1. The Kollyvades” Fathers of the Holy Mountain

THE APPEARANCE in the eighteenth century of the Kollyvades on the Holy Mountain, and in Greece in general, constitutes a dynamic return to the roots of Orthodox tradition, to the “philokalic” experience which is at the core of the Orthodox Church’s spirituality. Their “movement,” as it was called, was regenerative and traditional, progressive and yet patristic. In other words, genuinely Orthodox. Using the scholarly methods of the time (composing writings), they first of all revealed the continuity of hesychasm on the Holy Mountain Athos, and at the same time remained faithful not only to the theoretical formulation of the hesychastic-Palamite theology, but also to its practical applications, i.e. the whole spectrum of the ascetic experience. Through the dissemination of their works and by their struggles in defence of the tradition, they formed the counterbalance against the European “Enlightenment,” and in their own right became enlighteners of their Nation and of Orthodoxy at large. That is why they were loved by traditionalists, but hated and fought (or slandered) by those who were instilled with the spirit of Frankish scholasticism or of the Anglo-French Enlightenment and were thus cut off from the philokalic roots. The hypertrophic (metaphysical) rationalism of the westernizers, a standing threat to the patristic way of theology, thus proved to be foreign to the experiential and Holy-spiritual way of theology which the Kollyvades Fathers embodied and preached. If our reconnection with the genuine, theological tradition of the Fathers has been achieved in our day, this is owed to the precursory labors of the Kollyvades.

A contingent of Athonite monks in the second half of the eighteenth century, living within the tradition of “noetic prayer” or “prayer of the heart,” and being provoked by a seemingly insignificant happening, which, however, had deep theological roots and enormous extensions, will light the Church’s course and reveal the continuity or discontinuity of the fullness of Orthodoxy. The monk of St. Anne’s Skete on the Holy Mountain were building a larger church and, since they wanted to be able to work on Saturdays in order to complete it, they decided to move the memorial services from Saturday to Sunday after the Divine Liturgy. This decision, which conflicted with the Church’s practice and theology (Sunday being the day of the Resurrection is a day of joy), scandalized the deacon Neophytos the Peloponnesian of the nearby Skete of Kafsokalyvia, who was the first to rise up with a theological campaign against the decision of the monks of St. Anne’s. One further event also served to intensify the now ignited flame. In 1777, a book advocating the necessity of “frequent Holy Communion” was published from among the circle of Athonite hesychasts who, because of their involvement in the dispute “concerning memorial services” were by their opponents collectively called Kollyvades (from kollyva, the boiled wheat used at memorial services). The book was condemned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1785, for it supposedly created scandals and dissensions. Aside from exposing the contra-traditional attitude of the monks of St. Anne’s, this action revealed how Orthodox criteria had become obscured, thus affirming, also for Greece, what the ever-memorable Fr. Georges Florovsky called “pseudomorphosis.” The Patriarchate’s later decision, moreover, by which the condemnation was lifted, serves to show the instability of these matters.

The men who advocated the canonical performance of memorial services on Saturday also advocated frequent Holy Communion (when, of course, the correct Orthodox presuppositions of an ongoing spiritual life exists), thus ranging the practice of the early Church against the unfounded actions of their opponents. The latter, being as they were completely estranged from the tradition of the holy Fathers, accused the Kollyvades of being innovators, in exactly the same way that the fourteenth century Scholastics (Nicephorus Gregoras, John Kyparissiotes, et al.) had accused the hesychasts of the Holy Mountain of being “modernists.” But then, the case of the Kollyvades is only a repetition of the affair of the hesychasts of the fourteenth century; for both groups, each in its own way, stood up against the spirit of the estranged West and against the westernizing of the “unionists” and westernizers of the East. The Kollyvades emphasized the issue of worship, for they diagnosed that there, i.e. in the area of the spirituality that preserved the unity of the subjugated Orthodox people, the problem of estrangement was perceptible. They encouraged participation in the sacraments of the Church accompanied by a parallel spiritual struggle. They strove for the correct observance of the Church’s typicon that would maintain the spiritual balance, and for the study of patristic works that would cultivate a patristic, i.e. the Church’s, mind. That is why the honor belongs to the Kollyvades, in that they preserved the Apostolico-patristic continuity in the Church: noetic prayer and hesychastic practice, asceticism and experience, those enduring and unalterable elements of the Orthodox identity.

This contingent of Athonite hesychasts (Kollyvades) had their leaders, three of whom are among the theo- logians dealt with in the present study. Namely they are the following:

Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis (1713-1784), from 1749 rector of Athonias School on the Holy Mountain, is the man who initiated the cause; but after his expulsion from the Holy Mountain, he discontinued his active participation in the Kollyvades “movement” for reasons unknown. He dealt mainly with education, serving as rector in Chios around 1760; in Adrianoupolis in 1763; and in what is today Rumania, Bucharest 1767, Bravsko 1770, and from 1773 until his death again in Bucharest. He left behind a number of important works, among which are some on canon law.

Saint Makarios (1731-1805), a descendant of the renowned Byzantine family of Notaras, was born in Corinth and later became Metropolitan of the diocese of Corinthia (1765-1769). He wants the “animater” of the movement and the person who not only encouraged St. Nikodemos to write, but also supplied him with material for his works. He died on 16 April 1805 on the island of Chios where he was living at the time, and the people immediately honored him as a saint.

Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (1749-1809), officially declared a saint in 1955, was the “theologian” of the Kollyvades contingent. A great hesychast-ascetic and a highly accomplished author of patristic caliber, he left behind a multitude of writings in which the whole patristic tradition is recast. One who studies the works of St. Nikodemos can unreservedly say that he has gone through patristic theology in its entirety. His Handbook of Counsel is, for modern times, the representative work on Orthodox spirituality. The publication of the multivolume Philokalia of the Wakeful Fathers (in collaboration with St. Makarios, but essentially the work of Nikodemos) contributed to spiritual rebirth in Orthodox countries. His work The Rudder constitutes the most authoritative compilation of our Church’s holy Canons and explanations of them in conjunction with the Church’s spirituality.

Athanasios Parios (1722-1813) was the most militant of the Kollyvades, and also the most martyric. From 1776 to 1781 he remained unfrocked as a “heretic” because of his vigorous stand on the issues of tradition. He passionately fought the European Enlightenment, Voltaireanism, and atheism, and was accused of being an obscurantist by his “West-struck” contemporaries. He, however, was not fighting education which he himself served, nor even the exact sciences themselves; but rather the “godless letters” and the conceit of the wisdom of this world (cf. Jas. 3:15). A prolific author, he left behind numerous writings full of patristic wisdom and spirituality.

The Kollyvades exerted a tremendous influence in their day, but also on the generations that followed. Their influence initially was greater off the Holy Mountain than on it. Today, however, the Holy Mountain acknowledges their contribution to the rebirth of Orthodox spirituality and follows their tradition. In spite of the fact that the Antikollyvades by far outnumbered the Kollyvades and engaged in a systematic persecution of them, not only did they fail to frustrate the latter’s effort, but they in fact contributed to the spreading of their spirit in Greece and in the other Orthodox countries (Transdanubian regions, Russia, etc). to the Kollyvades is owed the rebirth of hesychasm in the nineteenth century. Even today, the Kollyvades Fathers continue to be spiritual guides for the Orthodox, and the principal bridge of reconnection with the patristic tradition. The rediscovery of the hesychasm of the fourteenth century, and chiefly of its champion St. Gregory Palamas (d. 1357), was an accomplished thanks to the seeds that the Kollyvades of the eighteenth century sowed.

  1. Constantine Oikonomos of the Oikonomoi (1780-1857)

Greece’s most notable cleric and theologian of the nineteenth century, C. Oikonomos, was occupied with the work of education. Initially he taught in Smyrna (1809-1819), at the same time preaching and contending against the propaganda of the non-Orthodox missionaries. He was made a Great Oikonomos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Preacher General of the Great Church of Christ by the Hieromartyr Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V (d. 1821). After the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821, he fled to Odessa in Russia where there was a significant Greek community. The Czars on several occasions honored him with decorations and monetary rewards, and finally with a life pension (7000 rubles annually). The Academy of Berlin proclaimed him a corresponding member thereof, and he became known in Europe for his many and important writings.

In October 1834 he returned to the newly established Greek State, and in 1837 he settled permanently in Athens where, until his death, he was active as a scholar, author, private teacher, and ecclesiastical orator. His home became a center for the more important educated men of the time, and he taught a multitude of spiritual children who eventually held important positions in Greek society and the Church. He strove against the Western missionaries and their activities against the Church, and likewise against anti-Church activities of the Greek State.

  1. Oikonomos was the principal opponent of the coup d’ état autocephaly of the Church of Greece (the work of the Bavarians in 1833), which, by the forceful severing of the Church of Greece from the Ecumenical Patriarchate which at that time was also the Ethnarchic Center of the Orthodox countries in the Balkans, signaled the beginning of the Western Powers’ dissolution of the “Romaic Ethnarchy.” Oikonomos was in favor, however, of the canonical proclamation of Greek autocephaly (something achieved in 1850 through his involvement), so that the spiritual ties of the Orthodox peoples of the Ottoman Empire with their Spiritual and Ethnarchic Center be preserved. He maintained relationships and correspondence with the more important figures of his time, in Greece and abroad, and he was the friend of many non-Orthodox scholars, such as the German C. Tischendorf.

He died on 8 March 1857, leaving behind a great wealth of writings, both theological and philological, besides massive correspondence. C. Oikonomos was a researcher of and prime expert on the patristic tradition which he vigorously defended in his writings and in his struggles, according to the challenges of his time, focusing on canonical order and on his rebuttals provoked by the Western ecclesiastical and political propaganda. One target of his rebuttal was the likewise great Greek theologian and scholar cleric Theocletos Pharmakides (1784-1860), who in free Greece represented the Western spirit (in that he had Protestant leanings and was a supporter of British policy).

  1. Cyril V, Patriarch of Constantinople (Sept. 1748-June 1751; and Sept. 1752-Jan. 1757)

Patriarch Cyril V, who lived in very troubled times, occupies a prominent place in the history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Born in the Peloponnesian city of Dimitsana toward the end of the seventeenth century, he lived for a time on the Holy Mountain and on Patmos where he studied and was tonsured a monk. In 1737 he was elected Metropolitan of Melenoikon in Macedonia, and in 1745 was transferred to the diocese of Nicomedia in Asia Minor. In 1748 he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch but was dethroned in 1751 because of disturbances. Already in his first term as patriarch he came into conflict with the Westerners and Latin propaganda. The French ambassador was his chief opponent, given that France was the protectress of the Latins within the Ottoman Empire.

During his two terms as patriarch, Cyril confronted two fundamental issues, on account of which he acquired many friends, but also many enemies. In order to confront the factionalism of the bishops residing in Constantinople and the continual change of patriarchs which the foreign propaganda took advantage of, he dismissed the residing bishops in 1751 (a measure repeated in 1755), and obliged them to return to their dioceses. Thus he incurred the hatred of many hierarchs and their permanent opposition. This will become apparent primarily over the question of the (re)baptism of Latins. He likewise devoted attention to the finances of the Great Church, conducting collections of funds and, in 1755, forming a mixed committee composed of lay officials and bishops. He also sought to organize education, and to this end founded the Athonias School in 1749.

The question of the (re)baptism of converts from the West is connected with Cyril’s efforts, beginning in 1749, to guard Orthodoxy from her increasingly closer embrace with the Latin Church, and to repulse the Pope’s proselytistic activities as well as his encroachment on the Shrines in the Holy Lands and on the Patriarchate of Alexandria. He commenced his antipapal campaign, having as he did the trust and cooperation of a major portion of the monks and populace. It was met with indifference from the educated and higher clergy, however, and with opposition from the synodal bishops for the aforementioned reasons.

On 28 April 1755, the synodal bishops convoked a Council which they censured the book, A Denunciation of Sprinkling, and denounced the (re)baptism of Westerners. This counter-effort was spearheaded by Cyril’s chief opponent and successor, Callinicus IV. Cyril, for his part, being guided by his patristic mind, and furthermore in order to check Western propaganda which had become overbold, did not hesitate to oppose the body of hierarchs and to condemn their uncanonical action. Thus, in June 1755 he published a response, known by the title “Anathema of those who accept papal sacraments,” that was read aloud in the churches and was received with enthusiasm by the pious Orthodox populace. Cyril exposed the pressures he was experiencing to sign the pro-West decision of the hierarchs, and he thus placed in danger not only his throne, but also his life. Yet Cyril also reacted in a more affirmative manner. He dissolved the anti-patriarchal synod and sent the bishops to their dioceses. Then, together with Matthew and Parthenios, the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem respectively, he signed the notorious “Oros of the Holy Great Church of Christ,” which decree recommended “the God-given holy baptism,” and scorned “the baptisms otherwise administered by heretics.” His Oros constitutes the authorized practice of the Great Church on this question officially in force to this day.

The traditionalist Patriarch had as an ardent partner in his struggles, among others, the well-known, outstanding theologian of the time, Eustratios Argentis. His enemies did not succeed in reversing the Oros, despite their organized opposition, which even included satire and libel. The counteractions against Cyril ultimately led to his dethronement, despite the reactions of the populace which remained loyal to the hesychast Patriarch. Two synodal unfrockings were pronounced against him (Jan. 1757, and 1763), which display his enemies’ hatred for him, and which constitute real libel. On 27 July 1775, he died on the Holy Mountain, where he was in quiet retirement.

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