%ce%b8%ce%ba%ce%b2_276aTheology and Culture: A Story of Attraction and Rejection

In Eastern Christianity, the relationship between theology and culture has always been problematic. From the very beginning of its existence, ‘the Wisdom of God’ was opposed to the ‘wisdom of this world’ (1 Cor. 1:20–1). Because of their polytheistic content, art, literature, philosophy, and all the cultural products of classical antiquity were carefully scrutinized in the first Christian centuries. The predominant opinion held by the Church Fathers was that philosophy and heathen literature should be approached with reservations. This is the case with the Cappadocian Fathers, for example, although among them, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus’ passion for Greek classical literature is well known. This reserved attitude culminated symbolically with the closing of the Platonic Academy of Athens by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It is true that in Justinian’s reign Byzantine civilization flourished as a Christianized society and culture. Art, architecture, music, and painting acquired new meanings and were welcomed in the Church.

During the confrontation between the Christian Church and polytheistic Greek culture, the basic question was whether the human mind was able to discover truth in the absence of divine revelation; in other words, whether cultural creations preceding the advent of Christ bore some elements of truth. Especially keen to offer an affirmative answer to this question were Christian writers who had been well trained in philosophy and literature, including Saint Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria, founders of catechetical schools on the model of the philosophy schools.

Justin Martyr’s theory about the logos spermatikos (σπερματικός λόγος) (1) is well known. According to him, ‘seeds of reason’ were diffused by the divine Logos among all men. (2) The best achievements of lawgivers and of philosophers were based on contemplation of some parts of the Logos. By this contemplation, Socrates himself drew near the Christian mystery and met the same accusations as the Christians: that he introduced new divinities and ignored those officially recognized. (3) Plato, the Stoics, poets, and historians also had some true intuitions in accordance with their participation in the spermatic word. (4 )Greeks or non-Greeks, all those who lived according to the Word were somehow Christians. (5) Thus the ‘seeds of truth’ are spread among all men. (6)

Saint Clement of Alexandria moves in the same direction as Saint Justin Martyr. For him, Greek culture and philosophy came from God; ‘a type of truths’ can be found there.(7) True philosophy is a synthesis of the best contributions to the righteousness, science, and piety of different philosophical systems: Stoic, Platonic, Epicurean, or Aristotelian. (8) His positive approach makes him consider that philosophy played the same role for the Greeks that the law played for the Jews. In Christian times, philosophy acts as a preparatio evangelica. (9)

The rigid position of Tertullian in the West: ‘What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church?’ (10) was never understood by theologians like Saints Justin and Clement, or Origen. However, during medieval Byzantine Christianity, under monastic influences, the positive consideration of philosophy began to diminish, because ‘philosophy does not save’.(11) Nevertheless, the fascination for Classical Greek culture and philosophy has been always present, because it was part of an ancient heritage.

A Contemporary Dialogue in the Work of Chrysostomos Stamoulis (12)

In Greece, taking theology to the street is not something unusual. From ordinary people approaching you to talk about the errors of ecumenical dialogue at a protest meeting to journalists delivering dissertations on TV about the authenticity of the Holy Fire from Jerusalem in the Easter period, one way or another, everybody is doing theology. This situation is highly reminiscent of fourth-century Constantinople, when, according to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, everybody in the public space was arguing about Trinitarian issues. (13) As a matter of fact, in Greece nowadays, as in former times, the borders that separate the Church from the rest of society are not particularly rigid. Despite this, secularization strikes more forcefully than in other Orthodox countries and, in response, many conservative and traditionalist trends shape the profile of Hellenic life today. From Mount Athos, with some of its rigid theological positions, to the nostalgic people trying to revive the worship of the old gods of Mount Olympus, a variety of forces exist which look back to the religious or cultural past of Greece to define their identity.

Against this background, the dialogue with culture initiated by Professor Chrysostomos Stamoulis means participation in this common search for identity. For this reason, his positions are the result not only of research in libraries, but also meetings in the Greek agora: with students, ordinary people, poets, writers, actors, musicians, and interpreters. Thus, he receives back into his Republic the poets expelled by Plato and, with them, all the artists. Stamoulis has the speculative mind of a Byzantine, the sensibility of an artist, and the warmth of a Mediterranean. Like the theology of the Fathers, his theology is a living theology, born of necessity. It is not mere abstract thinking, but the concrete meeting of a concrete man in a dialogue where the author is not omniscient, but open to disclosure, especially the disclosure of the other and otherness. It starts from things that have caused the author pain and therefore constitutes ‘theology in a mirror’, that is, exposing those things and the distorted reality around them.

To my knowledge, he is the only Orthodox theologian in Greece and Romania, who teaches dogmatics and carries on a dialogue with culture to such an extent. And this is quite surprising, bearing in mind that dogmas are the realm of fixed and definitive thinking and not the realm of free speculation. In his view, the truth of life, not being proclaimed officially as a dogma, does not have to be taken for granted, but is to be discovered in a dialogue within humankind. The answer to what is life, death, love, beauty, holiness—his favourite topics—requires a common search for truth. Without acknowledging it directly, this concern for ‘truth’ places him, once again, close to Plato. Interesting enough, he never enters into dialogue with ancient philosophy. Maybe it is a response to a theology that looks back in wonder, but not forward. And it is his conviction that dogmatic theologians should pass from doing the ‘history of dogmas’ to a more creative and cultural way of doing theology. Instead of the famous dictum ‘Back to the Fathers’, he proposes: ‘Straight ahead with the (Church) Fathers’. Otherwise, Orthodox Theology runs the risk of repeating the story of Lot’s wife, who froze with her face turned forever backward, to the past.

As such, he started doing theology in another way; we will take three books out of the body of his work to examine this direction: Kallos to agion (The Beauty of the Saints, 2004), H ginaika tou Lot kai i sygchroni theologia (Lot’s Wife and Contemporary Theology, 2008) and Eros kai Thanatos (Eros and Death, 2009). A systematization of his dialogue with culture offers us the main features of this theology: it is, of course, mainly a theology of dialogue, of otherness, a parabolic or iconic theology, a peripatetic theology (a theology of the way), and an aesthetic theology (of small things). Let us analyse these aspects one by one.

A Theology of Dialogue

It is the author’s conviction that—except for the Christological dogmas proclaimed officially at the ecumenical councils of the Church—in the realm of anthropology there is not a final, given truth. Poetry, music, philosophy, science are all fields that are trying to give meaning to the world. And because this world is a common one, it is not possible to find its deep meaning in various aspects without a dialogue between different perspectives. (14) In fact, Stamoulis defines civilization through the words of Karl Popper as an attempt ‘to understand the world in which we live, including ourselves and our own knowledge, as part of that world’.(15) From his point of view, members of the global community are in the same encampment and they have to keep alive the dialogue between them, despite their disagreements. (16)

The Orthodox theologian is not afraid to be part of this dialogue. Except for the ‘soft’ conversation with poetry and more broadly with literature, Stamoulis accepts the meeting and the sincere exchange of ideas with a ‘traditional’ enemy: atheistic philosophy, represented in his books by the French philosopher Michel Onfray. All voices must be heard, even those which are not very pleasant to our ears. They may tell us something which is true, even if it is hard to accept their criticism. For the Church, they are a chance to ‘get out from its existentialist speechlessness and its historical dead end’, as a result of its incapacity to change, due to a refusal to meet the different other. (17) The basis of such an attitude is the conviction that the ‘truth is a conquered reality’ and this certainty leads to authoritarianism. (18) For the Greek professor, however, ‘theology is the consequence of life and not the result of a static and magical approach to reality’.(19) And because it is the result of life (patristic theology was created during living debates over problems of faith) it must be open to life and dialogue.

Stamoulis is greatly inspired by the Belgian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine with his principle of ‘the end of certitude’. This principle is transformed into a theological principle, with Stamoulis almost defining holiness as ‘the end of certitude’. Of course, the Greek author does not argue for an end to every certitude (for example, of the Christological ones), but only to preconceptions and prejudgments. According to him, reality is not black or white, but implies subtle nuances that require a much more trained eye to distinguish them. And, of course, it is always necessary to adopt the other’s perspective in order to see the fullness of reality, the ‘glory of the real’. In a sort of ecstatic process, the nutshell of our ego must be broken and our certitudes challenged in order to prove their truth.

In any case, between false certitudes and incertitude, Stamoulis prefers incertitude. In an inversion of the classical Orthodox interpretation, Thomas the Apostle’s doubt and desire to touch the resurrected Jesus with his fingers are justified and are preferred to blind faith. Maybe Thomas was right, in the end. He wanted to touch the truth with his fingers and thus to be released from idols and their false spirituality. (20) A blind belief in idols and their false spirituality would actually have been a denial of the Incarnation. In order to be authentic, one must be open to surprise, to wonder. This is the lesson of Dostoyevsky’s character, Prince Myshkin (The Idiot) for whom being open to surprise is similar to a tightrope walk, to a permanent ascetical catharsis (21) and assumption of risk. Only then may a human being continue to dream and hope. The creation of a ‘background that will keep the dream alive and hope open’ (22) necessitates ‘a permanent journey into surprise’, where ‘the given God’ is not taken for granted, or, furthermore, where ‘the given theology’ is not taken for granted… (23) The Incarnation itself is a ‘voluntary issue out of the “existential security and certitude” of the Trinitarian communion, of a communion of love towards the doubtful and the probable of the expected relationship…’ (24)

A Theology of Otherness

‘The Incarnation is an Emigration of Love’.(25) The divine Love itself embarks on a long journey in order to meet the other, the beloved one. In Eros and Death, there are many meditations around the event of Incarnation as assumption of the other, of the stranger, of the completely different one. This Love of the kenotic Word is the model for Christian love which must have a kenotic character. A strange amnesia often makes us forget that the kenotic Word exhausted himself in deeds not in words. More than the European concept of tolerance for the other, love for the other is a natural Christological consequence.

Professor Stamoulis’ description of Christ as a stranger is both impressive and motivational:

He was a stranger for His estranged kin, who hated and killed Him as if He were a stranger. A stranger for His own disciples, who denied, questioned and challenged His strange truth in a continuous journey to Emmaus. A stranger for His own mother, whose certainty of maternal intimacy the sword harmed and created breaks in the conviction of the complex offered revelation. A stranger for the whole of creation, His own creation, of which He healed the breaks and the imperfections. A stranger for life, but a stranger as well for death which He astonished and conquered once and forever. (26)

This image is not merely a matter of theological speculation. Quoting a liturgical text sung on the Vespers of Great Friday, the author offers another powerful image of Christ as stranger:

Come, let us bless Joseph of eternal memory, Who came by night to Pilate And begged for the Life of all: “Give me this Stranger, Who from His youth has been received as a stranger in this world. Give me this Stranger, Who has no place to lay His head: Give me this Stranger Whom an evil disciple betrayed to death. Give me this Stranger, The refuge of the poor and weary. (27)

This is the forgotten lesson of Christmas: ‘The Logos becomes flesh… Love becomes flesh, it becomes a global body, hypostasis of all those without hypostasis, existence of all the non-existent, presence of all the absent, retreat of all the persecuted’. (28) Unfortunately—observes Stamoulis, we celebrate Christmas once a year, but for the rest of the time we lose its meaning. In fact, the Word seems to have been incarnated in words, not in actions and attitudes.

The same thing is true of Easter. Christ is the crucified Love: ‘ὁ ἐμὸς ἔρως ἐσταύρωται’ (‘My Love is crucified’). (29) The converting force of this crucified Love is sometimes ignored. In Eros and Death, a small section ‘about the stranger and wanderer’ is prefaced by a short poem by Tasos Livatidis, ‘Nativity’. The poem conveys, in a very simple form, the power of the Cross to convert. In a few lines it describes the emotions experienced by two men in front of a small wooden cross. The first, a poet, knocks on his neighbour’s door and enters the room. His neighbour shows him a small wooden cross hanging above a bedside table: ‘You see, mercifulness has been born.’ And he starts crying. The poet bends his head and also starts to cry because he knows that ‘centuries will pass away and there will be nothing more beautiful than this to say’. (30)

The section closes with a short story told by the last saint canonized by the Orthodox Church, Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia. An abbot asks God to give him a sign as to whether his disciples are prepared for the Kingdom of Heaven. One day, they have to take part in a vigil in another part of the desert. So the abbot sends his disciples ahead and he follows. During their journey, they meet a deeply wounded person who asks for help. Because they were in a hurry for fear that they would be late at the vigil, they ignore him. Following in their steps, arrives the abbot. He helps the wounded person who finally reveals himself to be the angel of God, sent to announce to him that his disciples are not yet ready for the Kingdom of Heaven. (31) The message of the story is simple: the love and acceptance of otherness must be more important that observing religious regulations. In Chrysostomos’ opinion ‘the other is completely absent in Greece’; (32) his strong emphasis on otherness is not just ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness’ (Mk 1:3), but is again the result of pain caused by such neglect of the other.

A Parabolic or Iconic Theology

We already noticed above the use of the parable as a metaphor for telling the story of theology. Almost all products of culture can become icons, images of the truth: films, novels, or plays. Chrysostomos Stamoulis places the screenplay of the German film The Lives of Others (33) at the beginning of Eros and Death. The topic of the film is the gradual conversion of a Stasi officer, Gerd Wiesler, in East Germany in 1984, from being a spy to becoming a man with artistic sensibility. In the pages that follow, the film becomes the metaphor for particular religious faults or ‘heresies’: the incapacity to live life as it is and not through mere observation; the danger of an authoritarian Church which transforms living faith into an unquestionable doctrinal system; the fear of acting freely and responsibly and so on.

Starting with the Communist totalitarian system, the author points out the dangers of all totalitarian systems. All share a few common elements: they invest themselves with messianic features; they promise to offer prosperity under a single condition—the total submission of the people and the capitulation of their freedom; they promise to bring love and peace but they use coercion and violence; in the name of an abstract and future man, they destroy the concrete and actual man; official doctrines are inviolable and anybody who dares to doubt them is an enemy of the state. Besides, the spies themselves do not have a real life. They merely monitor the lives of others; they are living and not living at the same time.

All these elements lead Stamoulis to define the system as ‘organized hypocrisy’. (34) In his opinion, the Church as institution is tempted sometimes to follow the patterns of such a system. The only protection against such temptations is the permanent reference to Jesus Christ. As the Incarnate Love of the Father for humankind, He is the supreme Law of the Church. Beyond ethic regulations, dogmas and canons, He stands as the supreme criterion of all ecclesiastical life. The only real alienation and mortal sin are the denial of the hypostatic union and the breaking of communion with Christ. (35)

Man is the best mirror of his God. He should reflect in himself the plenitude of the Trinitarian life and love, as revealed in the person of Christ. In order to be authentic, the man of Orthodoxy should engage without fear in the transfiguration of the world. First of all, he has to assume concrete reality and not to reject it in the name of an idealized historical past. Again, this is the lesson of the Incarnation: the assumption of the concrete, of the immediate. Of course, it implies freedom and responsibility and thus the assumption of risk. Nothing is to be taken for granted, nothing is secured, but he has to accept the challenge. Within the framework of the system, with its absolutist structure which takes the shape of predestination, the man can be only its blind and faithful servant. (36) But God’s call for man is to creative freedom and responsibility. He refuses to play dice with man’s life, but refuses, too, to play chess using men as lifeless pawns. (37) Despite this, freedom is sometimes a nightmare for man. Because—and here Stamoulis again evokes Dostoyevsky—‘man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil’ (The Brothers Karamazov). (38)

Films, poems, stories—all are able to tell the story of theology. Theology can start anywhere; anything can be a starting point to do theology, even graffiti written on the city walls. Everywhere in culture and in proximate reality, Stamoulis discovers signs, symbols, and icons of the truth. The words applied to Oscar Wilde can just as well apply to him: anything that he touches, he transforms into gold. Under a single condition: the symbol and icon should reveal God, and not hide Him; otherwise, it becomes an idol, like the golden calf from Mount Sinai. The symbol must open itself to transcendent reality, not point to itself.

In this hermeneutic key, the Greek professor approaches the conflict between the passion for painting and the remembrance of death in the life of the famous starets Sophrony Sakharov. Sophrony was a disciple of the Athonite starets Saint Silouan. In his youth, searching for his spiritual direction, Sophrony gave up his great passion for painting and dedicated himself to the monastic life. There was a terrible inner struggle out of which the passion for painting was defeated. His gesture makes Stamoulis wonder whether Orthodoxy is in principle against beauty, against art or culture. The explanation offered in response to this dilemma stresses that Orthodoxy is not in principle against art, but against anything that may become an idol in our life. And Sophrony felt that painting was becoming an idol in his life, an idol that was interfering in his relationship with God. (39) Painting itself or the status of the artist are not something bad in themselves. On the contrary, as starets Sophrony asserts, ‘in order to be a Christian, one has to be an artist’. (40) Or to be a poet, as Saint Porphyrius puts it. (41)

A Peripatetic Theology (a Theology of the Way)

Stamoulis is undoubtedly an advocate of the spiritual journey of discovery. But—and here is his originality—he values not only the destination at the end of the journey, but the way itself. It is not just the goal that matters. Therefore, the Christians must focus not only on concern for the afterlife, but also on the present life, on the actual journey. In response to an excessive concern with the question of whether there is life after death, he answers with a graffiti text noticed on the walls of Thessaloniki: ‘is there life before death?’ (42) He intends to stress that, paradoxical or ironical as it may sound, many Christians are too focused on thoughts about the afterlife, failing to be attentive to their present life.

Again, Stamoulis draws attention to the paradigm of the contemporary starets Sophrony Sakharov. His life can be divided into three periods. The first is from his birth in Russia in 1896 to his enrolment at the Theological Institute Saint Serge in Paris in 1925.

The second period begins with his departure for Mount Athos in 1925 and ends in 1947 when he comes back to France because of health problems. The third period begins in 1959, with the moment of his departure to Essex, England, and ends with his death in 1993. (43) In a reversal of the ‘classical’ interpretation, the most important period for the Greek professor is the first one, before the starets’ conversion, a period of intense spiritual search. It was a time of inner struggle, not of spiritual certitudes. According to Stamoulis, by this time, Sophrony Sakharov was happy, even though he was only on the way. His later accomplishments were still in the future (his apprenticeship at Mount Athos and the foundation of a mixed monastery at Essex, England). The starets’ journey is compared with Christopher Columbus’ journey of discovery. For Dostoyevsky, Christopher Columbus’ happiness was at its height not when he discovered America, but when he was on the way to discover it. (44) The same may be said of the starets Sophrony.

An Aesthetic Theology (of Small Things)

‘The one who knows how to see finds beauty everywhere.’(45) These words of the Greek poet Nikos Gabriel Pentzikis form the basis of Stamoulis’ aesthetic theology. Directed against pessimistic tendencies to see around one only ugliness, enemies of faith, lack of beauty, lack of authentic piety, and of real Christian life, (46) he tries to discover everywhere the beautiful as a mark of supreme Beauty. From the smallest and apparently insignificant things to the most important and greatest, the Greek professor traces the imprint of Beauty. However, it is true that while for some people ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ (Ps. 18/19:1), for others they declare nothing. (47) To the second category belong those who are not able to read the presence of God in the Alphabet Book of creation. They are people without sensibility. (48)

Following Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, God is described as ‘Beautiful and as Beauty, as Love or Beloved, and by all other Divine titles which befit Its beautifying and gracious fairness.’(49) God is also the ‘Super-Essential Beautiful’ (50) and man is called to participate in Him. Ancestral sin finally consists in breaking communion with supreme Beauty. Using the original interpretation of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Stamoulis considers that the fall of man from Paradise did not happen because he offended divine justice, but because of his lack of wonder before the Creator. The tree of life had to function as the visible beauty of the invisible supreme Beauty and man was to keep communion with this Beauty through it. (51) But man was not able to wonder in front of his God, was not able to perceive His beauty and thus fell from this communion.

In order to recreate the broken unity, the divine Logos became a man. The famous words of Dostoyevsky, ‘beauty will save the world’, acquire in this context a Christological meaning. Christ as incarnated Beauty restored the beauty of humanity in Himself, opening it to the richness of Divinity. In turn, man, in order to be saved, has to be opened to wonder, to surprise. He has to have the innocence of a child and to see the beauty of creation and of Jesus’ Cross. He needs to have purified senses to feel everywhere the presence of God. But he also has to acquire new eyes and new sight, able to perceive the eschatological transfiguration of the world, to perceive from now on, from ‘the beginning’, ‘the end’, the ultimate goal of Creation. This idea is expressed through one of Stamoulis’ favourite lines: ‘In my beginning is my end… In my end is my beginning’ (T. S. Eliot, East Coker). (52)

There is nothing outside the love of God and therefore all space is filled with His presence. In a holistic approach, in the footsteps of the poet Nikos Gabriel Pentzikis, the Greek professor considers that the ‘space’ of the Church is limitless. He comments on a Greek novel about a young boy who, on the feast of Pentecost, instead of going to church, goes walking along the shore of the sea. While walking, he is filled with sorrow because he chose the sea and not the church. But at a certain moment he starts gathering the bones of sea animals from the shore. Suddenly, the beauty of dried white animal bones stirs in the young boy a hymn to the glory of God, in the name of all existing things and creatures. (53)

To be sure, Stamoulis shows a lot of sympathy for ‘the God of small things’, if I am permitted to use the expression of the Indian writer Arundhati Roy. Everything in nature deserves to be loved and everything can become a sign and a means of communion: the birds, the flowers, the forest, the animals, the stones. Whoever does not love creation, cannot love the Creator. In his aesthetic approach, the Greek professor wants to embrace everything between the earth and the sky. Nothing must be left outside, nothing must be thrown away. And from this certitude of God’s infinite presence springs Christian joy, so characteristic of Orthodox spirituality. Joy and a deep sense of happiness are man’s response to God’s loving presence. Actually, this joy expresses the transfigurative presence of grace in the soul of man that endows him with new sight and purified senses. Thus, man becomes open to wonder and perceives God’s beauties around him and throughout the universe.

Conclusion

The aesthetic theology of Professor Chrysostomos Stamoulis is a holistic one. For him, the distinction between the holy and the unholy, the sacred and the profane, is false. Music, poetry, theatre, film, the novel, philosophy, and science are not ‘secular’ endeavours, but attempts to give significance to the world and especially to its most critical questions about love, life, and death. The rejection of the distinction between holy and unholy applies equally to the distinction between the familiar and the strange. The stranger should be a part of my own life. He invites me to dialogue, he challenges me and he is the chance for an authentic self-knowledge. Christ is the supreme criterion for judging the ecclesiastical life. The members of the Church, in order to be authentic, must follow Christ’s paradigm. They must be open to the unfamiliar, to the wholly different one. But He is also the assumption of concrete man and reality. As a consequence, the Christian must embrace real life, as it is, without nostalgic flight towards an idealized historical past. Professing a living theology, Stamoulis urges us not to lose the beauty of the present by overloading it with the chimerical beauties of the past, or indeed of the future. His thinking is, in its way, a theological version of Carpe diem.

 

1 Apologia secunda, 13: PG 6: 465B.

2 ‘And those of the Stoic school—since, so far as their moral teaching went, they were admirable, as were also the poets in some particulars, on account of the seed of reason [the Logos] implanted in every race of men—were, we know, hated and put to death,—Heraclitus for instance, and, among those of our own time, Musonius and others… And it is nothing wonderful; if the devils are proved to cause those to be much worse hated who live not according to a part only of the word diffused [among men] but by the knowledge and contemplation of the whole Word, which is Christ’ (The Second Apology, VIII, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, edited by Philip Schaff, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 191).

3 ‘For whatever either lawgivers or philosophers uttered well, they elaborated by finding and contemplating some part of the Word. But since they did not know the whole of the Word, which is Christ, they often contradicted themselves. And those who by human birth were more ancient than Christ, when they attempted to consider and prove things by reason, were brought before the tribunals as impious persons and busybodies. And Socrates, who was more zealous in this direction than all of them, was accused of the very same crimes as ourselves. For they said that he was introducing new divinities, and did not consider those to be gods whom the state recognized’ (The Second Apology, X, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Philip Schaff (ed.), Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 191).

4 ‘I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word seeing what was related to it.’ (The Second Apology, XIII, in Schaff (ed.), Ante-Nicene Fathers, 192–3).

5 ‘We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others whose actions and names we now decline to recount, because we know it would be tedious’ (The First Apology, XLVI, in Schaff (ed.), Ante-Nicene Fathers, 178).

6 ‘And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men…’ (The First Apology, XLIV, in Schaff (ed.), Ante-Nicene Fathers, 177).

7 ‘The Greek preparatory culture, therefore, with philosophy itself, is shown to have come down from God to men, not with a definite direction, but in the way in which showers fall down on the good land, and on the dunghill, and on the houses. And similarly both the grass and the wheat sprout; and the figs and any other reckless trees grow on sepulchres. And things that grow, appear as a type of truths’ (The Miscellanies; or Stromata, VII, vol. I, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. IV, trans. William Wilson, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1867, 374).

8 ‘And philosophy—I do not mean the Stoic, or the Platonic, or the Epicurean, or the Aristotelian, but whatever has been well said by each of those sects, which teach righteousness along with a science pervaded by piety,—this eclectic whole I call philosophy’ (The Miscellanies; or Stromata, VII, vol. I, in AnteNicene Christian Library, vol. IV, 374–5).

9 ‘Accordingly, before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration’ (The Miscellanies; or Stromata, V, vol. I, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. IV, 366).

10 Tertullian, De Praescriptionibus adversus haereticos, PL II, VII, 20B.

11 Saint Gregory Palamas, The Triads (introduction by John Meyendorff, trans. by Nicholas Gendle, preface by Jaroslav Pelikan) (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1983), 25.

12 Chrysostomos Stamoulis (b. 1964) is a Greek professor, composer, writer, theologian, and musician. Renowned professor of Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology in the Faculty of Orthodox Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, he is the head of the Department of Theology. As well as Dogmatics, he teaches optional courses such as: The Aesthetic Philocaly of Orthodoxy; Theology and Cinematography and Contemporary Atheism; Science and Orthodox Theology. He studied at the universities of Thessaloniki, Belgrade, and Durham. He graduated also from the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki. From 1991, he has been the music director of the Church choir and youth orchestra ‘Saint John Chrysostom’ from Thessaloniki. His most important works are: The Mother of God and the Orthodox Dogma: A Study of Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s Teaching (Thessaloniki, 1996, reprinted 2003); About the Light: Personal or Natural Energies? A Contribution to the Contemporary Problematic About the Holy Trinity in the Orthodox Space (Thessaloniki, 1999, reprinted 2007); The Beauty of Holiness: Prolegomena to an Aesthetic Philocaly of Orthodoxy (Athens, 2004, reprinted 2005, 2008, 2010); Lot’s Wife and Contemporary Theology (Athens, 2008); Eros and Death: Essay for a Civilization of Incarnation (Athens, 2009); About the Stranger and Wanderer or the Incarnation as Emigration of Love. His works have been published in Romanian, French, English, German, Italian, Serbian and Russian. He has produced 5 CDs.

13 ‘The whole city is full of it, the squares, the market places, the cross-roads, the alleyways; old-clothes men, money changers, food sellers: they are all busy arguing. If you ask someone to give you change, he philosophizes about the Begotten and the Unbegotten; if you inquire about the price of a loaf, you are told by way of reply that the Father is greater and the Son inferior; if you ask “Is my bath ready?” the attendant answers that the Son was made out of nothing’ (De Deitate Filii et Spritus Sancti: PG 46: 557B).

14 Chrysostomos Stamoulis, Έρως και θάνατος. Δοκιμή για έναν πολιτισμό της σάρκωσης (Eros and Death. Essay for a Civilization of Incarnation) (Athens: Akritas Publishing House, 2009), 294; 310.

15 K. Popper, Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics (London: Hutchinson Publishing House, 1982), 1. See Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 83.

16 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 310.

17 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 278–9.

18 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 279.

19 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 181.

20 Chrysostomos Stamoulis, Lot’s Wife and Contemporary Theology (Athens: Indiktos Publishing House, 2008), 175.

21 Chrysostomos Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness. Prolegomena to an Aesthetic Philocaly of Orthodoxy (Athens: Akritas Publishing House, 2005), 326. See Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 340.

22 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 310.

23 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 310.

24 Th. Papathanasios, O Theos mou o allodapos. Keimena gia mian alitheia pou einai ‘tou dromou’ (Athens: Akritas Publishing House, 2004), 45. See Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 339.

25 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 334.

26 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 338.

27 Triodion, Vespers of Great and Holy Friday. See Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 344. The original ancient-Greek version of the text is as follows: ‘Τον ήλιον κρύψαντα τας ιδίας ακτίνας και το καταπέτασμα του ναού διαρραγέν τω του Σωτήρος θανάτω, ο Ιωσήφ θεασάμενος προσήλθε των Πιλάτω και καθικετεύει λέγων: Δος μοι τούτον τον ξένον, Τον εκ βρέφους ως ξένον ξενωθέντα εν κόσω. Δος μοι τούτον τον ξένον, ον ομόφυλοι, μισούντες θανατούσιν ως ξένον. Δος μοι τούτον τον ξένον, ον ξενίζομαι βλέπειν του θανάτου τον ξένον. Δος μοι τούτον τον ξένον, όστις οίδε ξενίζειν τους πτωχούς και τους ξένους. Δος μοι τούτον τον ξένον, Ον Εβραίοι τω φθόνω απεξένωσαν κόσμω. Δος μοι τούτον τον ξένον, ίνα κρύψω εν τάφω, ος ως ξένος ουκ έχει την κεφαλήν πού κλίνη’.

28 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 341.

29 Περί Θείων Ὀνομάτων, 4, 12: PG 3: 709Β. See St Ignace d’Antioche, Lettres 4, 7, trans. P.Th. Camelot, Sources Chrétiennes 10 (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1969), 116. See also Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 143; 338.

30 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 334.

31 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 346.

32 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 345.

33 Das Leben der Anderen, film-maker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006, won the Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Film’. See Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 13.

34 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 58.

35 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 130–2.

36 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 54.

37 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 312.

38 Stamoulis, Eros and Death, 58.

39 Stamoulis, Lot’s Wife and Contemporary Theology, 173–97, See Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 266–94.

40 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 285.

41 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 311.

42 Stamoulis, Lot’s Wife and Contemporary Theology, 198.

43 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 268–9.

44 ‘Oh, you may be perfectly sure that if Columbus was happy, it was not after he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it! You may be quite sure that he reached the culminating point of his happiness three days before he saw the New World with his actual eyes, when his mutinous sailors wanted to turn about, and return to Europe! What did the New World matter after all? Columbus had hardly seen it when he died, and in reality he was entirely ignorant of what he had discovered. The important thing is life—life and nothing else! What is any “discovery” whatever compared with the incessant, eternal discovery of life?’ (The Idiot); See Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 274.

45 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 264.

46 Stamoulis, Lot’s Wife and Contemporary Theology, 197.

47 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 231.

48 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 231.

49 On the Divine Names, 4. 7, trans. C.E. Rolt (London: SPCK/New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920), 95. See Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 138.

50 Divine Names, 4. 7 (Rolt, 95). Stamoulis, 146.

51 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 323.

52 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 41.

53 Stamoulis, The Beauty of Holiness, 249–50.

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