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Spiritual Fatherhood according to St John Chrysostom's Homilies on Penance in the light of the Psychology of Depth

Tsitsigkos, Spyros (1994) Spiritual Fatherhood according to St John Chrysostom's Homilies on Penance in the light of the Psychology of Depth. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Chrysostom delivered his Homilies on Penance in order to strengthen the faith of his flock, or to recall them to it, using the Pauline model of spiritual birth. Spiritual birth constitutes the full, canonical and organic induction of a believer into the ecclesiastical body. The task of spiritual birth entails both "paedagogy" and "therapy". Thus, the holy father interchanges the models of parent and physician. It is precisely the use and interchange of these models that gives us the right to employ in our analysis criteria from depth psychology, since at least the maternal substitute (according to Adler), as well as the psychotherapeutic one, are inherent a priori in the therapeutic method of depth psychology. The parallelism which we have attempted in this thesis, is primarily morphological and we have found it very useful in our attempt to understand more deeply the psychological relations between spiritual father and spiritual children in the context of the contemporary catechetical and counselling effort of the Church. The Homilies on Penance appear to be not only theological texts of moral kerygmatic character, but also paedagogical lessons, through which the psycho- therapeutic principles are set in operation, as they were known to the rhetor, so that he might "form according to Christ" his spiritual "disciples" and help them to "grow" in spiritual statute by means of an appropriate spiritual "knowledge". Hence, the renovation "in Christ" of a believer, which entails: a) psychological conversion (µokεtóϛ), birth (katηxησiϛ) and rebirth or regeneration (βáπtiσµa). Since, however, the holy father sees this spiritual relation of spiritual father and spiritual children in the light of St. Paul's experience and the entire Judaeo-Christian tradition, as "childbirth" (tokεtóϛ), it follows that "knowledge" (based on λóγoϛ) will be conceived biblically as "participation-communion" (µεtoxη- kolvwvia-σuvovσia). Throughout this entire work we have encountered a process of "sacred marriage" (iεpóϛ γáµoϛ) between the spiritual father and his spiritual children, according to the prototype of the revelation of God the Father within the entire history of the Divine Economy (Dispensation).More specifically, we develop in the first chapter the catholic possibility of spiritual fatherhood in man, accompanied by the appropriate spiritual charisms and virtues, whenever spiritual vigilance (vηψiϛ) and sanctity of life are constantly present. In the second chapter we provide an analysis of the love of the spiritual father, which reaches the point of sacrifice for the sake of his spiritual children and simultaneously his joy for their "communion" and "salvation" "in Christ", through him acting as a means and/or mediator. Archetypes of this mediatorial role are for Chrysostom, Jesus Christ himself, Moses, the holy Prophets and St. Paul. We also point out the spiritual father's triple task of, a) counselling, b) encouraging (πapaivεσiϛ) and c) criticism (ελεγxoϛ), through the use of a word-therapy technic (communication, contact and dialogue) and through employment of three models: a) of the human body, b) of a physician and c) of parents (father and mother as áµψiθvµia). In the final chapter we txplort the model of "childbirth" (tokεtóϛ), which the rhetor uses almost exclusively, uniting the divine factor with the human one in a process of spiritual pregnancy of spiritual children by a spiritual father. Spiritual fatherhood, which occupies the centre of Patristic Theology (Pastoralia, Counselling, Confession) is not interpreted by Chrysostom in the narrow sense of "granting forgiveness" (ȁψεσiϛ), but in the wider sense of psychological spiritual counselling and care. For Chrysostom, spiritual fatherhood constitutes an instrument in the service of repentance and salvation of the believing spiritual children and not the other way round. Spiritual fatherhood constitutes an event which is much larger than any professional psychoanalytic therapy. Theology and Psychology can serve together the birth of the ^on of man" by God, the common Father of all. Such a service, however, cannot operate outside the Church as a divine-human body. Chrysostom emphasizes this on many occasions, producing a perfect balance between every member and the entire body according to St. Paul's model.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1994
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Oct 2012 11:45

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