Wednesday, December 24, 2003


My brother Caleb now has comments enabled. Drop by.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Two things.

1) My brother Caleb, currently soldiering in Iraq, just started a blog. He named it Tankers Anonymous. It's funny. It's my brother's. It's a very good thing. Drop by and see him...he gets to leave the Middle East in March or April and is trying to kill time, as he's bored a lot. So hopefully he'll post fairly frequently. I'll drop him an email at some point so he can install a comments system. That'll be even more fun. Do check it out.

2) I'm getting married on Sunday. Therefore, I'm apparently having a bachelor party thrown for me on Friday, that evening (around 6 or 7), at the Beat (187 N. West St.) in Hillsdale, MI. Anyone who reads my blog and likes me (or even not) is welcome to attend, if they can make it out there. Seraphim is supposed to be the one with more information about what is planned, but he seems to be out of touch again blog-wise. Hopefully he'll come back soon with some more info. If not, just show up. It'll be fun whatever happens.

3) Silliman, I'll call you about when my flight gets in. I can still count on you for pickup, right?

That's it for tonight. Things are busy around here. We're moving stuff into the apartment, are almost done, Elisabeth's already living there, I'm in a guest room in the dorm sleeping on the floor, and it's high time we get married. Expect a long absence from the blog next week...I will be away from my computer and don't intend to seek out another one. Hopefully I'll post before we leave on Friday, but if not, I wish everyone a merry and blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


I should add that my brother Timothy has started a blog (at my suggestion). Those who know my writing as it was before I went to Hillsdale will be amazed at the stylistic family resemblance. Bravo to Tim for blogging, keep it up, etc...glad to have you around.

At first I thought it must be finals, but not everyone has that excuse. Then I thought it must be travel after finals or before Christmas, but the people who were traveling are home now. Perhaps everyone has simply written their brains out and there's nothing left to go onto the keyboard but a few random splatters of gray matter. Even Silliman is gone, afk for days and days in an ironic celebration of blogging, travelling countless miles to see a Straussian Jerub-Baal. He at least is still posting--but only once a day.

Doc Ock is also still active, crying insanity at world healthcare.

But Metzger is dead, sucked into the whirling vortex of lies, deceit and titillating advertisements that is modern television--the Blue Knight did not go quietly, but, laid flat upon his back by a crippling wound thereto, has gone into that dark night.

Seraphim has been reduced to posting excerpts from papers he did not to write. We sat and procrastinated and commisserated and complained together before finally spewing out tripe and claiming the completion of mediocrity.

Hugger has left us with a submissive farewell, running headlong into the arms of the Holy Father of Rome.

~Gauche is presumably enjoying a cold one in hell--I wonder if there's some way to list him on his own list of hibernatory bloggers (and to simultaneously remove myself).

Caitlin has posted nothing for weeks--leaving nearly defunct one of the more consistently soothing blogs in the 'sphere.

Bethany is with Silliman, enjoying a last journey before departing to do the Lord's work in Darkest Africa.

Talcott has left us to be entertained by a flexible fork after promising to dethrone the Pope--we are not impressed, but wish him a blessed Nativity nonetheless.

The Wiley Woodsman is as quiet as ever lately, spending his time in contemplation of his approaching nuptials, perhaps meditating on Love and the great four-poster of the Unsentimental Sentiment.

Master Golding's unflappability has been flapped by the great monster of Law School (and it's evil sidekick Torts, whatever that be)--we are left with allusions to unending and unbearable songs from the Master of Mice and Men. Where now the gun and the lockpick? Where is the homebrew that was flowing?

The Man without the Blonde 'Fro is locked in an epic battle with Mac 'ware, both hard and soft--and none may tell the outcome of their struggle. 'Cause he's not posting.

Stack is, presumably, still counting days until my wedding--but she hasn't notified anyone about it, and her blog lies quiet as she laughs about cynical editors afk in Canada

The Love of Her Life has been eaten by cockroaches in vengeance for the prematurely squashed life of Cheeko. I wonder what they did with his new pink velour pants.

Da Konz is still listening to Bob Dylan, still writing sonnets, still tell stories about the Highlands. Actually he's at home, getting ready to come to my wedding--I accidentally hung up on him last night when my cell phone battery went dead. Sorry 'bout that, buddy. Call me back and we'll finish the conversation.

And me...well, I have nothing much to say, or don't want to take the time to make myself think, being tired of typing after the 60 pages of writing I finished last week--so I'm resorting to making fun of everyone else for not posting, just to avoid being consigned to Prizio's Cold Place in Hell, where I already am despite my frequent posting of late, and where he can't consign me because he's there himself.

So, to sum up, we are all dead.

Friday, December 19, 2003


David Talcott has joined the mob, taking up his blogging sling against the Goliath of the Catholic Church. I look forward to seeing more of what he writes--go check him out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


This is a nice article--the best part is this little story: "After his first day of kindergarten, Orville Wright skipped school every morning for a month. Instead, he and a friend would hide in a barn three houses away to take apart and re-assemble a sewing machine.
When his teacher told young Orville's parents that he hadn't been to school, they didn't punish him. 'They felt he was gainfully engaged,' Hudec recalled. It was the start of a lifelong love of tinkering."

I love it!

In other newsHugger has decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. I am surprised. I was not expecting that. Admittedly I am out of the loop, but I am still surprised.

Insofar as I can, however, I congratulate him on his decision. It is a good thing to submit.

So I was Googling for info for my paper and found this nice link. It has a bombastic style, but it's kinda fun, and I like the part about learning more languages. :)

Friday, December 12, 2003


Check this out. Iran's Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi has a blog! I think this is cool. ;)

I don't know much about Iran. I don't really know much about Islam in general. I should fix that sometime.

Sometimes I encounter a simple phrase, an incidental aside buried in another argument, and realize that I have just changed my mind about something terribly important.

I love it when that happens. It just did.

I now oppose the death penalty. Why? I just read this in a comment of Prizio's:

"(I oppose the death penalty, for example, in favor of life imprisonment, for specifically and exclusively Christian reasons: I want to give each soul as long as possible to come to know Christ and be redeemed.)"

What can I say? He's right. I don't know how I missed it before. Our God has given us great mercy. How can we refuse to mete out the same? Most especially when the salvation of a human soul is on the line.

Here is a quote absolutely packed with implications. I suspect it holds the key to many of my musings of late. From the Triads of St. Gregory Palamas.

"Just as in legal marriage, the pleasure derived from procreation cannot exactly be called a gift of God, because it is carnal and constitutes a gift of nature and not of grace (even though that nature has been created by God); even so the knowledge that comes from profane education, even if well used, is a gift of nature, and not of grace--a gift which God accords to all without exception through nature, and which one can develop by exercise. This last point--that no one acquires it without effort and exercise--is an evident proof that it is a question of a natural, not a spiritual, gift."

More on precisely what I think those implications are later.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

GOING TO THE CHAPEL I'm about to go up to the Chapel here at Holy Cross for Vespers. Moreover, in two and a half weeks I'm going to the chapel in the sense meant by the old song. With which fact I am richly blessed. But what I really mean to do here is weigh in on this whole gay marriage thing.

My thinking is very under-developed on this at the moment. There are a number of different "arenas" that meet and conflict on this issue. My libertarian, live-and-let-live instinct says that the homosexual desire to gain the legal benefits that come from marriage (if that's what drives them) is legitimate--that is to say, I can even see a place for permitting two people who are NOT practicing homosexuality to contract together to hold property in common, be taxed together, etc. Such relationships are rare (I don't think I've ever even heard of it, come to think of it), but theoretically possible. At any rate--I'm inclined to be willing to grant that if someone wants it--I just don't want to hear about what they do behind closed doors. That's between them and God.

Now--calling that union or contract or whatever "marriage" is a completely different issue. However...there are many marriages today which are little more than legalized fornication. To Yoda-ize the issue: "Having-sex-and-holding-common-property-do-not-a-true-marriage-make." A true marriage is a spiritual, emotional, psychological AND physical union between two people, found only in a simultaneous spiritual, emotionial, psychological AND physical union with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. The state cannot make such marriages. To call a homosexual union a marriage in this sense is, to me, nonsensical. I know full well that such people as Metzger disagree with me. I'd love to talk more about that, but suffice to say, Christian marriage in my opinion is limited to a man and a woman. There may be holy relationships (non-sexual) between members of the same sex, but they are not marriages. IMHO, of course. And in the opinion of the Church to which I submit. So I can't really negotiate this. Even if I wanted to. Which I don't. Anyway...

In the modern day, this true marriage and the contractual idea of marriage are conflated. Example--I had a friend who cohabited with his girlfriend for several months. (for various reasons, I do not condemn him--primarily because that's not my place, but also because he and she did what they did in good conscience. That in case he reads this--I don't want him to think I condemn him for this--'cause I don't. Anyway...) His family (and hers, I presume) went ballistic. All was made right with them, however, when they had a little ceremony performed by a JP. This is silly to me. The state grants to a clergyman the function of the magistrate in matters of matrimony--the Church does not grant the function of the priesthood to the magistrates. Nor should it.

But I have to go now, so I'll wrap this up, and hone the ideas further later. I don't like the idea of gay marriage being legalized, but if it is, I'm not going to lose much sleep over it. I already distinguish between legal marriage and Christian marriage. The faithful Christian churches throughout America will have to make the same distinction, clearly and forthrightly, to their people and to the public. The Orthodox Church already does anyway. It will just have to clarify once again to make sure people understand.

Christianity was born in a hostile, non-Christian environment. I wouldn't say that I welcome the current process of return to that state of affairs, but neither do I fear it. It'll probably be good for us.

'Nuff said--I'm off to chapel. Hopefully this will foster some discussion. As I said above, I'm not certain about much of this--just musing.

Monday, December 08, 2003


It's been too long since I've read/thought about Dante. So long, in fact, that I've forgotten how many circles of hell he has. However many it is, he missed one. There is a circle reserved for lazy bloggers--a circle in which I very often reside. But this time I realized where I was and took notes. This time I can describe the deepest circle of hell, the torture-chamber of the lapsed blogger.

It's called O'Hare International Airport, and it lives in Chicago. It sucks in the unsuspecting blogger and traps him far from internet access in a barren wasteland, where the only rest is fitful and the dreams are punctuated with a repetition ad nauseum of one damnatory formula.

"Welcome to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. For reasons of safety and for the sake of your health, we'd like to remind you that this is a non-smoking facility. The circle around the first concourse is also non-smoking. There are smoking areas in the circle around the second concourse. You may suck your nicotine while your posterior freezes there if you so desire."

Those were strange dreams. And I don't even smoke.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


I just found this old picture from summer 2002 on my hard drive. It's too good not to share. :)

And just think--I used to think Seraphim was serious-minded, lofty and intimidating. ;)

Now he's just a friend who sucks limes. Much better.

Monday, December 01, 2003


I'm tired.

Stupid Thanksgiving traffic.

Stupid New Jersey Turnpike.

Stupid New York City.

Stupid paper due tomorrow that I haven't started yet.

Stupid me.

In other news, I'm getting married in four weeks. Panic and joy are beginning to battle for my attention. I don't have time for either.

I'll be in Michigan getting the marriage license Thursday. I don't fly out until Sunday. Anyone who wants to meet up with me (I'd love to see anybody), email me ( or call me (260) 466-8013. Or leave a comment here.


Monday, November 24, 2003


Greek Orthodox priests I've spoken with have asserted that, unlike in the Catholic Church, Orthodox sainthood begins at the popular level, with those who knew the reposed holy man or woman and knew their manner of life beginning to request their intercessions, commemorate the date of their repose, etc--that the official recognition of a saint by the Church authorities is merely a ratification of a veneration already long practiced by the people.

This seems to be a prime example of such a thing. It's a New York Times story about a Russian Orthodox army private in Chechnya seven years ago who was beheaded after refusing to renounce the Christian Faith or remove his baptismal cross, despite the threats of his Muslim captors. His mother later learned of the story of his death, and, as it spread, people throughout Russia began to commemorate him as a martyr.

Apparently, however, the Russian Orthodox Church authorities are objecting. I'm not quite sure why. Such an objection doesn't jive with what my Greek Orthodox priest said. Moreover, martyrs are commemorated immediately after their witness is done (to the best of my understanding). One of the few American saints (indeed the only one born on North American soil), Peter the Aleut, was martyred by Spanish Jesuits--and the monk-saint Herman of Alaska recognized him as a saint immediately after hearing the story. Similar things happened with the ancient martyrs, such as Polycarp, Ignatius, etc. Perhaps the story got it wrong and the Russian Church officials are objecting to the likely excesses of popular devotion. Or perhaps they're just on a power trip. *sigh*

Setting that strange bit aside, I appreciate the fact that, for the most part, the devotion to this martyr seems fairly distinct from any blind patriotic support for the Russian army's presence in Chechnya. Here's this quote from a Russian army officer. "The kids in Chechnya, they feel they've been abandoned by the state and abandoned by their commanders," he told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. "They don't know who to appeal to for help, but they understand that Zhenya is one of them."

Here's one of the icons that has been painted of him.

Sunday, November 23, 2003


So I stopped checking the news every half-hour for a few hours, and look what I missed. So Shevardnadze (try saying that 10 times really fast) is out, Georgia has a new president, and things are interesting. I still don't know what the Georgian Orthodox Church thinks of all this. But the US likes it, it seems.

But, even if the world goes on without me watching, I'm going to go snooze now. Don't wake me up till 5. Even if the world ends.
Doggone it, I'm trying to write a paper, but my 'net searches keep bringing up interesting things. The link in the post below is a blog kept by a recent Catholic convert (he looks like he's Eastern Rite) who is considering monasticism. This site is a Mormon discussion board, it seems, discussing whether or not the Catholics and Mormons agree that the human soul that is made like Christ will become uncreated (something which St. Irenaeus taught, apparently). Fascinating--especially seeing the way the LDS folks think.

Ok...back to my paper.

I want to delve more deeply into this site. For now, I'm just fascinated.
This piece on the current unrest in Georgia is intriguing. I'm very curious what the religious leaders in the country are saying...from what little I know, Georgia is very strongly and devoutly Orthodox. I'm curious how that interacts with the politics.

And now, I'm going to bed.
Here's a nice little piece on the future of the Middle East. Nothing really new, but an interesting summary of some things. See what you think

Saturday, November 22, 2003


So my lovely almost-wife, officially dubbed Mrs. Gugg by the Danckaerts, just took the little personality thing. Her compatibility rating with me destroys any possibility for anything between me and Metzger. I'm saved!!

On the other hand, her similarity rating with Metzger is a little disconcerting, I must say. But that's ok.

Welcome her to the blogosphere, if you would please. :)

SimilarMinds Compatibility Results
okoye |||||||| 88% |||||||| 93%
arandir |||||||| 85% ||||||||| 95%
hebe ||||||| 84% |||||| 73%
pulchersentio ||||||| 75% ||||||| 77%
bobgolding ||||||| 78% |||||| 70%
tildegauche |||||| 72% ||||| 61%
ockhamist ||||| 58% ||||| 62%
djhugger |||||| 65% |||| 54%
similarity complementarity  
How compatible are you and your friends?
Dang...I'm a blogging machine tonight. I think it's time for bed.

'night all.


Finally, I am posting some pictures. I got some pictures from two summers online at pbase, and hence am now putting them here so people can see what I look like. The hair-etics of the Ecumenical Council of Orthodox Bloggers should note that this picture was taken a year and a half ago--my hair has not been cut since, and that is the most trimmed my beard has ever been. Those who actually want to see my ugly mug can see it more closely over to the left. The picture above is, of course, the graduation photo of myself and my bride-to-be (to be married in just barely over a month!!!! AAAAAHHHHH!!!).

The above picture was taken in a park in Barcelona. That was a fun trip. :) All the locals were down below saying I was going to die in Spanish. When it came time to try to get down, I almost believed them.

As I said, all sorts of fun.

Friday, November 21, 2003


Konrad LaPrade is posting again. I am very happy.

In other news,Konrad LaPrade is posting again on Xanga. I am very sad.

Also, I am both happy and sad. I am therefore confused.

Which reminds me, Bob, of your mother's use of the word.

Which in turn reminds me of all that I am missing at the Beat.


I miss those guys.

In other news, my reliable little Prizm is in the shop right now. It had been making weird sounds and not accelerating so well for the past few months, but inconsistently enough that I could never catch it while asking mechanics about it. Turns out it needed a new clutch. Grrrr...that's what I get for teaching two girls to drive a stick. Fortunately, I'm marrying one of them, so I get to use her money to fix it. ;) Which is good, because it's costing me like $650.

Did I get ripped off, Bob?

I hope not...dunno if I'd be able to live with myself if I did.

Anyway, I'm picking it up tomorrow, and hopefully all will be well, because I have to drive down to DC and my future in-laws' place next week for Thanksgiving.

So if I'm incommunicado for a few days, that's why--don't consign me to hell again, Prizio.

Apparently I had all the wrong best friends at Hillsdale. Humph. I wonder what this means.

In other news, I'm going to see if I can get the other guys at the Beat to join in this little crazy thing--visit the BeatBlog to help me encourage them.

SimilarMinds Compatibility Results
okoye |||||||| 91% |||||||| 87%
MrsGugg ||||||| 78% |||||||| 86%
bobgolding |||||| 74% ||||||| 80%
hebe |||||| 67% ||||||| 75%
pulchersentio |||||| 69% |||||| 69%
ldheyman ||||| 63% |||||| 72%
tildegauche ||||| 56% |||||| 67%
djhugger ||||| 58% |||||| 66%
ockhamist ||||| 60% ||||| 60%
similarity complementarity  
How compatible are you and your friends?

The really funny thing is, I just spent four hours today taking the manditory psychological evaluation for prospective seminarians here at Holy Cross. I am very happy to spend the evening using such silly questions for fun. It makes me feel better, somehow.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

ἐν ἀρχή ἦν ὁ λόγος

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Ok...I'm confused. I thought was liberal. But this piece doesn't read liberal. Matter of fact, it reads in a more unbiased, open-minded way than anything I've read for a long while. Skeptics in the blogosphere should note that I'm not asserting anything about the supposed Iraq-bin Laden connection. Just commenting on the piece and on the associated news.

Silliman--did Slate become conservative when I wasn't looking?

Sunday, November 16, 2003

ἐν ἀρχή ἦν ὁ λόγος

Thursday, November 13, 2003


Award for most incendiary post this week goes to Karl Thienes of St. Stephen's Musings over on the Orthodox side of the tracks. His post on the Matrix Trilogy and the legitimacy of Christian patronage of the arts in general (but specifically movies with sexual content or violence) has polarized the Orthodox Blogosphere. The comments section to this moment boasts 34 (lengthy) comments since the post went up on the 11th. I'm sure there are more to come. Kudos to Karl for making us think and further commendations for maintaining a careful balance between extremes. I look forward to more from him and the others.

Myself, I may even re-post my final movies dissertation from last spring if I get a chance (with current thoughts included). We'll see. I have a paper due tomorrow. Fortunately, I've found a way to incorporate my recent posts on language, philosophy and theology into the paper, so that means I'm almost done already. :)


Tuesday, November 11, 2003


Some days the flowers bloom, the sun shines and all is well with the world. On such days, nearly comatose bloggers return to the 'net and old college friends become fathers.

It's a beautiful thing when both happen at once. Mr. D has returned, and as his first announcement back he bears witness to the birth of my old roommate's first child.

Pictures of the lovely Miss Alyssa Rachelle Helmick are posted here. Heartiest and very Excited Congratulations to Chad and Kristen.

And now, to bed!

Saturday, November 08, 2003


I just can't resist posting this link. I spent my college days being mildly teased for my preferred attire: a flannel shirt and a pair of brown Cabelas work pants. And now, just after I finally leave that look behind for black slacks and a button up shirt, it becomes trendy.

*sigh* I am forever damned to be out of fashion. For which, come to think of it, I'm grateful.

And I am glad that my generation is at least in part rejecting the ludicrous fashions of the day and putting comfort first. That should leave more time for the more important things in life.

Friday, November 07, 2003

I have written this in an attempt to speak in some fashion to Metzger's particular issues with me. But this clarifies what I say below. Hence I submit it for all.

Dear Jonathan,
I appreciate your charity in removing your first post. I had no desire to offend. On the contrary, you nearly top the list of those with whom I would like to speak about this. Because you especially, along with Sam and Prizio, somehow exemplify what is needed. All three of you have in some sense rejected the faith in which you were raised, and all three of you have to a significant degree still clung to it. I do not blame any of you--those things which drove you drove me as well. I deeply regret that our separate paths have caused me to become, in any sense at all, your enemy. I simultaneously consider it a weighty compliment that you consider me worthy to be called your arch-nemesis--it implies that you detect in me enough honesty, authenticity and genuine desire for truth that you think it worth your while to express your disagreement with me (unless it simply expresses the fact that I managed to piss you off, in which case, I'm not sure what to say). But if it is the former, I like to think I have at least enough Christian charity to return the favor. Which is a roundabout way of saying that, for all I speak of Christianity and the superiority of the Orthodox faith, you shame me in your love for others.

I am, at the moment, trying to find a way around the label of heresy which the Orthodox in this country throw around perhaps too loosely at all who are not Greek, Russian or wearing a strange enough hat. It is not a comfortable label to throw. Nor is it charitable, and seldom is it profitable or edifying. I doubt, indeed, that I have ever heard it used in a helpful or edifying manner. The term seems only to have a limited usefulness in excluding certain doctrines which are antithetical either in and of themselves or in their consequences to the fundamental, unchanging Christian Faith.

But I do consider the Christian Faith to be unchanging. This is fundamental--but what I mean by it needs explaining. I do not assert, for example, that the Nicene Creed was the Christian expression of faith from the beginning. I do say, however, that it is precisely that, an Expression of Faith--that Creeds may change, but the Faith does not, being, fundamentally, the encounter of men with the immutable God. Or, put another way, men change, but God does not.
Therefore, as our ideas develop and shift, as our cultures evolve or devolve, our encounter with God may change, or, at least, the words we use to describe that encounter. For the encounter itself comes when we are most like God--so perhaps this is a common experience that transcends words and culture, being a mystical experience, devoid of image and form and defying description. Or, put even another way, the Faith is unchanging in the sense that a Christian man of prayer today shares something deeply fundamental to his being with Christian men of prayer of old--there is a relational identification between myself (if I am living my life existing in communion with God) and the Apostle Paul or Peter. I am sure the Scriptural quotes relevant to this are obvious--statements such as God is the same yesterday, today and forever, Paul's statement that, "For me, to live is Christ..." or "It is not I who lives, but Christ that lives in me," or John's statement that "everyone that loves is born of God and knows God..."

So the Faith is unchanging, immutable, indescribable. But just so it must be described, clothed in human terms, just as the uncircumscribable Son of God was circumscribed, was clothed in human flesh and in created time. For the Christian faith is a Faith of and in Incarnational Revelation--that the unknowable God posited by philosophy made Himself known, that the Infinite Truth became somehow comprehensible to the finite mind. Christians have maintained from the beginning that the essence of Christianity is found in the experiential encounter with God--but in that encounter, God enters the realm of human experience, and becomes someone of Whom we can speak in accurate or inaccurate terms--even if those terms are limited their accuracy, even if all that can be said of God with anything approaching complete accuracy is that He Is.

It is precisely this faith, this confidence (that it is possible to speak of God at least to a limited degree), which is represented and exemplified by the Scriptures. The Old Testament uses Hebrew language to describe the encounter of the Hebrew people with the God who revealed Himself to their forefathers, called them out of Egypt and spoke to them through the prophets. The New Testament speaks in Greek of the same God, revealed in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. But, though it is written in Greek, it is written by Hebrews, steeped in Hebrew culture, history and language. It represents a transition point--from Hebrew to Greek. It is at once the last expression of the revelation of God in Hebrew and the first in Greek, analogous to what a Greek might write in English today--the words would be English, but would be mere English translations of Greek ideas, meaningless removed from their context (as indeed most English-speakers find such writings today). We know that the Scripture was similarly meaningless to the Hellenistic philosophers of the day. To understand them required that on, in some sense, though still speaking Greek, become Hebrew. As the first century drew to an end it became clear that it was impractical and untenable for the Church to make this demand of the Greco-Roman society in which it lived.
The Gospel of John is, indeed, in many ways the first effort we can see to speak to the Hellenistic world in its own terms--Christ is spoken of as the Logos. And we're off to the races...from this point onward Christianity is dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the people, not in bringing people to the Gospel.

The second century of the Christian era is characterized by the efforts of Christian apologists and writers to make the Christian Faith, something intrinsically connected with Hebrew history, language and culture, comprehensible to the Hellenistic mind. From very early on, this effort took the form of re-articulating the Gospel in the terms of Hellenistic philosophy, of answering the questions of the philosophers from the Christian perspective and of following the first Christian articulations in this medium through to their logical conclusions, constructing an entire cosmology in competition with and in apposition to the systems of Plato, Aristotle and later, Plotinus. These efforts reached their culmination in the work of Origen in Alexandria.

This system can, for all intents and purposes, be characterized as the perfect syncretistic melding of Christianity and neo-Platonism. Which is to say, Origen got some things very, very wrong. One does not wish to be trite in an oversimplification of his ideas, but his lava-lamp idea of pre-existent souls constantly and eternally drawing closer to God as they heat up spiritually and lapsing again down to the material world as they cool seems at first glance to have almost no relation to the most basic of Christian doctrines. Yet Origen headed the catechetical school in Alexandria, influenced generations of Church hierarchs and theologians, and was only condemned for very specific heresies (including the above) several centuries later.

Indeed, at the time, Origen was a standard of Orthodoxy. His philosophical system was hailed as perfect and adopted almost universally throughout Africa and much of the Eastern Church. For he was the culmination of that first generation of Christian philosophers, the originator of the best philosophical system Christianity had possessed since John committed Christianity to this engagement with Hellenism with his adoption of the term �Logos.�

In the century and a half following Origen�s death, however, more and more pillars of his carefully constructed philosophical system were discarded as Christians more carefully considered their ramifications and decided they were, at best, defective (at worst incompatible with reality and Scripture). But no cohesive system arose to replace it, creating a meltdown of sorts in Christian doctrine, a crisis of belief, culminating in the Arian crisis, which simultaneously was the culmination of the Church�s rejection of Origen.

Arius was seemingly the first to openly and insistently reject Origen�s definition of Christ�s origin (no pun intended) as �eternally created by the Father� as the sort of first emanation (cf. Plotinus, etc). The problem lies in the fact that Origin�s creation of ALL spirits by emanation, as it were, removes any meaningful distinction between Christ�s nature and ours�but once the doctrine of emanations as a means of connecting the agenetic Father with the genetic Spirits is removed, one ends in making all into mere creatures, including the Son and the Spirit. Arius, in articulating this, boldly and insistently, sounded the death-knell of Origenism. *Note* The philosophical, theological and political issues behind this entire issue are complex (too much so for examination here), but let it suffice to say for the moment that there�s a lot more going on than I�m saying. I have a paper due on this in a few weeks, which I will post, hopefully filling in the picture. *End Note*

While the decrees of Nicaea rejected Arius� assertion and established the logical refutation of his doctrine, that rather than a created being, Christ is of one essence with the Father, co-eternal with Him, uncreated and never having not-been, they had no philosophical system to back them, to explain them, etc. The protracted controversy regarding Nicaea that followed the Council itself was a simple consequence of this�fully Christian bishops, priests and laymen were left in a philosophical vacuum following this wholesale abandonment of the systems that had tied the intellectual tenets of the faith together for the Hellenistic mind. It was only with the work of the Cappadocian Fathers that a system was developed to replace Origen and the other early apologists.

Their great and lasting contribution was the creation of a system incorporating the Nicene definitions, the tradition of the Church and the best of Hellenistic philosophy into a single, seamless system, at once fully consistent with the inner life of the Church and the reality of her encounter with God, nonetheless treating and adopting the best of philosophy with such faithfulness to its fundamental kernel (the illumination of Socrates, Plato and Plotinus that had spawned it) that many even of the philosophers of the day held them in high regard.

Its perfection is indicated by the fact that, in the Greek-speaking, still Hellenistic East, the Cappadocians� system perseveres to this day as the standard of Orthodoxy. Other theologians have written, of course, but they have merely filled in less developed portions of the Cappadocians� system. One could even attribute the supposed stagnancy of Byzantine intellectual thought (an accusation often leveled against the later Eastern Roman Empire) to this�after the Cappadocians, there was little to say. The definition of Christianity in the Greek language was complete, the energies of Byzantium�s intellectuals directed elsewhere. As much had been said about God as could be understood by the rational mind�to discover more was the arena of the mystic, the hesychast, the man of prayer. Words and ideas had reached their limit�more could not be learned without shedding these transient things and delving into the blinding darkness of God Himself.

Such a system, however, was not developed in the West. I say that not in any attack upon Augustine, Aquinas or any of the other theologian-philosophers with whom the Latin West has been graced. Their work was good�but the very existence of the subsequent philosophers and theologians, of the Renaissance, of the Protestant Reformation and, in more modern times, of the parallel developments of modernism/post-modernism on the one hand and the denominational explosion on the other bear witness to the imperfect nature of Christianity�s Western philosophical clothing.

This can, I think, probably be attributed to external pressures. There was a lengthy period of peace and security in the Eastern Roman Empire which provided the environment necessary for a protracted discussion. But Augustine himself only scarcely outlived the fall of Rome in 410, and whatever one may say of the centuries following, they were not an age of peace and security. Indeed, there has been no opportunity for Christianity in the West to regroup and re-examine the philosophical system clothing the Faith since the fall of Rome. Or rather, on the rare occasions that the opportunity has presented itself, it has led to more schisms, more divisions and more confusion.

In modern America, this theological meltdown has reached its apogee�but it is here, in this time and place of peace, prosperity and security, that we Christians of all stripes are finally presented with the crucible we have needed for so long. It is far past time for a Western culture to develop a consistent philosophy of Christianity that can finally give an answer to all the controversies that have plagued us for so long. I am convinced that there is a way to resolve the questions that divide us, whether they be ecclesiology, soteriology, Christology�even the question of free will seems within reach.

I see all the pieces moving towards this very conclusion. The English-speaking world is full of those who have experienced in themselves the failure of the Church in the West to answer the fundamental questions, those who have at once left the Church and still cling to it despite themselves. It is at peace (in that its lands are not ravaged by war), secure, with energy to spare for intellectual pursuits. It possesses an unparalleled knowledge of the past, an unequaled ability to look with clear sight at the 20 centuries which lie behind us and understand them in their virtues and their faults. It is an age of hope and despair united, an age in which people are willing to surrender ancient feuds and pet ideas. And it is an age in which finally the Christian-philosophical traditions of East and West are co-existent in one land, speaking one language, experiencing one culture, facing common enemies. All of Christianity is gathered here, in person or by proxy. There will be no better time than this.

It's always interesting when a scientist promises the moon to the waiting world. Especially when he does so literally. And most especially when it's actually believable. I eagerly await further developments on this front.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I really truly should be going to bed by now. But I haven't blogged for a month, and I have something significant on my mind. Justice and reason dictate that my first post back should be a response to the questions so kindly posed to me by Karl Thienes. I am in the middle of composing such a post. But some of the answers are taking me more time than I had expected, and I am currently excited about something else. So I will post, promising, as I have for a month now, that "next post" will include the interview.

This post owes much to my current courses here at Holy Cross (which have apparently been more thought-provoking than I had thought), especially to my Church History course with Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald and to the massive paper assignment from Fr. George Dragas. It also owes much to my Beloved Enemy and good friend Daniel Silliman and to our epic conversations regarding Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, to the recent joint statement issued by Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians regarding the Filioque clause of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and to a myriad of other influences. Mainly it's my overactive brain on overdrive. to the races...

Since I was old enough to comprehend that it existed, I have abhorred the rift between denominations of Christians. While I was still Protestant, I sought to distance myself from denominational barriers and derided denominationalism as blasphemous to the name of the undivided Christ which we claim to bear. To this I still hold.

My conversion to Orthodoxy vastly improved my position and aided my image of myself. For now, I can claim to be a part of that true and complete Body of Christ from which the others have split off. I have been able to say to myself in good faith that it is not I that blasphemes Christ, not I that makes Him divided in the eyes of the world outside--it is THEM! And this has been pleasant.

Yet I have maintained, parallel with that view of myself, a pity for those outside--for the schisms and heresies which spawned this abomination which we call the denominational explosion all lie far in the past (and many even were spawned in good faith, with the intention of preserving the Faith and worshipping God in spirit and in truth). Moreover, I know all too well that those who today exist in schism with the Orthodox Church do so by default. They never left the Church; rather, they grew up outside Her, and know nothing of Her. So I have pitied them and tried to communicate to them the truth which they lack, that they too might partake of the wonder and blessing that lies constantly within my grasp here.

I have, however, been constantly frustrated in that many dear friends have failed to understand, failed to be interested, ultimately failed to convert. I have questioned what ailed them. Did they not see? Could they not hear? And I ultimately attributed it to the ineffable workings of the human soul and consigned them in prayer to the far more ineffable mercy of God.

But I have recently understood something which had before escaped me. I came to college and encountered Orthodoxy with a mind and heart purposely wiped clean of a theological vocabulary. I had intentionally shunned preaching, teaching, books and church attendance itself in a desire to rid my mind of preconceived notions and expectations and approach Scripture truly openly, that I might understand what God said to men, not what men said about God. And consequently, I had far less of a theological system to shed as I embraced the Eastern theological system by which Orthodoxy is expressed. I found in it the fundamental truths of the Scripture in which I had immersed myself for the past two years, and knew of a certitude that here I belonged within three months of my first encounter.

But others cannot be expected to do so. Others have far too much invested in a system of thought that is existentially Western and English, as opposed to Eastern and Greek. Moreover, there exists the ever present handicap to the modern American mind of the inprecice nature of the English language theologically speaking. There have been so very many writers who have bandied so many words so differently that it is truly possible for thousands of differing denominations to confess the very same creed as I do (save the Filioque) and mean something utterly divergent from Orthodox Christianity.

This was not the case 1500 years ago in the Eastern Roman Empire. There, there was a literature, a dialogue on papyrus and parchment, a refining fire in which words were tested and tried--so that when a catechumen stood up in the Church and confessed "Pistevo eis ena Theon, Patera Pantocrator..." those receiving him for baptism could be confident that, if he spoke in good faith, he truly held the Faith once delivered to the Apostles, that he truly believed in one God, the Father Almighty...

It is a matter of fact that language is by nature an imprecise and fluid thing. A word means practically nothing removed from its context. Just so, a word, a sentence or a creed mean nothing when removed from the larger context of literature in which they were spoken. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed itself expresses little of the faith--but it represents countless volumes which carefully define every single word within it, so that, on that imagined day 1500 years ago, the newly baptized Christian knew precisely what it was to which he had committed himself. He knew that his confession of Christ as "homoousion" denied the belief that the Son of God was a mere creation. He knew that a distinction existed between the word "ousia" and the word "hypostasis;" that three of the latter could exist in one of the former, and that this was how the Trinity was to be described. And this he knew because Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Athanasius, Arius, Cyril of Alexandria, Nestorius, Eutyches, Origen and countless other Saints and heretics had fought long and hard over each word until there could be no doubt of the meaning of the Creed. Indeed, the Creed is the summation of the entirety of Holy Tradition--and its translation in each language must needs be based in a similar corpus of literature.

The strange thing to realize is that it will not suffice simply to translate that older corpus. For the distinction between ousia and hypostasis and the heresy that spawned it is a Greek distinction and heresy, not an English one--and any English translation will have its own issues, countless and myriad and each a latent heresy. After all, English is its own language, with its own history and an already vast corpus of literature. Rather, the same battles which defined the early centuries of Christian history must be each re-hashed, re-examined, re-fought. And new battlefields must be created, new battle lines drawn. There will be heresies. And it must needs be so.

But for the moment, it is too early to begin pointing fingers, to begin issuing anathemas. The language is far too imprecise. I cannot in good faith point a finger at any random Anglican or Roman Catholic at a first encounter and call him a heretic. His belief may be heresy, but I cannot know that so soon. Indeed, so many of my conversations are primarily semantic--the entire time is spent defining and redefining terms. And all too often, in the end, we realize that that which divides us is far less than it had seemed.

This is not to say that heresy cannot or does not exist in this English-speaking land. But in the past, the wisest among the Fathers always took very great care to ensure that a man was not condemned for his heresy until he understood the meaning of the words he used and nonetheless stood by them--it was only when a heretic, fully understanding that in his belief he differed from the decision of the council in question, refused to renounce his beliefs, his terminology, that he was finally condemned. The instances of Nestorius and Eutyches come particularly to mind.

It also must be borne in mind that the Fathers were this merciful to the heretics themselves, the first originators of the false doctrines. Who are we, who am I, to point my finger at my estranged Christian brother (a Pentecostal, for example), reared in the West, ignorant of history, ignorant of any church but that in which he took his first steps in Christian thought and philosophy, and accuse him of heresy. The kernel of his faith may well be as Orthodox as mine, if not more so. If he does not understand the consequences of his individual beliefs, can I condemn him? If the language I use to speak to him is incomprehensible or, worse, is that which he associates with a Mormon, a Buddhist, or (as this is very common with those among whom I grew up) a Roman Catholic? He has been conditioned to reject these from his birth--he took in the reflex reaction with his mother's milk.

But he, and indeed no devout Christian upon this earth intends to be a heretic. After all, even the heretics thought that they was upholding the fullness of the Orthodox Faith. Were it not so, they would not have been so recalcitrant. And so, in this age especially, as the Orthodox Tradition, that which most completely possesses the faith of the early Church (for it is organically connected to that Church, both in history and in language) finally is introduced into the sphere of English and American Christianity, what is most needed (next to a genuine faith and a heartfelt prayer on the part of each and every one of us) is a dialogue, a literature, the beginnings of a corpus of verbiage that will give precision and depth to the language we use to speak of the things of God.

But we who are Orthodox must not think that it will suffice to dialogue only amongst ourselves. Amongst ourselves, we already share a vocabulary, much of it taken from those few Orthodox who have written in English, much more simply borrowed directly from the Greek (such as Logos). In many ways, we ARE Greeks, speaking Greek in English. We cannot expect the average American to do this--we must begin to speak in English, and that requires that we begin to address the misunderstandings and problems arising in English. For that, we need controversy, we need contention--we need our estranged brothers in the Anglican and Roman Catholic and Calvinist communions, and perhaps even in the further removed denominations of low-church Protestantism.
We already know that we share many beliefs, even many words with them. There are similarly many matters upon which we greatly disagree. In many cases it remains to be seen whether the beliefs behind the words truly differ--or if they would if we each comprehended what the other side understood us to be saying, what they thought those beliefs implied. I have no doubt that there are hoards of heretics in modern America--but equally I have no doubt that, once all understand what the words mean, far more than those hoards would be Orthodox.

This, then, is what I propose, in my hubris and vanity as a first-year seminarian. Let us ourselves begin such a dialogue, begin intentionally and in earnest the long work of refining English as a theological language. Let us not abandon the roots from which we have sprung, but let us rather begin to remove those seedlings from the temporary pots in which they have for so long remained and begin to transplant them into this new land. The goal is not to condemn, not to immediately establish who is in and who is out--it is simply to talk, to understand, to develop a common vocabulary, so that, whether we end in agreement or not, we KNOW where we stand.

For the Orthodox--I do not propose that we admit that the denominations of America are Orthodox--I merely suggest that we at least extend as much to them as the ancient Fathers did to the heretics. Let us talk to them, crunch terms with them, and understand them. For you who are not Orthodox, I do not ask you to accept Orthodox definitions and schemai--rather simply to at least consider them, critique them, converse with them and seek to understand them. Let us together seek to ensure that, 200 years from now, if there are still denominations in America, those denominations will at least know with certitude what divides them.

For this purpose I offer my papers blog, Pilate's Question. The reference to Truth seems to me a fitting title, and a fitting place to begin. Let us, indeed, see a great conversation begin between Hillsdale's League of Extraordinary Bloggers on the one hand and the Ecumenical Council of Orthodox Bloggers on the other. I suspect it will be most expedient if I remain the sole administrator, posting such things as others may send me. But details may be worked out later.

As I write this, I begin to fear that I am thinking too highly of myself, that I have no right to aspire to this. But, should I ever hope to have such a right, to be capable of writing coherently of the Christian Faith in this English language. I must begin somewhere. And this--this is a lofty goal. I recall something Jake Allen, the Ockhamist, wrote a number of weeks ago--that he had always thought to be a great man someday but had, for the first time, begun to doubt that he truly would, as a great cause in which to prove his greatness had failed to present itself. I have felt similarly. But this--this is truly a great cause, a great enterprise, a great life's work. It is one that could draw into itself even the highest of scholars, but still include the simplest of blue-collar workers, simply because that worker could pipe up and say, "I don't get it--what you said means this to me," or worse, "So why should I care?" So easily do the mighty fall�for the wisdom of the world is made foolishness, and this we must not forget.

So let us take care in our writings, working to always speak directly to the matter at hand, not losing our way in the ethereal heights of reason or rhetoric. Let us equally maintain a publishable level of quality--for this, surely, is something which could be published. Let us always carry on in charity and Christian love, seeking the edification of ourselves and one another, preserving the Faith but never using a particular formulation thereof as a weapon against one another. And let us pray, always pray--for the words of theolgians and councils are but the cloak of the inner life of Christianity, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Consigning ourselves to His guidance, and praying that the mercies of God may ever shown upon us and this land, let us then begin.

Come let us reason together...

Monday, October 13, 2003

Yeah, I know. I've been gone forever. I'm back to the "Cold Day in Hell" section of ~'s blog links, I haven't answered Karl's interview questions, I've not mentioned that I've had a birthday since I last posted, that I'm getting married in 11 weeks and have selected wedding rings with my fiancee, that the academics here suck, that my brother in Iraq's gotten a temporary transfer to a musical group in Baghdad that should keep him out of the line of fire for a few months, that I'm still happy to be here, that I'm really really out of it in some horrid malaise (though y'all probably could have guessed that), that my dad read and enjoyed my discussion with the Anglicans over at Pilate's Question, my paper's blog, that Boston is crazy when the Red Sox are in the playoffs or whatever they're called in baseball, that I am reading and very much enjoying Metropolitan Hierotheos' Orthodox Psychotherapy, or anything else that's happened to me since you last heard from me.

But I'm back now, and mean to stay back (yes, you've heard that before. Welcome to my life). This time, Prizio is to blame for my return (actually, he was last time too. Interesting...). He has an interesting and disturbing quote and link on his page. The link is to a weird and freaky page, but the quote got me thinking.

Here it is: "Despite what suntanned youth pastors, overproduced Christian pop stars, and columnists from glossy Jesus teen mags told me in my evangelical youth, it has never been very cool to be Christian. Imagine telling your peers, �I�d love to go to a forthcoming concert / party / film with you, but I can�t because there is this kind Jewish man with long hair and soft eyes who loves me more than his own flesh and he wants me to remain pure so I can spend eternity with him in paradise.� There is no register available on this earth that could count this as hip."

I don't like that answer (duh!). Here's my response, which I also posted in ~'s comments. But I needed some material here, so I'm plagiarizing myself--and also, I'm curious what y'all think.

Here it is:

"That's a fairly lousy statement of the reason not to go (even if such things are indeed better avoided). A better reason (or closer to better--my weird mind doesn't seem to know how to communicate with Joe Schmoe) would be something along these lines.

"The only reason I'd really want to go to any of those things anyway would be to escape, to hide, to run away. Heck yeah, I've got problems, but I'll be far happier in the end if I face them instead of hiding behind my appetites. The self is not located in the belly. Nor in the balls. Just as it's not in the brain, or the soul, or the spirit, or the heart, or any other element that the myriads of philosophers have invented in their efforts to dissect the human person. My self is in the comixture of all of the above, and I won't be happy, won't be myself, won't actually live a life worth living, until they are restored to their rightful places and actually united. Then I will be happy, then I will be healed, then I will finally be able to enjoy the gifts of creation without destroying myself"

"And Christ is the one who heals me."

As I said, I have no idea how to speak to the masses. I'm bad enough talking to people who have some inkling what I'm talking about. But it works for me. And those mannequins are freaky."

I apologize for the nested quotes. It's late, and I'm not in the mood to fix it. But do tell me what thoughts you have on the subject. Thanks. :) And good night. I have altar duty tomorrow. 7 will come far too early.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Something is messed up on my formatting now that it's been over a week since I last posted. So I'm posting something, just to try to get it back to normal.

Incidentally, I've had a lot more thoughts on the priesthood, sparked by several discussions with my bride-to-be and the recent necessity to write my application to the seminarian program here at Holy Cross. I hope to post some of them tomorrow. We'll see how the day's rest and evening work go.

Also, I need to respond to Karl Thienes' interview questions. That's also on the schedule for tomorrow.

I'll catch up...really I will. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Greetings, friends and neighbors.

I just put in the new comment system. Length is now no object. My apologies for the sudden loss of all old comments. I think it will be better this way--best to change when the loss is smaller, etc. So please, blogout, and quickly, so my blog doesn't look like nobody reads it. ;)

Sunday, September 07, 2003


This is pretty cool. Perhaps there are perks from being owned by Google.

When one searches Google for Anthony Cook, my site is the first, yeah, FIRST to appear. I'm fourth for Arandir, and couldn't find myself for just Anthony. Nonetheless...that's very cool. I am happy. To my surprise, and not a little bit to my dismay, I appear sixth when one searches for "greek orthodox" blog. That puts me up above Pensate Omnia, St. Stephen's Musings and many others who represent the faith far better than I. May God forgive me. Anybody who finds my site under that search, visit my friends at those links.

More on the priesthood later--Danielle Miller asked a question that made me remember some things.

But I can't write it now. We have Orthros and Liturgy starting at 6:30 tomorrow...and I'm on altar duty, so I have to be there at 6. Hence up at 5, so I'm going to bed now.

But, God be praised, it is very good to be here.

Thursday, September 04, 2003


It's been almost a week since we arrived. So far the refrain has been "better than Hillsdale." Above all the chapel has been better--certainly the cafeteria and library are better, and even the student body has proven itself quite competitive with the institution which recently saw fit to give me a degree. I suspect that this school and these people will be a very great blessing in my life over the coming years. Glory be to God for His great mercy.

Today they split off the potential candidates for eventual ordination from the rest of the new students and laid out the requirements for the next four years leading up to ordination. My reactions to their presentations were mixed (though tending towards the positive), but the topic reminded me of something I've been thinking about for at least the past year.

How does one discern a calling to ministry? My answer to anyone who asks (including myself) has been that I cannot imagine myself truly content in any life but that of a priest--that is, I WANT to be a priest. I don't know whether that answer suffices--for the moment, it has brought me here, and I pray that all will be well.

My concern is that I do not possess the proper dread of the lofty calling I seek. St. John Chrysostom fled ordination--I am seeking it, and that blithely, regardless of my many sins and failings. In every way, I am utterly unworthy. Yet these are merely words which I write because I know in my mind that I should say them. They do not flow from my heart. That lighthearted approach to such a weighty office is perhaps the single greatest barrier to my eventual ordination.

Which is strange, because one would think that I would consider the myriad of sins themselves a greater barrier than the awareness of my unworthiness--instead, I consider (and I think rightly) that awareness the single greatest prerequisite for this calling. In the larger sense, the sins themselves are almost negligible.

Why is this? Simply put, because the conquest of my own sinfulness itself is not, strictly speaking, my department. A man on his own WILL sin...period. This is a law more immutable than that of gravity. Only God can purify a man--but He insists on our consent before He will act.

In order to clarify what I mean, let me reference the life of Elder Joseph the Hesychast of blessed memory. He spent several years in grueling warfare against the demons until he was finally rid of the passions. He writes of fighting so closely that one demon "left the sensation of his hairs on my fingers and the smell of his stench in my nose." His descriptions can leave us with the impression that the Elder was fighting a direct war in which, by the power of HIS sword and HIS lance, he vanquished the adversary. But that impression forgets the very nature of the sword of the Elder.

The Jesus Prayer--Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me--is precisely that sword. In his months of battles with the demons, the Elder's sole means of fighting was constant, heartfelt, impassioned repetition of this prayer. His victory was won only when he ceased to speak the prayer in any conventional sense and began, in every fibre of his being, to LIVE it. Which is to say, the sword of the man who is saved is turned inward upon himself, until he dies to himself and is resurrected to God. Only when the whole man stands naked before God, utterly and willingly dependent upon the mercy of God, can the Almighty enter in and vanquish the enemy.

Which is to say, there IS indeed a work demanded of a man for his salvation: to accept the grace and mercy of God. That acceptance is essentially and fundamentally a complete death to self, a recognition of one's utter impotence against the evil one and a desperate cry for aid. But when the man cries out "Lord have mercy" with all his being, at that moment the clay finally submits to the Potter and can begin to manifest the manifold glories of the All-Holy Trinity.

For me in my aspirations to the preisthood, then, sin is only a symptom. The root problem is my separation from God, zealously protecting my own identity, reserving those aspects of my person which I am unwilling to surrender--and thus I fall, inevitably, hideously and often. But if I truly am called (and we are all called to holiness), then I must learn to discern my unworthiness and dread the calling (for "I am a man of unclean lips")--and then turn to God with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind and beg his mercy on me, a sinner. And then the Light will dispel the darkness.

All I have to do is open the window.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I should not be posting this. It is far too late (rather early) on this last day I will spend in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I need to finish packing and get to bed so I can finish out my summer job tomorrow and have time to finish all those little things that have to be done and get to bed early so I have sufficient sleep under my belt to drive 14 hours or so to Boston Thursday. I'm packing my computer as soon as I post this.

Brief introspection to follow...

This has been a strange summer. I should feel as I leave it that it has been a tremendous blessing, to have work and a place to stay and food to eat and opportunity to grow closer to my bride-to-be. And I do...but I feel as though I have largely wasted the summer. The job I finish tomorrow is less than we had hoped to do--I will finish probably about 20 hours short of what I had planned to work. I have talked for hours with Elisabeth, but far too much of that has been pointless bickering. Instead of improving my discipline in a consistent schedule of sleep, work, study and prayer, I have gotten worse. I have become even more accustomed to living a mediocre, selfish and dissipated life.

And yet, 26 hours from now, I will get in my car to drive to Boston, starting on a road that will lead to marriage in four months and ordination in four years. If ever there was a time for me to grow up and lay aside the lifestyle I have indulged in all my life, this is it. I fear, indeed, that I have set patterns now that will haunt me in the months and years to come. I know that this need not be so--and yet that is precisely why I fear. For the fact that it still remains so bears witness to the fact that I do not actually want it to change.

That fact will only change, I know, by the gracious working of God in my heart. And for that, I must be willing. So please pray for me. This is the time, this day and this hour, for my childish ways to die.

And yes, I know...posting this instead of packing is precisely a failure to grow up. So this ends now.
Hurrah!! I now live out my bloggerly existence in both the "Cold Day in Hell" AND the "Business as Usual" categories of Adam Prizio's blog rankings. Perhaps he knows my penchant for working in spurts and wants to save himself trouble restoring my name to the Cold Day in Hell section when my posting falls off, as it probably will eventually. Or perhaps he will have more faith in me and actually remove my name from the list of the damned. I wait with bated breath...

Sunday, August 17, 2003

I just posted another installment of the Anglican/Orthodox debate on my papers blog. Peter Geromel wrote me a very long email, which I responded to as briefly as possible, addressing what I thought the key points. There are at least some very helpful links in both emails...please check them out.

This will probably be the last from me on this subject until I get to Boston and again have time to devote myself to such things as theology and other things that really matter. For the next week and a half, my life will be lost in such mundane things as medical files and sleep and packing. *sigh* Such is life. Work first, then play.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

My good friend Konrad LaPrade now has a blog. Most excellent, to borrow a Hugger-ism. Check it out. And a thousand happy welcomes to Kons. May he blog forever in peace and prosperity, and his Jack bottle never run out.
The Orthodox/Anglican discussion continues over at my papers blog. Monday morning I received a lengthy email from another Anglican friend from Hillsdale, Peter Geromel. He goes through in detail why precisely the Anglicans claim to be fully legitimate. His email, and my response, are posted over there. Please check them out.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

It is currently 3:40 on a Sunday morning. I just finished a lengthy discussion with Daniel Silliman examining the issues dividing the Anglican Church and Orthodoxy. I have posted it on my papers site here in its entirety. There are valuable points on both sides. I am very grateful for the opportunity to finally hash out the issue with Daniel, and even more grateful simply for the opportunity to talk with him for such a long time. I had forgotten how much I had missed him and everyone else at Hillsdale.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

As a man who thinks that he thinks, and thinks fairly well, I like soapboxes from which to share my well-thought thoughts. I also like to read other people who seem to think that they think when they get up on their soapboxes. Thus, in hopes that it will bring me back to this blog more frequently and draw my small readership back, I am adding a new feature over there on the left side of your screen for those people who use the blog soapbox well, with relatively good writing, original thought or humor. Hopefully the list will not stay this short.
I ran across this link when I logged on today to check blogs, news and email. I could not help but remember Dr. Stewart's suggestion soon after September 11 that the way to fight the war on terror was to "McDonaldsize" the Palestinian people and militant Islam at large. The idea, of course, was that if the people there had the money to spend on and the access to an American-style pursuit of instant gratification, they would quickly lose interest in blowing themselves up.

My first thought was that this new, American-style shopping mall in Ramallah looked like the first step towards something like that. But the idea looked less and less like what I had imagined as I continued to read. For one thing, it's funded by Palestinian businessmen, not by Israeli or American businessmen trying to cause the Palestinians to sink into apathy. Not that it couldn't still have the same effect, but it's not what I had expected. The Palestinians here WANT peace...they don't have to be tricked into it by their appetites. Which surprised me.

Or rather, I should say, I was surprised by my surprise. I had not realized the extent to which I viewed the whole nasty situation as primarily and fundamentally the fault of the Palestinians, with the Israelis as victims, though admittedly as larger and stronger victims. But every time I passed such judgement, I did so by means of referring the situation back to the beginning...which is pretty much completely beside the point. Those who "started" it are dead perhaps both sides are victims, locked in a self-perpetuating morass of violence, death and destruction.

You will say, "So...Duuhhh. Everybody knows that." Yeah, I know. Somehow I missed the obvious. Mebbe I'll blame the media for that one.

At any rate, I think this shopping mall is a hopeful sign for the future. It may still work for ultimate peace, increasing the desire of the Palestinians for peace and prosperity as they taste some of its fruits, and simultaneously reminding the Israelis that far from all those living under the constant threat of their raids are madmen with bombs strapped inside their clothing. Perhaps those on both sides who are willing to lay aside hate will one day come together and forge a peace in which the enemies are no longer Israeli or Palestinian but those on both sides who deal in bombs and rockets and hate.

Come let us reason together...

Some political musings collected from the dust-bin of my mind over the past few months.

I made the case to a close friend several weeks ago that American military might and economical oomph are currently maintaining and protecting modern civilization worldwide in a manner not dis-similar to Rome's maintenance of ancient Hellenistic culture during the Pax Romana.

Obviously to say that Rome was the source of civilization is ridiculous--even the statement that Rome maintained ancient civilization is a bit oversimplistic. But Roman rule does seem to have been the sine qua non of civilization until they both fell fairly simultaneously in Western Europe.

In a similar manner, though America is certainly not either the source or the sole protector of modern civilization, I suspect that much of what is taken for granted as normality in civilized countries worldwide would disappear were American influence around the globe suddenly to vanish. America, I think, currently acts very much as the sine qua not much for modern civilization.

One the other hand, I recently read Orson Scott Card's latest addition to the cycle which spun off from Ender's Game--Shadow Puppets. It was a fun read while stuck in O'Hare International overnight a few days ago, but I was surprised that Card paints the world of the future with America, and indeed, all English speaking countries playing a quite insignificant role in the power plays of the day. He calls it, in fact, "an old and tired civilization." The significant players in Card's universe are China and a newly united Muslim Caliphate. And the Muslims are the good guys. (boy do I love science fiction)

So I wonder--is America rising or falling? Much as I enjoy Card's writing, America still feels fresh to me, with much life left to live. I am full of hope for the future of this nation...hope even that there might one day be a spiritual renewal such as has not been seen since the glory days of Orthodox Russia. I see no reason it couldn't happen.

But even if it doesn't, I suppose it doesn't really affect anybody today very much. Certainly not me. If anything, this summer has reminded me what sort of things do really matter. And politics is near the bottom of the list.

So thanks for humoring me in a pointless bloviation on an inconsequential subject. Feel free to come back and take a load off yourself here someday. The comments section is open.

Friday, August 08, 2003

One more the end of last semester, I posted my two largest final papers to my paper blog. I put a lot of work into those two, and posted them in hopes that some people might read and comment, positively or negatively. So, if anyone has time or inclination, do please check them out and give me some feedback. Even a fool would prefer to be told he is a fool than to be ignored. ;)

Here I am again, back from another long absence. I just had the pleasure of traveling back to Arizona for a few days with my bride-to-be to visit my family. The visit was certainly a success, despite my parents' busy schedule and lack of time to actually sit down and talk much. Perhaps it will be better next time. And at the least, we had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my various and sundry siblings.

At any rate, the visit proved once again that a highly developed sense of direction is for some reason naturally present in the Gugg genes, while woefully absent in the makeup of the lovely Elisabeth Dyess.

While home, you see, it happened that my sister Martha needed to be picked up from her ballet class. I was elected for the job, but was uncertain of the location of the ballet studio. Remembering that Elisabeth had attended a ballet class when we last visited a year and a half ago, I asked if she knew how to get there. Instead of answering, she just laughed at me for asking her, but her amusement was suddenly interrupted by a very small voice, informing us that one must simply "go into town until New Frontiers, turn right there and then turn left at the third driveway" to reach the desired location. It was my sister Abigail. Who is not quite four years old. Needless to say, Elisabeth was not a little shocked.

It is funny to note that she received equally competent directions from my sister Martha during that previous visit. Martha was, at the time, only 8. As I said, it must just be in the genes.

So, for the sake of our future children, we must simply hope that my directional genes are the dominant ones, while of course praying very hard that hers are dominant in those areas pertaining to beauty and intelligence and work ethic...actually, to everything EXCEPT sense of direction.

Sunday, June 22, 2003


I just received an email from Mr. Adam Prizio reminding me of the existence of this long-neglected corner of the web which I have dedicated to myself and my bloviations. He encouraged me to write something on it again lest I be consigned to the "Cold Day in Hell" portion of his upcoming list of friends' blogs. So I'm back now. I'll try to keep more up to date.

The last few weeks at Hillsdale were a bit of a marathon in terms of writing. I turned out several papers (two of which are posted at my other site, which it seems I am turning into a place for papers and such longer things) and generally wrote my brains out. I've thought about writing some since graduation, but haven't really been in the mood. I hope, however, that the month-long break in my writing has served to permit the juices to flow once again.

It is strange to me that my time at Hillsdale is over. Every summer for the past four years, I have been accustomed to the assumption that, whatever I may be doing, by the end of August I will be back in Hillsdale, among old and new friends, favorite professors, old haunts and everything else I associate with the Capital of Nowhere. It has been my home for my entire adult life. Indeed, I grew into adulthood there. But this fall, I will be at school in Boston. In January, I will be married. After that, who knows? More debt, children, ordination, ministry, pain, joy, death�the stuff of the rest of my life. And as it moves inexorably on, I still half-expect to go back to Hillsdale.

A few days ago I spoke with my old roommate. His wife is pregnant. They found out just last week that they have a little girl. She is due in November. They never expected to have a child so soon. My friend is a father. I could well be one myself in less than a year.

This summer, I am working with my wife-to-be. I had thought that I knew her almost as well as it was possible to know another person. Now, I spend at least eight hours with her every day, and I realize that the depths of her person reach almost to infinity. I realize how it is possible for two people to love each other very much and still argue, even fight. I begin to wonder if it is possible to love at all without fighting. I think I am grateful for the opportunity. This summer, we have the chance to make a good beginning, working through the fights, slowly achieving together that strange thing called one-ness�not a dreamy fairy tale, but a gritty, dirty reality built on blood, sweat, toil and tears. I think I am learning what love really is. Childish dreams are stupid.

Re-reading this, I decide it is atrocious. It�s corny, sappy, fragmented and over-introspective and contemplative. Anyone who knows me would probably say it�s very Guggian. Which is true�this is me this summer. This is my life. I think it�s a good life. I don�t thank God for it anything like I should. I squander my time on frivolities and hurt those who love me the most. And there�s no non-cheesy way to end that rhetorical train, so I�m just going to stop. Suffice to say that I am pretty happy.

Perhaps the next thing I write will be a little better. For now bear with me. Welcome me back to the world of blogging. And, if it crosses your mind, pray for me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The nefarious Mephistopheles (aka Dr. H. David Stewart) has finally rid himself of the life-consuming responsibility which has plagued his every hour for the past four years. Having lain aside the leadership of the Honours Program and its sundry nutsos (including yours truly and almost all my friends), he has returned to matters which truly matter.

Such as freeing Koon.

How beautiful is that?

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Occasionally it occurs to me what a strange thing this life is--for some reason we naturally think that others are feeling and thinking the same things we are.

And then reality hits.

Here I sit, in the (for once) fairly clean living room of The Beat, recently awakened from a nap but still strongly feeling the strangely expectant, quiet, mournful-yet-not spirit of this Great and Holy Saturday, imbued in me by the hours of intense liturgical worship in which I have been blessed to take part over the past week--my belly is empty and my heart is full of strangeness, of wonder, of expectation and at least some small part of the awed, silent worship which should be present on such a day. I have not felt so well for months. The Hour of the Resurrection is near. Awake, you that sleep!

One friend is sitting upstairs surfing the web and laughing at earthy jokes. Still another just left for a pig roast. Two more just came in with Oakley! subs, about to watch a movie. And the neighbors next door are drinking it up, shouting at passing cars and attracting loud honking in response.

None of which is bad. But today? This strange day when all Creation is silent and waiting for the wonder of the approaching Dawn? How can there be such noise today, of all days?

And the Synaxarion reading still echoes in my mind.

Awake, you that sleep! Your King is come!

I do not understand.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Here is my most recent piece for the Collegian. It ran as the Weekly unsigned editorial. I was fairly happy with tell what you think, whether you agree or disagree with me.


As everyone now knows, the war in Iraq is essentially over. And with its swift and easy end, the world as we know it has changed. Hawks in the media and the administration are venting their rhetorical ire at Syria, Iran and North Korea in threats ranging from veiled suggestions that these nations beware to barefaced exhortations to change Syria�s regime as we did in Iraq.

Indeed, the ease with which the American military has prevailed in Iraq may prove the bane of the United States in coming years. Despite our obvious superiority, it is na�ve to assume that every military encounter from this moment on will fall to our advantage as quickly as that of the past month. Our overconfidence may well lead to situations far more costly than the invasion of Iraq. Hubris is always the worst enemy of a powerful people.

This will most likely be proven, however, not in war, but in a supposed peace, in the reconstruction of Iraq. The challenges facing the American occupation are all but innumerable.

It is a fine line that the coalition must walk in Iraq. Despite the hopes of the Bush administration that a strong democracy might be established in Iraq to serve as a beacon of civilization and moderation to the Arab world, it is simply not possible to establish the form of a democracy and leave the people to govern themselves. Democracy cannot be imposed�it must be chosen. Yet we cannot trust the Iraqis to choose democracy for themselves.

After all, that which we call democracy is a peculiarly Western phenomenon, depending on the conflicts, philosophies, religions and societal innovations of over three millennia for its continued propagation in the nations of the West.
The notions of individual rights, responsibilities and autonomy are fundamental to our very existence�we take them in with our mother�s milk. To put it simply, tribal societies such as Iraq�s do not. Yet democracy as we know it in America cannot exist without an almost universal recognition of these principles, and our demand that Iraq immediately adopt democracy is hence incredibly na�ve.

This experiment has been tried before, in the myriad colonies of the British Empire. So long as the British occupied those colonies, they abided in peace and prosperity, apparent havens of Western civilization amidst the brutality of the Third World before it even was the Third World.

But the moment the British withdrew, the Western system they had established dissolved into political corruption and tribal infighting, as seen in the transformation of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe described by Theodore Dalrymple in his sobering article �After Empire� in the Spring 2003 issue of the City Journal.

With this in mind, it is safe to say that almost any conflict between the cultural norms of a people and a government imposed upon them will inevitably end in the dissolution of that government. Therefore, the development of democracy in any nation must have organic roots in the history and culture of that nation and people. If that connection is absent, the institution cannot survive except at gunpoint.

This is not to say that the situation in Iraq is hopeless. The very fact of the location of Tuesday�s meeting in ancient Ur gives cause to hope that the Iraqi people may yet find their way out of their dark age�for after all, as any Hillsdale freshman knows, the oldest roots of the rule of law are found in the Code of Hammurabi, which governed the very land now occupied by modern Iraq. The London Times indulged in the same hope Wednesday, asserting that the symbolism cannot help but be powerful. By meeting in Ur, these disparate Iraqi factions have invoked their connection with the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, meeting �against a backdrop of 6,000 years of history.�

But the road will still be incredibly hard. Such a thing, after all, has never before been done.

Therefore, let us shun hubris.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

This piece is a sobering reminder of the difficulties and perhaps impossibilities of nation-building. Much remains to be seen in Iraq, but all indications suggest that the next several years are going to be very difficult. I wonder how right I was in my support of this war--I always said I was aware of the difficulties that were likely to present themselves after the war ended (or at least I always thought it), but I don't think I realized the half of it. I wonder how many other hawks find themselves in a similar state.

Do read the article, though--it is a fairly powerful reminder of the essential problems of colonial nation-building, as I said. And, I must add, the manner in which this enterprise has begun does not bode well for the future.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Well...the throes are over. This semester seems to be winding down more quickly (to be frank) than I'm quite ready for. But last week was still a great success--in one unexpected way as well as all the other things. My senior Honours thesis presentation went well when I delivered it a few weeks ago--I got some very positive feedback. Now I only have to do a little more research and expand the silly thing, and it'll be done. Perhaps I'll post the presentation up here sometime--or at least a link to it. It's fairly long. My recital went fairly well also--it was weak towards the beginning, but got better as it went on. I passed my Greek comprehensive exam strongly, according to Dr. Jones, and Dr. Holmes has decided that she'll give us an extra week off from Greek class to study for finals, so this Thursday's class will be our last. Finally, Holy Cross gave me another 10 days to submit the financial aid applications, which is perfect for me--things should be much more sane from now on. Not to mention (speaking of Holy Cross), I received my acceptance letter a little over a week ago. So I'll be starting there in September, God willing.

But the biggest news is that I finally asked my longtime girlfriend Elisabeth Dyess to marry me last Sunday. To which proposal she gladly consented. :) If you want to know how it happened, drop me a line and ask. It's a bit much to explain online. The date for the happy event remain undecided, but, God willing, it will be fairly soon. No later than a year from now, methinks. And, speaking of the Almighty, His mercy has been abundant towards me and, indeed, towards us, of late. Thanks be to Him.

So, while this is not precisely a post of substance, I submit the plea that I have been otherwise occupied in matters very important which, had I neglected them, my life would be in a much less satisfactory state. :)

More later.