Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Infinity and Beyond.

"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

On Christian Fasting

Father Stephen Freeman has a terrific and timely post up on fasting:

"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

Preview & Anticipation of God's Will.

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."
Here she is referred to as the "precious Chamber" and the "sacred Treasure". The Mother of God is also often called "more spacious than the heavens" as she bore Him whom heaven could not contain.

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

Why God Allows Wicked Bishops

"This coming Saturday, with God's permission, the thirteenth of November, is the feast of St. John Chrysostom .

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 Complement of Christ's Humanity

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".

from Vladimir Lossky In the Image and Likeness of God
"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.