[St. Pachomius Library]

Evagrius Ponticus

IV Century
Born into a Christian family at Ibora, Pontus, Evagrius Ponticus (c. 346- 399) was a friend of Basil the Great and a student of Gregory the Theologian. The latter ordained Evagrius deacon in Constantinople where his preaching was famous. His defense of Christianity against Arianism at the first Council of Constantinople (381) added to his fame. Evagrius became a copyist in the monastery on the Mount of Olives, which had been established by Melania the Elder, but c. 383, he left Jerusalem to become a monk in the Nitrian desert, where he became a disciple of St. Macarius the Great. Influenced by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius taught that the goal of man is reunion with God, which man effects through asceticism and contemplation. However, Evagrius also believed that the original unity of God and His rational beings was broken by a fault of the beings, who became souls and were later joined to bodies. Conquering the flesh allows the souls to return to their primordial oneness with God. Evagrius taught that Christ was the only one of the rational beings to stay with God when the others lapsed and took a body to lead other souls to a similar unity with God. Gnostic Centuries, which propounds these ideas, was condemned in 553 at the Second Council of Constantinople, and the Praktikos, his work on prayer, has often been attributed to St. Nilus of Ancyra.

Karen Rae Keck