Posts Tagged ‘Trinity’

Have you ever heard a couple million people cheer all at once?  Have you ever heard them continue cheering for three-quarters of an hour?  It was moving, but also a little creepy!

So there I am, IBS’ing under an open window (upper pane) a little after 11:30 ET tonight (Wednesday), out of reach of TV and radio.  The Phillies-Dodgers game was in its 6th inning when I had last seen or heard it.  All of a sudden I hear a dull roar outside – not from my neighborhood!  I don’t live in a very noisy part of Philadelphia, so this was definitely coming from some distance away.  It was like the sound from outside a stadium – but the stadium in question was about 3,000 miles away!  So basically this was the whole Delaware Valley cheering the Phils’ 5-1 win in Game 5 of the NLCS, clinching the National League pennant for the first time in 15 loooong years, punching their ticket to the World Series.  After a moment my own neighbors joined in with yelling and firecrackers.  But then it was quiet.  I think Philadelphia was getting into its cars, because about ten minutes later, the roar started up again, accompanied by more firecrackers and car horns.  And it went on like that for 45 minutes!

I’ve never heard anything quite like it in my life, not even for either of the Flyers’ Stanley Cups.*  I guess exasperation can unite a region when it finally breaks!

Does God pick winning or losing sports teams, athletes, plays?  Apparently it’s not uncommon or unusual in Orthodox countries to offer services for national sports teams.  Well, IIUC God’s Uncreated Energies, and Holy Spirit (One of the Trinity), are “everywhere present, filling all things.”  What I’m not clear on myself yet is where God’s Energies leave off and the created energies of non-human creatures / objects come into play, like wind, gravity, the weather, lighting, what umpires see, etc.  But human free will is definitely involved in athletes’ self-conditioning and practice, choices and performances, teamwork and precision, as well as how umps decide to rule, and coaches decide to call; that’s not God.  Though out of human decisions and created energies, God works to try to bring about good, in particular, people’s Salvation or Theosis, Godlikeness.  This is the ultimate object of all Orthodox prayers of petition, eg, “grant their saving petitions and eternal life,” “which conduce to salvation,” etc.

(*–I was in suburban New York when the Phillies last won the World Series, in 1980, so it wasn’t the same for me anyway!  In fact, I was attending a Catholic high school seminary, so we couldn’t even watch or listen to the whole game because of our schedule of study hall and lights-out.  The superior of the religious community was from Kansas City, so he and I were the two people there most invested in that Series.  After Mass early each morning we both ran for the newspaper to check it out.  [“For a Special Intention, let us pray to the Lord.” No, just kidding!]  I actually don’t remember that final morning in detail though….  In ’93 I was in Seattle.  The closest I came to sharing that experience was on a mental-health day-off, driving back to town from the Olympic Peninsula, tuning in via a Vancouver BC radio station … though the following summer I enrolled in Mennonite seminary with a classmate from southern Ontario who wore her Blue Jays victory T-shirt to Biblical Hebrew class!)

A knowledgeable, intelligent working-class layperson I know in the Latin Church, even a product of parochial schools, even arguably in the Latin Church’s most conservative jurisdiction, who hasn’t been to Mass much since it was translated into English, was shocked to learn that her Church teaches that God’s Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son, the word filioque the Latins added to the Creed starting in the 7th century.  Her faith was o/Orthodox on this question, the Spirit proceeding only from the Father, as the unamended Creed and the Gospel According to St. John 15:26 say!  How many Latins have been like her over the last 13 centuries?  How much was it really talked about among lay Latins when it was all in Latin?!  How many devout, knowledgeable Latins were surprised to hear what they heard at those first vernacular Masses in the ’60s?!!  (And I don’t mean guitars!)  Did the Orthodox Church lose a chance there???

(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.

is the name of this entirely Orthodox icon.

If she kind of looks to you like Jesus’ twin sister if he would’ve had one, you’re not far off! The “IC” and “XC” at the top are abbreviations for Iesous Christos, Jesus Christ in Greek, meant to leave no doubt as to the iconographer’s intentions. But why feminine, why the wings, and what does any of this have to do with “Stillness”?

There’s alot of theology packed into this particular icon. Some like it because it strikes them as feminist (even though it predates modern feminism by centuries!), especially when they learn about the tie-in with Sophia, Greek for Wisdom, ie, the Wisdom of God, which as St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:24, is none other than Christ. The word Sophia is feminine in Greek, a tradition entirely supported by Proverbs 9:1-3, where Wisdom is said to have prepared her feast for people. For that matter, “He Hagia Hesychia,” the inscription in the bottom of the frame of this version of the icon, is also feminine; it means “Holy Stillness” (sometimes “Silence”).

This Christ-figure is also an Angel, hence the wings. Several times in the Old Testament, an Angel appears to a Prophet or Patriarch. Except that sometimes the Angel says “I AM the Lord/YHWH” (Christ is YHWH), or is identified as the Lord (Genesis 18), rather than “the Lord says.” Now, since nothing created directly reveals the Uncreated, ie God, that means at those times it wasn’t really a created angel, but GOD Godself! When the Word of God is heard, that’s the Pre-Incarnate Logos, the personal “Word of God”…one of whose Messianic titles in the Septuagint* Greek version of Isaiah 9:6 is “Angel of Great Counsel [sic].” Hence the figure in this icon is also sometimes referred to in theology as the Logos Angel. (This is also a good time to bring in the fact that the Hebrew word for the glorious appearance of God in His Uncreated Energies, Shekina, is also feminine.)

(*-The Septuagint Greek Old Testament is about a thousand years older than the Masoretic Text Hebrew on which most Christian Old Testaments used in the West today are based.)

“Stillness” comes in, in this way. The form of spiritual practice incorporating the Jesus Prayer I’ve mentioned before is called Hesychasm, from the Greek Hesychia. Whether one uses the Jesus Prayer or some other short prayer, and whether one is in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or later on in Orthodoxy, its goal is purification/self-discipline, Stillness of soul, to experience the appearance of God in Glory, W/wisdom, the revelation of God, etc….all embodied, as discussed above, by this feminine, winged Christ-figure.

God doesn’t necessarily appear in this way ever, but the icon is evocative (as well as provocative!). And since it’s based on the Incarnate Jesus Christ, it’s not at all blasphemous.