by Andrea Elizabeth
I do not know anything about St. John of Tobolsk, but this treatise on God’s Providence regarding circumstances is amazing. What an attention span.
I have just refreshed myself on Jacques Derrida’s differance by skimming some things on his Spectres of Marx. Basically I like how he poetically describes critiquing meaning and value. Capitalists probably inflate value and Communists probably disrespect value. I think the industrial revolution caused both of these conditions, but it did create the convenient middle class. One can step outside and reevaluate that as well. I think the reason Derrida loves so much to step outside is because the status quo did not work for him, expecially because of anti-Semitism directed towards him in his childhood. To relate this to my last post on Traditionalism, I think hard line traditionalists are so because it works for them and they believe it should work for everyone. The disenfranchised tend to ditch tradition because it did not work for them. This is usually the case for the villains in superhero movies, like The Incredibles’ Syndrome.
As a young Buddy Pine, the boy who would become Syndrome aspired to become a superhero and this goal led him to beg Bob Parr to hire him as a sidekick, “Incredi-boy!”. Sadly, after Bob categorically refused to grant Buddy’s favor, Buddy returned home in disgrace and rejected the righteous path. He became embittered and eventually descended into megalomania.
Could Bob have been less dismissive and taught him a better path? The rest of the article explores that.
At least Derrida, unlike Syndrome, detaches himself from his experience, and asks others to as well, instead of letting his passions lead him awry.
Why it doesn’t seem that tradition works for everyone is another question. One’s sins and one’s relationship to it is certainly one reason, but I suspect there are many others as well including innate handicaps and experienced mistreatments. This is where the perception and maturity of one’s Priest is so important. One size does not fit all.
“Acts 18:24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
Acts 18:25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
Acts 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
Excerpt From: Various Authors & King James I. “The New Testament, The King James Version.” iBooks.
Before reading the three volume, Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses by Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet, I have had a couple of “live” discussions as to why I have been hesitant to start. This can be boiled down to the traditional boiling down of a person’s lack of progress toward theosis being a problem of vice vs. virtue. I am gluttonous, self-loving, lustful, greedy, angry, fearful, sad, despondent, prideful and vain because I choose these vices over virtue. The therapy is asceticism and grace.
My problem is that psychological conditions are not considered. Abuse and neglect in one’s past is not presented. When I have heard them elsewhere presented, the focus immediately shifts to forgiveness and that’s it. I want a more detailed psychological process. I get this mainly from fiction where a character’s emotional and motivational journey is logically laid out. Cause, effect, intervention, realization, choice to get better or not, difficulties in getting over stuff, etc.
I started reading anyway. I like that the first book starts out saying that virtue is natural and vice is unnatural. It then goes on to say our wills choose the unnatural option, thus we are bad people anyway. Yes, I know this is what the Fathers teach. I love that St. Maximus is quoted so much, but it’s mostly his 4 Centuries on Love, which I have had to put down because it’s all about detachment and I already feel alienated.
However, I do like the desert fathers who alienated themselves in order to fight alone against their passions. I do agree with the method. Maybe my problem is because I am western. Even the British stiff upper lip is largely looked down on nowadays. Compassion, tolerance, and non-discrimination against people with weaknesses is the rage (ha ha) currently.
How I would approach this instead is more individualistic where natural and nurtural causes were more validated. These can include a person’s generational, cultural, familial, ancestral, and traumatic, diseased or bio chemical influences. Metropolitan Jonah is the only one I’ve heard speak on caution when administering asceticism to just anybody. He tells the story of a lady who went psychotic and left the Church because too heavy dose of saying the Jesus Prayer set off a lot of buried and unrealized abuse trauma. There are automatic responses to trauma that are not the person’s will. Such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A person cannot help that he wakes up in the middle of the night with panicky thoughts. The sacraments and many of the prayers can help, but healing will take a long time and the person needs support and encouragement, which I’m not sure would be found in this series. Soldiers feel a lot of guilt already, so being told you are a chooser of vice doesn’t seem the right approach to them in my opinion. My favorite ptsd stories involve the use of service dogs who give the soldier the unconditional love, warmth, sensitivity and companionship that will bring tears to your eyes to watch.
This NY Times quiz using a Harvard dialect study says that my use of colloquialisms come from Lubbock, Tx. I am not sure how this came about since the only place I’ve lived is in or near DFW metroplex, with the last half of my life in Weatherford, a little it west of there, but not near as west as Lubbock, which I’ve only drivin through twice and as an adult at that. For the quiz I chose words from my childhood where my memories are from Mesquite and Arlington. My friend, who I met in high school in the largely northern immigrated Arlington, grew up in Beaumont, but got cow-town Ft. Worth for her word origination. My parents both grew up in Louisiana, and their parents were from Mississippi and Arkansas. The only thing I can figure is that west Texas is where my heart lies. Growing up I loved westerns. I wanted a horse so bad, it was all I could think or dream of. Outdoor play was mimicking riding a horse. I suppose I mimicked cowboy language as well.
The best thing was pretending to ride about like the Lone Ranger through all that wilderness with surprises around every rock. The Big Bend area of Texas, and east of there along the Rio Grand, to the west side of the Pecos confluence, is very much like that. Judge Roy Bean, the law in those parts, is the symbol of home spun, but authoritative west Texas wisdom. East Texas is more associated with southern hierarchical formality. I’m more of a maverick and a renegade, despite my lineage.
How does this independent spirit fit in Orthodoxy? I’ll tell you it’s a struggle, and maybe why there is only one OCA mission west of I-35, which happens to be in Alpine, close to Big Bend. There are Greek and Antiochian Churches in the bigger cities however. Here’s an interesting web post from the Greek Church in San Angelo:
“An Eastern Orthodox Church may seem out-of-place in West Texas. The rough and tumble frontier heritage at first glance does not seem to fit very well with the ancient church of the east, Byzantium, and the ecumenical councils. Much about it may seem foreign and alien to Texans at first glance. But, that is only if we look at the surface. In reality, deep down, where things matter most they have more in common than one may realize.
The dry desert is where they both were born and where they grew up. They have passed through episodes of violence, privation and adversity which have become an integral part of their character. They hold fast to the ways of their fathers and, although they embrace new ways of doing things, they know deep down that the old ways are usually the best. They also know that the words we say do not mean nearly as much as what we do and how we live. Fiercely independent, they are also fiercely loyal and understand that they can accomplish more by working together than by working at odds with each other.
The Orthodox faith fits the West Texas character very well.”
I remember one time while I was working as a utilization review nurse for an insurance company where we had to interview patients to determine medical necessity, there was this one older gentleman from the Lubbock area who could not understand my questions, until I slipped very easily into my west Texas inflections. Where you speak in the enthusiastic twangy upper register. How y’all do-in?! This was the same natural slip I made in Boston one time working as a receptionist that caused one of the uppity principals I had transferred a call to to call me back and just say, “‘okey dokey?'”. There is no life in the speech of northerners. Life makes them uncomfortable so you have to squelch it. This is also why they mainly wear black.
*contains spoilers* Unlike Teresa Halbach’s brother, who seems to believe God guides all things, even gruesome murders, I believe God can use all things for his purpose. It seems Calvinists believe that God’s end game is to make sure that justice prevails where the right (chosen) people live happily ever after and the wrong (unchosen) people are punished. But what about his sister? The prosecution played a video tape of what a sweet, loving person she was. I suppose they think God will reward her in heaven, but caused her to be killed to bring punishing justice to the poor white trash inbred Averys.
One internet theory is that she committed suicide and that county officials used her body to frame Steven. That fits with her brother’s affect during the whole trial and weird statements about the grieving process and how messages got erased from her voicemail. If so, then her brother would believe himself an agent of God to punish the unchosen Averys.
I don’t think this was all God’s plan A. Calvinists believe that the fall of man was God’s plan A because evil was part of man and then was a necessary deterrent for the chosen ones. I believe the Orthodox position is that evil is allowed because of man’s free will, so that he has an option. God can use the freely acted evil actions of others to correct a person, though. Even if Steven was falsely accused again, it seems that all of this light shining on their family sins has had somewhat of a cleansing effect that previous jail time didn’t have. To me, that means that there’s someone in the family who desired or deserved saving. Maybe a young Avery girl who would have been victimized.
Light has gotten shed on the county officials who behaved very badly as well. The difference is that they didn’t think they were bad people. The Averys were more resigned to and accepting of their reputation.
I love how this documentary equalizes both sides: the frozen chosen and the unchosen. There is a hero, though, the humble defense attorney who believe everyone deserves to be presumed innocent. He was the most shaky when trying to accuse Lt. James Lenk of tampering with the evidence, however, but you have to have an alternate explanation. He wasn’t wanting Lenk sent to jail, though, just to shed doubt on Avery’s guilt, which was his job. A google search will show that a lot of people think he’s a modern Atticus Finch.
“In the Orthodox Church, a baby, and Orthodox child, is fully immersed, enveloped by the water, and the baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He is not sprinkled. And this symbolism, this practice has a theological significance. Saint Cosmas of Aitolia used to tell his priests to baptize the child by complete immersion in the water, because the tiniest part of his body that is not covered by the water, that is where the devil will try to enter him. This sanctification of the soul and body is not spoken of among the Roman Catholics.”
from The Thunderbolt of Ever-Living Fire
Though it is heaven on earth, the Church is also hell on earth. Or at least Purgatory. Equal is the bliss and the torment. Is it condescending to say a person may not be ready for the torment? The torment of alienation from your Christian group of origin? alienation from your anti-or other exclusive sacramental family? of not having your sins once and for all erased without prejudice or seeing them and dealing with them individually with a Father Confessor? Unless it’s a sin that is also against the law. of God’s representative not being yet deified yet at the same time guiding you directly or indirectly to repentance even though you may not see it or like the methods? Of being a tiny minority largely unheard of religion while everyone else confidently thinks they’re it? Of feeling that some in your own Church are too confident they’re it? While wondering if I don’t feel confident enough? I probably feel too sorry for myself so therefore don’t want others to go through the bad part.
The bliss is feeling connected to the departed Saints and loved ones even though Protestants accuse us of necromancy. Of actually seeing the face of Christ and the Saints while Protestants believe it to be idolatry. Of having a heavenly Mother as well as a Father even though Protestants believe her to be a pagan goddess. Of having a physical hand bless you and connect you to grace in the Sacraments. Of feeling the presence of God in the lonesome desert.
What if Orthodoxy is the fullness of the truth, but not yet necessary for salvation? I say not yet because Chrismation, which makes up for all the gaps, can occur after death? If there is no legalistic reason to become Orthodox on earth, then why do it? Because one recognizes and loves the fullness of the truth, mainly. But there are other considerations. Family bonds and the conviction that non-Orthodox relatives and friends are healthy Christians. Many even more healthy than Orthodox ones. A feeling of palpable peace when Pope Francis spoke in Congress. The sense that even some non-Christians seem in a heavenly sphere. These are all psychic forces, so I will not dogmatize this belief. And I do recognize a healthiness in the fear factor that you better be obedient to who the Church says God is or else. But I believe the wrath stuff is existential and voluntary in heaven. On earth, I don’t think he holds people as accountable because of all the delusion and possible unreadiness of the Church to handle people. Some may even be better off where they are.
Martin Luther has been on my mind since I saw a documentary on him a few weeks ago. Some scholars may not agree with the portrayal, but the analysis was basically that he was the first freedom fighter. I am ambivalent, as usual, about this. Hierarchicalism can seem like the minds of the few powerful ones can overly dominate the masses. Do not we educate our children to think for themselves? Do we trace this back to Martin Luther? Did domination exist in the first millennium pre-schism? And if not, did it spread to the east despite their differences? I like the idea of people coming to the Church of their own free will without psychological or physical coercion. I like the model of the Church as hospital and the Sacraments as medicine. I also recognize that we in our immaturity and waywardness need some fear of God to keep us in line. But there is a difference between guidance and domination and exploitation, and that seems to me what uprisings tend to be about. Sadly, opposite extremes usually flow from them with anarchy, secularism, and chaotic individualism replacing order and unity. I think we can have both worlds that would incorporate voluntary, informed unified worship.