Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saint Sampson the Hospitable was the son of rich and illustrious Roman parents. In his youth he received an excellent education, he studied the medical arts, and doctored the sick without charge. After the death of his parents St Sampson generously distributed alms and set his slaves free, preparing himself to go into the wilderness.
With this intent in mind he soon journeyed from Rome to the East. But the Lord directed him onto a different path, that of service to neighbor, and so St Sampson came to Constantinople. Settling into a small house, the saint began to take in homeless wanderers, the poor and the sick, and he attended to them. The Lord blessed the efforts of St Sampson and endowed him with the power of wonderworking. He healed the sick not only through being a skilled physician, but also as a bearer of the grace of God. News of St Sampson spread abroad. The Patriarch heard of his great virtue and ordained him to the holy priesthood.
It was revealed to the grievously ill Emperor Justinian (527-565), that he could receive healing only through St Sampson. In praying, the saint put his hand on the afflicted area, and Justinian was healed. In gratitude the emperor wanted to reward his healer with silver and gold, but the saint refused saying, "O Emperor, I had silver and gold and other riches, but I left it all for the sake of Christ, that I might gain heavenly and eternal wealth." Instead St Sampson asked Justinian to build a home for the poor and hospital for the sick. The emperor readily fulfilled his request. With the emperor's assistance Sampson founded the hospital which became the largest free clinic in the empire and served the people of Constantinople for 600 years.
St Sampson devoted the rest of his life to serving his neighbor. He survived into old age and after a short illness he departed peacefully to the Lord on June 27th, 530. The saint was buried at the church of the holy Martyr Mocius, and many healings were effected at his grave. His hospital remained open, and the saint did not cease to care for the suffering. He appeared twice to a negligent worker of the hospital and upbraided him for his laziness. At the request of an admirer of St Sampson the hospital was transformed into a church, and beside it a new edifice was built for the homeless. During the time of a powerful fire at Constantinople the flames did not touch the hospital of St Sampson. Through his intercession a heavy rain quenched the fire. St Sampson is known as one of the Holy Unmerceneries.
It was on his feast day that Peter the Great defeated Charles XII of Sweden in the Battle of Poltava. This led to St.Sampson's veneration in Russia, including the construction of St Sampson's Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
Remains of the hospital of St Sampson with a colonnaded courtyard were excavated south of Hagia Eirene after World War II. The hospital itself lay in between the churches of Hagia Eirene and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. See the reconstruction here.
"The Emperor fulfilled Sampson's wish and built a spacious hospital and house for lodging pilgrims. He appointed Sampson the director. It should be noted that such institutions were unknown to the pagans. They built grandiose edifices, temples to their gods, palaces, theaters, circuses, whose ruins amaze us even today by their enormous size. They spent huge amounts of money on luxury and pleasures, but nowhere do we see that they tried to ease the lot of the sick and suffering. Christ gave us a commandment to love our neighbor; He taught us to consider each person as our brother, and to serve and help one another. In His life on earth, He Himself showed us an example of what we should do, for He was constantly doing good for people. To emulate our Divine Teacher, to be like Him as much as possible, should be our principal concern in life, if we love our Lord Jesus Christ and wish to be true Christians. And the Lord will help us. In doing good-not for money or thanks but out of love for Christ-we shall find unspeakable happiness and peace for our souls." (A. N. Bakhmeteva, Selected Lives of Saints, Moscow 1872)
See also: National Healthcare and the Church-State Relationship in Romiosini
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In thy patience thou hast won thy reward, O righteous Father. Thou didst persevere unceasingly in prayer; thou didst love the poor, and didst provide for them in all things. Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God, O blessed and godly-minded Sampson, that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
We come together, praising thee with hymns and psalms, O righteous one, as an unrivalled physician and as an intercessor pleasing unto God; O divinely-wise Sampson, ever having recourse to thy godly shrine for help, we glorify Christ Jesus, Who gave thee the grace to work thy cures.
Saint Severus the Presbyter (June 27) during the sixth century served in a church of the Most Holy Theotokos in the village of Interocleum in Central Italy. He was noted for his virtuous and God-pleasing life. One time, when the saint was working in his garden, cutting grapes in the vineyard, they summoned him to administer the Holy Mysteries for the dying. St Severus said: "Go back, and I'll catch up with you soon."
There remained only but a few more grapes to cut off, and St Severus dallied for awhile in the garden to finish the work. When he arrived at the sick person's home, they told him that the person was already dead. St Severus, regarding himself as guilty in the death of a man without absolution, started to tremble and loudly he began to weep. He went into the house where the deceased lay.
With loud groans and calling himself a murderer, in tears he fell down before the dead person. Suddenly the dead man came alive and related to everyone that the demons wanted to seize his soul, but one of the angels said, "Give him back, since the priest Severus weeps over him, and on account of his tears the Lord has granted him this man." St Severus, giving thanks to the Lord, confessed and communed the resurrected man with the Holy Mysteries. That man survived for another seven days, then joyfully went to the Lord.
HYMN OF PRAISE: SAINT SEVERUS
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
When a dead person came to life, men asked him;
"Tell us, where were you and who awakened you?"
"In the place of fear and horror, I was,
In the company of black ones, wolves and dogs,
In the depths, full of every uncleanness,
In the bottomless pit of darkness, without a single ray.
And when my soul, despair overcame
By the hand, a radiant young man took me.
Then, from the depths, a cool current blew
And against me charged black ones with heads of dogs:
'This one, he is ours, he is ours, where are you taking him now?
As a citizen of Hades, do you not recognize him?'
To that the angel said: 'Severus, for him, is praying!
And by the will of God, I am taking him,
In the body once more he must appear,
Behold, to confess him, Severus is seeking!
To confess him and Holy Communion to administer to him.
Armies of evil and recalcitrants, stay away!'
Thus the angel said and, with me, flew away
Throughout the cold Hades, throughout the bottomless darkness,
Until at holiness arrived, even to my body.
That is the history of me, the deceased."
O, to be confessed, what a treasure it is
And Communicated to enter into the world of eternity!
St. Nikolai Velimirovich
There is no one so stupid as he who cannot see his own sins and cannot see the virtues of others. There is no one so enlightened as he who can see and recognize his own sins and the virtues of others. Those who only see the faults of others and criticize them, St. John Chrysostom equates them to flies that fall on the wounds of others, not in order to heal them but rather to gnaw and to poison them more.
"God has sent us here for penance [epitimia]"; these are the words of Blessed Theophilus of Kiev (+1853). He who knows and feels that he is here for repentance immerses himself in silence and contemplation about his own sin, which has brought him to repentance. The same Blessed Theophilus further said: "Weep also for the sins of your fellow man; without this not one created human being will be saved." To weep or to proclaim - how is it written my son? With Blessed Theophilus, it is written: "To weep over one's own sins, but with Satan to proclaim the sins of others." About himself, Blessed Theophilus at the point of death left this testament to his brethren: "Remember the odious Theophilus!" This is the testament of the holiest human being in Kiev in the year 1853 A.D.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"Be not envious of evil men" (Proverbs 24:1).
Does anyone envy the leper? No one envies him. Why then do some envy the evil man when evil is a greater sickness than leprosy? Leprosy is a disease of the flesh but evil is a disease of the soul. A leper can be healthy within while he is unhealthy on the outside. However, the evil man can be healthy on the outside but his interior is ill, his heart is sick. Greater value has a tree that is sick on the outside but has a healthy core than a tree that is healthy on the outside but has a rotten core. Thus, leprosy is a lesser evil than evil i.e., than sin. Because under evil, the All-Wise One thought of sin as evil.
Does the physician envy the sick person? He does not envy him. Neither does the righteous one envy the sinner. If you do not know whether you are righteous examine your heart: do you envy the sinner? If you envy the sinner then you are not righteous; if you do not envy the sinner, then rejoice, O righteous one of God. The sick person can envy the healthy one, but the healthy person does not envy the sick person. Neither does the righteous envy the sinner. A physician recognizes a fatal illness of his patient and, knowing that, he pities him but does not envy him. The righteous one recognizes the sickness of sin, horrifying and deadly, and does not envy the sinner but pities him.
O good and compassionate Lord, uproot envy from our hearts and implant love. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
St. Mark the Ascetic said: "Whoever desires to eliminate future tribulations must bear the present tribulations with joy." Men consider slander as a great tribulation and there are few men who bear this tribulation without grumbling. O beautiful is the fruit of kindly endured tribulation! Tribulation is given to us for good spiritual commerce and we are missing the opportunity thus remaining empty-handed at the market place. Behold, even Athanasius, Basil, Chrysostom, Macarius, Sisoes and thousands of other followers of the Most-Slandered One were themselves slandered. But God, Who orders all things for our salvation, had so ordered that on the thorn of slander would sprout fragrant roses of glory for all those who are slandered for His Name. Had Stephen not been slandered would he have seen the heavens opened and seen the glory of God in the heavens? And the slander against Joseph the Chaste One, did it not serve to his greater glory?
Saturday, June 26, 2010
"With David of old art thou now united, O new David; for thou didst kill the carnal passions like Goliath. On the twenty-sixth, David passed through the gates of life."
The earliest written chronicle of the life of Saint David comes from his contemporary, Saint John Moschos, in his Leimonarion or Spiritual Meadow. Saint John together with his disciple and companion Sophronios the Sophist travelled to Egypt in order to record the great deeds and wise sayings of the Desert Fathers from the monastic authorities of the desert of the late 6th or early 7th century. He records how he met Abba Palladios in Alexandria and tells us the following:
We went to the same Abba Palladios with this request: "Of your charity, tell us, father, where you came from, and how it came about that you embraced the monastic life". He was from Thessalonika, he said, and then he told us this: "In my home country, about three stadia beyond the city wall, there was a recluse, a native of Mesopotamia whose name was David. He was a man of outstanding virtue, merciful and continent. He spent about twenty years in his place of confinement. Now at this time, because of the barbarians, the walls of the city were patrolled at night by soldiers. One night those who were on guard-duty at that stretch of the city-walls nearest to where the elder's place of confinement was located, saw fire pouring from the windows of the recluse's cell. The soldiers thought the barbarians must have set the elder's cell on fire; but when they went out in the morning, to their amazement, they found the elder unharmed and his cell unburned. Again the following night they saw fire, the same way as before, in the elder's cell - and this went on for a long time. The occurrence became known to all the city and throughout the countryside. Many people would come and keep vigil at the wall all night long in order to see the fire, which continued to appear until the elder died. As this phenomenon did not merely appear once or twice but was often seen, I said to myself: 'If God so glorifies his servants in this world, how much more so in the world to come when He shines upon their face like the sun?' This, my children, is why I embraced the monastic life."
Abba Palladios goes on to speak of another monk from Mesopotamia known as Adolas the Recluse. Saint John writes:
The elder also told us this: that after Abba David, there came to Thessalonika another monk, also from Mesopotamia, whose name was Adolas. He confined himself in a hollow plane tree in another part of the city. He made a little window in the tree through which he could talk with people who came to see him. When the barbarians came and laid waste all the countryside, they happened to pass by that place. One of the barbarians noticed the elder looking down at them. He drew his sword and raised his arm to strike the elder, but he remained there rooted to the spot with his hand stuck up in the air. When the rest of the barbarians saw this, they were amazed and, falling down before him, they besought the elder [to restore their comrad]. The elder offered a prayer and healed him and thus he dismissed them in peace.
From what we can tell from all the historical sources, including his biography written by an anonymous author of Thessaloniki between 715-720, Saint David was probably born in Mesopotamia around the year 450 AD and died in Thessaloniki sometime between 535 and 541. We don't know why either David or Adolas traveled from Mesopotamia to Thessaloniki, but both the Synaxarion of Constantinople and the Menologion of Emperor Basil II assure us that he did come from somewhere in the "east".
In Thessaloniki David became a monk at the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius, otherwise known as Koukouliaton (Κουκουλιατῶν) Monastery, at a young age between the years 465-470. It was known as Koukouliaton because the monks wore cloaks for which it was known and which is depicted in the icons of the Saint. In fact in January of 1944 a marble slab was found in the Jewish cemetery that depicted an icon of Saint David dating back to the 10th century in which he is wearing a cloak with the hood hanging off his shoulders.
We are told that the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius was next to the walls of the city at the gate known as Aproiton. We are further informed that there was another monastery next to this one known as Aproiton Monastery, though it is possible it could have been another name for the same monastery. The word "Aproiton" probably indicates the austere rule of the monasteries since it implies that the monks were not allowed to leave their monastery. This gate was probably located along the northern wall of the city to the west of the Acropolis which the Turks called during Ottoman times Eski Delik. It is believed that outside this gate along the wall was the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius where Saint David lived a monastic life. Others say the monastery was northeast of the Acropolis in an area known as the Garden of the Sheep, but this seems implausible since the Aproiton is too far west for this to be considered. However we still are not sure where the gate known as Aproiton was actually located for sure. To complicate matters further in locating the actual place of this monastery, one biography tells us that the monastery could be seen from the beach. If this is true, then the monastery would most likely have to be within the city walls to the west of the Acropolis along the northern wall.
At the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius Saint David lived a life of prayer, fasting, vigils, humility, meditation of the sacred Scripture and the cultivation of all the virtues. When the abbot of the monastery passed away, the monks of the monastery found David alone worthy to replace him due to his spiritual gifts. However David refused this honor, and instead decided to live his ascetic ordeals by climbing up an almond tree to the right of the church (the katholikon of the monastery) and living up there for three years. One source tells us that this tree was in between two churches within the monastery. For three years this Saint endured the most extreme trials like the Stylite Saints (some say he endured more because the tree offered him no rest due to its constant swaying in the high winds), enduring the bitter cold of the winter and the burning heat of the summer and fully exposed to all the elements of the weather.
It should be noted that although Saint David was the first ascetic known as a "dendrite" (one who lives in trees) in Thessaloniki followed by Adolas (for whom there is no other historical source other than John Moschos), this type of asceticism was practiced in places like Syria and Mesopotamia from which both David and Adolas came from (see the life of Saint Maro the Dendrite celebrated February 4th). Interesting studies concerning dendrites can be read here and here. The latest dendrite I know of was Saint Joseph the Hesychast who in the 1920's lived in Athens and would pray sitting in a tree in imitation of the Saints. Furthermore, an interesting comparison of trees was depicted in the Church of Chora in Constantinople in the fourteenth century in which Saint David is shown at the entrance to the funeral chapel, and is positioned equidistant between Christ Calling Zaccheus (who had climbed a tree in order to see Christ as he passed through Jericho) and Moses before the Burning Bush. In each, we witness an encounter with the divine – Old Testament, New Testament, Roman Empire.
When those three difficult years passed, after instruction was given to him by an angel of the Lord to live in silence in a cell and he was foretold by this same angel that he would "accomplish one other act of love" before he died, Saint David came down from the almond tree and entered a cell that had been prepared by his disciples. Saint David entered his cell in the presence of Archbishop Dorotheos of Thessaloniki (c.497-c.520) along with many pious clergy and faithful who gathered to see this momentous event when the news had spread. John Moschos informs us that this cell existed outside the walls of the city "about three stadia beyond the city wall", that is, a little more than 555 meters beyond the wall no doubt very near his monastery. From the fact that Archbishop Dorotheos was present at this event, we can ascertain that Saint David entered his cell sometime within the first two decades of the sixth century.
Living as a recluse in his cell and for his unparalleled ascetic feats, this Saint was considered as an angel of God by the people. Many people came to seek his prayers and many healings of demonic possession, diseases and suffering are reported. We can assume it was during this time that the extraordinary events reported by John Moschos took place.
From 318-379 Sirmium was capital of the Prefecture of Illyricum which encompassed Pannonia, Noricum, Crete, and the whole Balkan peninsula except Thrace. Since 379 Thessaloniki became the capital of the Prefecture of Illyricum. Justiniana Prima was built in 535 in Serbia at the place of Justinian's birth. Justinian's novel 11 announced the imminent transfer of the Illyrian prefecture to Justiniana Prima and the establishment of an archbishopric there making it the metropolis of Illyricum. Thus Eastern Illyricum was to be divided into two ecclesiastical regions under Justinian's law: the southern part belonged to the Archbishop of Thessaloniki and the northern was given autocephalous status under the Archbishop of Justiniana Prima. This was done in order to better protect the northern territories against the barbarians on the other side of the Danube.
David submitted to the pleadings of the Archbishop and the people of Thessaloniki in order to fulfill the prophesy of the angel that appeared to him while on the tree and out of obedience to the bishop and the love of the people of Thessaloniki. After many years of seclusion he emerged from his cell and saw the sun for the first time in many years. His appearance had changed as well. His hair had grown to his lower back and his beard fell all the way down to his feet. Together with his two disciples, Theodore and Demetrios, they left during the night for Constantinople.
When they arrived in Constantinople his fame preceeded him and he was received with much reverence by the people of Byzantium and was especially well received with much respect and reverence by Empress Theodora who had him escorted into the palace and given hospitality as if he was an angel in the flesh. Justinian was occupied with other matters when he arrived, but was awe-struck at his holy appearance when he finally saw him the next day and listened to his case before the Senate. Before David spoke however the following miracle occurred leaving everyone astonished: David took a piece of live coal with incense in his bare hands and together with his disciples censed the Emperor and the entire Senate and his hand did not burn though he was praying and blessing for about an hour. After this David pleaded the case of Archbishop Aristeides, and Justinian submitted to his wishes so that the status of Thessaloniki remained uninterrupted. Though historians mention the fact that this division of Illyricum never actually took place, they tend to leave out the fact that this was because of the great impression Saint David had on Emperor Justinian.
The Saint returned by ship from Constantinople to Thessaloniki. However, when he arrived at Thermes at a place called Emvolos (about 126 stadia from the Saint's cell), he gave up his spirit to the Lord after making his request known to his disciples that he be buried at his monastery. The ship continued on to the port of Thessaloniki, but a strong wind escorted them as if by divine providence and landed at the spot where Sts. Theodoulos and Agathopodus were martyred on the west side of the city. Upon hearing the news of his falling asleep, the Archbishop with a large crowd gathered to pay their last respects and by procession lead him up to the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius where his relics were enshrined in a wooden coffin according to his wishes.
About 150 years after the Saint's death, in 685-690, the abbot of the monastery Demetrios opened his tomb in order to receive a portion of his relics. In doing so however, the plaque on the tomb fell and broke into many pieces. This was seen by the abbot as a sign that it was not the wishes of Saint David for his relics to be portioned. A monk under Demetrios by the name of Sergius eventually became Archbishop of Thessaloniki. He was present when as a monk they had tried opening the tomb of the Saint. Honoring this occurrence, Sergius opened the tomb which emitted a beautiful fragrance from the incorrupt relics and took care to only remove some hair from the beard and head of the Saint in order to distribute to the faithful to increase their faith and help aid in their salvation.
The tomb of the Saint remained undisturbed until the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In 1236 it was taken by Crusaders to Pavia, Italy and from there transferred to Milan in 1967. Finally on September 16, 1978 through the efforts of Metropolitan Panteleimon of Thessaloniki, the sacred relics of Saint David were triumphantly returned to Thessaloniki and housed in the Basilica of Saint Demetrios the Great Martyr. To celebrate this feast a Service was written by the renowned hymnographer Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis. Eventually the relics were transferred to the katholikon of the Monastery of Saint Theodora in the middle of Thessaloniki in a chapel surrounded by icons of the Saint's life.
It should be pointed out here that the current Monastery of Hosios David in Thessaloniki has no association with the life of the Saint nor is it the site of the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurious. This is however the oldest monastery in Thessaloniki (only the katholikon currently exists) and in Roman times was known as the Monastery of the Prophet Ezekiel (some say Zachariah) though more popularly known as Latomou Monastery. The mosaics inside are the oldest in the city dating back to approximately the 5th-6th century, especially magnificent being the depiction of a beardless Christ flanked by the prophets Ezekiel and Hakkakuk along with a vision of Ezekiel of Christ surrounded by the symbols of the four Gospels (the angel, eagle, lion, and bull). This monastery was not named after Saint David until 1921 when it was returned to the Orthodox after serving as a mosque since 1430. Interestingly the faithful had the mosaic of the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel covered in mortar (some say the Turks simply white-washed it) all those centuries so that the Turks would not destroy it as was their custom. During the days of Iconoclasm it was covered in ox-skin to be protected. Its existence was lost to history after 1430 until discovered in 1921.
For more on the Latomou Monastery as well as the sources for the life of Saint David, see here and here (Greek only). For a translation of the life in English, see here. For the 8th century life of Saint David, see A. Vasiliev, ‘Life of David of Thessalonica’, Traditio: Studies in Ancient Medieval History, Thought and Religion 4 , pp. 115-147.
Latomou Monastery, Thessaloniki
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Hymns in Greek along with some rare beautiful pictures and icons of Saint David
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
One of the differences between the eloquent philosophy of the Greeks [Hellenes] and the Christian Faith is that the entire Hellenistic philosophy can clearly be expressed with words and comprehended by reading, while the Christian Faith cannot be clearly expressed by words and even less comprehended by reading alone. When you are expounding the Christian Faith, for its understanding and acceptance, both reading and the practice of what is read are necessary.
When Patriarch Photios read the words of Mark the Ascetic concerning the spiritual life he noticed a certain unclarity with the author for which he wisely said: "That [unclarity] does not proceed from the obscurity of expression but from that truth which is expressed there; it is better understood by means of practice (rather than by means of words) and that cannot be explained by words only." And this, the great patriarch adds, "It is not the case with these homilies nor only with these men but rather with all of those who attempted to expound the ascetical rules, passions and instructions, which are better understood from practice alone."
Continued from Part Seven
Georges Florovsky was indeed “la grande voix” of Orthodoxy from the early 1930s in France, and he continued to be that throughout his long life and career. Now, twenty-three years after his death, he is still regarded as the preeminent Orthodox theologian of the twentieth century whose writings are being published and republished in English, Russian, French, German, Greek, and many other languages as well. There is also considerable research being done in his unpublished writings, which have been deposited in the archives of the St. Vladimir’s Library and the Princeton University Library. Through his own many writings and the writings of his students, the voice of Florovsky is still being heard and listened to with profound respect and appreciation. Every year the Orthodox Theological Society in America faithfully sponsors the annual Georges V. Florovsky Lecture. His influence has been wide and deep in the Orthodox world, particularly among the generations of Greek Orthodox theologians who have taken up his challenge for a Neo-Patristic Synthesis to restore the Patristic criterion in Orthodox theology and to revitalize the true meaning of Christian Hellenism.
A new and potentially very significant area for the influence of Florovsky and his thought, particularly as expounded in his Ways of Russian Theology, is in the revived theological work being done in Russia today, where his writings are becoming increasingly known and deeply appreciated by those who will hopefully continue where he left off in the area of Russia’s cultural history.
In a handwritten address found among his papers after his death,13 Florovsky spoke about a “theological will” which he did not complete, but which would have included three main points, which effectively summarize his thought: 1. Orthodox theology must be a historical theology. Christians do not believe in ideas, but in a Person, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior who is a historical Person. Our God is the God who acts, who has acted in history, from the creation of man, who is still acting, and who will act at the end of time. Theology is the study of divine acts. 2. In studying the Acts of God, we see “the scandal of particularity,” that is to say, salvation has come “from the Jews” and has been propagated in the world through the medium of Hellenism. To be a Christian means to be a Greek, since our basic authority is forever a Greek Book, the New Testament. The Christian message has been forever formulated in Greek categories. The old Hellenism was dissected, baptized, regenerated, converted to become the Christian Hellenism of our dogmatics — from the New Testament to St. Gregory Palamas in the fifteenth century, and even to our own times. One cannot revert back to Hebraism or even to pre-Christian Hellenism, and all attempts to reformulate the historical dogmas of the undivided Church in categories of modern philosophies should be resisted as misleading and fruitless. 3. Theology must be carried out not merely to satisfy our intellectual curiosity, but in order to live, to have life abundantly in the Truth of God, which is not a system of ideas, but a Person—Jesus Christ. In this task the Fathers of the Church can be only sure and safe guides.
All of Florovsky’s endeavors throughout his life were in fact guided by this theological program which is also guiding present and, hopefully, future generations of theologians seeking to know and live by the abiding Truth of the Christian Faith. From the beginning of his life Florovsky had a philosophical bent; he sought not only to know things but to understand their meaning for himself. He had a responsible worldview and was able to project and to defend it consistently. His interest was focused on problems and their solutions. His books and essays on the Fathers of the Church focused on the theological struggles of the early Church to define the faith and the truth of Revelation in Sacred Scripture. His aim was a genuine theological awakening that could truly begin when not only the answers but also the real questions of the past were recalled and reexamined for our time. Florovsky was certainly not an “archaist”; his call for a return to the Fathers was not merely to quote them, but to enter into their mind and into the spirit of the great Christian Tradition. By apprehending the approach of the Fathers to the problems they confronted — the classic problems of interpreting the Christian Faith to an alien world — we equip ourselves for creative resolutions to our own living problems and tasks, within an equally complex and alien world. The rare gift of historical intuition made Father Georges Vasilievich Florovsky feel “at home in all ages” and, one might add, in all places as well. This too, no doubt, was the aim of his life’s work as he journeyed as a faithful pilgrim from East to West: to revive and restate the Orthodox theological tradition of the Una Sancta and to make it relevant and meaningful not only for our present modern age, but for all ages.
1. See Andrew Blane, “A Sketch of the Life of Georges Florovsky,” in Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual and Orthodox Churchman, ed. Andrew Blane (Crestwood, N.Y., 1993), 11–217. This is by far the most complete biographical study to date on Florovsky. An earlier study in the form of an intellectual biography by George H. Williams, “Georges Vasilievich Florovsky,” in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Vol. XI, No. 1 (1965), 7–107 focuses on the first part of his American career (1948–1965) with a general introduction to his earlier life in Russia and Europe.
2. The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, ed. Richard S. Haugh (Belmont, Mass., and Vaduz, Liechtenstein, 1972–1989), Vols. I-XIV. While this publication of Florovsky’s writings is not yet complete and has experienced certain difficulties, it is presently the most available. Of the 376 published titles in the Florovsky corpus of writings, only 123 titles are included in Volumes I-IV and XI-XIV of the Collected Works: I. Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View; II. Christianity and Culture; III. Creation and Redemption; IV. Aspects of Church History; XI. Theology and Literature; XII. Philosophy, Philosophical Problems and Movements; XIII. Ecumenism I, A Doctrinal Approach; XIV. Ecumenism II, An Historical Approach. Volumes V and VI contain the Ways of Russian Theology, and Volumes VII-X contain the Fathers of the Church from the 4th to the 8th Centuries.
For a chronological list of Florovsky’s works see The Heritage of the Early Church: Essays in Honor of the Very Reverend Georges Vasilievich Florovsky, ed. David Neiman and Margaret Schatkin (Rome, 1973), 437–451. For a more complete list of his writings with information on original languages, translations and types of writing see Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual and Orthodox Church Churchman, 341–401, but also 407–429 for a general description of the Georges Florovsky Archives at Princeton University (53 boxes), and 431–436 for the Archives at St. Vladimir’s Seminary (89 boxes).
3. Blane, 153.
4. Ibid., 33.
5. Blane, 39.
6. See The Collected Works, Vol. XII, “Philosophical Problems and Movements.”
7. Volume VII in The Collected Works.
8. Volumes VIII and IX in The Collected Works.
9. Volumes V and VI in The Collected Works.
10. Blane, 61.
11. See The Collected Works, Vol. XIII, “Ecumenism: A Doctrinal Approach,” and Vol. XIV, “Ecumenism: An Historical Approach.”
12. These scholars are too numerous to mention here individually. Indicative of a renewed interest in the Fathers of the Church, which Florovsky so consistently promoted, can be seen in the current, many-volume Bible Commentary in progress: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, General Editor, Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove, Ill.), which focuses on the reading of Scripture with the Church Fathers.
13. See Blane, 153–155. A recent publication in German develops the full scope of Florovsky’s thought: Christoph Kunkel, Totus Christus: Die Theologie Georges V. Florovskys (Göttingen, 1991). In pp. 448–454 there is a helpful list of literature on Florovsky that includes the European sources. Another recent publication from Greece: Synaxe: A Quarterly Journal of Orthodox Studies, Vol. 64 (Oct.-Dec. 1997), contains seven studies in honor of Father G. Florovsky and his on-going Neo-Patristic Synthesis.
Source: Written by John Chamberlain in First Principles, (MA 45:1, Winter 2003).
From an original painting by priest and iconographer, Fr. Jerome Sanderson. Print title is same as book entitled Saints Of Africa, ISBN: 0916700577 by Fr. Jerome Sanderson and Carla Thomas, MD. Part of the African Saints Series. Other title in this series is St. Moses the Ethiopian, ISBN: 0916700542.
Vatican: Oldest Known Images of Apostles Andrew and John Found
June 22nd, 2010
The oldest known image of the apostles Andrew and John have been discovered in catacombs under the city of Rome, dating back to the 4th century A.D., archaeologists announced Tuesday.
The paintings were found in the same location where the oldest known painting of St. Paul was discovered last year, the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology said Tuesday.
They are part of a group of paintings around an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd on the ceiling of what is thought to have been a Roman noblewoman's tomb, experts said.
A painting of St. Peter makes up the fourth member of the group, but older images of him are thought to exist, Vatican experts said.
Their inclusion in the tomb shows the aristocrats were among the last Romans to convert to Christianity, archaeologist Fabrizio Bisconti said.
The Roman matron must have been very rich, he said, as the colors and richness of the decoration show.
The images of the apostles' heads and shoulders against a deep red background were uncovered after two years of work, Vatican experts said.
Archaeologists used a new laser technology to remove layers of white carbon calcium deposited on the frescoes over the centuries without disturbing the paintings.
They are located in the catacombs of St. Tecla, one of the 40 Roman catacombs under Rome. It sits under a modern eight-story building in a working-class neighborhood. It is closed to the public and its entrance is mostly hidden.
The Vatican spent about 60,000 euros (about $74,000) on the archaeological work, it said. The apostles were a group of a dozen men, according to Christian tradition, who spread the gospel of Jesus after his crucifixion.
See photos here.
June 18, 2010
ROME -- An Italian priest has developed an application that will let priests celebrate Mass with an iPad on the altar instead of the regular Roman missal.
The Rev. Paolo Padrini, a consultant with the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said Friday the free application will be launched in July in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Latin.
Two years ago, Padrini developed the iBreviary, an application that brought the book of daily prayers used by priests onto iPhones. To date, some 200,000 people have downloaded the application, he said.
The iPad application is similar but also contains the complete missal -- containing all that is said and sung during Mass throughout the liturgical year. Upgrades are expected to feature audio as well as commentaries and suggestions for homilies as well as musical accompaniment, he said.
"Paper books will never disappear," he said in a phone interview from his home parish in Tortona, in Italy's northern Piemonte region. But at the same time "we shouldn't be scandalized that on altars there are these instruments in support of prayer."
Padrini, 36, said he expected priests who have to travel a lot for work would find the application most useful, noting that he recently had to celebrate Mass in a small parish where the missal was "a small book, a bit dirty, old."
"If I had had my iPad with me, it would've been better than this old, tiny book," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI, a classical music lover who was reportedly given an iPod in 2006, has sought to reach out to young people through new media: the Vatican has a regularly updated presence on You Tube and Facebook. Based on the success of the iBreviary, Padrini was recruited by the Vatican to oversee its youth outreach program in the new media, www.pope2you.net.
He stressed that the iPad application, like the iBreviary, was launched at his own instigation and with his own money and is not an official Vatican initiative. Vatican officials have previously praised the iBreviary as a novel way of evangelizing.
June 23, 2010
Evolutionist Jerry Coyne thinks atheism is true. But if atheism (in addition to evolution) is true, then how could Coyne know it? For if atheism and materialism are true, then Coyne's brain is nothing more than a set of molecules in motion. Its various configurations are simply a consequence of its beginning, subsequent inputs, and some random motion here and there.
What Coyne thinks is knowledge would merely be certain molecular states, not necessarily having any correspondence with truth. How do evolutionists reconcile their atheism with their convictions of knowledge and truth? This Hobbesian predicament is particularly ironic in light of the atheist's strong theological convictions and arguments. We know atheism is true because god wouldn't have created this world. Do you see why atheism is parasitic on (and much less dangerous than) theism?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Early Evidence of Devotion to Apostles Found in Rome Catacombs
22 June 2010
The Catholic Spirit
In the basement of an Italian insurance company's modern office building, Vatican archaeologists -- armed with lasers -- discovered important historical evidence about the development of Christian devotion to the apostles.
At Rome's Catacombs of St. Thecla, in the burial chamber of a Roman noblewoman, they have discovered what they said are the oldest existing paintings of Sts. Peter, Paul, Andrew and John.
Technicians working for the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology discovered the painting of St. Paul in June 2009 just as the Year of St. Paul was ending.
Barbara Mazzei, who was in charge of the restoration work, said June 22 that she and her team members knew there were more images under the crust of calcium carbonate, but excitement over the discovery of St. Paul in the year dedicated to him led them to announce the discovery even before the rest of the work was completed.
Presenting the complete restoration of the burial chamber to reporters a year later, Msgr. Giovanni Carru said that the catacombs "are an eloquent witness of Christianity in its origins."
Into the fourth century, Christians in Italy tried to bury their dead near the tomb of a martyr. The walls of the tombs of the wealthy were decorated with Christian symbols, biblical scenes and references to the martyr.
At the Catacombs of St. Thecla, the noblewoman's burial chamber -- now referred to as the Cubicle of the Apostles -- dates from late in the fourth century. The arch over the vestibule features a fresco of a group of figures the Vatican experts described as "The College of the Apostles."
The ceiling of the burial chamber itself features the most typical icon found in the catacombs -- Christ the Good Shepherd -- but the four corners of the ceiling are decorated with medallions featuring the four apostles, said Mazzei.
Fabrizio Bisconti, the commission's archaeological superintendent, said that in the decorations of the catacombs one can see "the genesis, the seeds of Christian iconography," with designs from the very simple fish as a symbol of Christ to the resurrection image of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead.
The discovery of so much attention to the apostles in the Catacombs of St. Thecla documents the fact that widespread devotion to the apostles began earlier than what most church historians believed, he said.
"This is the time when the veneration of the apostles was just being born and developed," he said, and the art in the catacombs no longer presented just the martyrs or biblical scenes.
The burial chamber also features frescoes of Daniel in the lion's den, the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and a very large wall painting of the noblewoman herself -- jeweled, veiled and with "an important hairstyle," a symbol of status in ancient Rome, he said.
Mazzei said that when restorers first went into the burial chamber in 2008, all the walls were white -- completely covered under the crust of calcium carbonate that ranged from a millimeter thick to 4-5 centimeters deep. The Vatican, however, had watercolors and diary descriptions from the 1800s testifying that there were paintings on the walls.
In the past, she said, restorers would use tiny scalpels and brushes to remove the white crust, but some of the paint always came away with it. Restorers were left trying to find the right balance between removing enough to see a faint image of a catacomb fresco and destroying it.
Then along came the laser, Mazzei said.
After attending an art restoration conference and listening to presentations on how lasers were being used on frescoes in buildings above ground, she said she suggested to the Vatican that they gather a team of experts to see how lasers would work in the extremely humid catacombs where almost no air circulates.
"We went slowly and basically set up an experimental laboratory" in the catacombs, she said.
The restoration project was just as painstaking as the scalpel-and-brush method because it involved firing the laser pinpoint by pinpoint across the surface of the cubicle, "but the result is totally different," Mazzei said.
She said the two-year project to restore the tiny cubicle cost only about $72,000 because many of the consultants donated their time and the laser company gave the Vatican a steep discount.
Bisconti said the Vatican has no plans to open the Catacombs of St. Thecla to the public, although the pontifical commission occasionally gives permission for groups to visit as long as they are willing to pay a licensed guide and escort.
June 22, 2010
ROME - The earliest known icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul have been discovered in a catacomb under an eight-story modern office building in a working-class neighborhood of Rome, Vatican officials said Tuesday.
The images, which date from the second half of the 4th century, were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb that also includes the earliest known images of the apostles John and Andrew. They were uncovered using a new laser technique that allowed restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the dark colors of the original paintings underneath.
The paintings adorn what is believed to be the tomb of a Roman noblewoman in the Santa Tecla catacomb and represent some of the earliest evidence of devotion to the apostles in early Christianity, Vatican officials said in opening up the tomb to the media for the first time.
Last June, the Vatican announced the discovery of the icon of Paul — timed to coincide with the end of the Vatican's Pauline year. At the time, Pope Benedict XVI also announced that tests on bone fragments long attributed to Paul "seemed to confirm" that they did indeed belong to the Roman Catholic saint.
On Tuesday, Vatican archaeologists announced that the image of Paul discovered last year was not found in isolation, but was rather part of a square ceiling painting that also included icons of three other apostles - Peter, John and Andrew - surrounding an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd.
"These are the first images of the apostles," said Fabrizio Bisconti, the superintendent of archaeology for the catacombs, which are maintained by the Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology.
The Vatican office oversaw and paid for the two-year, euro60,000 restoration effort, which for the first time used lasers to restore frescoes and paintings in catacombs. The damp, musty air of underground catacombs makes preservation of paintings particularly difficult and restoration problematic.
In this case, the small burial chamber at the end of the catacomb was completely encased in centimeters (inches) of white calcium carbonate, which under previous restoration techniques would have just been scraped away by hand. That technique, though would have left a filmy layer on top so as to not damage the paintings underneath.
Using the laser, restorers were able to sear off all the layers of calcium that had been bound onto the painting because the laser beam stopped burning at the white of the calcium deposits, which when chipped off left the brilliant darker colors underneath it unscathed, said Barbara Mazzei, the chief restorer.
See also: Fourth Century Image of St. Paul Uncovered in Roman Catacomb
Florovsky continued undaunted to be the great voice of Orthodoxy and to uphold the need for serious theological scholarship and discourse, as opposed to social occasions and superficial speeches. After all, he argued, it was indeed through theological discourse and study that a real ecumenical advance had actually been achieved through the devout and dedicated work of several generations of theologians. No one seriously doubts today that the new and more adequate existential understanding of the word of God, of the Holy Scriptures, is the fruit of devout biblical scholarship. Church historians, in spite of their continuing disagreements on many crucial points of interpretation, have drawn for us a new picture of the “common history” of the Church in the East and in the West, with a fuller understanding of “divided Christendom.” Patristic scholars have demonstrated the perennial value of the ancient Tradition, which is existentially valid and challenging now no less than in the past. Liturgiologists have quickened the understanding of devotional values, and even the historical soundings of this field have enriched the inner life of contemporary worshippers and believers. We find ourselves in a changed and renewed world, better equipped for grasping ecumenical problems, due largely to the indefatigable labor of those who, like Georges Florovsky, concentrated their efforts in the field of theological research and meditation.
On virtually every theological inquiry, as seen in his vast theological writings, Florovsky had the singular gift to discern the essence of the matter and, from his immense erudition, offer an authentic Orthodox response. Often enough he would take an otherwise familiar theme and offer a completely different orientation derived from the Orthodox theological tradition that so richly and fully constituted his very being. This was, after all, the essence of his programmatic Neo-Patristic Synthesis, which regrettably was never fully worked out and completed by him.
When at the age of seventy Florovsky retired from Harvard University as Professor emeritus, he soon found himself at Princeton University, where he continued his teaching and scholarly research into the final years of his life. At Princeton, as in Harvard, Holy Cross, and St. Vladimir’s, he taught many graduate students, who have become priests and scholars, theologians and professors in their own right, and who are now continuing in many parts of the world the distinctive theological work that he himself set in motion.12
Before the Vatican Council II in 1964–1965, Rome had maintained an attitude of extreme reserve with regard to the Ecumenical Movement. This Vatican Council changed all that and a Joint Working Group was established between Roman Catholic theologians and representatives of the WCC. Florovsky was encouraged by the participation of Roman Catholic theologians in Faith and Order, and saw in this great promise for serious theological discussions. From the broad historical perspective of Florovsky, the Ecumenical Movement was just getting started, and, as a veteran optimist, he saw hastiness and impatience as a very serious danger to the ponderous work of ecumenism for the reunification of Christendom.
By this time, however, a new divergence had come about even in theological thinking through various schools of thought, such as demythologization, Heilsgeschichte, existentialism, liberationism, secularism, and even the end of religion and the death of God “theologies.” This was of course the “new theology,” but at least these were theological discussions within each confession and the Ecumenical Movement as a whole. Much of this new theology was simply in opposition to the older theology, and Florovsky was especially critical of any tendency among theologians — Protestant, Roman Catholic, and even Orthodox — who started with human quarries rather than with the divine message of Revelation. To begin with “the world instead of the Word” is the wrong method, he would object strenuously.
The last major ecumenical meeting Florovsky attended was the Fifth Faith and Order Conference in Louvain in 1971, when he was seventy-nine years old. Not only was he simply there, but he was still a force, an active participant in the Ecumenical Movement, as he was for thirty-seven years. No other participant, Orthodox or non-Orthodox, had served longer. He was indeed a true veteran — a pioneer, an architect, and an ongoing builder of the Ecumenical Movement. During the last decade of his life, Florovsky was especially gratified to see the growing interest in his thought and his works that had blossomed not only among Orthodox and non-Orthodox theologians, but also among Slavic scholars interested in Russian history and culture.
His beloved wife, Xenia Ivanovna, lived until 1977 and Georges until August 11, 1979. They lie asleep in the Lord, side by side, in St. Vladimir’s Cemetery in Trenton, New Jersey, awaiting the general Resurrection.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Why does the good Lord permit assaults and sufferings on the True Faith while He permits the pleasure of tranquility to heresies and paganism?
Why? Even St. John Chrysostom asks and immediately replies: "So that you would recognize their weakness (the weakness of the heresies and paganism) when you see that they disintegrate on their own without any disturbance and also to be convinced in the power of faith which endures misfortunes and even multiplies through its adversaries." "Therefore, if we quarrel with the pagans or with the wretched Jews, it is sufficient to emphasize as evidence of divine power that the Faith (Christianity) which was subjected to countless struggles maintained victory" even when the entire world stood against her [the Church].
St. Isaac the Syrian says: "The wondrous love of God toward man is recognized when man is in misfortunes that are destroying his hope. Here, God manifests His power for his [man's] salvation. For man never recognizes the power of God in tranquility and freedom."
In 1711 Saint John the Russian was a soldier fighting a war against the Turks. He was captured and sold as a slave to a Turkish cavalry commander from the village of Procopion (modern-day Urgup) near Caesarea in Asia Minor. The blessed John was assigned to work in the stable where he was also told to sleep. The video below shows what remains of the two story house (now reduced to one over time).
The house where Saint John the Russian was a slave.
Weekly he prepared himself to partake of the Most Holy Mysteries in a nearby church, for he knew that without the strength of Christ he was powerless to persevere on the path of the true Faith. At night he would secretly go and keep vigil in the narthex of the church. The Lord rewarded the labors of His faithful servant and through him bestowed blessings also upon his Turkish master who became one of the wealthy and powerful men of Procopion. The video below shows this church in Urgup in an area known as Temenni.
The church where Saint John the Russian prayed.
Форпост from Yordan Vasilev on Vimeo.
The documentary above titled "Outpost" is about a Priest-Monk named Mikhail Jar that established, with four other monks, the Holy Monastery of the Holy Resurrection in the village Banchen, near Chernigov, Ukraine. He is appointed guardian to 29 children in the orphanage he built in 1994 and has 3 children of his own from his pre-monastic life. Some children at the orphanage have special needs. The little baby in the beginning of the movie walking between monks during the service was diagnosed with AIDS. He was healed through the prayers of the monks and this boy was able to move into the orphanage. There is also a mute child who communicates with the Priest through hand movements. The Priest has worked so hard that he has suffered heart attacks, but he keeps giving all of himself for these children. This is a Russian documentary film which has won major awards at several international film festivals. Though it is in Russian, you really do not need to understand it to enjoy it.
by Richard Doster
The Roman poet Horace, perhaps 20 years before Christ was born, described the purpose of literature with the phrase "utile et dulci." Which, loosely translated, means "to please and instruct."
Through the centuries, a similar thought has occurred to several respected writers. Percy Shelley, for one, spoke of poetry as "a fountain forever overflowing with the waters of wisdom and delight." More recently, Robert Frost stated, "A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom."
Novels, like poetry, are written to please. Writers take the raw materials at hand: words, irony, cadence and rhythm, simile and metaphor—and with them create something new and, they hope, as they tweak, rewrite, and restructure their 10th, 15th, and 20th drafts—something beautiful. Readers may become involved in plot; they inevitably come to love and hate a story's characters, but the final product, the bound book they hold in their hands is, as Frost said of poetry, "a performance in words."
We relish the performance. We choose novels for their seductive power. We eagerly become engrossed in stories because we are, writer Simon Lesser says, indefatigable seekers of pleasure. There's no denying that Harold Bloom, the distinguished literary critic, is right when he says that the strongest motive for deep reading is the search for a difficult pleasure.
Consider the when, where, and why of reading fiction. We read novels when we want to relax. We read in recliners, not desk chairs. We read in the den, cozy before the fire. We read in bed, or on the deck with our feet propped on a stool. We pack good books for the beach, lake, or mountains.
Pleasure that Inspires and Affirms
In his essay "'Words of Delight': A Hedonistic Defense of Literature," Wheaton College professor Leland Ryken describes specific kinds of pleasure that come from reading fiction. He talks about intellectual pleasure, about how, in the lives of fictional characters, we see themes, ideas, and values. They stir our minds. The action and dialog provoke deeper thought, which leads to new ideas, which are—in the minds of inspired readers—a catalyst to the imagination. And it's all great fun.
It is especially enjoyable, Ryken says, when we stumble across characters who think and feel like we do. We're affirmed. It's as if we're declared right. And what's more than that: we're given a glimpse, through the lives of the story's characters, of how our thoughts—when acted out—might play in the real world around us.
The celebrated detective novelist Dorothy Sayers, in her essay "Toward a Christian Aesthetic," describes the same resonate pleasure. "It is as though a light were turned on inside us," she says. "We say: ‘Ah! I recongise that! That is something which I obscurely felt to be going on in and about me, but I…couldn't express it.'" The novelist, Sayers says, has taken the thought and "imaged it forth—for me." Readers, then, by way of the writer's art, can take possession of the thought, and turn it to knowledge.
A third kind of pleasure, according to Ryken, is "seeing human experience accurately embodied." Fiction may be a means of escape, but it is, one writer has said, an escape into reality. Realistic fiction is often a mirror, reflecting a world, society, or even a neighborhood we know. Other times, Henry Ward Beecher noted, "Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A home without books," Beecher used to say, "is like a room without windows."
Stories and characters, along with the morals and themes of good fiction give voice to our own views. They're therapeutic. Seeing them on the printed page affirms our thoughts and validates our experiences. Ryken quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said that all people stand in need of expression, and yet, he concluded, "adequate expression is rare." Novelists, Ryken tells us, provide the whole of the human race with expression.
An Escape of the Healthiest Kind
Most avid readers would confess, at least to themselves, that there's a less benighted but equally enjoyable reason to curl up with a good book. Author Sven Birkerts describes it as a peculiar state—a condition, really—that can only be induced by a mesmerizing story. This condition—Birkerts calls it the "reading state"—transcends the story's setting, characters, and plot. It is different, he insists, from sleeping; different from being high or daydreaming.
Birkerts has watched kindred souls in the bookstore. They stand before the shelves, he says, chins at an angle, not looking for a specific book, but one "they can trust to do the job." These readers care about plot and character, but what they really want, Birkerts reveals, is that book—that special story—that will carry them into a state that only a novel can summon.
Birkerts speaks for brigades of like-minded readers when he says, "In this condition, when all is clear and right…I feel a connectedness that cannot be duplicated." The reading state, he says, brings an internal limberness, a sense of being "in accord with time," as if the whole of life were somehow, for as long as one dwells in "the state," available "as an object of contemplation."
This is, to be sure, pure escape. But it's escape of the healthiest, most productive kind. Through fiction's lens readers view their lives from a new and unique perspective. With stories, Birkerts claims that he repositions his life along "the coordinate axes of urgency and purpose." These two qualities, he says, inform the actions of fictional characters. And by doing so they push, nudge, and prod readers for as long as they're "bathed in the energies of the book."
Readers often find that the details of a story, even a good one, soon fade. But, like William Hazlitt, the 17th century critic, they remember "…the place where I sat to read the volume, the day when I got it, the feeling of the air, the fields, the sky—those places, those times, those persons, and those feelings."
It is Sven Birkerts says, as if the book were a ladder, to be climbed and then discarded after it has served its purpose. Which is, in part, to provide a lofty and intricate pleasure.
Richard Doster is the editor of byFaith magazine. He's also the author of two novels, Safe at Home (2008) and Crossing the Lines (2009), both published by David C. Cook Publishers.
Monday, June 21, 2010
by Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos
He was born in Kalamata on July 14, 1873. He never learned letters. He could just barely read and write. Until he was 30 years old he was a band instrument player, and maintained a small tavern next to the Church of St. Nicholas. All the town rascals gathered there; he was their leader and he was an imposing figure over them all. He was easily able to threaten and beat up someone for the slightest reason.
In 1902 one of his closest friends died. Panagoulakis went to the funeral and attentively observed it. The saying of the Gospel "he has passed over from death to life" (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14) shook him completely. Full of anxiety, he asked the Board Members "if another life exists" and they, being pious people, instructed him accordingly. He was already a captive of Divine Grace. Shuddering at his previous debaucheries, he went to Holy Confession (to Hieromonk Glymanos of Velanidia Monastery), confessed his sins with contrition and promised that he would thenceforth live an exemplary Christian life. Then he sold all the belongings of the tavern and covered his whole room with black curtains. He visited everyone whom he had previously treated unjustly and sought forgiveness on his knees. Then he decided to live as an ascetic.
After a short stay in Mani, he returned to Kalamata and there dwelt first in a cell next to the chapel of Saint Anne, and shortly thereafter in another cell next to the cemetery of Kalamata, where the Old Calendarist "Hermitage of Panagoulaki" is today. There, without being tonsured a Monk, he led a life of prayer and very harsh asceticism for 15 years. He ate olive oil only on Saturdays and Sundays, while he never ate meat, fish or milk. Every Wednesday and Friday he fasted completely, eating nothing at all. He had no bed. He slept very few hours on a board on the ground. Because certain other young men decided to live with him, with the financial aid of some pious people he built a few more cells, which were very small. Their door was so narrow, to remind them of the "narrow gate" of the Gospel, that one could only enter sideways. He preached the word of the Lord to the crowds of people who flocked from the city, every Sunday and Feastday. In the plain dwelling where he preached there hung a human skeleton, as a continual reminder of the vanity of worldy things. The preaching of Panagoulakis, simple and unadorned, but coming from a heart that lived in Christ, gave rebirth to a multitude of people. The sanctity of the man drew many towards him. Today's laborers of the Gospel, like Archimandrite Joel Yiannakopoulos, Archimandrite Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos and many others, learned as children at the feet of this unlearned ascetic. The attractive power of Panagoulakis' simple words was so great that the Colonel of Kalamata forbade his soldiers to visit his Hermitage, because going there in groups and being influenced by his sermons, they refused to accept food containing olive oil during fasting days.
Having come down with a severe form of tuberculosis, Panagoulakis was forced towards the end of his life to take juices from meats, yielding to the supplications of his disciples. He fell asleep in the Lord on January 17, 1917, and was buried with the whole city accompanying him to the grave. His relics are in the aforementioned Hermitage. He left behind the reputation of a holy man. Witnesses who saw and heard for themselves, and are very trustworthy, relate circumstances which convince us that he was granted the gift of foreknowledge.
From Religious and Ethical Encyclopedia, (vol. 9, column 1117).
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
An angel in the flesh, the joy of the ascetics, thou didst ever preserve the memory of death, O Righteous Elias; in poverty and fasting didst thou shine forth remarkably, proclaiming repentance by thy holy life; wherefore entreat Christ our God to save our souls.
See also: A Tour of Panagoulakis Hermitage in Kalamata
by Elder Joel Yiannakopoulos
If you read the Fathers, you will see that they have their own peculiarities on most topics and sometimes even their disagreements. For example, one interprets a certain passage of Scripture one way, and another a different way. But if there is one topic on which not even one of the Fathers disagrees, it is the topic of askesis (asceticism). All of them praise fasting, vigil, voluntary poverty, physical hardship, and toil in general. None of them praises comforts and easy living. Do you realize the importance of this fact?
We look at what the Holy Fathers said and wrote, and not at how they lived. Instead of doing commentaries on the texts of the Fathers, we ought rather to copy their lives. The Fathers prayed much, kept vigil much, fasted much, loved poverty and simplicity, hated the secular mindset, fought delusions, turned away from the comforts of life, avoided high offices, glory and honors, and loved martyrdom. Do we do these things? We hold the books of the Fathers in our hands, and our lives are a denial of their own lives. The Fathers are life, they are not philology!
From Anecdota: The Sayings of Father Joel Giannakopoulos, Archimandrite by Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos, p. 9.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
by Peter J. Pappas
According to the record of divine revelation, preserved in its fullness by Orthodox Christianity, the goal of human existence consists of union with God and growth in His image and likeness. This process of deification, or theosis, reflects the basic manifestation of human response to the Gospel of Christ. Because of God's revelation, expressed most fully in the incarnation, human beings are given the opportunity for a renewed relationship with God through the saving acts of Christ. At the same time, God also maintains an absolute transcendence, and so cannot be known in His essence by created beings. The Christian faith affirms these two teachings and simultaneously holds them in a certain creative tension in order to maintain a proper understanding of the relationship of God to His creation. It is this understanding that St. Gregory Palamas sought to defend in the fourteenth century. Palamas affirmed the possibility of real communion with God and thus, his theology became the paradigm of Orthodoxy for subsequent generations.
The Holy Trinity establishes this communion with mankind primarily through the sacramental life of the faith community established by Christ. Because of the relationship of these truths, Palamism had a profound impact on subsequent developments in the sacramental theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church. One major contributor to this development was a contemporary of Palamas: Nicholas Cabasilas. Cabasilas sought, through his work, The Life in Christ, to affirm human identity as being grounded in the relationship to God. This work is a collection of seven short books that describe the Christian life as being centered on the experience of the Holy Mysteries and their relevance to the whole of existence. While not mentioning Palamite theology in particular, even a cursory examination of this work reveals the impact that the theology of Palamas had on Cabasilas. This work reveals, in a clear and concise manner, the Palamite understanding of sacramental theology that represents an important body of theological discourse in the Orthodox Church.
In order to explain the theology of Cabasilas in light of Palamism, it becomes necessary to examine a few of the underlying presuppositions of Palamas, namely his anthropology and his distinctions between created and uncreated grace. The way that Palamas viewed the human body affected his understanding of how God related to the human person and thus the role of the sacraments in this process. Classical philosophers looked on matter as being inferior to spiritual or noetic faculties. They viewed the body as simply a container for the soul, which seeks to be liberated from the material world. As was the case with previous generations, Palamas stood at the crossroads of two views of the world, the Judaic biblical model and the classical Greek tradition. He affirmed the Biblical understanding of the human being as created in God's image, reflected in body and soul that interact and ascend towards God. The human body, according to Palamas, is created by God, and is by nature good; and by the sanctifying, uncreated grace of Christ, it becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit(1). Thus, the Palamite view of matter and the body strongly influenced his approach to the sacraments, which are then seen as physical means of communicating spiritual reality. Mantzaridis stated that, "the sacraments are created media that transmit the uncreated grace of God“(2). Such a statement leads to a consideration of the second presupposition, namely the Palamite doctrine of grace.
Palamas viewed grace as the uncreated life of God communicated to His creation through His energies. Palamas distinguished this uncreated grace from simply a change in the character of the created being, which he viewed as created grace. "There is nothing strange," wrote Palamas, "in using the word 'grace' both for the created and the uncreated and in speaking of a created grace distinct from the created"(3). Palamas, in agreement with the eastern patristic tradition, maintained that the appearances of God in the Old Testament were manifestations of the divine Logos and not created symbols manifested to bring about contemplation of God. Thus, Palamite Orthodoxy avoided the idea of a system of "created graces" in which the Church becomes merely the institution established to dispense these means of grace.
With these considerations in mind, one can examine the sacramental theology presented by Cabasilas in light of Palamism. First of all, it is significant that Cabasilas dealt with the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist. Like Palamas and those before him, Cabasilas did not feel constrained to speak in terms of the scholastic system of seven sacraments. Union with Christ manifested in newness of life is the proper end of faith that is begun in this life and perfected in the age to come. Christ bestows this new life through His Mysteries. Cabasilas wrote in section six of the first book:
"Baptism confers being and, in short, existence according to Christ. It receives us when we are dead and corrupted and first leads us into life. The anointing with chrism perfects him who has received new birth by infusing into him the energy that befits such a life. The Holy Eucharist preserves and continues this life and health, since the bread of life enables us to preserve that which has been acquired and to continue in life. It is therefore by this Bread that we live and by the chrism that we are moved, once we have received being from the baptismal washing"(4).
This statement reveals some of the characteristics of his approach in subsequent chapters. First, there is an unmistakable sacramental realism. He makes strong, direct, and sometimes seemingly an extravagant claim for what the sacraments accomplish, but at the same time emphasize the necessity for cooperation on the part of the person participating in the mystery. There is a need for awareness of the grace that comes through the sacrament and the characteristic fruit of a moral nature that must be present to indicate the efficacy of the sacrament. Seen in light of the necessary cooperation with the grace received in the sacrament, the results of the believer's moral choices take on a significant sacramental character.
Cabasilas' framework for discussing the Mysteries assumes an ecclesial context, which is why in addition to Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist, he discusses the consecration of a church and the preparation of the sacred vessels for celebration of the mysteries. This, in turn, derives from the saving acts of the incarnation, most notably the atonement. Fr. John Meyendorff stated:
"Palamas' thought is equally plainly expressed in another passage of the Triads: 'Since the Son of God, in His incomparable love for men, did not only unite His divine hypostasis with our nature, by clothing Himself in a living body and a soul gifted with intelligence ... but also united Himself ... with the human hypostases themselves, in mingling Himself with each of the faithful by communion with His Holy Body, and since He becomes one single body with us and makes us a temple of the undivided Divinity, for in the very body of Christ dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col 2:9), how should He not illuminate those who commune worthily with the divine ray of His Body which is within us, lightening their souls, as He illuminated the very bodies of the disciples on Mount Tabor? For, on the day of the Transfiguration, that Body, source of the light of grace, was not yet united with our bodies; it illuminated from outside those who worthily approached it, and sent the illumination into the soul by the intermediary of the physical eyes; but now, since it is mingled with us and exists in us it illuminates the soul from within' (Triad I, 3, 38). This passage of Pauline inspiration shows why Palamas felt that defense of the hesychasts was defense of the Gospel itself: it was the actual presence of Christ in the sacramental life of the Church that was put in question by Barlaamite nominalism.(5) Cabasilas himself wrote, 'We were justified, first by being set free from bonds and condemnation, in that He who had done no evil pleaded for us by dying on the cross. By this He paid the penalty for the sins that we had audaciously committed; then, because of that death, we were made friends of God and righteous'(6). While this statement may seem to reflect the influence of Anselm's satisfaction theory of the atonement, subsequent statements reveal that Cabasilas did not reduce the atonement to juridical terms nor did he neglect the ecclesiastical context of salvation."
Toward the end of the first book, Cabasilas referred to the righteous of the Old Covenant who looked forward to their deliverance by Christ. He stated, "Formerly it was the law that united us to God, but now it is faith and grace and all that depends on them. It is thus clear that at the time the fellowship of men with God was a condition of servitude, but that it is now one of sonship and friendship, for the law pertains to slaves, but grace, confidence, and faith belong to friends and sons"(7). Palamas himself took very seriously the deifying grace of God revealed to the prophets of the Old Testament. This grace operates in both the Old and New Testaments, with the difference that now in Christ it becomes for the just and repentant, before and after the earthly life of Christ, a permanent gift of the soul that is not lost at the death of the body. In this sense, God in Christ dwells by the grace of the Holy Spirit in Christians in a new way(8). Thus the incarnation provides the basis for the believer's union with God that is appropriated through the mysteries. At the end of this section Cabasilas stated:
"He entered into the Holy Place when He had offered Himself to the Father, and He leads in those who are willing, as they share in His burial. This, however, does not consist in dying as He died, but in showing forth that death in the baptismal washing and proclaiming it upon the sacred table, when they, after being anointed, in an ineffable manner feast upon Him who was done to death and rose again. Thus, when He has led them through the gates, He brings them to the kingdom and the crowns"(9).
This statement reveals an understanding of the Mysteries as a participation in the events that they signify, dying with Christ, as St. Paul said in reference to Baptism, and proclaiming His death upon the sacred table. Cabasilas did not limit his understanding of the mystery to the rite as a means of grace, but as a reality to be lived based on what is accomplished in the liturgical action.
Cabasilas concluded the first book by saying that the mysteries are the means by which we appropriate Christ's saving work. Mantzaridis stated, "The source from which the sacraments derive their grace is the dispensation of Christ. We have said that Christ regenerated and deified in Himself corrupted human nature, but not individual hypostasis. For the grace manifest in Christ to bear fruit, however, it must be made accessible to specific persons "(10). This understanding, also present in Cabasilas, reflects a strong affirmation of the reality of deification and place of synergy in this process. Fr. Meyendorff stated:
"Just as sin and death were transmitted from Adam by natural generation so life has been given to us by the new birth through baptism and the eucharist which incorporates us with Christ. Thus the salvation brought by Christ touches us all personally. 'He grants a perfect redemption,' Palamas writes, 'not only to the nature which He assumed from us in an unbreakable union, but to (each) of those who believe in Him... To that end He instituted holy baptism, defined the laws leading to salvation, preached repentance to all, and communicated His own body and His own blood. It is not nature only, but the hypostasis of each believer that receives baptism, lives according to the divine commandments, and shares the deifying bread and the chalice'(11).
With this foundation thus established, Cabasilas discussed Baptism in the second book. The two chief sacraments, according to Palamas, are Baptism and the Eucharist. He said in one of his homilies, "On these two sacraments depends our whole salvation, for in them is recapitulated the complete theandric dispensation "(12). Fr. Meyendorff pointed out, "Baptism is one of the commonest themes in Palamas' sermons, as it is in his theological and spiritual writings. The sheer number of references to Christian initiation shows the importance he attached to it; for him, neither Christian experience nor spirituality could exist outside the sacramental grace, which, in the Church, communicated the divine life to the faithful "(13). Baptism is a new birth, an illumination, a washing, a gift, and an anointing. Cabasilas described the various stages of the baptismal rite, including the exorcism, the breathing on the candidate, the stripping of the candidate, the renunciation, the recitation of the Creed, and the Baptism, and showed how these actions enable the candidate to experience the spiritual reality that the acts represent:
"Do we not also at Baptism celebrate the divine dispensation and it above all? Indeed so, not so much by what we say, but by our actions"(14).
Cabasilas viewed Original Sin, in part, as the disposition to wickedness on the part of those descending from Adam. The baptismal washing sets us free from corruption and death. The effects of baptism are seen in a willingness to die daily to sin. These effects are most clearly shown in the lives of the martyrs, for many of whom their martyrdom also served as their baptism. These effects are to set free from sins, to reconcile humans to God, to make humans one with God, to open the eyes that souls might perceive the divine light, and to prepare for the life to come. Neither Cabasilas nor Palamas advocated a mechanical understanding of the sacrament of baptism. It does not restrain the will so that many who have been baptized may live in extreme impiety and wickedness, just as those with eyes may choose to live in darkness. Nevertheless, Cabasilas pointed out that even in cases of apostasy, a person is not re-baptized but is re-chrismated.
Palamas himself dealt at great length with the necessity of awareness of baptismal grace. The death to sin and new life in Christ must be evident in the conduct of the baptized person. Palamas considered the violation of God's will after baptism more blameworthy than the transgression of Adam. Meyendorff stated, "Adam was really free when he participated in divine life; 'grace' and 'freedom' do not contradict, but presuppose each other, and true human freedom is being restored in the communion of God in Christ. Baptism therefore is an earnest that we receive in order to make it bear fruit "(15). All who receive and retain the regenerative grace of baptism are able to perceive inwardly their regeneration and to experience it mystically. Of particular interest, as Manztaridis pointed out, is what St. Symeon the New Theologian had to say about the necessity for such an experience in Christian life:
"Every baptized Christian has put on Christ ... When a man whose body is naked puts on something; he has a clear awareness of the completed act and perceives the type of garment he is wearing. How then is it possible for the naked in soul not to feel anything when he puts on God? If, however, he does not in fact feel anything, then there exist two possible explanations: either God does not exist, or else the man who puts Him on is insensate, that is, dead. And I fear, says Symeon on ending his reflection, that those who maintain that the faithful can possess the Spirit of God within themselves, while remaining unaware of this fact, are in reality dead and naked in soul"(16).
Thus, for the hesychastic tradition, an awareness of baptismal grace is necessary to indicate true communion with Christ.
The same is true for the Sacrament of Chrismation, which Cabasilas addresses in the third book. He pointed out how Scripture links the gift of the Spirit with the imposition of hands and that Chrismation is a continuation of this practice. Christ, "the anointed one," was Himself anointed with the Holy Spirit and because He removed the separation between divinity and humanity through the incarnation, the chrism "represents Christ as the point of contact between both natures "(17). He then discussed how Chrismation confers the gifts of the Holy Spirit, saying that, "the effect of this rite is the imparting of the energies of the Holy Spirit "(18). This statement reflects clearly the Palamite distinction and demonstrates how the energies of God are enhypostatized in the believer. In this case, the energies are associated with the person of the Holy Spirit, although it is the Trinity who acts. "While the Trinity in common is the Artificer of the re-creation of men," said Cabasilas, "it is the Logos alone who affects it ... through Himself He gives the Spirit "(19).This passage demonstrates the common action of the Trinity in deification. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit who in turn proceeds from the Father. Cabasilas described the effects of the coming of the Spirit:
In the earliest times this Mystery conferred on those who had been baptized gifts of healing, prophecy, tongues, and such like, which provided a clear proof to all men of the extraordinary power of Christ. Of these there was need when Christianity was being planted and godliness was being established. From that source even now some gifts have been imparted to some. Even in our own and in most recent times men have spoken of future events, have cast out demons and have healed diseases by prayer alone. Nor was it only while they were still walking about alive that they were able to do this, but since the spiritual energy has not departed from the blessed ones even after death their very tombs have availed to do the same(20).
Therefore, not only are the spiritual gifts active, but, in many cases, they remain so after the death of the person to whom they have been granted, as in the case of relics of certain saints, which is certainly what he describes. This is consistent with the Palamite view of the human body and its participation in prayer and in the uncreated grace of God. Palamas mentioned the gifts of the spirit in his discussion of prayer and the transformation of the body:
"Most of the charisms of the Spirit are granted to those worthy of them at the time of prayer ... The gift of diversity of tongues and their interpretation, which Paul recommends us to acquire by prayer, shows that certain charisms operate through the body... The same is true of the word of instruction, the gift of healing, the performing of miracles, and Paul's laying-on of hands by which he communicated the Holy Spirit"(21).
But, said Cabasilas, "the gifts that the chrism always procures for Christians and that are always timely are the gifts of godliness, prayer, love, and sobriety, and the other gifts that are opportune for those who receive them. Yet, they elude many Christians; the greatness and the power of this Mystery is hidden from them and, as it is written in the Acts, 'they did not even know that there is a Holy Spirit.' Since this Mystery takes place in infancy they have no perception of its gifts when it is celebrated and they receive them; when they have reached maturity they have turned aside to what they ought not to do and have blinded the eye of the soul"(22).
As was the case with Baptism, the efficacy of Chrismation implies the need for awareness and an exercise of free will in cooperation with the sacramental grace. Cabasilas also stated:
"On all, then, who have been initiated the Mystery produces its proper effects. Not all, however, have perception of the gifts or eagerness to make use of the riches that they have been given. Some are unable to grasp the gifts because of their immature age; others are not eager because they are not prepared or have failed to give effect to their preparation. Some have subsequently repented and bewailed the sins that they have committed and live according to right reason, and so have given proof of the grace that has been infused into their souls. Accordingly, Paul writes to Timothy, 'do not neglect the gift you have.' Thus it does not profit us to have received the gift if we are careless. There is need of effort and vigilance on the part of those who wish to have these things active in their souls"(23).
Throughout the entire work, Cabasilas maintained the tension between the objective validity of the sacrament and its need for existential relevance to the life of the believer. By virtue of their existence, the sacraments always have their intended effect on the person receiving them. However, there is also a need for awareness of the sacramental grace in order for it to bear fruit in the life of the believer. Therefore, with regard to chrismation, Cabasilas emphasized the need for vigilance. St. Symeon the New Theologian had stated this in even stronger terms:
"Just as it is impossible for one to be saved who has not been baptized by water and the Spirit (Jn 3:5), neither is it for him who has sinned after Baptism, unless he be baptized from on high and be born again. This, the Savior confirmed when He said to Nicodemus, 'Unless one is born from on high, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven' (Jn 3:3, 5). Again He said to the apostles, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 1:5). If one is ignorant of the baptism wherewith he was baptized as a child and does not even realize that he was baptized, but only accepts it by faith and then wipes it away by thousands upon thousands of sins, and if he denies the second Baptism - I mean, that which is through the Spirit, given from above by the loving-kindness of God to those who seek it by penitence - by what other means can he ever obtain salvation? By no means"(24)!
It is clear that for the hesychastic tradition, of which Symeon, Palamas, and Cabasilas were all certainly a part, Christian initiation is a vital part of participating in the energies of God. Baptism brings about rebirth, cleansing, and illumination, and Chrismation makes us partakers of Christ, the anointed one. Palamas did not speak directly to the Sacrament of Chrismation as he did to Baptism simply because there was not always a great distinction between the two and they were seen as a unified act of Christian initiation.
In the fourth book, Cabasilas continued with a discussion of the Eucharist, which he viewed as the greatest of all the mysteries. The Eucharist completes Baptism and Chrismation and is the application of the atonement to the believer. Through participation in the Eucharist, the individual hypostasis receives the effects of the atonement, and transcends individual existence to become part of the body of Christ. Through Baptism the "image" in man is purified and is enabled to follow Christ, while the Holy Eucharist advances the person toward the "likeness" and full union with Christ (25). The union of Christ with each believer through the Eucharist is not the same union as that between the human and divine nature in Christ, yet it is not simply a moral union. Palamas explained:
"Those deemed worthy of union with God so as to become one spirit with Him are not united to God in substance, and since all theologians bear witness in their statements to the fact that God is imparticipable in substance and the hypostatic union happens to be predicated of the Word and God-man alone, it follows that those deemed worthy of union with God are united to God in energy and that the spirit whereby he who clings to God is one with God is called and is indeed the uncreated energy of the Spirit and not the substance of God"(26).
The believer, as a human hypostasis, unites with the human nature of Christ. Because God the Son joined human nature in a hypostatic union, the believer thus partakes in the life of the Holy Trinity through Christ. Therefore, the sacramental union is a real union with His deifying grace and energy (27).
Through this union with the deifying grace and energy of Christ, the believer shares in the incorruptible and eternal life of God. This is offered as a free gift of God's grace in which the believer can freely participate through the Holy Spirit. It is the understanding of this union with Christ that Cabasilas developed. According to Cabasilas, the Eucharist unites us to Christ, sets us free from the law of the flesh, enables us to worship in spirit and in truth, makes us sons of God, and forms the new man in Christ in us. In his discussion of the sanctifying effects of the Eucharist, Cabasilas again emphasized the role of sanctifying grace. It is through Christ that "they become alive instead of dead, wise instead of unwise, holy, righteous, and sons of God instead of polluted, wicked, and slaves. From themselves and from human nature and effort there is nothing whatever that enables them to be justly so called"(28). Book four concluded with a discussion of how our very bodies benefit from the new life, which maintains the Palamite teaching concerning the participation of the body in deification. Thus, he described a number of effects connected with the Eucharist.
As with the other sacraments, partaking of the Eucharist implies an awareness of the grace received and an outward manifestation through vigilance and struggle toward virtue. In comparing the Eucharist to Baptism, Cabasilas said that the main difference consists in the fact that the Eucharist is not spoken of as slaying him who has sinned and creating him anew but as merely cleansing him while he remains himself. The guilty is cleansed in Baptism by being washed, but in the Eucharist by being fed. In keeping with the theme of life in Christ, the new life is begun in birth through Baptism and is sustained by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Eucharist requires proper preparation on the part of those desiring to partake. Regarding the teachings of Palamas, Fr. Meyendorff stated:
"The necessity for 'works' is constantly stressed in Palamas' writings. However he does not so much present this "practice of the commandments" as a condition of grace, but rather as the necessary and free collaboration of man with the redeeming action of God; the grace of baptism, once received, should, to be effective, become a living reality, and only human goodwill can give it that character"(29).
Cabasilas spoke mainly in terms of cleansing and pursuit of virtue, and said that Christ is our ally in this struggle. The Eucharist is thus seen as a reward for victory as well as a means of purification. This purification is also brought about through self-examination, repentance, and confession. Palamas emphasized the need to commune worthily through approaching the sacrament with profound faith. Through faith and repentance, human beings do not transform themselves, but give themselves up to God, who transforms the unworthy into worthy(30). Through partaking of the Eucharist with the appropriate preparation, the grace of Baptism is made a living reality that is evident in the life of the Christian.
Perhaps the most significant effect of the Eucharist is that it constitutes the Church as the body of Christ. As we become one with Christ, we also become one with each other. The Church is thus a communion of members participating in the process of deification through union with the uncreated grace of God. The opponents of Palamas, in not accepting the existence of an uncreated grace uniting man with God, challenged the essential basis of Orthodox ecclesiology(31). The uncreated grace of God unites the members with Christ and with each other. Since for the Orthodox tradition there is but one sacrament, the life in Christ, the Church as the body of Christ constitutes the one mystery. The grace that is present in the mystical body of Christ then becomes the basis for the particular sacramental actions that the Church administers.
Because of the close relationship between the Church as the body of Christ, and the building set apart for its use in celebrating the mysteries, Cabasilas devoted the fifth book to a description of the consecration of a church building. He again reflected flexibility in what he considers sacramental in his rationale for discussion of the preparation of the altar through the consecration service.
Now since the altar is the beginning from which every sacred rite proceeds, whether it be the partaking of the banquet or the reception of the anointing, whether it be ordination or the partaking of the most perfect gifts of the washing, then if we in addition to what has already been said, to the best of our ability examine the rite that sets up the altar, we shall not, I think, do anything superfluous or irrelevant(32).
He described the various ceremonies of the consecration and how the rites signify human consecration to God. He concluded with a discussion of the anointing of the altar and of the use of relics in the altar. Cabasilas applied a great deal of symbolism to the various acts involved in the consecration and again emphasized the Church as the body of Christ, to which he compared the physical temple. In this way, he once again emphasized the Palamite understanding of matter as something that is sanctified and holy.
Cabasilas concluded The Life in Christ in books six and seven with an explanation of the necessity of preserving the grace received through the mysteries. He discussed the beatitudes as a model for the life in Christ and the importance of joy and love. In one section he also extolled the benefits of frequent communion, a characteristic of sacramental theology that was certainly not universal in the fourteenth century. This understanding followed from the importance he, like Palamas before him, ascribed to the Eucharist while at the same time maintaining the necessity of grace to enable the believer to partake worthily.
As is evident from this study of Cabasilas, Palamite theology has had a profound effect on Eastern Orthodox sacramental theology. Palamas fit within the hesychast tradition previously manifested in the works of St. Symeon the New Theologian and later in the works of Cabasilas, both in the treatise discussed here and in his Commentary on the Divine Liturgy. Such an approach reflects an emphasis on communion with God, experience and awareness of grace, and the centrality of the holy mysteries to a dynamic Christian life. This sacramental life springs from the worship of the Church, the mystical body of Christ, and is sustained by the uncreated grace of God. By rediscovering and entering into the sacramental existence described by Palamas, Orthodoxy can recover the consciousness that made the early Church a dynamic spiritual force. This can only occur with awareness among the faithful of the sacramental grace that has been bestowed on them. This consciousness is but one of the ways that the theology of St. Gregory Palamas will continue to enrich the life of the Church for present and future generations.
1. George C. Papademetriou, "The Human Body According to Saint Gregory Palamas," Greek Orthodox Theologies Review, 34, 1 (1989), p. 6.
2. Georgios Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man, trans. Liadain Sherrard (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984), p. 41.
3. John A. Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas (London: Faith Press, 1964), p. 164.
4. Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, trans. Carmine de Catanzaro (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974), p. 50.
5. Meyendorff, op. cit., p. 151.
6. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 53.
7. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 56.
8. John Romanides, "Notes on the Palamite Controversy and Related Topics," Greek Orthodox Theological Review, continuation of an article begun in 6, 2 (1960-61), 249.
9. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 56.
10. Mantzaridis, op. cit., p. 42.
11. Meyendorff, op. cit., p. 159.
12. Mantzaridis, op. cit., p. 43.
13. Meyendorff, op. cit., p. 160.
14. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 75.
15. Meyendorff, op. cit., p. 166.
16. Mantzaridis, op. cit., p. 49.
17. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 105.
18. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 106.
20. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 107.
21. Gregory Palamas, The Triads, ed. John Meyendorff, trans. Nicholas Gendle (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), p. 52.
22. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 107.
23. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 109.
24. Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses, trans. C. J. deCatanzaro (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), p. 337.
25. Mantzaridis, op. cit., p. 51.
26. Saint Gregory Palamas: The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, trans. Robert E. Sinkewicz (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1988), p. 171.
27. Mantzaridis, op. cit., p. 53.
28. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 138.
29. Meyendorff, op. cit., p. 165.
30. Mantzaridis, op. cit., p. 56.
31. Mantzaridis, op. cit., p. 57.
32. Cabasilas, op. cit., p. 149.
Source: From "THE CHURCH AND THE LIBRARY, Studies in Honor of Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou". Ed. Somerset Hall Press, Boston, Massachusetts 2005.