keep My commandments», and keeping Christ’s commandments is obeying Him, thus acquiring humility. To explain his disciples the importance of obedience in spiritual growth, St. Paisius tells them that when he sees their zeal in accomplishing their tasks, which they undertake without resorting to their own will but by giving it up and observing the Holy Fathers’ teachings, he feels such joy that even in heaven he could not imagine a greater one. The key to keeping all God’s commandments is obedience. God established obedience for angels, and those who refused to obey fell and became devils. God also prescribed obedience to Adam, but he would not obey either, thus causing the fall of the entire mankind. Perfect obedience was manifest in the person of Saviour Jesus Christ. In their turn, the apostles obeyed Christ even to their death, and since then obedience has been one of the greatest Christian virtues.
Speaking of how a disciple ought to obey, St. Paisius also shows what a spiritual director must offer to his spiritual sons in such a relationship. Thus, the burden of obedience is carried not only by the one who obeys, but also by his confessor, through the latter’s efforts and skill in directing the disciple. He must spend more time in his cell than the rest of the brethren, to use the time that would otherwise be dedicated to labor, by reading such books as provide spiritual benefits, and so at the proper moment he may be of use to his disciples by salvific words and advice. The importance of a good confessor is crucial, as by his discernment he is able to help the disciple overcome any vice, however great. Of course, this means that an unskilled spiritual director will never be able to help his spiritual children to reach perfection and become dispassionate. Those who learn of St. Paisius’s life are certainly impressed with his struggles, which seem almost impossible today. His monastic ascesis is extremely high, and the skeptical reader may doubt it, which however does not mean that St. Paisius’ struggles were not as reported by those who knew him. On the contrary, we may be the ones unable to understand their great-ness and importance. He regarded ascesis in the spirit of Orthodox tradition, that is the awareness that man fights not against his body but against his vices.
St. Paisius attached great importance to a monk’s behaviour. He was fully aware that any deed or gesture may trouble a monk or upset the others. Thus St. Paisius adheres to the patristic tradition with regard to the monk’s encounters with fellow strugglers or laypeople. Although he does not address all aspects of spiritual life, St. Paisius Velichkovski proves to be one of the most prominent theologians of the Church, not only as one of the greatest directors who rediscovered patristic theology, but also by his successful application of the Holy Fathers’ theology.

Pagini: 149-195