Πέμπτη 27 Οκτωβρίου 2022

The perfection of God’s gifts reveal His love

 


Orthodox Path

Always think of our God and His love for all of us with great affection. Everything you see in the sky, on the earth, the place of your residence, speak to you so you can see our Lord and His love for all of us.

Every creature of God is a revelation of His love for us. As you admire and enjoy all of his creations, whisper the following inside you:

“This is the work of the hands of my God, and it was created as a favor for me.”

“These heavenly bodies, the sun, the moon, and the stars are creations of my Lord, and were made to shine their light to the whole world and to me.”

“This earth, that I live on and which gives her fruits to me and to my animals, she along with everything in and on her are creatures of my Lord.”

“This water that quenches my thirst and the thirst of my animals is a gift to me from my Lord.” “These animals that work for me were created by my Lord and He placed them under me to serve me.”

“This house, where I live, is a gift of God, and He gave it to me for my rest.”

“The food I eat is a gift from God, and He gives it to me to help and comfort the weaknesses of my body.”

“This clothing that I wear was given to me by my Lord and my God in order to cover my naked body.”

From “Path to Heaven”

Translated by Anna Pipinos

MESİH’TE YAŞAM

 

Oz Ortodoksluk doktrinleri ve emanetleri

ÇAĞDAŞ ORTODOKS DİN ADAMLARI VE ESERLERİ

 

Muhterem Peder Jean ROMANIDES, SYNAXE, N° 21 (s.26-28) ve N° 22 (s.23-26)

 

Peder Jean ROMANIDES

Günümüzde Ortodoksluğun, özellikle de geçmiş kuşaklara hâkim olan liberalizmden önemli ölçüde sıyrılmakta olan gençliğin önündeki kutsal görev, Kilisenin günlük yaşamında Paskalya zaferini yeniden keşfetmektir.  Ortak iman, Havârilere ve Kilise Babalarına bağlılık gerçi litürgiyada ve kilisenin kitaplarında esas olarak değişmemiştir ama pratikte, gerek ruhanîlerin gerekse inanlıların zihninde büyük bir kargaşa hüküm sürmektedir.  Kuşkusuz, bunun sebebi Mesih’in Kilisedeki eserinin mâhiyetini yeterince anlamıyor oluşumuzdur.  Böylece, ortodoks olduğunu söyleyen ve bunu içtenlikle isteyen çok sayıda kişi Kilisenin yaşamını Havârilerin ve Kilise Babalarının görüşleri değil, pek de belirli olmayan kendi kişisel duyguları çerçevesinde anlamaktadır.  Burada eksik kalan, Kilisenin temel yaşamının gerektirdiklerini hakkıyla kavrayıp kabullenemeyişimizdir.  Bu kavrayış eksikliği batı dünyasında Kilisenin zaaflarını ve özellikle skizmanın ve sapkınlığın çeşitleri karşısındaki tutumunda görülen zaafı büyük ölçüde açıklamaktadır.  «Ruh’un kendisi, bizim ruhumuzla birlikte, Tanrı’nın çocukları olduğumuza tanıklık eder» (Roma, 8 : 16) ifadesini anlayamayanlar Gerçeği savunamazlar.  Onlar kendi kendilerine sormalıdırlar : “Sakın ben de Gerçeğin dışında kalmış yani Kilisenin ölü bir üyesi olmayayım !”

1. KİLİSENİN TEMEL YAŞAMI NELER GEREKTİRİR ?

Ölümü genellikle normal bir olay yahut da Tanrı’nın günahkârı cezalandırmasına yönelik hukukî bir karar olarak kabul eden pek çok batı inancının aksine doğu Kilise Babaları geleneği, ölümün özde günaha bağlı olduğu hususunu (1.Korint., 15 : 56) ve Şeytanın yetkisinde (İbranîler, 2 : 14) olduğunu çok ciddiye alır.  Doğulu Kilise Babaları, ölümün failinin Tanrı olduğu, dünyanın mevcut durumunun “normal” olduğu ve insanın, evreni yönettiği farzedilen doğa kanunlarına uymak şartıyla “normal” bir yaşam sürebileceği fikrini reddediyorlardı.

Ortodoks evren anlayışı durağan bir doğal ahlâk yasaları sistemiyle uyuşmaz.  Tersine, dünya yaşayan kişilerin eylem ve mücadele alanıdır.  Yaşayan ve kişisel bir Tanrı tüm yaratılışın kökenindedir.  Tanrı’nın her yerde mevcut olması, yine Onun tarafından ve hattâ Yaratan’ın iradesine karşı gelebilme gücüyle yaratılmış başka iradelerin de var olduğunu dışlamaz.  İşte Şeytan böylece salt var olmakla kalmaz, Tanrı’nın eserlerini yok etmek de isteyebilir.  Bunu da insanı kendi çıktığı yokluğa çekmeye çalışarak yapar.  « Yokluğa dönüş » olan ölüm (Az. Atanasios – De incarnatio Verbi, 4-5) şeytanî gücün yaratılış üstündeki etkisinin de esasını oluşturur (Roma., 8 : 19-22).  Mesih’in etiyle ve kemiğiyle dirilişi gerçeği (Luka, 24 : 39) sadece ölümün “anormal” niteliğinin kanıtını oluşturmakla kalmaz, ölümü gerçek düşman olarak da işaret eder (1.Korint., 15 : 26).  Ama eğer ölüm anormal bir olaysa, evrene sıkı sıkıya bağlı bir “ahlâk yasası” da olamaz.  En azından Kutsal Kitap böyle bir yasa tanımamaktadır (Roma., 8 : 19-22).  Başka türlü, Rab İsa Mesih, boşuna « bizi şimdiki kötü çağdan kurtarmak için günahlarımıza karşılık, kendini feda etti. » (Galatya., 1 : 4).

İnsanın kaderi başta kusursuzdu, Tanrı kusursuz olduğu için bugün de kusursuz olmalıdır (Efes. 5 : 1 ; 4 : 13).  Kusursuzluğun gerçekleşmesi dünyaya ölümün gelmesiyle imkânsız oldu (Roma., 5 : 12), zira « ölümün dikeni günahtır » (1.Korint., 15 : 56).  Ölümün egemenliği altında olduğundan, insana yeterince ilgilenebileceği sadece bedeni kaldı (Roma., 7 : 14-25).  Dolayısiyle, insanın günlük yaşamını kendini koruma içgüdüsü dolduruyor ve onu sık sık kendi çıkarı için başkalarına karşı adâletsizce davranmaya yöneltiyor (1.Selanik., 4 : 4).  Ölüm korkusu altındaki adam (İbranîler., 2 : 15) yaratıcı bir sevgi yaşamı yaşayamaz ve Tanrı’yı örnek alamaz (Efes., 5 : 1).

Ölüm ve korunma içgüdüsü, insanı sevgide, yaşamda ve ilâhî gerçekte birlik olmaktan ayıran günahın kökleridir.  İskenderiyeli Aziz Kirillos’a göre, ölüm, insanın Tanrı’yı ve komşusunu kendi güvenliği ve rahatlığı için kaygıya ve tasaya kapılmadan sevmesini engelleyen düşmanıdır.  İnsan değersiz, anlamsız kalmaktan korktuğu için kendi kendisine olsun, başkalarına olsun, gerçekten de değer taşıdığını kanıtlamayı amaçlar.  Bu durumda, hiç değilse bazı yönleriyle diğerlerine üstün olduğu izlenimini vermek zorunda kalır.  Kendisini övenleri sever, küçümseyenlerden nefret eder.  Küçümsenme, hakarete uğrama, önemsiz görünmekten korkan bir adam için ağır bir darbedir.  Dünyanın “normal bir insan” gözüyle gördüğü kişi hemen her an bir tür kısmî yalanlar ve hayal kırıklıkları dünyasında yaşar.  Kendisine güven veren dostlarından başka sevebileceği yoktur ; manevî ve maddî kendini koruma içgüdüsü ise onu düşmanlarından nefret etmeye yöneltir (Matta, 5 : 46-48 ; Luka, 6 : 32-36).

Ölüm bireyselliğin kaynağıdır ; ölüm insanın “ölümlü bedeninin” kişisel iradesine tümüyle egemen olabilir (Roma., 7 : 18).  Ölüm, insanlığı benmerkezciliğe ve bencilliğe indirgeyerek insanoğlunu gerçek karşısında kör eder.  Gerçeği ise çok kişi görmek istemez zira kabullenmesi güçtür.   İnsanoğlu her zaman işine geleni gerçek olarak kabullenmeye hazırdır.  İnsanlık da kendini feda etmeye amâde bir sevgi uğruna acı çekmektense, güvende olmayı ve mutluluğu arzu eder (Filipi., 1 : 27-29).  Doğal insan, uyulması zor olmayan ahlâk kuralları ve basit öğretisiyle kendisine güvende olduğu hissini verecek ama ondan « Mesih’le birlikte ölüp dünyanın temel ilkelerinden » kurtulmak üzere kendi benliğini reddetmesini istemeyecek bir din arar (Kolose., 2 : 20).  Havârilerin, Kilise Babalarının bize miras bıraktıkları iman “sofuluk duyguları” yahut “kendini güvencede hissetme” içermez.  Aksine, yazılarının her sayfasında ölüme ve çürümeye karşı zafer çığlıkları buluruz : « Ey ölüm, zaferin nerede ?  Ey ölüm, dikenin nerede ? ... Tanrı’ya şükürler olsun !  Rabbimiz İsa Mesih’in aracılığıyla bizi zafere ulaştıran O’dur. » (1.Korint., 15 : 55-57).  Mesih’in İblis’e karşı zaferi, insanı Tanrı’dan ve komşusundan ayıran ölümün gücünü yok etmiştir (Efes., 2 : 13-22).  Ölüme ve çürümeye karşı bu zafer Mesih’in bedeninde (Efes., 2 : 15) ve daha önce ölmüş olan doğrular arasında (1.Petrus, 3 : 19) gerçekleşmiştir.    « Mesih ölüler arasından dirildi, ölümle ölümü ezip mezardakilere hayat bağιşladι.» (Paskalya İlâhîsi).  Tanrı’nın Krallığı, mezarın ötesinde olsun, bu tarafında olsun, şimdiden kurulmuş bulunmaktadır (Efes., 2 : 19).  Ölüler diyarının kapıları Mesih’in bedenine galebe çalamaz (Matta, 16 : 18).  Ölümün gücü Yaşamın Krallığını işgal edemez.  İblis ve onun krallığı, Mesih’in Bedeninde güvencede olan kesin yenilgiye her gün biraz daha yaklaşmaktadır (1.Korint., 15 : 26). 

2. ÇARMIH’IN ZAFERİNE ÂYİNSEL PAYDAŞLIK

Çarmıh’ιn zaferine paydaş olma sadece gelecek için bir ümit değil, daha bugün de var olan bir gerçekliktir (Efes., 2 : 13-22).  Vaftiz olmuş (Roma., 6 : 3, 4) ve Mesih’in Bedenine aşılanmış olanlara bir lûtuftur (Yuhanna, 15 : 1-8).  Yine de ne kurtuluş ve ne de Mesih’in yaşamına sürekli katılım için sihirli bir güvence vardır (Roma., 9 : 19, 20). 

Mesih, Kendisine inananları Bedeninde birleştirerek ayrılığın gücünü ortadan kaldırmak üzere geldi.  Kilisenin dış alâmeti sevgide birleşmektir (Yuhanna, 17 : 21) ; bu birliğim merkezi ve kaynağı ise Efkaristiya’dır : « Ekmek tek biz ise çok sayıda olduğumuza göre, aynı Ekmeği paylaşmak için tek bir beden olalım » (1.Korint., 6 : 19, 20).  Vaftiz ve Teyit gizemleri bizi Mesih’in Bedenine aşılar, Efkaristiya ise Mesih’te yaşatır ve Kutsal Ruh’un bedenlerimizde yer almasıyla bizleri birbirimize bağlar (1.Korint., 6 : 19, 20).

İman kurtuluş için yeterli değildir.  Zaten “imanlı” olan katekümenlerin vaftiz öncesinde, Ruh’un birliğinde dirilmek yani yerel topluluğun diğer üyeleriyle Mesih’te ve sevginin ortak yaşamında birleşmek üzere, günaha ve ölüme ölerek dünyanın “normal yaşam” olarak kabul ettiği her şeyi sıyırıp atması gerekirdi.  Ortodoksluk en büyük değeri insanlık için hissî bir sevgiye verir.  Mesih’te yaşayabilmek için somut insanlarla bir olmalıyız.  Mesih sevgisine götüren tek yol, diğer hristiyanların temsil ettiği gerçekliği sevmektir.  « Size doğrusunu söyleyeyim, bu en basit kardeşlerimden biri için yaptığınızı, benim için yapmış oldunuz » (Matta, 25 : 40).

Mesih’in Bedenindeki sevgi, insanî dâvaların yahut ideolojilerin hizmetinde bir takım belirsiz soyutlamalar değildir.  Mesih örneğine göre sevgi, bütün bulanık fikirlerden sıyrılarak toplu yaşamın tüm güçlüklerine göğüs germek, bizatihî gerçekten var olan kardeşlerin bedenlerinde Mesih sevgisini bulmaya çalışmak ve dünya için çarmıha gerilmek demektir.  Sevgiden ve iyilikten söz etmek kolaydır ama farklı kökenlerden insanlarla içten ve yapmacıksız ilişkiler kurmak hayli zordur.  Oysa Mesih’in ölümü ve Dirilişi tam da şunu göstermektedir : öylesine bir kutsallar topluluğu ki kendilerini düşünmezler, kendi kişisel kanaatlerini de dikkate almazlar ancak, Mesih’in yaptığı gibi sürekli kendilerini alçaltarak, Mesih’e ve diğer insanlara olan sevgilerini dile getirirler.  Ölüm yasası altında mümkün olmayan, Yaşam Ruhunun birliğinde mümkün olmuştur.

3. ÇARMIHTAKİ ZAFERİ BUGÜN NASIL YAŞIYORUZ ?

Tarihi boyunca Kilise, üyeleri, sıklıkla da ruhban sınıfı içinde, günah ve çürümüşlükle mücadele etmek zorunda kalmıştır.  Bütün çağlarda da bunun için uygun yöntemleri uygulamayı başarmıştır zira düşmanı teşhis etmeyi bilmiştir.  Kilise, üyelerinin tümü günahsız olduğu için değil, İblisi savunmasız bırakan âyin gizemi sürekli olarak kendisinde var olduğu için doğrudadır.  “Toplantılarınızı (epi to auto=aynι yerde), yoğunlaştırmaya çabalayınız. Çünkü imanınızın ittifakı önünde şeytanın gücü ezilir ve iktidarı çözülür.” (Antakyalı Aziz İgnatios, Efeslilere Mektup, 13).  

http://www.oodegr.com/tourkika/biblia/Ignatios/volume_2.htm

Topluluk üyeleri Efkaristiya için bir araya geldiklerinde ve Mesih’in Bedeni ve Kanıyla hep birlikte paydaş olmak üzere içtenlikle öpüştüklerinde [Kutsal öpüş (Roma., 16 : 16)] İblis yenilgiye uğrar.  Ama, Mesih’in Bedeninin bir üyesi lâyık olmadan komünyon alırsa kendini lânetlemek için yiyor ve içiyor demektir (1.Korint., 11 : 29).  Bir hristiyan her Efkaristiyada Mesih’in Bedenine ve Kanına hiç paydaş olmuyorsa, o ruhen ölmüş demektir (Yuhanna, 6 : 53).  Kilise, çok sayıda hristiyan Efkaristiyaya katıldığı halde az sayıda kişinin komünyon alması şeklindeki uygulamayı katiyetle reddetmiştir.  Âyinde hazır bulunmak, duaya ve komünyona katılmak birbirinden ayrılamaz (7. Havârisel Yasa ; Aziz Yuhanna Hrisostomos, Pavlus’un Efeslilere mektubu hakkında 3. vaaz).  « Kimse yanıltılmasın : her kim mâbedin içinde değilse Tanrı’nın Ekmeğinden mahrum kalmıştır...  Kilise ile birleşmeyen, kibrinin kendisini mahkûm ettiğini böylece ispat etmiş olur » (Antakyalı Aziz İgnatios, Efeslilere, 5).

Kutsal Kitap ve Kilise Babaları geleneği bu konuda aynı fikirdedir : Ancak ölümün gücüne ölmüş, Yaşam Ruhunun yenilenmesinde yaşayanlar Mesih’in Bedeninin yaşayan bir üyesi olabilirler.  Bu sebepledir ki hristiyanlara yapılan zulümler sırasında, saatlerce işkenceler sonucu Mesih’i inkâr etmiş olanlar aforoz edilmiş addolunur.  Bir hristiyan, vaftiz sayesinde Mesih’le birlikte öldüğünde, ondan Mesih’in Adı uğruna her an ölmeye hazır olması bekleniyordu.  « İnsanların önünde beni inkâr edeni, ben de göklerde olan Babamın önünde inkâr edeceğim » (Matta, 10 : 33).  İlk Ekümenik Konsilin 10. Kuralı, zulüm altında Mesih’i inkâr edenlerin atanmasını [kilise görevine] yasaklamakla kalmıyor, atamayı yapan görevli durumu bilmiyor idiyse bile atamayı geçersiz kılıyordu.  Bu tür bir atamada bulunan kişi de kilise görevinden ıskat edilmekteydi.  [Bununla kıyaslandığında] Vaftizde yapılan niyet beyanına rağmen tembellik edip Kiliseye gitmeyenin durumu çok daha vahimdir.  Ruhanîlerimizin gizemleri uygulama tarzımıza günümüzde onaylamakta olması da çok daha kabul edilemez bir durumdur !  Bir hristiyan saatlerce fizikî işkence gördükten sonra Mesih’in inkâr ettiği için aforoz olmaktaysa, haftalarca süreyle kendi kendilerini aforoz edenler mahkûmiyeti çok daha fazla hak etmektedirler.

Şeytanın niteliği ve yöntemleri değişmemiştir.  O da olduğu gibi kalmıştır.  Aziz Pavlus’un onu tanımladığı gibi, « kendisine ışık meleği süsü » verebilir (2.Korint., 11 : 15).  Ölümün dünyadaki gücü aynı kalmıştır. Kurtuluş yolları (vaftizle ölüm, Efkaristiyayla yaşam) da (en azından, âyin kitaplarında) aynı kalmıştır.  Kilisenin kuralları değişmemiştir.  Halâ, Babalar tarafından onaylanmış metinleri okumaktayız.  Bu durumda, günümüzdeki zaaflarımızı nasıl açıklayabiliriz ?  Zaaflarımız hiçbir zaman bugün olduğu kadar göze batar olmamıştı.

Bu sorunun tek bir cevabı olabilir : Kilise üyeleri artık kötülük ile Kutsal Kitabın esprisi içinde mücadele etmiyorlar.  Çok fazla sayıda hristiyan Kiliseyi kendi çıkarı için kullanıyor ve Mesih’in doktrinini kendi duygularına göre yorumluyor.  Günümüzde ortodoks gençliğin esas görevi, karanlıklar prensinin yasalarına ve bu dünyanın ilkelliklerine göre yürümekten vazgeçmek ve Havârilerin ve Babaların gerçeğine dönmek olmalıdır.  Zira Mesih bunun için ölmüştür.  Bunu inkâr etmek, Çarmıhı ve şehitlerin kanını inkâr etmektir.  Babaların doktrinini « esnek olmamakla » itham edecek yerde, modern ortodoks, Yazılardaki Mesih’te yaşam öntahminlerine dönmeye ve Mesih’in doktrinini çarpıtmamaya özen göstermelidir.

Τετάρτη 14 Σεπτεμβρίου 2022

The Tree Heals the Tree

 

Readers of the New Testament are familiar with St. Paul’s description of Christ as the “Second Adam.” It is an example of the frequent Apostolic use of an allegoric reading of the Old Testament (I am using “allegory” in its broadest sense – including typology and other forms). Christ Himself had stated that He was the meaning of the Old Testament (John 5:39). Within the Gospels Christ identifies His own death and resurrection with the Prophet Jonah’s journey in the belly of the fish. He likens His crucifixion to the serpent raised on a staff by which Moses healed the people of Israel. Without the allegorical use of the Old Testament – much of the material in the gospels and the rest of the New Testament would be unintelligible.

Orthodox Christians are very accustomed to this manner of handling Scripture – the hymnography (largely written during the Patristic period) of the Church’s liturgical life is utterly permeated by such a use of allegory. The connections between New Testament and Old – between dogma and the allegory of Scriptural imagery is found in almost every verse offered within a service. Those who are not familiar with the Eastern liturgical life are unaware of this rich Christian heritage and of its deep doctrinal piety and significance.

In the Feast of the Holy Cross, the hymnography at one point makes the statement, “The Tree heals the Tree.” It is one of the marvelous commentaries on the life of grace and its relationship to the human predicament. It refers to the relationship between the Cross of Christ and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The latter was the source of the fruit that Adam and Eve consumed that was the source of their fall from grace. The “Tree that heals” is none other than the Cross of Christ.

I am struck particularly by this treatment of Biblical imagery. The meditation does not say that the Cross destroys the tree whose fruit, along with our disobedience, brought the human tragedy. The Tree heals the Tree. In the same manner, the Kingdom of God does not destroy creation – it makes it whole.

There is a tendency within our lives to view failure and disasters (whether self-inflicted or otherwise) as deep tragedies that derail our lives and the world around us. Our heart becomes confused when the thought of “if only” takes up residence. But the Tree heals the Tree. In God, nothing is wasted.

It is the spiritual habit of the Church’s liturgical life to see the story of Christ in everything. Every story involving wood or a tree seems to find its way into the hymnography of the Cross. The same is true for many other images. I believe this way of reading Scripture is also a key to the Christian life. Our hearts are such that they generally do not see the Kingdom of God – we see only the tree and our disobedience. But Christ Himself became sin that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). He took our life upon Himself that He might bestow His own life upon us. Thus Christ has entered all things that He might make all things new. Nothing is wasted. 

September 14, The Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

 

Τετάρτη 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2022

The Whole Adam

Fr. Stephen Freeman
Ancient faith / Glory 2 God for all things

Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries

Mt. Athos, in popular treatments, is often described as a “male enclave,” a place where no woman has set foot in a thousand years (this is not actually true). The exclusion of women from the Holy Mountain is deeply offensive to some (cf. European Union) and is imagined as a bastion of machismo in a cassock. It is therefore strange to discover, when you visit the Holy Mountain, that the central figure in its life is a woman: the Mother of God. She is described as the “Abbess of the Holy Mountain.” It is her icon, Axion Estin, that has the place of central honor in the course of the year (she is carried from the Protaton Church to visit the surrounding monasteries on Bright Monday). Indeed, I believe the Holy Mountain would be a place of deep distortion were the Theotokos not given such prominence. There is no wholeness for human beings that is not also a wholeness of male and female: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18).

I have seen some recent conversations (and heard presentations at conferences) that ponder the influx of young men into Orthodox Churches in America. Spiritual pundits draw various conclusions about the phenomenon (some even suggesting that credit should be given to podcasters and bloggers!). I give credit to the providence of God that is always at work in all things drawing all things together into one (Eph. 1:10). But, of the things that God means to draw together into one, I take it to be pre-eminent that the union of male and female is chief among them.

One conversation that I’ve heard has asked the question, “What do young men need to learn?” It is, unfortunately, only half the question. We cannot teach men apart from women. If masculinity is disordered, femininity will be distorted as well. The destruction of men and women has been a constant by-product of the sexual revolution of the past century and the present. It only ever asked half a question and offered answers that destroyed the very context of our existence. We are a deeply disordered society – and this at the most fundamental levels.

The sexual revolution was constructed with the dynamics of criticism. What had gone before had flaws, injustice, unaddressed oppressions, and foundations in a variety of false narratives. To point out the flaws and deconstruct the edifice is easy work. To build something better, something true, something whole, is hard work, indeed, and it has received almost no attention. Building a civilization is among the hardest tasks that human beings ever undertake. Destoying them can be the work of an evening.

Karl Stern, in his classic work, The Flight from Woman (1965), spends time discussing the difference between scientific knowledge and poetic knowledge. There are many ways to frame this distinction. “Scientific knowledge” describes knowledge that is “outside” of us: such as objective, verifiable, experimental results. “Poetic knowledge” (by far the harder to describe) refers to the knowledge we have from the “inside.” It is what we know because it is us, or because we have a participation in its life. Scientific knowledge gives us an ability to master and control the world around us. It also gives us a knowledge that is “alien” to us.

…poetic knowledge is acquired by union with and attachment to the object; scientific knowledge is acquired by distance and detachment from the object. (p. 74)

Living in a world of machines can be wonderfully abundant but lonely and isolating. Even when we study other humans, with scientific knowledge we place them in a category that we loathe: that of objects.

Poetic knowledge is a reality seeking for a name. Its difficulty in finding an apropos name is itself indicative of its very nature. We all have it, we cannot live without it, and we have a hard time describing it or defending the conclusions that it presses on our reality.

We want to live in a beautiful world while finding ourselves in a world designed for profit and manageability. We want empathy from the people around us, but discover that having to explain what we mean (much less to actually ask for that quality) defeats the very purpose of our desire. The machines in our world will not try harder simply because we are having a bad day.

I suggest Stern’s book to anyone wanting to explore this distinction further. Fr. Tom Hopko held it in great regard and recommended it.

But all of this brings me back to the problem of male and female in the life of the world and in the life of the Church. Hopko once opined that issues surrounding male and female would be a profound source of heresy in this century – one that would mark our time the way Arianism marked the 4th century. His words were prescient. I believe that the problem is compounded by the fact that we are considering something that is largely rooted in “poetic knowledge.” Though it is certainly the case that there is a fairly straight-forward biological definition of male and female (despite the present confusion maintained by some), stating a biological fact doesn’t even begin to address the mystery.

We are embodied beings and we cannot experience the world in a disembodied form. To describe our bodies from the outside (scientific knowledge) says nothing about what it is like to actually be that embodied person. This becomes yet more complex when the reality of who and what we are extends beyond my body and encompasses the bodies that are around me. For the terms “male” and “female” have no meaning in and of themselves – they are relational terms. Thus it is true that men cannot know what it is to be male without, in some manner, knowing what it is to be male-in-relation-to-female. The same is true of women. In perhaps the most tortured passage in all of St. Paul’s writings he says (profoundly):

… man [is not] independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman is from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. (1 Cor. 11:12)

Poetic knowledge comes in a patient act of listening and reflection. It is often spoken in signs and symbols. In the life of the Church the story of Adam and Eve are profoundly intertwined with the story of salvation itself. Male and female are not just bits of biological necessity – they are sacramental elements in the wonder of theosis.

Modern Christianity has largely followed the lead of the culture. We have listened uncritically to the messaging of what it means to be male and female (largely derived from concepts grounded in consumerist and modern philosophies) while ignoring the poetic knowledge of the tradition. Thus, we have a genderless Jesus saving men and women as though they were genderless drones (which is pretty much what the world wants – “worker bees”). Modern theologies treat the mother of God and the entire drama of Christ’s nativity as nothing more than an “arrival” story, without any consideration for the full nature of what is taking place.

Mary’s conception of Christ is first foretold in Genesis: “And your seed will bruise his head” (Gen. 3:15). The coming of the Messiah, as prophesied in Isaiah, is specifically told in terms that engage human sexuality: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a child” (Is. 7:14). These, and other such references, are not incidental, but integral to our salvation.

By the same token, our own humanity (how is this not obvious?) is the story of generations of conceptions and births. We do not exist as genderless worker bees, but as embodied, engendered human beings, male and female, and the mystery of who we are cannot be spoken without uttering that very same mystery.

It is not accident, nor a product of some historical prejudice, that the priesthood of the Church is borne by men (and only a very few men, at that). Neither is it an accident that the Mother of God holds such a central place in the liturgies and piety of the Church. The poetic reality of our being, particularly our being as justified, sanctified, deified human beings, is drawn forth in the poetic imagery and speech of the Church. It speaks to the heart when the heart can hear it.

What shall we do with young men? What shall we do with young women? What shall we do with the rest of us as well? We must sing the Lord’s song, and sing it well, until the generations of the moment and of the years to come can begin to hear that it is the song of their true lives. It is God’s love song to us all, sung in a human key. It is also the key of the Divine, but only the most silent hearts can hear that.

I have more to say on this, but it will have to wait.

 

Κυριακή 14 Αυγούστου 2022

Seeking wisdom and self-knowledge in Greece // В поисках мудрости и самопознания в Греции // Chercher sagesse et connaissance de soi en Grèce

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Κυριακή 7 Αυγούστου 2022

Christianity, Nationalism and Racism

 

Photo: Bishop Innocentios of Burundi and Rwanda (of Africa) during a pilgrimage by Orthodox African Christians to the mountains of the Caucasus to honour Saint Nina who, during the 4th century had brought Christianity to the land of Georgia (from an Orthodox site in support of Africa: Orthodox Christian Initiative for Africa)

Ελληνικά: Χριστιανισμός, εθνικισμός και ρατσισμός

By Theodore J. Rigniotes, Theologian

Translate A.N.

Ours is an age of panic:  with an economic crisis that increasingly impacts the weakest... with mental stress intensified by the (with or without quotation marks) pandemic... with a serious deficit in the State’s presence in support of the citizen... with various external threats (for example, even from neighbouring lands) and a host of other thorny issues... all test our patience and our endurance by shredding people’s dignity and jeopardizing the sense of security that they should be feeling - not only within their own country, but even as an immigrant in any “free” (whatever that may imply) and well-governed country.

No-one can even be sure that tomorrow it will be possible to switch on the light, have water in our glass and food on our plate... not to mention free healthcare and education, permanent jobs, etc. (these are becoming increasingly forgotten items).  There is also no certainty if people are actually being tracked by technology every minute, or being “sprayed” with unknown materials, or if humans have already been turned into faceless numbers of an electronic hyper-system, which can imminently direct their daily lives upon the decisions made by certain powerful individuals and in disregard if such things were desired or approved.

Of course there are thousands of fellow human beings who have already been deprived of all these basic needs (even potable water and daily nourishment!), which we, the “many”, have for decades taken for granted. But, being increasingly informed by the mass media and the bills that are sent to consumers every month, these important commodities are no longer self-evident.

As in every time of panic, so today, conditions have favoured the emergence of extreme political tendencies that promise the people liberation from their painful shackles. This is the reason one sees Nazist groups and extreme-right parties infiltrating Parliament and their ideas finding followers - even among people who do not vote for them.

Among other things, Christianity is also being turned into an element of political ideology. This can be expected, inasmuch as Christianity also possesses a social message (which is automatically a political message as well), but also because in the past, the Christian faith has often inspired the liberating revolutions – not only by the Greek populace, but also by other peoples of the world.

So, it looks like we are becoming politicized as Christians.  However, one must never forget that Christianity is primarily a spiritual matter.  Regrettably, in the recent past it had been misused as the (governing) dictatorship’s crutch... Likewise, during the Middle Ages it was twisted into a means of terrorizing and oppressing the Western European peoples by the so-called “Roman Catholic Church”, as well as by the kings of Europe. This is why care and awareness are imperative, that Christianity cannot be turned into a political faction, but rather should be inspiring a political stance for the benefit of the people. The viewpoint that Christianity should not be expressed publicly is not only erroneous; it is also suspicious, because the underpinning of Christianity is both revolutionary and liberating.

The political stance inspired by authentic Christianity is characterized by justice, charity towards all people (even criminals), respect towards every person, selflessness, and willingness for self-sacrifice and self-offering.

Most certainly a Christian (whether politicized or not) cannot remain apathetic towards issues such as social injustice, economic impoverishment, the exploitation of workers (even the major Fathers of the Church, such as the Three Hierarchs who had openly expressed a vehement critique against the authorities of their time, had risked their very lives in doing so!), but also towards issues which at first sight do not seem political - such as the humiliation of the human body by transforming it into a sexual object, and the bombardment with messages of violence and frenzy festering especially within the generation of teenagers (but also of children) through “entertainment” mediums that include scenes of murder and torture, stories of horror and cannibalism, monstrous and demonic “heroes”, etc. These items – and many others unfortunately! – have already shown their bitter fruits, both in the lives of young people but also in entire families and in society as a whole.

Reprehensible extremes

Reprehensible extremes incompatible with the Christian faith, which are nevertheless often muddled when ideologically labelled as “Christianity” (causing confusion and aberrations), are ideas such as nationalism, racism, conditional acceptance of violence (against a guilty party for example) - even the acceptance of fascism of varying hues.

Nationalism and racism, under the inclusive term “ethno-phyletism”, have been explicitly condemned by the Orthodox Church in 1872, by decision of the Great Local Synod in Constantinople, on account of the Bulgarian nationalism at the time, which had turned the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria into a weapon of domination of the peoples living in northern Greece’s Turk-occupied Macedonia and Thrace - which had triggered the Macedonian Struggle around 1900, with the participation of many Cretans also. This was of course preceded by the Greek nationalist movement by the Bavarians who ruled Greece in 1833 and had excised the Church of Greece from the Ecumenical Patriarchate - which finally recognized it by making it an Autocephalous (self-governing) Church.

Nowadays similar trends have been observed in certain places (i.e. newly pronounced, pseudo “States”), where an approving stance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate towards groups such as the nationalist charactered “Churches” of the Ukraine and the “Macedonian Church” in Skopje, which, from their non-canonical and marginal (schismatic) status were arbitrarily declared as canonical, legal Churches of those regions, AND autocephalous (=not dependent on any Patriarchate or any other, local Orthodox Church). Only God knows what the long-term consequences of this practice will be: therapeutic, or traumatic?

It would be useful to mention here the condemnation of negro slavery in the USA by the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim II in 1862 (with an article of his in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s magazine “Eastern Star”, republished in America), as well as the move by the Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos of America who had gone to Selma, Alabama and had stood by Martin Luther King for the second black rights demonstration march in March of 1965.

Apart from the above, it should be stressed that Greeks who embrace their cultural tradition should not be nationalists. “Philopatrids” – that is, patriots with a love for their homeland – yes; but not nationalists. 

Nationalism is the fruit of the efforts by Western European peoples to liberate themselves from the feudalism and the oppressive empires that were robbing them of their very lives.  The people of Greece had faced this problem too, during the centuries-long Turkish occupation; but until that time (or even during that time) they had belonged uninterruptedly for entire centuries to a multinational society that preserved individual and particular cultures and Histories, but whose members were united by common moral values ​​and common ideals. This society was the Christian Romaic Empire (or “Romania” as it was called during the last centuries of its history) – whose general description came to prevail as “Byzantium”.

Because of the name “Romania” (from which is also derived the name of the country of Romania), all the descendants of the “Byzantines” are characterized as “Romans”, while the totality of all the peoples who were once “Byzantines” is characterized as “Romanity”. (Note: “Romanity” is also the title of the much-sung rendition of the poem by Yannis Ritsos and the music by Mikis Theodorakis). Its message is Christian, but not nationalist.  “Roman” refers to every Orthodox Christian - not only of the Balkans, but also of Turkey (for example Saint Ahmed the Calligrapher, who was martyred by the Ottoman state for converting to Christianity), also Saint John of Damascus of Syria, Saint Makarios of Egypt, Martyrs of Palestine and of many other peoples. This had also been the aim of the major, exceptionally important Greek idealist, Rigas Feraios.

All Orthodox Christians are one with these - just as they are one with every Orthodox Christian of all peoples, wherever on earth (from Uganda for example to Alaska - and of course even to Russia, Ukraine, etc. – hence our grief being double over the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict), as they are all united by the Common Chalice of Holy Communion, which no-one is allowed to deprive us of - regardless if it is attempted in the name of fear, say, of a certain pandemic or for any other reason...

Although not united by the Common Chalice with other Christian groups and the faithful of other religions, we are however united in the teachings of Jesus Christ about love towards all people – and this is something that should never, ever be forgotten.

Romanity is “ecumenical” – inasmuch as it aspires to embrace all peoples in the world - but at the same time is opposed to the orientation of contemporary Globalization, which primarily aspires to self-interest (=looking out for one’s own interests) and is in the hands of powerful economic and political factors, who are anything but concerned with bringing man closer to God, which is the most important element and the most desirable aim in the life of Christians.

In political terms, Globalization is by nature colonialist. Romanity is its exact opposite.

As for conditional violence (with slogans such as “hang them in the public square!” as a reaction to criminals such as paedophiles, rapists, drug dealers etc. - even politicians), it seems quite clear that such behaviour does not befit people who simultaneously wish to be proper Orthodox Christians. Of course convictions, restraints and imprisonments of criminals are necessary – especially those guilty of heinous crimes!  However such condemnations should not be vindictive while simultaneously claiming to be proper Christians!. They should aspire to protect society and to rehabilitate – that is, to correct (if and where possible) the guilty parties.

It is understandably very difficult – even superhuman! – for one to defeat the natural human tendency towards hatred and revenge. However, a Christian should not be a “natural” person, but a “supernatural” one. We must all be human beings that rise above the earth heavenward to become angels... indeed more than angels – and become “children of God”.  It is the reason that Christ Himself (the only-begotten Son of God) had taught us to recite the Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father...” as if we too are like Christ: as sons and daughters of God.  We should pay careful attention to this detail and at least strive to honour it.

Παρασκευή 5 Αυγούστου 2022

The Mount of Transfiguration and the Bridal Chamber of Christ

 

 

There is a propensity in our modern world to break things down – to analyze. We have gained a certain mastery over many things by analyzing the various components of their structure and manipulating what we find. It has become the default position for modern thought. This power of analysis, however, is weakened by its very success. Frequently the truth of something lies not in the summary of its parts but in the wonder of the whole.

This is certainly the case with the Christian faith. It is not uncommon for theology to be addressed under various headings: Christology, soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, etc. It makes for an impresive array of titles on a seminary faculty listing. The problem, however, is that theology ultimately seeks to describe or state one thing (or it should). That one thing, however, is so large that it cannot be spoken with ease. The fullness of the faith is not revealed in the analysis of various constituent elements, but in the slow (and sometimes sudden) apprehension of the whole.

If I had to use a single word to describe the one thing that is “everything” it would be Pascha (in its fullness). I cannot think of any part of the Christian life or revelation that is not gathered into the fullness of Pascha. It is one of the reasons that the liturgical celebration of Pascha is as utterly overwhelming in its Orthodox expression.

Liturgy has a grammar, a way of speaking and revealing truth. This grammar does things that cannot be done as easily in discursive theological writing. I have written about this previously.

For one, Orthodox liturgical practice has a habit of bringing elements of the Christian story together that are frequently kept apart – particularly in our modern compartmentalized approach to the faith. There are “theological rhythms” within the Orthodox cycle of services. Each of the seven days of the week has a particular assigned theme (Mondays for the Angels, Tuesdays for St. John the Baptist, etc.). Every day on the calendar has one or more (usually many more) saints whose memory is kept on that day. There is also the cycle of feasts that depend on the date of Pascha, and others that are determined according to a fixed date.

These cycles are always meeting each other and bringing their own elements and insights into the service. Thus those who come to worship are never “just doing one thing” but are always presented with “several things.” And, greater than that, everything is brought together as a “whole” and not just a collection of parts. The “one thing” is seen at every service, even if one facet shines brighter than others.

August 6 marks the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ [icon]. The Church remembers His transfigured appearance before the disciples on Mt. Tabor, with Moses and Elijah appearing with Him. The material used in the liturgical celebration of the feast looks at this event from almost every conceivable angle. One of those angles caught me by surprise the first time I encountered it. – it was occasioned by the normal confluence of liturgical structure – but gave me an image that left me speechless in wonder.

It came at Matins on the day before Transfiguration (known as the Forefeast). During Matins each day, there is the reading of “the canon.” This is a hymn that follows a particular poetic structure. It consists of nine odes, each of which takes its inner meditation from one of the nine traditional Biblical canticles of the Old Testament (such as the “Song of Moses” in Exodus 15:1 and following). The sixth ode is always a reflection on the hymn within the book of Jonah (whose three days in the whale is always seen as a “type” of Christ’s three days in the belly of the earth).

This is the verse that struck me:

Making ready for His friends a Bridal Chamber of the glory of that joy which is to come, Christ ascendeth the mountain, leading them up from life below to the life of heaven.

I have generally viewed the Transfiguration in its own “compartment.” I have extended that consideration to include reflection on the Palamite doctrine of the Divine Energies, since St. Gregory Palamas used the image of the Light of the  Transfiguration for much of his theological understanding. But I had never made the leap to Pascha (to which belongs the image of the Bridal Chamber).

I found myself speechless. The idea was too full. The image of the bridal chamber and its affinity with Pascha is rich, in and of itself. The Church looks forward to the “marriage feast of the Lamb,” an image used for the close of the age and the fulfilling of all things. Pascha is that close and that fulfilling even though it also occurs at a particular moment in history in 33 A.D. The death and resurrection of Christ is the marriage of heaven and earth, the union of God and man, the fulfillment of all things. Having revealed to His disciples the “Bridal Chamber” (as far as they could bear to see it), He then begins to speak to them of His coming resurrection and His sufferings in Jerusalem

The Transfiguration is also the Bridal Chamber (and is described in many other ways as well). 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.

Our faith itself should have this quality of fullness about it – something that is greater than our ability to bear. Our compartmentalization of the world and our faith reduce both to bearable levels – but then we fail to live or to believe. Understanding begins with wonder – and wonder requires something beyond our normal limits. The Transfiguration is an invitation to the Bridal Chamber – the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection in the depths of Pascha. Shame on us if we compartmentalize the event in a meditation on the Divine Light. The Light shines in the darkness for a reason, and for a reason the darkness does not comprehend it.

May Christ carry each of us into the Bridal Chamber of the glory of that joy which is to come – and bring us up from the life below to the life of heaven in the wonder of His Pascha!