Rationalism in Our Times

St. Theodosia

Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


We praise You, we sing to You, we bless You, we thank You, God of our fathers, for You have drawn aside the veil of night and shown us once again the light of day. So we entreat Your goodness: be gracious to us in our sins, and in Your great compassion accept our prayers, for it is in You we take refuge, the merciful and Almighty God. Shine in our hearts the true Sun of Your righteousness; enlighten our minds and rule our senses so that, as in the day, walking with grace, in the way of Your precepts, we may attain to eternal life. For with You is the source of Life, and so, may we be found worthy to delight in Your unapproachable Light. For You are our God, and to You we give the glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


On May 29th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Theodosia the holy Martyr of Constantinople; St. Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria; Saint Theodosia of Tyre; St. John of Thessaloniki at Smyrna (+1802); New Martyr Andrew Argentes of Chios.

THE HOLY MARTYR THEODOSIA OF TYRE. One day during the reign of the pagan Roman Emperor Maximian, many Christians were standing bound before the Praetor in Palestine Caesarea. The pious virgin Theodosia came to comfort them and encourage them in their death by martyrdom. The soldiers heard her words and brought her also before the judge. The enraged judge ordered that a stone be tied round her neck and that she be cast into the deep. But Angels carried her up onto the shore alive. When she appeared before the judge again, he gave orders to have her beheaded. The following night, St. Theodosia appeared to her parents in the brightest heavenly light, surrounded by many other virgins, and said: 'Do you see how great is the glory and grace of my Christ, of which you wished to deprive me?' She spoke thus to her parents because they had turned back from confessing Christ and from martyrdom. She suffered with honor and was glorified in the year 308 A.D.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 21:26-32
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 16:2-13


"The insufficiency of the proofs for the existence of God can be explained by the basic fact that God alone is the criterion of His own truth. God alone is the argument for His Own being. God can never be subject to logical demonstrations, or enclosed in chains of causality…this means that faith is never invented it is always a gift" [Russian theologian Evdokimov].

by Geronda [Elder] Paisios of Mount Athos
[source: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man]

Q. Geronda, what is the place of reason and logic in the spiritual life?

--Which logic are you talking about? If you mean secular logic, then this kind of logic has no place at all in the spiritual life. Angels and Saints, enter through our windows, we can see them, talk with them, and then they leave... There is no way that one can explain this logically. Today, increased knowledge and trust in logic has, unfortunately, shaken our faith to its foundations and filled our souls with question marks and doubts. This is why we don't have miracles anymore, because a miracle cannot be explained logically, it can only be experienced. But faith in God will bring down divine power and overturn all human expectations. It will perform miracles, resurrect the dead and astonish science. From the outside, all things pertaining to the spiritual life seem upside down.

[Please note: When Geronda refers to logic and reproaches it, he does not mean by this term the gift of reason with which God has honored human being, but rather rationalism, or, as he calls it 'afflicted reason,' the logic that is void of faith in God, rejects divine providence and denies the possibility of miracles.]

Indeed, the mysteries of God will be impossible to know and will appear strange and contrary to nature as long as we don't overturn our secular mindset and see everything with spiritual eyes. Those who believe that they can come to know God's mysteries through mere scientific theory without a spiritual life, resemble a fool who thinks he can look through a telescope and see Paradise.

Logic is very harmful when we use it to scrutinize the divine, the mysteries and the miracles. Logic drove the Roman Catholics, as I have heard, to put the Holy Communion through chemical tests to determine if it is the actual Body and Blood of Christ! Now think of the Saints who had so much faith that they could often see flesh and blood on the Holy Communion spoon. Pretty soon, they will be putting the Saints through an X-ray machine to establish their sainthood! Thus, the Latins got rid of the Holy Spirit, put logic in its place and now spend their time with "white magic". I said to a Roman Catholic, a man with a good disposition, who came to see me and was in tears, "Among the most important differences that we have with you, is that you put the mind first, whereas we put faith. You have developed rationalism and, in general, you stress the human factor. This way you limit the power of God, because you put divine Grace aside. You put a preservative in Holy Water to keep it from spoiling. We, on the other hand, pour Holy Water on spoiled things and they become fresh again. We believe in Grace that sanctifies, and for this reason Holy Water remains unspoiled for two hundred years, five hundred years; it never spoils."

--In other words, Geronda, what has happened is that logic and rationalism have taken precedence over God?

--Could it be that what we are talking about is not logic but pride? Because you see, this kind of logic is actually impaired rather than sound reason. Pride is reason that is impaired, full of egoism, harboring demons. When this sort of logic is involved in our actions, we grant right to the devil to intervene.

-- Geronda, when a spiritual person is confronting temptation, can't they make use of logic?

-- In that case, they should do what is humanly possible, and where something is not in their power, they should leave it to God. There are some people, who will try to grasp everything only with their mind, for example, those who say the Jesus Prayer silently, only with their mind. They put pressure on their mind to concentrate and they end up getting a headache. If I were to deal this way with the problems I have to face daily, do you think that I would be able to manage? I just do what is humanly possible and leave the rest to God. I say to myself, "God will show me, He will enlighten me and I will know what to do." You will hear many people complain, "How will I get this done and how will I manage to finish this or that..." The smallest problem gives them a headache. If we try to solve problems using nothing else but our logic, we will end up quite confused. In each and every one of our actions, God must take the lead. Everything we do, we must do trusting God, for otherwise we will be full of anxiety, our mind will get overwhelmed and our soul will be miserable.

The Holy Fathers saw everything with the spiritual, the divine eye. Patristic texts were written in the spirit of God and it was in the spirit of God that the Holy Fathers gave their interpretations. Today this spirit is lacking and Patristic texts are hard to understand. People see everything with secular eyes and cannot see beyond that; they do not have the breadth of spirit that results from faith and love. St. Arsenios the Great used to leave palm leaves in the water, without changing it, and the water would have a strong stench. It is beyond us today to understand what sprang from that unclean water!

 [Please note: Abba (Father) Arsenios only changed the water for his palm leaves once a year; the rest of the time, he simply added to it. Some monks implored him in these words, "Why do you not change the water for these palm leaves when it smells bad?" He said to them, "Instead of the aromatic perfumes I once enjoyed in the world, I must now endure this unpleasant smell."]

When logic gets involved, we will have a hard time understanding the Gospel and the Holy Fathers. Our spiritual sense is so altered, that our logic will prove the Gospel and the works of the Holy Fathers useless, and we will say things like, "All these years of asceticism and fasting have not done us any good!" This is blasphemy. Once, a young monk, who lived in a Kelli, came to my Kalyvi driving a car. "My son," I said, "why do you need this car? It doesn't fit a monk!" "Why Geronda," he answered, "doesn't the Gospel say, "Will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life?" I replied, "When the Gospel says, "Will receive a hundredfold," it refers to the things that a person needs. But the state that best fits a monk is what the Apostle Paul means when he describes Christians as "having nothing and yet possessing everything" (II Cor. 6:10). In other words, the monk has no possessions but he has virtue and this is why people will trust him with their wealth. This does not mean that we monks should have possessions!" Do you see how logic can lead one to the wrong interpretation? You must always remember that if we are not purified, if divine illumination does not come to us, our interpretations will be muddled and obscure.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George