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Category: Recapitulation

It’s about time

by Andrea Elizabeth

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my much loved Mother-in-law. I didn’t have her death in mind as the reason for my coincidental sabbatical to a new blog, but perhaps it is fitting that the anniversary signals the time to return.

I have noticed with other people that major life decisions can follow the passing of a loved one, even if one is not conscious of the timing. I have wondered if it is a result of stress, but maybe we take more stock in what is truly important when we become more acquainted with death.

Today is also the first Monday of the Nativity Fast for Orthodox Christians. The Scripture reading for today from Colosians 2:

16
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
17
which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
18
Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19
and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations –
21
Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,
22
which all concern things which perish with the using – according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
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These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
1
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Protestant criticism of our Church calendar with its feasts and fasts and veneration of angels. But to reject them totally would be to deny the Scripture, “when you fast” and would tend towards gnostic denial of material things, and thus the Incarnation. So I suppose we read this as a reminder that Christ is the goal of the observances, and not an independent adherence to rules.

A blessed fast to us all.

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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.

Survival of the species

by Andrea Elizabeth

A few discussions of atheism have come into the radar lately, which has got me to thinking. For the survival of the species to be the main motivation for the continuance and development of life, it would have to someone else’s goal, because I think most people are too selfish to be mainly motivated by what’s good for future generations over what feels good now. This flaw was the essence of the fall – I want it for me now, not for others later. True, a mother’s instincts drive her to protect her child over herself – when obvious danger presents itself, wont get into how a mother can also be selfish amidst more subtle dangers – but this instinct isn’t really her idea, generally. Someone must have put it in her, and I don’t know how atheists explain that.

Another related observation is that babies of all species seem surprised to discover their appendages. Whoa, is this hand really mine? I’m noticing that when I do this, it does that. It seems a gift. Not only is the baby uninvolved, but parents don’t choose their baby’s equipment either, so who does? Random chance of atomic attraction (why are atoms attracted to each other anyway?) doesn’t do it for me.

This gets into where does desire come from. If survival of the species is the motivation, and if desire is only to that end, then more efficient desire would be less selfish than people are. Unselfish desire for future generations would be mainly cerebral, but humans are basically less cerebrally motivated, despite our other advances. As an aside, to me a person should develop from being feelings oriented, to being more rational, then hopefully, back to purified, unselfish feelings – the mind in the heart, if you will. Hardly anyone achieves this. Less and less in each generation, according to the Church. It seems that atheists believe that the species is, or was, too stupid to be concerned for future generations so desire for pleasure had to take over to get people to procreate. Actually, I’ve heard some Christians (Protestant if I recall) say that too. God gave us desire to propagate the species. That seems sort of demeaning. The command be fruitful and multiply wasn’t enough for us dummies, so He had to entice and seduce us into it? Same goes for eating. Is food good because otherwise I’d be too stupid to eat it and die before I could have any kids? Surely desire has a higher function than that. The Calvinists say that we are put here to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. They may be onto something (cringe). All our desire should be aimed toward enjoying Him, though that is too selfish a word. Theosis is enjoyment better understood. From OrthodoxWiki,

Theosis (“deification,” “divinization”) is the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamartía (“missing the mark”), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, Théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation. Théōsis assumes that humans from the beginning are made to share in the Life or Nature of the all-Holy Trinity. Therefore, an infant or an adult worshiper is saved from the state of unholiness (hamartía — which is not to be confused with hamártēma “sin”) for participation in the Life (zōé, not simply bíos) of the Trinity — which is everlasting.

This is not to be confused with the heretical (apothéōsis) – “Deification in God’s Essence“, which is imparticipable.

Alternative spellings: Theiosis, Theopoiesis

Orthodox theology

The statement by St. Athanasius of Alexandria, “The Son of God became man, that we might become god”, [the second g is always lowercase since man can never become a God] indicates the concept beautifully. II Peter 1:4 says that we have become ” . . . partakers of divine nature.” Athanasius amplifies the meaning of this verse when he says theosis is “becoming by grace what God is by nature” (De Incarnatione, I). What would otherwise seem absurd, that fallen, sinful man may become holy as God is holy, has been made possible through Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate. Naturally, the crucial Christian assertion, that God is One, sets an absolute limit on the meaning of theosis – it is not possible for any created being to become, ontologically, God or even another god.

Through theoria, the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ, human beings come to know and experience what it means to be fully human (the created image of God); through their communion with Jesus Christ God shares Himself with the human race, in order to conform them to all that God is in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. Theosis also asserts the complete restoration of all people (and of the entire creation), in principle. This is built upon the understanding of the atonement put forward by Irenaeus of Lyons, called “recapitulation.”

For many fathers, theosis goes beyond simply restoring people to their state before the Fall of Adam and Eve, teaching that because Christ united the human and divine natures in his person, it is now possible for someone to experience closer fellowship with God than Adam and Eve initially experienced in the Garden of Eden, and that people can become more like God than Adam and Eve were at that time. Some Orthodox theologians go so far as to say that Jesus would have become incarnate for this reason alone, even if Adam and Eve had never sinned.

All of humanity is fully restored to the full potential of humanity because the Son of God took to Himself a human nature to be born of a woman, and takes to Himself also the sufferings due to sin (yet is not Himself a sinful man, and is God unchanged in His being). In Christ, the two natures of God and human are not two persons but one; thus, a union is effected in Christ, between all of humanity and God. So, the holy God and sinful humanity are reconciled in principle, in the one sinless man, Jesus Christ. (See Jesus’s prayer as recorded in John17.)

This reconciliation is made actual through the struggle (podvig in Russian) to conform to the image of Christ. Without the struggle, the praxis, there is no real faith; faith leads to action, without which it is dead. One must unite will, thought and action to God’s will, His thoughts and His actions. A person must fashion his life to be a mirror, a true likeness of God. More than that, since God and humanity are more than a similarity in Christ but rather a true union, Christians’ lives are more than mere imitation and are rather a union with the life of God Himself: so that, the one who is working out salvation, is united with God working within the penitent both to will and to do that which pleases God. Gregory Palamas affirmed the possibility of humanity’s union with God in His energies, while also affirming that because of God’s transcendence and utter otherness, it is impossible for any person or other creature to know or to be united with God’s essence. Yet through faith we can attain phronema, an understanding of the faith of the Church.

The journey towards theosis includes many forms of praxis. Living in the community of the church and partaking regularly of the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, is taken for granted. Also important is cultivating “prayer of the heart”, and prayer that never ceases, as Paul exhorts the Thessalonians (1 and 2). This unceasing prayer of the heart is a dominant theme in the writings of the Fathers, especially in those collected in the Philokalia.
       See also: Desert Fathers, Hesychasm, Maximus the Confessor, Monasticism

the spiritual and material are the same reality

by Andrea Elizabeth

Ultimately the body and soul are deified together, each in the manner appropriate to it: “God embraces the whole of the soul, together with the body natural to it, and renders them like Him in due proportion.” [Maximus’ Ambigua]

Elsewhere Maximus extends this holistic view of body and soul to the whole of creation. In the Mystagogy he develops a number of symbolic interpretations of the physical structure of a church. On the one hand the church can be likened to a man, with its nave the body, its sanctuary the soul, and its altar the intellect. On the other hand it is like the entire cosmos, the nave representing the sensible world and the sanctuary the intelligible world. The two constitute an integral whole, the nave being the sanctuary in potency and the sanctuary being the nave in act. They are not two parts divided from one another, but two manners in which the single created world exists and can be apprehended.

The whole intelligible world seems mystically imprinted on the whole sensible world in symbolic forms, for those who are capable of seeing this, and conversely the whole sensible world subsists within the whole intelligible world, being rendered simple, spiritually and in accordance with intellect, in its rational principles. The sensible is in the intelligible in rational principles, and the intelligible is in the sensible in types. And their function is one, “a wheel within a wheel,” as says the marvelous seer of extraordinary things, Ezekial, in speaking, I think, of the two worlds.

The two “worlds” are not two worlds at all, but the same reality viewed in two different ways. To perceive them both is not something of which we are immediately capable, however; it requires (as Maximus goes on to say) “the symbolic contemplation of intelligible things by means of the visible.” (Aristotle East and West, p. 202, 203)

Faith and Science (‘Lost’ 3)

by Andrea Elizabeth

At the outset, I believe that this post is probably going to be wishy-washy. That may be best because my contention is that science and faith are usually divided with too opaque a wall between them. Therefore it is meet and right to take them out of their respective closets, and throw them both in the wash and let them agitate together. That metaphor has too much conflict. Let’s instead take them out of their respective cabinets, pour them into the bowl, and knead them together, not only harmoniously, but with the communication of properties (however without confusion, separation, or change – keep forgetting the four nouns of Chalcedon – oh, or division).

One of the main themes of ‘Lost’ is the relationship between faith and science, which was originally presented as either/or in the characters of John Locke and Jack Shepherd. Throughout the series Island Jack developed faith and sideways Locke decided to have surgery. I like this turnaround even though it was Locke’s conviction that the Island alone had healed him. Sideways Locke didn’t have this relationship with the island, but had to learn to “let go” of his past in order to seek medical help. This letting go was an act of faith. It seems that the two different circumstances called for different paths to healing. Island Locke let go of the abusive world he knew, Sideways Locke let go of seeing himself as a victim. Escape vs. detachment. Island Rose faced the same thing as is brought out in the article I linked in my second post about ‘Lost’, which I’ll make a new linkable category for.

The false division between science and faith also characterizes the false division between spirit and matter. It is common sense to realize that we must take care of our bodies with physical interventions such as eating and bathing, so why is going to the doctor seen as giving up on faith? I will say that the great ascetic Saints can live without food and bathing, but this is not to be tried at home. It is also true that miracle working Saints heal people without traditional medicine. However these Saints are rare, though miraculous healings are still heard of.

Because these miracles do occur, one can feel like a failure if they can’t walk on water and if they have physical or emotional problems that aren’t healed by normal Communion at their Church. I’ll have to make a common sense leap again and say that between Church services we still have to rely on things of this world for our survival, and not just that, but abundant life. There is a way to see this through Christ’s Incarnation by which he assumed all of creation in taking a material body. This recapitulation destroys the division between spirit and matter as St. Maximus teaches us. Our communion with matter can be an extension of our communion with Christ. I would still seek healing at Church first, but it may be God’s will to also seek it from a medical doctor.

I wrote in a comment at The Ochlophobist’s a few weeks ago that I am a literal materialist. I do not think it is for me to see (yet) the uncreated light with my spiritual eyes. It seems to be for me to see God’s glory in a candle or in the sunshine or my children’s faces. To hear his voice in birdsong or human singing and instruments. To feel his love through my husband’s touch, the warmth of the sun, and soft, smooth cloth. To smell prayer in incense, flowers and cedar trees. To taste Him in the Eucharist above all, as well as other places’ offerings. And to find spiritual healing in prayer and physical healing in prayer-accompanied medicine, which can be part of the answer.

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.

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)

The Call of the Wild

by Andrea Elizabeth

Father Oliver has provided documents related to the upcoming Episcopal Assembly of the Orthodox Churches in North America. I would like to make a few observations regarding at least the first one, which I have just read.

In “Orthodox Christian Leaders meet at Ecumenical Patriarchate-” from Oct. 2008, I notice that the OCA was not represented. Perhaps this contributed to Metropolitan Jonah’s controversial speech where he pretty much said, the American Church doesn’t need the old world Churches (either). According to appearances, especially since Chambesy 2009, he has backed down from this position. I’m not too worried about the 2008 slight because it reflects the controversial standing of the OCA’s autocephally, which the Metropolitan has also since presented a more nuanced view on, stating the OCA as it was initially drafted, was meant to disappear anyway. This is my understanding at this point. If the Moscow Patriarchate had not been represented, I wouldn’t consider the 2008 meeting pan-Orthodox. Since Metropolitan Jonah has such a close relationship to the Moscow Patriarchate and the Valaam monasteries, I consider the OCA represented somewhat.

This statement captures my attention more than the others which are a little more politically oriented than I am at this point. I feel that the Church and her people need to get themselves right before we tackle the rest of the world. Part of this statement seems a little more to that end.

5. Under such circumstances, the contemporary witness of Orthodoxy for the ever increasing problems of humanity and of the world becomes imperative, not only in order to point out their causes, but also in order to directly confront the tragic consequences that follow. The various nationalistic, ethnic, ideological and religious contrasts continuously nurture dangerous confusion, not only in regard to the unquestionable ontological unity of the human race, but also in regard to man’s relationship to sacred creation. The sacredness of the human person is constrained to partial claims for the “individual”, whereas his relationship toward the rest of sacred creation is subjected to his arbitrary use or abuse of it.
These divisions of the world introduce an unjust inequality in the participation of individuals, or even peoples in the goods of Creation; they deprive billions of people of basic goods and lead to the misery for the human person; they cause mass population migration, kindle nationalistic, religious and social discrimination and conflict, threatening traditional internal societal coherence. These consequences are still more abhorrent because they are inextricably linked with the destruction of the natural environment and the entire ecosystem.

I think the Orthodox Church provides the key balance between the individual, the group, and the environment. The Ecumenical Patriarch seems to tilt a little more towards protecting creation over humanity, at least that what I hear when I read his statements.

Which brings me to Shamu (who recently went from Shamwow to Shamboo), Sigfried and Roy, Timothy Treadwell, and Elsa the lion.

Born Free was the most popular movie when I was born. All my childhood, the theme song sung by Andy Williams was my favorite song. I still like it. What was controversial was the domestication of wild animals. My impressions of the movie looking back were sadness that Elsa had to be separated from her humans (but pride that she learned to make it on her own), whom I believe she loved – that’s another issue, do animals love us?  I wrote elsewhere of my childhood romantic view of animal stories where the human has a special connection with usually a wild animal like The Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague, the colt in The Man from Snowy River, or Buck in Call of the Wild. People who hunt for sport were all the villainous “Man” in Bambi. I believed that the otherwise untamable animal could sense the special person’s specialness, until a horse threw me when I was 12 years old. I landed in the hospital for almost a month with a crushed elbow.

During my childhood, I liked rodeos, not knowing what they do those bulls and bronks to keep them wild show after show after show. It’s been 20 years since I’ve watched one. I also enjoyed zoos back in the day before natural habitats, amazed at the creatures in and of themselves, then learned with the rest of the world that it damages animals to make them live in metal cages. That this is important to avoid. I’ve even watched the Shamu show all misty-eyed at the sweet relationship man can have with killer whales. Oh, and I thought that the ungrateful tiger that bit Roy was wrong, but that Roy probably had a lapse. Until recently I believed that a more professional approach to wild animals, such as Sea World uses, was fine. Just don’t try it at home.

Now I’m rethinking zoos and Sea World. In God’s command to “subdue the world”, perhaps he meant us to tame domestic animals that serve man like horses, cows, goats, chickens, dogs and cats, and then to manage the wild ones like wolves, lions and antelope by keeping their lands hospitable to them. This is complicated given how crowded the world is today. It wasn’t until I read about Orthodox saints that I saw that my romantic view towards relationships with wild animals has some basis. But the requirement for living peaceably with lions is holiness, not selfish romantic attachment which can seem to be based in loneliness and disenfranchisement with relationships. It is only through purification and a right attachment to God that this relationship can happen. But it is not one of dependence and self-fulfillment. Appreciating God’s creation properly comes when one worships the creator first. Then one can be a priest to that creation, which even wild animals need. They shouldn’t be treated cruelly, or out of a selfish desire to possess and dominate, but they should be provided for and protected.

My uninformed theory is that Tilikum either wasn’t treated well when he was captured off the coast of Norway, or that his being a breeder in the Sea World environment made him too aggressive for human dealings. Suddenly those Sea World tanks look way too small. Animals are dangerous, but I think the fault usually lies with the higher human form. Just like there may be wild children, the responsibility to protect that child and the people and property around him lies with the adults.

I intend to write about why I think Orthodox unity in North America is important later.

Solovyev’s idea of the universal

by Andrea Elizabeth

I find much of Vladimir Solovyev’s thought compelling and am not willing to dismiss it on the basis of disagreement with some of his premises, such as Absolute Divine simplicity. This inspirer of Dostoyevsky’s Alyosha possesses a universal outlook that is important. According to the excerpts found on this link of his book, Russia and the Universal Church, Solovyev believed that the western Church is part of a universal organism called the Church. He does not eliminate the distinctions between the east and west, but he believes that the east can learn from the west’s willingness to get their hands dirty.

St. Cassian [symbolizing eastern purists] need not become a different person or cease to care about keeping his clothes spotless. He must simply recognize that his comrade [symbolizing the western chuch] has certain important qualities which he himself lacks, and instead of sulking at this energetic worker he must frankly accept him as his companion and guide on the earthly voyage that still lies before them.

(bold unavoidable in copy and paste) I part with him on his validating the western Church as part of the universal Church, but I think he has a Christological, cosmological point. I believe Dostoyevsky parted with him too on this point or he wouldn’t have written “The Grand Inquisitor“. But there is a tendency among purists to dismiss those who do not live up to certain idealogical standards. These standards are well and good, and fully realized in heaven, but in humility we must accept that others may have a point or two to teach us, and not dismiss them out of hand. Solovyev’s statements about imperfection on earth are well taken, but I think the Orthodox Church on earth has preserved Orthodoxy in word, if not fully in deed. He does seem to disagree with the more isolated forms of monasticism, which seems too dismissive, but I think the criticism can still be valid regarding some isolationist views. It made me think of the cranky hermit monk in Brothers Karamazov. Dostoyevsky redeemed too extreme a caricature in Elder Zosima.

Regarding the universal Church as an organism, perhaps Solovyev uses the wrong term by defining at least Catholics and Orthodox as a single body. I’ll sidestep discussing whether every individual in the eastern Church comprises The Body of Christ. I’m focusing for the moment on the Incarnation, and what Christ joined Himself to in becoming “created”. In a sense Christ recapitulated the whole cosmos when he became and redeemed mankind (if I understand St. Maximus correctly). I’ve read a couple of statements about panentheism lately, but Wikipedia gives a more positive approach to it. God is not divorced from his creation, even those who are not baptized into His body (I may be minimizing the importance of baptism in this post, but that is due to neglect and not intention or personal belief in the unique grace of Holy Baptism). The opposite tendency is to believe in universalism which is not espoused by the Orthodox Church. This type of universalism deals more with salvation, which I’m not talking about. I am not responsible for determining if Catholics or Protestants, or even individual Orthodox, are “saved”. But being open to “others” teaching us how to be more like Christ is what I think Solovyev also espouses in his book. How could others teach of us if they are not connected to Christ in some way? I’ll not try to explain further how that can be so.

Solovyov’s third third

by Andrea Elizabeth

Solovyev’s not a gnostic nor an idealist! In the last section of Transfigurations of Eros he sticks with his Plato narrative and points out that he lost his shining moment when he diverted from love, which

in the sense of an erotic emotion, always has corporality as its proper object. Corporality, however, worthy of love, that is, beautiful and immortal, does not grow up of itself from the ground nor does it fall ready-made from heaven. It is acquired by the effort of a spiritually-physical and a divinely-human kind.

Immediately preceding this St. Maximus-like quote is another,

In this relation the whole man is concerned, and the true principle of his restoration is both spiritual and physical. But since it is impossible for the Divinity to regenerate the body and spirit of man without the co-operation of man himself, it is just as impossible for man to create super-humanity out of himself, for this would be like lifting one’s self up by one’s own hair. It is clear that man can become divine only by the active power of an eternally existing Divinity and not of one coming into being, and that the way of the higher love, perfectly uniting male and female, the spiritual and physical, is necessarily by its very principle a union or interaction of the divine and the human, or a divinely human process.

I love this book. I totally agree with his assessment of Plato’s Republic too (it’s the only work of Plato that I’ve read yet). Solovyev criticizes his sterile idealism, his diversion into politics, his promotion of slavery, and forcing women into the military thus disregarding the distinctions. Amen.