Category: Resurrection

Interpersonal relationships in Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky

by Andrea Elizabeth

Orthodox Interventions mentions Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky in its introductions about existentialistic experience. I complained about how the rest of the intros seemed to dismiss western work on interpersonal relationships with the traditional monastic God-focused source of homeostasis. Since they did mention these two authors, I would like to think for a minute about the personal life of Kierkegaard and the characters in Dostoevsky.

There is a funny but naughty characterization of Kierkegaards writings as the Regina Monologues. I do not point this out dismissively as I do think that not having a relationship can actually lead to intensive study about what one is missing instead of taking their supposedly successful experience for granted thinking they have arrived. I came to this observation after listening to a Catholic celibate priest talk surprisingly wisely about marriage. I thought, how does he know? Some might say he was idealist, but I think studying can give one a vision for how things are supposed to be when those closer to it can perhaps not see the forest for the trees, as it were. That said, Kierkegaard seems to have come to a bad end, almost like Edgar Allen Poe’s dying alone in a gutter. I think they needed more personal relating than they got. But would we have such great literature if they had? Suffering yeilds greatness, I suppose.

The world failed Dostoevsky too. His characters’ relationships are soooo tenuous. If you’re looking for a secure, happy ending, you will be disappointed. Shakespeare’s tragedies are different in that external forces are keeping worthy people apart. Dostoevsky’s characters implode on themselves. But Dostoevsky read Shakespeare, and I’ve heard Dickens. I saw somewhere that there is a legend that the two D’s met, but the exchange was brief and uneventful. Was their influence on each other? The Russians even though listening to the west seem to have kept their own identity and distinctions. It’s almost as if their glances to the west are sideways. I also read about how Russian romanticism is different than western, but I can’t remember exactly how – it’s not as faithful to the other. It’s almost inherently tragic in its nature. I’m going to let you down, but love me anyway if you want, or don’t. That sounds too cold, but I think the detachment is right. They are willing to suffer and to cause suffering.

And the world failed Dickens, but he thought he could fix it. His books are persuasive arguments to improve, and I’ve heard he helped. But I don’t think he saw how much more complex the problems would become once a certain kind of suffering – squalor – was corrected. Well maybe he did with Honoria Deadlock and Lady Haversham. I don’t get the impression he thought these two wealthy women’s lives would have necessarily been better if they’d gotten the relationships they wanted. He doesn’t really respect their subsequent ruin nor particularly blame the men or circumstances even if the women do.

Tim Burton I think has the answer in Corpse Bride. He resurrected the phoenix.

What did Christ come to save us from?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Instead of focusing on salvation from God’s wrathful condemnation to hell, Orthodox focus more on being saved from sin and death. Not so much the punitive consequences of sin, but the existential reality of being separated from God. Repentance from sin prepares him room, but then we have to cultivate Christ’s presence to fill the space. Lord Jesus quickly come before something else does!


Color theory

by Andrea Elizabeth

I do not think that the solution to “race relations” is to be color blind, nor to ignore cultures of origin and just say everyone is American and only identified by their first name. There is name politics too, or else immigrating people wouldn’t have changed their last names. A lot of things have improved over the last 50 years, but there is still a lot of sensitivity, at the least.

I just noticed that in my last post I started out giving the two lead men first and last names, then the two women were identified by possible country of descent and hair color. The men’s heritage was evident in their last names, however. The “unblonde” lady’s name doesn’t help, she’s Carla Hall. The blonde lady’s name is Daphne Oz, ooo, that doesn’t help either. There is a fine line between stereotyping and recognizing tendencies. I don’t think that anyone should stick to their evaluations of tendencies and claim to know people without having an open mind about how everyone is different. Color isn’t exactly a universal, but it can be compared to one, and individuals are particulars. Both have meaning and play off of each other. And there is a difference between one who is blonde by nature, and one who is blonde by bottle. And even blondes by bottle vary. Are they trying to get more attention from men, or are they artists seeking expression, or did their hair get mousy and it is less distracting with their skin tones than other colors? I said Daphne was persnickety because the one time in a long time I watch the show, she mentioned how she likes to host Thanksgiving because she gets to pick the foods she likes, and she gets to keep the leftovers she likes. It’s all about what she likes. Now one can like certain colors more than others. One can like certain cultures more than others. These can be associated with each other. But having the going priority in life being what I like and what I don’t like is very selfish. And prejudiced. 

But racial sensitivity isn’t just about likes and even value judgments. There is also inherited relationship. There is history and hurt feelings. And it goes both ways. I feel judged as a white person for devaluing black people. A lot of it has to do with my inherited skin color and natural connotations with my history of deep southern descent, though I think my family was too poor to own slaves, but one set of grandparents did have “help”. 

I don’t know why exactly, but I have always been drawn to black people. I am a first generation Texan and one of my earliest memories is of watching a C.A.R.E commercial and wanting to go to Africa to help. This goal continued through young adulthood when I went to nursing school to go to Africa and feed “little brown babies”, as Ingrid Bergman says in Murder on the Orient Express. Yet, since I feel that they feel that I look down on them, I tend to be self-conscious about it and work harder than I should to be nice to them. It’s probably patronizing.

I have been happy to be friends with a handful of black women over the years in my predominantly white communities. Their color made an impression on me, but then after a while, it isn’t the loudest thing about them. But it continues to be interesting to me. Pardon me for staring. My ancestors are all typical UK, long time ago immigrants, except for my paternal grandfather whose parents both came from Germany a little before he was born. Germany isn’t that interesting to me, but I do like to go to Oktoberfest type restaurants. And Fahrvergnügen is a cool word. But that’s just selfish preference, and maybe some anti-Nazi carry-over prejudice.

I find it sad but fascinating that American black people are about 33% white, but their affiliation is usually black because it is such a dominant color. But substantially they are pretty European. I saw a documentary on it, where the black host discovered he’s partly Irish, and he goes to Ireland to a bar to sit with his peeps. The contrast is so striking between his appearance and his distant cousins’. It’s hard to get over to see sameness. But I look pretty hard for that too. Perhaps it’s the facial hair, and the thinner facial features.

And I wonder about inherited personality tendencies. I heard an American black man say that there are no bungee jumpers in Africa. Nor skydivers. That black people care more about their personal safety. Good for them! People point out western progress, which I am very critical of, compared to the mindset of “tribal” cultures. But why are Asians known for their “advances” in gunpowder and such, but their descendents, the American Indians, whose culture I am also very curious about, not?

In short, contrasting individuals to their communities is very interesting to me, and my fixation on it probably can be too invasive to some people. Please forgive me.

But color does matter. I have capillaries close to my skin and blush very easily. I think there are also psychological reasons. I know this tendency causes a reaction in other people, and that makes it more uncomfortable for me. I don’t expect them to ignore it, but I would like for them to try, not too hard or it gets worse!, to understand it.

Color matters. In the Church green is the color for the Holy Spirit, purple and black for repentance, red stands for resurrection, and gold for glory, which is another reason why people want to be blonde! As in all things, when one becomes Orthodox, they have to exchange their own individual, particular meanings for the Church’s universal ones.

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.

I’m not dead yet

by Andrea Elizabeth

While I’m impressed with the Saint stories of their miraculous healings and the inability of their torturers to kill them the first or second time, I think I’d rather just get it over with. I guess it’s a better witness of the grace in their lives being stronger than evil powers, but in our culture of justice and revenge, it seems an incomplete victory. The heavenly kingdom must be different.

Catching Fire 2, Wednesday before Eastern Holy Week

by Andrea Elizabeth

To page 195. Thoughts.

Why do we like reading about stress? For the boost of adrenaline in safety, I suppose.

Is it realistic to think that Katniss is the center of everything? I just heard on NPR about a North Korean ex-prison camp inmate, Shin Dong-hyuk whose every move was watched and acted upon. This is true enough in those totalitarian regimes (and amongst celebrities). It’s weird how much they care. I wonder what escaping is like and finding no one cares what you do or say anymore. I bet some part of you misses the attention.

Along with the comparison I made yesterday about the President of the Capitol being like some people’s ideas of God, it seems Peeta is the Messiah type person. Most people like N.T. Jesus, it’s the O.T. Father they have a problem with. Yet Jesus says, ‘if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father’. So who is the one who sends bad, pain-inducing things in your unsuspecting way? Lots has been written about that. But the reason I can’t be an atheist or divorce the Father from the Son is along Job’s way of thinking, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” The causes and results of bad things can be worked for good. Fear can be negative or positive. Cooperation with evil seems the result of deception and fear. A lot does seem to depend on location. Yet everyone has a choice for which they are responsible.

Since evil is in the world, Fr. Hopko says that it’s all God has to work with. Sad state of affairs, yes. Who will deliver us from this body of sin and death? Sunday’s a-comin.

Guaranteed happiness

by Andrea Elizabeth

In Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Esther is a young woman who was unloved in her younger life. It is natural that she would crave love as a result. Her character is such that she doesn’t solicit it, however. She focuses more on loving others. When love is expressed, though, this is her reaction, “Well! It was only their love for me, I know very well, and it is a long time ago. I must write it even if I rub it out again, because it gives me so much pleasure. They said there could be no east wind [John Jarndyce’s term for bad feelings] where Somebody was; they said that wherever Dame Durden [their pet name for Esther] went, there was sunshine and summer air.”

What does love mean? That you will always be enough for someone and they will never need anything else? That you will save each other? The way the story plays out indicates that this is not the case. Only the characters who have consistently exhibited strength of character have happy endings. It is not their strength alone that saves them, but it seems a belief in cosmic karma guarantees that they will get the help they need eventually. I have read that Dickens was a universalist. I don’t know how that plays into his pattern of bad characters getting knocked off.

This is somewhat related in my mind to Whitney Houston’s funeral. I was impressed with T.D. Jakes’ sermon about universal resurrection. It is true that all the dead will be raised. But no one talked about Judgment Day. The last sermon, at the end of the 3 hours, given by an Atlanta pastor who was Whitney’s last, I believe, only addressed the prosperity doctrine. I cannot understand what it has to do with her death or the afterlife. I could stretch it into some universalist belief, I suppose, that God only wants everyone eternally happy and well-fed. This is true, but it takes something on our part. How much and when are the universal questions. The Sinner’s Prayer? Another chance after death of intellectual acceptance of Jesus as personal savior with a guaranteed result? Or only upon repentance and constant vigilance in this life, with some trials still to go though after death?

I was so hopeful for T.D. Jakes being on to something that I looked him up yesterday. Oh yes, he’s in nearby Dallas. Oh, he’s into the prosperity doctrine too. Nevermind.

Holy Saturday in Jerusalem

by Andrea Elizabeth

Jared missed the service of the Holy Fire because at 4 am he and hundreds of other people who were in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre awaiting the service were rounded up by Israeli police and held in a makeshift enclosure outside the Jaffa gate until noon Saturday. This was for crowd control as the city was completely packed for both Eastern and Western Easter. By the time he was let out several people had fainted and had to be lifted over people’s heads to get out. They were so packed in that a person could not even lift up their arms. They were let out so late in the day that Jared could not get into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after that. His Catholic friends that he was traveling with were able to get in the Church that morning because some Franciscan monks were able to get in a group of them from a pre announced meeting place. So they got to see the service and the fire and Jared didn’t. He very much enjoyed the Holy Friday service though.

In the videos of the midnight Pascha service which he was able to attend, one can see the Patriarch of Jerusalem proceeding in as well as hear the neighboring Catholic service. Here is an article about the chaotic crowd conditions in Jerusalem this Pascha. It also talks about how “exciting and splendid” and ecumenical having different services next to each other is.

“For Easter Day, the Patriarch should celebrate Mass in front of the tomb at 10 a.m. but the other confessions are running late in cascade and the Mass can only begin at around 10.45. It takes place in the same meditative atmosphere as the day before but the conditions are more difficult, with the Patriarch saying in his sermon : “Some are perhaps disturbed by the overlapping of prayers and songs of the different rites which can be heard all at once. However, experienced with faith, this apparent cacophony can become a symphony that expresses our unity in the faith and in the joyous celebration of the victory of Our Lord over evil and death, the victory of He who, on the third day, rises from this tomb. Yes, we are the Church of the Calvary, the Church of the Empty Tomb and the Church of the glorious Resurrection!”

Before the Patriarch’s blessing, the priests and the Franciscan seminarians and those of the Patriarchate make a solemn procession around the Empty Tomb. The Gospel is proclaimed four times, at the four cardinal points of the Tomb, because the Resurrection is for everyone.”

I realize that Christ’s resurrection is for everyone, but services aren’t supposed to be conducted by individuals. They are conducted by the Church. This is the problem with ecumenism, in saying that God is not limited in who He saves, they go too far in saying it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you worship. Allowing everyone to do their own thing leads to disorder, and I believe limits people who are taught not to respect the fullest expression of faith. When Pascha and Easter aren’t on the same day, at least the Orthodox service isn’t interrupted or drowned out.

Martyrdom: Death and Resurrection

by Andrea Elizabeth

In looking for the source for the teaching that since Christ united Himself to humanity and conquered death, we now die, not because of sin, but because Christ died, I came across Olivier Clement’s article, Martyrdom: Death and Resurrection. It’s more about how Christian martyrdom unites the Saint to Christ’s death and thus the Eucharist, so I’ll keep looking for the more broad teaching which George tells me comes from one of Clement’s books. Meanwhile I recommend the above.

Lest we forget, Christ is Risen!

by Andrea Elizabeth

From our Church newsletter,

Pascha: Victory of Life

Protopresbyter John Meyendorf

The holy feast of Christ’s Resurrection celebrates the central “Good News” of our Orthodox Christian faith

Do we always realize how much of our day-to-day existence is dominated by the power that death still exercises in the world? Each one of us, from the very moment of birth, is menaced with sickness, suffering, sometimes hunger, and so many other anxieties. All these are only preliminaries of what is the inevitable fate of all mankind. And it is the conscious – or unconscious – awareness of each man and each woman that death is forthcoming which leads them to struggle for existence, most frequently against their neighbors. What is the real origin of all the conflicts, all the wars, all the social injustices, all the terrors and repressions which man wages against man, if not the desire of individuals or groups to gain – at the expense of their neighbors – a little more illusory security, a little delay in the inevitable end? The imminence of death generates this fear and this insecurity, while the latter lead to desperate self-defense, which excuses any action against one’s fellow men

This is the situation of sinful and mortal mankind which Christ came to save through His Resurrection from the dead. The Resurrection breaks the vicious circle of death and sin. It brings to man the hope of immortality, and makes his “struggle for existence” unnecessary. It is only in the light of Christ’s Resurrection, which is also a liberation from fear and insecurity, that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount becomes truly meaningful: Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you…Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume…Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat and what you shall drink…Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew, chapters 5 & 6)

These precepts would be empty words only, if we were not “dead and risen” with Christ in our baptism, if the Risen Lord was not with us “always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:29). Our Easter (Paschal) greeting is a cry of victory over death and sin: “Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed!”

(Fr. Meyendorff succeeded Fr. Alexander Schmemann as Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Fr. John was a noted Orthodox Patristics scholar and sought after lecturer. For many years he was also the editor of The Orthodox Church newspaper. The above editorial appeared in the April 1973 issue.)