The Exomologetarion of St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite
by Protopresbyter George Metallinos
Note: This is an earlier version of the Introduction that now appears in the first English-language
edition of the Exomologetarion. See the end of the article for more details.
One of the works by the great Neo-Hesychastic Father of our
Church, St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite,  that has given rise to lengthy
discussions is his Exomologetarion or Manual of
Confession.  Its language and style pose challenges, and the question
is often raised as to how one of the redactors of the Philokalia 
could have composed such a work. However, if we are to interpret
a text of this kind, we must first come to an understanding of
its ecclesiological perspective. The aim of my paper is not to analyze
the work, but to provide a psychological and hermeneutical treatment
of its overall structure and to ascertain its pastoral goals.
1. Let us recall the structure and lineaments of the work. It begins
with an address To the Most Reverend Spiritual Fathers in Christ
(pp. 3-6), to which is added an Epigram on the Teaching of This
Book (p. 7). There follows: Part One: Concise and Practical Instructions
for the Spiritual Father, Compiled from Various Sources
(pp. 9-111). In Part Two, after brief prefatory remarks about the author
thereof, The Canons of St. John the Faster, Together with Their
Interpretations are set forth, with explanations by St. Nicodemos (pp.
112-148). To these are added Certain Important Subjects Not Covered
by the Canons of St. John of Faster (pp. 149-171). This is followed
by Excellent and Concise Advice for the Penitent on How to
Confess, Compiled from Various Teachers for the General Benefit of
Readers (p. 173). After a brief address (pp. 175-177), consisting of
Greetings to My Brothers in Christ and an Epigram on the subject
(p. 178), Part ThreeElegant and Concise Advice for the Penitent
(pp. 179-238)commences. To this is attached a Soul-profiting Discourse
Concerning the Audacity of Those Who Sin With the Expectation
of Confessing and Repenting (pp. 239-282).
St. Nicodemos composed the
Exomologetarion after occupying
himself with the writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian, 
therefore in a spiritual atmosphere that was purely Hesychastic and
imbued with the precepts of the
not only is it evident that
the work is a compilation of texts, but the author himself clearly states
this.  Consequently, there is no
basis in reality for the idea that we are
dealing with a genre thitherto completely unknown in the Church, 
since this kind of work is not foreign to the literary output of the
Greek nation during its enslavement to the Turks. At any rate, it behooves
us to locate the sources of this misunderstanding. Gerhard
Podskalsky, evidently in order to explain the ostensibly scholastic nature
of the work, characterizes it, in terms of its structure, as probably
based on a Latin original.  But
the notion that St. Nicodemos
worked from Latin modelswhich, in the past, led to some preposterous
speculationshas now been decisively laid to rest by Mr. Emmanuel
Frangiskou,  who, in the wake of
his critical intrusion into the
debate, has contributed significantly to demolishing an essentially
groundless attempt to make unjust war against this Saint; and for this,
we theologians are grateful to him.
St. Nicodemos himself states that he used other works for his
Exomologetarion (compiled from various sources, 
from different teachers ). He
was translating not from a single text
(written in Greek or some other language), but was drawing on diverse
works of similar character, using the usual method of compilation
that he employs in his writings. 
In any case, with the exception
of his wholly original liturgical commentaries, St. Nicodemos, following
the mind of the Fathers,  did
not consider it a defect to base
oneself on the works of others, since in this way the traditional practice
of the Church is rekindled and renewed and Her continuity is
made manifest by a plurality of voices. Nonetheless, whatever the
Saint took from some other writer was always passed through the
spiritual transformer of his conscience and his purely Orthodox and
ecclesiastical mind-set.  Hence,
he does not hesitate to say: ...[W]e
have been very assiduous in collecting material from a variety of
teachers.  He states that he
has before him the most accurate manuscripts
of Exomologetaria from
the Holy Mountain, which are
profitably used by all of the experienced spiritual Fathers on the Holy
Mountain,  and he recommends
spiritual Fathers to study the
Exomologetarion by Chrysanthos of Jerusalem, 
in conjunction with the
Sacred Canons,  as well as the
printed works of Emmanuel Romanitis, Ho Pneumatikos Didaskomenos [Instructions for
Spiritual Fathers] and Ho Metanoon Didaskomenos [Instructions for Penitents], 
the works of an author who, through his translations, provided Nicodemos
with material for other of his writings. 
He also uses an Orthodoxos Homologia
[Orthodox Confession], 
and he is familiar
with the Exomologetarion
printed many years ago by one Neophytos
of Cyprus, surnamed Rodinos, who was a heretic. 
tacitly reproaches the cumenical Patriarch Kallinikos
III, who republished
this work, with [Neophytos] name on the title page, but
without purging it of its erroneous ideas. 
As well, he mentions a
Exomologetarion for the sick, 
which has recently
been published under the name of St. Nicodemos 
(though His Eminence,
Metropolitan Paul of Sweden, considers this a misattribution, 
asserting that the work belongs to Methodios Anthrakitis  ).
St. Nicodemos is based, specifically, on
the thirty-eight Canons of St. John the Faster 
and on his seventeen
Penances, which were discovered in manuscripts located in Athonite
monasteries. He translates these canonical texts, simplifying them
and also comments on them, adding detailed footnotes,
following the method that he employs in the
He holds St.
John the Faster in great esteem: The Divine Faster, who set forth his
Canons with the discernment of the Holy Spirit.... 
that spiritual Fathers apply the Canons in the way that St. John the
Faster did,  and this because
of the condescension that the latter
employed (a spiritual Father should thus tell the person confessing to
him: I have applied the Canons in your case according to the condescension
shown by St. John the Faster ).
The criteria used by St.
Nicodemos in selecting these Canons are pastoral and, as well, purely
ecclesiastical (criteria which the entire Orthodox Church has generally
accepted and does accept).  The
great fall in the spiritual level
of humanity rendered it imperative to use St. John's Canons, which
were governed by a spirit of leniency greater than that of the ancient
Fathers.  St. Nicodemos was also
aware that the Faster was reproached
for the small number of years that he prescribed for abstinence
from Communion.  St. John
provided a new yardstick for repentance:
he shortened the period of abstinence from the Mystery of
the Divine Eucharist,  but he
laid greater emphasis on the ascetical
dimension, something which, for reasons that are easy to understand,
Hesychasts like St. Nicodemos upheld. The Saint offers a masterly explanation
of this shift in the Churchs pastoral practice; 
the Faster, he emphasizes an ascetical rule (kanon),
which, more than
anything else, keeps the penitent in a state of constant vigilance and
guides him towards true repentance. There is thus a continuity between
the category of mourners [penitents] that existed in Christian
antiquity and those Faithful who put into practice and fulfill the
rule given to them. The method changes, but the same spirit is
preserved, a spirit which, in both cases, governs the process of repentance
and the restoration of the believer to good standing in the
2. The ideas expressed in the
Exomologetarion are at odds with
the anti-Pietistic tendency that prevails in our day. 
The attempt to
overstate the admittedly pernicious spirit of Pietism 
little helps those
who ardently apply their anti-Pietistic criteria to approach the çuvre
of St. Nicodemos with purely Orthodox ecclesiological criteria.
Somewhere along the line, a delicate balance is lost. At the same time,
an evaluation of his works that proceeds from a realm in which asceticism
takes priority leads to views that are at times equally hyperbolic;
such views constitute a challenge from the right. Thus, two
diametrically opposed assessments have been formulated.
The second view is expressed by the venerable Elder, Father Theokletos of Dionysiou.  St.
Nicodemos distinguishes himself, according
to Father Theokletos, as a confessor of rare talent.... In this
book, he proves to be an expert interpreter of the penances prescribed
by the Sacred Canons, a truly Patristic preacher of repentance.... He is
so gentle and compunctionate in his exposition of the Mystery of repentance,
confession, and forgiveness that he arouses those who are
indifferent towards this Mystery to repentance and confession. 
first view is set forth by Professor Chrestos Yannaras, 
his critique of St. Nicodemos as follows: It is, rather, inevitable
that an ever-increasing number of people should sever their ties with
the Church after just one experience of a traumatic confession based
on the principles of a juridical transaction42and
he has in mind,
here, the Exomologetarionof
St. Nicodemos. He concludes: The
God of Augustine, Anselm, and Nicodemos, the God Who terrorizes
us with His sadistic demands for justice, is of no interest to humanity.  These opinions are shared by others, too. 
How is one to respond to them?
It is undeniable that the language of the
intensely scholastic at many points, and this is something that
cannot be overlooked.  Academic
theology in our day has largely recovered
its Orthodox identityprimarily in linguistic termsand its
style has been purged of scholastic influences; as such, it views the
language of the
Exomologetarion as repulsive and offensive. However,
we should not forget that every artifact is a product of its era and
embodies the characteristics of that era. The
is a product of the ecclesiastical idiom that was in vogue during the
period of the Turkish domination, 
and it echoes both the climate in
which it was written and its Western influences, 
Tradition of the Church with the means provided by that period. This
is all the more so because such a work was intended for a broad stratum of the people and was couched in terms that they could understand.
However, we should not confuse language with the spirit of
Holy Tradition, which is preserved, not simply by language and intellectual
expressions, but above all by the practice of asceticism and the
entire spiritual struggle. St. Nicodemos, despite the language of the
Exomologetarion and other related works of his, is
faithful to the
Hesychastic tradition and is a successor to St. Gregory Palamas, by
virtue of the ascetical experience to which he fully adhered.
Additionally, it is a fact, overlooked by the critics of St. Nicodemos, that his affinity with the juridical Western theory of satisfaction 
is only a matter of terminology, and it is this
that allows such critics to put forth their familiar, but superficial,
equation of his view with the Western view. Linguistically
speaking, of course, the correspondence is easy to demonstrate. St.
Nicodemos talks about an infinite offense, an eternal recompense,
the gratification of Divine justice, the wrath of God, and the like:
Do you wish to understand, O sinner, the infinite offense that sin
causes to God? Understand it on the basis of the eternal recompense
which the Son of God made for it, with so many sufferings and such
a shameful death.  And
elsewhere: For since sin is infinite, according
to the theologians;  as an
offense to the eternal God,  it
be destroyed by deeds or by satisfaction on the part of a finite creature,
let alone such an unclean creature as a sinner. 
And there are
many other similar expressions in the same vein.
Mortal sins, St. Nicodemos writes in another place, render one
who commits them an enemy of God and liable to everlasting death
in Hell.  Sin does not bring
harm (only) to the sinner, but also to
God.  Thus, God becomes a
punisher and an avenger in order
to restore order where it has been disturbed: The impartial justice of
God is satisfied in no other way than by the chastisement of that very
body which has sinned. 
Penances (that is, penitential canons or
rules of prayer) are a small punishment whereby the penitent appeases
the great wrath that God has towards him. 
Admittedly, if these phrases are detached from their context, they
immediately take on a cruel, sadistic character, overturning the theology
of Divine love which permeates the spirit of Orthodox (ecclesiastical)
soteriology (see St. John 3:16, Romans 5:8, etc.). For this reason,
it is necessary to place them in the entire context of St. Nicodemos
thought and activity.
Now, if we study the
Exomologetarion as a whole and put these
phrases in its more general theological and pastoral context [and this
exhortation applies equally well to the Old Testament and many of its
stark words, as they are also seen in the whole context of Scripture
and through the eyes of the FathersTrans.], we are easily led to a
opposed understanding of them. The term satisfaction
occurs very frequently in this work of St. Nicodemos, 
but it has no
connection with the vindictive attitude of some inexorable Divine
Judge; it has, rather, to do with the rule assigned to the penitent. 
The meaning of the term is defined by the author himself as follows:
It is the actual fulfillment of the rule given by the spiritual
That is, it does not refer to any sadistic authority figure, but indicates
the good pleasure and joy (loving satisfaction) of God over the
fulfillment of a rule (the taking of ones spiritual medicine in its
by the spiritually ailing penitent, just as every doctor rejoices
when his patient completes the treatment that he (the doctor) has prescribed.
In other words, whereas the Western spirit consists in the vindictive
demand on the part of God for the restoration of His wounded
dignity, here the love of God is made manifest in the cure of His ailing
child. After spending many anguished days examining the relevant
passages, I have come to the conclusion that the idea of satisfaction
in the parlance of St. Nicodemos, corresponds
to the notion of being well pleasing (or acceptable) and its
cognates (euarestein, euarestesis, euarestein to Theo), which are
very commonly encountered in ecclesiastical texts (cf. [W]ithout
faith [total self-surrender] it is impossible to please [God] [Hebrews
11:6]; For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God,
and approved of men [Romans 14:18]). With regard to the sacrifice
of Jesus Christ, the term satisfaction expresses what is meant by the
Gospel phrase: This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased
(St. Matthew 3:17, etc.). Aside from this, it is inconceivable, to put it
mildly, that anyoneand especially a theologiancould accept that
St. Nicodemos, who was very Patristic and Orthodox in his other
works, was caught up in Western error in his
Moreover, it is significant that the Saint draws, in the
not on Western sources, but on the work Peri
[Concerning the Mysteries], by Gabriel Severos of Philadelphia, an
authoritative theologian from the period of the Turkish captivity. 
particular, he defines abstinence from Divine Communion as the satisfaction
of satisfactions,  which is a
necessary constituent of true
repentance.  In this context,
satisfaction is divided into two aspects:
the physical and the spiritual. The physical aspect consists in
fasting, xerophagy [the consumption of uncooked foodsTrans.],
prostrations, and almsgiving to all and sundry. The spiritual aspect
consists in compunctionate prayer. 
That is to say, satisfaction is
consummated within the boundaries of the process of repentance, and
when it is put into practice, it takes on a purely spiritual and totally
non-juridical character. Furthermore, it can be documented historically
that the practical dimension of the Mystery of repentance was
formed by the Churchs monastic practice, that is, by her ascetic practice.
 As a Hesychast, St. Nicodemos remains absolutely
3. It is from this point on that St. Nicodemos language begins to
diverge from the Western Anselmian tradition. Western legalism is defined by Chrestos Yannaras as an individualistic effort, 
as a juridical
activity of individual propitiation 
by the sinner, who stands
alone and guilty before an implacable Deity, a just and retributive
judge, Who thirsts insatiably for the satisfaction of His justice, which
human sin has offended. 
Aroused by the boundless sadism of His
wounded ego,  God demands the
punishment of the sinner. Penances
are understood, not as an educative therapy provided by
God in His lovingkindness for the healing of the sinner, but as a ransom
which the sinner must pay. 
These tendencies evolved in the
framework of turning the true Church into a religion and reducing
it to a form of individualistic moralism. 
It is impossible to identify St. Nicodemos with this mentality,
even if only superficially,  for
the following reasons: (1) he had no
direct contact with Western sources, because at this stage he operated
freely within the parameters of hagiographical and Patristic language
and tradition; (2) and though his scholastic expressions derive from
writers of his era,  they take
on a purely hagiographical and Patristic
meaning. For example, he observes that sin defiles the blood of
Christ and insults His Grace. 
However, he accurately quotes Hebrews
10:29: [Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he
be thought worthy,] who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and
hath counted the blood of the Covenant, wherewith he was sanctified,
an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace?
to the participle treading underfoot (the Son of God) is
the application to God of the verb to harm, 
in which his aim is to
make clear to the people, in their own everyday language, the gravity
of sin, and especially of mortal sin.
Furthermore, when he writes that sin is forgiven through the infinite satisfaction of Christs sacrifice, 
he faithfully renders St. Titus
3:5: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according
to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration,
which is parallel to I St. John 1:7, ...and the blood of Jesus Christ His
Son cleanseth us from all sin; in addition, Christ is He Who taketh
away the sin of the world (St. John 1:29)or, as St. Basil the Great
puts it, the remission of sins is set forth in the blood of Christ. 
St. Nicodemos wishes, hereby, precisely to avoid a twofold danger:
(1) that the sinner be led into quaking with guilt and the threat
of condemnation,  or (2) that
he form the impression that a rule, in
and of itself, leads one to salvation. Forestalling similar superficial
he teaches that sins are not forgiven through performing our
rule, but through the mercy of God and through the satisfaction [i.e.,
the blood] of Jesus Christ. 
God punished sin in the person of Jesus
Christ, but with such harshness, that all of the aforementioned punishments,
in comparison with this one, seem like a shadow.... 
purpose of these words, formulated in such a way that ordinary people
could understand them, is to show how important the sacrifice of
Jesus Christ is and to dissociate the idea of a rule from any demand
for recompense,  making the
Faithful aware of the fact that an ascetical
rule simply makes a man receptive to God's Grace, by opening
him up to It.  This is precisely
what he means when he exhorts the sinner to propitiate Divine justice with this temporal rule :
a man must become receptive to Grace.
The use of the terms wrath, chastisement, enemy of God,
wrath of God, guilty, punishment, and the like, is free, in the
uvre of St. Nicodemos, from any juridical purport and makes it easy
for readers to approach his teaching, which rests on firm hagiographical
and Patristic foundations. We do not need to cite actual examples
of every term. For the sake of argument, we will confine ourselves to
a single passage from St. Gregory of Nyssa concerning the controversial
term punishment: Just as every man, as the Apostle says [cf. I
Corinthians 3:3], shall receive his own reward, according to his own
labor, so as a matter of course he shall receive punishment for neglect
of labor in proportion to his strength. 
This idiom, moreover, is
customary in ecclesiastical worship and is therefore familiar to a believer
who loves the Divine services. Let us recall that the Prayer of
Manasses, King of Juda  is
linguistically at odds with the Prayer
of St. Basil the Great,  even
though both are read at Great Compline.
And these are certainly not the only examples.
4. Any anachronistic hermeneutical approach to the
and to St. Nicodemos more generally, does an injustice to the
Saint and his theology. I have already said that the language of the
Exomologetarionis repugnant to todays believer;
but it is all the
more repugnant to one who moves on the fringes of the Churchs life
and experience. In this work, the Saint operates within the soteriological
framework of the Church, in the spirit of the
inadmissible to compartmentalize his personality, which remains forever
integrated, unified, and inseparable, in keeping with the Neptic
tradition of Orthodoxy (the prayer of the heart). 
St. Nicodemos' sole purpose is to make man aware of the essence
of sin and its devastating power, since it jeopardizes his very salvation,
depriving him of God's Grace and, thereby, of the capacity for
adoption into Divine sonship. 
The true Gospel (Good News) is described
by St. Nicodemos as adoption into sonship: It is a special
and distinctive gift and a charism so sublime that it makes the Holy
Spirit dwell in you; He is present in you and acts in you in a way that
is peculiar and distinct from His presence and activity in all other
places, because He makes man a son of God and an heir of His
Kingdom.  It is for this reason
that St. Nicodemos wishes to make
man hate sin  (hate and loathe
sin89). Hence, he covers every
shade of sin in his analysis of the Decalogue and, of course,
those that are most common in any age, such as sins of the flesh.
Thereby, the Saint presents the struggling believer of his time with a
spiritual mirror, although it is necessary that one be aware (and this
includes the spiritual Father, too) of what the illnesses of the soul, that
is, sins, are, so that he may know how to cure them. 
This is a matter, therefore, not of Latin casuistry, but rather of a medical diagnosis
that is the necessary prerequisite for any cure. 
Consequently, the author does not offer an impersonal legal
code  but a classification of
spiritual diseases, so that a spiritual Father
might determine an appropriate prescription. St. Nicodemos always
has in view the ideal of the authentic Christian and how a penitent
can attain to this ideal. A Christian who does not live a Christian
life is not a Christian, he observes, 
basing himself on the Fathers.  Nicodemos has no patience 
for the idea of a Christian committing mortal sins; which is to say, this is, for the Saint, intolerable!
Indeed, he trembles at the mere thought of it. Thus, he does not
offer half measures in the war against sin, but very drastic measures.
And there is no measure more drastic than ascesis, that is, the
spiritual struggle, which is laid down and conveyed by the Tradition of the
Church. One who is a Christian only intellectually, and does not cultivate
asceticism, cannot understand the spirit of St. Nicodemos, since
the Saint regards as legendary the defining characteristics of asceticism,
which correspond to the experience of the monastic Saints (e.g.,
St. Gerasimos, et al.). 
As we have already said, St. Nicodemos emphasizes the authority
of St. John the Faster, because, in place of lengthy abstinence from
Divine Communion, he puts the weight of repentance on the rule
(on satisfaction). St. Nicodemos underscores in particular the importance
of the ascetical rule, because he wants to help the Faithful to
approach Divine Communion more frequently, 
the Mystery in such a way that it loses its significance and place in the
life of the Church. Indeed, the Jesuit Gerhard Podskalsky, in his assessment
of the Exomologetarion,
observes that its author is concerned,
not only with the validity, but at the same time with the most
fruitful possible reception of the Mysteries. 
That is to say, we
should avoid communing unworthily (I Corinthians 11:27-29). 
Consequently, any attempt to interpret the sacred Canons in legalistic
or moralistic categories is foreign to St. Nicodemos. 
penances, the satisfaction, and the rule imposed by a spiritual Father
are not, in the end, a punishment or a chastisement, but, as he points
out, entail ones salvation. And here  he cites the Divine Chrysostomos,
who writes: Let us also learn these laws of charity [which St.
Paul had enjoined in the case of the man who had fallen into fornication].
For if you see a horse hurtling down a precipice, you throw a
bridle on him; you restrain him forcibly and whip him frequently. Although
this is a punishment, yet the punishment itself is the mother of
safety. Act thusly, also, in the case of those who sin. Restrain one who
has transgressed until he is pleasing to God; do not let him go loose,
lest he be bound more tightly by the wrath of God.... Do not suppose,
then, that such treatment derives from cruelty and inhumanity; it derives,
rather, from the utmost gentleness, excellent medical care, and
great solicitude. 
This passage from St. John Chrysostomos is, I believe, the key to
understanding and vindicating St. Nicodemos language, too. The
Mystery of repentance, in all of its workingsas the Churchs pastoral
mechanism par excellence, presents many parallels to medical
science, in terms of its language and methods. It is the means by
which the Church effects cures, and for this reason it functions in a
manner as practical as surgery. To be sure, this kind of language does
not belong in a mission to those outside the Church, nor is it suitable
for use with neophytes who have not entered into the Churchs spiritual
life, since the results would be rather negative. 
It is, however,
the proper language for dealing with sinners who are conscious of the
life of the Church and who sincerely seek to be readmitted into the
body of the Church. In them, such language engenders joyful sorrow
They feel sorrow and fear, for they are unworthy
because of sin, but joy, on account of their salvation 
The most important point, however, is that the
functions within the framework of the Church and orients the believer,
not towards some individual justification, but towards readmittance
into the life of the Church. Only through ascetical praxis, as an
endeavor within the realm of this Mystery (and, consequently, one
that is centered on the Church), can the believer become receptive to
Grace, and this Grace is imparted by the Mystery of the Church. The
Exomologetarionis not without an ecclesiological
perspective, for it
greets man in the narthex of the Church, in order to lead him to the
Holy of Holies. Spiritual Fathers, according to St. Nicodemos, are
those physicians and innkeepers whom the Lord established, in
keeping with the Gospel parable, in the inn of the Church to care for
the sick; that is, those sinners who are wounded by the noetic brigands,
namely, the demons.  The
the Church. She is the mother [of the believer]...who delivered
the Faith to him.  Moreover,
it frequently mentions the Saints, the
Angels, and especially the Theotokos, into whose fellowship the
sinner is reincorporated. The author does not neglect to remind
us of the category of mourners, that is, the penitents of the
early centuries of Christianity, 
who attest to the Churchs abiding
Accordingly, the penitent is called to an awareness that he belongs
to a society that is not worldly or secularized, but ecclesiastical.
For this reason, in his interpretation of the Canons, St. Nicodemos
often explains them in social terms. These explanations impress us
even today by their progressiveness, 
and they also liberate the penitent from any individualistic
notion of himself. Thus, ascetical satisfaction becomes an ecclesiastical
event and an act of communion. 
In my humble opinion, the process of repentance should never deviate
from the spirit of the Exomologetarion of St. Nicodemosunderstood and
interpreted, of course, in an Orthodox manner. However, a Christian who reads
this book today, but who is not familiar with the language and ascetical
practice of the Church, should first read an informative introduction, which
ought to constitute the preface to any future reprinting of the book. To be
precise, it is my wish that the present text might be of assistance in this
1. For a critical survey of his life, with all of his known writings, see
Gerhard Podskalsky, Griechische Theologie in der Zeit der Trkenherrschaft (1453-
1821) [Greek Theology during the Period of the Turkish Yoke
1988), pp. 377ff.
2. The Saints biographer [see Monk Nicodemos Bilalis,
Ho prototypos bios tou Hagiou Nikodemou tou
Original Life of St. Nicodemos
the Hagiorite] (Athens: 1985)] notes: He...[settled]...in...[his]...kalyve
hut] in 1774. There, he corrected and improved the
composed the Chrestoetheia,
the second Exomologetarion,
on] the fourteen Epistles of St. Paul and the seven Catholic Epistles, and
the Psalterion of
Evthymios Zygadinos [sic].... What is meant by the second
Exomologetarion? In all likelihood, it means that
he was working on an already
existing work, and perhaps on what was later to be known as the first
P.G. Nikolopoulos, Bibliographike Epistasia ton Ekdoseon Nikodemou tou
Hagioreitou [ A Bibliographical Overview of the
Publications of Nicodemos the Hagiorite], Epeteris Etaireias Kykladikon
XVI (2000), pp. 489ff. The first edition of the work appeared in 1794, with
following subtitle and publication data: A most soul-profiting book,
into three parts, of which the first contains concise and practical
the spiritual Father on how to hear confessions in a fruitful way. The second
contains the Canons of St. John the Faster, accurately explained, together
certain other necessary comments. The third part contains perceptive and
advice for the penitent on how to confess properly, compiled from various
and arranged in the best possible order by the most reverend and learned
among monks Nicodemos, and now published for the first time for the general
benefit of readers. Venice, 1794. At the press of Nicholas Glykeus of
(see G.G. Ladas and A.D. Hatzedemos, Hellenike
Bibliographia ton eton 1791-1795 [Bibliography of Greek Publications from
the Years 1791-1795] [Athens:
1970], pp. 283-284, No. 161). The second edition appeared in 1804, with this
subtitle and data: A most soul-profiting book, containing: concise
for the spiritual Father on how to hear confessions in a fruitful way; the
of St. John the Faster, accurately explained, together with certain other
comments; perceptive advice for the penitent on how to confess properly,
from various teachers and arranged in the best possible order by the least
among monks, Nicodemos; published previously, and now expanded and published
for the second time through the generosity and at the expense of His
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Ioannina, for the general benefit of Orthodox
Christians. Venice, 1804. At the press of Nicholas Glykeus of Ioannina. With
In 1799, between the first and second editions, a version of the work was
printed in Constantinople in Turkish (though in Greek characters). The third
was published in 1818, and was frequently reprinted. In this paper, I have
used an undated reprint by the St. Nicodemos Society (Athens) of the
published in Venice in 1868. For excerpts from the work in Italian
Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Il Sacramento della Penitenza nella Teologia Greco-Ortodossa: Studi storico-dogmatici [The Sacrament of Confession in
Greek Orthodox Theology: Historical and Dogmatic Studies] (Thessaloniki: 1982),
300-329. For comments on the
Exomologetarion, see pp. 261ff.; cf.
Griechische Theologie , pp. 380f.; Monk Theokletos Dionysiates, Hagios
Nikodemos ho Hagioreites. Ho Bios kai ta erga tou (1749-1809)
the Hagiorite: His Life and Works (1749-1809)] (Athens: 1959), pp.
Chrestos Yannaras, Orthodoxia
kai Dyse ste neotere Hellada [Orthodoxy
the West in Modern Greece] (Athens: 1992), pp. 201f. In the nineteenth
twentieth centuries, this work was reprinted more often than any other work
St. Nicodemos. For very a concise account of this work, see P. Eliou,
Greek Publications in the Nineteenth Century: Books and Pamphlets (1801-
1818)] (Athens: 1997), Vol. I, pp. 95-96 (No. 13). This is a description
3. See Podskalsky, Griechische Theologie, pp. 379f.; Monk Theokletos,
Hagios Nikodemos ho Hagioreites, pp. 96ff.
4. See Monk Theokletos,
Hagios Nikodemos ho Hagioreites, pp. 175ff. (181).
5. See below.
6. Monk Theokletos,
Hagios Nikodemos ho Hagioreites,p. 181.
7. See Amato, Il Sacramento della Penitenza.
8. Podskalsky, Griechische Theologie, p. 380.
9. Emmanuel Frangiskou, "Haoratos
"Gymnasmata Pneumatikoa" (1800). Patroteta ton "metaphraseon" tou Nikodemou
Hagioreite [Unseen Warfare (1796) and Spiritual
Exercises (1800): The Authorship of the Translations by Nicodemos the Hagiorite] (Athens: 1993)
from the periodical O
Eranistw, Vol. XIX , pp. 102-135). The
that has hitherto been formed about Nicodemos the Hagiorites relationship
with the texts of Scupoli and Pinamonti and, beyond this, about the influence
Catholicism on his çuvre, is undergoing a radical change. It is clear
that this relationship
was wholly indirect (p. 127).
see the title-page of the book and p. 173.
12. Panagiotis Chrestou (Pateres
kai theologoi tou Christianismou [Christian Fathers and Theologians] [Thessaloniki: 1971], Vol. II, p. 324)
a demerit that Nicodemos did not apply himself more to composing original
works, a view which is repeated also by Podskalsky (Griechische Theologie,
13. Concerning originality in the Patristic tradition, see the chapter
"To ergo ton Pateron kai to ergo ton
Philosophon" [The Work
of the Fathers
and the Work of the Philosophers], in S.G. Papadopoulos,
[Patrology] (Athens: 1977), Vol. I, pp. 58ff.
14. Hence, he makes everything Orthodox, such as, for example, the
of Western works by Emmanuel Romanitis.
16. Ibid., p. 79.
17. Ibid., p. 92. The work in question is
Didaskalia ophelimos peri metanoias
kai exomologeseos [Beneficial Teaching on
Repentance and Confession]
18. He recommends the study primarily of Canons 11 of the First cumenical
Synod; 102 of the Sixth; 2, 5, and 6 of the Synod of Ancyra; 1 and 2 of
the Synod of Laodicea; 4, 5, 7, and 8 of St. Gregory of Nyssa; and 2, 3, 74,
and 85 of St. Basil the Great, because these Canons are particularly
the vocation of a spiritual Father (p. 95).
19. Concerning Emmanuel (or Manuel) Romanitis, Cretan by descent and
Chancellor of Patmos (secretary of the island community), who flourished in
the eighteenth century (he must have died between the years 1758 and 1762),
Frangiskou, "Aoratos Polemos"
(1796)...,pp. 127f. and n. 15. His works Ho
Pneumatikos Didaskomenos and
Ho Metanoon Didaskomenos (see
Legrand, Bibliographie Hellnique [Bibliography of Greek
XVIIIth cent., Vol. I, No. 292, pp. 296-298) belong to Paolo Segneri (Frangiskou,
"Aoratos Polemos" (1796)...,pp. 109-110). See
n. 1; 31, n. 1; and 62, n. 1.
20. See note 9 above.
p. 80. According to Amato (Il Sacramento della
Penitenza, p. 293), this is a reference to a work of the same title by
p. 77, n. 1. The work is: Neophytos Rodinos,
Peri Exolomogeseos [Concerning Confession] (Rome:
1630, 1671) (see Legrand,
Bibliographie Hellnique, XVIIIth cent., Vol. I, No. 202, pp. 275f. and
No. 500, p. 66).
pp. 77-78, n. See Podskalsky, Griechische Theologie, p. 203 (and n. 846). Regarding its publication, see Legrand,
Hellnique, XVIIIth cent., Vol. II, No. 1197, p. 472. See also the
Amato (Il Sacramento della Penitenza, pp. 294f.
p. 76. The work is entitled Episkepis pneumatike, etoi me poion tropon
chreostei ho pneumatikos na episkeptetai tous astheneis...
[Spiritual Visitation; that is, how a Spiritual Father should visit the
(Venice: 1780 and 1781) (see Legrand, Bibliographie Hellnique,
Vol. II, No. 998, p. 328).
25. Episkepsis Pneumatikou
pros asthene [When a Spiritual Father Visits
the Sick] (Athens: Hypakoë Publications, 1993).
26. Metropolitan Paul (Menevisoglou) of Sweden,
"Peplanemene apodosis ergou eis Nikodemon
Hagioreiten" [The Erroneous
Ascription of a Work
to Nicodemos the Hagiorite], Kleronomia,
Vol. XXIX (1997), pp. 203-210.
27. Ibid., pp. 205f. Concerning this author, see Podskalsky,
Theologie, pp. 312ff. But see also Fr. B.E. Bouloudakis, Peri tes
patrotetos duo anonymon ergon Hagiou
Nikodemou tou Hagioreitou. Apantesis
ston Metropoliten Souedias k. Paulon [Concerning the
Authorship of Two Anony -
mous Works by St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite: A Reply to Metropolitan Paul of
Sweden] (Athens: 2000).
28. Patriarch John IV of Constantinople (595). See the article by George Mantzarides in the
Threskeutike kai Ethike Egkyklopaideia [Encyclopdia
Religion and Ethics] (Athens: 1965), Vol. VI, cols. 1210-1211.
30. Ibid., p. 77.
31. Ibid., p. 88.
32. Ibid., p. 78, n. See also his introductory remarks on St. John the
and his Canons (pp. 112-113).
33. Ibid., p. 114.
34. Ibid., p. 78.
35. Ibid., p. 116, n. 1. He writes: The only reason why the Fathers
abstinence from Communion as a penance is, I believe, that Christians
back then so loved to commune that they considered it the greatest punishment
to be deprived of Communion. Because of this, the Fathers of that period
not find any other impediment to sin than abstinence from Communion.
36. Ibid., pp. 115f., n. (the subject of ecclesiastical
37. See Yannaras,
Orthodoxia kai Dyse.
38. Regarding the essence of Pietism, see the important discussion by
Chrestos Yannaras in his book
H Eleuyera to Hyouw
[The Freedom of Moral -
ity] (Athens: 1979), 2nd rev. ed., pp. 151ff. In theological terms, the
rightly calls Pietism an heresy in the realm of ecclesiology.
39. From his book
Hagios Nikodemos ho Hagioreites (see n. 2).
40. Ibid., p. 181.
41. See n. 2.
Orthodoxia kai Dyse, p. 206.
43. Ibid. And he adds: It cannot be proved, but it is reasonable to
that the juridical mentality of the
has spread very rapidly, like a plague, in the pastoral practice of the Greek
Churchwas one of the reasons for the manifestation, even in Greece, of a
at all levels of society, against religion, or secularization,as it is
whereby great masses of the population cut themselves off from the life of
Church; this does not necessarily betoken their acceptance of atheistic
rather, an entrenched indifference towards all metaphysical problems, a
in the religious identityof the masses (p. 206). In response to this it
should be pointed out that the spirit of indifferentism, which Yannaras
with secularization, was introduced by way of the Enlightenment and does
owe its origins to the works of St. Nicodemos, of which the proponents of the
Enlightenment [in GreeceTrans.] were totally ignorant. All those who
themselves to be influenced by Pietismwhether positively or negativelyin
Exomologetarion and other related works did so because
lacking in Orthodox criteria and attempted to interpret St. Nicodemos with
Western criteria (deriving from the Enlightenment or from Pietism), being
complete strangers to the ascetical (Neptic) tradition of Orthodoxy.
44. Prof. Chrestos Patrinelis, for example, in the
Historia tou Hellenikou Ethnous [History of the Greek Nation], Athens
edition (1975), Vol. XI, p. 132,
observes: It is difficult, therefore, to regard the teaching of the
Kollyvades in its
entirety as a ray of Orthodox spirituality, as it is often called.
pietistic and casuistic character of the popular works by
Exomologetarion (1794) and the
are scarcely consistent with the
mystical [sic] spirit. We have here, unfortunately, a clear confusion
Pietism (moralism) and the ascetical-Neptic tradition of Orthodoxy, something
that is evident from the authors use of the term mystical instead of
(Fr. John Romanides correctly suggests that we Orthodox make a distinction
mystical and secret). Orthodox Patristic spirituality has nothing in
common with the mysticism of Neoplatonism.
45. See the communiqué of the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain,
entitled, "Anairesis ton peplanemenon
theseon tou k. Chr. Giannara peri tou en hagiois Patros emon Nikodemou tou
Hagioreitou" [A Refutation
Erroneous Views of Mr. C. Yannaras Concerning our Father among the Saints
Nicodemos the Hagiorite],
Orthodoxos Martyria, No. 40 (1993), pp. 2-10. The
authors of this important document boldly aver: ...[I]f certain expressions
reminiscent of Scholastic theology, for historical reasons that are easy to
inadvertently slipped into his work, these in no way affect the generally
outlook and tenor of his çuvre....
46. Angelo Amatos work (see n. 2) provides samples of this idiom, with
particular reference to the practical aspect of Confession.
47. Regarding these influences and their magnitude, see the Procs-Verbaux
du premier Congrs de Thologie Orthodoxe Athnes (29 Nov.-6 Dc. 1936)
[Proceedings of the First Congress on Orthodox Theology in Athens (29
Dec. 1936)] (Athens: 1939) (especially the papers delivered by
Papadopoulos, Constantine Dyobouniotis, and Georges Florovsky), and the
study by John Karmiris, Logoi peri ton exoterikon epidraseon epi ten
Orthodoxon Theologian [Discourses Concerning
Foreign Influences on Orthodox
Theology] (Athens: 1938).
48. For the substance of this theory, see the entry by Nicholas Matsoukas in
the Threskeutike kai Ethike Egkyklopaideia
(Athens: 1965), Vol. VI, cols.
857-858. Matsoukas states in this article that the writings of Tertullian and
already contain references to the satisfaction of Divine justice through
works (satisfacere Deo).
50. He means Orthodox theologians during the Turkish domination.
51. Only in this way does sin acquire infinite significance!
53. Ibid., p. 14.
54. Ibid., p. 183.
55. Ibid., p. 201
56. Ibid., p. 200.
57. Ibid., pp. 81, 86-87, 88, etc. For a history of the usage of this
Fr. B. Kalliakmanis, "He didaskalia
peri hikanopoieseos tes theias dikaiosynes neoellenike theologia" [The Teaching Concerning the
Divine Justice in Modern Greek Theology],
(1988), pp. 529-537. Cf. Fr. George D. Metallinos,
"He 'peri hikanopoieseos tes theias
dikaiosynes' didaskalia kai he neoellenike katechetike kai keryktike praxe" [The Teaching Concerning the Satisfaction of
Modern Greek Catechetical and Homiletic Practice], in
Logos hos Antilogos.
[Thesis and Antithesis:
Theological Essays] (Athens: 1992),
p. 88. See the relevant comments of Fr. Bouloudakis
in his book Orthodoxia kai Chr. Giannaras
[Orthodoxy and Chrestos Yannaras]
(Athens: 1993), pp. 55ff.
p. 199. The work is entitled Syntagmation
peri ton hagion kai hieron mysterion [Treatise on the Holy
and Sacred Mysteries]
(Venice: 1600) (Legrand, Bibliographie Hellnique, XVth and XVIth
II, No. 998, p. 328). There is a detailed analysis of this work in Amato,
Il Sacramento della Penitenza, pp. 59ff. Concerning the author, see Podskalsky,
Griechische Theologie, pp. 118ff. and passim. With regard to his
the term satisfaction, Amato remarks: Severos bases satisfaction
on Scriptural and Patristic teaching (p. 67), that is to say, it is
purely ecclesiastical (Orthodox) in character. We should pay particular
to this statement by Amato, a Roman Catholic.
60. I.e., the satisfaction par excellence (cf. the Song
pp. 204, 79f. Cf. Amato, Il Sacramento della Penitenza, pp. 285ff., 68f. (concerning Gabriel Severos, on whom Nicodemos
63. See Fr. John S. Romanides, Man and His True Life According to the
Greek Orthodox Service Book, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review,
(1954), p. 77.
Orthodoxia kai Dyse, p. 201: The pastoral practice of the
Exomologytarion based unreservedly on the Roman
Catholic distortion of the
Churchs Gospel of salvation.
65. Ibid., p. 203.
66. Ibid., pp. 201-202.
67. Ibid., p. 202.
68. Ibid., p. 203.
69. Ibid., p. 209.
70. See Bouloudakis,
Orthodoxia kai Chr. Giannaras, and especially his
comments on St. Nicodemos (pp. 46ff., 68ff.); also, pp. 237ff., where he
rightly emphasizes the spiritual unanimity of Sts. Nicodemos and Cosmas
71. E.g., Gabriel Severos, George Koressios [a savant,
physician, and theologian
from Chios who flourished during the second half of the 16th century and
the first half of the 17th centuryTrans.], and Orthodox
Confessions from the
17th century, etc.
73. Ibid. Human sin is ascribed to God because it cuts man off from
with God. Cf. Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil
Thee (Psalm 50:4), and also the prayer from the Kneeling Service at
which is an expansion of this Psalm verse: Against Thee only do we sin,
but Thee alone do we worship....
75. Short Rules, 13; Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXI, col. 1089C.
description of carnal sin, which, at first sight, is reminiscent of a
p. 123, n. 1), is based on Patristic precedents (pp.
E Eleutheria tou Ethous,p. 246.
78. Ibid., p. 234.
79. Good deeds, in and of themselves, do not bring about salvation, but
only insofar as they are united with the supernatural Grace of Jesus Christ,
which comes through faith...and which gives them a specific form, commends
them, and renders them worthy of Divine acceptance (p. 87). Inward faith,
this is understood in the
Philokalia, endows deeds with salvific potential. A
fulfills his rule in order to attain to Divine Grace.
80. See Fr. George D. Metallinos,
Latreia kai askese [Worship and Ascesis], in press. Cf. idem,
Theologike martyria tes ekklesiastikes latreias
Theological Testimony of Ecclesiastical Worship] (Athens: 1996), 2nd ed.,
82. Against Evnomios, Discourse 12; Patrologia Græca, Vol. XLV,
83. Unbearable is the wrath of Thy threatening toward sinners; because
I have provoked Thine anger; destroy me not with mine iniquities, neither
enmity for ever keep mine evils, nor condemn me to the nethermost parts of
84. O Lord, O Lord, Who hast delivered us from every arrow that flieth by
85. The discussion of the Prayer of the Heart occupies a central place in
86. This is also the case in Unseen Warfare. See Bouloudakis,
Orthodoxia kai Chr. Giannaras, pp. 73ff.
88. Cf. Monk Theokletos,
Hagios Nikodemos ho Hagioreites, p.
185: in this
work, he is at pains to persuade Christians to detest sin, sometimes through
of punishment, and at other times through the promise of good things in
90. Ibid., p. 14.
91. Angelo Amato observes that Nicodemos combines a juridical scheme
with a therapeutic scheme (Il Sacramento della Penitenza, pp. 288f.).
92. As Yannaras admits (Orthodoxia
kai Dyse, p. 205).
94. St. Athanasios; AChristian is a true and rational house of Christ,
by good works and correct doctrines (Exomologetarion,
p. 224, n. 1);
St. Nicodemos also cites other Patristic views.
96. It is, therefore, a very serious mistake to adduce the Epistle to
Orthodoxia kai Dyse, pp. 208-209) in order to prove
Nicodemos supposedly deviated from the ancient Tradition of the Church. The
spirit and tone of this text are absolutely identical to those of St.
following phrase, Christians are known to be in the world, but their
remains invisible (VI.4) is to be interpreted historically and
only their presence in society is known, but not their way of life. The term
completely identical to St. Pauls phrase to live in a godly
manner (eusebos zen),
with its ascetical and Neptic connotations. (Cf. But I
keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when I
preached to others, I myself should be rejected [I Corinthians 9:27].) The
idea is contained in the phrase, [T]hey surpass the laws by their own
lives...They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of Heaven
cf. Philippians 3:20). Ignorance of this spirit leads us to misinterpret
the Exomologetarion and confirms our alienation [from the
authentic Tradition of the
ChurchTrans.]. Cf. the comments of Fr. Bouloudakis on this
point (Orthodoxia kai Chr. Giannaras, pp. 246f.).
97. This is evident from his work
Peri synechous theias metalepseos [Concerning Continual Divine Communion] (Venice: 1777). Regarding the problem
of the authorship of this work, see Podskalsky, Griechische Theologie,
Nicodemos revised and expanded the Venice edition of 1783. For the spiritual
content of this work, see Monk Theokletos,
Hagios Nikodemos ho Hagioreites,
98. Griechische Theologie, p. 380.
99. On this subject, see Metallinos,
Theologike martyria, pp.
100. According to the aforementioned communiqué of the Holy Community
of the Holy Mountain (n. 45), St. Nicodemos lies, as do all of the
Fathers, between two extremes; that is, between a legalistic understanding
of the Gospel versus antinomianism and between moralism versus moral license,
which extremes alienate the Christian from salvation in Christ.
pp. 202-203, n.1.
102. Homily 14 on II Corinthians; Patrologia Græca, Vol. LXI, col.
103. On this point Prof. Yannaras is right.
104. Doxastikon of the Praises, Feast of the Universal Elevation of
Cross, September 14.
106. Ibid., p. 81.
107. Ibid., p. 129, n. 1 and p. 194.
108. E.g.: One even sins against this commandment (the fifth) if he
his children to marry certain people, or forces them to become monastics, or
places them in some other position against their will (Exomologetarion,
n. 4), or does not teach them reading and writing or some handicraft (ibid.).
affirms and reprints the classic example from Romanitis
Ho Pneumatikos Didaskomenos
(pp. 31f.) about the unsophisticated, but discerning, spiritual Father
and the king, who, when he had confessed his sins, told his spiritual
I have nothing else to say to you. How so, O King? replied the Elder.
How so? Have we finished your confession? No. You have told me the sins of
Alexios (calling him by his personal name), if I may so put it; come now,
the sins of the King. By these words, this wise spiritual Father wished to
that every ruler and leader, whether foreign or domestic, should not confess
as if he were a private individual, or be examined by a spiritual Father as a
layman; but beyond the sins that he has committed as a man, he should also
confess all of the good things which he could, as a ruler, have done for his
but did not do, and all the bad things which happened to his subjects because
of him, but which he did not correct, for which he will have to give an exact
to God (pp. 31-32).
109. Yannaras, E Eleutheria tou Ethous,p. 140.
From Orthodox Tradition, Volume
XIX (2002), No. 1, pp. 14-31. It was translated from the Greek by the editorial staff of
Orthodox Tradition. The article originally delivered as a paper at the First St. Nicodemos
the Hagiorite Scientific Congress, September 21-23, 1999, held at the Holy Monastery of
St. Nicodemos in Pentalophos, Goumenissa. It was first printed in Vol. XXXIV of the
Epistemonike Epeteris tes Theologikes Scholes tou Panepistemiou Athenon.
The full English translation of the Exomologetarion is now available.
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