Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Archimandrite Zacharias in "Remember Thy First Love"
Thursday, December 9, 2010
To the Orthodox the painting would obviously not qualify as an icon. But precisely why not? As one commenter aptly wrote, "'Decorative Jesus' can look like anything you want; it's only when you have to kiss an image that it gets personal." Very well. So it is suggested we look to Tradition to guide us, just as in theology, toward that which is believed to be true, right and faithful. (as an aside, would it not be harder to judge an image (icon) to be orthodox than it would doctrine?). Another commenter mentioned (I am paraphrasing) that individual opinion thus doesn't play a role in the church, that the church is a collective of sorts. Is that an accurate way to describe the issue? Do our opinions not count? Are our persons absorbed into a collective?
Icons and in particular icons of Christ are not new to controversy. What is it that an Icon of Christ depicts - does it depict Christ 's humanity, or Christ's divinity? We can't describe His divinity (which by definition is uncontainable and indescribable), nor His humanity apart from His divinity - the two natures are inseparable, Christian theology is quite clear about that. Also, why is it that the Orthodox church decided that as far as depicting Christ, symbolism (such as a lamb) is not acceptable? Whatever the answers, one thing is clear, the meaning and justification for icons is closely related to theology.
So, back to the present painting purporting to depict Christ. Besides not being to our particular taste, what's wrong with it?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
"People never cease to project on to God their individual and collective obsessions, so that they can appropriate and make use of him. But they ought to understand that God cannot be apprehended from without, as if he were an object, for with him there is no outside nor can the Creator be set side by side with the creature."- Olivier Clement
"Most people are enclosed in their mortal bodies like a snail in its shell, curled up in their obsessions after the manner of hedgehogs. They form their notion of God's blessedness taking themselves for a model. "- St. Clement of Alexandria
"Every concept formed by the intellect in an attempt to comprehend and circumscribe the divine nature can succeed only in fashioning an idol, not in making God known."- St. Gregory of Nyssa
"The infinite is without doubt something of God, but not God himself, who is infinitely beyond even that."
- St. Maximus the Confessor
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
"Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is not about keeping a Christian version of kosher. Fasting is about hunger and humility (which is increased as we allow ourselves to become weak). Fasting is about allowing our heart to break."
"Christianity as a religion – as a theoretical system of explanations regarding heaven and hell, reward and punishment, is simply Christianity that has been distorted from its true form. Either we know the living God or we have nothing. Either we eat His flesh and drink His blood or we have no life in us. The rejection of Hesychasm is the source of all heresy."
Read the whole article here.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
We are quickly approaching one of the major feast days - the Presentation of the Theotokos celebrated on November 21/December 4. (The feast is also called the "Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple" or the "Feast of the Entrance".) I would like to share some of the hymns we will be singing this coming Saturday (as well on Dec. 4 in San Diego) and a brief reflection or two.
It's quite interesting to note the vivid "language imagery" that is used, as this feast is seen as a "preview of the good will of God" and a certain "anticipation" - this feast is seen as part and parcel of the Gospel events. It would seem fitting that this feast is celebrated during the Nativity fast as a certain preview and anticipation of that which is to come.
- Today is the preview of the good will of God,
- Of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
- The Virgin appears in the temple of God,
- In anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.
- Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice,
- O Divine Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.
Never shy of paradoxes, in this Kontakion we see the Temple and abode of heaven brought to the temple:
- The most pure Temple of the Savior;
- The precious Chamber and Virgin;
- The sacred Treasure of the glory of God,
- Is presented today to the house of the Lord.
- She brings with her the grace of the Spirit,
- Therefore, the angels of God praise her:
- "Truly this woman is the abode of heaven."
Today, let us dance, O faithful,
singing to the Lord in psalms and hymns
and honoring His sanctified Tabernacle, the living Ark,
that contained the Word Who cannot be contained;
for in wondrous fashion she is offered to the Lord
as a young child in the flesh,
and Zachariah, the great High Priest, joyfully receives her
as the dwelling place of God.
These are only a few of the hymns we will be singing. Lots of deep things on which to ponder and to reflect. Blessed feast to all!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
He was a good shepherd who was sent by the Good Shepherd. The Lord God provides us with special shepherds so that we may be comforted and strengthened, and so that we may learn. But not always. However, the true shepherd here in any case remains the Lord Jesus Christ. The one who said he will be with us every day until the end of the ages, He is the same one who is and was and will remain the Shepherd of His flock. Regardless of the identities of the shepherds who guide the flock of Christ, Jesus remains personally the eternal Shepherd who cares for all His flock individually, both through His shepherds and apart from them. There are shepherds from above who when they watch us, we see the Good Shepherd who is above and here at once. There are also shepherds who are not from above and are not headed upwards, who are chosen by people's passions and behave according to their own passions. Those also guide Christ's flock in His name by His permission, even if they are closer to being hired servants or wolves than shepherds. They obstruct the work of Jesus for a time, but they are unable to derail it. Whatever bad things they do against the work of God, the Good Shepherd will cause them to be for the good of those who seek the face of their Lord, whatever it may be, through ways that we know and through other ways that we do not know. But the question remains: why does the Lord God permit people such as these to govern his sheep and his flock?! Here is precisely where is hidden the mystery of evil harnessed in the service of the mystery of salvation."
From Fr. Touma's "The Mystery of Sin in the Mystery of Salvation." translated by Samn! Read the whole article here.
A very timely and timeless message, for indeed evil remains with us for a time; for now it remains a mystery of sorts attempting to pull all of creation towards its non-being. Christ makes it clear in the parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matt 13:24-30; 36-43) that for now evil is among us, even side by side His elect, until the very end of time. St. Paul reminds us of one possible reason for this: "there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you" (1 Corinthians 11:19). We see here a process at work, a process of manifestation and of revelation. St. John the Theologian explains, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." (1 John 2:19). This is not at all easy and not at all clear nor always self-evident to us; however, we do know it is - or rather it can be if we so choose - for our salvation, the Mystery of Salvation, thanks be to our Good Shepherd who Himself visited and has plundered Hades for our sakes.
Monday, November 1, 2010
The first Eve was taken out of Adam: she was a person who, at the moment of her creation by God, took unto herself the nature of Adam, to be his complement. We find an inverse relationship in the case of the New Eve: through her the Son of God became the "Last Adam", by taking onto Himself human nature. Adam was before Eve; the Last Adam was after the New Eve. However we cannot say that the humanity assumed by Christ in the womb of the Holy Virgin was a complement of the humanity of his Mother. It is, in fact, the humanity of a divine Person, that of the "man of heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:47,48). The human nature of the Mother of God belongs to a created person, who is the offspring of the "man of earth". It is not the Mother of God, but her Son, who is the head of the new humanity, "the head over all things for the Church, which is his body" (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Church is the complement of his humanity. Therefore it is through her Son, and in His Church, that the Mother of God could attain the perfection reserved for those who bear the image of the "man of heaven"."The Church is the complement of His humanity" - it is our humanity Christ assumed and in Him we are seated in Heaven; moreover the Church is also the complement of Christ's humanity, the fulfillment of His humanity as was foreshadowed by Eve's complement to Adam.
from Vladimir Lossky In the Image and Likeness of God
Thursday, October 28, 2010
"The hope for change...does not then come from inspired programs, but from inspired clergy, that is, when the clergy are truly aspiring to become useful vessels of God. The fate of the Church lies primarily in who the clergy are becoming rather than what they do."
Here is a worthwhile read about a modern-day church scandal which is in the process of being turned around for the glory of God. Nothing flashy mind you. No big programs, clever methods or exalted committees. This is an account rather of how one man's dedication to follow the commands of Christ is transforming the life of a city. This is a story about how the authentic holiness of a simple monk turned bishop (Metropolitan Meletios of Nikopolis and Preveza) became contagious and a veritable evangelistic tour de force. There are some universal lessons to be had from this account.
Even though Stephen Lloyd-Moffett initially started out his decade long study to discover a practical model for spiritual transformation, in the process he came to question the very validity of developing such a model. To his surprise he discovered that Bishop Meletios never set out to develop or use a program. Instead, through his own example, he restored the integrity of his priests; he set out to restore the church experience to its spiritual, aesthetic and traditional glory; and he labored to educate the people and re-establish monasticism.
As surely as Metropolitan Meletios did not use a "model" or program, Stephen Lloyd-Moffett did however analyze his encounter with Bishop Meletios and the people of Preveza in what he calls this "dynamic process in which the ancient faith finds its home in the modern world", and presents these notable principles.
- The Church is and must remain "of God" and not "of man". Programs and designs are based on human arrogance, a desire to play God. "The purpose of the leaders of the Church should be to act as a conduit or vessel of the divine, not a marketing arm of God."
- The bishop and clergy must lead and witness by their own example. "the hope of the Church is found in each of its representatives living within the imperishable Life of Christ"
- The Church must be universal in scope and uniting in action. Christ died for all people and therefore the Church is to remain independent from political affiliation and entanglements.
- The Church must cultivate the external elements of faith in parallel to the internal elements. Authentic faith in Christ will influence the external elements of our life.
- The Church should integrate monastics into the community. Monastics serve as an inspiration to others by means of their holiness and complete dedication to Christ.
The value of this book is in its refreshing approach it offers to the common struggles the Church faces in the modern world. We must change while remaining unchanged; we must shine while embracing obscurity. The power of true, authentic spirituality is the very power of God in our midst.
"Our hope does not lie in trendy charismatic revivals, clever programs, or well designed worldly motivators. Our hope is not placed in a human institution. Our hope is in God. As long as the true nature of the Church is not forgotten, we will never lose hope and fall into despair no matter what the circumstances we face. Yet this hope is predicated upon an understanding of the Church as the mystical vessel of God's grace and will. It is not an institution we run, but a mystery in which we dwell. Only then will we be energized by the imperishable Life of Jesus Christ."
May we all be energized by the imperishable Life of Christ indeed. There is much work to do, much transformation needed. First and foremost by and in me. May God in His ineffable mercy grant it so.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Read the whole thing Notes on Arab Orthodoxy
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Vladimir Lossky sees this paradox and the implied apophatic attitude as part and parcel of Christian revelation:
"the transcendent God becomes immanent in the world, but in the very immanence of His economy, which leads to the incarnation and death on the cross, He reveals Himself as transcendent, as ontologically independent from all created being."
An apophatic approach then would hardly be optional. God is revealed as beyond our being, beyond being, beyond concept, time, space, thought and understanding. A positive approach (kataphatic theology) then, which affirms God is good, light, just, merciful etc., brings us to a certain point but ultimately falls short. Lossky posits that negative theology offers an "apprehension of supreme ignorance" and a mystical knowledge superior to the intellect, so here we start to see the usefulness of apophaticism:
"The negative way of the knowledge of God is an ascendant undertaking of the mind that progressively eliminates all positive attributes of the object it wishes to attain, in order to culminate finally in a kind of apprehension of supreme ignorance of Him who cannot be an object of knowledge."
So we can speak of knowledge, however it is a knowledge beyond our intellect. But would this not give way to gnosticism as a path to secret, deeper knowledge, or to provide subjectivism fertile ground? Not so if this mystical knowledge is not contrary to the rest of Christian revelation:
Just as iconographic "antinaturalistic" apophaticism is not iconoclasm, so also the antirationalistic negative way is not gnosimachian: it cannot result in the suppression of theological thought without detriment to the essential fact of Christianity: the incarnation of the Word, the central event of revelation, which makes iconography as well as theology possible.
Apophatic theology then is not the end of knowledge but a very necessary method to allows us to go beyond created being, indeed beyond ourselves. And that, to me, seems to be a good thing. Quotes are from Vladimir Lossky's "In the Image and Likeness of God". A related post with interesting comments in the combox can be found at Energetic Procession.
Friday, October 1, 2010
"Most of the problems that believers have encountered across history, as compared to non-believers, are on account of the disappearance of divine love among them. Why did Constantinople fall? Because in general the love of God was no longer active among the people. Why do groups of believers rise up against each other and break communion among themselves? Primarily because of a lack of love. Why did the Lord God permit the emergence of Islam? Because the divine love between us and among us had faded and some of us rose up against each other and so Islam was a great chastisement! Why do some Muslims consider the Christians among us to be crusaders and thus their enemies? Because the Crusaders, in the name of Christ, abandoned the love of Jesus and went to war, maiming and destroying. Why did novel teachings and heresies spread here and there? Naturally, because the Devil is at work, but also because at time because of a lack of love in us we do not properly embrace people and guide them, and so they take offence and go into error. The Lord’s last commandment in the Gospel of Matthew was: “Go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). Why have the believers, or those who are considered to be believers, not succeeded in making disciples of all nations after two thousand years, when the Holy Spirit was given in the Church to the world, but to the contrary a very large portion of them have abandoned the Faith? Because they left their first love (Revelation 2:4) and to a large extent behaved in the spirit like pharisaical Jews. From where did disbelief and worldliness enter the world? From the hardness of hearts of a great many Christians and their disbelief in the faith of the Gospel. From where comes blasphemy against the name of Jesus? From the Devil who does not have the love of Jesus in him and from his workers among the non-Christians, but especially from his workers among those who are called Christians who no longer have the love of Jesus in them and they bear false witness against Him in the spirit. There is much talk of theology today: books, libraries, institutes, studies, all the media, internet sites…. But there is only a little of the Spirit! Many personalities but little spirituality! Why? Because the love of Jesus has faded in our hearts and they have grown cold. Where there is no love, nothing bears fruit and nothing leavens. Labor, however shining its appearance, however profound and fresh and valuable it may be, where there is not divine love, the Devil makes for himself a place to live! To a people who have come to sanctify knowledge without faith active through love in the Church except formally, I will recall the words of the Apostle Paul: “If I have all knowledge… but I do not have love, then I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). I will also say that the richest library of knowledge about God in existence is the Devil’s library! There is nothing more expansive than the Devil’s archives! There, there is everything that can be known about God, but without the Spirit of God and without love!"
Read the whole thing here.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I don't think I am alone in wondering how and why it is that God seems to appear and disappear - at times to be close and at other times to be quite distant. St. Simeon the New Theologian relates his experience:
I have often seen the light, sometimes it has appeared to me within myself, when my soul possessed peace and silence, sometimes it has appeared only at a distance, and at times it was even hidden completely. Then I experienced great affliction, believing that I would never see it again. But from the moment when I began to shed tears, when I bore witness to a complete detachment from everything, and to an absolute humility and obedience, the Light appeared once again, like the sun which dissipates the thickness of the clouds and reveals itself little by little, bringing joy. Therefore thou, Unspeakable, Invisible, Untouchable One, moving all things, revealing thyself and hiding thyself at every hour, thou hast disappeared and appeared before me day and night.
So it would seem that God is involved in some sort of elaborate game of hide and seek. But is this so, does God hide Himself from us? Is He playing games with us? It certainly does seem like that. But St. Simeon has more to say as he continues relating his experience:
Slowly thou hast dispelled the darkness which was in me, thou hast dissipated the cloud which covered me, thou hast opened my spiritual hearing, thou hast purified the pupil of the eye of my spirit. Finally having formed me according to thy will, thou hast revealed thyself to my shining soul, becoming invisible to me once more. And suddenly thou didst appear as another sun, O ineffable divine condenscension... O thou, who hast no place to hide thyself; for thou hast never hidden thyself from sight, never hast thou despised any one, but rather it is we who have hidden ourselves, unwilling to approach Thee.
So it is not that God disappears but rather that it is we who are like Adam and Eve, shunning our Creator. Is this a game? No,I suggest we ought to understand this as a healing process, as life long path to restoration, towards healing, towards beholding the Light. It is we who are blind, who are sick and need to come to learn to see our Physician who awaits us, who never left nor hid Himself.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Come, all you nations,
let us fall down in worship before the blessed Tree,
by which eternal justice has come to pass!
For he who deceived Adam by a Tree
is caught by the lure of the Cross;
and he who held under his tyranny the creature endowed by God with
is brought down in a headlong fall.
The serpent's venom is washed away by the blood of God,
and the curse of just condemnation is undone
when the Just One is condemned by an unjust judgment.
For it was fitting that the Tree should be healed by a Tree,
and that by the Passion of the passionless God
what was wrought on the Tree should destroy the passions of man,
who was condemned.
But glory to Your dread dispensation for our sakes, O Christ the King,
through which You have saved us all
since You are good and the Lover of mankind!
Fr. Stephen has a great post about this very subject.
Monday, September 13, 2010
“The Gospels do not speak of earthly things, but of heavenly things, teaching us a different life and polity, new riches and poverty, unprecedented freedom and bondage, another kind of life and death, a(St. John Chrysostom, Homily I on the Gospel According to St. Matthew).
different world and other - not like Plato, who contrived that ridiculous Republic of his, nor like Zeno and the other politicians, philosophers, and lawmakers. For all of them had the following common attribute: they revealed that the evil spirit secretly inspired their souls. Our own conscience which protests proves that all their ideas
were demonic devices, and all their teachings contrary to nature”
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Knowledge is the vision of God and of His creation in a heart purified by divine grace and the struggles and prayers of man. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”.We see the same sentiments in Vladimir Lossky, for whom theology is communion, not primarily academic pursuit. "A theology that constitutes itself into a system is always dangerous. It imprisons in the enclosed sphere of thought the reality to which it must open thought." He then goes on to explain the relationship between faith and knowledge:
Truth is not a series of definitions, but God Himself, “Who appeared
concretely in the person of Christ, Who said: “I am the Truth”.
Certainty is not a matter of intellectual harmony; it is a deep
assurance of the heart. It comes to man after inner vision and is
accompanied by the warmth of divine grace. Intellectual harmony, which is the outcome of a logical ordering of things, is never accompanied by this assurance.
The only way to knowledge is purity of heart. It alone permits the
indwelling of the Holy Trinity in man. In this way alone is God and
His whole creation known, without being conceptualized. He is known as He really is without becoming comprehensible and without being diminished in order to fit into the stiffing limits of the human intellect. Thus the mind (nous) of man, living and uncomprehending, comes into union with the living and incomprehensible God. Knowledge is the living contact of man with the Creator and His creation, in mutual love.
Christian faith...is adherence to a presence which confers certitude, in such a way that certitude here is first...What one quests is already present, precedes us, makes possible our question itself."Through faith, we comprehend (we think), how the ages have been produced" (Hebrews 11:3) Thus faith allows us to think, it gives us true intelligence. Knowledge is given to us by faith, that is to say, by our participatory adherence to the presence of Him Who reveals Himself.
Friday, September 10, 2010
It is an important distinction, for often it would seem to us that indeed it is the other way around - first I know, then I believe; out of theologizing comes communion with God. Evidence for this, or so the argument goes, is that some sort of knowledge (the existence and love of God for instance) is needed to believe in God. And this is certainly so, but my argument is that this "knowledge" is but a very general knowledge at best, often nothing more than mere intuition. Such as we can see with the Ethopian who did not understand the scriptures and had to be instructed - truly what knowledge did he have? This common knowledge may be a vague intuition, a draw of the heart towards God, a whisper of a calling to turn towards God, a desire for closeness with God. So I hold that repentance comes before illumination and that right belief comes from right communion. The Ethopian communed with the Apostle, and illumination followed. We see this time and again in other examples. Moses meets God and receives understanding after his separation and ascend on Mt. Sinai. Saul of Tarsus receives his sight after repentance; communion with God precedes illumination, Saul becomes Paul the theologizer par excellence. (as an aside, we can see an ontological change in these individuals - they have been truly changed)
From a western, protestant perspective (such as from which I came), it is very difficult to come to terms with this. We like to figure all of it out first, and then give our consent if God meets our requirements (whatever those may be). Such are not the ways of God.
Since we have inherited this western approach to truth (to life, to meaning, to salvation etc.), I think it is important to make this clarification. I know many people who are struggling with this. Sure we should study and reason, but who do we commune with, whose authority will we accept? What is a sure foundation to be the basis for knowledge, and how are we to acquire it? Is the experience of God a possibility?
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
O Joachim and Anna, holy couple,
from your barrenness a holy root has sprung.
From her shone Christ our God, the Savior of the world.
You have gone to dwell in the heavenly mansions,
to join the most pure Virgin, your daughter.
You dance with the Angels as you pray for the world.
We gather this day to praise in song your righteousness.
Through all-holy Mary, the child of God,
you became the ancestors to Christ.
Intercede with Him to save our souls!
By way of his recent travels he shares his experience as a member of the Church of Christ. It does not cease to amaze me how one's doctrinal position can distort history, the present and perhaps even the future.
Read it here Notes from a Common-place Book: 2010 Travel Notes #16: Those Noble-Minded Bereans
Saturday, September 4, 2010
All Your ways are unsearchable!
For You are the Wisdom and perfect Hypostasis and Power of God;
Your working together is co-unoriginate and co-eternal;
therefore, by Your almighty power, You came into the world, seeking to
beautify Your creature,
in an inexpressible manner—from a Mother who had not known man,
yet, not changing in Your Godhead;
for You plan the seasons and the ages to accomplish our salvation, O
Therefore we cry out to You:
“O Good Lord, glory to You!”
It is very interesting to take a look at the beginning of the new church year which started on September 1. The very first major Feast we celebrate (September 8) is the birth of the Theotokos. This is not insignificant.
Today the gates of barrenness are opened,
and the virgin gate of God comes forth.
Today grace begins to bear its first fruit,
revealing to the world the Mother of God.
Through her things on earth are joined with the heavens
for the salvation of our souls.
The very beginning of our salvation is not the birth of Christ, but the birth of His mother - "today grace begins to bear its first fruit". Through her obedience the Incarnation was made possible, the Incarnation by which "things on earth are joined with the heavens". Truly miraculous, indeed the salvation of our souls.
Today is the prelude of universal joy;
today breezes blow that herald salvation,
and the barrenness of our nature is dispelled;
for the barren woman is revealed as the mother
of her who remained a virgin
after giving birth to the Creator.
From her the One Who is God by nature
takes what is foreign to Him and makes it His own;
and works salvation through the flesh for those who have gone astray.
He is Christ, the Lover of mankind and the Redeemer of our souls.
The barren woman of course is St. Anna, the grandmother of Christ, and through her "the barrenness of our nature is dispelled". Again we come to see the Incarnation, "the One Who is God by nature takes what is foreign to Him and makes it His own; and works salvation through the flesh".
Thursday, September 2, 2010
"Here in the church there is the one thing needful: Here is a refuge from the vanity and the storms of life. Here is the calm harbor for souls seeking after salvation. Here is incorruptible food and drink for the soul. Here is the light that enlightens all men existing upon earth. Here is the clean air of the spirit. Here is the fountain of living water which flows to life eternal (John 4:14). Here are distributed the gifts of the Holy Spirit, here is the cleansing of souls. The reading and chanting is done in church in a holy language. All Orthodox Christians should learn it, that they might understand the sweet pronouncements of their mother, who educates her children to prepare them for heaven, for life eternal…. Here in the temple, man comprehends the truly noble origin of his soul, the worth of life and its goal and purpose. Here he is torn away from his fascination with earthly vanities and passions. Here he comprehends his temporal and eternal fate. Here the Savior lives in His Life-giving Mysteries, in His salvation. Here he recognizes his true relationship to God and to his neighbor, to his family and to the society in which he lives.
The temple is heaven on earth, a place where intimate union with the Divine takes place. It is a heavenly school, where Christians are taught to become citizens of heaven, where they are taught heavenly norms, the way of life in heaven. It is the threshold of heaven, a place of communal prayer, thanksgiving, and praise of the Triune God, creator and protector of all. It is a place of unification with the angels. What is more honorable and more esteemed than the temple? Nothing. In its Divine Services, as in a blueprint, are severally depicted the fates of all humanity, from beginning to end. The Divine Services are the alpha and omega of the world and of mankind."
St. John of Kronstadt
h/t Word from the Desert
For more about St. John, see here and here.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Someone who has actually tasted truth is not contentious for truth.
Someone who is considered among men to be zealous for truth has not yet learnt what truth is really like: once he has truly learnt it, he will cease from zealousness on its behalf.
The gift of God and of knowledge of Him is not a cause for turmoil and clamor; rather this gift is entirely filled with a peace in which the Spirit, love, and humility, reside.
The following is a sign of the coming of the Spirit: the person whom the Spirit has overshadowed is made perfect in these very virtues.
God is reality. The person whose mind has become aware of God does not even possess a tongue with which to speak, but God resides in his heart with great serenity. He experiences no stirring of zeal nor argumentativeness, nor is he stirred by anger. He cannot even be aroused concerning the faith.
St. Isaac the Syrian (of Nineveh), 7th century
Friday, August 27, 2010
All the bishops participate in the apostolic succession and all the local churches are for this reason in communon with each other. By regarding the Petrine succession and not the apostolic succession of all the bishops as the origin and basis of this power, the pope isolated himself not only from the community of bishop, but also from the whole Church. Seen in this light, it was quite logically consistent for the First Vatican Council to define the decisions made by the pope ex cathedra as irreversable ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiae.
Read the whole thing here
About the Archbishop of Australia, see here
“O Virgin, calm the tumult of our passions and quiet the storm of our sins…” (from the Paraklisis to the Theotokos).
This is the message of the icon of the Theotokos, Our Lady of the Wind and what is written underneath it. She is lifting up the prayers of the faithful who are drowning in the sea of sorrows and the tempest of temptations to the Lord Jesus who is always present and watching from heaven, which is represented by the sky-blue circles amidst the golden background. He blesses with both His hands in response to the intercession of His mother the sailors who struggle amidst the waves that toss about the fishing boat (and the boat is a symbol of the Church). He leads them to the shore, the place “below the wind” north of Ras Qal’at Enfeh where the church of Our Lady stands. They seek refuge under her serene protection, far from the storms and whirlwinds coming from the sea (a symbol of death and the world of darkness where the dragon plays (the psalm of vespers). The whirlpool which appears along our coasts in the winter is still called “the dragon” by local fishermen and this is reflected in the icon by depicting the storm in this form), from the southwest across from the cliff, but the Theotokos Our Lady of the Wind is standing next to her church, lifting up her left hand in supplication to her divine Son to preserve her children, while with her right hand she repels from them the storm coming from afar.
From Notes on Arab Orthodoxy: Our Lady of the Wind
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The ramifications are huge when God's essence (God as He is to Himself independently of His self manifestation) is confused with His energy (activity).
Highlighting some the practical implications of differences between the eastern and western Christian traditions, David Bradshaw summarizes,
"The East has no concept of God. It views God not as an essence to be grasped intellectually, but as a personal reality known through His acts, and above all by oneself sharing in those acts...this understanding leads to a distinctive view of the role of asceticism and other spiritual practices. For the East these are viewed, not as a way of disciplining the body, but as contributing to an ongoing deification of the whole person, body as well as soul. A similar difference can be observed in regard to religious morality as a whole. For the East morality is not primarily a matter of conformance to law, nor (in a more Aristotelian vein) of achieving human excellence by acquiring the virtues. It is a matter of coming to know God by sharing in His acts and manifesting His Image."
From the Epilogue of Aristotle East and West - Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church there is no such need to "grasp God intellectually", no need to endlessly fret about historicity. (For some further thought on Christianity and history see Fr. Stephen's Time and History)
I will post some further material from David Bradshaw shortly.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
You say that So-and-so is an evil-doer and may he burn in hell fire. But I ask you — supposing God were to give you a fair place in paradise, and you saw burning in the fire the man on whom you had wished the tortures of hell, even then would you really not feel pity for him, whoever he might be, an enemy of the Church even? Or is it that you have a heart of steel? But there is no place for steel in paradise. Paradise has need of humility and the love of Christ, which pities all men. The grace of God is not in the man who does not love his enemies.
O merciful Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit teach us to love our enemies, and to pray for them with tears.
O Lord, send down Thy Holy Spirit on earth that all nations may know Thee, and learn Thy love.
O Lord, as Thou Thyself didst pray for Thine enemies, so teach us, too by Thy Holy Spirit, to love our enemies.
O Lord, all peoples are the work of Thy hands; turn them from enmity and malice to repentance, that all my know Thy love.
O Lord, Thou didst command us to love our enemies, but it is hard for us sinners, if Thy grace be not with us.
O Lord, pour down Thy grace upon the earth. Let all the nations of the earth come to know Thy love; to know that Thou lovest us with a mother’s love,
and more than a mother’s love for even a mother may be forgetful of her children,
but Thou forgettest never, because Thy love for Thy creation is boundless, and love cannot forget.
O merciful Lord, by the riches of Thy mercy
save all peoples.
St. Silouan the Athonite
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. - St Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV 26:2
Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outwardform, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Preface
Mormonism comes to mind. Cleverly disguised reinterpretation.
"It is very shameful, and not only shameful, but very foolish, to take from things below a guess at things above, and from a fluctuating nature at the things that are unchanging, and as Isaiah says, to seek the Living among the dead." - St. Gregrory Nazianzen, Fifth Theological Oration, X
The discontinuity of being. It serves as a reminder to be very careful in looking around about (and at myself) and by analogy or deduction arrive at an understanding of God.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
So let me just start by noting that it is important to make clear that by providence we are not to understand that everything that happens is a direct expression of God's will. To put in other words, an important distinction needs to be made between what God wills and what He permits. If this distinction is not made one falls into a dark theological fatalism, a theology of raw and arbitrary Power. We can see this in Reformation theology, in constructs such as limited atonement and predestination. A failure to understand real liberty within creation, without at the same time denying or diminishing God's freedom to will and sovereignty, leads to fatalism. As an aside, this is where a mere reliance on “physics and logic” and "theology by analogy" can easily mislead.
If one does not make this distinction every event is seen as a positive act of God's will and purpose, as if without such events God's plan would somehow be incomplete or not come to pass. There is no room for mere accident. We frequently see such unfortunate pronouncements made during the aftermaths of disasters and human suffering.