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Section 2 — ¶4 [14] – 4 [15]

4 [14] Let us thus examine the words of Divine Scripture, as far it is possible for us, developing the meaning of them—those very words which those who are opposed offer to us, taking them and twisting them towards their own understanding for the overthrow of the glory of the Only-Begotten. And let there first be set before us: ‘I live on account of the Father.’ For this passage is one of the arrows which have been shot into Heaven by those who use it impiously. Here, then, the text, as I think, names not the life before time (for nothing which lives on account of another is able to be ‘self-living’, just as neither is that which is heated by another ‘self-heat’; but our Lord said: ‘I am the Life;’) but this life in the flesh and in time which has occurred to him, which he lived ‘on account of the Father’. For by the will of the Father, he has sojourned in the way of life of men; and he did not say ‘I lived on account of the Father,’ but ‘I live on account of the Father,’ clearly foretelling the present time.[1] [15] It is also possible to call ‘life’ that which Christ lives having the Word of God in himself.[2] And that this is what is made known we shall see from the conclusion. And he says: ‘He who eats me will live on account of me.’ For we eat his flesh and drink his blood when we become communicants by means of the Incarnation and of the sensible life of the Word and of Wisdom. For ‘flesh and blood’ he called his whole mystical sojourn; and he made known the teaching constituted from praktiki, physiki and theologiki,[3] by means of which the soul is nourished and in the meantime prepared for the contemplation of beings[4]. And perhaps this is what is made known by the text.

[1] To here, the passage (i.e. all of 4 [14]) is characteristic of Layer 2. However, the next paragraph (4 [15]) is characteristic of Layer 3. It is introduced by a phrase, ‘It is also possible to call “life”…’, characteristic of the introduction of a second interpretation of the passage of Scripture under consideration, which interpretation is indeed more sophisticated and Evagrian than the first. Indeed, if we are to take this passage to be part of Layer 2, or insist that it was written in Constantinople, we have to explain how it is that Evagrius has come to use the three stages of the spiritual life—praktiki, physiki and theologiki—characteristic of his mature thought (see for example Logos Praktikos 1, loc. cit.), to indicate that our goal is the contemplation of beings (onton), and to give an allegorical explanation of the body and blood of Our Saviour (cf. Gnostic 14, Constantine Vol. II, p. 360). This seems far too sophisticated a presentation of his mature doctrine to be thought an immature foreshadowing of his later thought.

[2] This sentence wants further study. One of the issues in Evagrius’ mature thought is the relation between the Christ and the Word of God. See Anathema 8, loc. cit.

[3] Praktiki, physiki and theologiki are the three stages of the Evagrian spiritual life. In a few words praktiki (‘the practical’) is the stage of overcoming the passions by means of keeping the commandments; this stage results in dispassion (apatheia). Physiki (‘the natural’) is the stage of natural contemplation, the contemplation of the reasons or essences (logoi) of created beings. Theologiki (‘the theological’) is the stage of union with God in contemplation. The stages are traversed by the mystic in the order given. See Logos Praktikos, Constantine Vol. II, Treatise on the Practical Life, Text, p. 15 ff.

[4] Created beings. The author is referring the natural contemplation.


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