Below you will find a sample from the Introduction of the upcoming book Following the Holy Fathers: Essays on the Patristic Tradition by Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis translated and edited by Fr John Palmer (my husband). This post features the introduction to the book; in the second post I will offer a sample of the translations of Fr. Theodoros’ work.
A little known figure in the West, Fr Theodoros Zisis was born on the island of Thasos, Greece in 1941, and received the whole of his early education at the famed Ecclesiastical School at Xanthi. Upon graduation he enrolled At Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) where he completed both his undergraduate and post-graduate studies (his doctoral dissertation, Man and the Cosmos in God’s Economy according to Saint John Chrysostom, was supervised by the renowned Patrologist Panigiotes Chrestou). Upon successful completion of his doctorate he was named lecturer and subsequently professor of Patristics at AUTh, teaching there from 1973 until his retirement 2008. Fr Theodoros has also served as chair of a number of important institutions dedicated to Patristic studies (the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, for example), overseen the publication of a number of academic journals (Theodromia) and organized important conferences (dedicated to the study of the life and works of Saint Athanasios of Paros, Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and Saint Nektarios to name a few). He has also authored some twenty books on the Fathers, as well as innumerable pamphlets and articles. He remains active in retirement, currently serving as priest at Saint Anthony’s Church in Thessaloniki, where he offers two-hour classes every Sunday following liturgy (most recently covering Saint John Chrysostom’s interpretation of the Book of Job), and travelling Greece as a speaker in some demand.
Though I wish to present something of Fr Theorodos particular contribution to modern Patristic studies, it must be noted that praising the work of a living person is something which requires great discretion. Fr Theodoros has raised this point himself in reflecting upon the spiritual danger which the Festschrift tradition within academia presents. There is, however, one means of praise in theology which is intrinsically humbling, and it is exactly this quality which is Fr Theodoros exemplifies in his writings, and is at the same time his largest contribution to modern Patristic studies.
No Orthodox theology has its basis in intellectual speculation; neither the theology par excellence of the saints and Holy Fathers themselves, nor that of the Orthodox academic Patrologist. The Patrologist, however, is more restricted than the former in his task: “Not having the experience of the Fathers of the Church, he can, however, know about the experiences of the Fathers of the Church, about the relationship between these experiences and the theology of the Church, and can analyze these things so as to put them in context.” Fr Theodoros has expressed this distinction in a slightly different manner, reminding his listeners in informal lessons that he is not a spiritual father or geronda and thus that it is not his place to adjust the theology of the Church in a pastoral manner, or to speculate on the basis of his own views; rather he sees his task as the presentation of the unadulterated standard of Christianity as it is presented in the texts of the Fathers. His foremost contribution thus lies in the fact that he has sought to remain faithful to that most fundamental tenet of Patristic theology which has been expressed in so many ways and at so many times within the Patristic tradition; that he would say nothing of his own, as it has been put by Saint John of Damascus. To put this in other terms, his texts are presentations of the kat’akriveian, of what the Fathers say about such-and-such a theme without falling into the kat’oikonomia work of asking “How would the Fathers have adjusted their advice based on modern circumstances, modern weaknesses, or personal circumstance, personal weaknesses” and the like, a task which belongs only to true Spiritual Fathers; to those who have been purified of the passions which cloud human judgement and who have thus experienced the Spirit behind the law; to he who “judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man”.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must admit that we in our times are much more tempted to qualify the Gospel than to live it in its strictest form; we are just as likely to be put off by the supposedly extreme examples of the saints as to be inspired by them. The same applies to the teachings of the Holy Fathers; we are often tempted to soften the blow of their teaching. Without knowledge of the standard set by the Fathers, however, we are like men lost in the woods without a marker to lead us home. Each step unwittingly leads us further from our target until we eventually lose sight of our home altogether, perhaps even becoming so confused as to set up a new home elsewhere (either in a Christianity which has no relationship to the Gospel, or outside of Christ altogether). Knowledge of the precise words of the Fathers acts like a beacon shining in the distance; should we use this beacon we will not only have a sense of where we truly are spiritually, but, if we are willing to do the necessary work, we will eventually get home.
Thus with so much around us threatening to extinguish this beacon, the value of Fr Theodoros’ work should be evident to the reader. Ultimately, then, his most important particular contribution is simply doing what a Patrologist ought to do, making him ‘original’ in the truest sense of the word: “Originality means to remain faithful to the originals, to the eternal prototypes, to extinguish ‘a wisdom of [your] own’ before the ‘common Word’, as Heraclitus says, in other words, to lose your soul if you wish to find it, and not to parade your originality or to do what pleases you.” It is my hope that the following text will be of interest to its readers and kindle their desire to read the Fathers and those who, like Fr Theodoros, teach them with authenticity.
 The first volume of Chrstou’s 3,300 page Greek Patrology is available in English. See Chrestou, Panagiotes K. Greek Orthodox Patrology trans. Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas (Orthodox Research Institute: Rollinsford, 2005).
 A Festschrift is a volume of essays written in honour of a scholar. A number of these are even a collection of essays concerning the work of the scholar in question. Fr Theodoros has suggested that these can easily constitute a ‘temptation from the right’ in following with Christ command that not grant too much importance to our praiseworthy actions. See Matthew 6:3, “…let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth”.
 Metropolitan Hirotheos (Vlachos). Experiential Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church according to the Lectures of Fr John Romanides. Vol I, 160.
 In the prologue to his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Saint John Damascene writes, “I will say nothing of my own”. This sentiment is also expressed by the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils, which preface their decisions with the words “Following the Holy Fathers”, in the words of Saint Theodore the Studite, “We are not wiser than the Holy Fathers”, and in the words of Saint Gennadios II Scholarios, “He who is possessed of a [sound] mind observes those things laid out by the Fathers”.
 1 Corinthians 2:15.
 See for example Charles Shingledecker’s book The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy: How Traditionalist Ideology and “Changeless” Canons Hurt the Orthodox Church published recently by Regina Orthodox Press. An excellent and detailed critique of this book has recently been authored by Patrick Barnes of Orthodox Info. It may be found here: http://orthodoxinfo.com/phronema/review-of-the-crazy-side-of-orthodoxy.aspx
 Quoted in Louth, Andrew. St John Damascene: Tradition & Originality in Byzantine Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), viii.