Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

I know nothing about the recent controversy over this, referenced at the beginning of this article from St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania (anonymous), and was surprised to hear about it.  But this article seems to address it well, briefly, and Orthodoxly.  It also highlights the misinterpretation or misunderstanding of Patristic writings that is possible unless one is steeped ever more deeply in Orthodoxy’s Patristic, Holy Tradition, ie, not just historic prooftexts (or even Scriptural for that matter), but the Tradition in its fullness, including the Liturgy and its hymns and prayers, the spiritual and ascetic struggle to receive God’s Gift, and even how Orthodoxy has and has not made use of non-canonical (“apocryphal”) scriptures and related writings.  For its taste of this, I highly recommend the article even if you already don’t question the sinlessness of the Theotokos.

(I would only add to the piece, to clarify it, that at no time did Mary lose her free will.  She was probably sorely tempted!)

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Yes, Orthodoxy still commemorates and venerates her (today, Saturday), because we still remember not only that she ministered to the Lord in His time of need on the way to the Cross, but also, by Tradition, that she was the woman He’d healed from her continuous flow of blood (Gospel according to St. Matthew 9:20 and parallel passages), and that she and her husband, the short St. Zacchaeus (Zacchaios) from the Gospels, evangelized in southern France.  Here is a writeup from a Greek-published book alongside an icon of her that doesn’t look as ‘new’ as the other one (though the hymns they give for the date are those of a pair of other saints commemorated today, not Veronica / Bernice).

I found this quote about Orthodoxy’s ‘long, ornate’ prayers at a source I don’t wish to identify for moral reasons.  But I think it says something profound:

Orthodox prayers go in the same format that the Lord’s Prayer goes– first glorifying God, establishing from the person praying their humility, their desire for His will, etc. I have seen no prayers that are designed to bore God and everyone else present as I have heard in many other places.

The interview, conducted by email by a magazine, is mostly reproduced by another blogger here, though he re-posted it in installments, so start with Number One at the bottom of the page and work your way back up.

I might offer for clarification, first, that there have been several more-or-less intensive missionary periods in Orthodox Church history:

  1. the first thousand years or so, spreading north and west across Europe and North Africa, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland (a tiny bit), south through Ethiopia, east into India, and north and east through the Balkans, the Caucasus, Moravia, and European Russia (though we lost a chunk of all this to the Assyrian Church of the East historically known as “Nestorian,” the Oriental Churches called Non-Chalcedonian, Islam, the fall of the Patriarchate of Rome from Orthodoxy, the Crusades and Uniatism and “mission” by the Latin and Protestant Churches among our people, the Westernization of the Russian intelligentsia from the 1700s [which paved the way for Soviet Communism and 60 million Martyrs], and the Greek-Turkish-Cypriot and Israeli-Arab conflicts of the 20th century);
  2. from around the 1700s through the 1910s, making headway among the Native peoples of Siberia and Alaska, as well as in China, Japan, and Korea, and well over 100,000 Heterodox Christians in the U.S. and Canada;
  3. since the 1940s with new missions in East, West, and South Africa, since the 1970s-80s throughout the Western world, and since the 1990s from India around to Hong Kong and Taiwan;
  4. 3a. and of course special mention goes to what’s been called the biggest religious revival in history, in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, especially Orthodoxy, since the 1980s-90s, even in the face of well-financed and internationally-backed “missions” from the Latins and Protestants beyond their historical positions in those countries, from other Western sects with questioned connections to Christianity, and in the face of Western materialism, secularism, skepticism, agnosticism, atheism, etc.  (Remember that Orthodox there experienced Communism as yet another bad idea from the West!)

I would also add that Orthodoxy’s Number One concern from the devil is temptation to sin and away from God.

I haven’t read the Markides books Khouria Frederica mentions, but I’ve heard some concerns even about the first one, so maybe don’t even take that one as totally “gospel,” so to speak: helpful perhaps, but limited.

I am struck by her description of Divine Energy:

‘An example is the {New Testament} Greek word “energeia,” energy, which appears all through St Paul, eg, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is energizing in you, both to will and to energize for his good pleasure.” But there was no Latin equivalent, so when Jerome made his translation he used “opus,” work. A sculptor creates a statue and that is his opus, but it is separate from him; he’s not “energizing” within it. So you see that this creates a very different sense of whether and how God is present….’

Wow.

Speaking of mission, here’s her interesting approach!: “I guess if I could just persuade people that they don’t know what Orthodoxy is, I’d consider it a good start.”  LOL!  [Have I LOL’ed in this blog before?!]  Seriously, it does point to what I believe is one part of converting, at least for some of us Westerners – UNlearning much of what we’ve been told Christianity, God, Christ, the Scriptures, religion, faith, salvation, etc., are all about.  (With six years of graduate religious studies under my belt, I just might have to go to seminary, even if I never become a priest, just to unlearn all that other stuff!!)

Also, we converts shouldn’t get a big head about “teaching {ethnic Orthodox} about {their} own faith, things {they} never knew.”  Let’s remember they’ve probably forgotten more, historically, than we’ll ever “know”!  Actually this dynamic is nothing new – it happens in many outfits, and was a big reason why in the Early Church the Catechumenate was a public event, not just a few appointments at the rectory.  Every Lent the whole parish walked through the last leg of the process with the candidates, leading up to their Baptisms at Pascha, year after year, keeping their own Faith fresh, in a real sense The Church “ever old, ever new.”  If most Orthodox haven’t been personally involved with ‘official’ evangelization down through the centuries, this might be kind of new to them, “but in the beginning it was not so.”  Thus, the Diaspora, as well as the Revival in Eastern Europe, may be a blessing, as well as a challenge, to the Church.

Finally, a more complete way to express the Orthodox approach to Scripture in contrast to the modern Western approach might be to include the fact that we seek to learn how the men and women who put together the Scriptures, perceived them – those who were taught about them by the Lord while He was physically on Earth, and by the Spirit of God later, the o/Orthodox Fathers and Mothers of the Church since the Apostles … rather than just a bunch of kids with their freshly-minted Ph.D.’s!  There’s a problem here: The typical modern approach to the (first-millennium) Patristics is to feel they were uninformed, ignorant, bigoted, credulous, too homiletic or “pious,” shallow, etc.  This is a version of what I call the Caveman Hypothesis: that anyone before, say, the Enlightenment (so-called), was of little more value than cavemen in helping us understand their own times, documents, thoughts, experiences, etc.  It’s kind of like “Higher Criticism” vs. THE PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE, and sometimes even Christ Himself!!!  Now, I’ve learned alot from HC over the years, but in Orthodoxy the Fathers – living and reposed – come first, because in the first place Christianity isn’t philosophy or archeology, but how to get my butt saved!

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.

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.

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!)

From Anonymous, “To Become Orthodox You Have to Make a Paradigm Shift”:

[A]s the New Testament teaches, there is a real (ontic) unity of worshipers with Christ through their sharing His uncreated Life and Energies (Grace), in which His goodness and all that He has done for humanity’s sake is shared by His members. This is called Divinization (Théosis); it differs from a pagan Deification (Apothé­osis) in not involving a union of essences.