We are now well into the Holy and Great Fast of Lent, but for many of us it may have already begun to seem tedious: a routine and perhaps even empty exercise. This article by Fr Steven Ritter addresses this state of mind, offering fresh, thought-provoking, common-sense reminders of why the Fast is important to our spiritual life.
“Ayosha, the “angelic brother” of Dostoevsky’s novel. Aloysha the monastic novice. Alyosha the compassionate. Alyosha, who has chosen to live only for God. Yes. But Alyosha the depraved? Alyosha the corrupt. . .Alyosha the insect? Christos Yannaras, one of the foremost living philosophers of Europe, through his careful reading of The Brothers Karamazov has seen what many readers of the novel overlook: that the goodness and holiness of its principal character are not traits he possesses by nature, but gift of divine grace that emerge from his struggle “on the edge of the abyss.”
The insights of Dan Buxhoeveden (J.D from Loyola University, PhD from the University of Chicago) into the relation between natural sciences and the mystery of nature are no mere armchair speculation. He is an Orthodox Christian who teaches at the University of South Carolina and has conducted extensive research into the micro-organization of the cortex and how this this can be applied to comparative neuroscience, medicine and brain evolution. In this seemingly simple essay, the author offers us deep insights into what science can know and what it cannot, along with helping us discern the dangers of a purely materialist cosmology.
In this short review, Dr. David Ford writes that The Ethics of Beauty by Dr. Timothy Patitsas “…has already brought for many people life-changing healing and personal reconciliation with God and with others.” Patitsis covers a wide range of topics to show how Dostoevsky’s dictum “Beauty will save the world” has practical application in our contemporary world.
As a new regime takes office in Washington, utopian dreams are reigning in high fashion. A good time, no doubt, to reflect two classic novels warning of the dystopian danger that invariably arises when utopian fantasies are implemented at the expense of both human nature and truth itself. This essay by Arthur W. Hunt III offers an excellent, comparative primer on these two novels that both, all-too-plausibly, envision the totalitarian horrors resulting from the ruthless imposition of technological planning and calculation on the organic relationships of human beings with one another and with their God.
As we continue—or for those of us observing the Old Calendar Feast, as we begin—to meditate on the Incarnation of Christ, following our celebration of His Nativity, we can find a luminous source of insight in the typology and prophetic power of Psalm Eight.
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s classic work, “Christ in the Psalms,” shows us how not only this psalm, but the entire Book of Psalms needs to be understood “through the lens of Christ,” precisely because “the voice in the Psalms is Christ’s own voice.” Fr Patrick’s commentary on this psalm, then, follows our rendering of the text itself.
St. Ephrem’s “Hymns on the Nativity” are like a dazzling display of Christmas lights — or better yet, like the brightly shining stars shimmering over the fields of Bethlehem. St Ephrem believes that God reveals Himself through “raze” (symbols, mysteries, hidden meanings) found not only throughout Holy Scripture, but everywhere in nature as well.
However, they can be truly apprehended not by the merely inquisitive, but only by those who approach them with humility, with love, with wonder, and above all with faith. Perceiving God as revealed in these mystical symbols, we are elevated to an eternal dimension that nevertheless remains linked (through the “raze”) with historical time and everyday space.
Here, Adam and Eve are co-eternal with Noah and Moses and King David, the staff of Moses (itself transformed from a serpent) is united with the staffs of shepherds outside Bethlehem and then the staff of the Good Shepherd Who has just been born there. Poetic imagery of birth and fertility, of virginity and marriage, of sacrifice and death and rebirth, swirl together with pastoral imagery of sheep and lions and predatory wolves. Angels and animals and townspeople of all ages and conditions come together here to worship the Newborn Babe, who restores to those who understand (along with Adam and Eve) their youth and innocence.
This is not just a hymn, but theology of the highest sort done poetically, as St Ephrem believes the symbolic character of God’s revelations in nature and scripture requires.
Like Jesus’ friend Martha in the Gospel of St Luke, we “are worried and troubled about many things.” But as we prepare ourselves for the Nativity of Christ — as we look ahead toward His birth not in a royal chamber, but in the rustic and unpretentious cradle of an animal trough — and as we anticipate his quiet but earth-shaking Incarnation into a distracted and wayward world, which nevertheless yearns for him, we seek to simplify our lives from worries and distractions. Appropriately, this set of dialogues with St Paisios itself mirrors this theme in a simple and unassuming manner. Indeed, it is for this very reason that we find it so deep and so compelling.
Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce (1910–1989) argued prophetically more than half a century ago, that modern technology was being used to implement a “quiet totalitarianism,” one that by avoiding the overt violence of the Nazi and Soviet regimes, could quietly exercise the same absolute control within society.
Totalitarian systems, he explained, monopolize power by identifying their own ideological narrative with rational discourse itself and thereby exclude beforehand any kind of criticism. Critics (such as those objecting to the ongoing “sexual revolution”) can therefore be branded as “irrational,” — dismissed and demonized as pathological or immoral, as exhibiting “repressed psychology,” “bigotry,” “hatred,” “prejudice,” and so forth.
This stealthy totalitarianism operates by discrediting and undermining any source of resistance that transcends technological control (such as philosophical rationality, the great traditions of Western culture and local identity, the family as a source of values, and especially religious transcendence), making the individual completely dependent on society. It is precisely in the re-affirmation of transcendent realities, and above all religious transcendence, that Del Noce finds the only ground for resistance to technological domination and ideological manipulation.
When we sense that our sins are leading us toward a dark and perilous outcome, individual Christians know to stop and pray and repent. But when we hear that our “collective” actions are leading us into darkness, too often our tendency is to look for conspiracies and cast out nets of collective blame. But neither collective subjects nor collective objects actually exist: only individuals can take upon themselves the onus of action. What kind of action?
St Porphyrios explains that it is only the prayers and repentance of those individuals who walk in the light, however haltingly and uncertainly, that can avert the peril to which prophecy awakens us. For authentic prophecy, he explains, consists not in deterministic pronouncements of imminent doom, but in urgent warnings meant to alert us and avert the danger—to wake up precisely those individuals who know better than to react by casting blame on chosen enemies, but know instead to cast their prayers heavenward for the sake of our brothers and sisters and own selves as well.
Although this article comes to us from the year 2012, it is surely even more timely now, as the harrowing year that is now concluding raises apprehensions of even darker times to come.
Why do Orthodox memorial litanies melodically reiterate “memory eternal” with such feeling and such energy? And why did Orthodoxy’s greatest novelist end his last great work so triumphantly with these same words? By going very deeply into a single passage in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, “The Brothers Karamazov,” Donald Sheehan leads us not only into the the center of the novel, but into the heart of the Orthodox faith as well.
“Another City” has striven to set aside partisan politics in its editorial policy, and this commitment remains. But sometimes cultural and politics issues substantially overlap, as is the case with certain dark forces that are now manifest in Western culture and American society and which are important to understand deeply rather than in a partisan manner. Deacon Paul Siewers’ fine review article addresses these issues in a balanced and insightful way that many of our readers will find helpful.
Before the Fall, our consciousness (nous) was clear and undivided, focused on God and transparent to Him, without distractions from within or from without. But now we are perpetually distracted by logismoi (low-giz-mee)—not merely “thoughts” in the narrow sense, but also images and ideas running through our awareness tempting and beguiling us.
“The Bible is a biography of God in this world. In it the Indescribable One has described Himself.” So declares St Justin Popovich, not only a saint of the Orthodox Church, but one of its greatest theologians of the twentieth century.
The Psalms of David are the Prayer Book of the Bible, not only for the ancient Jewish people, but even more for Christians, who discovered that these elusively simple poems contained far more than their Hebrew predecessors had realized, for Christ Himself appears everywhere throughout them. As Fr Patrick Henry Reardon points out in his fine book Christ in the Psalms, it is the Old Testament book that is most often cited in the New Testament.
Until relatively recently writes Jacob Fareed Imam, what we call Islam today was most often called Mohammedanism. Islam was understood for centuries as a Christian heresy, a definition that began with St. John of Damascus (d.749) in his work Heresies and continued well into modernity. “All great heresies are known by their founders (e.g., Marcionism, Arianism, Nestorianism, etc.) and therefore Islam, for as long as it was still considered a Christian heresy, was generally known as Mohammedanism,” writes Imam.
“Marriage is a revelation and a mystery. We see in it the complete transformation of a human being, the expansion of his personality, fresh vision, a new perception of life, and through it a rebirth into the world in a new plenitude,” writes Fr. Alexander Elchaninov. That certainly is far from the knowledge of most people today, and those who have an intution that marriage is meant to be something more than cohabitation might not dare even hope that they might ever experience what Fr. Elchaninov describes.
In one month’s time we celebrate the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. The cross, writes Orthodox theologian Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, is the means — if we adopt it — by which paradise is restored. This paradise is not only that which which will be experienced at the end of the Christian’s earthly life, but “…may also be an evolving paradise here on earth, a restitution of the original paradise.”
“At a certain point in American life, the young ceased to be viewed as a transient class and youth as a phase of life through which everyone soon passed. Instead, youthfulness was vaunted and carried a special moral status. Adolescence triumphed, becoming a permanent condition.”
Can we faithfully and with any confidence transpose the life of St Anthony the Great, of St John Chrysostom, of St Gregory Palamas onto a subway car in Manhattan, or a park bench in Cedar Rapids? What would it be like to live a fully Christian life, here and now, in the twenty-first century? What would a truly Christian life look like in our time—the life of an authentic disciple of our Lord?