Monday, October 22, 2007

More insight from Father Georges Florovsky

In the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:16) it is our Lord who uses the terminology of "good works." " Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and may glorify your Father who is in heaven" Contextually these "good works" are defined in the preceding text of the Beatitudes. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." "Blessed are they who are hungering and are thirsting for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Is it not an integral part of the monastic goal to become meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and to become pure in heart? This, of course, must be the goal of all Christians but monasticism, which makes it an integral part of its ascetical life, can in no way be excluded. Are not the Beatitudes more than just rhetorical expressions? Are not the Beatitudes a part of the commandments of our Lord? In the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:19) our Lord expresses a deeply meaningful thought—rather a warning. "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. And it is in this context that our Lord continues to deepen the meaning of the old law with a new, spiritual significance, a penetrating interiorization of the "law." He does not nullify or abrogate the law but rather extends it to its most logical and ontological limit, for he drives the spiritual meaning of the law into the very depth of the inner existence of mankind.

"You heard that it was said to those of old ... but I say to you." Now, with the deepening of the spiritual dimension of the law, the old remains, it is the base, but its spiritual reality is pointed to its source. "You shall not kill" becomes inextricably connected to "anger." "But I say to you that everyone being angry with his brother shall be liable to the judgment." No longer is the external act the only focal point. Rather the source, the intent, the motive is now to be considered as the soil from which the external act springs forth. Mankind must now guard, protect, control, and purify the inner emotion or attitude of "anger" and, in so doing, consider it in the same light as the external act of killing or murder. Our Lord has reached into the innermost depth of the human heart and has targeted the source of the external act. "You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who is seeing a woman lustfully, has already committed adultery with her in his heart. From a spiritual perspective the person who does not act externally but lusts within is equally liable to the reality of "adultery." "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and you shall hate your enemy’. But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you so that you may become sons of your Father in heaven."

- from THE ASCETIC IDEAL AND THE NEW TESTAMENT: Reflections on the Critique of the Theology of the Reformation

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Orthodoxy and the 2008 Presidential Race

It is not the practice of the Orthodox Church in America to endorse political candidates.

And while the moral teaching of the Church is clear on a multitude of controversial issues, it is entirely appropriate for faithful believers to debate the merits of the various candidates and to argue vigorously about which candidate is best suited for leadership.

That being said, I just came across an interesting open letter by Dr. Clark Carlton in support of Rep. Ron Paul's presidential bid. Dr. Carlton is a Southern Baptist convert to the Orthodox Church with degrees from Carson Newman College, St. Vladimir's Seminary, and the Catholic University of America. He teaches undergraduate philosophy at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee.

This passage, among others, caught my eye:

"I have never contributed to a presidential campaign before. I have never put a political bumper sticker on my car before. And I have never written a letter like this before. I have done all three because for the first time in my life I truly believe that there is a chance to return this nation to the rule of law under the Constitution. Traditional Republicans feel betrayed by the Bush Administration, and anti-war and pro-civil liberties Democrats are beginning to see through the hypocrisy of their own candidates. The time is right for a man like Ron Paul, and Ron Paul is precisely the man we need for these times. As Judge Andrew Napolitano recently commented..., 'We need a Ron Paul in the White House more desperately now than we ever have at any time in our history.'"

Read Dr. Carlton's entire letter here.

(I'd be very interested in seeing other arguments from Orthodox Christians in support of any of the other candidates. If you find one, email me)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Orthodoxy... a balm for Europe?

From the pages of the Christian Science Monitor:

An Orthodox Balm for Europe

By Nicolai N. Petro Thu Oct 11, 4:00 AM ET

Kazan, Russia - For decades, many social scientists had pretty much two things to say about Eastern Orthodox Christianity: 1) that like all religions, it was disappearing with the advance of modern civilization; 2) that it derived most of its support from the reactionary tides of authoritarianism and nationalism.

Those pronouncements are being proved wrong. Today, as in the parable of the prodigal son, throughout Eastern Europe people are returning to the Orthodox Church in droves, and the effect in the public sphere, contrary to most expectations, is quite benign.

Though historically viewed with suspicion by Catholic and Protestant Europe, Orthodox Christianity can actually help bridge the Russia-West gap.

At the heart of much of the miscommunication between Russia and Europe today lies the unacknowledged and untapped longing of Orthodox Christians to be recognized as part of a common European cultural family again. The latest effort to bridge this divide was Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II's remarks in France, where he spoke poignantly of how the Christian identity Europeans historically share should promote dialogue on issues like human rights and peace, even with atheists and members of other faiths.

The patriarch was pointing out that, while they may differ on specific political issues today, a profound religious bond actually underpins Western and Eastern European cultural and political values...

Read it all here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Classic Quotation from Fr Georges Florovsky

“Thus, ‘tradition’ in the Church is not merely the continuity of human memory, or the permanence of rites and habits. Ultimately, ‘tradition’ is the continuity of the divine assistance, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not bound by ‘the letter.’ She is constantly moved forth by ‘the spirit.’ The same Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, which ‘spake through the Prophets,' which guided the Apostles, which illumined the Evangelists, is still abiding in the Church, and guides her into the fuller understanding of the divine truth, from glory to glory.”

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky, “The Ethos of the Orthodox Church,” The Ecumenical Review, Vol. XII, No. 2, January 1960

Monday, October 01, 2007

Orthodoxy and the... NFL?

I don't often think of the Orthodox Church coming up in interviews with players from the National Football League, but you just never know.

Here's an excerpt of an interview conducted by Yahoo! Sports reporter Jason Cole with Orthodox Christian and Pittsburgh Steeler strong safety Troy Polamalu:

Cole: Do you have a routine you follow on your day off?

Polamalu: We work out together because that's our only day off together. It's a pretty decent workout. She does a lot of running and I do a lot of stretching. Tuesday is also our only opportunity to go to church together, so we do that.

Polamalu: It starts at 8:30 (a.m.). … It's the Nativity of the Theotokos monastery (in Saxonburg, Pa.).

Cole: I know you're devoutly Christian (Polamalu has a carefully arranged series of religious items in his locker at Heinz Field), but exactly which denomination?

Polamalu: Greek Orthodox. Theotokos literally means the Mother of God.

Cole: How long are you in services?

Polamalu: They usually go to about 12:30.

Cole: That's a four-hour service. Is that a normal service?

Polamalu: Pretty much, especially at a monastery.

Cole: Can you describe it?

Polamalu: What's really neat about the Orthodox church is that it's like walking back in time 2,000 years to the time of the Apostles, when they created these services. You walk into that and it's really like … living it. They have maintained the truth ever since the beginning.

Cole: You're Polynesian. How did you end up at a Greek Orthodox church?

Polamalu: There are different ethnicities, like Russian Orthodox. My wife is Greek. I was a non-denomination Christian before we got married. So we sit around there and meet with our spiritual mother and then we go home, maybe take a nap, work out and then go home and have dinner.

Cole: Who's making dinner?

Polamalu: My wife; I cannot cook at all. I've tried. I'm terrible. When I cook, it's something nobody else would enjoy.

Cole: You only cook specialty things for yourself?

Polamalu: No, it's not that nobody else will make it for me, it's that I'm the only one who is going to enjoy it. I'll look at the other people and say, "Did you like it?" They say, "Noooooooo."

Cole: Do you have any other hobbies or things you do away from the field? Maybe bowling?

Polamalu: No, not really. The single guys go bowl. The guys who are married go home, mostly. I really focus on spending time with my wife.

Cole: How hard is it to get time at home during the season? I know guys like (Miami Dolphins linebacker) Zach Thomas stay at the facility until very late studying film and (Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Peyton Manning is watching film at home.

Polamalu: First of all, I'm a Christian so my prayer life really comes first. Second of all, I'm a husband so my wife comes before anything else. If I have time to do anything else after that, I do it, but I don't sacrifice any time with her.

(hat tip to GetReligion and Fr Joseph)