Friday, August 27, 2010

Light from the East

Perry at Energic Procession unearthed an excellent quote on Eastern Orthodox Ecclesiology. I really ought to quote the whole passage, it is that good. Here is a fragment:

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

Notes on Arab Orthodoxy: Our Lady of the Wind

“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

From Metaphysics to Life

The roots of the obsession with historicity and empiricism present in western Christianity can be traced back to faulty assumptions. The division rest largely upon the acceptance or rejection of Hellenic categories of thought. For the west acceptance of Hellenic thought meant rejecting the essence and energy distinction as developed by the Church Fathers. God's activity is thus understood to be the same as His being. For God to be, is to act or will. His essence can be known and knowledge then becomes the pivot around which western Christianity has turned since St. Augustine.

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.