The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Coptic

September 20, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Coptic

The connection between the Egyptian Church and the Holy Spirit can be traced back all the way to the birth of Jesus in the beginning of the Gospel narrative. Following the early ecclesiastical history, the development of the church continues with the desert fathers, among who Anthony of Egypt is a prime example.

In this context, the Coptics focus on anointing with oil, laying on of hands, and even laying on of the Bible or other holy objects on the sick person as a healing method. Because of their teaching about the connection between demons and deceases, exorcism is practiced along with healing.[1]

This is consistent with the writings of one of their prime writers by the name of Shenoute of Atripe (4th-5th century), who believed that the Holy Spirit is a life-giving force needed in order to obtain victory in both the spiritual and material worlds.[2] Impacted by the problems of the monastic life, his theology further reflected on the Spirit as “a consistent vigilance.” [3]

The Spirit is also the one who maintains the walls of the individual’s heart. In this sense, the spirit is the agent of continuous victory in the life of the Christian. Shenoute’s teaching of momentarily and continuous victory is similar to what we consider today as sanctification of the believer. This is further revealed in his belief of the fruits of the Spirit being manifested as a result of the believer’s victory over evil.[4] This element of Shenoute’s credo integrates a continuation with the previously discussed positions on the fruit of the Spirit by Maximus the Confessor and Gregory Narek.

Even wider range of mystical experiences in the context of the Coptic Church is provided by Pseudo-Macareus (4th c.). In his view, the Spirit is the one who nourishes the Church, and as such He is also the source and the provider of the pneumatic experiences.[5] Similar to John Cassian, he describes the Spirit in the means of light and “inflammation.”[6] In his description of the pneumatic experience as ”intoxication,” Pseudo-Macareus is consistent with the previously discussed example of Isaac of Nineveh.[7] Analogically to Symeon the New Theologian, Pseudo-Macareus claims that the above experience is strictly personal.[8] And along with John Cassian, Maximus the Confessor, Seraphim Sarov, Narsai and many others he holds “that a true communion with God is possible only as an individual takes time to enter a quite place for solitary prayer.”[9]

[1] Otto F. A. Meinardus, Christian Egypt: Faith and Life (Cairo: American University Press, 1970), 224.

[2] Johannes Leipoldt and W. E. Crum, eds., Sinuthii archimandritae vita et opera omnia, CSCO 73 Coptic 5 (Paris: e Typographeo reibulicae, 1913; reprint Louvain, imprimerie orientaliste L. Durbecq, 1954), 12-.31-32.

[3] Dimitri Cozby, “Abba Shenute of Atripe: First Homily on the Patriarchs,” in Dwight W. Young, ed., Studies Presented to Hans Jacob Polotsky (Bacon Hill: Pirtle and Polson, 1981), 17-20.

[4] Leipoldt and Crum, 81.2-21.

[5]Granville Penn, Institutes of Christian Perfection (London: John Murray, 1816), 5.12.

[6] Ibid., 5.4.

[7] Inst., 66.

[8] Burgess, 148.

[9] Ibid.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Ethiopian

September 5, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Ethiopian

The Ethiopian Church is not a significance source of information in our study, because the Holy Spirit is not a prime issue there until the fourteenth century.[1] Surprisingly, gifts and fruits of the Spirit are not mentioned. For the Ethiopians, the Holy Spirit the one who teaches us the nature and unity of the Godhead.[2] Similar to the teaching of Hazzaya, the Spirit is the Perfector of the creation.[3] Like the Father and the Son, He blesses the believers and speaks to the church.

The experience of the Spirit for the Ethiopic saints is a vision of the Trinity. In one occasion of such a vision, a man received the elements of the Eucharist from the Trinity.  In a similar pattern, nine of the fourteen anaphorae of the Ethiopic church refer to the Holy Spirit changing of the Eucharistic elements into the Body and the Blood of Christ.[4]

[1] Getatchwe Haile, “Religious Controversies and the Growth of Ethiopic Literature in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries,” Oriens Christianus 65 (1981): 102-36.

[2] G. W. B. Huntingford, “Saints of Medieval Ethiopia,” Abba Salama 10 (1979): 287-89.

[3] Mingana, 148.

[4] O. H. I. Hadji-Burmester, “A Comparative Study of the Form of the Words of Institution and the Epiclesis in the Anaphorae of the Ethiopic Church,” Eastern Churches Quarterly 13:1 (Spring 1959): 41.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Armenian

August 15, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Armenian

The Armenian Church claims to be found by St. Bartholomew in the midst of the first century.[1] The Armenian faith practices focused on preservation of the apostolic doctrines and habits. In this act it links its story with history and remains not only a discoverer, but also a preserver and a carrier of the past Christian tradition.[2]

Remarkable remains the role of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy of the Armenian tradition. A prime example is the number of congregational songs dedicated to the Holy Spirit, in which the Spirit: (1) descended from heaven upon the apostles, (2) filled them all, (3) arming them with “fire by miracle,” (4) giving them “diverse tongues,” (5) and “manifold gifts.”[3] Because of the hardship in its long history, the Armenian Church has developed an extraordinary pneumatic heritage.

An Armenian apostle, patron and national saint by the name of Gregory the Illuminator (ca. 240-325), led the restoration of the Armenian Church. His studies were focused on the theology of the Holy Spirit and catechism shows examples of deep and concentrated pneumatic research.

For example, he includes a study of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the former, He is present in the band of the prophets, as a sign of their office.[4] In the later, He is present in the baptism of Christ signifying His purity and sinlessness.[5]

In this context, Gregory the Illuminator describes the Spirit is described as a furnace, which burns sin away.[6] Fire is the sanctifying agent of the Spirit.[7] Only after the twelve were led through the fire experience, they received divine knowledge and supernatural interpretation of the Old Testament prophesies, in order to reveal the mysteries of the Word.[8]

Similar view in this tradition holds Gregory Narek (ca. 950-ca. 1010), who claims that the Spirit pardons our sins, and thus gives birth of the Church.[9] He further states that the Spirit equips the Church with both spiritual gifts and fruits, which coexist only in the ecclesiastical environment.[10] Interesting in this context is his description of “intoxicating joy” through which he comes close to a number of experiences from different cultural and ethnical settings among which the already discussed Seraphim Sarov and Narsai.[11]

[1] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 1.13 in NPF 2nd Series, 1:100-2.

[2] Burgess, 113.

[3] Ibid., 115-16.

[4] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 502., in Robert W. Thomson, ed., The Teachings of St. Gregory: An Early Armenian Catechism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970)., 116.

[5] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 418, 420; Thomson, Teaching, 91.

[6] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 682; Thomson, Teaching, 170.

[7] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 676; Thomson, Teaching, 168.

[8] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 661-63, 672; Thomson, Teaching, 164-65, 167.

[9] Robert W. Thompson, “Gregory of Narek’s Commentary on the Song of Songs,” Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., 43:2 (October 1983): 453-96, 6.8, 7.13, 8.5; Thompson 484, 490-92.

[10] Mischa Kudian, Lamentations of Nerek: Mystic Soliloquies with God (London: Mashtots Press, 1977), 3.1, 15.1.

[11] Thompson, “Song of Songs,” 4.10.