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Divine Liturgy and the Abolition of Death

August 8, 2011 2 comments

There is no greater reminder of the proper sequencing of things than the Feast of the Transfiguration which appears in the Liturgical calendar as a kind of Pascha before Pascha. In the words of Father Stephen, it is

a glimpse, (out of sequence in a place where sequence has no place), of the fullness of Divinity. Christ appears with Elijah and Moses, the living and the dead, the prophets and the law, and speaks with them concerning His Pascha. And this happens in the context of the Divine Light – a brightness that was beyond the disciples’ ability to bear.

The connectivity of certain aspects of the life of Christ stand out especially well.  To know the resurrected Christ is also to know the crucified Christ. What happened to him before cannot be understood apart from what happens to him after.  The Living One may have died, but He is alive forevermore (1 Rev 18).

The Feast of the Transfiguration falls on the 6th August in the Gregorian calendar, and again on the 19th in the old Julian calendar.

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Categories: Religion

Being and Communion

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment
Categories: Religion

The book people read

July 31, 2011 Leave a comment

In his latest post Apocalypse Now, Father Stephen points to a line that runs from the “linear” Christ of popular (and perhaps) western imagination. Where that line ends is anybody’s guess.  The scriptures record how Jesus’ contemporaries asked questions and were  given answers. What will be the manner of his coming, we may well ask today?

In the Eastern tradition, the  apocalypsis (uncovering) of all things is consequential to Pascha, that is, to Christ’s Resurrection (not to time). Pascha is the cause of all things: visible, tangible, immanent and fully transcendant

[… and] an inherent part of the Orthodox understanding of worship…. The priest doesn’t say, “Blessed is Thy Kingdom which is to come…” He blesses the Kingdom which is, for when we give thanks to God, we stand within…. In the course of the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the priest prays and gives thanks in the past tense for the glorious second coming of Christ.

This absence of bipolarity (even the darkness has been transformed into light) is also the source of Churchly authority (though this does not correspond exactly to canonical boundaries).

Glory to God Who has not completely hidden himself from mankind.

Categories: Religion

Cometh the Bridegroom

July 16, 2011 Leave a comment

A delightful recollection of the coming of the Lord, by Archbishop Job of the OCA

Categories: Religion

The Sacred Forests of Church

March 16, 2011 Leave a comment

France 24 has an interesting news report on the role of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in preserving the biodiversity of the East African country of Ethiopia, “a mostly arid expanse of grassy savannah” whose fertile land has been largely cleared to make way for small holdings.

Interestingly, many of the estimated 35,000 church forests that circle Ethiopia’s Orthodox churches are found in the north of the country, in particular in the area around Lake Tana, where ancient monasteries house the remains of Ethiopian Emperors, and where according to tradition — the Virgin Mary rested on her way back from Egypt.

Lake Tana also supports a viable fishing industry according to the Ethiopian Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, with about 1,500 tonnes of fish landed each year, a figure that is estimated to be only 15% of the sustainable level.

The original report can be found here.

Categories: Africa, Religion

What do you see?

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

If you see a tree on fire, then please read on, for in nature, it is fire that saves the community of trees (to use that metaphor again) from the choking, dead undergrowth. This to my mind, is what Fr. Stephen seems to suggest in his latest blogpost Even if I descend into Hell…. I daresay I can use this metaphor too, borrowed as it is from St. Silouan the Athonite.

I should also like to add, at this juncture, that not everyone is as enlightened as the Holy Fathers are, as to the proper use of metaphor in holy scripture . There have always been those who miss the message, or, worse, change its emaning — as Heinrich Heine suggests in his  famed (but fictional) account, Almansor. I’ve not read the book, but the account draws on history, as much as it is predictive:

Almansor:
We heard that Ximenes the Terrible
in Granada, in the middle of the market-place
— my tongue refuses to say it!—cast the Koran
into the flames of a burning pyre!

 

Hassan:
That was only a prelude; where they burn books
they will, in the end, burn human beings too.

(Almansor, 1821, p. 15)

To be sure, also in the Jewish faith world, Christ has taken his place as Pinchas Lapide recounts faith is as much a matter for the community as the individual:

When I say that for me Jesus the Nazarene is immortal, I mean that in a twofold sense of the word. He is immortal in his visible, perceptible, and far reaching influence – you Christians are the best evidence of this ongoing influence – through a community of salvation that spans five continents. He is however also immortal since according to rabbinical teaching all the just who die for the God of Israel (and without doubt Jesus did) live on with God.

(Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine, 1979, p.60)

Nevertheless, Archimandrite Zacharias of St. John the Baptist monastery in Essex, England, gives an excellent account of the authentic Christian faith experience in his presentation on a book on St. Silouan (very commendable and places Eastern Orthodoxy in a particular position within the family of Christian Churches).

Of course, the essence of knowing God has remained unchanged throughout the ages God has always condescended to reveal Himself to mankind and remains utterly undiminished even by the holy laws that sanctify creation.

I would also point readers (by way of introduction to the subject of monotheism), to Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine, a dialogue by Pinchas Lapide and Jürgen Moltmann, available on Amazon, here.

Categories: Religion

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