Revista Studii Teologice


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Estetica apofatismului. Hristofaniile și strălucirea enipostatică a Luminii dumnezeiești în fețele luminoase ale asceților

The aesthetics of apophaticism. Christophanies and the enhypostatic reflection of the divine Light in the luminous countenance of the ascetics

Autor(i): Pr. Nichifor TĂNASE

Our study aims to undertake a brief biblical, hagiographic and patristic analy-sis of theophanies / Christophanies, in order to emphasize man’s ability to see God, as postulated by the Byzantine hesychast theology, a continuation of the spirituality of the old Desert Fathers. The created nature is able to approach the Unapproachable One. The Taboric theophany epitomizes the purpose for man’s creation: partaking of the divine life, achieving union with God through the divine energies or the grace – as it was achieved in the human and deified body of Christ. St Gregory Palamas stresses, however, that the divine Light is not perceptible through the senses, so cannot be contemplated by the physical eyes. In order to be granted this kind of sight, man has to undergo a spiritual transformation brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how the three apostles were able to see the Taboric Light: «they were changed», St Gregory says, «and thus they became able to contemplate the very change» undergone by their senses (Homily XXXIV). The divine light is thus visible to the physical eyes of the body and was actually seen by the eyes of the Apos-tles during the Lord’s Transfiguration, though only briefly. Like St Basil, he invokes the beauty (κάλλος) of divine nature, the splendor and grace radiating from this light (reminding of St Irinaeus), which shone of Moses’ face and through which he spoke to God. St Macarios, too, states that the same light imprinted on Moses’ face now shines within the souls of the saints (Homily V, 10; cf. Tr. I, 3, 7). However, Moses simply bore or was granted this glory, while Christ possesses it from eternity. St Gregory identifies the divine Light with God’s energies, quoting the words of Sa-ints Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian (Theophanes § 9).
According to St Gregory Palamas, the divine uncreated glory, the Heavenly Kingdom, and the divine splendor are one in God and His saints. He distinguishes two stages in the manifestation of the Taboric light: first on Christ’s Face, then as a shining Cloud. Dogmatic theology and mystical theology intersect and overlap in the description of the revelation of Christ’s divine glory, by which St Gregory closely follows the pattern κάθαρσις – φωτισμὸς – θέωσις. Direct contact with God involves partaking of the Triune divine energy, the glory or the grace of the infinite light which Adam lost at the Fall. Salvation means partaking of the divine energies, since – St Gregory Palamas adds – it is only the affluence of divine energies that enable the righteous to shine. The light that radiates is God’s energy or action ad extra, and is closely linked to ascetic life. Although the human person in its entirety (mind, soul and body) participates in this sight, the light so perceived completely transcends our created being. The unique, significant contribution brought by St Symeon the New Theologian was based on his own experience; namely, the fact that the divine Light can be actually contempled by the one who obeys his spiritual director. This light shines both from within, when it is contemplated by the heart (καρδία), and from without, when it is contemplated by the intellect (νοῦς). To St Symeon salvation is placed in relation to man’s thrist to see God’s light. This longing for the contemplati-on of the divine light is characteristic for the Christian mode of existence (τρόπος ὑπάρξεως). Therefore, «participating (μέθεξις) in the uncreated life and glory» and «contemplating (θέα) the glory» were to St Cyril of Alexandria interchangeable phra-ses, describing the life in the Kingdom of God. Reiterating the position of Saint Ire-naeus, St John Chrysostom insisted on the anthropological implications of the-ophanies or Christophanies.
This is why salvation is not understood in the ethical sense, but as attainment of Christification. Christ reveals Himself to the world, a process where He is the cen-tral figure, holding the highest position. Every manifestation of God is in and thro-ugh Christ. St Gregory Palamas stressed the Christocentric character of divine eco-nomy. Jacob named Peniel, that is, “the face of God”, the place of which he says: «I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved!» (Genesis 32, 30, KJV). Christ is called the Angel of God, Who talked to Moses in the burning bush, stating: «I am that I am». The 14th century hesychast doctrine was based on the awareness that man is called to engage in direct, unmediated communion with God even in this earthly life. True knowledge of God is granted to those who proved worthy of con-templating Christ in His glory, seeing God face to face, and partaking of His life. The ones who feel the divine grace in both soul and body are righteous persons, and if they retain this grace, their bodies are sanctified, and their remains become holy relics.
The distinction between φύσις and πρώσοπον, posited by St Athanasius of Sinai, led to the conclusion that face-to-face contemplation is the sight of the Person of the Incarnate Word. This sight of the luminous face of God as it turns to each man, the sight of the Transfigured Christ, acquires a theological structure in the teachings of St Gregory Palamas and the definitions of grace provided by the 14th-century councils. The light of His glory precedes the sight of His face, and He can only be seen in the light; living in grace is nothing else but “a progressive experience of the divine Light”. The radiance of divine grace, described by St Macarius of Egypt, shines forth from the face of the Son; it enlightened Paul’s mind although it blinded his eyes, for his body was unable to withstand the brilliance of this Light. This fire constitutes the divine energies, the “rays of godliness”. This light (φῶς) or rather illumination (ἕλλαμψις) can be described as the visible manifestation of divinity – God’s energies or His grace, beyond human comprehension or physical perception. United with the Light dwelling within us, the body participates in, or partakes of, the divine things, experiencing them as inward warmth or light. But the light of the Holy Trinity will shine eschatologically in the multitude of human hypostases, the divine fire within the hearts will resurrect the bodies and everything will become Light, being pervaded by this uncreated splendor.
According to Father Stăniloae, it is the Holy Spirit who leaves the “imprint” of God’s action on the human subjects and imprints Christ’s image on each man. The ascetics elevate this divine image they possess to the likeness to God, and to the deifying love. On their face is visible the light of Christ’s face. They receive the seal of divine beauty, as the psalm says: « lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us» (Ps 4, 9). This is the experience of plenitude of grace, an actual experience of the grace through the senses (πεῖρα ἀισθήσεως), an incessant feeling of the presence of grace, manifest in the contemplation of the divine light. The glory thus partaken of, radiates from the unique, divine-human Person, to Whom the body is not a hindran-ce. Ascetics are seen in Him by the Father who sees Christ “imprinted” onto them, in His sacrificial and resurrected state. In the face of Christ, the Father sees all those who believe in Him; His face reflects Christ’s care for each of them, while the face of every believer bears the image of Christ.
The concrete experience of the ineffable mystery is possible only if man is able to transcend any intellectual act, that is, become united with God beyond intellectual comprehension. This union is not the outcome of logical abstract thinking, but is achieved by means of a «visible theophany» (ὁρατῆς θεοϕανείας), that is, by man’s partaking of the divine light. Those who become sons of God, as «sons of the resur-rection», will always be with the Lord (1 Tim 4, 16) and enjoy «His visible appearance» (τῆς ὁρατῆς αὐτοῦ θεοφανείας) and contemplate His radiance, like the disciples on the Lord’s Transfiguration. This «visible theophany», however, requires spiritualized senses – a doctrine that was unknown to the Antiochenes. Αἴσθησις is the empirical knowledge of God’s indwelling. This term also describes a subtle, dynamic experience of communion in grace, which responds to an ontological necessity of the soul. Empi-rical theology is tantamount to a mystical realism, transcending the barrier of con-cepts; the mind is filled empirically with the apophatic dimension, and receives «the One without form». The light of glory shines from the inside to the outside, as an irradiation of the presence of the divine light, in which the body shares, too.
Abba Isaac clearly evokes the experience of Lord’s Transfiguration, in spea-king of the monk who withdraws with Christ on the «mountain of solitude» so that the Lord may «reveal the splendor of His countenance and the Light of His face». Looking at some monks that were assembling for the liturgy «with bright eyes and shining faces» Abba Paul the Simple remarked one who appeared «dark», and sur-rounded by devils; however, as the divine service was completed, he came out of the church «with luminous face and white body». Such visions were not merely inward perceptions, but were revealed by the outward appearance of ascetics. St Mark the Ascetic thus offers us a new understanding of the inner dimension of the light radia-ting from hesychasts’ bodies, which is not an «imagined» one (not a psychological process!). Christ is present at Baptism in «the inner chamber of the soul’s altar» or «hides within man, in a supreme act of kenosis». However, he points out, «He is „tran-sfigured” for man’s sake, when man becomes worthy of contemplating the divine light» (which explains the somatic aspect – the «shining face» of those able to see God). This inward-outward dynamics of the contemplation of uncreated light (which A. Golitzin reduced to a Nicean ban on representing the exterior visionary experien-ce), is also grasped by the Palamite theology. St Gregory Palamas says that during the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Apostles «saw the very grace of the Spirit, which later dwelt within them; for one is the grace of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which was contemplated even with the bodily eyes, which were open in order to turn those who used to be blind, into seers and contemplators of the uncreated light» (Tr. III, 3, 9). Thus the light of grace «in the past, illumined from the outside (ἔξωθεν) the worthy ones and through their physical eyes conveyed this light to the soul within the body; while now, as the grace dwells inside us, it naturally illumines the soul from within (ἔνδωθεν)» (Tr. I, 3, 38). St Maximos the Confessor, too, says that God is seen in and through Christ. The Word becomes incarnate in us, resurrects and ascends to heaven in us (as He is hidden in man’s heart on the Bap-tism). When the renewed man «is born with a luminous countenance, Christ Himself resurrects within that man». The coming of Christ in every soul is a reiteration of His historical incarnation, His passions and Resurrection, anticipating the Parousia, the Second Coming («the mystical, non-conceptual evidence of His presence»). Father D. Stăniloae pointed out in his scholia that according to Saint Maximus the contempla-tion of Christ in the light («receiving His luminous divine coming»), reiterates the Incarnation – Transfiguration – Resurrection within us (Capita theologica et oeco-nomica II, 29). Christ transforms ascetics «from body into spirit, by means of virtues, that is, beginning the process of their deification, from this earthly life». The “coming” is simultaneous with the “presence” of Christ within us. Again, mystical theology is intrinsically linked and intertwined to sacramental theology, for Christ dwells in man’s heart since the Baptism (Christ is within us, but hidden). There are thus two dimensions of viso Dei in relation to the «measure of the fullness of Christ»: 1) an immanent / transcendent dynamics of Christophanic revelation, and 2) a shift in the manifestation of Christ’s presence from potentiality (δύναμις) to action, or working (ἐνέργεια).
We note that Christophany has a threefold character (Taboric-related to divi-ne economy – interiorized-related to soteriology – eshatological-related to the Parou-sia), and also presupposes a mystical realism (the deification of human body through the grace pervading it), and cannot be reduced to a mere intellectual mysticism con-cerning the sight of God. Christ’s dwelling in us presupposes the “imprint” of His τύποι – structures, or forms that reveal Him. A luminous sight of the “prototype” is also tantamount to a achieving in oneself the “original beauty”. The present paper dwells mainly on two aspects: image (the aesthetic one) and deification (the apopha-tic one). Man becomes a luminous figure, contemplating God’s grace with unveiled face (2 Cor 3, 18). Through the Transfiguration of the Logos within us, the Lord reveals in the spirit, the form (μόρφωσιν) of His Kingdom (the light shining in the face of the visionary ascetics). The paradoxical truth is the following: Man is theo-pathic. And the Light of Christ’s Face, despite being uncreated and beyond compre-hension, can be perceived by human senses (κάθαρσις – φωτισμός – θέωσις). In the words of Father Stăniloae, in the face of Christ, God the Father sees all those who believe in Him; and in the face of every believer, He sees the image of Christ. Once we become Christ’s own, we contemplate God’s glory with unveiled faces, thro-ugh the transparency of Christ’s body.

Pagini: 83-122