“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.
Logismoi constitute a “raging stream” engulfing our conscious awareness, and diverting us from prayer and mindfulness; they are invaders of the human mind. The logismos is thus the beginning, the center, and the root of sin—the frontline of Satan’s war against our salvation and his hatred of us.
This article, written by a hieromonk of Mt Athos, insightfully analyzes the logismoi, their effects and their disguises, and offers strategies for prevailing in this demonic war in which all of us are already engaged.
“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.
St Justin’s rapturous love for the Bible emanates from every line of these reflections in a way that sparks a contagious excitement and an eagerness to see whether we can ourselves discover some of these wonderful riches in the pages that only a few minutes before had seemed all too familiar. That is, he quickly brings us to a point where we see what a dazzling gift God has given us in His Holy Scriptures.
“In the Bible God has said absolutely everything that was necessary to be said to men,” St Justin exclaims! “In it each of us can find himself portrayed and thoroughly described in detail.” In short, his essay makes us want to set aside whatever reading has captured our fancy of the moment, and take up the Bible and read.
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.
But modern ears and modern temperaments may find the Psalms challenging and enigmatic. This is, in fact, as it should be, for the Psalter is the ideal (and indeed God-prescribed) medicine to free us from the blinders or modernity, to deliver us from the skepticism and reductionism and spiritual banality of our modern world, which has closed itself off from spiritual reality.
The Psalms are the poetic means (that is, the truest means) to give us the mindset needed for authentic prayer and worship, so it is no surprise that they are woven throughout the words of the Divine Liturgy. That is, they must be prayed and indeed sung to be understood, for they are poetry of a very special kind—poems that help us what St Prophyrios meant when he said: “Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet.”
In his poetic translation of the Holy Psalter, which preserves the parallelism of the Septuagint couplet form, Archimandrite Lazarus Moore includes an introductory essay that helps us see the critical importance of the Psalms, as well as overcome some of the modern difficulties preventing us from loving them. We present it here with only minor editing, followed by Fr Lazarus’ translation of Psalm 146 as a sample.
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.
This definition continued in the writings of C.S. Lewis who Imam views as one of the most influential writers on Christianity in the Christian West of the last century. Lewis explains throughout his writings why he thought Mohammedanism was a Christian heresy (although others could argue Islam is a type of regressive Judaism influenced by the Arianism prevalent in the cultural soil where Mohammed’s teachings took root).
The essay suffers a bit near the end from a generalized ethical appeal that seems calculated to answer the criticisms of religious relativists. Imam addresses them within the reason-revelation distinction operative in the Latin theology in which he works. However, this shouldn’t deter the reader from the value of his historical analysis or the clear distinctions Lewis drew between Islam and Christianity.
“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.
Why is this? One reason is that the knowledge of God has dimmed in the broader culture and with it the knowledge of the necessary virtues that allow a marriage to flourish. We need teachers to show us how to be married, how we need to think about marriage and how we husband and wife ought to treat each other so that those virutes can be recovered and applied. Indeed, the application of the instructions given to use by Drs. David and Mary Ford in the 26 Patterns below does just that. In treating our spouse in the ways the Fords instruct, virtue is rediscoverd and restored and human flourishing can increase.
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.”
The cross, Fr. Staniloae writes, “…puts to flight those demons which cause evil and launch temptations …[against] human beings.” This raises passions in man that obscure the transparency of God in the world, and this increasing blinding robs man of clear thinking and meaning.
The passions must be defeated (“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God…”) so that man’s eyes open and his thinking clears, and meaning is rediscovered. In so doing paradise opens in this life where not only man, but the entire cosmos begins its rebirth and redemption.
“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.”
So writes Joseph Epstein in a witty and now-classic article that is even timelier than in 2004, when it was first published. In our tastes and values, in our political opinions and our moral judgments, in our cynical or ironic or frivolous approach to serious matters, we cling desperately to a fading semblance of youth and a fondness for its follies.
But we live in a time that calls for mature and balanced judgment, for the wisdom that the ancients knew comes only from those situations in which we take life seriously and put ourselves on the line, drawing as best we can upon the counsel of our own elders and the inimitable Wisdom of a Fatherly God.
Meanwhile, our own children search in vain for adults, for actual grown-ups who will lead them and give them a direction in life, seeking instead in popular messiahs and social media chatter what their parent-pals, still pursuing their adolescence, have withheld from them—only to learn too late the advice of Ecclesiastes (7:5) that it would have been “better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.”
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?
If we are exceptionally blessed, we may have met one or two figures here or there who gave us a real glimpse of such a life, the life of an Orthodox Christian in our time as it is lived fully, deeply, radically. But such glimpses are often as rare as they are fleeting and unassuming; they don’t announce themselves with bright lights and trumpets, for they are moments when an inner holiness, the glimmer of an illumined heart, barely becomes visible and catches our gaze.
Much of the time, however, these exemplary figures may very well seem to external observation no different from anyone else. Hence the importance of holy ones such as St Paisios, whose very being was utterly saturated with the light of divine grace—whose every word and gesture manifested the kind of life we should be seeking.
And therefore, the serious seeker cannot hear enough stories about these wonderful figures such as Sts Paisios and Pophryrios. We want to hear even the smallest details of their lives, things that may seem unimportant or trivial, for its is here perhaps most of all that we can see how life would look if it were filled with grace. And as we listen and learn, divine grace may itself pass through them into us as well.
Postmodern theory propounds that reality is a social construct, and thus that we are men or women according not to our bodies but our beliefs. Worse yet, many think that reality sometimes needs more than a little coercion to conform to the social construction. It is becoming increasingly common for the bodies of children to be drugged and mutilated to force them to adapt to the beliefs of parents, school counselors, and sometimes the children themselves who are suffering from gender dysphoria. Orthodox bioethicist Wesley Smith documents here this violence against our children and discusses the harm caused by these errant ideologies.
In the darkness of our contemporary world, God has provided us with abundant illumination cast from from the lives and works of many holy saints of the Orthodox Church. St Nicholai of Žica and Ohrid, who along with St Justin Popovich was one of the brightest lights shining in Serbia, ended his life in the United States at St Sava’s Seminary, St Tikhon’s Seminary, and St Vladimir’s Seminary, reposing in 1956. The text below, the final section of his catechistic elucidation of the Nicene Creed, “The Faith of the Saints,” makes it radiantly clear why he has been called The New Chrysostom. It can be read independently, for it stands on its own as a luminous summary of the Orthodox Faith.
The Orthodox Church considers prayers for the dead to be of the greatest importance. As stated by St Theophen the Recluse: “The lot of the departed is not considered decided until the general Last Judgment. Until then, we cannot consider anyone as finally judged; and on the basis of this we pray, convinced in our hope in God’s immeasurable mercy!” But what about those who have died outside of the Orthodox faith—beyond its boundaries? One of the most treasured Orthodox prayers for the reposed answers this question with the splendid affirmation that even though our loved ones are beyond our terrestrial realm, they are by no means beyond the merciful love of God. It is this prayer that is reprinted below: the poignant and hopeful Canon to St Varus.
In these times of global pestilence, it is easy to engage in speculations about whether the Last Days are upon us, seizing upon things uncommon or extraordinary as signs of Apocalypse. Anything from the arrival or locusts in East Africa to corona shaped hailstones in Mexico may be taken as coded messages from God.
It is, then, perhaps a good time to reflect soberly upon Orthodox teachings about how to recognize the End Times when they do arrive; and we can find no better guide for this than Fr Seraphim Rose, who in Part Two of his lecture, helps us to “read” a number of perplexing “signs of the times” and understand them in relation to Orthodox teachings.
In these times of global pestilence, it is easy to engage in speculations about whether the Last Days are upon us, seizing upon things uncommon or extraordinary as signs of Apocalypse. Anything from the arrival or locusts in East Africa to corona shaped hailstones in Mexico may be taken as coded messages from God. It is, then, perhaps a good time to reflect soberly upon Orthodox teachings about how to recognize the End Times when they do arrive; and we can find no better guide for this than Fr Seraphim Rose, who unlike many moderns takes prophecy quite seriously, while always holding up its interpretation to the light of patristic teachings.
When Communist theorist Antonio Gramsci fled Rome for Russia, he was disappointed to discover that Bolshevism was not going to succeed. He concluded that it was the deeply ingrained Orthodox Christian culture of the Russian people that stood in the way. And as many of our readers can attest, it was the babushkas, those mothers of all mothers and fathers, that most of all kept the flame of Orthodox faith and culture alive. On this Mothers’ Day, the simple, loving remembrance in this story can help us understand how the light and warmth of Orthodox culture was preserved through those many dark years and passed on to future generations.
The true disciple of Jesus, whether a man or a woman, is not the one who carries a Christian identity on account of having been baptized, but the one who imitates the courageousness of Joseph of Aramathea, the Myrrh-Bearing Women, and the martyrs who offered themselves up in order to hold fast to their faith… only the courageous deserve to be beloved of Jesus.
The Apostle Thomas, writes Fr. Daniel Sisoyev, was by nature skeptical and stubborn. He demanded to see Christ in his body after the resurrection before he would believe the apostolic testimony that Christ rose from the dead. “Christ acquiesced to the demand by appearing to Thomas, and in so doing affirmed that His rising was indeed a resurrection of the body as well as the soul.
Unlike the English term Easter, which evokes the Teutonic spring-goddess Ostara or Eastra, the Greek word Pascha is a direct transliteration of the Aramaic pascha, which in turn renders the Hebrew pesach, meaning Passover. St Porphyrios explains here in simple, but compelling language how Christ Himself has become our true Passover from darkness into light, from sin and death into life—how His Resurrection has accomplished “the most important thing in [our] life and in the life of the entire universe.” And in this way, he tells us why, like kid-goats in the exuberance of spring, we should leap and frolic with joy as the light of this incomparable event dawns upon us!
This Holy Week and Pascha, the Covid-19 pandemic has given the faithful a hard saying. They will be deprived of celebrating these high and holy days in their parishes. They will be deprived of receiving holy communion. Nevertheless, they need not, now or ever, be deprived of Christ, for nothing, neither death nor life, neither things present nor things to come, can ever “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
“Are any among you suffering? Let them pray. Are any cheerful? Let them sing praises! Are any among you sick? Let them call for the presbyters of the Church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the Name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will heal those who are sick and the Lord will raise them up. If they have committed sins, they will be forgiven. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective!” (James 5: 13-16)