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?"
Liturgy
The work of the people
Monday, March 30, A.D. 2015
Fountain of Immortality

I wish Western Christians a blessed Holy Week and my fellow Orthodox a fruitful continuation of Lent.

Laura Wood of The Thinking Housewife wrote a tribute to Lawrence Auster yesterday on the second anniversary of his passing: “May Perpetual Light Shine on Lawrence Auster.” Keep him in your prayers.

I miss the privilege of daily visiting Auster’s site and of reading his words. He was truly a one-off genius. When I wrote about my first encounter with Auster in “Auster’s A View from the Right,” I noted that, contrary to reports of his being humorless, I found Auster quite funny. Laura Wood reminded her readers of that quality this past year when she quoted Auster’s comment about studies (“Live by Studies, Die by Studies”):

The Muslim says, “If Allah wills it.” The Christian says, “In Jesus’ name.” The liberal says, “Studies have shown.” These are the sacred words that establish the authoritative truth of whatever ruinous mischief the liberal is about to propose.

“Studies” are one of the principal means by which the liberal regime maintains and extends its power.

Years ago I attended a conference of Swiss academic types in New York City. Their subject was Swiss immigration and multiculturalism policies. They maintained that multiculturalism and diversity was the way for Switzerland to go, because “studies” showed that it worked. Though I was just the guest of a guest at this event, I interposed: “So Switzerland has existed as a successful society for seven hundred years, and you want to change it radically—on the basis of “studies“? They didn’t get my point. Humorlessly they maintained that their studies were the best authority.

Auster’s death was bitter for us, but perhaps his passing was an act of providential mercy. Auster lamented the state of his country, of Christian institutions, and of the West in general. The decay has become ever more apparent since Auster’s death, though he foresaw such clearly and with heavy heart. May he find rest in the Kingdom of God.

As an offering in memory of Auster, I present a video from the Eastern American Diocese of R.O.C.O.R. about the divine litugy:

Requiescat in pace, servant of God, Lawrence Auster.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, March 30, Anno Domini 2015
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Thursday, August 28, A.D. 2014
Vestimentum Domini

I wish you a blessed feast of the Dormition today!

On the occasion of the feast, I offer Kristor’s heavenly musings on the Orthosphere yesterday: “Creatura : Creator :: Map : Territory.” It is worth your time.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, August 28, Anno Domini 2014
OrthodoxyLiturgyPatristicsScriptureNon-ChalcedonianismPaganismProtestantismRabbinical JudaismRoman CatholicismCommentsPermalink
Wednesday, August 13, A.D. 2014
Reverence and Being

It is the feast of my patron Joseph of Arimathea, and I find it fitting today to refer you to the profound words that Proph has offered us on the Orthosphere: “Dietrich von Hildebrand on reverence and being”:

Writing (disapprovingly) in 1966 on the then-nascent reforms to the Roman rite Mass:

Reverence gives being the opportunity to speak to us: The ultimate grandeur of man is to be capax Dei (ed: “capable of receiving God”). Reverence is of capital importance to all the fundamental domains of man’s life. It can be rightly called “the mother of all virtues,” for it is the basic attitude that all virtues presuppose. The most elementary gesture of reverence is a response to being itself. It distinguishes the autonomous majesty of being from mere illusion or fiction; it is a recognition of the inner consistency and positiveness of being-of its independence of our arbitrary moods. Reverence gives being the opportunity to unfold itself, to, as it were, speak to us; to fecundate our minds. Therefore reverence is indispensable to any adequate knowledge of being. The depth and plenitude of being, and above all its mysteries, will never be revealed to any but the reverent mind. Remember that reverence is a constitutive element of the capacity to “wonder,” which Plato and Aristotle claimed to be the indispensable condition for philosophy. Indeed, irreverence is a chief source of philosophical error. But if reverence is the necessary basis for all reliable knowledge of being, it is, beyond that, indispensable for grasping and assessing the values grounded in being. Only the reverent man who is ready to admit the existence of something greater than himself, who is willing to be silent and let the object speak to him- who opens himself-is capable of entering the sublime world of values. Moreover, once a gradation of values has been recognized, a new kind of reverence is in order-a reverence that responds not only to the majesty of being as such, but to the specific value of a specific being and to its rank in the hierarchy of values. And this new reverence permits the discovery of still other values. …

The irreverent man by contrast, approaches being either in an attitude of arrogant superiority or of tactless, smug familiarity. In either case he is crippled; he is the man who comes so near a tree or building he can no longer see it. Instead of remaining at the proper spiritual distance, and maintaining a reverent silence so that being may speak its word, he obtrudes himself and thereby, in effect, silences being. In no domain is reverence more important than religion. As we have seen, it profoundly affects the relation of man to God. But beyond that it pervades the entire religion, especially the worship of God. There is an intimate link between reverence and sacredness: reverence permits us to experience the sacred, to rise above the profane; irreverence blinds us to the entire world of the sacred. Reverence, including awe-indeed, fear and trembling-is the specific response to the sacred.

Which jives rather nicely with my earlier diagnosis of modernity as “the institutionalization of rebellion against the order of being,” either birthed by or leading to a kind of spiritual autism, a “pervasive insensibility to the sacred”:

Without a sense of the sacred, reality becomes meaningless, senseless, and incomprehensible; the human condition becomes one not of citizenship and duty but of imprisonment and injustice. Rebellion against that order results, with predictable consequences.

60 years ago, we were told the Mass, that “gobbledegook of Latin ritual” pregnant with “obscurantism” and “magic” (to quote the execrable Paul Blanshard), had become incomprehensible to modern man, and that, far from trying to communicating its riches more effectively, we had to open it up to his appreciation by cutting out much which was worthy of appreciation. Now, it’s marriage that’s up for similar treatment. We’re all spiritual autists now.

My grad. school flatmate categorized a particular species of irreverence as the Dave Barry approach to the world. Its fault lies not in stupidity—Barry and his kind tend to be rather clever—but in its nonchalant dismissal of the world as absurd. The Barryist rightfully points out human follies but then stops, judging that the world does not make sense and concluding that all we can do is smugly laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

In contrast, the “angry atheist” stands a chance of coming to the truth because he wrestles with the question of meaning. Nihilism bothers him. He cares. Oddly, he is reverent in his rejection of God—reverent to being as he understands it and rejecting particular conceptions of the divine as unjust or contradictory.

The Barryist may be fun to have around, but I could never be his friend. The angry atheist, on the other hand, is much more akin to my soul.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, August 13, Anno Domini 2014
LiturgyAtheism and its alliesRoman CatholicismCommentsPermalink
Friday, May 16, A.D. 2014
Oldest Marian Hymn

ܡܫܝܚܐ ܩܡ

Yesterday, I received two links to fascinating Marian articles that may interest you:

“The oldest hymn to the Theotokos”

The Wikipedia entry on Mary Untier of Knots

I hope that you have a lovely May weekend. May—it’s the best month, and therefore it is wholly suitable to be the month for Regina Cæli.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, May 16, Anno Domini 2014
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Tuesday, April 29, A.D. 2014
A Pascha of Cinematography

Χριστός Ανέστη!

I received a link to the following video of this year’s Paschal celebrations at the Saint Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy. It appears that some of the seminarians have an interest in film making.

As Fr. Z. would say, the Russian Church is rebuilding its nation’s Orthodox culture “brick by brick”—and frame by frame.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, April 29, Anno Domini 2014
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Tuesday, March 25, A.D. 2014
First Orthodox Divine Liturgy in Wren Chapel

Last week, Metropolitan Jonah, Fr. John Johnson, and Fr. Leonid Mickle celebrated the divine liturgy in the Wren Chapel of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. You may read of the event on the Eastern American Diocese site. I have visited Williamsburg at least a dozen times, and I did not know until I read the diocesan news article that the first known American convert to Orthodoxy, Colonel Ludwell, lived on the Duke of Gloucester Street in what is now known as the Ludwell-Paradise House. I know that I have milled around its steps before, never knowing its significance.

When you visit Williamsburg (and you should), make sure to check out the college’s campus. The Wren Building is lovely, and the Sunken Garden behind it is an appropriate place for a midday picnic. Get your victuals at the Cheese Shop near Boundary Street and head over to campus for a nice break from colonial fare.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, March 25, Anno Domini 2014
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Monday, February 3, A.D. 2014
Flash Masses

The Associated Press covered an interesting practice in Buffalo of late: “Mass mobs fill pews, lift prayers at NY churches.” Evidently, Buffalo area Roman Catholics are targeting a different inner city parish each Sunday in order to fill up the old temples as they were before white flight and deindustrialization depopulated the Roman Catholic population in the urban core. The visitors also contribute money during their flash mob attendance to help support the parishes.

This is a neat idea, but these abandoned parishes need more than just occasional visits from the working and donating white folk in the burbs. Fr. Z. suggests that religious communities, especially ones with a focus on traditional liturgical worship, move into abandoned parishes. Then, families who want to worship at a reverent, sober mass rather than singing Girl Scout campfire hymns with a subquality teeny band and a Mr. Happy priest in a sanctuary that looks more like a high school gym would make the trek every week (and every day for downtown workers). If you want a committed congregation, this is how to get one.

On the other end of the spectrum, papist-socialist communities with a focus on charity toward the poor could also use dilapidated parishes as a center to serve (and hopefully to preach unto) the poor. Just because the Irish and Italians abandon a neighborhood to blacks doesn’t mean that there is no longer a need to preach the gospel. Why haven’t inner city parishes been more successful in converting the newer waves of Protestant blacks? I suspect that it is because the kind of American Roman Catholic who is interested in feeding poor blacks doesn’t care as much in converting them to the faith. Their liberalism has made their religion into a form of community service rather than an all embracing commission to transform the world. Unawares, they have adopted a form of Marxist materialism that makes them attentive only to material needs. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Jesus’ words apply as equally to the poor man as to the rich—to the black as well as to the white. Well fed beggars can go to hell just as Dives the rich man. Similarly, Roman Catholic schools enroll many poor blacks on scholarship as a form of charity, but they do little to introduce them to the faith. Of course, they do an abysmal job in instructing their indigenous papist students in the faith, as well—so the problem there is likely more fundamental. On second thought, maybe they should just leave those little black Baptist kids alone so that they at least remain Christians rather than turning into blasé agnostics with contempt for scripture and tradition. For it is better to be a heathen who knows nothing of the gospel—and is thus receptive to it—than an ignorant punk who falsely believes himself to be a religious scholar. How much idiocy and heresy follow the phrase, “Well, I went to Catholic school for twelve years and I think . . .”?

Kudos to the folks in Buffalo—and to all who work to reinvigorate decaying neighborhoods. Civilization needs every tower to be manned all the time.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, February 3, Anno Domini 2014
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Friday, July 26, A.D. 2013
The Only Friend of Man

I finish this week’s Doxaconapalooza with the kontakia of Romanos the Melode for Saint Elijah. Before Metropolitan Savas read selections from the work, he noted that kontakia used to be lengthy hymnographical sermons, though we rarely use them anymore except for a few akathists. In general, the kontakia were abbreviated, and we only hear one stanza of a much larger original work. I found a translation of the kontakia on a document repository site. The bottom of the page goes into further historical detail about the development of kontakia and about Romanos the Melode. Here is a more consistently formatted copy of the selection:

Elijah, of great renown, prophet with foresight of he great works of our God,
thou who didst with thy word old back the rain clouds,
Intercede for us before
The only Friend of man.

When he saw the great lawlessness of man
and the great love of God for man,
The prophet Elijah was provoked and angered
And cast pitiless words at the God of great pity, saying:
“Make Thy anger felt against those who now disregard Thee, most just Judge.”
But in no way d he change the heart of the good Lord for the chastisement
Of those who had scorned Him; for always He awaits
the repentance of all men,
The only Friend of man.

Then when the prophet saw that all the earth was in a state of lawlessness
And that th Exalted One was not angered but even allowed it,
He was moved anger, and he declared to the Merciful One:
“I shall take control over and punish the impiety
of those who scorn Thee.
They have all despised Thy great long-suffering;
and they have not considered
Thee as All-Merciful Father.
But Thou, the Lover of children dost take pity on Thy sons,
Thou, the only Friend of man.

“Now, I shall judge in favor of the Creator;
I shall completely wipe the impious from off the earth,
And I shall decree their punishment; but I fear His divine kindness,
For the Lover of man is troubled by a few tears.
What, then, can I think up in the face of such goodness?
And how shall I counteract His mercy ?
Perhaps in strengthening my decree with an oath, so that, shamed at it,
the Just One will cancel
My harsh sentence, and in so doing confirm my judgment
that He as the All-Powerful One
Is the Friend of man.

The oath preceded the judgment and was a preamble of the decision
But if you wish, let us hurry to the Bible and let us read its words.
For the prophet said in his anger, as is written:
“By the life of the Lord, neither dew nor rain shall fall except at my word.”
But at once the King answered Elijah:
“1f I see repentance and tears flowing freely, it will be impossible for me
not to supply my mercy to men.
I am the only Friend of man.

The prophet at once spoke up and put forward the rightness of his oath:
“I have sworn by Thee,” he said, “the God of all, the most holy Lord,
that rain will not be given except by my command.
Whenever I see that the people have repented, I shall entreat
It is not, then, in Thy power,
O most just Judge, to do away with the punishment
Resulting from the oath that I have made.
Guard and seal it as Thou dost restrict Thy tender care,
O only Friend of man.”

Famine besieged the land, and the inhabitants were brought to ruin,
Groaning and raising their hands in supplication to the All-Merciful.
The Master was distressed by a dilemma:
On the one hand, He wished to open His heart to the suppliants
and to hasten His compassion,
But, on the other hand, He respected the oath of the prophet.
He did not give rain, but
He devised a pretext that would restrain and distress the spirit of the prophet,
He, the only Friend of man.

The Master, seeing that the Thesbite was roused to anger by his own people,
Thought it right that the just man should share the punishment
of hunger along with the others
In order that, when he was pressed by hunger, he would decide
In line with his oath on humanitarian considerations,
to put an end to the punishment.
For it is in truth a fearful thing, the inexorable demands of the stomach!
And He supports through nourishment in His divine wisdom
every living thing—man and beast.’
He is the only Friend of man.

The Compassionate One, who wished to save the earth,
At once answered Elijah: “Now hearken carefully to my words, and heed what I say.
I am suffering, and I hasten to find a release of the punishment.
I struggle to give nourishment to all who are famished, for I am indeed merciful.
When I see the flood of tears, like a father I am moved;
I feel pity for those consumed
By hunger and anguish, for I wish to save sinners through their repentance—
I, the only Friend of man.

“Hear me carefully, prophet, for I am very much in earnest about what you know:
All men have in me a decree of mercy,
And in it I agreed that I did not want to see the death
Of those who had made mistakes; but rather I wished their life.
Do not then, expose me as making false promises to them, but welcome my plea.
I offer my mediation to you, for only the tears of the widow have disturbed you,
but I feel for all men, I the only Friend of man.”

Elijah made his mind, heart, and ears submissive to the words of the Most High,
And he also brought his spirit under subjection and displayed it in these words:
He said, “Let Thy will be done, O Lord.
Give rain and life to the one who is dead, and vivify all creation.
God is life and resurrection and redemption;
grant Thy Grace to man and beast,
for Thou alone art able to save the world from death,
Thou, the only Friend of man.

At once, the clouds, at the order of the Creator,
Pregnant with water, passed over the air, sending down rain in streams.
The earth rejoiced and praised the Lord,
and the woman received her resurrected child.
He rejoiced with all the others, and the earth shouted with joy
To the only Friend of man.

Then, after a certain amount of time had passed, Elijah saw man’s sin,
And he took thought as to how an even harsher punishment might be inflicted.
The Merciful One, observing this, said to the prophet:
“I know the zeal that you have for righteousness,
and I know your intention,
But I feel for the sinners whenever they suffer beyond all measure.
But you, as blameless, grow angry,
And you are not able to endure it.
But I cannot endure that anyone be destroyed;
I am the only Friend of man.”

But after this, the Master, seeing that Elijah was harsh toward men
And that he was disturbed about the race of man,
separated him from their earth, saying:
“Be set apart from the dwelling of men.
But I, as One who pities, shall descend to men and become man.
Depart, then, from the earth, since you are not able to endure the sins of men,
While I, a heavenly creature, shall be with the sinners,
and save them from their sins,
I, the only Friend of man.

“If, as I have said, prophet, you are unable to live with men who have sinned,
Then, come, and with me inhabit the domain of my friends;
there is no sin there.
But I shall descend, since I am able to take
On my shoulders the lost and to cry to the fallen:
‘All you who are sinners, come, hurry to me and find rest, for I have come,
Not to punish those whom I created, but to snatch sinners from impiety.’
I, the only Friend of man.”

And so, Elijah, sent off to Heaven,
appeared as the prototype of the future,
For the Thesbite was translated in a chariot of fire, as it is written.
Christ ascended in clouds among the powerful.
But Elijah sent down his mantel from on high to Elisha,
while Christ sent to the apostles His Holy Spirit whom we have all
When we received baptism.
Through it we are sanctified,
as He taught all of us,
He who is the only Friend of man.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, July 26, Anno Domini 2013
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Wednesday, July 24, A.D. 2013
Glory to God for All Things

Dostoevsky’s underground man measures humanity with insight:

Gentlemen, let us suppose that man is not stupid. (Indeed one cannot refuse to suppose that, if only from the one consideration, that, if man is stupid, then who is wise?) But if he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful! Phenomenally ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.

I agree with the character’s Notes from Underground about the marred nature of man. If ingratitude is not our original sin, it surely is one of the chief marks of our damned race. Not surprisingly, then, is the golden path one of gratitude.

I mentioned in “Doxacon Eidomenos” that I had never before heard the akathist that we prayed at the beginning of Doxacon’s events at the Hilton on Saturday, “Glory to God for All Things.” I offer it below in case the linked page ever fails. It makes for an extended statement of how the Christian should relate to the world.

Kontakion 1

Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power. Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.

Ikos 1

I was born a weak, defenceless child, but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee, who call upon Thy name.

Glory to Thee for calling me into being
Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 2

O Lord, how lovely it is to be Thy guest. Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Thy love. Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavour and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on Thine earth. It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.

Glory to Thee for the Feast Day of life
Glory to Thee for the perfume of lilies and roses
Glory to Thee for each different taste of berry and fruit
Glory to Thee for the sparkling silver of early morning dew
Glory to Thee for the joy of dawn’s awakening
Glory to Thee for the new life each day brings
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 3

It is the Holy Spirit who makes us find joy in each flower, the exquisite scent, the delicate colour, the beauty of the Most High in the tiniest of things. Glory and honour to the Spirit, the Giver of Life, who covers the fields with their carpet of flowers, crowns the harvest with gold, and gives to us the joy of gazing at it with our eyes. O be joyful and sing to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 3

How glorious art Thou in the springtime, when every creature awakes to new life and joyfully sings Thy praises with a thousand tongues. Thou art the Source of Life, the Destroyer of Death. By the light of the moon, nightingales sing, and the valleys and hills lie like wedding garments, white as snow. All the earth is Thy promised bride awaiting her spotless husband. If the grass of the field is like this, how gloriously shall we be transfigured in the Second Coming after the Resurrection! How splendid our bodies, how spotless our souls!

Glory to Thee, bringing from the depth of the earth an endless variety of colours, tastes and scents
Glory to Thee for the warmth and tenderness of the world of nature
Glory to Thee for the numberless creatures around us
Glory to Thee for the depths of Thy wisdom, the whole world a living sign of it
Glory to Thee; on my knees, I kiss the traces of Thine unseen hand
Glory to Thee, enlightening us with the clearness of eternal life
Glory to Thee for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of immortality
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 4

How filled with sweetness are those whose thoughts dwell on Thee; how life-giving Thy holy Word. To speak with Thee is more soothing than anointing with oil; sweeter than the honeycomb. To pray to Thee lifts the spirit, refreshes the soul. Where Thou art not, there is only emptiness; hearts are smitten with sadness; nature, and life itself, become sorrowful; where Thou art, the soul is filled with abundance, and its song resounds like a torrent of life: Alleluia!

Ikos 4

When the sun is setting, when quietness falls like the peace of eternal sleep, and the silence of the spent day reigns, then in the splendour of its declining rays, filtering through the clouds, I see Thy dwelling-place: fiery and purple, gold and blue, they speak prophet-like of the ineffable beauty of Thy presence, and call to us in their majesty. We turn to the Father.

Glory to Thee at the hushed hour of nightfall
Glory to Thee, covering the earth with peace
Glory to Thee for the last ray of the sun as it sets
Glory to Thee for sleep’s repose that restores us
Glory to Thee for Thy goodness even in the time of darkness
When all the world is hidden from our eyes
Glory to Thee for the prayers offered by a trembling soul
Glory to Thee for the pledge of our reawakening
On that glorious last day, that day which has no evening
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 5

The dark storm clouds of life bring no terror to those in whose hearts Thy fire is burning brightly. Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, there is light and peace, silence: Alleluia!

Ikos 5

I see Thine heavens resplendent with stars. How glorious art Thou radiant with light! Eternity watches me by the rays of the distant stars. I am small, insignificant, but the Lord is at my side. Thy right arm guides me wherever I go.

Glory to Thee, ceaselessly watching over me
Glory to Thee for the encounters Thou dost arrange for me
Glory to Thee for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends
Glory to Thee for the humbleness of the animals which serve me
Glory to Thee for the unforgettable moments of life
Glory to Thee for the heart’s innocent joy
Glory to Thee for the joy of living
Moving and being able to return Thy love
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 6

How great and how close art Thou in the powerful track of the storm! How mighty Thy right arm in the blinding flash of the lightning! How awesome Thy majesty! The voice of the Lord fills the fields, it speaks in the rustling of the trees. The voice of the Lord is in the thunder and the downpour. The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. Praise be to Thee in the roar of mountains ablaze. Thou dost shake the earth like a garment; Thou dost pile up to the sky the waves of the sea. Praise be to Thee, bringing low the pride of man. Thou dost bring from his heart a cry of Penitence: Alleluia!

Ikos 6

When the lightning flash has lit up the camp dining hall, how feeble seems the light from the lamp. Thus dost Thou, like the lightning, unexpectedly light up my heart with flashes of intense joy. After Thy blinding light, how drab, how colourless, how illusory all else seems. My souls clings to Thee.

Glory to Thee, the highest peak of men’s dreaming
Glory to Thee for our unquenchable thirst for communion with God
Glory to Thee, making us dissatisfied with earthly things
Glory to Thee, turning on us Thine healing rays
Glory to Thee, subduing the power of the spirits of darkness
And dooming to death every evil
Glory to Thee for the signs of Thy presence
For the joy of hearing Thy voice and living in Thy love
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 7

In the wondrous blending of sounds it is Thy call we hear; in the harmony of many voices, in the sublime beauty of music, in the glory of the works of great composers: Thou leadest us to the threshold of paradise to come, and to the choirs of angels. All true beauty has the power to draw the soul towards Thee, and to make it sing in ecstasy: Alleluia!

Ikos 7

The breath of Thine Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets and scientists. The power of Thy supreme knowledge makes them prophets and interpreters of Thy laws, who reveal the depths of Thy creative wisdom. Their works speak unwittingly of Thee. How great art Thou in Thy creation! How great art Thou in man!

Glory to Thee, showing Thine unsurpassable power in the laws of the universe
Glory to Thee, for all nature is filled with Thy laws
Glory to Thee for what Thou hast revealed to us in Thy mercy
Glory to Thee for what Thou hast hidden from us in Thy wisdom
Glory to Thee for the inventiveness of the human mind
Glory to Thee for the dignity of man’s labour
Glory to Thee for the tongues of fire that bring inspiration
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 8

How near Thou art in the day of sickness. Thou Thyself visitest the sick; Thou Thyself bendest over the sufferer’s bed. His heart speaks to Thee. In the throes of sorrow and suffering Thou bringest peace and unexpected consolation. Thou art the comforter. Thou art the love which watches over and heals us. To Thee we sing the song: Alleluia!

Ikos 8

When in childhood I called upon Thee consciously for the first time, Thou didst hear my prayer, and Thou didst fill my heart with the blessing of peace. At that moment I knew Thy goodness and knew how blessed are those who turn to Thee. I started to call upon Thee night and day; and now even now I call upon Thy name.

Glory to Thee, satisfying my desires with good things
Glory to Thee, watching over me day and night
Glory to Thee, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing flow of time
Glory to Thee, no loss is irreparable in Thee, Giver of eternal life to all
Glory to Thee, making immortal all that is lofty and good
Glory to Thee, promising us the longed-for meeting with our loved ones who have died
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 9

Why is it that on a Feast Day the whole of nature mysteriously smiles? Why is it that then a heavenly gladness fills our hearts; a gladness far beyond that of earth and the very air in church and in the altar becomes luminous? It is the breath of Thy gracious love. It is the reflection of the glory of Mount Tabor. Then do heaven and earth sing Thy praise: Alleluia!

Ikos 9

When Thou didst call me to serve my brothers and filled my soul with humility, one of Thy deep, piercing rays shone into my heart; it became luminous, full of light like iron glowing in the furnace. I have seen Thy face, face of mystery and of unapproachable glory.

Glory to Thee, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love
Glory to Thee, making wonderfully Sweet the keeping of Thy commandments
Glory to Thee, making Thyself known where man shows mercy on his neighbour
Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others
Glory to Thee, rewarding us so well for the good we do
Glory to Thee, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love
Glory to Thee, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 10

No one can put together what has crumbled into dust, but Thou canst restore a conscience turned to ashes. Thou canst restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope. With Thee, there is nothing that cannot be redeemed. Thou art love; Thou art Creator and Redeemer. We praise Thee, singing: Alleluia!

Ikos 10

Remember, my God, the fall of Lucifer full of pride, keep me safe with the power of Thy Grace; save me from falling away from Thee. Save me from doubt. Incline my heart to hear Thy mysterious voice every moment of my life. Incline my heart to call upon Thee, present in everything.

Glory to Thee for every happening
Every condition Thy providence has put me in
Glory to Thee for what Thou speakest to me in my heart
Glory to Thee for what Thou revealest to me, asleep or awake
Glory to Thee for scattering our vain imaginations
Glory to Thee for raising us from the slough of our passions through suffering
Glory to Thee for curing our pride of heart by humiliation
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 11

Across the cold chains of the centuries, I feel the warmth of Thy breath, I feel Thy blood pulsing in my veins. Part of time has already gone, but now Thou art the present. I stand by Thy Cross; I was the cause of it. I cast myself down in the dust before it. Here is the triumph of love, the victory of salvation. Here the centuries themselves cannot remain silent, singing Thy praises: Alleluia!

Ikos 11

Blessed are they that will share in the King’s Banquet: but already on earth Thou givest me a foretaste of this blessedness. How many times with Thine own hand hast Thou held out to me Thy Body and Thy Blood, and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Mystery, and have tasted Thy love, so ineffable, so heavenly.

Glory to Thee for the unquenchable fire of Thy Grace
Glory to Thee, building Thy Church, a haven of peace in a tortured world
Glory to Thee for the life-giving water of Baptism in which we find new birth
Glory to Thee, restoring to the penitent purity white as the lily
Glory to Thee for the cup of salvation and the bread of eternal joy
Glory to Thee for exalting us to the highest heaven
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 12

How often have I seen the reflection of Thy glory in the faces of the dead. How resplendent they were, with beauty and heavenly joy. How ethereal, how translucent their faces. How triumphant over suffering and death, their felicity and peace. Even in the silence they were calling upon Thee. In the hour of my death, enlighten my soul, too, that it may cry out to Thee: Alleluia!

Ikos 12

What sort of praise can I give Thee? I have never heard the song of the Cherubim, a joy reserved for the spirits above. But I know the praises that nature sings to Thee. In winter, I have beheld how silently in the moonlight the whole earth offers Thee prayer, clad in its white mantle of snow, sparkling like diamonds. I have seen how the rising sun rejoices in Thee, how the song of the birds is a chorus of praise to Thee. I have heard the mysterious mutterings of the forests about Thee, and the winds singing Thy praise as they stir the waters. I have understood how the choirs of stars proclaim Thy glory as they move forever in the depths of infinite space. What is my poor worship! All nature obeys Thee, I do not. Yet while I live, I see Thy love, I long to thank Thee, and call upon Thy name.

Glory to Thee, giving us light
Glory to Thee, loving us with love so deep, divine and infinite
Glory to Thee, blessing us with light, and with the host of angels and saints
Glory to Thee, Father all-holy, promising us a share in Thy Kingdom
Glory to Thee, Holy Spirit, life-giving Sun of the world to come
Glory to Thee for all things, Holy and most merciful Trinity
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 13

Life-giving and merciful Trinity, receive my thanksgiving for all Thy goodness. Make us worthy of Thy blessings, so that, when we have brought to fruit the talents Thou hast entrusted to us, we may enter into the joy of our Lord, forever exulting in the shout of victory: Alleluia!

(Repeat Kontakion 13 and Alleluia three times)

Ikos 1

I was born a weak, defenceless child, but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee, who call upon Thy name.

Glory to Thee for calling me into being
Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age


Kontakion 1

Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power. Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly Joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.

There is scholarly disagreement about the akathist’s author. It was composed either by the priest Gregory Petrov who died in a Siberian prison camp (around A.D. 1942) or a bit earlier by Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Turkestanov), another confessor of the faith who witnessed before Soviet persecution (+ A.D. 1934). From what I have been able to find online, the akathist was found in Fr. Gregory’s belongings, which is why many thought that he had composed the akathist while in the camp. Perhaps, the priest found the hierarch’s hymn beneficial. Maybe, the bishop sent the priest the akathist a decade before as encouragement during the time of troubles. Regardless, it is beautiful. I moreover appreciate the structural nature of akathists in that they end with their beginning. They remind me of Sunday as the first and eighth day of creation.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, July 24, Anno Domini 2013
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Monday, June 3, A.D. 2013
The God Man

Χριστός ἀνέστη!

Kristor posted a thoughtful Orthosphere piece last week, “Why Does Jesus Pray?” I recommend the short article and the comments section, to which I contributed. In the article, Kristor makes the point that God knows humanity through the incarnation. I responded:

Though useful preaching material, it doesn’t seem necessary for God to be incarnate — as the messiah — to know what it is like to be a man. God knows me better than I do, though I have no reserved throne of glory. Wouldn’t the Lord God and almighty Father, creator of all things, know what it is like to be a bat?

Kristor replied:

It’s a tricky question. Obviously, he’s omniscient, right? So how can he be ignorant of what it is like to be anything?

The way I have parsed this is to distinguish between knowing what it is *like* to be a bat, and knowing what it *is* to be a bat. One knows what it is like to be a bat by knowing of experiences that are similar to those of a bat. But one can’t know what it is to be a bat unless one *just is* a bat. And until one knows what it is to just be a bat, one’s inferences about what it is like to be a bat are just that: inferences.

In virtue of the Incarnation, God knows, not just what it is like to be a man, but what it is to be a man. He does this by being a man. And – this bit is quite familiar to you, I know – in virtue of the Incarnation once in history, God is a man from before all time, and eternally; so that in the time of the creation of the first man, God already knows what it is to be a man.

And, obviously, once you know what it is to be a man, you also know what it is like to be a man.

Finally, because God knows eternally what it is to be a man, his omniscience in this regard is preserved. For all we know, God also knows what it is to be a bat; it seems quite certain that he knows what it is to be an angel. God could have committed himself to something like Incarnation in any number of different things, without in the least compromising the special and salvific nature of his Incarnation in Jesus. He is Jesus; but he is nowise limited to the Dominical instantiation.

Perhaps it is my limited imagination, but I find Krishna like multiple incarnations unsettling. I have heard folks postulate sin among alien races and ask whether God would have to become one of them to rescue them. Instead, I lean toward “one and done,” and I explain my thoughts in the next somewhat truncated comment:

I follow my favorite Western father — Bonaventure — in attempting to understand divine knowledge. God knows creation by knowing himself, as he is the source of all. In knowing the divine essence, he knows all that is (and, it seems, all that could be). The Lord is no demiurge who works with pre-existing stuff. There is no input besides God of which God could be ignorant. Still, your words have me thinking . . .

I once had a Platonist Christian professor who taught that creation as a whole was an incarnation of God and that the incarnation of the Logos as Jesus was the most visible and perfect manifestation of that act. This may smell of heresy to some, but it always made sense to me.

God has given man demarcated sacred space (temple) and time (ritual) so that man, in his spiritual blindness, may begin to recognize God’s presence, and then hopefully he will come to see the transcendent divinity that lies beyond and behind all phenomena. It is not that God is absent from mud, or spit, or rocks, but our fallen eyes and minds need trained, and lessons begin with blessings. Of setting things aside. Of offering our first fruits to the Lord. Of separating a chosen people from the rest of mankind. Our carnality needs to start with the concrete and particular before it can comprehend wider vision. And Christ is the first and last pedagogue of mankind. As a person and in his acts, he opens our eyes to the truth. When Christ “transfigured” on Mount Tabor, it was not he who changed but rather than perceptive abilities of Peter, James, and John, who finally caught a glimpse of a higher reality that was always there. I think that something of this is also relevant to the Eucharist. In our most sacred act, we acknowledge the real presence of Christ in bread and wine. When we no longer see through a glass darkly, we may come to see God in all things. Such seems distasteful to those who fear idolatry and immanentism (in other words, religion), but I think that the old pagans, philosophical pantheists, and new agers have a true insight but lack the interpretive apparatus necessary to make sense of it.

The incarnation makes the rise above idolatry possible for us because of the mysteriously unified joining of God and image in the person of the God Man. The rest of creation is an echo, a shadow, an image of this providential unity of creator and creation, and this allows all things to be opportunities for prayer and for communion. For the saint, to be is to be holy. The process of salvation is relearning to see the Lord walking in the garden.

The world is God’s image, and part of that world — man — is an exceptionally clear icon of the divine. How sad it is to contemplate, when we look at actual men! Nonetheless, man is God’s appointed chief and priest. He has neglected his duty spectacularly. Yet, Christ is the New Man, the New Adam, who recapitulates all of creation in his incarnation, and he thus also redeems all of creation through the incarnation, death, and resurrection according to Irenaeus of Lyons. Why should this be? Maximus the Confessor taught that man is God’s cosmic mediator — one of our original and final vocations. In becoming the perfect man, Jesus fulfills man’s true purpose as the creaturely conductor of the Lord’s cosmic symphony.

So, if you are correct that God’s knowledge of being a creature depends on the incarnation (rather than simply knowing his own essence and its effects), then perhaps in becoming man, God knows all of creation “from the inside.” For that is our job, and we succeed at times to a remarkable degree in understanding the rest of creation, even in our wretched state. Observe the relationships that sometimes occur between man and beast, or even man and plant (or thing). Lewis remarked that we bring animals into the intellectual, spiritual sphere by assimilating them into human life, but perhaps that limited activity is but a taste of what human life in the world should really be. The God Man’s cosmic role is not simply as God but as man, and by that, the whole universe is made anew.

Kristor has the last word, ending on a note worthy of Ammonius’ approval:

I would add one thought. When I say (as you have paraphrased me) that God’s knowledge of being a creature depends on the Incarnation, so that, in becoming man, God knows all of creation “from the inside,” that is just another way of saying, as you and St. Bonaventure say, that God knows creation by knowing himself, for in knowing the divine essence, he knows all that is (and, it seems, all that could be). God’s act of being, his act of creation, his act of knowing his own essence, his act of Incarnation, and his act of knowing his creation are a single motion.

I had not considered Kristor’s point beforehand. It is very difficult to abandon entirely “image-thinking” and to re-orient the mind to think beyond the reference points of everyday life. The climb from the cave is arduous and fraught with dangers.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, June 3, Anno Domini 2013
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