Ostrov Again

Been doing some watching of Ostrov again. I got the Film Movement copy from Netflix which has much better English subtitles. I did some more ‘net searching and found this interesting tidbit at Ostrov (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Pyotr Mamonov, who plays the lead character, formerly one of the few rock musicians in USSR, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in the 1990s and lives now in an isolated village. Pavel Lungin said about him that “to a large extent, he played himself.” Mamonov received a blessing from his confessor for playing the character.

I would love to meet Mr. Mamanov. His portrayal of the fictional Fr. Anatoli has been powerful for me, creating some fruitful reflection.

Dealing with Silence

First Pithless Thoughts and then through PT, Veni Vidi Credidi, I was reminded of a reality with which I am dealing more of recent days: silence.

I’m not one who has much difficulty in the way of physical silence. I don’t keep a TV running–“just for noise”–except when I’m watching it. Now, I might go through phases of too much DVD-watching, but unless I’m watching it, the TV is off. I don’t plug headphones into my ears except when I’m doing repetitive work, and when I do, I’m listening to lectures, podcasts, ancient philosophical works or Church Fathers on audio. And I don’t very often have a stereo playing in the background–almost never, actually.

But make no mistake: the internal noise level in my soul is pretty constant. My mind flits from one thought to another, from some event or another, constantly churning out mental noise. My thoughts might be far more boring and nerdy than anyone else (I’ve composed essays on various philosophical or theological topics in my head while on the el or in traffic), but they are no less noisy, and certainly no more godly, than anyone else’s.

And that’s the hard part of it. How do I get away from my addiction to mental activity, to thoughts? How do I learn to deal with silence, to really deal with silence? How do I avoid the tendency, heck, the habit, of filling the physical absence of noise by all the mental noise I can muster? How does one develop the ability to embrace the mental silence as well as the physical–to focus one’s heart and mind on a singular thought? I pray, and my mind is everwhere: Our Father–I’ve got to remember to pay that bill today–who art in heaven–can’t forget to balance the checkbook–hallowed be thy name–did I remember to enter that grocery purchase in the check book?–thy Kingdom come–out of milk, need to remember to get milk . . . and so it goes. Mental noise, noetic static.

I know what the Fathers say–fill one’s thought with the Jesus Prayer. Fill one’s thoughts with the Psalms and the Gospels. Focus on one thought to the exclusion of others. Pay attention to what one is doing in the moment, and do not be distracted.

Easy advice. Not complicated to do. But very hard to do, nonetheless.

Inescapable Intuitions About God, Sin and Forgiveness

An interesting clip from the show ER. The scene is built on the extreme liberalism of the chaplain and the hard-wired intuitions we have regarding God, our sins and our need for forgiveness. The Niebuhrian (H. Richard not Reinhold) formula for the liberal version of Christ (a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross), and which is explicated by the chaplain, obviously does not satisfy us, even if we cannot articulate it, and even if we risk a legalistic, earn-my-way-to-heaven approach. But still the intuition is strong, and necessary.

[H/T: unfortunately, I’ve forgotten]

Sts Barsanuphius and John on Blogs, Message Boards and the Internet

One who is firm in faith, if he will speak and contend with heretics or unbelievers, will never be disturbed, because he has within himself Jesus, the Source of peace and stillness. And such a one, after contending peacefully, can with love bring many heretics and unbelievers to the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ. Wherefore, O brother, since the judging of other subjects is above your measure, then keep to the royal path, I say, the faith of the 318 Holy Fathers [of the First Ecumenical Council] in which you were baptized: it includes within itself precisely everything for those who understand completely . . . . From now on do not be concerned over subjects which are not assigned to you, for the Lord has taken all cares away from you . . . . Pray for me, O brother, that it may not be said of me: Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? (Rom. 2:21).

–Answer 58 in Guidance Twoard Spiritual Life 2e, tr. by Father Seraphim Rose (St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood 2002)

A Question of Authority

I recently jumped into the midst of a discussion of sola scriptura on a Restoration Movement message board. By my line of questioning I tried to point out that adherents of sola scriptura are, it seems to me, attempting to answer questions of authority by asking questions of religious epistemology. Of course I think this is useless. Answering the religious epistemology question is thoroughly modernist and will not get one any closer to the true question: that of religious authority.

The early Christians could readily answer the question of religious authority. They seemed largely unconcerned with questions of religious epistemology.

At least that’s my take on it.