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Toward a Theology of ErosTransfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline$
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Virginia Burrus and Catherine Keller

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823226351

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823226351.001.0001

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Praying Is Joying: Musings on Love in Evagrius Ponticus

Praying Is Joying: Musings on Love in Evagrius Ponticus

(p.194) Praying Is Joying: Musings on Love in Evagrius Ponticus
Toward a Theology of Eros

Virginia Burrus

Fordham University Press

Especially in the painful disciplines of asceticism and the prayerful fantasies of mysticism, there emerges a sublimely sadomasochistic eroticism played out on a charged field of divine-human seduction that promises to take subjects to their limits and beyond, opening them in and to the cut of love. In his Chapters on Prayer, Evagrius of Pontus exults: “Happy the spirit [nous] which attains to total insensibility at prayer”. This chapter places Evagrius in dialogue with philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy in such a way as to uncover prayer as the site of the advent of a love that cuts across, breaks, or shatters the subject. In the masochistic erotics of ancient asceticism, there is disclosed the collapsing of the binary of activity and passivity that anchors Anders Nygren's dualism of agape and eros. Evagrius assumes a distinction between “impure passions” and the state of spiritual love that is both the precondition and the goal of prayer. For Evagrius, passion is that which produces psychic disturbance and distraction, scattering creative energies and dissipating joy.

Keywords:   Evagrius of Pontus, love, joy, passion, asceticism, prayer, eros, agape, eroticism

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