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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

THE present volume contains a selection of scriptural problems and their solutions from various laborious treatises of Origen. Some say that the book, and also the division of it into chapters as they are arranged, and the titles were the work of the learned divines, Basil and Gregory, and that it was sent by Gregory the theologian, in a folding tablet to Theodore of holy memory, who was then Bishop of Tyana. And this is what was intended to be shown in the preface of the very ancient codex from which we have made the transcript. But how do they establish the fact? By the letter, so they say, which was written to the aforesaid Theodore, and sent with the tablet. Now we acknowledge the letter to have been written by him who was called the theologian, and on the other hand, we find many things in the collected passages which are inconsistent with sound doctrine; we had therefore good reason, inasmuch as we followed the word of truth, for our resolve to prefix this preface, and thus enable readers to easily detect the secret villainy of Origen’s champions.

We have not the least doubt that the letter was written by the theologian, particularly as it is found, precisely as we have it, in all copies of his letters, and nobody disputes it. And if we frankly admit this, we consequently accept the second statement, viz. that the compilation was made by the learned editors from the works of Origen—a compilation, of course, of useful and profitable passages, as it is concisely expressed in the theologian’s letter of which we have just spoken. For it was what we should expect, that those spiritual bees would gather the choicest honey from various flowers to make up one pure honey-comb, whereof, as Solomon, the wise collector of Proverbs says, kings and private persons taste and are sweetened, and are helped in gaining perfect health. We believe, accordingly, that those famous Fathers did compile such portions as have no taint of heretical bitterness, but certainly not all, without distinction, that we find in the following chapters; much of it we reject as conflicting with the inspired teaching of the Fathers.

For, we would ask, was there ever a time when Basil and Gregory, those invincible champions of our religion, were content to hold their peace if any one profanely maintained the Son of God or the Holy Spirit to be a created being? We need not say how they treasured such doctrines, or how profitable they deemed them to scholars. Were they not in the thick of every fight against the blasphemy of Arius and Eunomius and their associates? Did they not give such an account of pre-existence, and final restoration, and similar doctrines, as suited ancient legend and was adapted to the Grecian mind? What need to mention the details? The time would fail to tell what laborious service they rendered in the interests of orthodoxy. Nearly the whole of their life was spent in showing the All-holy and Self-existent Trinity to be equal in honour and glory, and in the same true sense Co-eternal and Co-essential. They fed Christ’s sheep in the green pasture of the holy doctrines, speaking to them in the familiar voice and pure tones of the truth. But in the work under consideration you may find everything just the reverse. For all the absurdities we have enumerated, and others besides, are sown broadcast, and of the chapters, the twenty-second is by the bare title, we maintain, proved to be spurious and illegitimate. It follows that if we were to make the Holy Fathers responsible for the selection of all these absurdities, we should of necessity be giving to error that assent which is due to truth. And consider how absurd this would be; for we shall be charging the guardians of righteousness with our own perversity. But God forbid! Would any man of ordinary critical judgment allow that those famous champions of our religion in their selections were accustomed to mingle the chaff with the wheat? At the same time we may very well allow that some heretical tenets may be called “wheat”; for, as Cyril with his ripe wisdom tells us, “We ought not to deprecatingly shun all that the heretics say, inasmuch as they confess many things which we also confess.” Basil and Gregory, then, surely were not the persons who mixed the wheat and the chaff for us. Impossible! But certain of those who pervert the ways of the Lord, in their eagerness for the impious subtleties which Origen borrowed from the Greeks, imitated the devil who outwitted their teacher, and, in the case before us, mixed the chaff with our wheat, just as the devil in days of old scattered the tares in the Master’s field. For the wheat is ours; ours, too, wherever they may be found, are the orthodox doctrines. And the inspired preachers of these doctrines, with their superlatively wise teaching, using the fan of their critical ability given them from above, and thereby sifting the wheat from the chaff, brought the wheat into the fair garner of the Church, but have delivered the chaff to unquenchable fire—and that in spite of Origen.

So, then, taking all this into account, although we admit the letter to be genuine, and have no doubt that the compilation was made by the two saints, and give good heed to their orthodox teaching, which shines more brightly than the sun, we shall maintain that we were justified in the further inference we drew on our own responsibility. What we mean is this. Certain persons, as has been said, mad upon the heterodox views of Origen, taking advantage of the holy Gregory’s letter, have undoubtedly had the audacity to pollute the whole of the compilation with profane insertions, apparently supposing that the more simple-minded readers might be found, as holy Basil somewhere says, mixing the poison with the honey. To prevent this we have done our best to show readers clearly where the poison is. Accordingly, after giving the most careful attention to the thorough exposition of all the chapters in the following list, and after applying the best tests we could, we have marked the spurious and illegitimate passages in the margin as “heretical,” “faulty”; and have thus branded them in their several places.

The letter of holy Gregory the Divine to Theodore, Bishop of Tyana. [See above.]

The contents of the book: a selection of passages from the words of the impious Origen. [Here follow the titles of the chapters.]

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