Friday, 8 May 2015

Monica Tobon: The place of God: apophasis in Evagrius Ponticus

Evagrius' Chapters on Prayer famously characterise the highest form of prayer as beyond both images and concepts, thus situating their author within the rich tradition of Christian apophasis whose witnesses include Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the Cloud of Unknowing, John of the Cross and Thomas Merton. Yet despite the vigour of this tradition the very notion of Christian apophasis remains controversial, suspected by its critics of failing properly to grasp the significance of the Incarnation. This paper aims accordingly to clarify the significance of apophasis in Evagrius. Taking his ‘Gnostic Trilogy' as paradigmatic of his spiritual system, it will note the likely Platonic/Neoplatonic/Cappadocian influences upon Evagrius' apophaticism, explore the role of apophasis in the spiritual life, how it relates to Evagrius' anthropology and eschatology, and how, far from betraying a deficient engagement with the reality of the Incarnation, it enables Evagrius' spirituality to be profoundly incarnational.

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