We Do Not Begin with God’s Essence

It is common in philosophy to discuss God in terms of being and essence. One starts with what God is to discover, if one discovers it at all, who God is. Unfortunately, Christian theology in the modern era has attempted to map her own doctrines about God onto the “god of the philosophers” schema and so resorts to explicating God’s essence in order to talk about his person. (Of course, many would argue that this has been done in the Christian west for centuries, but I’ll leave that to others to discuss.)

As the gentlemen at Energies of the Trinity help us to learn, Christians from the earliest times rejected this God-as-essence-precedes-God-as-person schema. Take a look at their citation of St. Basil: Theology does not begin with “being”

How Russia Became Christian (Part II)

From CH&B’s website, How Russia became Christian (Part II)

c. 987 — Vladimir summoned together his boyars and the city elders, and said to them: “Behold, the Bulgars came before me urging me to accept their religion. Then came the Germans and praised their own faith; and after them came the Jews.”

Finally the Greeks appeared, criticizing all other faiths but commending their own, and they spoke at length, telling the history of the whole world from its beginning. Their words were artful, and it was wondrous to listen and pleasant to hear them. They preach the existence of another world. “Whoever adopts our religion and then dies,” they said, “shall arise and live forever. But whosoever embraces another faith, shall be consumed with fire in the next world.’ What is your opinion on this subject, and what do your answer?” The boyars and the elders replied, “You know, oh prince, that no man condemns his own possessions, but praises them instead. If you desire to make certain, you have servants at your disposal. Send them to inquire about the ritual of each and how he worships God.”

Their counsel pleased the prince and all the people, so that they chose good and wise men to the number of 10, and directed them to go first among the Bulgars and inspect their faith. The emissaries went their way, and when they arrived at their destination they beheld the disgraceful actions of the Bulgars and their worship in the mosque; then they returned to their country.

Continue reading “How Russia Became Christian (Part II)”

In Memory of Jaroslav Pelikan (A Homily by Father John Erickson)

In Memory of Jaroslav Pelikan
A Homily Delivered at His Funeral Vigil Service
May 16, 2006

Dear Sylvia, dear Martin, Michael and Miriam, dear Pastor Pelikan, your long vigil is over. During these last weeks we here at the seminary have been singing the hymns of Pascha, hymns proclaiming the resurrection: “From death to life, from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us.” And during these weeks you have been keeping vigil around Jary. Now Christ has led him from death to life, from earth to heaven. As persons of faith, we rejoice. We know that Christ is risen. We know that He has destroyed the power of death. We know that on the last day God will raise up those who sleep in Him (cf I Thess 4). But what a sense of loss we also feel!

On the first paschal morning Mary Magdalene felt a similar rush of conflicting emotions. As we read in John 20, she came to the tomb of Jesus to find His body gone. She turned and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t recognize Him and supposed He was the gardener. She asks, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus addresses her by name: “Mary.” She recognizes His beloved voice, and she reaches out to touch Him. But He says, “Do not touch me” – “Do not cling to me.” Don’t try to hold on to me.

Mary couldn’t hold onto Jesus as she had known him. All the more, we can’t hold onto those who now lie asleep in Him. We can’t hold onto Jary. We can’t know him now in the ways that we knew him in the past – as a devoted husband, a loving father, a proud grandfather, a dear brother, a teacher and mentor, a sage advisor, a witty conversationalist. A few weeks ago Michael summed up the situation that so many of us are in now. He said, “All my life, if I needed to know something, I could just ask my father, and he would know the answer. But I’m not going to be able to do that any more.” Like Michael, we can’t know Jary in the ways we once did. But we can recognize him and know him in new ways – ways no less real, and certainly more profound.

Continue reading “In Memory of Jaroslav Pelikan (A Homily by Father John Erickson)”

How Russia Became Christian (Part I)

From Christian History & Biography, How Russia became Christian:

c. 986—Vladimir was visited by Bulgars [from the region of Bulgaria] of Mohammedan faith, who said, “Though you are a wise and prudent prince, you have no religion. Adopt our faith, and revere Mohammed.” Vladimir inquired what was the nature of their religion.

They replied that they believed in God, and that Mohammed instructed them to practice circumcision, to eat no pork, to drink no wine, and after death, promised them complete fulfillment of their carnal desires. “Mohammed,” they asserted, “will give each man 70 fair women. He may choose one fair one, and upon that woman will Mohammed confer the charms of them all, and she shall be his wife. Mohammed promises that one may then satisfy every desire, but whoever is poor in this world will be no different in the next.” They also spoke other false things (which out of modesty may not be written down).

Vladimir listened [intently] to them, for he was fond of women and indulgence, regarding which he heard with pleasure. But circumcision and abstinence from pork and wine were disagreeable to him. “Drinking,” said he, “is the joy of the Russes. We cannot exist without that pleasure.”

Continue reading “How Russia Became Christian (Part I)”

The Fatherhood Chronicles CIII

Life Returning to Normal?

Hanging on our wall immediately next to the computer desk in our old apartment was the 2006 Family Organizer®, put out by More Time Moms®TM Publishing, Inc. It was filled with a plethora of activities and important appointments, from playgroup meetings to pediatrician visits, paydays, Anna’s girls-only nights with her friends (sans babies and toddlers), and an occasional important event for the lone representative of the male species in our home. A glance at one of the days on the monthly calendar (roughly 18″ x 14″) could foster a detailed narrative of events, not the least of which would be the combined logistics of scheduling, transportation and menu preparations of an even half-dozen homes at a time.

The unpacking of a home, although it is portentous of the encroaching horizon of normalcy, is itself a trial of the spirit in excruciatingly abnormal times. Boxes shifted here, contents dug through, then hurriedly “repacked,” and said boxes shoved there. Boxes taken to storage, only to be fetched again from storage–or rummaged through in storage–to find misplaced items (the television remote) incorrectly cataloged (packed with the phones and telephony equipment instead of with the videos). Or worse to not find items sought . . . or worse yet, to find items thought to have been jettisoned two moves previous only to resurrect their irritating and hideous existence in a new location.

Moves are not infrequently coupled with new jobs, and there are new schedules to which to adjust. Some of these are welcome–a near-elimination of the commute time, say. Some are not–the arcane, idiosyncratic and wholly irrational “rules” of garbage pickup.

But often it is not long before mornings begin starting at the same time each day, as bedtimes start ending the day at near the same times. Coffee gets ground and brewed as before. Dirty clothes again begin to miss the hamper by inches, or hang tantalizingly and mockingly over the edge. Paper cups are replaced by favorite “Caffeinated Christianity” mugs, and metalware replaces plasticware.

However, in a household of young’un’s and a mom with a spine of steel and a heart of rose petals, the true sign of the return to normalcy is clear and immistakable. I saw it myself this evening as I sat down to the computer. It was the 2006 Family Organizer®, put out by More Time Moms®TM Publishing, Inc. once again ensconced in its calm yet authoritative place adjacent the computer desk.

On its once pristine white pages for July are scratched already just a notch more than half a dozen meetings, playgroups and activities. Normalcy is returning to the Healy home.