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Category: cosmic transfiguration

good art is pagan

by Andrea Elizabeth

Title inspired by this meme

Not that the above is good art, but it exemplifies my point by how it draws us in by personifying nature. This is animism. And thus the word, still-life.

This, however, is good art:

“one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.” (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

bad art is dead and lifeless. 1920’s writers come to mind. I wonder if it’s because they didn’t believe souls continue after death. Theirs is an atheist’s eulogy.

Speaking of, here’s a pretty touching one:

“I’ve been doing a lot of what some people would call soul searching lately. I’ve looked at many religions and learned a lot about science. Bev, known to many of us as Mom or Grandma, was a Catholic. If she were to speak, I think she would state her excitement at going to Heaven. She would be glad to see all of her friends that parted with our world before her. She would be able to see Grandpa again. She would live in eternal happiness, waiting for us to join her. And all of us who believe similarly should be glad that she’s there. We should be happy that she’s been re-united with her loved ones and will be waiting to welcome us home when our time comes, likely with plenty of the chocolate and desserts she loved! (Hopefully you don’t gain weight in Heaven!)

For those who don’t believe in Heaven, there is still a better way to look at this than as a tragedy. Grandma lived a wonderful, fulfilled life. She had seven children, who mostly turned out okay. She has more grandchildren than I care to count. She has friends in this room that I’ve never had the pleasure to meet and likely many more. And what’s important to us is that her passing will not go unremarked. We all speak to that. All of us were touched by her and will all remember her. So if you don’t think we will all meet again in heaven, then keep this in mind:

In our universe, energy never disappears. Everything that made up grandma is still around; she is now among us, a part of our planet, our Sun, our galaxy, and our Universe. She is among the stars!

And never forget! Never forget that all of the photons that ever bounced off of Grandma’s face, all of the particles of light that were interrupted by her smile, the twinkle in her eye as she cheated at another game of Chinese Checkers, and the spoon of ice cream she raised to her mouth in joy; all of these particles of our universe ran off like little children in delight at having encountered her, their paths changed forever by her touch.

And that energy that was Grandma will go on forever inside of all of us as well. In our memories are the photons of light that reflected off of her smiling beauty into our eyes. We will always have some of her energy inside of us and that’s a scientific fact.

According to the Law of the Conservation of Energy, not a bit of Grandma is truly gone. She’s just less orderly, her energy spread out to encompass us all.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/05/18/an-atheist-delivers-a-eulogy-for-his-religious-grandmother/

Notice though that he still animates the photon as it is now Grandma’s childlike messenger.

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His Grace Bishop Maxim

by Andrea Elizabeth

His Grace Bishop Maxim (Vasiljevic) of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America blessed us from Alhambra, Ca with a visit to our parish for our annual St. Maximus lecture on his feast day. He gave an overview of St. Maximus’ cosmology regarding the unified logos of creation, divided and scattered by the fall, and reunited in Christ who introduced the new mode of reunification. He very much recommended his compilation of scholarly lectures, Knowing the Purpose of Creation through the Resurrection, ‘delivered at the international conference on the thought of Saint Maximus the Confessor in Belgrade by Metropolitan John Zizioulas, Bishop Atanasije Jevtic, Father Andrew Louth, Father Maximos of Simonopetra, Christos Yannaras, and many others.’ He donated copies to the Church, so I got one. He also brought copies of his books, History, Truth, Holiness, Studies on Ontology and Epistemology, and The Thunderbolt of Ever-Living Fire: “American” Conversation with an Athonite Elder, and a CD of St. Maximus’ 400 Chapters on Love. I look forward to learning from all of these books as I pray to continue according to my indomitable human logos utilizing my gnomic (and God’s ungnomic/unhesitating) free will to my ever-well-being telos in Christ.

The Hiking Chronicles

by Andrea Elizabeth

‘Just for grins’ isn’t really accurate, but I really don’t like labeling the reason as therapy. Nevertheless, I have recently started blogging about hiking at my alter-ego blog, formerly known as Sine Nomine.

Everywhere present

by Andrea Elizabeth

Details are depressing me, the light, the light, the light is calling me. Christmas music is sounding joy, let it be repeated.

The above is far eastern and far western, but it’s where I am.

Tis the season where everyone says and pictures Christ, Mary, and St Nicholas, lights candles, and enjoys smells and bells. Everyone is Orthodox in December.

Seek ye first

by Andrea Elizabeth

In the quotes I’ve previously provided, as well as ones I haven’t, The Universe as Signs and Symbols by St. Nicholai Velimirovich instructs us on reading our natural environment in a spiritual way. This takes work when one is not constantly possessing a sense of God’s presence nor feeling thankful for everything as a gift. There is also the question of whether a thing should be appreciated in its own right. For me it is easier to remember God when outside in nature. In the city, surrounded by concrete, I feel oppressed, but can be reminded by looking up at the sky which people haven’t yet managed to obliterate entirely. There are certain artistic fabrications that I manage to enjoy in the city, but should one be as thankful for them as direct gifts from God as one is a tree? First let me say that there is a question about whether we have to look for symbolism in a tree. Trees can possess a majesty of form that makes one say, “What a tree!” Is it sinful to stop there? One can look at a tree and appreciate it’s creator as one appreciates an artist, which is also a second step in art appreciation. But to look at a tree in a spiritual context, such as seeing the method of Christ’s crucifixion and thus our redemption, is a third step. A cross attains a certain beauty when seen in that light. But what about an unhewn tree? Ah, the tree of life. Yes a means of God’s provision for food, and beyond that communion. Also it is a picture of strength and shelter. To appreciate it’s beauty for itself, and not what one gets from it, not even the enjoyment of beauty, seems nice, but again, should we stop there? Shouldn’t we see that God (should probably say the Trinity or at least Christ as the Trinity revealed) must be beautiful beyond compare?

Back to fabricated, man-made things, especially things not made by hand but machine: I don’t think anything can be totally depraved, but things can be corrupted. One could seek the beauty of the original ingredients, or the similitude to traditional things like a door, which has symbolism, and get back on the above track. There’s probably a chapter on these man-made things that I’ve either forgotten or not gotten to yet.

this sounds good

by Andrea Elizabeth

The Universe as Symbols and Signs – St. Nikolai Velimirovich
PRE-ORDER, TITLE WILL BE AVAILABLE MID-OCTOBER “Many people in the West think of the mysticism of Eastern Christianity as something unreal and imaginary; yea as dreamy and vague thinking in the clouds. I am trying in the following pages to prove the contrary to that opinion.” “Our Christian mysticism is wholly different from Buddhistic mysticism, just as much as from modern materialism. It is a vision of realities beyond and through transparent symbols and signs of the material universe. This is one of the fundamental teachings of our ancient Church of Christ, based upon the Bible and the Fathers.” “It is true that there are some persons in the Western World, among Germans, Dutch, Spaniards, French English and others who were great mystics. But our mysticism is not the individual kind, but collective. For our Church as a whole, from the beginning on, has been mystical in its interpretation of the visible universe, things and events as well as of man’s and mankind’s life and destiny.” “If some of my readers would learn from this essay that the mysticism of the Eastern Christian Church is nothing else but the science of the highest realities, then I shall be amply rewarded.” Nikolai Velimirovich STSpress 2010

The Fathers’ Emphasis on Unity

by Andrea Elizabeth

[T]he Trinity constitutes the inexhaustible fruitfulness of Unity. From the Trinity comes all unification and all differentiation. That is so, despite the fact that – as Dionysius insists elsewhere (Divine Names, II, 11) – unity, in God, is always stronger than distinctions, so that ‘distinctions remain indivisible and unified’.

God, the divine Origin, is praised in holiness:

whether as Unity, on account of the character of simplicity and unity proper to this Individible whose unifying power unifies us ourselves and assembles our different natures in order to lead us together … to that unification which is modelled on God himself;

or as Trinity, because of the thrice personal manifestation of this superessential fruitfulness whence all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its being and its name;

or as Love for man, because… the godhead has been fully imparted to our nature by one of its Persons calling humanity and raising it to himself, for Jesus mysteriously took flesh, and the eternal was thus introduced into time and by his birth penetrated the utmost depth of our nature.

Dionysius the Areopagite Divine Names, I,4

– Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism p. 62,63)

When reading Sts. Dionysius and Maximus on God’s sourcehood, sustaining power, in and through all-ness, and Cosmic Recapitulation, one can get a sense of universalism – God is all in all. Despite others’ insistence on a separate place for the damned, I tend toward’s C.S. Lewis’ view illustrated in The Great Divorce. That the ones in “hell” are ones who separate themselves further and further away from God, and who as a result become smaller and smaller. One of his guys even disappeared – I’m not sure I go that far. Many teach that this type of hell is existential, because there is no “place” where God is not. Their separation is like a figment of their imagination (tormenting though that be) because they separate themselves from reality – God.

Despite the ovewhelming universal passages so far in Clement’s book, there is this one section that admits there is something (or at least some sense of otherness) other than God (not in the Divine Simplicity sense).

By the Ascension the Body of Christ, woven of our flesh and of all earthly flesh, entered the realms of the Trinity. Henceforward the creation is in God, it is the true ‘burning bush’ according to Maximus the Confessor. At the same time it remains buried in the darkness of death and separation because of humanity’s hatred and cruelty and irresponsibility. To become holy is to clear away this weight of ashes and to uncover the glowing fire beneath, to allow life, in Christ, to swallow up death. It is to anticipate the manifest coming of the Kingdom by disclosing its secret presence. To anticipate, and therefore to prepare and to hasten.

Christ, having completed for us his saving work and ascended to heaven with the body which he had taken to himself, accomplishes in his own self the union of heaven and earth, of material and spiritual beings, and thus demonstrates the unity of creation in the polarity of its parts.

Maximus the Confessor Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer

Christ in his love unites created reality with uncreated reality – How wonderful is God’s loving-kindness towards us! – and he shows that through grace the two are become one. The whole world enters wholly into the whole of God and by becoming all that God is, except in identity of nature, it receives in place of itself the whole God.

Maximus the Confessor Ambigua

(RoCM, p. 54,55)

Recapitulation, Deification, and the Virtues

by Andrea Elizabeth

“In the unfallen mode (tropos) of being the lives of humans were destined for deification (theosis, divinization). This is the most intimate possible communion between the human and God, in which the human participates in the Love of the Trinity, through the Son, in the Glory of the Holy Spirit. Here all aspects of human lives are immediate revelations of God. Deification however, is not static, but an ongoing growth into this most intimate communion between God and humans. This is a deifying communion which leads to a transfigured cosmos constituted by ecstatic love.

[…]With the fall of humanity, and thus cosmic tragedy, humanity moves from philadelphia, the love of humankind, to philatuia or self love. This self-love is not simply loving oneself. It is essentially construing the cosmos as revolving around the self rather than the Trinity. As such self-love disrupts the hierarchy of being which is constituted by love (particularly participation in Triune Love). It disrupts the entire cosmos, which was characterized most accurately by love. This disruption results in the fragmentation of human relationships and this fragmentation from philautia gives rise to what Maximus calls “tyranny” (turranos). Maximus characterizes self-love in this way for philautia seeks to order all creation toward our possession. The true doctrine of creation, however, in which creatures are ordered and harmonized around the love in and of the Trinity is replaced by the tyrannical gaze of self-love in which creation and others become viewed through the possessing desire of the individual, and ultimately this grows into systemic evils such as racism. Once the true doctrine of creation is lost humans tend to see themselves as masters of creation, and thus masters over one another, rather than stewards of creation in which relationships are understood as God’s gift to be cherished and stewarded in harmony with the Trinity rather than controlled for selfish ends.6
Maximus claims that being formed in the virtues is the way in which the Spirit unites the human to Christ and thus deifies humans. So I argue in the next section that the virtue of hospitality, while not covered often explicitly by Maximus, is one of the avenues of virtue that, through our practice of it, allows us as humans to be deified by the Spirit through Christ. It is in welcoming the other that we welcome Christ and thus return to the life of love (phila-delphia) rather than tyranny, which arises from self-love’s “fortress mentality” with its desire to possess and bring everything thing within its orbit rather than living out a true doctrine of Creation which places the self and all things within the orbit of the Love of God. However, I will first briefly highlight Maximus’ understanding of virtue, the participation of the human in Christ, and thus the divinizing life.”

Read more from

St. Maximus Confessor and Christian Hospitality II

at The Land of Unlikeness

Father Seraphim Rose’s Response to “Orthodox” Evolution Theory

by Andrea Elizabeth

I really appreciated the spiritual elements in Dr. Kalormiros’ article, linked in my last post. The way he explained how God exists outside of time so that the resurrected Christ is the starting point of everything seems revelatory to me. I think he is pretty unique in saying that Christ’s “preIncarnate” OT appearances were his resurrected self, but I like the idea, not that that matters, I hope I am not speculating. This brings up the idea of OT “shadows” prefiguring Christ. As if He was some sort of ghost. Kalormiros states that He existed in His full, eternal self all along. To me this explains the relationships the OT people could have with Him such as Abraham, Moses, and David and all the others listed in Hebrews 11.

Also I liked the way he explained the unity of creation. Everything is made from relatively few atoms, and along similar patterns. A chimpanzee’s DNA is mid 90 something % similar to humans, and one can learn a lot about human internal systems from dissecting a frog or a pig. We even use pig insulin in diabetics. I also liked the way he explained the Holy Spirit’s hovering over the surface of the waters, and how life-giving water is. What I couldn’t get past though, was that one species came from another. He starts this off by saying that a single seed began the process of development in the universe at the beginning. That everything progressed from that one seed to the development of many diverse species in a hierarchical way. I do not want to dismiss hierarchy altogether or fail to acknowledge that humans are higher than apes, but I cannot get passed the notion that a human came out of an ape’s womb. I do not believe God tweaked the DNA of one species in vitro. Genesis explains that each reproduced after its own kind, as Father Seraphim points out in his response to Dr. Kalomiros’ view of evolution (btw the latter’s material is dated 1997 and Fr. Seraphim died in the early 80’s, but the point is well addressed with Patristic sources).

So as for the seed theory, Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things, yet we need St. Maximus’ explanation of the many distinct logoi, created and sustained by the energies of God, yet distinct from His essence to properly understand these things. In the Derrida movie, I remember the part where he is sitting on his back doorstep talking about the diversity of animals and how he opposes classifications into groups and hierarchies. He “celebrates” (if I may use such a liberal word) the unique identity of each creature. One is not a “step” to another. One does not suffer in comparison to another. Yes there is development in the womb with interesting similarities to other creatures, but this can tell us something about the unity of God’s intention amongst all of his creation. At the same time we are not alien from trees. The universe is connected, but for some reason I hesitate to say “as one”. The universe is not a single organism. Perhaps Kalomiros’ refutation of “the universal soul” is helpful here.

Our union with plants and animals causes us to be able to lift up the bread and wine and consume it during the Liturgy as God’s body and blood. The passover lamb was a temporarily sufficient sacrifice. Christ is not ashamed to unite Himself with “lesser” materials, He indeed created them to be deified. Again I think Kalomiros explained that pretty well.

Because of the population issue surrounding Cain, and the idea that a day can mean a thousand years, I am open to the idea that it took a while to fill the earth with land, plants and animals, that a certain natural development occurred so that the earth was prepared to host “more complicated” species. I am also open to the possibility that Adam was one of many men (though maybe he was the first one and others were created a little after, but that’s too speculative. I plead ignorance.), and that the account of his and Eve’s creation is a poetic telling of how God fashioned man and woman. However, I want to stick to the geneologies and ages that are accounted for in the Bible and say that Adam was a particular individual with a particular relationship with God that got messed up. I think Dr. Kalomiros pretty well describes the unity of mankind, and how we share a single nature which simultaneously fell with Adam and was raised again with Christ.

Thanks to “The Ochlophobist” who shared these links (except the Derrida one) to Father Stephen’s “Glory to God for All Things” and “Mind in the Heart” on his thread, “Pantheistic Confusion or the Purely Metaphorical” on “Energetic Procession”, all listed on the left.

He is mindful that we are but dust.

by Andrea Elizabeth

Homeschooling moms might want to read this Orthodox article posted by Father Stephen on the creation of man and evolution! It’s quite different from anything I’ve read from a Christian or secular source before.