Thursday, August 2, 2012

St Peter of Damaskos

The stages of contemplation are, it seems to me, eight in number. Seven pertain to this present age, while the eighth is the pursuit of the age to come, as St Isaac says.

The first stage, according to St Dorotheos, is knowledge of the tribulations and trials of this life. This fills us with grief for all the damage done to human nature through sin.

The second is knowledge of our own faults and of God’s bounty, as St John Klimakos, St Isaac and many other fathers express it.

The third is knowledge of the terrible things that await us before and after death, as revealed in the Holy

The fourth is deep understanding of the life led by our Lord Jesus Christ in this world, and of the words and actions of His disciples and the other saints, the martyrs and the holy fathers.

The fifth is knowledge of the nature and flux of things, as St Gregory and St John of Damaskos put it.

The sixth is contemplation of created beings, that is to say, knowledge and understanding of God’s visible

The seventh is understanding of God’s spiritual creation.

The eighth is knowledge -concerning God, or what we call ‘theology’.

These are the eight stages of contemplation. The first three are suitable for one still engaged in ascetic practice, so that with many bitter tears he may purify his soul from all the passions and may be allowed through God’s grace to proceed to the remaining stages.

The last five stages pertain to the contemplative or gnostic. Through them he maintains a careful watch over the activities of both body and soul, and performs them rightly. As a result he is enabled to grasp these later stages clearly with his intellect.

Thus the man engaged in ascetic practice begins to enter the path of spiritual knowledge by way of the first three stages; and by concentrating on his task and by meditating on the thoughts produced within him, he progresses in them until they are established in him. In this way the next stage of knowledge enters automatically into his intellect.

The same happens with all the remaining stages.

St Peter of Damaskos

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