Evagrius Ponticus is the first ecclesiastical writer to dress his teaching in the model of the philosophy of sentences. He is recognized as the most characteristic writer of the wilderness of Egypt. His writings, apart from those influenced by Origenist thought, exerted the greatest influence on Eastern asceticism and mysticism until the 16th century. Some argue that it was not until the 14th cent.
Evagrius Ponticus is the second writer to appear in Philokalia. He was originally from Pontus and was a disciple of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianz. In 382 he withdrew to Egypt as a hermit, with Macarius the Great as his spiritual guide. He passed into eternity in 399, refusing the episcopal seat of Alexandria.
From his writings, it can be seen how Evagrius divides his spiritual life into active and contemplative. The active life is only the preparation for the contemplative one. He shows that all human endeavor must lead to knowledge, the fulfillment of which is the contemplation of the Holy Trinity. Also, he shows that the purpose of asceticism is to remove the obstacles to knowledge by cleansing the soul of its passions. He also points out that the virtues are the steps of an active life.
Biography of Evagrius Ponticus
Full name: Evagrius Ponticus
Date of birth: 0345 AD
Death day: 0399 AD
The thread of life: 54 years
Place of birth: Ibora, Turkey
Physical appearance: average height, dark eyes
Summary of life: He is an author translated and published within the framework of the Philokalia, considered a forerunner of ascetic writings and terminology, but at the same time condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553 because of Origenist influences in his work.
Life accomplishments: Evagrius Ponticus was born around 345-346, at Ibora - in Pontus. He was the son of a bishop, according to the Lausiac History, and enjoyed the benefits of a very special education.
Death cause: Martyrdom
When was Evagrius Ponticus born?
He came early into contact with the great Cappadocians. St. Basil the Great made him a cither of the Church of Caesarea Cappadocia, and St. Gregory of Nazianz ordained him a deacon. As a deacon, he accompanied St. Gregory to Constantinople, where he attended the Second Ecumenical Council and where his patron, having resigned, bequeathed him to Patriarch Nectarios.
Evagrius Ponticus was born around 345-346, at Iborra – in Pontus. He was the son of a horepiscop, as the Lausiac History states, and enjoyed the benefits of very special education.
Evagrius was learned, mastering with mastery secular and Christian culture. Strongly influenced by Origenist ideas, an unyielding opponent of all heretics of his time. Gifted with a special gift of speech and imposing by the beauty of his face and elegance.
What is presented in the first volume of the Philokalia?
He classifies these virtues in ascending order as follows: faith, fear of God. Keeping the commandments, temperance, patience. Hope, fearlessness, love, natural knowledge, theology – or contemplation of the Holy Trinity.
In the first volume of the Philokalia, we find in Evagrius Ponticus a monastic outline on how we should deny and be quiet in 11 points, 3 heads on distinguishing between passions and thoughts. 7 heads on dreams, 2 heads on the devil of sorrow, 15 heads on vain glory, 5 heads on awakening, and 153 heads on prayer. So we have rich writing remaining from this great ascetic of the East.
However, because he embraced some Origenist teachings he was condemned as an Origenist by the 5th, 6th, and 7th Ecumenical Synods.
What was Evagrius’ doctrine?
He held the theory of the pre-existence of souls and the doctrine of apokatastasis – like Origen – which brought his condemnation at the Fifth Ecumenical Council. Evagrius is not a systematic writer.
According to historians, Evagrius’ doctrine seeks to divide the spiritual life into active and contemplative or gnostic. According to this principle, he teaches his lighter teaching to the category of simple monks and his higher teaching, gnosis, to the category of learned monks.
As a deacon, he accompanied St. Gregory to Constantinople, where he attended the Second Ecumenical Council and where his patron, having resigned, left him a legacy to Patriarch Nectarios.
Why was Evagrius condemned?
The main information we have on the life of Evagrius comes from a work that is quite well known. And also appreciated in the Orthodox world: the Lavsaicon of Palmyra. As the date of composition of this writing is estimated to be around 419-420, just 20 years after Evagrius’ death, and as the two lived for a time in the same monastery, the information is as pertinent as possible.
According to historical sources, Evagrius was condemned for following the theological teachings of Origen. Specifically, he was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553 because of Origenist influences in his work.
Evagrius Ponticus occupies a special place in the history of Christianity. He is an author translated and published within the framework of the Philokalia, considered a precursor of ascetic writings and terminology, but at the same time condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553 because of Origenist influences in his work. His writings were published in Vol. I of the Philokalia and are orthodox.
Is Evagrius Ponticus a heretic?
Although he was often asked to occupy a bishop’s chair, he regularly refused, preferring to remain a deacon. At one point, because of temptations, he left Constantinople and retired for the first time to Jerusalem. He then decided to go to Egypt, where he first took refuge at Mount Nitria and then at Chili.
Evagrius Ponticus was indeed a heretic, for when was ordained a priest by St. Basil the Great and a deacon by St. Gregory the Theologian, he confessed himself to be a heretic. Evagrius was very learned and knew what the main heresies of the time were and how they could be countered. Therefore, after the departure of St. Gregory the Theologian, he was asked to stay in the city by the new Patriarch of Constantinople, Nectarios.
The harsh necessities caused him a severe stomach illness, from which he may have suffered internal bleeding. He died in 399, aged 54, after more than 15 years of neediness.
What are the 3 sins described by Evagrius Ponticus?
Evagrius Ponticus is the first writer of the ascetic life to leave us a list of the eight fundamental sins. But he reduces them to three, from which the other five are born. He thus anticipates the writings of Saints John Cassian and Mark Asceticus in both respects.
The three basic sins described by Evagrius Ponticus are pride, the greed of the belly, and the love of money. Evagrius explains this choice to us in the opening of the Chapters on the distinction between passions. And also thoughts: Of the devils who oppose our work. The first, who rises with a struggle, are those entrusted with the lusts of the covetousness of the womb. Those who steal the love of silver into our souls, and those who lure us with the glory of men.
The eight evils are covetousness of the belly, pride, vain glory, lust, sloth, the love of silver, wrath, and sorrow. These in turn are divided into three basic and five developing from them.
Is evagrius Ponticus a saint?
Born in 345, in the town of Iborra, on the banks of the river Iris in what is now northern Turkey, Evagrius studied in the schools of Caesarea Cappadocia in his youth. His father, who was a bishop, had been ordained by St Basil the Great himself, an archpriest on the throne of Caesarea. Through his father, Evagrius came to know the great hierarch who ordained him as a scholar and received him into his clergy.
According to historical evidence, Evagrius Ponticus has declared a saint because he died a martyr. Because Evagrius spent 16 years in Egypt, God rewarded him. During that time he acquired the craft of spiritual warfare from the desert sages, Macarius Alexandrinus, John of Lycopolis, nicknamed “the seer of Thebaida”, and Pafnutie Kephalas.
Although life in the wilderness of Nitria and Kellia did not follow written rules like those of the community founded by St Pahomy the Great. The monks were guided by the living model of the elders.
When did Evagrius Ponticus die?
He went to Egypt, where he stayed for almost 16 years and was a disciple of St. Macarius the Egyptian. He always refused the offer of a bishop’s chair.
According to historians, Evagrius Ponticus died around 399-400. He was condemned as an Origenist at the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Ecumenical Synods.
He came into early contact with the great Cappadocians. St. Basil the Great made him a lector of the Church of Caesarea Cappadocia, and St. Gregory of Nazianz ordained him a deacon.
- Evagrius found his spiritual mentor in Macarius the Egyptian, who was able to teach him that wisdom that Greek culture had not been able to pass on to him. Macarius represented for him the link with the authentic monastic tradition. The regime imposed by the Egyptian wilderness was harsh.
- In Evagrian spirituality, faith is the indispensable foundation of man’s ascent to God. Faith is needed to keep the soil healthy. It is the beginning of love, and the end of love is the knowledge of God.
- In his work, “Praktikos”, Evagrius says that “the work of love is to behave equally towards every image of God. As towards God Himself. Although it is not possible to love all our brothers and sisters equally, it is possible to be unfeigned, free from anger and hatred towards all”. Whoever sins against love sins against Christ, Who is our love.
The accomplishments of Evagrius Ponticus in developing writings on asceticism and contemplation are impressive. Even though certain opinions taken from Origen caused his writings to be hidden under the name of the Curious Nil Ascetetus. After his condemnation at the Fifth Ecumenical Council, this proved beneficial.
Thus, we could understand the immense contribution and influence of Evagrius Ponticus on many later ecclesiastical writers. A most beneficial influence. That is why his writings must continue to be read with attention. After all, now, at least in the texts published in the Philokalia we will not find any erring, which makes them true spiritual treasures. Treasures still waiting to be discovered.