Archive for January, 2006

…in the former Soviet Union, is examined in micro, in this article focusing on the spaceport town in Kazakhstan.

The beautiful life of the 18th-century wonderworking fool-for-Christ is here. Her humble life ‘in the world’ really touches me in my own disability.

Here’s a very good article.

From the Nativity 2005 issue of The Harvest, a publication of the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension, Resaca, Georgia, USA, Jerusalem Patriarchate.

Orthodox Iconography is not merely an art, but is also the science of the knowledge of God and His holy ones.

The Icon is not intended to conform to outward or “empirical” precision, according to the eyes of the flesh. Nor is it intended to be an expression of the soulfulness, or creativity of feeling, of the author/painter, for that would be merely “psychical” – of the soul.

Both of these would still be worldly art, or perhaps religious painting, or portraiture. But neither would be iconography; for iconography taps into the realm of “the spirit.”

Orthodox icons are windows into heaven, into that noetic realm of men [sic] and angels, the Heavenly Jerusalem, Mt. Zion – the city of the living God. It is not merely that those depicted have been transfigured, but we too are transformed and changed by our viewing of them. We are transported “from glory to glory” by this vision.

Through iconography we are made to behold things as they really are, after the fashion of the world to come, and not according to the things of this world…which will pass away and be changed.

Icons, when depicted after the traditional manner and within the traditional ethos of patristic spiritual life, are indeed a “foretaste of glory divine” – that Glory, Uncreated and Divine, which the Son of God, Jesus Christ, shared with His Father (and the Holy Spirit) from “before the foundation of the world.”

This is the “shekinah,” or glory-cloud, manifested continually throughout the Old Testament as the perceptible presence of the Divinity, of Jehovah or YHWH, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…who is the God of Moses, who saw the fire of Divinity present in the Burning Bush, which burned with fire but was not consumed. And Moses stood on Holy Ground, unleashed his sandals, and heard the Word of God, the Angel of Great Counsel.

It is this King of Glory, the Lord of Israel, our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God Himself, who came down from Heaven and dwelt in a temple made of flesh. This temple is, as the Gospel says, his very own Body, which was taken from the pure and ever-virgin Mary – and she is called the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to the incarnate God.

Icons, depictions of Holy things and Holy people, were ultimately made possible by Christ’s incarnation. By His taking on of matter and of visible existence, He has sanctified the things of earth and made them spiritual, bearers of the Spirit and vessels of God.

God is “wondrous in His saints,” as King David said in the Book of Psalms. And we wonder at and behold the mighty acts of God by viewing holy icons of the incarnate God, of His Holy Mother, of the angels (who, by the way, were depicted in the Holy of Holies and on the Curtain, even in the Old Testament Temple), and of the lives, persons, and great deeds of all the Saints who have served our Lord Jesus Christ.

To God be Glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Orthodox frequently invoke the Holy Spirit when they pray or do things. One of the commonest prayers in Orthodoxy is the “O Heavenly King”:

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, treasury of good things and giver of life, come and abide in us and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

For an interesting new discussion of Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism, go here (PDF).

Today is the Sunday After Theophany (which was Jan. 6), the Great Feast instead of Western Epiphany, whereon Orthodox celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John, the public revelation of the Trinity and of Jesus as the Son of God. The Scripture Readings at Divine Liturgy today were Ephesians 4:7-13 and Matthew 4:12-17. They remind me that being the Body of Christ isn’t just a claim or reality for the Orthodox Church, but a challenge to it. The Church is challenged to be Christ to the world. The Gifting(s) of the Holy Spirit to the Church are for it to come up to the full stature of Christ. In the Lord’s shocking saying, WE are the light of the world. Christ prayed and worshiped, preached and taught, served and healed, and all of these are calls to the Orthodox Church. Today in Scripture Christ begins His ministry to humanity, and so must we anew.

“Manifesting Thyself to Thine Apostles, Thou didst send them forth to preach; and through them hast granted Thy peace to the world, O Thou Who alone art plenteous in mercy.”
From a Resurrection Troparion (hymn) from Matins.

The Church from its first days has been essential to the post-Ascension activity of Christ. Incarnate ministry, prayer, teaching, preaching, touching, healing, suffering, being killed, rising to new life, ascending to the Father– God has always been involved with humanity, and in Christ God became human, and continues being involved with humanity. Through His Grace the life of the Orthodox Church (on a good day) is the Life of Christ. We’re not just followers or adherents or believers in Him: WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST. Western Christianity devalues this reality in its emphases on popes or reformers or “bible” or “spirit.” (Though Vatican II may have turned a corner here.) This is why breaking away from the Church is so problematic. Both schism and heresy are de-theos-izing actions, they turn Christianity into a merely human project. It’s not just human church-politics!

Why didn’t God just say ‘peace to the world’? Because God’s Peace is a relationship, and not just an esoteric one, but a concrete, face-to-face one. If you’re at peace with the Orthodox Church, you’re at peace with God. (Though that’s only a beginning, and Orthodox still must struggle.) It’s also by the Mercy of God that He allows us to reach Him through the Church and its means. And God’s Peace is comprehensive: The Orthodox Church is God’s community of peace for humanity. Even when this fact is obscured by our sin, Communion isn’t lastingly disrupted like among nation-states.

The organic and doctrinal continuity between Christ and the Orthodox Church, from the past to the present, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, is a weighty thing.