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#21 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 02:09 PM

Byron wrote:

I've been wondering about the prayer at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, which says Does this prayer refer exclusively to unity in the church, i.e. among believers, or can its meaning be extended to include unity in the entire cosmos? If this latter meaning can be sustained, how would this notion of unity differ from the unity found in say, Hinduism or hermetic philosophy?


I believe that all of the comments on this thread are on track. The peace and unity referred to are for all things in Christ in the image of the peace & unity of the Holy Trinity. But as a liturgical work this peace & unity are to be (and can only really be) accomplished through the Church.

A personal comment here- over the years the Liturgy strikes me as being an ascetic work & journey in which the Kingdom is foreshadowed. Unity is implicit in this work. For we begin with the people of God assembled in the church and we pray so that this assembly becomes a true unity in Christ.

However this liturgy is still only a foreshadowing since we still live amidst human weakness. Which is why the liturgy ends on an earthly level. Thus we disburse to our own homes afterward. However we once again return to the church to resume this work again. For in Christ the work of peace & unity must be a continuous one: "again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord"- which is why it is inherently ascetic.

In truth then none of these elements can be separated from each other- common effort, common prayer, unity & peace. This puts us on track to attain to or at least touch the Kingdom.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#22 Owen Jones

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 02:10 PM

The Spiritual Counsels by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain might be helpful here. In the intro he defines man as the macrocosmos. While he admits that the more conventional term in microcosmos, he argues that his use of the term macrocosmos is consistent with the Church Fathers' interpretation. So you have mankind, and, in a certain sense, each individual man, as mysteriously incorporating all of the cosmos within, and even more. So there must be always kept in mind the cosmic dimension of individual or personal salvation (this is, perhaps, the key distinction between Orthodoxy and, say, Protestantism). So there is no such thing, really, as personal salvation in an Orthodox understanding. So I think that is our starting point. Understanding what man is. Having a proper philosophical anthropology, shall we say, is always the starting point. We can only understand God and cosmos in this context. Now, we don't really know what a person is, or what man is. At the heart of it lies a mystery. But that does not mean that we know nothing at all. However, when we get into the dimension of cosmic salvation it necessarily becomes more speculative (I am not discounting here the revelation accorded to certain glorified persons -- but as has been recounted, often their words on the subject are hard to grasp).

St. Nicodemus goes on to describe the ascetic work to be done in order to bring about a transformation of sense perception such that the Glory of the Lord can be made manifest, and spiritual delights can be made fruitful.

The problem comes in when people make certain philosophical/dogmatic mistakes -- for example, by trying to reify the poles of existence such that cosmos, for example, only refers to physical things and not their processes and movement in between that which is created and that which is Uncreated. And so people try to explore what the glorification of the cosmos would "look" like in some immanentized form. And so we get all kinds of social/political models of what such a world would "look" like in an immanentized reality. And so, gee, wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a socialist system that would make all men equal in stature, wealth, possessions, capabilities, etc.? -- which is clearly nothing more than a gnostic version of Orthodox Christianity. The vision of the glorified cosmos is something that can be accurately seen only through glorified sense perception, and not by a theory of what it would look like to the unformed eye.

#23 Owen Jones

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 02:31 PM

Another important point has to do with language. When seeking the meaning of certain words or statements, one way to proceed is to look for the intention of the author. What did he intend to mean in writing those words? And while this is a helpful tool, it certainly does not exhaust the question by any means. Intentionality is only one aspect of meaning and substance. As one philosopher wrote, there is a three-fold structure to language: intentionality, luminosity, and reflective distance, and all three play a role, but especially when it comes to theological/philosophical language. So it is wrong in principle to rely only on a search for intentionality.

And one of the principles of Orthodoxy is that only an illumined mind is capable of grasping and understanding the truth of the Gospel. And a glorified mind as of a different state altogether. So it does not mean therefore that a theological statement can mean anything I want it to mean, just because intentionality alone is an insufficient guide. On the other hand, I have to be careful in assuming that I am approaching a text with an illumined, let alone a glorified mind that gives me carte blanche. This is why the Church places so much emphasis on the Church's interpretation of Scriptural meaning, and one of the things about Orthodoxy is that it tends to shy away from absolute statements in that regard, especially with the obviously more mystical aspects of Scripture, such as Atonement for sins.

On the other hand, I thought it interesting to learn in my Bible class (which is not a class on how to acquire a glorified intellect but rather is a fairly conventional approach to "Bible Study," albeit utilizing Orthodox resources) that none of the Fathers expound on John 8 because it has an obvious, common sense meaning that anyone can understand. It does not require a mystical exegesis.

I particularly like how Fr. Dn. Matthew has pointed out the shift in focus of the liturgical phrase in question from the beginning of the liturgy to a preparation of the faithful for communion -- this constantly shifting movement is certainly not limited to specific cases but is at the core of everything that we know and believe.

#24 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 06:27 PM

Dear Dcn. Steenberg --

Thankyou for your correction. There are many things I do not understand.

Brian

#25 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 06:39 PM

Hi Owen --

The following quote is very interesting. If it is appropriate for this topic could you please go into further detail concerning this concept.

So there must be always kept in mind the cosmic dimension of individual or personal salvation (this is, perhaps, the key distinction between Orthodoxy and, say, Protestantism). So there is no such thing, really, as personal salvation in an Orthodox understanding. So I think that is our starting point.



Thankyou -- Brian

By the way - Happy Thanksgiving all.

#26 Owen Jones

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 02:09 AM

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

#27 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 07:58 AM

Dear Owen,

In response to Brian's question about there being no personal salvation in Orthodoxy, you offer 1 Cor 15:22. While I will not claim to be able to better this (!), I too would like to hear more about what man as macrocosm means in terms of personal and collective salvation. While reading your interesting post, I recalled a story I came across, where a visitor to Mt Athos heard one of the monks saying the Jesus Prayer, and inquired whether it was not rather self-centred to constantly be saying 'have mercy on me'. He suggested that prayer for the whole world might be better. Upon which, the monk replied 'it's the same'. I also recently heard an Orthodox bishop say that God is willing to create a new heaven and a new earth for just one single person, and this had a powerful impact on me. All these strike me as versions of the same truth, and though I'm no theologian, I would be very happy to also hear from others that it is the Orthodox truth, not just a fantasy in my head.

In connection to this, I am also wondering about what 'being a theologian' would mean in your, it seems to me, rather overly strict description of having a glorified nous. Is it possible that even sinners might have glimpses of illumination? One may not be able to read Scripture with an illuminated mind, but might there not be some truer and some less true thoughts emerging from the activity? Similarly with the book of nature - might there not be moments even in a sinner's life, when the glory of creation is made much more apparent than at other times? If one has not been glorified with the saints, is one doomed to gnosticizing Orthodoxy?

Sorry about all the questions.

Fr Raphael, I like what you write about the Liturgy as an ascetic act. I often think about what it must be like for my priest and spiritual father, Fr Marios, celebrating the liturgy and other services so often, always patiently, always singing, always with dignity and - it seems to me - mindfulness. If this isn't asceticism, I don't know what is!

In Christ
Byron

#28 Owen Jones

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 03:09 PM

A glorfied nous does not mean that one is no longer a sinner! Heaven forbid! Far as I know, there has only been one sinless man, and He, in affect, denied He was. The most holy of ascetics are constantly revealing their sins to others and are horrified at how easily tempted to sin they are -- especially the sin of pride.

As to the topic, I think your examples, Byron, answer your own questions...

#29 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 06:17 AM

Dear all,

Thank you, Owen, for your clarification, it puts things into more perspective for me. I assume that you agree with the examples I gave, so since there have also been no other voices of protest to these (!), I will make the dangerous assumption that my thinking may be on the right track...now for the slightly more demanding business of actually living up to it. The yoke is easy and the burden indeed light, but putting it on and deciding to carry it is another matter, I find! Pray for me.

In Christ
Byron




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