What is Man's Nous?

Hieromartyr Blaise the Bishop of Sebaste

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


Lord, forgive those who hate us and are unjust to us; do good to those who are good to us. To our brothers and sisters and members of our family grant their petitions that are unto salvation and life Eternal; visit those who are sick and grant healing to them; accompany and protect those who travel by land, sea and air; stand by as an ally to our faithful rulers; to those who have asked us to pray for the, unworthy though we be, grant them forgiveness and mercy according to Your great mercy. Remember, Lord, all of our predeceased fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters--and grant them a blessed repose where the Light of Your Countenance shines. Remember, Lord, our brothers in captivity and deliver them from every difficult circumstance. Remember, Lord, those who labor and do good works in Your Holy Churches; grant to them their petitions which are unto salvation and Eternal Life. Remember, Lord, also us, Your humble, sinful and unworthy servants, enlighten our mind with the Light of Your Knowledge and guide us on the way of Your Divine Commandments, through the intercessions of Your All-Pure Mother and of all Your Saints; for You are Blessed unto all ages of ages. Amen.


[Saint John Climacus (of the Ladder)

"In order to pray, let us prepare and adorn ourselves with all of our soul and heart and strength, and with all of our mind and with profound humility...When you go to present yourself before God in order to pray, may your soul be adorned with the garment of shame and piety and meekness... and with a full forgiveness and a perfect love for your enemies...

The stance of those who pray before God is singular, but it can have a great variety in its activity and in its content...

We, above all, should in the first verse, at the beginning of our prayer, express to God our pure gratitude with our whole soul for the great benefactions and the daily graces we receive from our Lord and King."


(The Way of the Ascetics)

"It took Noah a hundred years to build his ark; log upon log he dragged to the construction. Do as he did; drag log upon log to your construction, patiently, in silence, day after day, and do not inquire about your surroundings. Remember that Noah was the only one in the whole world who "walked with God" (Genesis 6:9), that is, in prayer. Imagine the crowding, the darkness, the stench, that he had to live in until he could step out into the pure air and build an altar to the Lord. The air and the altar you will find within you, explains Saint John Chrysostom, but only you have willingly gone through the same narrow gate as Noah."


SYNAXARION (SAINTS COMMEMORATED): Saint Blaise (Αγιος Βλάσιος), Bishop of Sevaste; Saint Theodora the Empress, protectress of Orthodoxy; New Holy Martyr George of Serbia (+1515); Saint Demetrios of Priluki; Saint Vsevolod, Prince of Pskov; Finding of the holy relics of Prophet Zacharias, father of Saint of Saint John the Baptist; "Corfu" Holy Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God).

HIEROMARTYR BLAISE (VLASIOS), BISHOP OF SEVASTE. Saint Blaise lived in a cave in the early 4th century during the persecutions of emperor Licinius. Having received from God the gift of miracle working, Saint Blaise cured many people through this Divine grace. Wild beasts were tamed by his blessing. He was also experienced in the medical profession. He was finally arrested and brought to Governor Agricolaus, where he confessed his belief in Jesus Christ. Bishop Blaise was beaten with rods, suspended, and let to prison. En route, seven women followed him, confessing that Jesus is the True God. They were beheaded. Saint Blaise was imprisoned for a time and while there, by God's wisdom, he instructed two young people in the Christian faith. He was then thrown to the bottom of a lake, but Angels of God brought him back up to dry land unharmed. Saint Blaise was also the executor of the will of Saint Efstratius, who suffered martyrdom with the other four martyrs celebrated on December 13th.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Mother, Holy Fathers, Holy bishops, Holy Ascetics, Holy Prophets, O Christ our God have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:1-6
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Matthew 10:1, 5-8


"There are three Stages of Prayer: The First Stage is bodily prayer, with reading, standing and prostrations. If the attention wanders, the heard does not feel, and there is no eagerness; this means there is no patience, toil or sweat. Regardless of this, set your limits and pray. This is Active Prayer. The Second Stage is attentive prayer: the mind gets used to collecting itself at the hour of prayer, and says all with awareness, without being stolen away. The attention blends with the written words and repeats them as its own. The Third Stage is prayer of the feelings--the attention warms the heart, and what was thought with attention becomes feeling in the heart. Whoever has passed on to feeling prays without words, for God is a God of the heart." (Saint Theophan the Recluse)


by His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos [Source: Hesychia and Theology]

The healing of man's soul is the Orthodox Church's chief concern. The Church has always healed the place of the soul. She had ascertained from the Jewish tradition and from Christ Himself and the Apostles that in the area of the natural heart something functions which the Father referred to as 'nous', which means intellect and reason, and gave it a different meaning. They used 'nous" to designate the noetic faculty which operates within the heart of the person whose soul is healthy. We do know when this change of meaning took place, because it so happens that some holy Fathers apply the same word 'NOUS', to the rational function of the soul, as well as to the noetic faculty when it descends and acts in the place of the heart.

From this point of view the noetic faculty is a single unique function of the soul which operates in the brain as reason, while at the same time acting in the heart as nous. That is to say, the same organ, the nous, prays without ceasing in the heart (in the case of those with the gift of unceasing prayer of the heart) while at the same time thinking about mathematical problems, for instance, or anything else at all, in the brain. (Protopresbyter John Romanides, Patristic Theology).


According to the Patristic meaning of the word, everyone is psychopath, that is to say, his soul is sick. A person does not need to be a schizophrenic in order to be a psychopath. From the Patristic standpoint the definition of 'psychopathy' (which comes from the Greek words for 'soul' and 'suffering') is that this disorder of the soul occurs in anyone whose noetic faculty is not functioning correctly; that is to say, when his nous is full of thoughts, not just bad thoughts but also good ones.

Anyone with thoughts, either good or bad, inside his heart is, from the Patristic point of view, a psychopath. It is irrelevant whether these thoughts are ethical, even highly ethical, unethical or of any other type whatsoever. According to the Holy Fathers of the Church, anyone who has not undergone purification of the soul from passions, and has not reached the state of illumination by the grace of the Holy Spirit, is sick in soul, a psychopath. Not however in the psychiatric sense. For the psychiatrist, the psychopath means something else. He is someone suffering from a psychosis: a schizophrenic. From the Orthodox standpoint, however, is someone who has not undergone purification of the passions or attained illumination normal or not? That is the question.

Who is a normal Orthodox Christian in the Patristic tradition? If you want to see this clearly, read the service of Holy Baptism; read the service for the Blessing of Holy Chrism performed by the Patriarch of Constantinople on Holy and Great Thursday; read the service for the Consecration of Churches. There you will see is meant by the temple of the Holy Spirit; there you will see what it means to be illumined.

All the services, as well as the ascetic tradition of the Church, refer principally to three spiritual states: purification from passions of the soul and body; illumination of man's nous by the grace of the Holy Spirit; and deification (theosis) of man's soul and body. Above all, however, they speak about purification and illumination, since the services of the Church are expressions of rational worship. Who, then, is a normal Orthodox Christian? Someone who has been baptized but not purified? Someone who has not been illumined? Or someone who has been purified and illumined? The latter of course. This is a normal Orthodox Christian.


When the Holy Fathers speak about God they start from the Holy Scripture and from what the Church Fathers who proceeded them said. Afterwards, until they acquire experience of illumination, they themselves do not theologize, because, until they attain to illumination, they are simply disciples. That is to say, they are apprenticed to spiritual fathers, who are preparing them for illumination. In other words, their spiritual fathers give them the Old and New Testaments to read; they sit with them and interpret the Holy Scriptures so that they will be well-informed historically about the Orthodox Tradition; they set them to work on noetic prayer, fasting and so on, and generally train them so that the purification of their nous can be accomplished, and all thoughts, bad or good, depart from the nous. In this way, once their nous has been purified, these disciples are able to receive the visitation of the Holy Spirit.

Only when the Holy Spirit comes and begins to pray within them do they being to speak about God, to theologize.

Through such a course of action, a person's cure is brought about. In practice this is achieved by means of continuous, intense and prolonged striving. Grace comes and goes repeatedly during this struggle, until it purifies the struggler of his passions and makes him a tried and tested fighter against them.


So who is a true theologian? Is a theologian just someone who has read lots of theological books and is knowledgeable about the relevant bibliographies? Such a person is like a microbiologist, for example, who has read many books about his subject, but has never used a microscope or done analyses in the laboratory and so on. In all the exact sciences the scientist whose word carries weight and who is an authority in his field is always the one who has experience of the subject or the phenomenon to which he is referring, and which he has studied; in other words, the one who has practical experience of observation and understands the phenomena that he is observing.

...From the Patristic point of view the theologian is someone who has attained to deification (theosis), because then he is free from delusion and so they can talk about God without fear of falling into error (heresy). According to the Holy Fathers, therefore, only those who have beheld God are theologians. The Church has given the special title of 'Theologian' to very few Holy Fathers, although many Saints theologized. Those who theologize, as opposed to actual theologians, have attained only to the state of illumination by the grace of the Holy Spirit, they are able to theologize about the experience of the deified, without producing new theology themselves. Of course there are also people who speak about God intellectually, merely on the basis of having read a few theological books, but that is something forbidden by the Holy Fathers of the Church.

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

+Father George