Theosis - The Aim of an Orthodox Life

An eight part Series conducted during Lent in 2024 by Fr. Deacon Charles Joiner

Session I - An Introduction.

A brief  summary

video

Slides

Handouts: Outline, References, 1 Corinthians (Spiritual Wisdom), Theosis Article, Biblical Passages

Book - Theosis: Purpose of Human Life by Archimandrite George, Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios

Session 2 - Life of Saint Symeon

   Brief summary

  Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-x_unflGgo

   Slides

Session 3 - Saint Symeon Teaching 1

Brief summary

Video:

Slides:

Handout with commandments:

Session 4 - On Conscious Awareness of Holy Spirit

Brief Summary

Video

Slides

Hymn 54

Session 5 - Participation in Holy Communion

Brief Summary

Video

Slides

Session 6 - On Prayer

Brief summary:

In this session, we delve into the teachings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, exploring how it is possible to experience God within the context of a busy secular life. Saint Symeon, despite being immersed in the affairs of the world as a layperson, encountered God in a profound and direct manner. This experience did not stem from extraordinary ascetic practices but emerged from his earnest yearning to know God, his humility in endeavoring to fulfill God's commands, and his dedication to prayer. Saint Symeon's life exemplifies how each of us can directly experience God.

This principle, deeply rooted in Orthodox Christianity since its early days, was robustly defended by Saint Gregory Palamas in the 14th century during his debates with Barlaam. A council vindicated Gregory's stance, acknowledging the paradox that while God is intrinsically unknowable, He is also accessible through His uncreated energies. This affirmation is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, immediately following the Sunday of Orthodoxy, reinforcing the truth of our Apostolic faith. Saint Symeon along with numerous other preceding him, living four centuries prior to Gregory, had illuminated this truth through his own encounters with the divine and recording theses experiences in subsequent hymns.

From a tender age, Saint Symeon was nurtured under the guidance of a spiritual mentor and was presented with a book by Saint Mark the Ascetic, which imparted three pivotal lessons:
Guard Your Conscience: To heal your soul, vigilantly protect your conscience so it remains pure.
Be Obedient to It: Act upon the virtuous impulses of your conscience without delay or weariness for your spiritual benefit.
Fulfill His Commandments: Seeking the gifts of the Holy Spirit without first adhering to God's commandments is akin to a bondman seeking emancipation at the moment of purchase.

Additionally, Saint Symeon was counseled to devoutly practice the Jesus Prayer each evening for thirty minutes. This discipline, initially challenging, gradually, led him to deepen his prayer life, culminating in the grace-filled experience of the Divine Light.

In essence, Saint Symeon's early teachings revolve around:

Guarding the conscience,
Obedience to it,
Observance of the Commandments,
Prayer.

These practices are attainable for everyone, even within the demands of an active life.

The session further elaborates on the Jesus Prayer, a spiritual exercise widely advocated by the Fathers of the Church: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Embracing this prayer requires humility, an acknowledgment of one's sinfulness, faith, and a genuine desire to encounter God. Starting this journey involves setting aside specific times for prayer, either in the morning or evening. Initially, distractions will arise, but with perseverance in focusing on the prayer's words, one's ability to concentrate enhances. Following Saint Symeon's example, we can gradually extend our prayer time.
Symeon also teaches us about tears and how they indicate our humility. These are not like emotional tears but come as we approach God in our prayer recognizing our insignificant and sinfulness desiring his help and love. He says once we receive this gift we not have sufficient humility to gain the benefit of our prayer or even our participation in the sacrmants. He warns thesis not something we can force but only comes as a gift from God.

Engaging Symeon’s approach sincerely, with a humble heart open to God's unconditional love and mercy, can lead to an encounter with God’s Divine Light through His uncreated energies. This encounter fosters an unwavering faith and a renewed zeal for spiritual purification, enabling us to fulfill His commandments more fully and preparing us for entry into His Kingdom. In this way we can experience Theosis, gain spiritual wisdom and a foretaste of the life to come.

Video

Slides

Session 7 - Experiences of Theosis

Brief Summary

Video

Slides

Handouts

Hymn 21

Hymn 25

Hymn 44