Healthy Orthodox Christianity bears witness to Christ as wisdom, renewing tradition through prophecy and assimilating wisdom through prayer. When wisdom is neglected, it becomes impossible to tell the difference between wholesome orthodoxy and heresy. Gnosticism fell into heresy when the Church’s healthy gnosis was lost and divisive confusion broke her wholesome union of communion, causing divisive schism. Ever since the second century, when wisdom has been disdained, healthy gnosis has often been accused of heresy and Orthodox wisdom confused with gnosticism.
When wholesome Orthodox prophecy is neglected, it becomes impossible to tell the difference between living prophecy and heresy. In the second century, the heresy of Montanism fell into schism over prophecy when the union of genuine communion was broken and prophecy became a divisive issue instead of being the living word that renewed tradition by awakening true prayer. Ever since the second century, when living prophecy was quenched, prophecy was often rejected because it was confused with the old heresy of Montanism.
When healthy prayer of the heart is neglected and so no longer understood, it is often confused with the heresy of Messalianism, which was a fourth century heresy that fell into schism over prayer. Prayer of the heart became a divisive issue instead of being the assimilation of prophetic wisdom in the awakened heart. Confusion reigns, causing divisive schism, whenever prayer of the heart is rejected by being confused with the divisive heresy of Messalianism.
Wisdom, prophecy and prayer may be lost again and again, whenever wisdom is confused with Gnosticism, prophecy with Montanism or prayer of the heart with Messalianism. In themselves, of course, there is nothing heretical about wisdom, nothing unhealthy about prophecy or pathological about prayer. On the contrary, their wholesome inspiration is living proof that Orthodox tradition is alive and well.
The oblivious neglect of wisdom, however, has often lead to divisive confusion, making discernment between orthodoxy and heresy difficult and sometimes, for a while, even impossible. In fact, when accusations of Gnosticism, Montanism or Messaliansim are rife and divisive confusion runs riot, it may actually indicate that genuine wisdom, prophecy and prayer are at issue, but under circumstances in which they are no longer truly understood.
The cure of these modern pathologies is the same wholesome wisdom, prophecy and prayer that have always cured the ancient heresies. The poison of confusion is extracted from the venom of division to restore wholesome union and communion right where the pathologies are manifesting. The wisdom of the desert has always practiced these ancient therapies because desert elders have cured the saints in every generation by means of them.
For apostles and prophets, the function of heresy is in the end a wholesome one because it brings to light the confusions that give rise to division. But for this to work, wisdom is essential to both elders and saints in the desert, together with true prophecy and pure prayer, which are wisdom’s sound foundation and assimilation.
Wisdom, prophecy and prayer have always been the indispensable basis of the effective practice of Orthodoxy’s ancient therapies. If they are quenched, it becomes impossible for these therapies to function in healthy ways and so impossible for Orthodox Christian tradition to be soundly renewed. By means of unquenched prophecy and the life-giving prayer of the Holy Spirit in the heart, wisdom not only renews the tradition but creates the whole creation anew and joyously restores the world.