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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

THE translation here undertaken is, by kind permission, from the Revised Text (Cambridge, University Press, 1893) of Dr. Armitage Robinson, then Norrisian Professor of Divinity, subsequently Dean of Westminster, now Dean of Wells, who thus describes the original: “The Philocalia of Origen is a compilation of selected passages from Origen’s works made by SS. Gregory and Basil. The wholesale destruction of his writings which followed upon the warfare waged against his opinions shortly after his death, has caused a special value to attach to the Philocalia as preserving to us in the original much of Origen’s work which would otherwise have been entirely lost, or would have survived only in the translations of Rufinus. Moreover, even his great and comparatively popular work against Celsus depends for its text solely on a manuscript of the thirteen century, so that we have a cause for gratitude in the preservation of a large part of it in the Philocalia. But apart from its textual importance, this collection deserves attention as forming an excellent introduction to the study of Origen. Much of his best thought is here presented to us, arranged under various important heads; and we are guided to the appreciation of his theological standpoint by two of the strongest intellects of the century after his own.”

Bishop Westcott’s account of “the great teacher of Alexandria—of him whose proper name is said to mean the Son of light, and whose labours earned for him the title of Adamantine,” may perhaps be of service to the reader. “The fortunes of Origen during his lifetime aptly prefigured the fate of his writings. His zeal was accounted infatuation, and his learning turned to a reproach. Though he was known to have reclaimed the wandering, and to have refuted the malicious, yet he was driven from the service of the Church in the very city where he had preached Christ on the steps of the temple of Serapis, and strengthened his father to endure the terrors of martyrdom. Though countless doctors, priests, and confessors proceeded from his school, he was himself arraigned as a heretic and convicted; though he was the friend and teacher of Saints, his salvation was questioned and denied. For many centuries he was condemned almost universally by the Western Church, in consequence of the adverse judgment of Jerome. In later times Picus of Mirandola ventured to maintain the cause of the great Father: the thesis was suppressed, but the author remained uncensured: indeed, a pious lady was said to have received a revelation not long before, which seemed to assure her of the forgiveness of Samson, Solomon, and Origen. This hope, however, in the case of the last was admitted apparently by few; and Baronius expresses his surprise that any doubt of his condemnation could be raised after the sentence of Anastasius. If we find in Origen’s own words about Holy Scripture a deep and solid foundation of truth constructed with earnestness and wisdom,—unaptly crowned, it may be, with the fantastic structures of a warm and hasty imagination,—it is possible that we may be led to regard his other labours with charity, if not with gratitude, and to remember that his errors refer to questions which had not in his time been decided by the authority of the Church.”

For the suggestion that a translation of the Philocalia might be found useful I am indebted to the present Bishop of Gloucester (Dr. Gibson), who in making the suggestion did not, of course, in the least guarantee the fitness of the translator for the work. While I have availed myself of any printed matter I could find, and most gratefully acknowledge my obligations, I have refrained almost entirely from consulting my friends, not from any feeling of sufficiency, but from a dread that I might make them partakers in my literary sins. The one or two instances in which I have begged assistance are mentioned in the notes. In translating an author so difficult as Origen, I can hardly hope to escape criticism at many points. The translator will most cordially welcome anything that may tend to improve his work.



21st June 1911.

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