Arimathea
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Religion
The human animal is the worshipping animal. Toward the divine, we have a need to pray, to sacrifice, to offer up, and to praise. From the spirit dances of primitive animism to the rational contemplation of philosophical paganism, from the ethical code of the rabbis to the theological vision of the scholastics, from the sprinkled blood (the origin of blessing) of temple cults to helping the poor in simple Christian charity, men need to relate the immanent and the transcendent -- they see their particular lives in time and space transfigured and transfused with meaning unbounded by human things. Religion is this aspect of human life where the everyday and worldly intersects with the ultimate and divine. Is this an accident of human evolution, or is it a racial neurosis brought upon us as conscious beings who live in the shadow of our own death? Is it a reflection of the divine order, where creatures naturally orient themselves toward their source? Has God revealed himself to us, as the Christians claim? In this realm, I shall try to delve into such questions as an Orthodox Christian who ever pesters God with "Why?"
Friday, May 31, A.D. 2013
Ancient Jewish Icons

המשיח קם

The Orthodox Life has a short but interesting post on the sacred artwork of early synagogues: “Ancient Jewish Icons.” Yale’s EIKON site features many images from the pictured Dura Europos Synagogue. It looks strikingly like an Orthodox Temple.

Earlier in the year, I visited the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati’s Museum Center. I did not have time to visit the Israel Museum when I was in Jerusalem, and I was happy to get to see some of the Qumran fragments. Since the exhibit only had a few dozen pieces, it padded the experience with hundreds of artifacts from ancient Israel, including spears and stones from the Assyrian attack on Lachish as well as commemorative displays from Nineveh that celebrated Sennacherib’s success. The oldest object was a three thousand year old four horn shaped altar. I never knew before exactly what they looked like. I also learnt more about the money changers in the Temple; the exhibit had a pile of Tyrian shekels. There was also a small section on Masada, which featured a tartan garment that had been left at Masada by a Roman soldier during or after the siege. One wonders if the soldier had bought the clothing while stationed near the Caledonian border—or if he was born among those ever savage northerners! There were many other items from everyday life—from religious objects to commercial tools to home goods to political propaganda.

The exhibit as well as my amateur archaeological adventures in the Holy Land contradict the iconoclastic notions of biblical Israel held by certain Protestant groups—as if the detailed descriptions of the two Temples and of the Temple rituals in holy writ were not enough to dispel the folly of white walled Calvinists. The Lord, the Lord our God, is a Lord of color and form. Let the iconoclasts seek after their nihilism; we worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, May 31, Anno Domini 2013
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Friday, May 10, A.D. 2013
Paschal Discrepancies

Christ is risen!

Metropolitan Makarios (Tillyrides) of Kenya briefly explains the calendar discrepancy for the dating of Pascha on the Orthodox Research Institute: “When Do Orthodox Christians Celebrate Easter.”

Have a pleasant weekend.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, May 10, Anno Domini 2013
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Wednesday, May 8, A.D. 2013
Elder Paisios and I, Standing Upside Down

Христос воскресе!

The following is a recent Russian film that you might find brightening during Bright Week, Старец Паисий и я, стоящий вверх ногами:

I have not been able to find a version with subtitles.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, May 8, Anno Domini 2013
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Tuesday, May 7, A.D. 2013
Personhood in Theology and Anthropology

Χριστός ανέστη!

Though you are possibly busy with your Bright Week celebrations, a lecture at Holy Trinity Seminary by Dr. Alexis Torrance may interest you: “The Concept of a Person in Modern Orthodox Theology”:

I hope to see more and more Anglophone Orthodox scholarship.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 7, Anno Domini 2013
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Friday, May 3, A.D. 2013
Saint Luke of Simferopol

May this Holy Friday be blessed, and may you have a great Pascha.

At this time of year, we tend to become more aware of our lack of worth, seeing how God does everything for us and how we fail so significantly at being human. Yet, we may console our vanity by reasoning that God is God and that we are men and that we ought not to worry about such a natural discrepancy. However, our nonchalant self justification teeters when we learn the lives of the saints—mere men and women like the rest of us.

A few weeks ago, I read about Saint Luke of Simferopol. What an impressive man! Read this short biography of the saint by Father Victor Potapov: “One who came to love suffering.” The Lord is gracious in the gifts that he sends to us, most especially in the form of rational creatures—and starting with himself.

May the Triduum be an occasion of joy for you and yours!

Posted by Joseph on Friday, May 3, Anno Domini 2013
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Thursday, May 2, A.D. 2013
Валаам - Ступень к Небу

On this Holy Thursday, I offer a documentary on Valaam Monastery in the Russian north, Валаам - Ступень к Небу. You may watch the full documentary in Russian in one video or see it with English subtitles in seven parts.

Step to the Heavens with subtitles (first of seven parts):

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, May 2, Anno Domini 2013
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Wednesday, May 1, A.D. 2013
Annunciation Church in Sokolniki

On this Holy Wednesday and first of May (on the Western calendar—a “holy day” of sorts for the Bolsheviks and their ilk around the world), I found an appropriate story to show the transition of Russia from its Soviet dystopia to an emerging modern Christian society. RIA Novosti published a story last month about new bells consecrated for a temple that serves Russian airmen in Sokolniki: “Russian Church Bells with Military Symbols to be Sanctified.” The bells feature both traditional Christian symbols as well as designs associated with the Airborne Troops such as jets and parachutes. It is yet another example of how Russian society is slowly Christianizing while American society is apparently content to shed the last vestiges of our religious identity and heritage. It is a crazy seesaw of modernity.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, May 1, Anno Domini 2013
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