Threefold Way of Purgation, Illumination, and Contemplation in the Old Testament


The purgation/illumination/contemplation model is ancient and present in the Church Fathers. St. Dionysius the Areopagite (“Pseudo-D”) based all of his works on it. He also sees the sacramental framework mirroring this process. It only makes sense. You suffer, you learn, you draw near to God.

Also, the Old Testament temple complex foreshadowed it:

Purgation: The altar outside the temple was a place where the priests burned victims through fire. It was the place of holocaust (Greek for burnt offering).

Illumination: The holy place was the place of illumination – where the golden lampstand stood.

Contemplation: The holy of holies was the place of union with God – the dark inner sanctum of God’s presence.

The spiritual life moves along this “temple pathway”. And to “contemplate” is etymologically related to “temple” and “template”. It’s all connected.

Comments Policy: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. If your comment contains a hyperlink to another site, your comment automatically goes into "Comments Purgatory" where it waits for release by way of moderation.