- 1 Introduction
- 2 The Virtue of Philotimo
- 3 Elder Paisios (of the Holy Mountain +1994) explains philotimo
- 4 The philotimo spirit is to be found everywhere
- 5 Lessons about philotimo in ancient Greek philosophy
- 6 Lessons learned about philotimo in the person of Christ
- 7 The philotimo found of God in the Old Testament
- 8 The philotimo (re: grateful indebtedness) spirit found in the Book of Psalms
- 9 Philotimo expressed in the lives of Church Fathers and Saints
- 10 The virtue of philotimo found in the Desert Fathers
- 11 Examples of philotimos in persons found in American politics
- 12 Philotimo in the Monastic Vocation
- 13 The philotimo spirit of parenting
- 14 Another two definitions of “philotimos”
Philotimos n. or philotimo adj. (Gk. o filotimoV or to filotimo)
Philo′timos (filo′ tee mộs) adj. Grk, (o filotimoV) filo-love + timi-honor 1. one who out of deep gratitude loves and lives striving to think, say and do that which is honorable; one who aims eagerly at acting in an honorable and virtuous way in all situations and circumstances (i.e. with love, kind, modest, responsible, pain for others, loyal, dignified, just, humble, righteous, polite, integral, unselfish) 2. philo′ tee mộ n. (to filotimo) the inner disposition one has of grateful indebtedness (or responsive gratefulness), and the characteristic, virtuous demeanor of such a one, which is expressed in good thoughts, words and deeds. 3. Other words to describe; gracious, graceful.
The Virtue of Philotimo
Philotimo The virtue of philotimo is commonly emphasized in Greek Orthodox Christianity. It follows in line with two other important words; ethos (demeanor, manner) and phronema (mind-set, attitude/disposition). Philotimo is the humble, dignified and respectful way people interact with one another (family members, extended friends and family, fellow parishioners and extends to the workplace). And it is perhaps more especially referred to in the highly refine and profoundly simple monastic literature of Orthodoxy. In our times and from the works and words of Elders Paisios (+1993) of Mount Athos and Porphyrios of Athens, we see the term and its antecedent spirit used quite frequently. That these two modern spiritual giants of the Greek-speaking world use the word so naturally (as most Greeks do) is no coincidence however, because it is an anthropological concept that was first observed by the ancient Greeks. It was always used with regard to eager and grateful living. When one is grateful he responds toward God and others by enacting other virtues. Hence, some would say that the philotimo spirit is the singularly unique virtue from which stem all the virtues. When used specifically in the spiritual sense, philotimo expresses the intense and constant feeling of deep appreciation and heartfelt gratitude for God’s gifts, to such a degree that the soul feels the inner need to freely and thankfully respond. It is the feeling of not being able to “give back” enough. It can mean gratitude for anything from a small gift someone might have given you (or the small act of kindness someone may have shown you) to an appreciation for one’s heritage and ancestors (to one’s own parents) as according to the word of the Apostle Paul who writes, “Remember, it is not you that holds up the root, but the root that holds you up (Rom. 11:18).” At another level, in our effort to successfully define philotimo, we might also simply suggest these two English words “responsive gratefulness.”
Philotimo is that deep-seated awareness in the heart that motivates the good that a person does. A philotimos person is one who conceives and enacts eagerly those things good. The term is formulated in a beautifully synthesized Greek word which comes from two Greek root words; 1) the prefix filo (filw) – which literally means I love (cf. John 21:16 as in Apostle Peter’s response to the Lord’s question, “Do you love me?” - “nai kurie, su oidaV oti filw se,” - which also has height, depth and breadth of meaning in and of itself). Philo can be more precisely understood also as having deep heartfelt appreciation or gratitude for some one or some thing. It is also the prefix to many other etymologically Greek monikers (eg. philanthropist, philosopher, philologist, philharmonic etc.). As a prefix, philo denotes one as an appreciator or friend (lover) of the essence of another concept found in the term which follows it, in this case, “timi” (Grk timh, h).” Timi is yet another very important ancient Greek and Christian concept that means honor or value. Honor (or the value of things) is itself the immeasurably deep philosophical concept about which volumes could be written. Another way of thinking about philotimo is when considering a clean or clear conscience and how one act eagerly upon that which the conscience dictates. Philotimo is therefore intimately intertwined with the grateful conscience, the stirrings of one’s inner disposition, but it is infinitely more.
Olivie Clement says the following about love in his book 'The Book of Christian Mysticism,' "spiritual progress no other test in the end, nor any better expression, than our ability to love. It has to be unselfish love, founded on respect; a service, a disinterested affection that does not ask to be paid in return ("our" philotimo), a 'sympathy,' indeed an 'empathy,' that takes us out of ourselves enabling us to 'feel with' the other person and indeed to 'feel' him or her. It gives us the ability to discover in the other person an inward nature as mysterious and deep us our own, but different and willed to be so - by God.
Elder Paisios (of the Holy Mountain +1994) explains philotimo
(from the book “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain” by monk Christodoulos of Mt Athos)
Father Paisios told me an incident from his childhood years:
"When I was a child and my soul was still pure, I loved Christ very much. I used to walk in the woods carrying a cross in my hands, chanting and praying and wishing to become a monk. My parents told me that I should first grow up and then leave to go to the monastery. One day, as I was taking my usual walk in the woods, I met a fellow villager. When he saw me carrying the cross, he asked me; "what is this?" "The Cross of our Christ," I replied. Since he did not have any positive thoughts in his mind, he said to me, "Arsenios, you are silly. You don't mean to say that you believe in God. He does not exist. These religious stories are made up by some priests. We have evolved from the monkey. Christ was simply a man like all of us.
When he finished, he got up and left. His twisted thoughts filled my innocent soul with black heavy clouds. Being alone in the woods, I began to think that maybe God does not exist. As I was feeling confused, desperate and extremely asked, I asked Christ to give me an indication of His existence, so I could believe in Him. But He did not respond. Feeling exhausted, I lay on the ground to rest. Suddenly, a positive thought, full of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), entered my innocent soul; "Hold on for a second! Wasn't Christ the kindest man ever on earth? No one has ever found anything evil in Him. So, whether He is God or not, I don't care. Based on the fact that He is the kindest man on earth and I haven't known anyone better, I will try to become like Him and absolutely obey everything the Gospel says. I will even give my life for Him, if needed, since He is so kind.
All my thoughts of disbelief disappeared and my soul was filled with immense joy. The power of my grateful thought (philotimo) dissolved all the ambiguous ones. When I started believing in Christ and decided to love Him as much as I could, solely out of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), I experienced a miracle that firmly sealed my grateful thought. Then, I thought, "I do not care any more if someone tells me that God does not exist!"
As the story of the Elder regarding his grateful thought did not completely satisfy me, I asked him with a certain curiosity to tell me about the miracle he experienced I the woods. Father Paisios was found in a difficult position and replied that he could not tell me about it. This way, he indicated that I, too, should not look for miracles, but rather trust my feeling of philotimo (responsive gratefulness), as it is the key which opens the door to every good.
Later on, Father Paisios told me that he had seen the Lord.
He had this to say about Philotimo:
"The righteous Christian does not practice good acts for his own benefit, i.e. in order to be rewarded or to avoid hell and gain paradise, but rather because he prefers good to evil. Everything else is a natural consequence of the good that fills our soul without having asked for it. This way, good has dignity; otherwise, it originates from the cheap attitude of "give and take."
The philotimo spirit is to be found everywhere
There are countless examples of how the spirit of philotimo is manifest in our daily lives. Simple people everywhere think, do and say the good things they do because they have philotimo. Every day each of us encounters integral and honorable human beings, whose hearts and consciences are so sensitive that they think and act eagerly toward others out of philotimo. It stems from a person’s feeling of responsive gratefulness or grateful indebtedness to three “significant others;” his Creator, his own forebears (immediate as well as past) and his fellow human beings (living and historic). There are some whose sensitivities are so finely tuned, whose inner dignity is so real that their sense of gratitude and honor is the very thing which guides their every thought. In contemporary American jargon it is said that everyone loves the “underdog;” eagerly rooting for the underdog, that, too, is philotimo. From ancient times and from biblical literature, we can see a myriad of concrete examples of people who acted out great deeds, wrote incredibly wondrous works and uttered awe-inspiring words from a philotimo spirit. Furthermore, it is found in the way of historic wise men from every corner of the globe, (people like Lao Tsu and Socrates stand out; as do the Prophets Moses and Job) were motivated by philotimo. The same stands for modern history: famous and honorable and noble leaders like the great Cappadocian Church Father, Saint Basil the Great and the great desert dwelling Saint Anthony the Great to the American astronaut Neil Armstrong and former President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Many notably famous people from all walks of life; in religion and politics, in medicine and in the theatre and in philosophy and philanthropy: Each of these individuals (though because of the inherent imperfection of man, none of them is perfect), certainly reflected the philotimo spirit in numerous well known and documented instances in their lives. Let us say that a person may simply be philotimos because he or she is eagerly and sincerely kind, grateful and honorable.
Lessons about philotimo in ancient Greek philosophy
Those who have read Plato's Republic will most likely agree that Socrates' refusal to the pleas of Crito (that he flee from imprisonment), was directed by Socrates’ own philotimo spirit and his high regard and honorable appreciation for the State and the Law -"uper patrida kai patrwn upertato h patrhV" [Crito’s desire to free his teacher was also born from philotimo]. Another of Socrates' famous quotes speaks about philotimo as well. “Virtue is knowledge, and the man who knows the right, will act correctly.”
Lessons learned about philotimo in the person of Christ
Saint Epiphanios says that in taking on flesh, Christ became the “bait” on the end of the fish-hook that awakened in all people the philotimo spirit and thus draws all men to Himself. He moved our grateful hearts both by dying on the Cross (and arising from death) and by being born so humbly, so poorly in a manger. Hence, Jesus came into the world appearing weak, in the form of a servant, as one of lowly heart (humble) and immeasurably meek - to save us. It was this Jesus Who walked and talked among men, Who climbed up on the Cross for the sins of all mankind – indeed to save the human race. Saint Athanasios the Great says the “God became man, so that man might become God.” He dwelt among us that forever we might dwell in heaven. Although the coined Greek term "philotimo" is not to be found as such in the Bible, the concept of responsive gratefulness or grateful indebtedness and the eager doing of good deeds and cultivating good thoughts, in honor of and on behalf of God, the God of mercy, love and forgiveness, is found everywhere.
The philotimo found of God in the Old Testament
In the book of Genesis, after the fall, God Himself, immediately takes care of Adam and Eve's shame. They suddenly know that they are naked and vulnerable, and the loving God of all creation decides to handcraft some clothing for them. Could not this be considered an act of philotimo? Even though Eve has just been told that she will have increased pain while giving birth, Adam gives her the identity of "Eve (the mother of all living)." God's philotimo-like care for Adam and Eve is even apparent when He chooses to send them out of the garden. He makes this decision so they will not get into further trouble (3:22) [adapted from an article by Gay Lynn Voth on http://www.mbforum.ca/viewtopic.php?t=574].
Furthermore, God's heart "ached" for His creatures Adam and Eve because before they ate from the tree of "knowledge of good and evil," they had only known the goodness of God - now they had come into intimate contact with the deceiver, and their whole life changed from one of only pure godly pleasure, to one that included human pain. Is it not within our expression of the concept philotimo to say that God Himself exemplifies it first here in the garden?
Moses was led to save his people by a heart full of philotimo. There was perhaps never a more philotimos man than him. He eagerly led his oppressed people to the Promised Land which Almighty God had prepared for their arrival and the subsequent birth of the Virgin Mary who would become God's Mother.
Joshua, out of philotimo, fought valiantly at Jericho to preserve the "chosen race," and Rahab's assistance was not to go without reward, as Joshua's spies too, eagerly, out of philotimo promised her freedom.
Noah too had philotimo. It is that which against all odds and grave opposition from enemy forces in the world that inspired him to carry on the work which God had assigned him; eagerly building the ark through which mankind would be saved..
The philotimo (re: grateful indebtedness) spirit found in the Book of Psalms
For the leader; according to "The deer of the dawn." A psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them. To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me: "You relied on the LORD--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you." Yet you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother's breast. Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth you are my God. Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help….
Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you… "You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!" All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.
Philotimo expressed in the lives of Church Fathers and Saints
Saint John Chrysostom calls God "philotimos" in his most famous of all Paschal Orations; "filotimoV gar o DespothV (here philotimos is generally translated as 'gracious');" In His graciousness, God is eager to save us, to give us strength and to give us rest). It was too, out of philotimo that myriad martyrs went to their death. Their grateful convictions of faith, hope and love for God were such that they would not/could not falter.
The virtue of philotimo found in the Desert Fathers
Once, Abba Zosimos remembered the saying about the Old Man who was robbed by his neighboring brother. Instead of rebuking his brother, that Old Man began to work harder, thinking that the brother had need of these things.
Abba Pior, as he walked, ate. Someone therefore asked him. “Why do you eat this way?” And he said, “I do not wish to use my physical nourishment as main work, but as side work.” And to another who asked him about the same thing, he replied, “In order that my soul might not feel the bodily pleasure as I eat.”
In our modern times, upon arriving at his hermitage, Elder Ephraim of Katounakia on Mount Athos is once said to have walked all the way back to another monastery which he’d just visited to receive a loaf of prosforo. It seems that in sitting to receive a little of their hospitality he noticed a simple bic pen on the table. He nonchalantly picked it up, made a comment about it being a nice pen and then he put it down. Well, the abbot of that monastery told Elder Ephraim to keep it as they had many. “No, no,” was the Elder’s reply, but the other insisted. So off Elder Ephraim went to return to his hermitage, but the closer he got the heavier he felt. Upon arriving at his gate, he realized that it was the pen in his pocket that was causing him the burden. He made an about-face, eagerly walked back and returned the pen, then peacefully and with joy returned to his hermitage ready and spiritually rested to begin preparing for the liturgy.
Examples of philotimos in persons found in American politics
Philotimo in the Monastic Vocation
Perhaps the number one reason that men and women usually choose to pursue the life of prayerful dedication to God is because of a philotimo heart. These pious individuals come to a deep realization that all of creation is a gift of God and most especially the gift life and the hope for eternal life. Out of a deep sense of gratitude then, for their own salvation and for the salvation of the world (especially in a decision made by a more mature person), one will decide to follow Christ unreservedly, heeding His call, "if you would be perfect, deny yourself, give to the poor, pick up your cross and follow
me (ref. )."
Saint Paul makes clear this road of philotimo (grateful dedication) urging those who desire to serve the Lord one hundred percent to remain as he is (celebate) "for the married [person] must look after the needs of his spouse (which too, by the way would be an act of philotimia. But, he who is not married can give himself over completely to the work of the Lord." The Honorable (o timioV) Forerunner Saint John the Baptist is generally viewed as the emblem (after the Lord) of such philotimo monastic dedication. Of course, the call to love thjusly is also heard by the Lord who asks the Apostle Peter three times "do you love me? (Jn. 21:16)" Christ's response is the command/call "feed my sheep."
Although not apparent on the surface, this call to love God's followers is fulfilled in monastic dedication for a two-fold reason; 1) the person devotes himself or herself to a life of prayer on behalf of the whole entire world and 2) by removing oneself from "worldly" activity and temptation into a dedicated life of prayerful ascetic struggle, he or she is over time more easily equipped and able to acquire the virtues and thus greater grace from Christ, who throughout history has lifted up countless monastic Saints to either lead the Church out from secular temptation (Saint John Chrysostom), to defend the Church from heresy (Saint Maximos the Confessor) or to preach and teach the people of God directly (Saint Kosmas the Aitolos).
The philotimo spirit of parenting
Saint Kosmas also said that while the Martyrs gave their blood and the ascetics their philotimo struggle, parents open their homes to show hospitality. The prayerful cries/prayers of philiotimo Christain parents:
doxa soi kyrie, doxa soi.
kurie ihsou criste, elehson me ton amartolo.
(A suggested film: The March of the Penguins [which could be sub-titled "Real Parents"])
Another two definitions of “philotimos”
Philotimos - 1. generous, liberal, lavish; of God, Chrys. hom. 15.5 in Gen. (4.12ID); Mac.Mgn.apocr.4.25(p.207.12);carizetai gar th f. dexia ta anagkaia proV to zhn Cyr.Ps. 5;8(M.69.740D); of entertainments of hospitality, Eus.m.P.6 (p.920.16; M.20.1h f. trapeza +Cosm.Melschol.(M.38546) in Gr.Naz.carm.22(epitaph.) of praise etc. - Patristic Greek Lexicon, Lampe
Philotimos - filotimoV, o(n), (timh) loving honour, covetous of honour, [honorably] ambitious, emulous, Eur., Plat., etc. ; in good sense, Xen.,, Isocra.: - with absrtr. Nouns (in both senses), euca Aesch. ; hqoV Eur.; sofiai Arist. ; f. epi tini eager to be honoured for a thing, covetous of distinction [an inner disposition]. . . , epi sofia, ep areth Plat. 2. emulously prodigal, lavish, Dem. 3. in pass. sense, = politimhtoV, august, Aesch. II. Adv. - mwV, ambitiously, emulously, f. ecein to vie emulously, Plat. ; f. ecein proV ti to strive, exert oneself eargerly after a[n honorable] thing, Xen.
- Greek-English Lexicon Liddell and Scott