Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saint Barbara

Tomorrow (December 17th, Old Calendar) will be the feast day of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of the Russian Orthodox parish I attend. Until this weekend, I had only read about holy relics and seen pictures. The relics of Saint Barbara residing at this parish were brought out for veneration on this special occasion. (Click on the image to the right to read more about Saint Barbara.)
Troparion - Tone 8

Let us honor the holy martyr Barbara,
for as a bird she escaped the snares of the enemy,
and destroyed them through the help and defense of the Cross.

Kontakion - Tone 4

Singing the praises of the Trinity,
you followed God by enduring suffering;
you renounced the multitude of idols,
O holy martyr Barbara.
In your struggles, you were not frightened by the threats of your torturers, but cried out in a loud voice:
"I worship the Trinity in one God-head."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Readings: Week of Dec 9

I've begun reading: Two Paths: Papal Monarchy — Collegial Traditions, by Michael Whelton. A snippet from the book can be found here.

A short Second Terrace post on Revival (in the extract below, the author comments on what Revival has come to mean):
Revival means the absence of historic order and hierarchy. It means the absence of old-fashioned fanciness (e.g., icons, gold chalices, lampada, incense, bells); although new-fashioned fanciness would be okay, because one must have their transparent plexiglass lecterns, ferns, and Amway auditoriums with horns, drums and gurgling fountains.

Revival means not just absence: it means the presence of a quasi-informality, an adoption of a practiced boisterousness, a tragic hybridization of modern idioms (e.g., self-help and temperance movements, business and townhall models) with expositions of isolated scriptures.

It also means the adoption of ecstasy or catharsis as the gold standard. "I was blessed at Church." "The anointing is here." "The Spirit was really there last night." "Revival broke out."

Another interesting, Second Terrace, fourfold blog post on: Power/Revolution, Nature/Time, Prayer/Particularity, and Heroes/Beast. Below, the author comments on prayer:
It is always better to opt for God as a Divine Neighbor than a philosophical construct. Any flower or tree, mountain or sea, if properly looked at, will keep one from knowing about God rather than knowing Him. One cannot denature the Apostolic Vision into propositions. One cannot subject theology to philosophical categorization, simply because theology is not an intellectual object: as it is the empirical experience of God's Uncreated Energies, it is above all academic captures and caricatures.

Perhaps in the West it is permitted to define theology as "a word about God," but not in the East. Theology is the experience of Triune energies, the apostolic vision of the Uncreated Light: any intellectualized confinement of "theology" -- especially in a dialectic manner -- is a diminution of the term. The intellectual prejudice against experience is the reason why St. Paul's rhetoric at Mars Hill was a mixed success. St. Dionysios heard and received the Word -- not because he was an intellectual, but because he was willing to be called a fool for a bright enough light.

Bajis, Jordan - Common Ground:
Provides clear, stimulating answers to the challenging questions that American Christians typically put to Orthodox. But the book goes farther than this. Common Ground begins by showing how Christianity is inherently Eastern, and from there, gently challenges the Protestant and Roman Catholic reader to re-evalute his or her own views of Christianity against the Orthodox perspective. Common Ground is perfect for the Western Christian interested in Ancient Faith, the sincere student of Orthodoxy, and the mission minded Eastern Christian who desires to communicate his faith in a sensitive but compelling manner. The book is a product of three years extensive research and is thoroughly documented. Common Ground definitely helps fill the need for Orthodox literature which can address the concerns of the American Christian. There is no book like it.
I've been reading this book bit-by-bit for quite sometime now. It's a good introduction to some of the more Protestant-contentious aspects of Orthodoxy. Of course, those looking for a detailed treatment of the various topics should consult the resources listed in the well furnished bibliography. This book is worthwhile simply for the copious footnotes at the end of each chapter.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Readings: Week of Dec 2

As a change from sporadic posting, I've decided to create weekly posts which accumulate the noteworthy reading. I will be adding the references in descending order by date (i.e.: the most recent at the top).

Hieromonk Damascene on Resentment and Forgiveness:
Rather than resenting those who wrong us, we are to love them, and we express this love by blessing them and praying for them. We do this because we are commanded to do so by Christ. He has commanded this for our own sake, for our own salvation, because He loves us; and we do it for His sake, because we love Him. Our fallen nature rebels against this: "What? Bless and pray for that person who wronged me?" But for Christ's sake, we go against our fallen nature, and force ourselves to pray. We ask God to bless and have mercy on the person who hurt us, we wish good things for him, we wish his salvation, just as our Lord wishes his salvation. In this way we begin to become like God Himself, Who, according to the words of Christ, is kind to the unthankful and the evil (Luke 6:35). In going against our fallen nature, we return to our original nature—the image of God in us—and we grow in the likeness of God.

The Ochlophobist has unleashed another barrage of incisive social commentary here:
God will not be mocked by the consumnivors' perverse mimesis of Christ's trampling down of death by death. And after that last breath, the rich man who has lived to 178 may well find that the ignoring of so many little Lazaruses who twitched and wreathed in their painful unborn deaths, and so many poor Lazaruses who felt the sting of a cut out emptiness in their souls and begged God for help and mercy, does not bode well for him on that day. Better to die young and without the blood of innocents in one's genetic modifications or bio-engineered medicines.

Perry from Energetic Procession has posted some interesting thoughts on the West, Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism here. Here's the standard sample:
The same Platonic metaphysic guides and drives the Reformed thinking in Predestination as well. There isn’t much difference in essence between the late Platonic predestinarianism of a fall which was necessary and voluntary on the part of the soul into the material world for which it is culpable and the Reformed notion of a predestined yet voluntary fall with imputed corporate guilt. The same subordinating relationship can be seen in soteriology in so far is God is active, humans must be passive, if God is good, humans must be depraved. Here the dialectical relationship between God and creation is clear. Salvation is a return to the One along a predestined path.

...This is why the Reformed have to understand union with Christ in moral and legal terms, because these denote an extrinsic relationship because the Reformed adhere to the same fundamental doctrine as Rome-union with God is had through means of a created similitude. This is why Christ must merit righteousness and it can’t be the righteousness whereby God is intrinsically righteous. If it were, the collapse of the opposition between created and creator would imply for them absorption in the simple divine essence. Rome and Protestants both think that grace is created, it is just that one is realist and the other a nominalist, but there is nothing more than a causal contiguity between God (cause) and creation (effect), which makes a farce out of 2 pet 1:4. It is not possible for humanity to perform divine activities.