Entering the Vaults of Heaven, Theognostos, Philokalia 2, pp. 375-377

Theognostos, has already addressed the need for priests to remain free of passions and, if unable to do so, humbly leave the priesthood.

In these last few pages of his essay, he begins by defining more precisely the nature of a priest’s purity and preparedness.  His highlights in that definition are interesting.

He first talks about fragmentation and the pain of living inauthentic lives, torn between what we say and what we do, who we are and who we say, and want others to believe, we are.

…appearing exalted in the eyes of many but being in reality a corpse to be wept over because of your unworthiness.

He, moreover, discusses the relationship of the priest to his fellow men and the necessity of true love toward them. Love in God is not abstract. It is manifested by humility, exquisite sensitivity, care and compassion.  

Humble yourself like a sheep for the slaughter, truly regarding all men as your superiors, and strive not to wound the conscience of any man, especially without reason.

As the narrative progresses, we slowly ascend to the mystery of mysteries, Holy Communion, which heightens dramatically the importance of the priest’s role and the rewards he can obtain.

If you celebrate the divine, revered and awesome mysteries in the proper manner, with absolutely nothing on your conscience, you may hope for salvation.

Conversely, Holy Communion can also be a source of damnation for the unworthy, unprepared priest.

Do not dare to touch the holy gifts unpurified, lest you should be burnt like grass by the divine fire and destroyed like melting wax.

While addressing priests he also uncovers the deeper meaning of Holy Communion for all of us.

During this awesome mystery, Theognostos says, the priest have “an angelic, or even archangelic, office,” so “he needs to be like the angels and archangels.”

For we, priests, sacrifice, set forth and offer in intercession the Only Begotten Himself who in His freely-given compassion was slain on behalf of sinners

…And what boldness must he not have as mediator between God and man, having as co-intercessors the most holy Mother of God, all the heavenly, angelic powers, and the saints from every age?

Through the liturgy we undergo a process of slowly shredding passions and material concerns to finally unite with God through communion. Theognostos describes a similar process in life. In our journey toward theosis, we keep shedding passions until, purified and pure, we experience complete union with God. Paradoxically, we reach that height in our lives on earth through our preparation for our death as a form of communion.

…even though you fully and consciously experience the kingdom of heaven within you, do not allow yourself to be released from the flesh without foreknowledge of your death.

Prepare yourself constantly for death, casting aside all fear, so that, traversing the air and escaping the evil spirits, you may boldly enter the vaults of heaven. Ranked with the angelic orders and numbered among all the righteous and elect, you will then behold the Divinity, in so far as this is possible. You will perceive, that is to say, the blessings that come from Him, as well as the Logos of God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s