Praying Is Joying: Musings on Love in Evagrius Ponticus

Virginia Burrus

in Toward a Theology of Eros

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780823226351
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823236718 | DOI:

Series: Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquia

Praying Is Joying: Musings on Love in Evagrius Ponticus

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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

Chapter.  4254 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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