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FORUM > Meeting Reports > Notes on the Talk to Lowton IM Church Fellowship by Abba Elia

Notes on the Talk to Lowton IM Church Fellowship by Abba Elia From: Robert Stevens 09 Sep 2012 (07:45)

Notes on Abba Elia’s Teaching on the Lord’s Prayer in August 2012
Supplemented by Further Notes on Maximus the Confessor
And Some Further Reflections

Robert Stevens

This paper started out as notes on a lecture by Abba Elia to the Lowton Independent Methodist Fellowship Meeting on a Monday in August 2012. Abba Elia is a good teacher and a good teacher inspires the student to further study. This has happened and as a result the lecture notes have been supplemented by further study on Maximus the Confessor.

‘Maximus the Confessor’ also known as ‘Maximus the Theologian’ and ‘Maximus of Constantinople’ (c. 580 – 13 August 662) was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Spe Salvi, referred to him as \'the great Greek doctor of the Church\'. Since Abba Elia’s excellent lecture, the writer has come across a book about Maximus by one Andrew Louth. Louth writes that theological controversy was forced on Maximus because heresy threatened the authenticity of a Christian life of love in response to God’s love in the incarnation. ‘Like all the Fathers, the most important source for Maximus is the Bible.’ If interested, contact the writer.

Maximus was bilingual, speaking both Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic) and Greek. His area was the south Golan Heights. He opposed the doctrines of monergism [sanctification is only through God’s works: mono (one) ergon (work)] and monothelitism (Christ has only one will, a divine will, but not a human will as well). Maximus supported the Chalcedonian position that Christ has both a human and a divine will. This led to his torture and exile. He is called ‘Confessor’ because he spoke up for and suffered for his taking up his theological stand. (His right hand and his tongue were cut off.)

In relation to soteriology (theology of salvation), mankind is intended to be fully united with God, but this is not to be misunderstood as pantheism or deification in the pagan Roman Empire sense of emperors becoming gods. Maximus’ position on theosis (becoming godlike) is consistent with God becoming fully united with humanity in the incarnation. If Christ did not become fully human (if, for example, he only had a divine and not a human will), then salvation was no longer possible, as humanity could not participate/share in the divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:4).

[Insertion: Theodoros Zisis in his paper, The Lord’s Prayer Interpreted According to Saint Maximos the Confessor writes that ‘above all else God desires the theosis of human nature, for which …the incarnation took place. The power of the Lord’s Prayer …effectively brings about this end. Saint Maximos believes that, in the words of the [LP], we ask that God grant us the blessings which arose from the work of the Incarnation of the Divine Word. In it we are not asking for simple everyday things, but for the fullness, the entirety, of the blessings of salvation. “The prayer includes petitions for everything that the divine Logos effected through his self-emptying in the incarnation.’ Zisis writes that the LP sets forth 7 blessings: 1) Theology, 2) Adoption, 3) Equality in honour with the Angels, 4) Sharing in Eternal Life, 5) The Restoration of Nature to its Natural State, 6) The Abolition of the Law of Sin, and 7) The Overthrowing of the Tyranny of the Evil One.]

Maximus taught that there were 2 energies, 2 wills in Christ.

The Lord’s Prayer could also be called ‘the sons’ of God prayer’. Maximus also called it the ‘prayer of Jesus’.

Reference was made to a proper understanding of παθος (pathos), which Abba Elia described as ‘sickness’. Fallen mankind is spiritually sick.(The opposite is απαθος, not to be confused with English ‘apathy’!)

Reference was also made to the concept of μετανοια (metan-oi-a), which Elia explained as a changing of the man or woman within. It should not be understood in the western sense of ‘doing penance’. Μετανοια (metan-oi-a) was an aspect of our ‘essential bread’, but note that ‘essential bread’ is used in different manner below. The process of recovering from παθος (pathos) involves μετανοια (metan-oi-a).

The Lord’s Prayer embraces 7 mysteries and 7 requests. (At this point Elia featured on screen the Lord’s Prayer as it appears in Matthew in Greek.)

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου•
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου•
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου,
ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς•
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον•
καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφελήματα ἡμῶν,
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν•
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,
ἀλλὰ ρῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

Following an earlier visit to Lowton Independent Methodist Church, Abba Elia provided this translitered translation of the Lord’s Prayer in Syriac-Aramaic:-

(Peshitta Version, West Syriac pronunciation)
’Abun d-bashmayo
Nethqadash shmokh
Tithe malkuthokh
Nehwe sebyonokh, ’aykano d-bashmayo ’of b-ar‘o
Hablan lahmo d-sunqonanan yawmono
Wa-shbuqlan hawbayn wa-htohayn, ’aykano d-’of hnan shbaqn l-hayobayn
W-lo ta‘elan l-nesyuno, ’elo fasolan men bisho. Ameen

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς

(Our Father in the Heavens)

Chrysostom teaches that when we call God ‘Father’, we become brothers through Christ. By calling God ‘Father’ we are called citizens of the heavenly kingdom.

[Insertion: Maximus teaches that believers are all children of God. They have the grace of adoption and call him “Father”, not because He created them, but because he has given them rebirth and regeneration by the saving work of His Son, their Saviour, Jesus Christ. Through His labour they possess this adoption by grace.]

ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου
(Hallowed be your Name)

By ‘Name’ is meant the Person of God himself. The ‘Name of God’, the image of God, the icon of God is Christ.
Hallowed be your Name means hallowed be your Son.
Believers bear Christ’s face and icon.
Maximus the Confessor taught that believers are to hallow God’s Name in our actions and words.

[This spiritual adoption demands that we try to preserve in our life the characteristics of our Divine birth by grace. In our action, and not only in our words, we are to “hallow” His name, and thus be proven to be true children of God, glorifying Him, “who is by nature Son of the Father”, in all that we think and do.[The name of the Father is hallowed when we mortify the material desires and are purified of the corrupting passions, as “sanctification is the complete mortification and cessation of desire in the senses.”In this condition, manifestations of anger because anger is, by nature, kindled by sinful desire. When we mortify these desires, then the mania of anger ceases.]

[The first lines of the “Our Father” are, in Maximos’ interesting interpretation, closely linked with the sanctification and transformation of man. Thus at the end of his interpretation of these lines, he exhorts us to purify ourselves of every corruption of body and spirit, to “hallow” the name of God, and to receive the Kingdom of God and the Father.]

So, Father glorify your name. So what is in the name, the face, the icon, the person, who bears this – Jesus. So as Jesus is in me, and in each one of us, we become christs, we bear his icon and therefore the Father’s Icon. Therefore, we are asking Him, our Heavenly Father, to sanctify and glorify us, in His name, through uncreated Grace.

By asking that God’s name be honoured and sanctified, the believers who are praying are also asking that they are sanctified.

ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου
(Your Kingdom come)

The kingdom of God is within his saints, who are biblically the people of God, not those canonised by a church authority.

God dwells within his temple and his temple is not in a ‘box in Jerusalem’ (now destroyed), but within believers themselves. We ask Him to make his holy temple within ourselves.

The Son is himself God’s kingdom.

[Insertion: The mortification of the sinful desires and the cessation of anger—that is, the sanctification of man—transform man into a temple; they create the proper conditions that he might be worthy to say “Thy Kingdom come” or, in other words, thy Holy Spirit come. Maximos’ suggestion is a very instructive one. Already in the opening phrase of the “Our Father”, Maximos has made it clear that we are only able to worthily invoke the coming of the Kingdom of God, of the Holy Spirit, when we have previously mortified the sinful desires, quelled our anger, and have become meek and humble, since God is only comforted with these. “It is fitting that, anger and desire repudiated, we should next invoke the rule of the kingdom of God the Father with the words “Thy Kingdom come”, that is “May the Holy Spirit come”; for having put away these things, we are now made into a temple of God through the Holy Spirit by the teaching and practice of gentleness.”]

[Insertion: Theodoros Zisis writes that ‘Maximus, by combining the words from ‘our Father to Kingdom come’ there is the blessing of theology, which in this particular case amounts to Triadology: the teaching concerning the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is indeed proclaimed because although the Father alone is mentioned, mystically and anagogically the other two are implied in the words “name” and “kingdom”, “For the name of God the Father exists in substantial form in the Only-begotten Son. Again, the Kingdom of God exists in substantial form as the Holy Spirit.” ’]

Believers must loose their παθοι (pathoi) (their sicknesses; their deviated instincts) and become healed into the state in which they were before the Fall.

RS would add this. . In Luke 17:21 Jesus is asked by some Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming. His reply, which is Greek in Luke has been interpreted in different ways. The NRSV gives the usual interpretation involving the interpretation of two key words, εντος υμϖν: the kingdom of God is among you. It will be noted in passing that υμϖν (you) is in the genitive plural. Ramelli challenges this interpretation, arguing that the correct translation that the Kingdom of God is inside you. She makes her case on the basis of ancient Syriac versions of this passage and other Gospel passages, from her investigation of the meaning of εντος in the Greek literature prior to, and contemporary with, Luke and from her analysis of εντος when used with the genitive case in the NT and LXX. She argues that if the writer of Luke meant to say ‘among you’ he would have written εν μεσω υμϖν. She points out that her interpretation is supported by some of the Church Fathers. Her article makes interesting reading. If she is right the teaching here is profound: the kingdom of God exists within your inner being.

γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου,
ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς•
(Your will be done on earth as in heaven)

Chrysostom teaches that we must be humble if this is to work.
There must be synergy: God’s work and our work. ‘Angels do the will of God in heaven; saints do the will of God on earth.’
Believers should have only one true desire: life with God in true repentance.
God’s will is for us to have salvation, which amounts to worshipping and knowing Him. God’s will is love.

τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον
(Give us this day our essential bread)

The standard English translation is not a good translation.

The true bread is Christ. He is the bread of life. He is the bread which comes down from heaven.

Elia made reference to John 6:32-40 and in particular, 6:35a.

Essential bread is communion: God and man: 2 different natures in communion together. Here there is perichoresis.

Essential bread consists of holy gifts. These can only affect someone who is purifying his person.

The Essential Bread is Christ.

[Maximos gives two meanings to the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread”; one anagogical, the other literal. In the anagogical interpretation, the spiritual interpretation, our daily bread is divine food. It is the food of the bread of life and of consciousness which the first man forfeited as a consequence of sin. If man had tasted this bread of divine consciousness, the death that comes through sin would not have appealed to him. Maximos prefers this interpretation to the literal one because Christ Himself taught the disciples that they ought not to be occupied with perishable bread, with concerns for what they will eat, what they will drink and what they will wear rather they ought, above all else, seek the Kingdom of God. Obviously, Christ would not teach his disciples to ask something in the prayer which he had commanded them not to seek. Obviously, Christ would not teach them in the prayer what he commanded them not to seek. If, however, Christ taught us to ask for every-day, transient bread, we must not overstep the temporal boundary which the prayer puts in place. We must not stock up on many years worth of goods but rather ask only for our daily bread, free from other concerns, so as to demonstrate that we do not prepare for life but death, “that as Christian philosophers we make life a rehearsal for ideal for death.” The spiritual life alone must be our focus, for the attainment of which we must use this present life “not just to live but to live for God,” confining our petition to the provision of bread for just one day, not extending it to a second. It is clear from this, then, that Maximos understands the fourth of the seven blessings to be participation in the bread of life and incorruptibility.]

Notwithstanding the above, the meaning of bread that is essential does not exclude the other essential breads, our physical needs.

καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφελήματα ἡμῶν,
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν

(Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us.)

[God taught us to seek forgiveness, not so that He might learn what is right from us, but to purify us from the passions and to demonstrate that our disposition is vital to achieving the brotherly relationship among men under grace. In this petition for absolution, Maximos sees the attainment of the fifth blessing; the restoration of nature culminating in the unity and harmony of all men.]

Believers are to love their enemies. This is impossible with man (on his own), but with God’s help, all is possible.
‘Love and forgiveness are Divine acts, not human acts, [believers] need God’s help. We are first loved, therefore we may love. We are first forgiven, therefore, we may forgive.’

καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,
(Lead us not into temptation)

Temptation is betraying or denying Jesus. Elia contrasts Judas Iscariot with St Peter. Judas betrayed Jesus, but he did not repent and so perished. On the other hand, whilst Peter denied Jesus, he did repent and was forgiven.
Believers are not tempted above their ability to bear it.
It means, ‘lead us not to fall if we are tempted’.
God allows temptation to teach believers and lead believers to sanctification. Temptation has 2 sources: (1) human natural instincts, including hunger and tiredness, thus believers can become distorted and (2) outside stresses, see the Book of Job. Believers are to take up their crosses. Satan uses (1) to turn believers away from God and (2) to cause believers to hate God. ‘Satan, the snake or serpent, tempts believers.

ἀλλὰ ρῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.
(but deliver us from the evil one)

The above translation indicates clearly that Elia prefers the Orthodox understanding, ‘the evil one’ to the western understanding ‘evil’. [RS comments that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, also preferred the Orthodox understanding. It also accords with the Syriac.] ‘The devil separates you from God.’
Believers are to fight the evil one by prayer and fasting.
Believers are to cast away evil by keeping His Name (God’s very person) in our persons when in great temptation. When tempted, remember Christ on the cross, who was alone. ‘Entrust yourself to God.’


The final prayer of Maximos: “May all of us who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be delivered from the present delights and the future afflictions of the evil one by participating in the reality of the blessings held in store and already revealed to us in Christ our Lord Himself, who alone with the Father and the Holy Spirit is praised by all creation.”

‘The mystery of theosis is the aim of the Lord’s Prayer’.

wow so excited  From: pauline Tait 10 Sep 2012 (18:09)
I am in conversation(e mail) with JW lady (lori) who\'s main point is that the Lord calls us to Hallow His Father\'s name Jehovah I am going to send her this post it will keep her busy. Her grandfather was a Christian misionary look what lengths the Lord will go to to keep us in truth
thank you s much for this