Archive for July, 2005

John 7:17 (NKJV):
If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or [whether] I speak on My own [authority.]

Here was discussed the fact that those who experience Energetic Union with God/Glorification perceive fundamental o/Orthodox Christian teachings therein. Now John 7:17 seems to reinforce that testimony. If we work on purifying ourselves and acting virtuously (“If anyone wants to do His will”), we’ll know the teaching of the Father which the Son brings us by the Holy Spirit.

Try it!

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See Job 42:7-8 (NAB):

…the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and with your two friends; for you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job. Now, therefore, take seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up a holocaust for yourselves; and let my servant Job pray for you; for his prayer I will accept, not to punish you severely. For you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job.”

To speak rightly concerning the Lord – as anyone else – is to honor Him. In His case, it’s worship. To speak wrongly of the Lord – as anyone else – is to dishonor Him. And as Romanides said, right words come from, and tend towards, the experience of Glorification, energetic union with God. Wrong words don’t, and may even lead away from it.

Who wants to risk philosophizing?

Right doctrine. Right worship. Right glory.

The Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Prophet and Patriarch Job the Much-Suffering as a Saint on May 6.

Orthodox are big on the Trinity. The joke goes that the reason we allow up to three Church marriages (ie, two ecclesiastical divorces) is “one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit”!

Western Christianity teaches too, that God is One, in Three Divine Persons. But They’re mentioned by Name much more often in Orthodox Liturgy and private prayer. Some analysts say the West emphasizes God’s Unity, the East His Trinity; others say the West’s emphasis is on the shared Divine Essence, the East’s on the Hypostases or Persons.

Whatever the case, after the Lord Have Mercy’s the most frequent Orthodox prayer is “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.” GLORY! Like Uncreated Light!

We also make the Sign of the Cross very often, whenever the Trinity are mentioned by Name, as well as many other times. (And the original way, from right to left.) They couldn’t even make My Big Fat Greek Wedding without it! (It’s near the beginning, in the restaurant, when the old folks are discussing the possibility of Toula never getting married.)

As Homo adorans, humanity’s Number One task is to give Glory to the Trinity. Orthodoxy even teaches that you can see the Trinity in the Old Testament (BTW, Yahweh is Christ!), though the dogma wasn’t clear historically until the Incarnation of the Logos.

See here.

of the last hundred years or so, from Orthodox Russia, are reported in this online booklet.

A newspaper column he wrote 40 years ago on the unlikely topic of life in outer space provides a remarkable precis of his life’s work.

“All Planets the Same:
Religion’s Response to Space Life V,”
Rev. John S. Romanides, PhD., The Boston Globe, April 8, 1965, page 18.

I can foresee no way in which the teachings of the Orthodox Christian tradition could be affected by the discovery of intelligent beings on another planet. Some of my colleagues feel that even a discussion of the consequences of such a possibility is in itself a waste of time for serious theology and borders on the fringes of foolishness.

I am tempted to agree with them for several reasons.

As I understand the problem, the discovery of intelligent life on another planet would raise questions concerning traditional Roman Catholic and Protestant teachings regarding creation, the fall, man as the image of God, redemption and Biblical inerrancy.

First one should point out that in contrast to the traditions deriving from Latin Christianity, Greek Christianity never had a fundamentalist or literalist understanding of Biblical inspiration and was never committed to the inerrancy of scripture in matters concerning the structure of the universe and life in it. In this regard some modern attempts at de-mything the Bible are interesting and at times amuzing [sic].

Since the very first centuries of Christianity, theologians of the Greek tradition did not believe, as did the Latins, that humanity was created in a state of perfection from which it fell. Rather the Orthodox always believed that man [was] created imperfect, or at a low level of perfection, with the destiny of evolving to higher levels of perfection.

The fall of each man, therefore, entails a failure to reach perfection, rather than any collective fall from perfection.

Also spiritual evolution does not end in a static beatific vision. It is a never ending process which will go on even into eternity.

Also Orthodox Christianity, like Judaism, never knew the Latin and Protestant doctrine of original sin as an inherited Adamic guilt putting all humanity under a divine wrath which was supposedly satisfied by the death of Christ.

Thus the solidarity of the human race in Adamic guilt and the need for satisfaction of divine justice in order to avoid hell are unknown in the Greek Fathers.

This means that the interdependance [sic] and solidarity of creation and its need for redemption and perfection are seen in a different light.

The Orthodox believe that all creation is destined to share in the glory of God. Both damned and glorified will be saved. In other words both will have vision of God in his uncreated glory, with the difference that for the unjust this same uncreated glory of God will be the eternal fires of hell.

God is light for those who learn to love Him and a consuming fire for those who will not. God has no positive intent to punish.

For those not properly prepared, to see God is a cleansing experience, but one which does not move eternally toward higher reaches of perfection.

In contrast, hell is a static state of perfection somewhat similar to Platonic bliss.

In view of this the Orthodox never saw in the Bible any three story universe with a hell of created fire underneath the earth and a heaven beyond the stars.

For the Orthodox discovery of intelligent life on another planet would raise the question of how far advanced these beings are in their love and preparation for divine glory.

As on this planet, so on any other, the fact that one may have not as yet learned about the Lord of Glory of the Old and New Testament, does not mean that he is automatically condemned to hell, just as one who believes in Christ is not automatically destined to be involved in the eternal movement toward perfection.

It is also important to bear in mind that the Greek Fathers of the Church maintain that the soul of man is part of material creation, although a high form of it, and by nature mortal [sic].*


{*-By this ‘sic’ I don’t mean Fr. John misspoke. He actually meant it. I only highlight it because it’s so unexpected, because we’re so under Western influence.¬† -LPO’F}

Only God is purely immaterial.

Life beyond death is not due to the nature of man but to the will of God. Thus man is not strictly speaking the image of God. Only the Lord of Glory, or the Angel of the Lord of Old and New Testament revelation is the image of God.

Man was created according to the image of God, which means that his destiny is to become like Christ who is the Incarnate Image of God.

Thus the possibility of intelligent beings on another planet being images of God as men on earth are supposed to be is not even a valid question from an Orthodox point of view.

Finally one could point out that the Orthodox Fathers rejected the Platonic belief in immutable archetypes of which this world of change is a poor copy.

This universe and the forms in it are unique and change is of the very essence of creation and not a product of the fall.

Furthermore the categories of change, motion and history belong to the eternal dimensions of salvation-history and are not to be discard[ed] in some kind of eternal bliss.

Thus the existence of intelligent life on another planet behind or way ahead of us in intellectual and spiritual attainment will change little in the traditional beliefs of Orthodox Christianity.

Photo caption: Rev. John S. Romanides, professor of dogmatics and history of theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary, Brookline.

NEXT — Rev. Charles K. Von Euw, professor of oriental theology and patrology at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton.

The writings of Fr. John Romanides (Memory Eternal) are digested all on one page of the website devoted to him.

(UPDATED 4 August 2008, clarifying about the Son and Spirit proceeding eternally [ie, Their “existence”] only from the Father, ie, no Filioque in the true experience of God’s Glory.)

From Prophet of Roman Orthodoxy: The Theology of John Romanides, by Andrew J. Sopko, Dewdney, BC, Canada: Synaxis, 1998, pages 41-42:

Lest glorification/divinization be equated with a mystical ecstasy, it will suffice to say here that the true experience always contains a revelation of the Holy Trinity in uncreated glory. In the realization that there is no similarity between the uncreated and the created, the following are apprehended:

  • The co-inherence of the three divine persons;
  • The existence of two divine persons [ie, the Son and the Holy Spirit] from one divine person [ie, the Father only];
  • A common essence is shared by the persons;
  • The essence is incommunicable, while the energies are communicable;
  • Although the energies are communicable, they are not understandable;
  • Not only the divine essence, but the energy have no similarity with anything. And, if the revelation has occurred after the Incarnation,
  • Christ is the natural source of divinization.

(UPDATED 10 March 2008.)

Adding to my previous thought, by abortion I mean any intentional killing of an unborn human being, whether because they don’t want the baby, or because they want the embryonic stem cells without which the baby dies.

And I’m not forcing my religion on others: This is America, and this change must be made legally, ‘democratically.’ (And it should go without saying, nonviolently.)

I’d add a link to an Anti-Abortion Constitutional Amendment, but apparently there are a couple hundred floating around out there, and no single one is THE one. How about simply: “This Constitution shall not be construed so as to recognize a right to kill or lethally harvest from a human being, from fertilization by any method, through birth, except in a case of ectopic pregnancy, or a pregnancy which qualified medical doctors believe poses a direct threat to the life of the woman”? Just a few clear, simple words.

Again, sorry if this is ‘too political,’ but I believed it had to be said.

The Orthodox Church has a whole special category of Saints, the Unmercenary Physicians, numbering a couple dozen men and women who often treated the sick without taking money in return — centuries before Marx or Canadian health insurance! Sometimes there were miraculous healings involved, and conversions to Christianity. One of the greatest is St. Panteleimon, turned-in to anti-Christian authorities by competing medicine men for often taking as payment only the patient’s attribution of their cure to Christ. Like the proverbial inventor of the car that runs on NO GAS, Panteleimon was martyred.

Today (July 1) was a Feast of two other great Unmercenaries, Sts. Cosmas and Damian of Rome.

Orthodoxy considers caring for the sick a virtue, not a for-profit industry. Bishop St. Basil the Great of what is now Kayseri, Turkey, built a whole medical city in the early centuries of the Church, among his many other achievements. Orthodoxy was traditionally so associated with care for the needy that the Soviet government didn’t allow the Russian Church to do so.

is a book prepared by an anonymous Monk of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania in the 1980s, excerpted here. I’ve just read from the chapter on Prayer, and it’s very good.

Yesterday was the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Apostles. The Gospel reading for Divine Liturgy was Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, Matthew 16:13-19 (here, from the NAB).

13
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
18
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
19
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

IMHO, it’s clear from the text that Peter indeed is the Rock on which the Lord says He will build His Church, in the context of Peter’s o/Orthodox confession of faith, a faithfulness revealed to him in his experience of the Father, as happens to anyone who experiences Glorification in the Trinity’s Uncreated Energies. It is Christ’s Orthodox Church on which the gates of Hades will not finally close-in — not one local Church in particular, but the Whole Church in general, again, in the context of witness to o/Orthodox f/Faith. (In fact, if we consider that the Church is the Body of Christ, then on Great Saturday the gates of Hades failed to prevail against it/Him; He arose on Pascha/Easter morning.) The Greek makes it clear that it is to Peter individually that the Lord says He will give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever Peter binds or looses on earth will be so in Heaven — a responsibility extended shortly after to all the Twelve at Matthew 18:18.

Orthodoxy affirms that Peter held a special place among the early Christians, though not over them like an absolute lord (Matthew 20:26-28). (In Acts 15:13-21, James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, ‘clerked‘ the Council of Jerusalem, while Peter testified.) Historically St. Peter has been associated with the foundations of the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, Italy. To none of these ‘successors’ does the Lord say Peter will ‘hand-off’ the keys. But as if to illustrate a lasting role potential, during many of the theological controversies that convulsed the Universal Church in the first millenium, in spite of its own beginning theological drifting, Rome’s local Church did indeed provide a sufficient anchor of o/Orthodoxy within the Church Universal, like Peter did at Jerusalem. And remember that the Gospels, Acts, and Paul do not fail to depict a very imperfect Peter, one with whom all of us can identify, however low or high.

But if Rome should ever fall from Orthodoxy, ie, from the faith- and Truth-giving (John 16:13) experience of Glorification and ministry of service-leadership, Petrine ministry as described above will remain with the Orthodox Church, the other Petrine Sees, and the other Apostolic Sees; from AD 1100-1500, Constantinople, and from 1500-1900, effectively Moscow. All Orthodox Churches are equal, and the Council of Jerusalem remains the Biblical model for Orthodox decisionmaking in the Body of Christ. And a council can prevail upon any bishop, even a Patriarch, even the “First Among Equals.”

I’m trying to keep the light on Orthodoxy alone, but it has to be said that Rome has taught increasingly that authoritative revelation is given only to one of its adherents, the Pope of Rome, forgetting that Pentecost and Glorification — Orthodoxy just celebrated Pentecost and All Saints Sundays — are offered to the Whole Orthodox Church, not only to one person. Conciliarity may be messier, but it’s where the Holy Spirit is presumed to act — nay, experienced acting, historically — in the Whole Church, not just certain leaders. The things that Rome forgets continue to be taught by Orthodoxy.

Lord have mercy on us!

(In the event of reunification, Orthodoxy will require Rome to re-embrace o/Orthodox theology and conciliarity. Yes, sadly, we think we’re farther apart than Rome does!)