St Nikodemos and Anachronism

Any anachronistic hermeneutical approach to the Exomologetarion, and to St. Nikodemos more generally, does an injustice to the Saint and his theology. I have already said that the language of the Exomologetarion is repugnant to today’s believer; but it is all the more repugnant to one who moves on the fringes of the Church’s life and experience. In this work, the Saint operates within the soteriological framework of the Church, in the spirit of the Philokalia. It is inadmissible to compartmentalize his personality, which remains forever integrated, unified, and inseparable, in keeping with the Neptic tradition of Orthodoxy (the prayer of the heart).

One who is a Christian only intellectually, and does not cultivate asceticism, cannot understand the spirit of St. Nikodemos, since the Saint regards as legendary the defining characteristics of asceticism, which correspond to the experience of the monastic Saints (e. g., St, Gerasimos, et al.).

Protopresbyter George Metallinos, in the Introduction to Exomologetarion: A Manual of Confession by our Righteous and God-bearing Father Nikodemos the Hagiorite, translated by Fr George Dokos (Uncut Mountain Press, 2006), pp 53-54, 55-56.

This pair of quotations is reflective of the points I discussed previously in the post titled A Core of Belief: the fullest understanding of a work is only possible when one is approaching that work from within the same tradition that it gave rise to. In this case, the asceticism of St Nikodemos is the context in which the Exomologetarion is a coherent statement and one in which the only “non-repugnant” reading, if you will, might occur.

And what does it mean to be “a Christian only intellectually”? It is to be one who “does not cultivate asceticism”. Such a one would certainly find the ascetic penances recommended in the Exomologetarion to be too severe, if not impossible or repugnant. One could hardly do otherwise, if one found so little value in asceticism as not to practice it.

In any case, we find the striking appearance here again of anachronistic approach to a text, and also a negative evaluation of intellectual approaches to a work. The pattern is applicable generally.

2 Replies to “St Nikodemos and Anachronism”

    1. Yes, and this section of the introduction is exactly directed at Yannaras, as several footnotes to the Greek edition Orthodoxia kai Dyse indicate.

      That’s why I found it precisely applicable in the broader intent of my earlier which is specifically directed against the intellectualizing of works of faith. It’s a perfect example. Orthodoxy is now in a direct line of descent from the Kollyvades, from another of those historical bottleneck periods which weeded out heresy. To use such strong words as “repugnant” (as Yannaras did) is a true indication that something else is taken as one’s basis for judgment. Perhaps Vatican II….

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