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Phronema is a Greek term that is used in Eastern Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. [1] The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia). Attaining phronema is regarded as the first step toward theosis, the state of glorification. [2]

Therapeutic method of Orthodoxy

These terms are part of what is called the "therapeutic method" of Orthodoxy, or the "therapeutic tradition". Orthodox theology teaches that a faith is true if it heals spiritual sickness, and brings the faithful to "behold the uncreated Light". [3] Phronema refers to "the completely self-sacrificial trust and faith in religious and ethical truths ... from the voice of God.... an unshakeable certainty about the truth of Faith... undiminished and vibrant throughout life, a continually verified daily experience," [4] "a growing feeling for and understanding of God's and the practice of Orthodox piety — Orthodox Worship and behavior." [5] The phronema is vested in tradition "against all heresies and schisms of all times". [6] The "mind of the Fathers" is also termed phronema [7] as is the "mind of the Church". [8]

The phases of phronema, the therapeutic tradition leading ultimately to theosis, are (1) purification, (2) illumination, and (3) divinization. [9] Orthodox sources state that the Roman Catholic faith lacks the therapeutic tradition and tends toward sentimentality and ethicology [10] and is "juridically focused"; [11] that the union of prayer and theology resulting in a union of heart and mind "and a knowledge of things that can only come from the Holy Spirit" is lacking in Catholic theology. [12]

Phronema in the western Church

The term itself is used occasionally by theologians. For example, John Henry Cardinal Newman, in July 1859, wrote of the nature of the consent of the faithful, which he described in part as involving "a sort of instinct, or phronema, deep in the bosom of the mystical body of Christ". [13]

The broader concepts concerning union with God through Christ are referred to in a variety of ways. The progression of prayer life is typically divided into the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways. 1 The relevant area of theology may be called ascetical theology, mystical theology, or the spiritual science. 2 Frequently the word perfection is used, e.g., the art of perfection. St. Teresa of Avila's [14] book on the subject is titled The Way of Perfection (Camino de perfección). [15] Union of prayer and theology is found through contemplative prayer and the poetry of St. John of the Cross. [16] The goal is expressed in the west using similar language: "It is through Jesus Christ, and in His body and in His likeness, that every man must participate in the divine union." 3 The consensus of the Church Fathers may be called tradition, or the faith of the early fathers (Jurgens).