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!