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Interpretarea şi receptarea teoriei epectazei în gândirea Părintelui Dumitru Stăniloae

Interpretation and Reception of the theory of epektasis in Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae

Autor(i): Ovidiu SFERLEA

Although he is not generally known as a patristic scholar, and even less as a specialist in Gregory of Nyssa, the writings of Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae contain abundant evidence of a consistent interest in Nyssen’s much celebrated theory of spiritual per-petual progress, conveniently labelled ἐπέκτασις in patristic scholarship. This study proposes an analysis of Stăniloae’s reading of Gregory’s theory by comparing it with three influent modern interpretations, namely those elaborated by Jean Daniélou, Ekkehard Mühlenberg and Ronald Heine, respectively. It is remarcable that Fr. Stăniloae’s understanding of Nyssen’s theory retains elements from all these patristic scholars, but in the same time his interest goes far beyond a mere historical and exegetical inquiry. I suggest indeed that we have good reason to speak about a genu-inely theological reception of this idea in his thought, a fact which is not very com-mon among others systematic Orthodox theologians from the twentieth century.
Fr. Stăniloae shares with Jean Daniélou, whom he quotes approvingly several times, the conviction that the theory of epektasis represents the keystone of Grego-ry’s spiritual teaching. He also understands it as having an essentially mystical char-acter, and he consistently places it in an eschatological perspective. Yet he is not ready to speak about Gregory’s perpetual progress as supposing a “night of intelli-gence“ or “irrational” moments, as Daniélou did in his Platonisme et théologie mys-tique. There is indeed a positive estimate of the conceptual way of knowing God in Stăniloae's thought which he seems never prepared to minimize.
To a certain extent, this aspect brings him closer to Ekkehard Mühlenberg, who in his turn was adamant that the progress which Gregory speaks about is a pro-gress in knowledge (gnosis), and this knowledge is to be understood as one of a conceptual kind (Erkenntnis), rather than one acquired through immediate experi-ence (Erlebnis). This is all the more remarcable that Stăniloae does not seem to have been aware of Mühlenberg’s monograph on divine infinity in Gregory of Nyssa. But while Mühlenberg considered these two types of knowledge (conceptual and experien-tial) as mutually exclusive, Fr. Stăniloae was determined to keep them together. Much as he was willing to admit that soul’s progress is a progress in knowledge, he would certainly not agree that this knowledge lacks any mystical feature, quite of the contrary. The references to the theory of ἐπέκτασις in the third part of his synthesis on the Ascetical and Mystical Teaching of the Orthodox Church make this abun-dantly clear. In so doing, Fr. Stăniloae only kept himself in line with the way in which Gregory’s idea was echoed in a significant number of Eastern Patristic and Byzantine authors, from Macarius-Symeon and John Climacus to Symeon the New Theologian , Gregory Palamas or Kallistos Angelikoudes.
As for the historical background and the polemical context in which this idea made its appearance, Fr. Stăniloae stands with Ronald Heine in considering Gregory’s theory to have been motivated by the necessity to find a sollution to the vexed prob-lem of souls’ satiety (κόρος) and fall inherited from Origen’s cosmology. In fact, Fr. Stăniloae appropriates Gregory’s idea through the critical reception of it by St Maxi-mus the Confessor, who insisted that the spiritual progress is perpetual (i.e. with no possible fall or satiety in it) not just because of God’s infinity or because of human voluntary decision to pursue it ever further (τρόπος ὑπάρξεως), but also because it meets the principle of human nature (λόγος τῆς φύσεως).
Finally, two observations should be added. First, it is quite obvious that Fr. Stăniloae’s reading of Nyssen’s theory was considerably influenced by previous patris-tic reception of it, most notably by the contributions of Maximus the Confessor, Greg-ory Palamas, and Kallistos Angelikoudes. Second, this significant patristic reception of Gregory’s idea, of which Fr. Stăniloae was well aware, had presumably persuaded him that the theory of epektasis must be more than a brilliant theological idea; indeed, it provides us with a faithfull insight into what the future eschatological beatitude would be. Fr. Stăniloae clearly considered this insight to have received the consecration of the ascetical and spiritual experience of the Church Tradition. This is no doubt the main reason for which Gregory’s idea also made its way into the final part of Fr. Stăniloae's magnum opus, The Orthodox Dogmatic Theology.

Pagini: 137-151