For all of creation

•January 9, 2008 • 2 Comments

Theophany icon
I admit freely that outside of Pascha, my favorite feast of the year is the blessed Theophany of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. While I have been an Orthodox Christian for seven years now, it seems that Theophany always brings something new and exciting for me. I always look forward to the eventual house blessing, a concept which once would have been so foreign to me as an Evangelical. I knew that something inside me wanted to believe that God’s creation was more than just something for man to use up and abuse, and I knew that God had in fact taken on human flesh (though I was often fuzzy on exactly what implications this had). I remember what great joy I experienced on my first Theophany as a chrismated Orthodox Christian. It all seemed to start to come together for me then. God had not only condescended to take on human flesh for the salvation of mankind, but indoing so had also redeemed the creation from the curse that had come it as a result of the first Adam’s disobedience. In becoming “Adam Again”, Jesus had redeemed all . In his descent into the waters of baptism in the Jordan, he sanctified the waters (amongst other things;better theological explanations are available many places, including here as well as here)
In Fr. Gregory Jensen’s homily for the feast, he mentioned that in his time serving the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in Northern California, he had ample opportunity to deal with those in the New Age movement. Folks he said who could really appreciate a feast like Theophany. He quipped that they were just Orthodox Christians who didn’t know it yet! Apparently my bemusement at his comment was louder than I thought as the whole parish got a kick out of it and I got mentioned by name! Anyway, I digress here.
One of the other things that this feast has helped me understand and appreciate even more is the hymn to the Theotokos wherein we proclaim: All of creation rejoices in you, O full of Grace. The assembly of angels, and the race of man. O sanctified temple, and spiritual paradise, the glory of virgins, of whom God was incarnate and became a child, our God before the ages. He made thy body into a throne, and thy womb more spacious than the heavens. All of creation rejoices in thee, O full of grace:Glory be to thee . Because the Theotokos had been obedient to God, had answered with her yes to him, all of creation is redeemed. We too have choices to incarnate Christ in us, in our lives and actions. We can and must continue to reach out to all of creation with the hope that is offered in the feast. There’s so much more to say, and I will as I continue to reflect on this wonderful feast, as well as it’s connection to both Nativity and Pascha.

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Thoughts on St. Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation of The Word of God”

•December 24, 2007 • 2 Comments

As previously mentioned, it is at this time of year that I do my regular annual re-reading of the brilliant tome,
“On the Incarnation of The Word of God” In looking over the first chapter and a half, the following three sections struck me as particularly poignant. They speak for themselves it seems to me, however I will offer my observations on each:

The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good. By nature, of course, man is mortal, since he was made from nothing; but he bears also the Likeness of Him Who is, and if he preserves that Likeness through constant contemplation, then his nature is deprived of its power and he remains incorrupt.

In my many years of attempting to live the Christian life prior to entering Holy Orthodoxy, I had never before encountered nor considered such a uniquely wonderful and yet frightening concept.. Through The Word, God had called everything from non-existence into being. And, by our choosing of evil over good, we choose literally to move back towards non-existence, non-being if you will. It is only through God’s image, innate in our beings that we can remain incorrupt as we choose to follow after good, or as the choice is put in that ancient Christian document “The Didache”,“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; …”. You see, the way of life, the way of existence requires us to respond positively to God’s grace towards us.The way of death occurs as we respond in a negative manner. This ability and power of choice is God’s gift ti us, and we must exercise it.

In that case, what was the use of having made them in the beginning? Surely it would have been better never to have been created at all than, having been created, to be neglected and perish; and, besides that, such indifference to the ruin of His own work before His very eyes would argue not goodness in God but limitation, and that far more than if He had never created men at all. It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself.

Any of these quotes can obviously speak for themselves as this one certainly does, yet this quote touches on an age old question that has been a stumbling block for many with regards to God’s sovereignty, as well as matters of free will.. This topic could be explored at great length, and I will perhaps do so at a later time. For the present however, let it suffice to be said that God was compelled by His great love towards mankind and all of creation to intervene in the person of the incarnate Word to restore mankind to it’s natural state. The following aptly demonstrates just that:

Who, save the Word of God Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing? His part it was, and His alone, both to bring again the corruptible to incorruption and to maintain for the Father His consistency of character with all. For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father.

A great mystery to be sure, this mysterious love of God.. To borrow from a favorite rock power trio of mine, King’s X (read “the signature of the King”) from their song , “It’s Love”
“It’s love
That holds it all together
I just had to let you know
That it’s love
That’s holding back the weather
And the same will let it go”


More thoughts on and from Lewis

•December 17, 2007 • Leave a Comment

As is typical for me at this time of year (The Nativity Fast), I have undertaken the re-reading of “On the Incarnation of The Word of God” by St. Athanasius, with an introduction by C.S. Lewis. I may be rightly accused of being an unabashed “Lewis-phile” if you will, to the delight of some and certainly to the great chagrin of others. That non-withstanding, I was struck as I re-read Lewis’s introduction to St. Athanasius’s marvelous and succinct work, by the following statement:

We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity.I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it.

You see, I had forgotten that Lewis came from a position in life well outside of Christian experience. His mind was formed in a mostly secular and irreligious milieu, and it was from that vantage point that he was able to make the observation that from the outside point of view, Christianity seems a formidable force, and a unified force at that. Perhaps it is true that we, on the inside as it were, tend to focus more exclusively on divisions and disagreements than we should. I say this not in any way to minimize the very real differences in ecclesiology, soteriology, Christology and Theology which do in fact exist, rather to say that perhaps our concentration on these things causes us to myopically render ourselves impotent when that is certainly not the case.
To take a look at a good discussion on this very matter, might I suggest looking at Fr. Gregory Jensen’s blog, Koinonia. In particular his recent series of posts springing from his reflections upon “Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Toward the Other Christian Confessions”.
Lewis’s quote struck me as being eminently relative to this topic, first because of it’s premise and second because Lewis, an Anglican, is highly valued and loved within Eastern Orthodox circles because his faith so closely resonates with Orthodoxy. He is, for me , a prime example of those Christians, who while they are outside of the Orthodox Church, are none-the-less not only Christian, but vital to Christendom as a whole.

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And, speaking of C.S. Lewis…

•December 5, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Check out the trailer for “Prince Caspian”
Opens May 16, 2008!!!

God takes on flesh and dwells among us!

•December 5, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The Nativity of Christ
Prior to my Journey to Holy Orthodoxy, I, like many Evangelical fundamentalists, was blissfully unaware of the importance of the incarnation. After coming to the Church, it has been an obsession of sorts, in as much as I have become an unashamed endorser, yeah “pusher of “On The Incarnation of The Word of God” by St. Athanasius. I am continually amazed that so many Evangelicals that I recommend it to are, in fact, scandalized by it. But, if you haven’t taken the opportunity to read it, I highly recommend it, particularly the version I have linked with a most excellent introduction by C.S. Lewis.
And, following along the same line of thought, I have included here a quote from Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog “Glory To God For All Things”

Worth re-posting

•December 3, 2007 • 1 Comment

The Golden Compass

During a recent visit with our Godchildren in Coaldale, PA., we had a brief discussion about the upcoming movie release of “The Golden Compass”. I had seen the trailer, and found the cinematography fascinating. Fr. Daniel noted that he had heard some rather distressing things about the movie and the books upon which it is based. His tendency, and mine as well, to dismiss criticism out of hand kicked in with the caveat that the movie ought to be viewed first, criticized later.
Well, I have recently run into a most excellent review from “First Things”. And although one may rightly accuse me of being lazy (one would correct in doing so) I found the review so compelling, that I have provided a perma-link here. I would put the review here in it’s entirety, but for the sake of conserving space and taking the reader to a wonderful blog-site, I have decided on the former.
None of this is to say that one must avoid the movie at all costs, though I think I may, rather it is to say that one should go into it understanding the guiding principals behind it.

Now playing: Fr. Stephen Freeman and Ancient Faith Radio – Christianity In A One-Storey Universe – Part 4; Christian Atheism
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A Brief Follow Up

•November 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment

With regard to my last entry regarding John Hagee’s comments about Jesus not being the messiah. At the behest of a reader,I have taken the opportunity to go back to his web-site to check the statement of beliefs.
It certainly seems to be standard Evangelical Protestant fare This just adds a bit to my confusion over his rather bizarre statements.
It seems to me, at a glance, that it is the trap of extreme dispensationalism. In order to make sense of one extreme proposition, another becomes inevitable. I hope to take a closer look at Rev. Hagee’s other writings in order to try to better understand what is driving this unusual belief. I’ll keep you posted.