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Category: Incarnation

Forgive my mawkishness, Harry

by Andrea Elizabeth

The River of No Return documentary was made when Isaac Babcock, who had studied the wolves for 13 years, took his new bride to the largest designated wilderness in America in central Idaho. Spoiler alert. She had just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and became more debilitated during their year of camping/honeymoon. Towards the end, before they cut it short, they filmed an injured elk hobbling along by herself. As night fell, she appeared silhouetted on the horizon of a nearby ridge with another elk standing between her and the approaching wolves. They both made it thought the night. Later, a stranded deer wasn’t so fortunate as to have such a companion. Neither Isaac nor Bjornen wanted to leave this beautiful, if savage place, but he couldn’t stand to watch his wife suffering.

It reminds me of the documentary I wrote about a few years ago about the people who left their island north of Scotland when disease threatened their children and their primitive 1000 year old lifestyle didn’t seem sustainable when cures were on the mainland. Modern healthcare comes with a terrible price. It costs you paradise. In one way it can be likened to Christ leaving paradise to save us.

But in another, it highlights the terrible cost of staying in paradise. Wolves were just reintroduced because it was determined that nature needed this balance. When the pioneers first tried to settle this area, who were forced out when it was designated a wilderness, only the strong survived. The weak died early. It’s almost as if the weak deer wanted us to know what it’s like. If it should have been saved at all costs, the wolves shouldn’t have been reintroduced. People determined it was worth it to have the deer give up their lives so that new things could grow. But we can’t countenance letting a person die for that reason. She actually didn’t want to leave though. He made her.

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This world is not my home

by Andrea Elizabeth

“I’m just a passin’ through”, as the song goes.

I’ve been thinking (“a dangerous past time, ‘I know'”, as another song goes, [from Beauty and the Beast.]) about the relationship between matter and consciousness. Since I don’t really know the relationship, I’ll just list some observations in the order I remember or think of them.

Imagination and dreams are very compelling. Who can live without literature and now movies?

Stories draw from knowledge of material things.

Death separates us from material things. Resurrection will some day reunite us with an altered form of them.

Meanwhile, we are to strive for a healthy detachment from passions associated with material things. The attachment itself is at first immaterial, but it usually seeks a material consummation.

The Church consecrates material and immaterial things that we can properly attach to. Monastics commit to these being their only attachments. People in the world may attach to a broader number of things, which St. Paul says leads to inevitably being burdened by worldly cares.

Even monastics are encouraged to read stories, like those of Charles Dickens, which are mostly about people in the world. But since they are fiction, Dickens can achieve an immaterial relationship with them. Our relationships with immaterial concepts so depicted undoubtedly influence our relationships with material beings and things in our physical circle. If there is conflict between our conceptualized desires and our immediate circumstance, we seek escape from the latter. Perhaps this is not bad in itself. Perhaps our unfulfilled (meaning not yet materialized) desires are valid, and worthy of being dwelt upon in a desire for harmonic perfection of our inner and outer states. But we should stay open to the process required to bring about such harmony. Our circumstances, and our selves, are rough hewn rocks that require much chiseling. Actual escape is usually a premature burial of what could have been. But I will say that some stones are too unwieldy, and should be scrapped.

What happens if our culture, by becoming less human, makes it more difficult to achieve inner and outer harmony? Isolation occurs, but perhaps it always has. One is never alone who doesn’t seek to be, however.

The doors, let us attend

by Andrea Elizabeth

Perhaps the theme in The Universe as Symbols and Signs by St. Nikolai Velimirovich is here:

9. What is essential in a written word? The ink with which it is written, or the form of the letters, or the paper upon which it is written? No. The meaning of it. And what is the essential in a spoken word, or even in a voice? The mere sound? No. The meaning. Paul says, “There are many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.” (Cor. 14:10)

In yesterday’s post I mentioned hope and a comprehension of the reality of invisible things. They, like “meaning” are invisible. I feel I can get too gnostic or utilitarian in thinking through this. I mentioned even earlier the idea of seeing all doors as symbols of Christ who says He is The Door. Upon further reflection, I think that not all doors are equal. The goal is for a door to be incarnated with the true meaning. I think this can mainly be true of consecrated doors, like the Royal Doors in front of the alter. In this way they become His flesh that we must enter into through the Holy Mysteries. The other doors in the Church also achieve this significance somewhat. A person’s home can become consecrated through being blessed and dedicated to the things of the Lord, and thus one could strive to walk blamelessly through the doors of one’s own home and also think of the mansions in heaven with many rooms. But not all edifices have blameless doors. One cannot only keep in mind an ideal door no matter where one is. If a door leads to a bad situation, one should at least intervene with prayer for its redemption. So in that way perhaps the good door is kept in mind when in the presence of a bad door.

On Consolation

by Andrea Elizabeth

Some criticize religious people for their focus on receiving consolation, thus making religion the “opiate of the masses”. These critics would probably look with disdain on this prayer from the Third Hour:

Grant Thou speedy and lasting consolation unto Thy servants, O Jesus, when our spirits are despondent. Be Thou not parted from our souls when they be in affliction; be Thou not far from our minds when we are in perils, but do Thou ever anticipate our needs. Draw nigh unto us, draw nigh, O Thou Who art everywhere present, and even as Thou art ever with Thine Apostles, thus do Thou also unite unto Thyself us who long for Thee, O Compassionate One, that being united with Thee, we may praise and glorify Thine All-holy Spirit.

I admit that a lot of my motivation for seeking God is deliverance from pain. The Psalms are largely requests for deliverance from oppression and pain. We are taught that many of them express the anguish of Christ on the cross and His crying out to the Father for help.  Is the criticism against this beseeching God a criticism of people’s intolerance of pain? Karl Marx in this explanation at least validates people’s pain and their intolerance, but says that religion is a false solution. He says that devotion to it masks the symptoms instead of treating the real illness. According to that article, the illness is economic inequality which causes people to suffer physical and material deprivation. Instead of tolerating this, society must be fixed to provide “real” material comforts to all. But now in America at least, we see the malaise, boredom and obesity that occurs when people are too comfortable. With that also comes pain and anxiety of another sort which causes people to seek entertainment and drugs for new consolation.

Therefore it can be said that economic relief alone does not give people the consolation they are seeking. If the problem is mostly “spiritual” instead of material, then it seems religion should provide the answer. Some go so far as to reject materialism and live a life of extreme physical asceticism with either God alone as their focus or nothing as their focus. With nihilistic meditation one can escape spiritual and physical angst. They are the true opiate seekers.

I suppose everyone has a pain threshold where they will seek to escape the cause and run for deliverance. Some will physically run and some will spiritually run. Christ sought the will of the Father. One time He escaped through the crowd because His hour had not yet come. The last time He submitted to their abuse, but sought connection with His Father through it all. He ran to Him in prayer. I do not understand the nature of His being forsaken, but shortly after that He gave up His Spirit. However the Father did not “leave His soul in hell”. He brought Him back to sit at His right hand where there is no sickness, sorrow, nor sighing.

It would be gnostic to say that the right hand of the Father is spiritual only. Christ ascended with His resurrected body, and He brought those baptized into His incarnated body “up” with Him to dwell in some sort of existential, yet cosmically incarnated state until the final resurrection.

Christmas Spirit

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have heard it implied that Protestants know how to do Christmas and Orthodox know how to do Easter. It seems generous to announce such a draw among other-times competitors, in a manner of speaking.

There are polemics against Protestant celebrations of Christmas, such as when a few years ago a number of churches canceled their Sunday services because they wanted to have a family Christmas at home. Others have pointed out doctrinal errors or at least vagueness in Protestant explanations of the Incarnation, and critiques of Protestant Christmas carols. One could also say that the reason Christmas is such a big deal in the west is because of Charles Dickens and 20th Century decadence and commercialism (see A Charlie Brown Christmas).

All of the above critiques do not completely dispel the unique feeling of Christmas spirit that seems unique in the west. I cannot speak authoritatively on any contrast of spirit in the east, but I have heard Cradle Orthodox say that Christmas was not that different from other Feast Days during the year. It is however proceeded by a fasting period second only to Great Lent in which a spirit of sobriety is encouraged. We are to sympathize more with Christ’s experience of entering into our world of self-made suffering than carelessly abandoning ourselves to the joy of our salvation.

My 40 year habit of excitedly anticipating Christmas and getting caught up in the spirit of it all still comes over me somewhat still. In thinking more about when I feel “into it”, it probably is related to the neighborhood Christmas lights, Christmas programming on TV, advertisements for Nutcracker productions, and shopping for loved ones with piped-in Christmas music, all better accompanied by fake snow. As a child, much of it also was also due to suspense about the contents of my Christmas presents. I remember such excited Christmas Eve stomach jitters while all snuggled in bed, listening to “White Christmas” on my little radio.

But if there hadn’t been such a big deal about presents and snow, with only long-abstained-from meat and candlelight Christmas carols, would there have been such anticipation for Christmas? Having grown up on it, I don’t know. The latter is pretty much what Orthodox have at Pascha/Easter. Special songs sung at extra services, Good News proclamations and lots of candles and flowers. Since the Easter Bunny doesn’t compare to Santa Claus, I can say that Easter celebrations alone didn’t seem as momentously year defining as Orthodox Pascha and Protestant Christmas do.

I’ll also candidly admit that besides a few moments of excitement, Pascha celebrations haven’t been as naturally wonderfilling either. I think this is partly due to my individual history with having a still-born. The good news of the Resurrection is of course a source of hope and thankfulness for me, but the reunion with Isaac doesn’t occur on that day, just the promise of it, God willing that I go to be where he is. Also, Christ’s violent death and all of the rejection of mankind towards their Creator is more dis-heartening than the angel choir, the shepherds and the wise men. Herod didn’t slaughter the Innocents until two years later.

I am still somewhat new to Orthodox Nativity, but I have greatly appreciated the hymnography that dispassionately proclaims the significance and method of Christ’s birth. It gives me a sense of rightness, but it doesn’t exactly fill me with the “Christmas spirit”. I have a theory (besides the probability that it is because I didn’t grow up on it). I think it’s about the big deal over the gifts. Traditionally, gifts were associated with St. Nicholas’ Feast Day on Dec. 6. I believe the Reformers thought that St. Nicholas was getting more glory than Christ’s birth was, so they did away with that and gifts are given on Christmas instead, though Orthodox still have modest gifts in stockings on St. Nicholas day to commemorate his giving money to poor families. I grew up believing that St. Nick didn’t have anything to do with Christmas at all, that he was just a made-up cartoon, and that presents were somehow associated with the Wise Men’s gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I know I’m still not that accustomed to petitioning or even praising the deeds of Saints, or doing acts of charity on their behalf, but here’s another idea. What if the generous gift-giving that goes on at Christmas is more about recognizing the image of God in our children and loved ones, and like the wise men, we bear gifts to lay in front of them as unto Christ.

I’ve heard some Jewish comedians talk about how lame Hanuka gifts are compared to Christmas gifts, but maybe they have a point. You can tell that as children they did not feel as esteemed as their Christian friends were. What if at Christmas, the Protestants are unbeknowingly venerating their children in Orthodox fashion? What if God is pleased with this and rains down grace in the form of Christmas spirit throughout the land, and what if it really is coming down from St. Nicholas’ sleigh, through his intercessions?

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.

The End of the Bulgakov Conference and Beyond

by Andrea Elizabeth

Speaking of finishing things, I’ve finally gotten around to reading the last two installments of the Bulgakov Conference on The Land of Unlikeness. I am not qualified to offer a detailed scholarly analysis, but I would like to jot down some impressions. When I initially read Joshua Delpech-Ramey’s report (see my previous posts under the Sergius Bulgakov Category to the right), I was thinking he was going in the right direction, and without reviewing why I thought that, I’ll go on to say that I think he veered off course in his latest post. I would have agreed more with him a year or two ago. He seems to speak of transcending our personhood into Absolute Divine Simplicity while simultaneously recovering the magic dormant in the created universe. And while my previous impression of Janet Leslie Blumberg was of Augustinian defensiveness, I found her to tweak Joshua’s point a bit to a more personalized, humbly Derridian (whom I am inclined to interpret gently), respect for the amazing cosmos, while maintaining her own personhood in a desire for union with God, but perhaps along a too deterministic path.

So my ignorant, less informed view which is probably based on misinterpretation, is that they are right to open themselves to union with God which will lead to transcending fallen humanity, but their method seems to be alchemistic – seeking to combine physical properties in the right combination to do this. Maybe Janet redeems the goal by saying it should be done by embracing tradition rather than leaving it behind, and I am not sure if she is talking about Credal Christian tradition only, or Sacramental Tradition, which is how we find God in the elements. And maybe her determinism is about uncovering the logos in everything, which is predetermined in Christ, rather than the over-riding of free will.

And as I brought out at the end of my last post on the Conference, I am becoming more sensitive to the off-balanced method of putting the ideas “transcendence”, “Cosmic union”, “latent power” before Person. We are not to throw ourselves into the abyss of ideas expecting an explosion of power and awareness (gnosticism), though perhaps I am neglecting a proper understanding of apophaticism. Instead we are to focus on the Person of Christ, and how He reveals Himself and ourselves to us. I have enjoyed the positive attitude conveyed in works like the above, and think there is merit to it. We are to be joined to love and awareness, but I am beginning to think it will be more concrete than how it came across. I’m thinking a hierarchy of God in Trinitarian relation (which Bulgakov has some valuable things to say about), repentant man, the powers, and material creation will keep us from going off the deep end.

Which brings me to the latest post, Revolution, Paradox, and the Christian Tradition: A Chestertonian debate between John Milbank and Slavoj Zizek, which may make the corrections, or maybe just clarifications, I have begun to intuit. I also value the scholarship in the above posts as I am coming to appreciate reading a wide range of bright people, even if we don’t have the same order of idealogical priorities. I also find their dispassionate and calm relating of atheists’ points very refreshing.

Bulgakov’s Sophia

by Andrea Elizabeth

Now I’m caught up, having finished the rest of day 10 and day 11 of The Bulgakov Conference, I read 12 previous to the rest (link in the previous post). Day 11 compares Augustine to Bulgakov and that put me in a defensive state, which the author could also be in. I’ll just, as dispassionately as possible, reiterate one of the criticisms in my last post, that there is a confusion in Augustine and perhaps in Bulgakov’s Sophiology between created and uncreated, and the humility required of the former to not only keep from prelest, but theoretical annihilation into Divine Simplicity.

In defense of Sophia, not having read Bulgakov’s works except the parts which are quoted by very engaged commentators who seem to agree with each other (I like discussions from multiple people because I think individual biases and passions get better sifted out, which is why I like the internet. Back to defense of Sophia), I think Bulgakov is valuable because he speaks of intimate relationship, kenotic love, and what was intended for our fallen, now buried in sin, nature. Sophia’s union of the divine and creaturely seems to me a poetic expression of the union in the person of Christ of His divine and human natures. The feminine personification of wisdom in Sophia also speaks to the union of divine and human accomplished through theosis, most evident in our greatest human Saint, Mary, the Theotokos. I get lost when it is described in more abstract and novel ways, but when I think of Christ and His Mother, I believe I gain an understanding of the beautiful, loving, intended relationship that is possible between God and man, which strict theological language can make too dry. Yet a foundation in the dogmatic proclamations of the Church, especially Chalcedon, and the explanations of Sts. Maximus and Gregory Palamas, is a necessary prerequisite so that one does not go off the deep end with this stuff.

Another thing about Sophia and other treatments of female personifications of wisdom and beauty by Dante and others, which I’ve barely studied, is that such a device, if it is not literal, builds a more normal human relationship than abstract concepts do. I read recently in Father John Romanides’ Patristic Theology that Hebrew tradition describes truths metaphorically with natural elements like rocks and rivers, and that the early Church described truths mostly through concepts using philosophical language. These both point to the difficulty of description that has to employ alternate means of communication. “Sophia” is a more direct thing that seems more accurate or containable than metaphor or allegory. But since there isn’t a forth person of the Trinity and she is more about the border (semi-permeable membrane?) between the created and uncreated, then I think it is safer to think of Mary, yet call her Sophia because the description is second-hand, to avoid presumption. The only way to say it is an accurate depiction of Mary would be to draw from Patristic witness, and since some of it would not apply, it can be criticized as speculation. About the charge of speculation in regards to Bulgakov, which I believe Romanides makes, btw, I do not discount that Sophia is based on supernatural encounter, as I believe he had a feminine visitation, that seems to my inexperience and lack of thorough memory and study, to be similar to Dante’s. I know that we are to be highly skeptical of stories of visitations, but when such love accompanies the description, it lends credibility, from my point of view. A lot of people’s “relationship” with Mary can be discounted as speculative. Indeed I think it is highly likely that impure imaginations and focus on the sensual aspects of loving femininity can distort and misdirect this relationship. This is why we need Orthodox icons, to show us the nature of Mary’s humanity, love, and relationship with Christ. The Church also guides us in our communication to her and the nature of her intentions toward us, loving intercession. Bulgakov invites us to take this further, and the Church cautions us against some of the inaccuracies, but at the same time, we are to grow in intimacy and love with God and His Saints. Perhaps it is safer to keep this relationship on the level of our human personhood, and the human personhood of Christ and the Saints, and not speculate about the interaction of the divine which is everywhere present and fills all things, beyond what the Church has revealed already. I know when I contemplate these things I can sort of get in an abstract mode of possibilities, and it seems I can neglect my own realities of fighting against my passions and loving my own family. Plus trying to get into mystical realities can get kind of weird. I trust more when the actual sunlight makes lovely patterns through the leaves or an interesting angle on the icons, to reveal that God is love, warmth, and light. I need actual physical manifestations, though they can be deceptive too. But I think personal love is such a deeply recognizable thing, that as long as it is in the context of the Church’s teachings, we can trust it. Feminine beauty though… I think it has been so misused in our generation especially, that we all, male and female, need to be retaught how to relate to it properly. And maybe reading Bulgakov, Dante and Donne would help.

Perelandra 2 and Patristic Theology 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have said before that I am a disillusioned optimist. I keep believing that there is an answer and a fix to all the mess. I can’t help myself. And I have found answers, and when I do, like in Out of the Silent Planet, I hitch my wagon to the horse from whose mouth it came. Every time. I can’t help myself. Then the horse stumbles – how could he not? C.S. Lewis did not become an Orthodox Christian, but I so wanted someone in the western tradition to speak Orthodox, and I think he comes close many times because Orthodoxy is the language we were all meant to speak and lies in potential in all of us. What is not Orthodox is foreign, and sometimes we develop foreign habits. In Perelandra, Lewis shows his Protestantism in that he believes that Christ was incarnated because of the Fall, instead of the Orthodox belief that Christ’s intention in creation was to join with us in the Incarnation from the beginning and would have happened without the Fall. So on Perelandra when the unfallen Green Lady and the King get married, it is seen as a less great thing than what happened on earth as a result of the Fall.

Then Ransom’s sacrifice is seen as an unmeritorious act I assume because of the Protestant creed of Glory to God Alone. But this causes him confusion when he sees the King’s face who is created in the image of “Maleldil”.

“You might ask how it was possible to look upon it and not to commit idolatry, not to mistake it for that of which it was the likeness. For the resemblance was, in its own fashion, infinite, so that almost you could wonder at finding no sorrows in his brow and no wounds in his hands and feet. Yet there was no danger of mistaking, not one moment of confusion, no least sally of the will towards forbidden reverence. Where likeness was greatest, mistake was least possible.”

He continues to struggle with idolatry when he talks about man-made images,

“A clever wax-work can be made so like a man that for a moment it deceives us: the great portrait which is far more deeply like him does not. Plaster images of the Holy One may before now have drawn to themselves the adoration they were meant to arouse for the reality. But here, where His live image, like Him within and without, made by His own bare hands out of the depth of divine artistry, His masterpiece of self-portraiture coming forth from His workshop to delight all worlds, walked and spoke before Ransom’s eyes, it could never be taken for more than an image. Nay, the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same, an echo, a rhyme, an exquisite reverberation of the uncreated music prolonged in a created medium.”

His iconoclasm is showing, but he knows that there is something to marvel at in humanity. It is so hard when converting from Protestantism to be able to make peace between the Creator and the created. We have been so conditioned to believe that it is a sin to appreciate the greatness of creation. Proper veneration has become foreign. We are more afraid of committing idolatry than to venerate man’s intended end, and that which represents and communicates those who have accomplished deification, or theosis – icons.

But it is because of Christ’s and the Saint’s union with God that venerating them is not idolatry. God is in them, unseparated, unmixed, distinct, and undivided. To venerate the Saints is to worship God and His intention in Incarnation. Perelandra is full of What Would Jesus Do? Instead of God filling His Saints so that they can reach their potential – deification. Lewis presents a copy, but not the real thing.

Back to disillusioned optimism, less than perfect people can still impart improvements to where we are at present, so I’ll not give up on Professor Lewis. And I’ll not give up on Father John Romanides who has also let me down with this unsubstantiated ad hominem on page 90 of Patristic Theology, “If we use the criteria of the Apostle Paul and the Church Fathers such as St. Symeon the New Theologian regarding who is truly a theologian, we will see that contemporary modern Orthodox theology, under the influence of Russian theology, is not Patristic theology, but a distortion of Patristic theology, because it is written by people who do not have the above-mentioned spiritual prerequisites [that they be in theosis].” This is all he says about Russian “theologians”. I’m very disappointed and now will have to force myself to finish this book as I did with Perelandra.

I struggle with disillusionment a lot, but I know I can’t keep retreating forever from the less than perfect. Part of it is dealing with being offended and learning to forgive and have a humble attitude about how much I fail myself and require patience and forgiveness from others. But also I have read that love requires perfection, so it is ok to notice when something is not perfect and to bring it to attention when it is presented as the truth. We are easily deceived and must fight it in ourselves and others. Father John Romanides is motivating me to seek theosis through purification and illumination by prayer and repentance, so I will keep reading him even though he must be one of those ethnocentric Greek Orthodox. It just takes some of the fun out of it is all.

Plato 101

by Andrea Elizabeth

It seems that understanding Plato is step one to being able to compare and contrast anything in western thought, so I just read a summary of part of his Republic. Rather than analyze it point by point, I’d rather give my intuitive impressions.

First, one reason I haven’t read Plato before is because of my Protestant Sola Scriptura background with its criticism that pagan philosophy is the opposite of Truth. I do not see things so black and white anymore. This paper didn’t really address defining things by opposition, but it seems that such a dialectic between philosophy and religious truth would be platonic. I’ll wait for more on that.

I like that Forms are explained so that my understanding is increased. The analogy of the cave is very helpful. I’ve explained before that Forms are gnostic without a proper understanding of the Incarnation which brings together the visible and invisible. The middle level of mathematics could function as an analogy for Incarnational reality, but it is listed in a separate category between physical ‘illusions’ or shadows, and higher, invisible realities. Which leads me to some criticism:

The categories are too compartmentally differentiated. It is very much a class/caste system which tends toward superiority complexes. I agree with some of the priorities, but I try to withhold judgment on those who don’t fit in with the ideal (another platonic word?) system. There are patterns that tend to lead to success, but there are always exceptions and thus humble economia should be allowed for.

It seems to be scientifically left brained, thus opposing right brained, free-thinking, artist types. I think both camps need to move toward the middle of “speaking the truth with love”. Artists can err on the side of reckless, self-destructive love, and analysts can err on the side of unloving, and thus blind, judgmentalism.

Perhaps this is why Eastern Orthodox icons are necessary. They show us, and help us participate in, the Incarnational balance of faithful, dispassionate, ordered, attentive, embodied love.