Archive for May, 2007

This Great Feast of the Orthodox Church, one of the twelve (Pascha, as the Feast of Feasts, is counted separately from the other 12), commemorates not simply Christ’s going up in the clouds, but His final elevation of human nature itself – His Own – to Glory “at the right hand of God the Father.” Thus, His Ascension isn’t just a footnote to salvation, but its full completion, as far as His earthly ministry and work was concerned.

(Of course, it continued ten days later when the All-Holy Spirit of God, One of the Trinity, “led the disciples into all the Truth,” that is, into Christ’s Body, from within themselves, as they saw in “tongues as of fire” – nothing less than God’s Glory, the same as three saw on Mt. Tabor, and other Prophets had seen throughout the Old Testament Church, and the Forerunner saw when he baptized the Lord [it wasn’t really a bird!]. And it has continued throughout the history of the Orthodox Church, Christ’s Body, and on behalf of each of us today.)

A cute article to share with the very young. Actually, in its simplicity and conciseness, the rest of us might find it valuable also… not to say inspiring!

Here’s an interesting article. I haven’t determined whether the same expectations/possibilities pertain to one’s Chrismation sponsor, but it’s something to think about.

This is only the first part of a planned multi-part article on George Parkin Grant, who was brought near Orthodoxy by Plato and Simone Weil. Its author, Ron Dart, is a friend of Archbishop LAZAR (Puhalo) of New Ostrog. The article points to questions Grant raised about the secularized, rationalized approach of much modern Western philosophy, and its influence on Western Christian theology, in particular in his own Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Grant was mentor to Spencer Estabrooks, Director of the new St. Arseny Orthodox Christian Theological Institute (OCA) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, who reports Grant might have converted to Orthodoxy if he had been able to find an English-speaking parish when and where he was looking.

(FYI, sometimes Canadian writers use the word liberal in the classical sense that encompasses most of U.S. politico-cultural discourse, both what we’re used to thinking of as “liberal” and “conservative”… actually alot like the liberal in the term “liberal democracy.” In such cases conservative might denote tendencies such as monarchism, High Church orthodoxy if not Orthodoxy, balancing individualism with the Common Good, balancing ‘progress’ with tradition, religious faith, greater trust in ‘the wisdom of the ages,’ a more traditional morality, a reduced profit motive, true compassion, etc. Just to avoid confusion.)

i.e., the practice of the Jesus Prayer and other elements of Orthodoxy, is actually treated in some detail – though not perfectly as far as I have read – at Wikipedia. Although some Orthodox consider it ‘just one way among many’ in Orthodoxy, hesychasm’s supporters sometimes claim it’s what Orthodoxy is, as below (emphases added):

Hesychasm, rather than a facet of Orthodox theology, is presented as the embodiment of its sacred tradition. In reading Bishop [Hierotheos] Vlachos and some of his contemporaries it might seem to the inattentive student that the salvific role of hesychastic practice has been stressed at the expense of communal and cyclical liturgical observances, including the Holy Mysteries. Vlachos’ contention is that the hesychastic lifestyle is solely capable of preparing one for participation in the Holy Mysteries and full appreciation of their meaning. Conversely, it is those ignorant of the truths of hesychasm who trivialise the sacred rites and stand thereby in peril. Fears that a resurgence of hesychasm could collapse the Church into isolated worshippers confined to their icon corners are dismissed as unfounded. Absent the hesychastic promise of purification, illumination and glorification, the Eastern Orthodox are reduced to long beards…long robes…long services’ to paraphrase the words of the author’s colleague, Fr John Romanides.

It seems that according to the late Fr. John Romanides, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Symeon the New Theologian, St. Gregory the Theologian (better known in the West as Nazianzen, although his father, a bishop, is also St. Gregory Nazianzen!), the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian (or “the Divine” in archaic English – not in the sense of being God in Essence, but, minimally, a teacher of religion, like other more recent “divines”… although as Orthodox remember, ironically indeed – at least in St. John’s case – ‘being God in Energy,’ as St. Athanasius said: “God became human so humans could become God”!), Metropolitan HIEROTHEOS (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos, Greece (who I believe was a sort of protege of Romanides, and is also featured at, Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) of New Ostrog, et al.,

(big-T) Theology is words that try to guide us to theosis/divinization/salvation/the Glory of God/cooperation (synergeia) with God/daily repentance (metanoia)/purification from sin and the passions/co-suffering love like God’s… such words being from some of those who’ve been/are there… or perhaps, limited rational reflection upon their words. See here. This is in contrast to the largely ‘philosophical’ or speculative or academic nature of theology exemplified in the Wikipedia article. To employ a classic example, it’s the difference between deducing how many teeth are in a horse’s mouth based on numerous preconceived ‘principles’ or ‘sacred’ doctrines… and just opening up his mouth and counting them. Although it’s harder to purify ourselves than to open a horse’s mouth! (There’s a quote for the ages!!)

Another illustration is the Greek word theoria, basically vision or seeing, but in the West identified with theory, speculation by our fallen reason whose purpose is to lead *to* experiment observable by the fallen senses, not primarily information from actual experience not of the physical, fallen senses, but via the purified nous.

In my observation, some of the problems created for the Chalcedonian (“Greek”) Orthodox Church in and around Istanbul, Turkey, by government and Muslim civilians there, are based on their misunderstandings of Orthodoxy. I’ve already mentioned one instance of this: the “ecumenicity of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople” as commonly (mis)understood by Turks as well as some Orthodox (see last three paragraphs here).

Another apparently surrounded the Pope of Rome’s visit there around St. Andrew’s Day last year (at the link, search for text “pope benedict” to find the following relevant text about one-third of the way down [an article I have not otherwise read, and therefore cannot vouch for, neither its content nor its tone: it came up during a Google News search for something else!]):

Raymond Ibrahim, a research librarian at the US Library of Congress, warns in the Los Angeles Times against giving in to Muslim supremacists:

“In the days before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Hagia Sophia complex in Istanbul, Muslims and Turks expressed fear, apprehension and rage. ‘The risk,’ according to Turkey’s independent newspaper Vatan, ‘is that Benedict will send Turkey’s Muslims and much of the Islamic world into paroxysms of fury if there is any perception that the pope is trying to re-appropriate a Christian center that fell to Muslims’”….

The Turks didn’t have to worry. The Pope behaved in perfect dhimmi fashion during his visit to the formerly Greek, Christian territory now known as Turkey.

Of course, if said Turks and Muslims were taking Rome’s claims to universal jurisdiction seriously, their concerns could be understood. But if they better understood Orthodoxy, its current lack of communion with Rome, and its constant denial of Roman universal jurisdiction even when they were in communion, they might not have been so concerned. *I* thought Muslims in that part of the world distinguished rather clearly between Orthodox as Rum/Roum (“Romans” in Turkish and as transliterated from Arabic, respectively), and Latins as Franj (“Franks,” I believe). I wonder if some Turks, in their Westernization, as well as their anti-Hellenism, ironically take the Western point-of-view too seriously?

I’m not playing the dhimmi here. I simply prefer that people be mad at us for the right reasons – such as the Divinity of Christ, His Mother as Theotokos, or that some Orthodox consider Islam a heretical offshoot of Orthodoxy(!) – and not from misunderstanding… just like I prefer that we critique heterodox Christians for true and real things about them, not legends or misperceptions or exaggerations. One looks silly, and so does their attack, if they attack someone for something that isn’t really true. (WE look silly when we complain to Latins about sprinkling, something most of them know nothing about, it’s so rare and ‘technical.’) We do each other a favor if we help each other focus our ‘concerns’ and clear out the rubbish, the non-concerns.

With apologies to Andrew Greeley (he wrote a book by that name a long time ago), the new In Communion journal from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship includes an article that got all kinds of wheels going in my head – good, spiritual, theological wheels – even ‘anti-wheels’ maybe! Once I sort through them – it literally just arrived yesterday – I might share, but go ahead anyway and check it out. Parts of it you’ll have to read real slow because they’re meaning-dense; I did anyway.

(While reading, remember that for Orthodox – and it’s supposed to be this way for all Christians – the Truth is a Person, not a concept, and to “taste and see” is to experience His Glory as Light [sometimes reported with other spiritual-sensory experiences alongside Light, such as scent], to manifest it in our bodies and our lives.)

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

I’ve just discovered the written form of the conversion story of the author of The Orthodox Church, Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, originally Timothy Ware. Fascinating especially for Protestants, in particular Anglicans as he was, he also addressed our jurisdictional disunity here in the West, and a freaky but touching encounter with St. John (Maximovitch) of San Francisco and Shanghai in Paris, and why he went with the Greeks instead of the Russians (FWIW!) – in a video I think I saw online he briefly said “ad fontes,” ‘the source’ of Orthodoxy, but it’s really more complicated than that, and less ideological (thankfully).

Plus, apparently a few weeks ago they promoted him to Metropolitan! Many years, Your Eminence!

(It’s not a new job, he’s still Auxiliary Bishop to the Greek Archbishop of Britain; just a higher honorary title. Not like he hasn’t earned it!)

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Repose of St. Alexis Toth (98th anniversary), who brought tens of thousands of Slavic Eastern Catholics in the United States back to Orthodoxy a century ago. As one might expect, Catholic sources don’t treat him too kindly. Even some Orthodox sources attempt to belittle his achievement. But rather than fight fire with fire (not to say flame), here is a very temperate (and brief) biographical article of Fr. Alexis, claiming that he was himself very temperate and moderate in his ministry – a reminder even for those of us today who seek to help others ‘who call upon the name of Christ’ back to o/Orthodoxy.

And here’s his vita icon with captions. (Depicted twice is Holy Resurrection OCA Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, which he pastored. Ironically, the twin gold onion domes of the Byzantine Catholic temple up the street still dominate the city skyline!)

is here. Very profound, debunks alot of historical myths neglected even by other recent defenders – pulls no punches, so to speak!

Khristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese! (Church Slavonic.)