Evagrius Ponticus (c. 346-399) was an Egyptian monastic, and one of the earliest spiritual writers on asceticism in the Christian eremitic tradition. He is also called Evagrius of Pontus or Evagrius the Solitary. Although condemned in proceedings associated with the Fifth Ecumenical Council his writings, many passed under pseudonyms, exercised a very strong influence over Orthodox spirituality.
Evagrius was born in Pontus around the year 345 and studied under the Cappadocian Fathers. St. Basil the Great tonsured Evagrius a reader, and St. Gregory the Theologian elevated him to diaconate. As a deacon, Evagrius Ponticus would attend the Second Ecumenical Council (First Constantinople) in 381, which formulated the last portion of the Nicene Creed (the article dealing with the Holy Spirit). After visiting Jerusalem, where Evagrius became a monk, he went to the Egyptian desert in 383. There his life would touch those of other saints such as St. Macarius of Alexandria, his mentor; and St. John Cassian ("Cassian the Roman"), his disciple. Many believe he also knew St. Macarius the Great. He died in Kellia, Egypt, in 399.
Evagrius passed on his firsthand knowledge of the Desert Fathers to many visitors and disciples, becoming particularly well known for his teaching on prayer. He exhorted his followers to practice the virtues, engage in regular Psalmody, and refrain from making any physical/mental images during prayer. However, like so many others, he became influenced by the teachings of Origen, believing in the doctrines of apokatastasis, the "restitution of all things" (including the reconciliation of Satan), and in the Platonic notion of the pre-existence of the soul.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Second Constantinople) in 553 deemed both these doctrines (and Origen himself) heretical. Although never glorified as a saint, Evagrius' teachings on asceticism, prayer, and the spiritual life had a profound impact upon both Christian East and West. Two of his works are included in the Philokalia, one (Praktikos) under his name, the other (Chapters on Prayer) under Nilus of Ancyra's.
Certainly authentic works:
- The Praktikos
- The Gnostikos
- Kephalaia Gnostica (Problemata Gnostica)
- The Chapters on Prayer, preserved in the Greek under the name of St Nilus of Sinai.
- Sentences for Monks
- Exhortation to a Virgin
- Treatise to the Monk Eulogius
- Treatise on Various Evil Thoughts (Capita Cognoscitiva)
- Protrepticus and Paraeneticus
- Scriptural Commentaries
- Various Ascetic Treatises
Works of doubtful authenticity:
- De Malignis Cogitationibus
- Collections of Sentences
- Whoever loves true prayer and yet becomes angry or resentful is his own enemy. He is like a man who wants so see clearly and yet inflicts damage on his own eyes. –Treatise on Prayer, 64
- Whether you pray with brethren or alone, try to pray not simply as a routine, but with conscious awareness of your prayer. Conscious awareness of prayer is concentration accompanied by reverence, compunction and distress of soul as it confesses its sin with inward sorrow. -unknown work
- If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian. - Treatise on Prayer, 61.
- Bread is food for the body and holiness is food for the soul: prayer is food for the intellect. - Ibid., 101.
- Evil thoughts cut off good thoughts and are cut off by good thoughts - On Discrimination in Respect of Passions and Thoughts, 6.
- Spiritual reading, vigils, and prayer bring the straying intellect to stability. Hunger, exertion, and withdrawal from the world wither burning lust. - Extracts from the Texts on Watchfulness, 5.
- This is printed in PG 79:1093-1140, among the works of St Nilus.
- Original Wikipedia article
- Evagrius Ponticus: On Asceticism and Stillness in the Solitary Life
- Evagrius Ponticus: Monastic Theologian
- Evagrius Ponticus from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- A Life of Evagrius of Pontus
- Evagrian Scholarship Center
- St. Evagrius Ponticus: a collection of many Evagrian works in a Greek/English parallel format