Christianity as Philosophia and Modern Society

If Christianity is, indeed, a philosophia, then it will also have three important components: a distinct discourse and discursive method, or a way of speaking and thinking; this discourse will be rooted in a fundamental principle (or principles), or logos(-oi); around which are built specific “soulish exercises,” or askeses, which serve to inculcate the fundamental principle(s) and to further the communal discourse. Though a defense of a particular philosophia in antiquity was part of that way of life, apologia was not necessarily a dominant feature of such discourse, and in any case was meant as a defense more than as a proselytizing method. Proselytization of converts occurred via the public nature of the way of life in which a particular philosophia was lived. Would-be disciples “dropped in” as it were on the dialogoi and instruction that went on in the Academy, the Lyceum, the Stoa and the Garden, that were embodiments of their respective philosophiai, and in an existential pre-theoretical choice, attracted by the beauty and goodness they perceived in that particular philosophia, entered the community as a disciple.

This was true as well, with regard to Christianity. The public display of the Christian philosophia was primarily centered on the way of life they shared: care of the poor, the orphans and the widows; mutual love exhibited in the concrete life shared among them, for example, the sharing of possessions and care for the sick; the devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to the gathered worship (though not on public display was the portion of the Liturgy dealing with Holy Eucharist), and other visible demonstrations of Christian lived faith.

Christianity certainly has fundamental principles: the Holy Trinity, God the Father, the incarnate Logos, and the Holy Spirit. And the discourse rooted in these principles is also distinct: sin, repentance and judgment; grace, new creation and resurrection; and so forth. This discourse has its own forms: liturgy, preaching, confession, catechesis, etc.. And this way of life has its own askeses which further this way of life: fasting, prayer, almsgiving, confession of sin, the Sacraments, and others.

Modern society, too, has its own philosophiai, though these are far less formal than the schools of antiquity. Think for example of modern Western consumerist society. It has its organizing principle: the “free” market and capitalist economies; its discourse: Gross National Domestic Product, inflation, unemployment, income, sale, discount, and so forth; and its askeses: advertising, shopping venues, and entertainment. I claim that these are not formalized, but that is only to say, there is not an overall philosophia that is articulated (the “consumerist way of life” say) in a systematic way. But that is not to say that certain aspects of this informal philosophia are not formalized; advertising, for example, is extremely formalized, as is consumer spending patterns (induced by such gimmicks as semi-annual, holiday, and seasonal sales, and the behavior modification and manipulation that accompanies these contrived sales). There is a particular outlook and thinking, and public discourse if you will, that is shaped by these economic principles and their respective askeses such that one finds ones identity strongly associated with particular buying decisions (which also feed into other consumer driven mythologies and identifications such as buying organic foods and environmentally friendly products).

Concomitant with such consumerism is the cult of celebrity and its religious ascetical component of entertainment. Much of what drives consumerism is the notion of entertainment (think of the mutliform uses to which home computers are put, as well as the uses to which most technological advancement is put) and the manipulative power of celebrity, both in identification as well as in consumer endorsements.

One may very well identify other modern day philosophiai, though in the affluent West, one is hard pressed to find one more influential, if less formally conceptualized. But clearly this identification of consumerism as the West’s primary philosophia clarifies and juxtaposes some extremely important implications.

One can very well note at least two important realizations: consumerism is both an anti-christ, preaching a demonic and rival philosphia to that of Christianity, and consumerism is an extremely powerful and potent philosophia which is both its own way of life and parasitic upon others. Not even Christianity is immune from its influence.

Consumerism is anti-christ and demonic precisely because it opposes nearly every major principle of Christianity. It is thoroughly monistic in its materialism; there is no other reality than economic production. It replaces love of God and neighbor with quantitative manipulation of human beings and utter servitude to self-interested profitability. And instead of self-denying sacrifice for the good of one’s neighbor is substituted passive acceptance of any and all forms of self-gratification. (I should note that in speaking of consumerism and identifying one of its principles as capitalism, I am not saying that Marxist, or other forms of, socialism aren’t as equally anti-christian and demonic. These, though of a different form, are consumerisms just as insidious as the Western capitalist variety.)

Clearly, consumerism is its own way of life as can be objectively observed pervasively throughout Western society. But it is parasitic as well: it will infect its host and drain away its life, assimilating the lifeless shell into itself. One need look no further than the cult of celebrity and marketing that is rife in modern Western Christianity. All that is left of these hollowed out husks of what may once have been Christian is a thin veneer covering over a way of life that is exactly identical to godless consumerism.

One must be clear here: consumerism is not the same things as consumption. The difference is that between consumption as a way of life, and consumption subsumed within a way of life. All humans consume, and necessarily so. Not all consumption must be strictly utilitarian, either; for utilitarianism is its own philosphia. The wasteful plenitude of beauty crafted into life and the universe is testimony enough for the proper place of non-utilitarian consumption, such as that of celebration.

But the philosophia that is Christianity is at diametrical odds with the philosophia of pervasive consumerism. This is easily told by simply comparing the opposing ways of life. A consumerist will not fast, unless such a fast is for self-gratification such as weight loss. A consumerist will not pray, unless such prayer is simply the self-hypnotic mantra utilized to acquire those things one wants. A consumerist will not give alms, unless such giving will decrease the amount of taxes owed or the amount of tax refunded. Worship for a consumer is entirely subjective and focused on the gratification of the self. Christian worship is utterly objective and focused on the Holy Trinity. A consumerist seeks for security in this life, and measures such in terms of portfolios, insurance policies and possessions. A Christian places all his trust in the Holy Trinity he has never seen, nor will see apart from holiness. These comparisons do not presume to assert that there are no subjective benefits that sometimes come from fasting, prayer and almsgiving, nor that the subjective gratification that one often receives from true worship is somehow to be deplored, nor that a Christian cannot make godly use of his finances, insurance policies and possessions. But he knows that all these benefits are undeserved and not to be sought in themselves and that all wealth and possessions are matters of stewardship and are as transitory as the morning fog. To be sure, the Christian way of life is attacked on all sides by consumerism’s structures and disciples and its pernicious capacity as a parasite, and Christians do well to handle such consumerist tools and products with a great deal of wisdom and perspicacity. And this can only be done if a Christian is thoroughly formed in and supported by the Christian philosophia.

This formation and support can only come from the Christian philosophia that is still lived in the community directly descended from the apostles. Only that philosophia that has been handed down by one living generation to the next and that can be organically traced to Christ through his apostles is the Christian philosophia, and therefore only that one which can make real both the living of the Christian faith and the combating of the philosophiai, especially that of consumerism in the West, that would suck the life out of the individual Christian and his community, leaving only an empty shell, a thin veneer that is Christian in name only.

I have spent the entirety of this post dealing with the opposition between the Christian philosophia and the philosophia of consumerism. In my next reflection on this series I will think about what it means to proselytize (or in Christian terminology, to evangelize) within the rubrics of a philosophia.

[The remainder of the posts in this series can be found here.]

The Fatherhood Chronicles LXXIV

No New News on the Pregnancy Front–er, Sort Of

There are developments, of course, but as I try to keep this PG-rated and below (and I doubt my wife wants all the particulars blogged!–you can read about those things here), for all practical purposes things are the same as last evening. Contractions are intermittent, sometimes regular at about 20 minutes apart, but until they are regularly 5 minutes apart, we’re not going to the birthing center.

I did go in to work (I’m getting ready to leave for lunch here in a moment). Gotta save that special and rare paid time off. And I anticipate being here all day.

In addition to my mom flying in Thursday night, Anna’s mom, Mary, her sister, Jessi, and Jessi’s son, Tyler, are driving up today from Oklahoma, and we expect them in sometime this evening.

Thanks for the prayers, and keep ’em coming.

The Fatherhood Chronicles LXXIII

Update (6:00pm): Well, Anna’s on her way back from the midwife. She’s dilated 2-3cm and 60% effaced. By the midwife’s calculations, this baby could arrive in the next day or two, as the Lord allows. (Now, do I take off work tomorrow, or take my chance and go in for one more day?)

Is Something Happening?

Anna called just a little bit ago. She says she’s feeling “crampy,” which she remembers feeling before going into early (middle? I forget) labor with Sofie. She said she felt that way last night, but that she figures it was a result of all the walking she’d done yesterday. (This weekend she’s spent a bit of time downtown at the American Library Association Summer Conference, visiting with one of her classmates from library school–and my favorite of her library school friends–Amy. What’s not to like in a friend of your wife who can go toe-to-toe with you quoting movie lines from Austin Powers and The Big Lebowski?! Of course, Ardis is also a favorite of my wife’s friends.)

Anywho . . . As Providence would have it, Anna rescheduled her midwife appointment (so she could spend time with Amy) from this morning to this evening about five. We’ll see what the midwife says.

We’re . . . I’m . . . remaining calm–but getting excited!

Keep us in your prayers, please.

True Philosophia and the Offense of Christianity

Contemporary Christians concerned about authentic Christianity usually see philosophy and Christianity as incompatible. They usually cite the following as their authority:

Βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης, κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν· ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς, καὶ ἐστὲ ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας.

Be wary lest there shall be anyone who leadeth you captive through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the divinity bodily, and ye are made full in Him, Who is the head of all principality and authority. (Colossians 2:8-10; Orthodox New Testament)

It is true that some philosophy is, or rather that certain philosophiai are, indeed, incompatible with Christianty: those “according to the tradition of men” and “the elements of the world” and not “according to Christ.” In other words, if Christianity itself is a philosophy, a philosophia, then philosophy per se is not hostile to Christianity, but certain philosophiai cannot be reconciled to the philosophia that is Christianity.

This is an important, though often overlooked, distinction. Philosophia is a quintessentially human activity: the attempt to search out that which is “really real,” to speak meaningfully about it, and to live a life that conforms to that reality. We are exhorted by Solomon: “ראשׁית חכמה קנה חכמה ובכל־קנינך קנה בינה׃ Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). Clearly, if that which is really real for the Christian is none other than the Holy Trinity, then all our attempts to search out this reality, to speak meaningfully of Him, and to live our life in conformity to Him is the most sacred of philosophia. Each Christian is a philosophos or philosophe, a “friend of Wisdom.” Of course, the caveat is that no human can seek out the things of God apart from His divine revelation of Himself to us, and most especially His true being, so far as we can but barely speak in ways that approximate the truth, as Holy Trinity.

But there are rival philosphiai that compete for the allegiances of all persons. And in this sense, then, St. Paul warns us to beware those who “[know] not God through [their] wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:21) and have “a form of piety, but [deny] the power of it” and are “always learning and never able to come to a full knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:5,7). Plato himself has said, “τὸν μὲν οὖν ποιητὴν καὶ πατέρα τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον καὶ εὑρόντα εἰς πάντας ἀδύνατον λέγειν Now to discover the Creator and Father of all is indeed a hard task, and having discovered him, to declare him to all men is quite impossible” (Timaeus 28c). So only that philosophy is sure with regard to the knowledge of God that comes from divine revelation and not simply human reason.

Indeed, this is offensive to those who wish to speak of God apart from His revelation of Himself. For

ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ Θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου τούτου; ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν Θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ Θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας.

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Did not God make foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world knew not God through its wisdom, it pleased God through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

The wisest of the wise cannot know God precisely because God is not known outside His divine self-revelation, but further because “without [sanctification] no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This is why St. Paul, in another context, sets up the struggle not just as a battle of mere ideas, but one that results in opposite ways of living, between that of obedience to God and disobedience.

Εν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα· τὰ γὰρ ὅπλα τῆς στρατείας ἡμῶν οὐ σαρκικὰ, ἀλλὰ δυνατὰ τῷ Θεῷ πρὸς καθαίρεσιν ὀχυρωμάτων· λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ ἐν ἑτοίμῳ ἔχοντες ἐκδικῆσαι πᾶσαν παρακοήν, ὅταν πληρωθῇ ὑμῶν ἡ ὑπακοή.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, overthrowing reasonings and every high thing which lifteth itself up against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, and holding fast in a readiness to avenge all disobedience, whenever your obedience should be fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

This is why, in part, St. Paul warns of being taken captive by philosophy: it is not merely that Christians do well to avoid heretical and false understandings, but that attendent on these false notions are ways of living incompatible with the Christian Faith. In the case of the Colossians above, those inimical ways of life involved:

Μὴ οὖν τις ὑμᾶς κρινέτω ἐν βρώσει ἢ ἐν πόσει ἢ ἐν μέρει ἑορτῆς ἢ νεομηνίας ἢ σαββάτων, ἅ ἐστι σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ. μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς καταβραβευέτω θέλων ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ καὶ θρησκείᾳ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἃ μὴ ἑόρακεν ἐμβατεύων, εἰκῇ φυσιούμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ νοὸς τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐ κρατῶν τὴν κεφαλήν, ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων ἐπιχορηγούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον αὔξει τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ Θεοῦ. Εἰ οὖν ἀπεθάνετε σὺν τῷ Χριστῷ ἀπὸ τῶν στοιχείων τοῦ κόσμου, τί ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ δογματίζεσθε, μὴ ἅψῃ μηδὲ γεύσῃ μηδὲ θίγῃς, ἅ ἐστι πάντα εἰς φθορὰν τῇ ἀποχρήσει, κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα καὶ διδασκαλίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων; ἅτινά ἐστι λόγον μὲν ἔχοντα σοφίας ἐν ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ καὶ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ καὶ ἀφειδίᾳ σώματος, οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινι πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκός.

Let no one therefore judge you in food, or in drink, or in part of a feast, or a new moon, or sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Let no one deprive you of the prize, delighting in humility of mind and religious worship of the angels, intruding into things which he hath not seen, in vain being puffed up by the mind of his flesh, and not holding the head, from Whom all the body, by the joins and ligaments being supplied and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. If then ye died with the Christ from the elements of the world, why, as if living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to regulations–“Do not touch, neither taste, nor handle,” which things are all for corruption in the using–according to the injunctions and teachings of men, which things indeed are having a reputation of wisdom and self-devised worship, and humility of mind, and unsparing treatment of the body, not showing any honor for gratification of the flesh? (Colossians 2:16-23)

Note here: These rival philosophies were not obvious demonic practices. No, they masqueraded as light. After all, isn’t humility a quintessential Christian character trait? Isn’t self-denial (fasting and asceticism) also thoroughly Christian? Aren’t there festivals and sabbaths the Christians do well to observe (or, conversely, refrain from observing)?

But the point is that these things were rooted not in Christian discourse or living, but in ways of life and specific discourses that were inherently opposed to Christianity.

And this is precisely the point of Christianity’s offense to the world: It calls its wisdom foolish, its holiness corruption and its religion false. Christianity’s claims is that only the Church has the true philosophia. The understandings of St. Justin the Philosopher and St. Clement are still valid: Hellenic philosophiai were and are precursors to the Gospel. But, and here is the point both St. Justin and St. Clement strongly affirmed, these philosophiai are not THE philosophia of Christ. Each needs fulfillment in the Wisdom who is Jesus. This does not sit well with the secularist who places all his trust in human wisdom, nor with the consumerist materialist who gives thought only to the god of the belly, nor with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, or neopagans who all claim their own paths to God.

But offensive or no, it is Christianity’s claim, her unequivocal claim to exclusive participation in the divinely revealed God.

[The remainder of the posts in this series can be found here.]

The Fatherhood Chronicles LXXII

So, starting with tomorrow, here are the feast days of the possible birthdates of our newest and yet-to-be-born baby (who’s due date is tomorrow):

  • 28 June: Forefeast of the Apostles; and Sts. Sergius and Herman, founders of Valaam Monastery
  • 29 June: Sts. Peter and Paul
  • 30 June: Synaxis of the 12 Apostles
  • 1 July: Wonderworking Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian of Rome; Sts. Processus and Martinian of Rome
  • 2 July: St. John of San Francisco, Wonderworker; and the Placing of the Tunic of the Mother of God in Blachernae
  • 3 July: Martyr Hyacinthus
  • 4 July: St. Andrew of Crete
  • 5 July: St. Athanasios of Mt. Athos and the Uncovering of the Relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh
  • 6 July: St. Sisoes the Great; Martyr Lucia and those with her
  • 7 July: Great Martyr Kyriaka
  • 8 July: Great Martyr Procopius of Caesarea
  • 9 July: Hieromartyr Pancratius of Taormina
  • 10 July: St. Anthony of the Kievan Caves, Founder of Monasticism in Russia; and the Holy 45 Martyrs at Nicopolis in Armenia
  • 11 July: Great Martyr Euphemia; and St. Ogla, Isapostolos and Princess of Russia

(And let’s hope Anna doesn’t go the full two weeks over her due date!)

What a great lineup with a bunch of martyrs and monastics!

If I have my druthers, I’d love for the baby to be born tomorrow evening. But 2 July ain’t a bad date either! A combination of a Marian feast and the feast of our patron. Oh, and mom will be here, too!

The Fatherhood Chronicles LXXI

Of your charity, I ask your prayers concerning the following:

  • For my mother, Miriam, who flies in from Wichita on Thursday evening: for safety and convenience of travel, and for a good time here with us and her granddaughter and (potentially born) new grandbaby
  • For Anna and our unborn baby: that the Lord would grant perfect health and wholeness to mother and child and that both would see a happy and safe birth; the baby’s due date is tomorrow, and it would be wonderful if the baby could be born while my mom is here
  • For Sofie as she becomes the older sibling and all the matters known and unknown that accompany that life-affecting change
  • For Anna and I as we strive to raise our children in the faith once for all delivered to the saints; and that our children would soon be brought to “the laver of regeneration” (and Anna and I to chrismation)

Christianity as Philosophia versus Christianity as Grammatike

It has been my intent, in this series of reflections, to do two things: to draw a sharp distinction between how philosophy is understood in our (presumably late) modern context and how it was understood in antiquity, and to demonstrate the strong similarities between the ancient understanding of philosophy (as philosophia) and of Christianity’s own understanding of itself as a philosophia, indeed as the true philosophia. In turn, I want to draw a sharp distinction between how Christianity is currently understood in our present-day context and how Christianity understood itself in antiquity.

Present-day Christianity is rife with grammatique, with grammarians rather than philosophers. I mean by this, a perspective that focuses on analysis, definition, and dogma rather then humility, obedience and repentance. Grammatique, as I am using this term here, should be seen as the technique of the grammarian, the hermeneutical orientation, the intellectualization of belief.

Grammatike is, in many ways, safer than philosophia. Socrates was not sentenced to die, after all, for grammar or inflammatory speeches, but for inculcating a way of life, an examined life, that was a threat to the conventional mode of living of the Athens of his day. The Apostles were persecuted for sake of the Word, not for words. The seven martyred brothers whom we celebrate today (the soldiers Orentius, Pharnacius, Eros, Firmus, Firminus, Cyriacus and Longinus) were martyred not for an intepretation of Scripture, but for failing to adhere to the way of life of the Roman military: sacrificing to the gods after a victory.

Once the perspective shifts from philosophia to grammatike, however, definition becomes paramount, hermeneutics and discourse are separated from virtue and struggle. Once this divorce happens, what it means to be Christian will inevitably shift from performance to concept, from the ecclesiola, the “little Church” in the home, to the academy and those with the skills to argue and define in plausibility. With this shift, what it means to be Christian amounts to what one defines Christianity to be, and apostolicity is rendered in rhetoric.

This is little more than gnosticism. A select cadre of hermeneuticians and lawyers are allowed to render the measurements for what Christianity is by virtue of its plausible content. Another group makes their arguments, and the jury of onlookers each decide whom they think is right. The intellect is tickled and reason satisfied, but there’s little or no justification for why any of this makes any real difference.

But the Christianity that is philosophia, while it must give attention to words and interpretation, gives primary attention to the ways of living that have been passed down from grandparents to parents to children. The Councils of the ancient Church did not convene so as to define the doctrines that must be believed, but met because the way of life Christ had handed to the apostles–and the apostles to the rest of the Church–was being threatened by grammarians who were at work changing words and arguing definitions, the consequences of which grammatique would fundamentally alter the Christian way of life. Arius was not a threat merely because he interpreted Scripture differently from the Church, but because the consequences of his belief would change the prayers which sustained the Church in daily life and would radically gut the bowels of common liturgy.

Dogma and belief do not change, but not because the faithful retain, like automatons, a mere conformity to the exact words. After all, in the historic Church the Faith and its worship were translated into a multitude of languages and cultures. Rather, dogma and belief remain unchanged because they are guarded and preserved in a particular way of living that does not change in its substance. Dogma is “defined” for the sake of the life of the Faith, to the end of guarding the hidden treasure and keeping the great-priced pearl.

It is because Christianity is a way of life that its unity can be manifested. If one bases unity on mere words, then unity is subject to rhetoric, and can only be preserved in political power. To be sure, unity grounded in a way of life will be manifested in institutions and authority and hierarchy (even if such authority and hierarchy arise from mutual submission), but such things serve unity, rather than unity the institution.

Christian groups today remain fractured in large part because they have failed to maintain the historic way of life that marks out authentic Christianity. They have allowed their faith to become grammatical. This grammatique has its own way of life, of course, and that way of life is at odds with that of the ancient Church. Modern Christianity is awash with names–the origin of denominations–which seek to lay claim to the Faith of the Apostles. But one cannot lay claim to that which one does not have. That is to say, anyone can define terms and argue that one’s beliefs fit those terms, and that therefore one is “apostolic.” But if one wishes to claim a particular way of life, one must receive it from those who can give it. A way of life is not cobbled together from spare parts. Christianity is not bricolage. A way of life is an organic whole, each part serving the rest, the sum greater than its parts. To make it up anew is to create something alien, a knock-off of the real thing. There is no “reformation” or “restoration” of ancient Christianity, as though one can determine an original blueprint and tear out a wall here and install a new wing there. There is no tinkering with the Faith. There is only the receiving of it.

[The remainder of the posts in this series can be found here.]

St. John Chrysostom: On Love of God and God’s Love

For to have offended God is more distressing than to be punished. But now we are so wretchedly disposed, that, were there no fear of hell, we should not even choose readily to do any good thing. Wherefore were it for nothing else, yet for this at least, we should deserve hell, because we fear hell more than Christ. . . . But since we feel otherwise, for this reason are we condemned to hell: since, did we but love Christ as we should love Him, we should have known that to offend Him we love were more painful than hell. But since we love Him not, we know not the greatness of His punishment. And this is what I bewail and grieve over the most! And yet what has God not done, to be beloved of us? What hath He not devised? What hath He omitted? We insulted Him, when He had not wronged us in aught, but had even benefited us with blessings countless and unspeakable. We have turned aside from Him when calling and drawing us to Him by all ways, yet hath He not even upon this punished us, but hath run Himself unto us, and held us back, when fleeing, and we have shaken Him off and leaped away to the Devil. And not even on this hath He stood aloof, but hath sent numberless messengers to call us to Him again, Prophets, Angels, Patriarchs: and we have not only not received the embassy, but have even insulted those that came. But not even for this did He spew us out of His mouth, but like those slighted lovers that be very earnest, He went round beseeching all, the heaven, the earth, Jeremiah, Micah, and that not that He might weigh us down, but that He might speak in behalf of His own ways (Is. i. 2; Jer. ii. 12; iii. 12; etc.; Mic. vi. 1): and along with the prophets He went also Himself to those that turned aside from Him, being ready to submit to examination, and deigning to condescend to a conference, and drawing them that were deaf to every appeal into a disputation with Himself. For He saith, “O my people, what have I done unto thee, and wherein have I wearied thee? Answer me.” (Mic. vi. 3.) After all this we killed the Prophets, we stoned them, we did them other cruel wrongs without number. What then? In their place He sent no longer Prophets, no longer Angels, no longer Patriarchs, but the Son Himself. He too was killed when He had come, and yet not even then did He quench His love, but kindled it even more, and keepeth on beseeching us, after even His own Son was killed, and entreating us, and doing all things to turn us unto Himself. And Paul crieth aloud, saying, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: be ye reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. v. 20.) None of these things however reconciled us. Yet not even then did He leave us, but keeps on both threatening hell, and promising a kingdom, that even so He may draw us unto Himself. But we be still in an insensible mood. What can be worse than this brutishness? For had a man done these things, should we not many times over have let ourselves become slaves to him? But God when doing so we turn us away from! O what listlessness! O what unfeelingness We that live continually in sins and wickednesses, if we happen to do any little good, like unfeeling domestics, with what a niggardly spirit do we exact it, and how particular are we about the recompense made, if what we have done has any recompense to come of it. And yet the recompense is the greater if you do it without any hope of reward. Why saying all this, and making exact reckoning, is language fitter for an hireling than a domestic of willing mind. For we ought to do everything for Christ’s sake, not for the reward, but for Him. For this also was why He threatened hell and promised the kingdom, that He might be loved of us. Let us then so love Him as we ought to love Him. For this is the great reward, this is royalty and pleasure, this is enjoyment, and glory, and honor, this is light, this is the great happiness, which language (or reasoning) cannot set before us, nor mind conceive.

–St. John Chrysostom, Homily V on Romans

[This entry is also posted to my my companion blog.]

St. Ignatii Brianchaninov: On Fallen Human Nature

A profound and hidden mystery is the fall of man. It is quite impossible for a person to understand it by his own powers. This is because among the consequences of the fall is mental blindness, which prevents the mind from seeing the depths and darkness of the fall. Our fallen state deceptively appears to be a state of triumph, and the land of exile seems to be an exceptional field of progress and enjoyment. Gradually God discloses the mystery to those ascetics who serve Him sincerely and with all their soul.

What a different picture, brethren, and how terrible is the sight that meets our gaze when the mystery is disclosed to us! When by divine guidance the abysses of hell are laid bare in the depth of the heart, how is it possible not to be filled with fear! How can we not be filled with fear especially when our with weakness and infirmity is proved to us by countless bitter experiences! How is it possible not to be filled with horror at the thought that some deadly passion can lie hidden in the heart for a long time, then suddenly appear and ruin a person for ever! That is true. But whoever fears sin, whoever does not trust himself, is not in danger from sin.

–St. Ignatii Brianchaninov, Chapter 40 “Concerning Resentment or Remembrane of Wrongs,” The Arena.

[This entry is also posted to my companion blog.]

The Fatherhood Chronicles LXX

Just What I Needed

Our mornings together are much, much shorter, now that Sofie is going to bed later in the evening and getting up after 6:30 in the mornings. Morning time is, of necessity, quality time instead of quantity time. This morning Sofie didn’t get up till 6:45. I leave the house about 7:15, which didn’t leave much daddy-daughter time. So we got up, I fixed her some breakfast and we ate breakfast together. (Her cute insistence that momma “Sih” with us at the table couldn’t overcome very-pregnant-ready-to-deliver Anna’s desire/need for more snoozing.)

After fixing my own lunch, and getting my gear ready to leave for work, and after she’d finished her cereal, Sofie wanted to go watch a “feevie” (video + movie), which we let her do in the mornings as I’m leaving. The twenty-three minute Baby Einstein “feevies” give Anna a few more minutes of blanket-time. I was holding Sofie in my arms as I put the DVD in the player and turned the TV on. But as I made ready to set her down on the couch, she gave me a big hug and said:

“I lubby.”

The first time she has said that to me. *Sniff* (Damn. Still gets me.)

I’m still working off that high.