Three Years: An Addendum to The Pilgrim Essays

It is a bit more than a month away from the calendar anniversary of my reception into the Orthodox Church by chrismation. The liturgical anniversary this year will fall very close to the calendar date. As I have done each year since, I want the influence of more time and experience to work its energies on the perspective with which I view the precise same events. Any such changes, however imperceptible, do not of course change the facts of the past, but sometimes, by grace, they do elicit new understandings. I have in the past spoken of a new awareness of providence, of the healing of the rift of head and heart and its accomplishment in the askesis of a particular way of living, and with that, of promise. It seems to me, though I am no prophet, that these themes will remain with me through the end of this life. I don’t know that I will understand them more adequately as time goes on, but I do hope to live them more deeply.

There may well be another theme to add to these, one which has been exhibited, perhaps providentially, though not intentionally, through the lack of activity on this blog. It is the activity of silence and the value of such an activity to one’s soul. The Rule of St Benedict devotes all of chapter 6 to silence; the ninth rung of the ladder of humility in chapter 7 is that of silence; and in chapter 42 the monks are directed not to speak after the observence of the last office of the day, Compline. That silence is an activity and not a passive state can be understood from just a brief moment’s reflection: imagine refraining from saying anything to anyone for an entire day, then imagine refraining from daydreaming for an entire hour, then imagine doing nothing but holding your attention, without any distracting thoughts, on the presence of God for a single full minute. It takes a very great energy to be silent.

I have read–I am sure I cannot speak with authority from my experience–that the achievement of true silence of lips, mind and heart is itself a purer form of activity than the restraint of speech and thoughts and distractions. But we know from those that have gone before us that aside from God’s gracious gift, we first must purge ourselves through restraint (via the askeses of Christ’s way of life) before we can experience the more pure activities of true silence. As I say, for me, this is all secondhand knowledge.

Yet, this first sort of silence, the askeses of restraint, is not without grace and mercy. One very mundane gift is that the restraint of thoughts, words and distractions one exerts is productive. It seems perhaps strange to say this, since words and speech are so influential and, well, useful. We use words and speech to express and to meet needs, to motivate choices and actions. But there is I think a unique and sometimes inversely proportional influence that silence (even the silence of restraint) brings to bear on one’s soul and the events and actions it engenders and endures. But just by stating this, I have hit the limit of a mystery I cannot understand. A fecund mystery, I think. But nonetheless to me presently opaque.

I have experimented (mostly unintentionally, though not without reflection) with forms of silence in the past year or two, and more so in recent days. I nuked one of my blogs (obviously not this one), and deactivated, for a week, another online social media account. To the degree that I have adequate discernment to judge, the results were swift and very positive. More such steps will need to be taken in the future. Steps which will involve this blog. I have a series of posts on Christian Philosophy I would still like to complete, but I don’t know if I will make the effort to do so. The topic still motivates, but I wonder whether that is enough justification. Mostly all I’ve been doing of late on this blog has been updating (usually only changing the posting date) of previous posts reflective of various saints’ days and feast days. Given the unintentional hiatus for original posts, given an increasing absence from online activities generally, and given my present experiences with silence, it seems a propitious time to draw this blog to a close.

Having said that, I’m not sure what I yet want to do with the content here. This has been a wonderful outlet to think through many of the theological and philosophical issues which have captured my attention since November of 2002. But there is less of that wrestling in the past three years, and more of a desire for quiet reflection. I know my ultimate decision will be to erase the blog and all its content. I just don’t know yet whether that will be tomorrow or some other later day.

Thank you to all who’ve commented here, who’ve emailed me relative to various posts you’ve read and enjoyed (or opposed). May the Lord send his mercy upon us all.


The Katavasia of Pascha

Ode 1: It is the Day of Resurrection, /
let us be radiant, O ye people; /
Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha: /
for from death to life, /
and from earth to heaven, /
Christ God hath brought us, //
as we sing the song of victory.

Ode 3: Come, let us drink a new drink, /
not one miraculously brought forth from a barren rock /
but the Fountain of Incorruption, /
springing forth from the tomb of Christ, //
in Whom we are strengthened.

Ode 4: On divine watch let the God-inspired Habakkuk stand with us, /
and show forth the light-bearing angel clearly saying: /
Today salvation is come to the world, /
for Christ is risen //
as Almighty.

Ode 5: Let us awake in the deep dawn, /
and instead of myrrh, offer a hymn to the Master, /
and we shall see Christ, /
the Sun of Righteousness, //
Who causeth life to dawn for all.

Ode 6: Thou didst descend into the nethermost parts of the earth, /
and didst shatter the eternal bars that held the fettered, O Christ, /
and on the third day, /
like Jonah from the whale, //
Thou didst arise from the tomb.

Ode 7: He Who delivered the Children from the furnace, /
became man, suffereth as a mortal, /
and through His Passion /
doth clothe mortality with the beauty of incorruption, /
He is the only blessed and most glorious //
God of our fathers.

Ode 8: This chosen and holy day /
is the first of the sabbaths, /
the queen and lady, /
the feast of feasts, /
and the festival of festivals, //
wherein we bless Christ unto the ages.

Ode 9: Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem, /
for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; /
dance now and be glad, O Zion, /
and do thou exult, O pure Theotokos, //
in the arising of Him Whom thou didst bear.

[from here]

Christos Voskrese

This is a marvelous Serbian video that I think captures the joy of Pascha (or Easter).

Christos Voskrese is “Christ is risen!”

[Thanks to Fr Stephen where there’s a translation of the lyrics.]


People rejoice, nations hear:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Stars dance, mounts sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Forests murmur, winds hum:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Seas bow*, animals roar:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bees swarm, and the birds sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

Angels stand, triple the song:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Sky humble yourself, and elevate the earth:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bells chime, and tell to all:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Glory to You God, everything is possible to You,
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

St. Benedict of Nursia’s Easter

From the Dialogues (Bk II Ch I) of Pope St. Gregory the Great:

But Benedict, desiring rather the miseries of the world than the praises of men: rather to be wearied with labor for God’s sake, than to be exalted with transitory commendation: fled privately from his nurse, and went into a desert place called Subiaco, distant almost forty miles from Rome: in which there was a fountain springing forth cool and clear water; the abundance whereof does first in a broad place make a lake, and afterward running forward, comes to be a river. As he was travelling to this place, a certain monk called Romanus met him, and demanded whither he went, and understanding his purpose, he both kept it close, furnished him what he might, vested him with the habit of holy conversation, and as he could, ministered and served him.

The man of God, Benedict, coming to this foresaid place, lived there in a narrow cave, where he continued three years unknown to all men, except to Romanus. He lived not far off, under the rule of Abbot Theodacus, and very virtuously stole certain hours, and likewise sometime a loaf given for his own provision, which he carried to Benedict.

And because from Romanus’ cell to that cave there was not any way, by reason of a high rock which hung over it, Romanus, from the top thereof, on a long rope, let down the loaf, on which also with a band he tied a little bell, that by the ringing of it the man of God might know when he came with his bread, and so be ready to take it. But the old enemy of mankind, envious of the charity of the one and the refection of the other, seeing a loaf on a certain day let down, threw a stone and broke the bell. Yet, for all that, Romanus did not cease to serve Benedict by all the possible means he could.

At length when almighty God was determined to ease Romanus of his pains, and to have Benedict’s life for an example known to the world, that such a candle, set on a candlestick, might shine and give light to the Church of God, our Lord vouchsafed to appear to a certain Priest dwelling a good way off, who had made ready his dinner for Easter day.

He spoke thus to him: “Thou have provided good cheer for thyself, and my servant in such a place is afflicted with hunger.” Hearing this, the priest rose up, and on Easter day itself, with such meat as he had prepared, went to the place, where he sought for the man of God among the steep hills, the low valleys and hollow pits, and at length found him in his cave. After they had prayed together, and sitting down had given God thanks, and had much spiritual talk, then the Priest said to him: “Rise up, brother, and let us dine, because today is the feast of Easter.”

The man of God answered, and said: “I know that it is Easter with me and a great feast, having found so much favor at God’s hands as this day to enjoy your company” (for by reason of his long absence from men, he knew not that it was the great solemnity of Easter). But the reverent Priest again assured him, saying: “Verily, today is the feast of our Lord’s Resurrection, and therefore it is not right that you should keep abstinence. Besides I am sent to that end, that we might eat together of such provision as God’s goodness hath sent us.” Whereupon they said grace, and fell to their meat, and after they had dined, and bestowed some time in talking, the Priest returned to his church.

Great and Holy Saturday


The noble Joseph, taking thy most pure body down anointing it with sweet-smelling ointments, laid it in a new tomb.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit

When thou didst go down into death, O Life Immortal, then didst thou destroy hell with the radiance of thy divinity. And when thou hadst raised the dead from the nethermost regions, all the power of heaven cried aloud: O Life-giver, Christ our God, glory to thee.

Both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

An angel stood before the myrrh-bearing women at the sepulchre crying: Myrrh is seemly for the dead, but Christ hath appeared a stranger to corruption.

Romans 6:3-11

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 28:1-20

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.