"Our mind is so darkened by the fall that unless we force ourselves to remember death we can completely forget about it. When we forget about death, then we begin to live on earth as if we were immortal..." - Bp. Brianchaninov
Or, as Fr. Sophrony recalls it, "Keep your mind in hell, but despair not"
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
So I have been following this most interesting discussion going on at Fr. Stephen's Glory to God for All Things blog about God's justice.
It soon became evident to me that this discussion is not about mere words (after all, anyone can quote a passage of scripture or one of the Fathers), but rather about the meaning we ascribe to words. It is all about interpretive schemes. What do I mean by this? One can use the common words such as "church" or "Christ", for instance, and convey widely divergent understandings of what is meant. So we need to be clear about what we mean and how we use words and terms. Which interpretation shall we use? In the Eastern Orthodox Church this interpretive scheme is called Apostolic Tradition.
Bishop Dmitri demonstrates the importance of the above, in different but related context:
As history and experience have shown, anything less than the whole truth about Christ ends up in utter confusion and the multiplication of the denominations. …..Most of them have been founded on some novel idea about the Lord Himself…..(HT Mind in the Heart)
Following the teaching of the Apostles and of the Fathers, there are many other things that need to be said and studied. All of the things that are so characteristic of our Church, the rites, the icons, the veneration of the Mother of God and of the Saints, have as their most important function the support of this very doctrine of Christ. Hence, those who would deny any one of these teachings and practices, in effect, deny one part or another of the doctrine of Christ.” -The Doctrine of Christ by Archbishop Dmitri
It is all too easy to introduce novel ideas into the meaning of words, and we do so at our own peril.
As Fr. Stephen states in the combox "This is not a “pop” attack on the “West,” but a foundational part of Orthodox theology." Indeed.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
St. Maximus writes (it turns out quite prophetically) about the fruits of love. He has this to say:
"The one who has zealously acquired the fruits of love does not change from it even though he experiences countless ills. And let Stephen, Christ's disciple, and those like him, persuade you, as well as Christ himself who prays for his murderers and asks forgiveness of his Father as for those acting in ignorance."
St. Maximus pray for us that we, together with you and all the glorious martyrs, may attain to that changeless love!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
To keep things real on this glorious All Saints Day 2009, this passage from The Arena by Bishop Ignatius (Brianchaninov) will serve us well,
"St. John Kolovos, one of the greatest Fathers of the Egyptian Skete, said: 'It is not possible to build a house by beginning from the top, but the structure must be begun from the foundation and built up to the roof.' When asked what the foundation meant, he replied: 'The foundation is our neighbour. We must win him and begin with him. On him are based all the commandments of Christ.' Saint Mark the Ascetic said: 'It is impossible to be saved otherwise than through one's neighbour.' This is what is held and taught by all the holy Fathers; this is the general Christian teaching, the teaching of the Church, the teaching of Christ. Direct all your attention to the acquisition of love for you neighbour as the basis of your life and you monastic task."
"The love planted by God in our nature was damaged by the fall and cannot act correctly. On no account allow it to act! Its actions have lost their purity; they are abominable in God's sight, like a polluted sacrifice. The fruits of its actions are soul-destroying, deadly. Love your neighbour in the following way: Do not get angry with him and do not bear resentment or a grudge against him. Do not allow yourself to say to your neighbour any reproachful, abusive, sarcastic or caustic words. Maintain peace with him as far as possible. Humble yourself in his presence. Do not try to have your revenge on him either directly or indirectly. Whenever possible, yield to him. Get out of the habit of arguing and quarelling, and reject it as a sign of pride and self-love. Speak well of those who speak evil of you. Pay good for evil. Pray for those who cause you various offences, wrongs, temptations, persecutions. Whatever you do, on no account condemn anyone; do not even try to judge whether a person is good or bad, but keep your eyes on that one evil person for whom you must give an account before God - yourself. "
I once heard it said that the mark of a true Christian is love for his enemies.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of thy most pure Mother, and of all the saints, save me, a sinner.
Blessed Feast to All.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Apophatic theology, or the apophatic approach, is often mistakenly understood to mean that nothing can be known about God. That negative theology leads to agnosticism.
It is true that apophaticism wrestles with the transcendence of God, that God in His Essence is unknowable, beyond knowledge, beyond affirmation and negation. But this negative approach does not deny the positive, cataphatic approach. God can be known for it is in the Incarnation the Trinitarian God is revealed. But this self revelation reveals Him at once as immanent and transcendent. Apophaticism should be understood then, not as the source of agnosticism, but as a necessary check to prevent our cataphic knowledge from becoming idolatrous. In His light the limits of philosophy, of our thoughts, of that which is created becomes evident in our silence. The purpose of the apophatic approach is to lead us beyond knowledge, beyond the known, to a union with the Unoriginate who has revealed Himself in the Incarnation.