Motto: “The world is a mute discourse, absurd to a certain extent, whose utter sense man cannot discern unless recognizing it as word but also as logos: true reason and sense of all things” (Olivier Clément)
The issue of understanding man as a wonder of this universe has always preoccupied the wise men of this world since the oldest times till today. To get into the most profound aspects of getting to know this phenomenon – man – the rational knowledge is not enough, we need revelation, closeness to the One who created man. The book of Genesis says that “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Thus the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2, 7) and “so God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Gen. 1, 27) [The Bible (Biblia sau Sfânta Scriptură), Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest, 1997, p. 12]. The likeness of man with God is a doubtless thing. God as a Logos, supreme hypostasis of the created universe, triggers with Himself all the creatures to be like Him. Man was given this gift, to become, together with his Creator, logos like his God.
The Greek term logos has, according to the dictionary, more many meanings which can help us in our approach to fathom the meaning of man-logos. For the philosopher Plato, logos meant “God as a source of ideas” [ Lazăr Şăineanu, Universal Dictionary of the Romanian language (Dicţionar universal al limbii române), Litera Publishing House, Kishinev, 1998, p. 473.], Neo-Platonists considered this as one of the hypostasis of divinity, the philosophers placed this meaning towards the reason that governs the world, the cosmic order. The Stoics saw in logos the man’s destiny and the Christians fathomed the term as a “second person of the Holy Trinity” [Ibidem.]or the word of God.
We can identify here at least five important meanings of the term which can help us see in the icon of man his hypostasis of logos image and likeness with the Logos.
Plato fathomed logos as the absolute Being and God as a source of ideas. Such a perception of the concept is not far from that of the Christians, because the rationality saw in the logos the absolute knowledge, which cannot belong to the common man, but to that man to whom the omniscient God reveals. The fact that this divine feature becomes the logos as an equivalent of the absolute knowledge gives the right to the Neo-Platonists to identify in the hypostasis of logos one of the hypostases or features of divinity, i.e. that reason that governs the cosmic order and the men’s world. In other words, the philosophers considered that the knowledge of this God-Logos was not different from the knowledge similar to the science, the human rationality, to which only the wise men have access.
Nevertheless “God Himself cannot constitute the subject of any science because theology does not seek God as man seeks an object, but gets himself seized by Him, as if somebody was embraced by a person.” [Marius Telea, Anthropology Holy Fathers Cappadocian (Antropologia Sfinţilor Părinţi Capadocieni), Emia Publishing House, Deva, 2005, p. 73]Thus, the logos becomes for the Christians word of God, a word revealed and lived, and the hypostasis of man-logos becomes man-God, called to deify himself through the divine call of his creation, called to become Theo-logos.
The fact that another meaning of logos is also “a second person of the Trinity” [Lazăr Şăineanu, op.cit.]proves that the Christians have always understood divinity as a Trinitarian image with different hypostases but with personal identity. Logos means either omniscient God or Son – word (the logos) of God. It is well known that in the 4th century, the Cappadocian Fathers were accused of tritheism, this meaning that they were believed to propagate a religion with three gods. Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote an apologetic treatise on this issue to demonstrate that the Holy Trinity represents only one God in three hypostases. Furthermore, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus declared categorically that “the Son is not the Father, because the Father is the One, but He is what the Father is, neither the Holy Spirit is the Son because He is from God, because the Only-Begotten is only one; but He (the Spirit) is what the Son is.” [Saint Gregory of Naziansus, Oration 31.9, vol. The five theological discourses of our father Gregory of Nazianzus (Cele cinci cuvântări teologice ale celui între Sfinţi Părintelui nostru Grigorie de Nazianz), Anastasia Publishing House, Bucharest, 1993, p. 99]
Saint Gregory of Nyssa was named “the head that thinks”, saint Basil the Great “the arm that works” and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus “the mouth that speaks” [ Ioan G. Coman, Patrology (Patrologie), Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest,1956, p. 168], these three titles present theological attributes of these three saints and the strong relationship between them. The Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus represent three great pillars of the Orthodoxy, models that have preserved till today and in whose teaching we can outline a few fundamental ideas. The writings of a theological structure are anchored on two great nuclei: God and man, parts not treated separately, although there are aspects that treat only the Persons of the Holy Trinity, for example, but harmoniously interlaced, man being the living creature called to divinity.
Basil the Great inherited the art of word, understood as logos of rhetoric, from his father Basil, but from his mother he borrows the sensitivity and the strong religious feeling. Belonging to a large family, from which three sons became bishops (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sevasta), Basil the Great achieved his studies in Caesarea of Cappadocia, Constantinople and Athens. In Greece he befriended Gregory of Nazianzus. He was baptized pretty late, around the age of 27 and immediately afterwards he secluded himself in Egypt, Syria, Palestina, Mesopotamia. After a long pilgrimage, he chose the bank of the Iris River and built a monastery to live in. This long way and the monachal experience he acquired determined him to write the principles of organization of the monachal life, divided in Great Rules and Small Rules. These rules constituted later the basis of the Eastern monachism. They represented a real source of inspiration for the establishments and writings of Saint John of Cassia. His monachal vocation interweaved with the priesthood (received in 364 with the help of bishop Eusebius) and with his love for his fellow men. During the famine in 368, Saint Basil the Great shared his inherited wealth for a second time, erecting host houses, asylums and schools for poor people.”His social, pastoral or dogmatic activity hardly can find equal in the whole patristic and postpatristic history. He erected: asylums, host houses, hospitals, orphanages, technical schools and other similar establishments. All these are known under the name of Basiliada” [Constantin Voicu, Nicu Dumitraşcu, Patrology (Patrologie), cap. XII. Cappadocian writers, Sfânul Basil – the life (Scriitori capadocieni, Sfânul Vasile cel Mare – viaţa), Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, p. 155].
The contemporary reader, either a theologue or not, enhances his culture and the experience of knowing God with the vast teaching of his great ascetic. His writings are very important because they include a large area of preoccupations: dogmatic writings, ascetical writings, pedagogical writings, liturgical works, homilies, orations, epistles. To the competent reader these writings propose an image of the process of crystallization of the 4th century Christian teaching. We owe to Saint Basil the Great the Divine Liturgy which is committed only ten times a year.
His outlook about God as Logos is found in most of his works. For example, in Against Eunomius, Saint Basil condemned the gnoseological error of the leader of Anomeans. These considered that the Son was different form the Father, the Father was in His nature unbegotten and the foundation of the Father’s Person was in His unbirth. In this sense, the Son could not participate to the Father’s nature. The Cappadocian writer combated this conception and stated the Son’s essential identity with that of His Father. In this work, and also in About the Holy Spirit, Saint Basil the Great explained the divinity of the Holy Spirit and the equality of the three Persons.
After hundreds of years, the contemporary theologus Olivier Clément wrote in the Foreword of Dumitru Staniloaie’s book Jesus’s prayer and the Holy Spirit’s experience an idea which synthesizes the entire theological conception about the Son as Logos, found also in Saint Basil’s work: “the kenoza of the crucified Logos transfigures ontologically the humanity called now to become what it is sacramentally in Christ, to involve in the immense sacrificing movement through which Christ destroys any hope and integrates the universe in God.” [Olivier Clément, Foreword of Dumitru Staniloaie’s book Jesus’s prayer and the Holy Spirit’s experience (Prefaţa la Rugăciunea lui Iisus şi experienţa Duhului Sfânt, Dumitru Stăniloae), Deisis Publishing House, Sibiu, 2003, p. 20] In this sense, the Logos becomes a model for man, man is called to deify, to resemble the Logos-God, through sacrifice, through “self-emptiness”. About this divinity Saint Basil the Great talks too, man becoming in this way the centre of the created universe. Olivier Clément adds that: “any man remains a person infinitely noble, created after the image of God, but the universe, even seized by death, constitutes a mysterious language whose sense is man’s vocation to decipher. The Logoi (the reasons) of things irradiates from the divine Logos, and this divine subject of the universe reflects in the human subject whose rationality is able to understand these reasons of creatures. The Embodiment and Resurrection of the Logos in everything what is created magnetizes the cosmic becoming and the human history. Since now on, mankind can find in Christ a new dynamism, the divine energies awaking the corresponding energies in the man created in the image of God and the virtues are divine-human” [Ibidem. p. 21-22].
The other works of the Saint Basil the Great, the Moral Teachings, Nine homilies to Hexaemeron and also about 366 epistles (with a diverse content: moral, dogmatic, monachal, occasional) represent an authentic source of orthodox teaching, a true reference mark not only for monks but also for laymen. The Cappadocian Logos or the Cappadocian oration of Saint Basil achieves anthropological valences, man becoming a centre of his theological thinking. For the man of nowadays, with a secularized profile, the ideas found in his writing are a source of new light and revelation. Besides the accuracy of expression and ability of biblical and rational argumentation, we have to notice “his rich philosophical culture (respectively, the mastership of theories about the world genesis) which he used to serve the Christian teaching. They represent genuine pearls of homiletic literature of the 4th century which generated feelings of admiration in his contemporaries” [Constantin Voicu, Nicu Dumitraşcu, Op.cit. p. 158-159].
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Basil’s younger brother, continued and completed the work begun by “his father and teacher” [Ibidem. p. 166]as he called him. Having an inconstant temper and having known the experience of family life, together with his wife Theosevia, who died still young, Saint Gregory of Nyssa joined Christ’s army living his life in the monastery erected by his brother on the bank of the Iris River where he stayed till 371 when he was chosen bishop of Nyssa. Much later, in 381, he took part in the second ecumenical synod at Constantinople summoned with the purpose of the Church to pronounce officially a statement against the ideas promoted by the Pneumatomachi who contested the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He showed a determined attitude and because of this he was called the pillar of Orthodoxy.
In the work of this great ascetic (as also in Saint Basil’s work) the nucleus is represented by man, the man called to divinity, to likeness to the Logos. Here Saint Gregory of Nyssa went beyond the theological speculations that can be found in the work of his brother or in that of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. Nevertheless, we can find in his work an erroneous doctrinaire aspect, that of apocatastasis (an idea found in Origen too) through which they believed that at the end of the world all the creation, including Satan, would be purified through a purifying fire.
More than in the works of the other Cappadocian Fathers, man becomes a reference mark for the theological teaching. Thus, writings such as The Great Catechetical Word, Against Eunomius, About Man’s creation represent genuine pages of theology and in-depth knowledge. For Gregory of Nyssa, to know God is an apophatic knowledge which makes the connection between the contemplation of creation and its purification from sins. Also, as Saint Basil the Great did, he saw in Christ the Logos Person of divinity, true God and true Man, and in man the creation called to holiness, through likeness in the Image. Starting from this conception, the whole theology of this saint is built up around the ideas of an anthropological foundation: the double creation of man: Image of God and concrete-historical man, outlining the aspect that there is not a double creation, but a double fusion and constitution.
Also as Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nyssa is a great theo-logos, a master of the word of God, a state which he inherited and achieved at the same time and to which the entire humanity is called. What is different in Gregory of Nyssa from his brother is the strength of contemplation and of its correlation with the rich philosophical culture: “profoundly philosophical and scholarly spirit, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, besides the cultivation of the work of the lucid logical systematization, he goes on the channels of contemplation. Nevertheless after Origen and till Saint John of Damascus, he remains the greatest logician and systematiser of theology, being one of the main representatives of the scholastic method in patristics (…) Nevertheless he was not validated as avower of the ecumenical faith as Saint Basil the Great or Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, he was not included in the few but exquisite lines of the great ecumenical fathers/teachers” [Constantin Voicu, Patristic studies (Studii de patristică Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest, 2004, pag. 152].
The third Cappadocian father, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, was born in Arianz (near Nazianzus), in the south-west of Cappadocia and while attending the rhetoric school in Caesarea of Cappadocia he met Saint Basil the Great with whom he struck up a life-long friendship. The fact that he studied rhetoric, philosophy, grammar, medicine, ethics, astronomy and geometry shows a thirst of knowledge in the person of this saint. The accent in drawn on theo-logos and in this sense, together with Saint Basil the Great, he laid the foundations of Philokalia and of “monachal rules which made Saint Basil the Great famous” [Constantin Voicu, Nicu Dumitraşcu, Op.cit. p. 179]. Not accidentally, the delivery of the famous Theological Orations in Anastacia Church would bring him, in time, the name of Gregory the Theologue.
The tumultuous life, the controversies with the bishops and the episcopal successions of the time did not hinder him from staying still and when necessary to withdraw from the episcopal chair. His word, the logos of the father of Nazianzus, remains full of genuine theology, man being invited to the authentic contemplation of God: “the five speeches (…) are called ordinarily Theological Orations. This is not because they are a complete exposition of the Christian teaching, or of theology in its actual meaning of the word, but because they deal with God Himself, in His unity and trinity. This is the meaning of the word theology in those times. These five speeches contributed especially to give their author the name of Gregory the Theologue” [Dumitru Stăniloae, Foreword of The five theological discourses of our father Gregory of Nazianzus (în Prefaţa la Cele cinci cuvântări teologice ale celui între sfinţi Părintelui nostru Grigorie de Nazianz), Anastasia Publishing House, Bucharest 1993, p. 7].
The teachings of these three Cappadocian fathers achieve a few high valencies. One of the most rigorous is the fight of the Saint Fathers against the Eunomians, a heresy of the time through which they believed that the Son of God is created/ creation. Also, the theology of Eunomian spoke about the absolute knowledge of God, unlike the saint fathers who bring arguments for the limited human conditions. Man becomes, in this sense, a seeker of the primordial state, a seeker to whom God reveals. This is why man has to come back to the image which was ontologically given and to deify himself, to work to be like God.
Another important aspect that can be found in the works of the Cappadocian Fathers is that of ethical issues. The epoch they lived in was one of great falls, of important social modifications which favoured real victories of Christianism against the compromises and the immoralities of the time. Furthermore, we have to mention the fact that not only the writings of the fathers represent genuine sources of the moral life, but also their life, the delivered orations, the role of teachers through the word and deeds propagated, through the philanthropic acts they did. For the man of the second millennium, it remains the models of these acts and the writings which speak about the moral status and the preoccupations of the Cappadocian Fathers for the morality of the society they lived in. Saint Basil the great was, perhaps, the most preoccupied of this aspect, of the man called to divinity. The matter of morals can be found in his works, either in Moralia, or in Monachal Rules, but the subject is well developed also in Commentary to Psalms, in homilies on Hexaemeron and even in his writings with a dogmatic character: About the Holy Spirit, Against Eunomius.
The activity of the Saint Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus, defends the status and the quality of man. For these theologues man is called towards the Logos, becoming “unique speaking word” as Dumitru Staniloae said [Sandu Frunză, A mystical anthropology (O antropologie mistică), Omniscop Publishing House, Craiova, 1996, p. 43]. Man achieves this status because he can identify himself with the Logos (Word), with reason, becoming in this way a creature in the image of God. Sandu Frunza in one of his works states an extraordinary argument to express man’s status as a Logos, starting from Saint Fathers’ experience and experiencing Dumitru Staniloae’s works: “the word is connected to the person. This is why, concerning the word, there can be similitudes with the morphology of the person. There is a unity of words in language, a unity of being of the hypostased words in which a certain intentionality of communication, that of person, germinates. Thus, any word is not only a manifestation of the meaning but also a manifestation of the person who utters it” [Ibidem., p. 43-44].
This is why the Saint Cappadocian Fathers valued the importance of placing on paper the genuine Orthodox teachings, the purpose being that of defending the Truth through the word which is God glorified in Trinity. The man to whom the Saint Fathers addressed, then and now, represents the man called to be like the Word because God or “the creating Word is reflected in man. And even if the creating force of word is lost, there still remains the changing strength of the human word; henceforth, the great responsibility of man for his own words. As the uttered word can either ruin or kill, as well it can build or improve. In this way, man is given the gift to use the word in his constructive relationships with his fellows, because to be a unique speaker means to be a person for the others. The assumption of this quality makes people become hypostatic words of a being” [Idem.].
■ The Bible (Biblia sau Sfânta Scriptură), Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest, 1997 ■ * collective work, Saint Basil the Great – Worship at 1600 years after his death (Sfântul Vasile cel Mare – închinare la 1600 de ani de la săvârşirea sa), Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest, 1980 ■ Constantin Voicu, Patristic studies (Studii de patristică Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest, 2004 ■ Constantin Voicu, Nicu Dumitraşcu, Patrology (Patrologie), Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006 ■ Dumitru Staniloaie, Jesus’s prayer and the Holy Spirit’s experience (Rugăciunea lui Iisus şi experienţa Duhului Sfânt), Deisis Publishing House, Sibiu, 2003 ■ Ioan G. Coman, Patrology (Patrologie), Bible and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church Publishing House, Bucharest,1956 ■ Lazăr Şăineanu, Universal Dictionary of the Romanian language (Dicţionar universal al limbii române), Litera Publishing House, Kishinev, 1998 ■ Marius Telea, Anthropology Holy Fathers Cappadocian (Antropologia Sfinţilor Părinţi Capadocieni), Emia Publishing House, Deva, 2005 ■ Sandu Frunză, A mystical anthropology (O antropologie mistică), Omniscop Publishing House, Craiova, 1996 ■ Saint Gregory of Naziansus, The five theological discourses of our father Gregory of Nazianzus (Cele cinci cuvântări teologice ale celui între Sfinţi Părintelui nostru Grigorie de Nazianz), Anastasia Publishing House, Bucharest, 1993 ■ Saint Basil the Great, Against Eunomius (Împotriva lui Eunomie), Crigarux Publishing House, Piatra-Neamţ, 2007 ■ Saint Basil the Great, Saint Pahomie the Great, Saint John Cassian, Ordinances Monastic Life ( Rânduielile vieţii monahale), Sofia Publishing House, Bucharest, 2001