Monday, March 29, 2004


A quote from St. Theophan the Recluse, contained in Igumen Chariton's excellent book The Art of Prayer.

"Because all have grace, only one thing is necessary: to give this grace free scope to act. Grace receives free scope in so far as the ego is crushed and the passions uprooted."

Incidentally, the "all" mentioned above refers to all believers, as Theophan makes clear a few sentences later. This quote, I think, sums up the Orthodox doctrine of synergy in salvation. From our perspective it may seem that we do all the work--yet in reality, all we have done is open our hands to receive. And if ever we forget that fundamental truth (that all our work is nothing), our hand is again closed and our heart is again hard, and we cut ourselves off from our Saviour and God.

Thursday, March 25, 2004


Nothing like what needs to happen, but, I think, a step in the right direction.

A fortuitous coincidence that it passes in the Senate on the Feast of the Annunciation, and thus of Christ's Conception. The most pro-life feast celebrated by the Christian Church.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


This addressed primarly to David Talcott, though any others are welcome to jump in.

David said the following (I have cut down his comments to what struck me as the essence, at least as regards what I speak of below)

I am in general inclined to agree with his condemnation of mysticism...
...Sola Scriptura holds that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith--not that you should run off to the woods alone with the Bible and never talk to anyone else. The emphasis is upon the number and kind of sources of revelation (today), and not upon the particular interpretive method. The Protestant rejects the idea that there is infallible, God-breathed truth preserved in liturgies, the creeds, personal mystical revelations, or any other sources...
...I'll say this also--I'm not sure that my goal in life is communion with God in the sense you mean it--I feel a lurking mysticism, which, as I said above, I reject. I'm inclined to say something more like my goal in life is to obey God, and to glorify Him. Though, I believe He abides with me and my family, and with all His people.

First, I wonder what you mean by mysticism. A definition thereof would be useful. While avoiding a technical definition for the moment, here are a couple Scriptural examples of what I tend to mean when I speak of Christian mysticism. 1) Acts 7:55-56. This is precisely an instance of contemplation of God, the rejection of which by Ellul struck me as so strange. 2) II Corinthians 12:1-9 I don't know what this experience of Paul's was if not mystical.

Obviously there are many others. That's not the point. You assert, I think, judging from your comment on Seraphim's blog, that " Protestant would deny that God acts today, and that He acts powerfully. Yet, He does not act in the same way as He did 2000 years ago an earlier. Indeed, there is a scandal of particularity. And, indeed, for us, the Heilgeschicte is over."

Which is to say, I think you dismiss mysticism by saying that things just don't work that way anymore--visions, miracles, hearing the voice of God in an audible and quotable way (as seen in II Corinthians 12:9, etc) are a part of a previous dispensation (or equivalent terminology--I don't particularly want to open up the can of worms associated with that term at the moment, unless you're keen to do so), and no longer apply.

My question, I guess, is "Why?" That is to say, is there a reason you think mysticism no longer operates in the Church apart from the fact that it does not operate in your church?

That's not an accusation, just a question. That's how I used to answer it, but obviously I found the answer non-satisfactory when confronted with a tradition which DID possess an ongoing mystical tradition.

My focus in the discussion is, I think, a little different from Seraphim's. The primary rift between us at the moment seems to be that I think a mystical experience of God is in some sense necessary to Christianity in its fullness--and clearly you don't. I'd like to examine why.

Sunday, March 21, 2004


I know I've been on the inactive side of things for awhile (though not as badly as have others), but I have a question, if anyone happens to drop by. I just encountered this quote on Karl Thienes' website.

"The Bible vigorously opposes mystics of all descriptions, including Christians, who ascend to heaven and contemplate God by means of ascetic practices. God can never be directly grasped or contemplated face to face ... The only channel of revelation is the Word."

The source of this quote is apparently a certain Jacques Ellul. I don't know who he was, or what his religious affiliation was. The above quote (taken from here) sounds like a theological conclusion stemming from Sola Scriptura taken perhaps beyond what the Reformers intended for it (or, to state it more bluntly, run amuck). ;)

I'd like to think this sort of theology (with its many extremely practical implicatations, all of them negative, in my view) isn't universal to Protestantism. But I really don't know whether it is or not. When I was a Protestant, what Sola Scriptura meant to me was that I read the Bible myself, as much and often as I could, and tried not to listen to what other people said. Ironic though it is that said course brought me to the Orthodox Church, that's not my point--rather, I simply don't know what the loftier heights of Protestant theology hold. I never studied them. So perhaps my Protestant friends can tell me--is this what Protestants generally believe? Is this what you believe? And if it is, what does that do to your way of life? What is your goal in life if not communion with God?

I'd love to talk more about this. I suspect that this is where the fundamental rift lies between Protestantism and Orthodoxy, but I'd like to know more.

Humour me? ;)

Thursday, March 18, 2004


No, I have not died. I haven't even quit blogging.

But unfortunately my dear wife has been rather ill of late, and my customary schedule has fallen by the wayside. She is beginning to recover, so things should get back to normal (I'll be in church this morning, for instance...and no snide comments from the Dank gallery will be permitted--I know that's not quite "normal"). ;)

I have some posts on my plate at the moment, but most will demand a fair amount of time (and hence be fairly lengthy themselves, though I'll work to keep them concise), so I won't make any promises about specific posts, lest I break those promises and thus also the hearts of my rapidly shrinking readership. ;)

In conclusion, lemme just say that getting bread to rise properly seems to be quite the achievement, that said achievement has thus far eluded me, that un-risen bread doesn't really taste bad, it's just dense, and that sourdough is over-rated unless you can get bread leavened therewith to rise without yeast, and I'm going to keep trying until I get it to work.

Stupid bread. :)

Oh--also, while I've been not blogging very much, Daniel Hugger quite blogging, deleted his blog, then unaccountably started blogging again. Perhaps he just wanted to wipe the slate clean. Also, ~gauche seems to have dropped off the face of the earth--I don't have any contact with him outside his blog, so perhaps y'all at or in-the-vicinity-of Hillsdale can tell me what's up with him.

'k, that's enough, I think. As I said, I'm not dead, I'm not quitting blogging, I'm just busy. Keep coming back, please. It gets lonely here sometimes, and my blog is good company. ;)

Friday, March 12, 2004


My father is telling stories about mishaps which have occured over the years as he worked with composites and resins. Check it out.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


I'm going to be bad and borrow a quote for my blog from someone else. Seraphim recently put this up in his second post about the book Lost Christianity. It is from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, only lately reposed, speaking about the Liturgy. It is a very helpful quote for one who often feels lost in the Greek and the services.

"Emotion must be destroyed...We have to get rid of order to reach...feeling...In prayer one is vulnerable, not enthusiastic. And then these rituals have such force. They hit you like a locomotive. You must be not enthusiastic, nor rejecting -- but only open. This is the whole aim of asceticism: to become open."

Pithy and perfect. Just what I needed today.

Monday, March 08, 2004


*sigh* Those were good days. The days I hit the snooze button a dozen times, finally rolled out of bed and shoved a baseball cap on my head to hide my bed hair, stumbled to the desk, grabbed a notebook, and slowly trundled up the hill to class, secure in the knowledge that I had a good 15 minute buffer--because, though the north face of the clock said I was 20 minutes late, the east face (the one which faced my dorm), said I was a little early.

Apparently they've fixed it. Hence, I post this brief eulogy to a good excuse. If I were still at Hillsdale, I would take my hat off and reveal my bed hair in all its glory, and mourn the lost excuse with a moment of silence. Not being at Hillsdale, I'll just go to bed.

Monday, March 01, 2004


Two people, now one. Three clergymen and three sermons. Two were didactic. Two were inspiring. Two were theological.

One was funny. One was crass. One was silly.

And only one made me cry for the love overflowing in the man who gave it.

I understand a little better now. Some men work very hard at the priesthood (and do well). Some simply are, and do better. It's just hard to see sometimes.