Monday, December 7, 2009

The above endearing photograph is of Rafail Noica and another unknown monastic.

In other news, I've been reading the interesting post: Kalormiros on the Six Days of Creation.

Friday, August 28, 2009

З празником! (Dormition)



Let every mortal born on earth,
carrying his torch, in spirit leap for joy;
and let the order of the angelic powers
celebrate and honor the holy feast of the Mother of God,
and let them cry:
Rejoice! Pure and all-blessed Ever-Virgin.

Ode 9 -- Second Canon


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Christ the Eternal Tao


I have begun reading an interesting book entitled: Christ the Eternal Tao, by Hieromonk Damascene. This book can be found here.

Archimandrite Zacharias on St. Silouan

An interesting video featuring Archimandrite Zacharias speaking on the theology of St Silouan may be found here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

St. Hesychios -- On Sobriety

103 It is necessary to toil over the guard of the things which are honourable. Honourable, of a truth, are the things which guard us from every vice both sensible and intelligible. These things, then, are the guard of the mind (nous) together with the invocation of Jesus Christ; and ever to look into the depth of the heart and everlastingly to keep stillness in the intellect (dianoia), even, if I may put it thus, from thoughts (logismoi) which appear to be good; and to be diligent that [the heart] be found empty of thoughts (logismoi), so that the thieves do not hide. And even if we toil staying beside the heart, yet consolation is near.

108 Just as it is impossible for him who gazes at the sun not to have his face richly shone upon, thus it is not possible for him who ever stoops down and peeps into the air of his heart not to be illumined.

112 The image of the outer and sensible bodily asceticism is the Old Testament. The Holy Gospel, which is the New, is the image of attention, that is to say, of purity of heart. And just as the Old Testament did not perfect [anything], neither did it give the inner man spiritual assurance in the service of God. For the Apostle says: ‘The Law made nothing perfect.’ [Heb. 7, 19.] It only forbade the gross acts of sin. For to cut off thoughts (logismoi) from the heart, which is the command of the Gospel, and wicked remembrances, is greater as regards purity of soul than to prevent one from putting out the eye and tooth of his neighbour [cf. Lev. 24, 17–22; etc.]. Thus also concerning bodily justice and asceticism—fasting, I say, and continence, sleeping on the ground, standing, keeping vigil and the rest, which by nature concern the body and make the part of the body which is subject to feeling to be still from sin in act—these things also being good, as I said regarding the Old Testament. They are a training of our outer man and a sentinel over the passions in act—but not sentinels over acts of sin in the intellect (dianoia), that is to say, they do not prevent them so as to be able to free us, with the help of God, of envy, wrath and the rest.

113 Purity of heart, however, that is to say, the keeping and the guard of the mind (nous), of which the model is the New Testament, if, indeed, the mind (nous) is guarded by us as it should be, uproots and cuts out of the heart all the passions and all the evils, and introduces instead joy, good hopes, contrition, mourning, tears, deep knowledge of ourselves and of our acts of sin, the memory of death, true humility, limitless charity towards God and men, and divine Eros (eros) in the heart.

Fr Theophanes (timiosprodromos.blogspot.com)
103, 108 (commentary)
112, 113 (commentary)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rational Theology

What is the use of reasoning about the nature of grace if one does not experience its action in oneself? What is the use of declaiming about the light of Tabor if one does not dwell in it existentially? Is there any sense in splitting theological hairs over the nature of the Trinity if a man has not within himself the holy strength of the Father, the gentle love of the Son, the uncreated light of the Holy Ghost?

Dogmatic knowledge, understood as spiritual knowledge, is a gift of God, like all forms of real life in God, granted by God, and only possible through His coming. This knowledge has by no means always been expressed in speech or in writing. The soul does not aspire to expound her experience in rational concepts when God's grace descends on her. She needs no logical interpretations then, because she knows with a knowledge that cannot be demonstrated but which equally requires no proof that she lives through God. And were there strength left in her, she would aspire to greater fulness of Divine life, and when the action of God is beyond her strength, she swoons in blessed silence.

It is impossible to clothe spiritual experience in flawless verbal form. The human tongue has no words with which duly to express the life of the spirit -- what is logically incomprehensible and inexpressible must be comprehended existentially. God is made known by faith and living communion, whereas human speech with all its relativity and fluidity opens the way to endless misunderstandings and objections.

We may be sure that none of the Saints would have sought language in which to express their spiritual experiences. They would have dwelt in silence for evermore -- silence, the 'mystery of the world to come' -- had they not been faced with the task of teaching their fellows; had not love roused the hope that someone -- 'if only a single soul', as the Staretz wrote -- might hear the word and, repenting, be saved.
...
Some people take longer than others to assimilate grace. In general, the process is as follows: the initial experience of Divine visitation strikes man to the core and draws his whole being into the inner life of prayer and struggle against the passions. His heart is alive with feeling during this initial stage which abounds in such powerful experiences that the entire mind is drawn to take part in them. The subsequent period -- the loss of grace -- plunges him into great grief and a frenzied search for the cause of his loss, and the way in which it can be remedied. It is only after long years of these alternating spiritual states, after much wrestling with the passions, reading of the Scriptures and the works of the holy Fathers, and discussions with spiritual guides and other ascetics, that man discovers in himself the light of the knowledge of the ways of the spirit, which comes secretly and unobserved. This knowledge, which is called dogmatic consciousness, is the deep-set life of the spirit, having nothing to do with abstract gnosis.
...
The Staretz testified categorically that the Divinity of Jesus Christ is made known in the Holy Spirit. The knowledge of Christ's Divinity thus acquired through spiritual experience enables man to comprehend in Christ the unfused union of two natures and two wills. The uncreated nature of Divine Light and the other dogmas of our faith are likewise made known through inner experience in the Holy Spirit. But here it must be noted that the dogmatic consciousness that comes from experience of grace differs essentially from a dogmatic knowledge which outwardly resembles it but is the product of 'faith in things heard', of academic study or a philosophical conviction in the form of a series of ideal abstract conceptions.

It is one thing to believe in God, and another to know God, as the Staretz said.
...
The rationalist-theologian is concerned with a multitude of problems whose solution he seeks through philosophical speculation. His actual religious experience is not very wide. It proceeds mainly from the rational sphere of his being, not from a lively communion with God. He counts his scientific erudition and intellectual experience as spiritual riches, rating them so highly that all other knowledge takes second place.

For the really spiritual man seeking a lively communion with the living God, the ingenuousness of the rationalist leaps to the eye. He cannot understand how an intelligent man can be content with his own conjectures and abstract interpretations. Scholars, for instance, have wrestled down the centuries trying to relate grace and the freedom of man. They forget, as it were, that there is another route to the solution of these problems -- the way of existential knowledge of the reciprocity of Divine grace and human freedom. This was the road the Staretz took. It is the Church's route in general. The Church is strong and rich, not by her secular erudition but, above all, in her actual possession of the gifts of grace. The Church lives by the Holy Spirit, breathes through Him, and through the very fact of this communion with Him knows how He operates, knows, too, how and within what limits human freedom functions.
St. Silouan the Athonite -- Archimandrite Sophrony pp. 187-190

It is not safe to swim in one's clothes, nor should a slave of passion touch theology.
The Ladder of Divine Ascent -- St. John Climacus

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Христос воскрес! Воистину воскрес!

Hristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Click on the above links to listen to Paschal chanting.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death by death, and bestowing life on those in the graves.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Though You went down into the tomb, You destroyed Hades' power, and You rose the victor, Christ God, saying to the myrrh-bearing women, "Hail!" and granting peace to Your disciples, You who raise up the fallen.

Friday, April 10, 2009

St. Diadochos of Photiki -- Gnostic Chapters (with commentary)

In August of 2008 I was pleased to post some links to a translation of the Gnostic Chapters by St. Diadochos of Photiki undertaken by Orthodox Monk. Orthodox Monk is now graciously providing the same translated material, but with commentary. I will be updating this post as more material becomes available.

Chapters 1-9 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 10-15 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 16-29 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 30-36 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 37-55 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 56-62 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 63-64 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 65-67 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 68-75 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 76-78 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 79-87 (of 100) are here.

Chapters 88-100 (of 100) are here.

Annunciation

Earlier this week we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Here is an excerpt from Mattins:
Today is revealed the mystery that is from all eternity. The Son of God becomes the Son of man, that, sharing in what is worse, He may make me share in what is better. In times of old Adam was once deceived, he sought to become God, but received not his desire. Now God becomes man, that He may make Adam God. Let creation rejoice, let nature exult: for the Archangel stands in fear before the Virgin and, saying to her 'Hail', he brings the joyful greeting whereby our sorrow is assuaged. O Thou who in Thy merciful compassion wast made man, our God, glory to Thee.
The Festal Menaion, p. 460

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Great Lent -- Week 1

From Monday through Thursday in the first week of Great Lent, the Great Canon of Repentance by St. Andrew of Crete is read during Great Compline. Here are some excerpts:

Monday -- Ode 2 Troparia:
Having formed by my pleasure-loving desires the deformity of my passions, I have marred the beauty of my mind. A storm of passions besets me, O compassionate Lord. But stretch out Thy hand to me too, as to Peter. (Matthew 14:31)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

I have stained the coat of my flesh, and soiled what is in Thy image and likeness, O Saviour. I have darkened the beauty of my soul with passionate pleasures, and my whole mind I have reduced wholly to mud.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

I have torn my first garment which the Creator wove for me in the beginning, and therefore I am lying naked. (Genesis 3:21)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

Tuesday -- Ode 4 Troparia:
Watch, my soul! Be courageous like the great Patriarchs, that you may acquire activity and awareness, and be a mind that sees God, and may reach in contemplation the innermost darkness, and be a great trader. (Genesis 32:28; Luke 19:13-15)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

The great Patriarch, by begetting the twelve Patriarchs, mystically set up for you, my soul, a ladder of active ascent, having wisely offered his children as rungs, and his steps as ascents.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

You have emulated the hated Esau, my soul, and have given up your birthright of pristine beauty to your supplanter, and you have lost your father's blessing, and have been tripped up twice in action and knowledge. Therefore, O wretch, repent now. (Genesis 25:31; 27:37)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

Wednesday -- Ode 6 Troparia:
Rise and make war against the passions of the flesh, as Joshua did against Amalek, and ever conquer the Gibeonites - illusive thoughts. (Exodus 17:8; Josh. 8:21)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

Pass through the flowing nature of time, like the Ark of old, and take possession of the Land of Promise, my soul: It is God's command. (Josh. 3:17; Deuteronomy 1:8)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

As Thou savedst Peter when he cried, "Save me!", forestall and deliver me from the beast, O Saviour; stretch out Thy hand and raise me from the depths of sin. (Matthew 14:25-31)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

Thursday -- Ode 9 Troparia:
Have compassion and save me, have mercy on me, O Son of David, Who didst heal with a word the demoniac. And let Thy voice of tender compassion speak to me as to the robber, 'Truly I tell you, you will be with Me in Paradise when I rise in My glory.' (Luke 9:38-42; 23:43)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

A robber accused Thee, and a robber confessed Thee to be God, for both were hanging on a cross with Thee. But open even to me, O most compassionate Saviour, the door of Thy glorious Kingdom as to Thy faithful robber who acknowledged Thee to be God. (Luke 23:32-42)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

Creation was in anguish, seeing Thee crucified; mountains and rocks were split with fear, the earth quaked, hell was emptied, and the light grew dark in the daytime, beholding Thee, Jesus, nailed to the Cross in Thy flesh. (Matthew 27:51-53; Luke 23:44-45)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.
Troparia courtesy of monachos.net.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Forgiveness Sunday

Today is Forgiveness Sunday.

Seasonal Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone

O Master, Prudence, Guide of Wisdom, Instruction to the foolish and Defender of the poor, strengthen my heart and grant it discernment. Give me words, Word of the Father, for behold, I shall not keep my lips from crying out to You, "O Merciful One, have mercy on me who has fallen."



Alexander Schmemann on Forgiveness Sunday:
What is the meaning of this rite? Why is it that the Church wants us to begin Lenten season with forgiveness and reconciliation? These questions are in order because for too many people Lent means primarily, and almost exclusively, a change of diet, the compliance with ecclesiastical regulations concerning fasting. They understand fasting as an end in itself, as a "good deed" required by God and carrying in itself its merit and its reward. But, the Church spares no effort in revealing to us that fasting is but a means, one among many, towards a higher goal: the spiritual renewal of man, his return to God, true repentance and, therefore, true reconciliation. The Church spares no effort in warning us against a hypocritical and pharisaic fasting, against the reduction of religion to mere external obligations. As a Lenten hymn says:

In vain do you rejoice in no eating, O soul!

For you abstain from food,

But from passions you are not purified.

If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Publican & Pharisee

Today is the first Sunday of the Triodion; the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee.

Seasonal Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Let us flee from the boasting of the Pharisee and learn through our own sighs of sorrow the humility of the Publican. Let us cry out to the Savior, "Have mercy on us, for through You alone are we reconciled."
Eothinon
Since the chief weapon for virtue is humility, and the greatest hindrance to it is pride, the divine Fathers have set these three weeks before the Forty-day Fast as a preparation for the spiritual struggles of virtue. This present week they have called Harbinger, since it declares that the Fast is approaching; and they set humility as the foundation for all our spiritual labors by appointing that the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee be read today, even before the Fast begins, to teach, through the vaunting of the Pharisee, that the foul smoke of self-esteem and the stench of boasting drives away the grace of the Spirit, strips man of all his virtue, and casts him into the pits of Hades; and, through the repentance and contrite prayer of the Publican, that humility confers upon the sinner forgiveness of all his wicked deeds and raises him up to the greatest heights.






Here is an exerpt from St. Silouan the Athonite (thanks to Father Stephen's blog):
Enlightened by baptism, people believe in God. But there are some who even know Him. To believe in God is good but it is more blessed to know God. Nevertheless, those who believe are blessed, too, as the Lord said to Thomas, one of the twelve: ‘Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’

If we were humble the Lord in His love would show us all things, would reveal to us all mysteries, but our trouble is that we are not humble. We puff ourselves up and boast over trifles, and so make both ourselves and others unhappy.

The Lord, though He is merciful, oppresses the soul with hunger on account of her pride, and withholds grace from her until she has learned humility. I was perishing from my sins, and would long ago have been in hell, had not the Lord and His most holy and blessed Mother taken pity on me. O, her quiet, gentle voice! A voice from heaven the like of which we shall never hear on earth! And so now in tears I write of the Lord of Mercy, as He were my own Father. It is sweet for the soul to be with the Lord: Adam tasted the sweetness of this bliss in paradise when he saw the Lord with open eyes, and we feel in our souls that He is with us according to His promise: ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’

The Lord is with us. What more could we desire? The Lord created man that we might live and bask in Him for ever - that we might be with Him and in Him. And the Lord desires to be with us Himself, and in us. The Lord is our joy and gladness, and when pride causes us to withdraw from Him, it means that of our own accord we deliver ourselves up to suffering. Anguish of heart, dejection and evil thoughts lacerate us….

The proud man fears obloquy, while the humble man cares nothing. He who has acquired Christ-like humility will ever upbraid himself, and it rejoices him to be abused, and grieves him to be acclaimed. but this humility is still only elementary - when the soul comes to know the Lord in the Holy Spirit, how humble and meek He is, she sees herself as the worst of all sinners, and is happy to sit in shabby raiment in the ashes like Job, while she beholds other men in the Holy Spirit shining in the likeness of Christ.

May the Merciful Lord give all men to savor Christ’s humility which passes description. The soul will then know no further desire but will live for ever in humility, love and lowliness.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

St. Gregory the Theologian

Today (Old Calendar) we commemorate St. Gregory the Theologian.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The pastoral flute of your theology conquered the trumpets of orators. For it called upon the depths of the Spirit and you were enriched with the beauty of words. Intercede to Christ our God, O Father Gregory, that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
O Glorious One, you dispelled the complexities of orators with the words of your theology. You have adorned the Church with the vesture of Orthodoxy woven from on high. Clothed in this, the Church now cries out to your children, with us, "Hail Father, the consummate theological mind."


Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev has written an interesting article entitled: Theology and Mysticism in St. Gregory Nazianzen. Here is an excerpt:
First of all, Gregory’s theology is very central to the entire Byzantine Tradition. In Byzantium he was known as ‘The Theologian’ and was the most quoted author, after the Bible, in the ecclesiastical literature.[1] The corpus of his writings (especially his Discourses), have become not only an integral part of Byzantine paradosis (Tradition); it was in fact regarded as regula fidei (‘the rule of faith’), almost as sacred scripture. No other Byzantine author ever enjoyed such appreciation, popularity and unquestionable authority.
...

Theology ought to be inspired by God: it ought to be not the word of a human person, but the word of the Spirit which is pronounced by human lips. A true Christian theologian is the one who is able to be silent until the Holy Spirit touches the strings of his soul. And it is only when the human word falls silent and the word of the Spirit emerges from his soul, that true theology is born. From this moment ‘a lover of words’ is transformed into ‘a lover of wisdom’, a rhetorician into a theologian.

According to Gregory, not everyone can be a theologian, but only the one who purifies himself for God. Not everyone can participate in theological discussions, but only those who can do it properly. Finally, not every theological theme can be discussed openly:

Discussion of theology is not for everyone, I tell you, not for everyone - it is no such inexpensive and effortless pursuit... It must be reserved for certain occasions, for certain audiences, and certain limits must be observed. It is not for all men, but only for those who have been tested and have found a sound footing in study, and, more importantly, have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul. For one who is not pure to lay hold on pure things is dangerous,[1] just as it is for weak eyes to look at the sun’s brightness. What is the right time? Whenever we are free from the mire and noise without, and our commanding faculty[2] is not confused by illusory, wandering images... We need actually to be still[3] in order to know God... What aspects of theology should be investigated, and to what limit? Only aspects within our grasp, and only to the limit of the experience and capacity of our audience... Yet I am not maintaining that we ought not to be mindful of God at all times... It is more important that we should remember God than that we should breathe... So it is not continual remembrance of God that I seek to discourage, but continual discussion of theology. I am not opposed either to theology... but only to its untimely practice...[4]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Prayers by the Lake

Prayers by the Lake -- St. Nikolai of Zicha
Are there days gone by, O man, to which you would wish to return? They all attracted you like silk, and now remain behind you like a cobweb. Like honey they greeted you, like stench you bade them farewell. All were totally filled with illusion and sin.

See how all the pools of water in the moonlight resemble mirrors; and how all the days that were lit up with your levity resemble mirrors. But as you stepped from one day to the next, the false mirrors cracked like thin ice, and you waded through the water and mud.

Can a day that has a morning and an evening as doorways be a day?

O luminous Lord, my soul is burdened with illusions and longs for one day—for the day without doorways, the day from which my soul has departed and sunk into the shifting shadows—for Your day, which I used to call my day, when I was one with You.

Is there any happiness gone by, O man, to which you would wish to return?

Of two morsels of the same sweetness the second is the more trite. You would turn your head away in boredom from yesterday's happiness, if it were set out on today's table.

Moments of happiness are given to you only in order to leave you longing for true happiness in the bosom of the everhappy Lord; and ages of unhappiness are given to you, to waken you out of the drowsy dream of illusions.

O Lord, Lord, my only happiness, will You provide shelter for Your injured pilgrim?

O Lord, my ageless youth, my eyes shall bathe in You and shine more radiantly than the sun.

You carefully collect the tears of the righteous, and with them You rejuvenate worlds.

Prayer III

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Христос рождается! Славим Его!

Христос рождается! Славим Eго!
Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Today, the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent, and the earth presents the cave to Him who is beyond reach. Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him. The Magi make their way to Him by a star. For a new child has been born for us, the God before all ages.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Nativity -- Day 37

It appears that Google video has some video talks by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), including: