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Closer to God

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment

“History, as a collection of past events, remains largely closed in a box”. So says Fr. Stephen in his classic blogpost titled Treasure in a Box:

“The further removed from us in time, the more mysterious the contents. Within this metaphor we cannot say that we bear witness to the contents of the box – only that we have faith in a written description of its contents. Little wonder that those who do not share that faith have less and less comfort in the authority of that witness or its reliability as a guide for modern life.

In such a scenario, Christianity becomes an argument (my italics) about a book within an argument about books.”

This explains why rational empiricism has been so successful in redefining the way modern man relates to ancient truths. In the metaphor of Abraham Heschel’s The Sabbath: Its meaning for the Modern Man, it is the window looking in on the great cathedral that is contemporary Christianity –a “religion of space” as Heschel calls it, that sits within an eternity of Sabbaths.

Fr. Stephen’s ground breaking blogpost is also available as a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, here.

Categories: Religion

Three times amen

September 18, 2010 Leave a comment

This post is an edited version of a comment I posted on sacrilege in the Eastern Church — history it seems is replete with similar instances across all traditions and eras.

In the Jewish tradition, the celebrated 15th century commentator Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro recounts how Apostmos the wicked burnt the Hebrew Tanakh in the Second Temple grounds. The burnt scroll was believed to have been the work of Ezra, who along with Moses, Enoch and David holds the honorific title of “scribe” in the Jewish tradition. This sacrilegious act had serious implications — all other scrolls in the Temple were copied from the Ezra scroll — clearly this was an attempt to uproot Jewish faith and tradition.

Many high profile instances of spiritual wickedness are recorded in the Bible — King Manasseh rebuilt the high places of idol worship in the First Temple that his father Hezekiah had destroyed (cf. 2 Kings 21:3). Later, the king returned to the Lord but by the first century CE, Judaism had new enemies, as the Jewish historian Josephus writes:

“But on the fourth day of the feast (Passover), a certain soldier let down his breeches, and exposed his privy members to the multitude, which put those that saw him into a furious rage, and made them cry out that this impious action was not done to approach them, but God himself [….] So instead of a festival, they had at last a mournful day of it; and they all of them forgot their prayers and sacrifices, and betook themselves to lamentation and weeping; so great an affliction did the impudent obscenity of a single soldier bring upon them.

(Antiquities of the Jews, Book 10, Chapter 5).

Our relationship with God can be something of a dilemma, as Rabbi Friedman recounts in his cold soup narrative. The Lord is with His people  one moment, but seems very far away the next. The would be history makers and power brokers are always locked in some struggle waged against something or the other but the Lord — blessed be He — comes on a day entirely of His own choosing.

Categories: Religion

Contemporary miracles

September 14, 2010 2 comments

And God said...

John Sanidopoulos’s translation of Contemporary miracles (1953) really caught my eye, particularly after having read Fr. Stephen’s blognote on that ancient Syriac belief that the Shekinah glory now rests in the Cross (this of course being also a contemporary Jewish belief):

During an adjournment in a recent major court case, the District Attorney Mr. Liberis Papandreou, recounted the following story to me, when he noticed that I had a Cross around my neck. He showed me a Cross that he was wearing around his neck, and told me:

“This Cross saved my life. Without it I would have died in the winter of 1943. This was a period when anyone who fell into the hands of the Germans was hauled off to their torture chamber on Merlin Street and did not leave unless on his way to the graveyard. “At that time I, too, was arrested having been accused by a high ranking official of the Municipality of Piraeus—a lackey of the Germans— and mayor of one of the municipal districts of Piraeus as the General Prosecutor for the Communists. I had arrested both of these two men for misappropriating provisions that were set aside for the starving. My denial of guilt enraged my interrogators.

“After these enormous torturers, the interrogator himself took over. At one point, he lost control of himself and grabbed me by the throat with both of his hands, and began to strangle me. I realized that I would die of suffocation. I mustered whatever reserves I had and freed myself from his hands. I immediately tore open my shirt, exposing my chest. I wanted to breathe. I had no idea what I had done.“At that very moment, however, I perceived that my tormentor had grown pale. Later he turned white—whiter than the wall of the room, which was as white as snow. He was trying to lift up his hands, but could not succeed in doing so. “He then started to weep…. Yes, he wept in terror, and like a small child! He then came up to me, bowed to my chest and…kissed this very Cross! I confess that I could not believe what I saw with my own eyes.

“Shortly after this, he called out and he was brought a glass of water. With it he washed my wounds himself, with his hands, which he could now move. He then sat me on a chair, so that I could recover, and left, only to return with several of his colleagues in whose presence he related the following: ‘As soon as this man exposed his chest, this tiny Cross shined in my eyes like lightning. The lightning white formed a flaming Nein (“no” in German). I then realized that my hands were paralyzed. I was terrified, as you can understand. Now that I have come to, gentlemen, I can say that God is close to the Faithful.’

“He then addressed me, saying: ‘I would ask you to present me with this Cross, so that it might protect me from unjust judgment. Not from death, since I am not afraid of it. But I am not worthy — I do not believe in God as you do, for if I did…’  — and at that point he stopped speaking.”

From N. Kapitsoglou, Contemporary miracles. Arc, No. 21 / September 1953, p. 347

Who said miracles don’t happen today?

Glory to God and amen.

Categories: Religion