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How to convert the intellect


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#21 Rick H.

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 07:11 PM

Um, well, maybe, ah, Christ?


Yes it is that simple, and this is why some Orthodox converts come in the front door of the local Orthodox Church and then go out the back door once they realize they might as well have stayed in the church they were in to start with--we can read sacramentally in any location or place. Different names and faces, same kind of stuff otherwise.

I never really thought the word convert was appropriate . . .

#22 Paul Guest

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 11:30 AM

For example, there are some threads, current and past, where Fr. Dcn. Patrick will represent one school of thought, and there will be other clergy and lay here who will represent another school of thought. Anyone who reads these threads knows what I mean.

There will usually be one or two who chime in in support of Fr. Dcn. Patrick's points and there will be a handful of clergy and others who will argue against him. And, on these topics, the ones who really cannot make a strong case either way, the ones who are reading along (like me) read different points of view. These are opposing points of view.

And, then these 'readers' can either choose one side or the other to agree with or we can just remain confused and have no opinion on the matter. Or, we can engage Orthodox Clergy and lay people in our home towns and states and regions and see what they think.
...
This is actually another circle to run. Usually, one side argues their side and the other side demands conformity until the voices on both sides kind of fade away.

Who does one submit to? Is it priests on the internet or is it priests in our home towns or is it someone else? This is the real world experience, and (what for it!) :) this is where the rubber does meet the road for sure.


But the most daring view is to try and understand and accept what the CHURCH teaches, regardless of the current "fasionable" understanding. Consensus means more than what do two or more living priests think. It should, if one is being honest, include the time-tested witness as reflected in the valued Fathers and certainly a familiarity with the hymnody and iconography of the Church. THIS captures the true "consensus" of the WHOLE Church, regardless of what this or that opinionated Orthodox pontificator (or poohtificator) has to say.

As someone who has just discovered the Orthodox Church, I had hoped what I was leaving behind was that struggle and confusion that Rick so masterfully captures. Within the realm of Sola Scriptura there was no real final authority, so it was very much as Rick describes. I was excited to realize that it didn't have to be that way, and after reading Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells I felt like I could finally have peace and just begin truly living for God as He intended.

I didn't realize that even within the Orthodox Church there seems to be so much uncertainty about what the Church does actually believe. I naively assumed it was easy to know that. To a much greater degree, Herman, I truly am a "bear of very little brain." I just thought somehow I could just rest in the practices of the Church, participate in the Divine Liturgy, observe the fasts and feasts, pray, go to confession, etc. and that would move me, through God's grace, to a closer, pleasing walk with Him. In the process I would begin to change more into His likeness, the rough edges would begin to be smoothed, and my thoughts would begin to be conformed to His.

Sorry... I guess this all sounds melodramatic, and that isn't my intention. I was probably expecting more than I should have. Becoming so frustrated (I could really identify with Mr. Gallatin in Thirsting for God) as a Protestant I guess I was expecting something different. I can't go back, though. I do believe that the Church Christ founded is the Orthodox Church. My journey has just begun, and surely it will make more sense as time goes on. I feel certain God brought me here.

Edited by Paul Guest, 27 September 2011 - 11:33 AM.
wording was clumsy


#23 Anna Stickles

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 12:35 PM

Rick,
You bring up a good point and yes this is the real world. How then do we struggle out of this confusion?

We are not called to become the disciples of modern commentators or priests. We are not called to become disciples of the crowd. After all at one time in church history most people were Arians not Orthodox (I have heard 80%, but don’t know where they get the number )
We are called to become disciples of the saints because they are recognized as having the mind of Christ. This is not a cliché, it is reality.

You know really Anna, why do you believe what you believe? Is it because you were told to believe what you believe or is it based on your reading that you believe what you believe, or your intuition, or all three or none

All three, well almost.

My spiritual father does not tell me what to believe. He is not trying to make me his disciple. As you note the goal is not to parrot back another person’s words or teaching. He does not want this for me, and I do not want it either. The goal is to get to the place where we see ourselves, and God and the world around us in the way that the saints did. This happens, not through taking in another person’s ideas, but through purification of the intellect. When this happens then unity of ideas will naturally occur. But in the meantime I trust that he has studied more and is more dispassionate then I, and most of all that he himself is committed to becoming a disciple of the saints, and so there is a basic trust present.

I read a lot. And the vast majority of my reading is books by or about the saints or those recognized as having a high level of sanctity. I have stayed away from modern Orthodox theologians because I don’t want the static or confusion while I am still learning to recognize what is true. It is like how govt agents learn to recognize counterfeit bills. They become so familiar with the real ones that the false, even in subtle things is immediately obvious. Anyone can recognize large discrepancies, but those who have studied, according to the time spent and their native ability, can recognize very subtle ones.

So from my point of view I want to be reading things with absolutely as little error as possible ( I realize even the saints weren’t perfect – but if one reads enough of them and the basic unity starts to appear) and I don’t trust that those modern theologians, even the very popular ones, don’t have quite a bit of error.

Intution is the key factor in all of this. From another thread where Fr Raphael is explaining one of St Maximos’s teachings.

there is always something dynamic at work, a movement towards our completion in Christ, the fulfillment of our original purpose, and indeed of the whole creation. Indeed this movement is written into our nature and also that of creation.



The basic unity that we find in the writings of the saints – despite coming from highly different backgrounds, levels of education, and cultures is because this way of seeing the world, this basic unity, is something written into our nature.

As you note if we are out there trying to pick and choose between various of other peoples ideas., we will find nothing but confusion. Instead we must make the commitment to clean ourselves up and remove the glasses of passion that are distorting our vision. Everything I have said above about my relationship with my spiritual father, why I read the saints and not others, and the whole method of sacramental reading hinges on this. If this was not true, we would have no way of finding the truth in the mass of confusion. And without this process of purification there is no way out of the confusion.

But all of this takes commitment, dedication , patience and faith. Faith most of all. Paul has the right attitude. No amount of reading will get us anywhere if we can’t make a commitment to this path and fight back the temptation to keep questioning whether we are on the right path.

#24 Owen Jones

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 01:04 PM

So part of conversion of the intellect is to put confusion behind us. The type of confusion in which the intellect is always at war with itself, and always carrying on a debate. This problem has both ancient and modern characteristics. The Pharisees prided themselves on being very good debaters, able to parse words and phrases. They more than met their match with Jesus, who did not fall into their traps, and also confounded them with parables, with very simple answers, and, frequently, by responding to their questions with a question. "Who shall cast the first stone?" So we have clear guidance as to how to properly use the intellect from the Master.

Modernity brings in a bunch of unique problems, because the premise of modernity is man can save himself through intellectual mastery. Even when people are trying to defend God, as was the case with Isaac Newton, who unwittingly ended up providing the intellectual ammo for Voltaire and the French Revolution, ironically because he was searching for absolute certainty.


There is a consistent pattern in Catholicism and Protestantism -- trying to come up with formulas that provide intellectual certainty. But as one philosopher I admire pointed out, if you have certainty, you don't need faith! So for the vast majority today, what is required for the conversion of the intellect is to give up the passion for certainty, and for formulas that are couched in absolute terms.

#25 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 01:21 PM

Paul,

Honestly, it does NOT have to be as difficult as some people are trying to make it. If you do what you lay out, you will indeed be brought to "God's grace, to a closer, pleasing walk with Him." It is when we try to remake the Church to be what we want it to be rather than simply allow it to remake us as we are meant to be that confusion and strive arise.

Those of us who are former Protestants bring a lot of baggage into the Church when we come. Learning to leave it at the door takes some of us longer to do than others. There is a lot of unlearning that has to happen and that can be daunting, but that too, shall pass.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#26 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 01:26 PM

For example, there are some threads, current and past, where Fr. Dcn. Patrick will represent one school of thought, and there will be other clergy and lay here who will represent another school of thought. Anyone who reads these threads knows what I mean.

There will usually be one or two who chime in in support of Fr. Dcn. Patrick's points and there will be a handful of clergy and others who will argue against him. And, on these topics, the ones who really cannot make a strong case either way, the ones who are reading along (like me) read different points of view. These are opposing points of view.


The Church has never been free of this, even the Apostle Paul railed against it:
"For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?" (1 Corinthians 3:4) I don't think the good Apostle sees this as a good thing.

Herman the often-carnal Pooh

#27 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 04:25 PM

Herman wrote:

Those of us who are former Protestants bring a lot of baggage into the Church when we come. Learning to leave it at the door takes some of us longer to do than others. There is a lot of unlearning that has to happen and that can be daunting, but that too, shall pass.


Maybe an analysis of which baggage it is that is difficult to give up would be in order. I was brought to the largest Protestant church in Canada as a youth. But their quite open program was exactly to leave you with no 'heavy baggage' of belief (this became a very overt program later on). This worked to my advantage though later on when entering Orthodoxy. This didn't mean that there wasn't baggage- there was and still is. But this was personal stuff and almost nothing connected to religious belief. What then constitutes the heaviest baggage?

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#28 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 04:58 PM

Examples of baggage:
Calvinism (explicit and implicit)
Fear of being "too Catholic"; if the Catholics did it it MUST be wrong whatever it is
Scholasticism/intellectualism and a need to analyze things down to the "nth" degree
Legalism, the need to have the response to every situation worked out so as not to require any thought, assuming the same response no matter what.

Anyway this was my baggage list, yours is probably very different.

Herman the Pooh

#29 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 07:07 PM

Dear Mr Guest and others,

The teachings of the Orthodox Church are not as vague or amorphous (or riddled with optional variations) as they are too often made out to be. This is not to say that the Church's life is triumphalistically uniform; but it is to say that the intellectual relativism by which too many try to articulate it, leads to the confusion you express.

'Taste and see that the Lord is good': worship, and be attentive to the doctrine of the Church's worship. The stability you seek is there to be found.

INXC, Fr Irenei

#30 Paul Guest

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 12:29 AM

'Taste and see that the Lord is good': worship, and be attentive to the doctrine of the Church's worship. The stability you seek is there to be found.

Thank you, Father! I look forward to experiencing it!

#31 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 10:10 AM

From back in 2009: Intelligence vs. intellect - or should it be complements?

I had found some definitions from the Philokalia for intellect/intelligence and reason ... it was very clear (back then) that the three are different and unique and in exploring them the answers on how to convert the "intellect" could be found ... I dont know why I never continued with the discussion back then because I really had a good study guide I was referring to.



#32 Rick H.

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 10:18 AM

Sorry... I guess this all sounds melodramatic, and that isn't my intention. I was probably expecting more than I should have. Becoming so frustrated (I could really identify with Mr. Gallatin in Thirsting for God) as a Protestant I guess I was expecting something different. I can't go back, though. I do believe that the Church Christ founded is the Orthodox Church. My journey has just begun, and surely it will make more sense as time goes on. I feel certain God brought me here.



I appreciate your sincerity here Paul, I can relate to what you have written perfectly, I hear what you are saying. I think things will become more clear to you as time goes on. Based on what you have written above, I suspect you will experience some frustration and doubt down the road--most of us do who come in expecting to find the Community of communities and a theological elasticity do find a kind of 'welcome to the real world' waiting. I remember feeling niave in short order. Hopefully, you will now allow anyone to strip you of the way of knowing that you express in your last sentence above. Some will consider this way of knowing as being baggage.

#33 Rick H.

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 11:30 AM

What a great post Anna, thanks. There is something beautiful about your post here.

As you often do you move to the real conversation in a given subject. I appreciate your answer to my question where you very clearly lay out your methodology, you criteriology. In terms of the "how-to" aspect of this thread you have provided a very good answer I think in terms of Eastern Orthodoxy. I think you know I am fond of sayings like 'each as appropriate for oneself' and 'one size doesn't always fit all,' and I think you know I like to mix my metaphors, but I think you covered a lot of ground with one brush stroke there.

But, the real beauty in your post is the way you move to the "heart of the matter" in
your last sentence or two where you speak of:

1.) The necessity of a commitment to this path
2.) The necessity of faith that we are on the right path
3.) The necessity to not question/doubt that we are on the right path

The title of this thread is "How-to" convert the intellect. Again, your last post which speaks of you criteria and method addresses this very plainly and very well. But, anyone who is really in the game at all knows these methods and techniques provide only an instrumentality for the one who desires a new mindset.

As Owen says, in his follow-up, agreeing with you I think, we cannot be a walking civil war once on the path. Owen says we need to put confusion behind us in order to find conversion of the intellect.

This is really the crux of the issue here. We can all tell our own personal stories, we can all talk about our methods that we have and do employ, we can all talk about our own baggage that we have, and so on . . . and this might be helpful in terms of bringing awareness to some that did not have this awareness before.

But, this is really just all a colossal waste of time if the subject of commitment is not addressed, or as you say Anna, a commitment in faith to one's path. This is something that I don't think is understood by many here based on the writing in these threads. You know? We can say, "What you need to do son is to just put that confusion behind you." But, really this is less helpful then telling an addict or a drunk, "What you need to do son is to stop doing those drugs or stop drinking that whiskey."

We can consider all day long the "How-to" in terms of this is what you need to do in order to be on the right path, in order to walk the Orthodox way . . . we can make it easy and make a list of methods and label them 1-2-3:


1.) __________________________________

2.) __________________________________

3.) __________________________________


We can do this. Some folks are fond of saying Orthodoxy is not methodical or systematic in any way, but it can be outlined and presented this way (although some do not appreciate the outline once it is complete).

There are common phrases presented to newbies in Orthodoxy like "Welcome home!" and "Taste and See." And, when we are newbies these sound very-very good to use. We smile our heart is warmed (and fuzzy) and we are excited about the prospects of what lies ahead in our new environment.

And, then to varying degrees, things kind of start to "funnel down." And, we who have lived any length of time, receive yet another 'welcome to the real world.' And, then we choose to acquiesce to what seems right to us, or what most of the folks we know believe and teach, or not.

Some acquiesce whole-heartedly, some acquiesce half-heartedly, some refuse to acquiesce at all until a genuine and sincere commitment to a way can be made.

I'm not very awake right now, and we are just now stumbling towards the real heart of this thread . . .

As it relates to a somewhat informed authentic commitment, that does include a degree of certainty in our decision, this is what must be addressed in this thread to have any hope of speaking to the subject in a real way.

Just as the Buddhist proclaims to its prospective converts that they must "come and see" we do the same. Some things can only be experienced to be understood. So, this is a real part of the process, but in the real world so is an authentic commitment. Unless there is an authentic commitment, we are like the new Buddhist convert who is told not to look back and he believes this, but he looks back. Unless there is an authentic commitment, we are like the drunk who tells people he wants to quit drinking, but inside he really isn't sure. Possibly, the answer is to preach "obedience"? Or, maybe not.

I hope such things as an authentic commitment can be addressed in this "how-to" thread. Otherwise, "how-can" any not be a walking civil war inside?

There is peace and contentment and assurance to be found by means of some Buddhist practices for some, these things can be found also through the insturmentality of prescription drugs and/or substance abuse for some. We can make an authentic commitment to various things, and as we progress through them we can think we are on the right path based on what we are experiencing . . . but, our intellect is not converted yet as we make any decision or commitment initially, is it? Hmm . . .

Edited by Rick H., 28 September 2011 - 11:52 AM.


#34 Rick H.

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 11:56 AM

I appreciate your sincerity here Paul, I can relate to what you have written perfectly, I hear what you are saying. I think things will become more clear to you as time goes on. Based on what you have written above, I suspect you will experience some frustration and doubt down the road--most of us do who come in expecting to find the Community of communities and a theological elasticity do find a kind of 'welcome to the real world' waiting. I remember feeling niave in short order. Hopefully, you will now allow anyone to strip you of the way of knowing that you express in your last sentence above. Some will consider this way of knowing as being baggage.



Man, I'm just not awake at all . . .

In the above it should say:

"Hopefully, you will *NOT* allow anyone to strip that way of knowing . . ."

When we lose this way of knowing, we have lost everything, we have lost the one thing necessary for making an authentic commitment, and we cannot not be a walking civil war after that. Some will try to take this, some sooner than later.

And, I see I spelled 'Naive" incorrectly.

Poor spellers of the world UNTIE!

#35 Anna Stickles

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 04:03 PM

But, anyone who is really in the game at all knows these methods and techniques provide only an instrumentality for the one who desires a new mindset. ...

This is really the crux of the issue here. We can all tell our own personal stories, we can all talk about our methods that we have and do employ, we can all talk about our own baggage that we have, and so on . . . and this might be helpful in terms of bringing awareness to some that did not have this awareness before.

But, this is really just all a colossal waste of time if the subject of commitment is not addressed, or as you say Anna, a commitment in faith to one's path.


Fr Irenei in the midst of the discussion on the sinlessness of the Theotokos which has been so hotly raging asked the question, what baggage are we bringing and Fr Raphael's post from this morning I think sums up a major issue that all of us as converts, especially on this forum which is so intellectual, struggle with.

I came across this recently:

In a conversation with her brother Ernest, the grand Duchess [Elizabeth] expressed the view that each human being must set before him an ideal and strive to attain it. Asked by her brother what her ideal was, she replied: "To be a fully perfect woman, and this is not easy, for one must learn to forgive everything."


The Grand Duchess was raised Lutheran in Germany and then after marrying the Grand Serge in Russia, after a certain period of time passed along with much inner reflection, she willingly converted to Orthodoxy. I say this because Orthodoxy was not something forced upon her but rather was something she was increasingly attracted by and then entered into with heart & soul.

This however was evidently on the level of an everyday lived piety. The Grand duchess' faith was always evident in her behaviour of charitable work and patient endurance of sorrows. But to those who had any exposure to her, it was most evident that this came from a heart that was truly grounded in her Orthodox faith. In other words her grace filled life was becoming entirely natural to her.

I only bring this up because the discussion here most closely touches on the level of our everyday Orthodox lives, what we call our piety. Which far from being outward behaviour rather refers to a manner of life that comes from an inner disposition. And what could be more Orthodox than that since we believe strongly in the unity of mind, heart, and body? However as just mentioned this piety also is something that must become natural to us and not part of a human program (well, not too much anyway) or especially not an ideology. In this sense then every tendency of ours, and every attraction has an effect on what becomes of us, of whether we are transformed into pious Orthodox Christians or not.
...

As they say: 'as we pray, so we worship'. Our over all piety will always be deeply affected by how we regard the Mother of God; our inner and outer disposition as Christians. If we go to the extreme of dissecting holiness away from everything we behold because of what amounts to an intellectual and emotional prejudice, then the fruit we reap will only be sad or even tragic. For without seeing it we deprive ourselves of that idealistic, practical Orthodox life which the Grand duchess referred to so lovingly.

The understanding of the sinlessness of the Mother of God then plays a fundamental role in our lives because ultimately it leads so naturally to that ideal of being perfect.


In Christ-
Fr Raphael


In the PC the heroes held up are always preachers and missionaries. The ideal of perfection is to believe and preach the perfect message. Piety gets second place to this.

If we speak of what are we committing to in the Orthodox church, intellectually we know that we are committing to a way of living not just a doctrine. But making this effort at conversion in how we see the perfect Christian - in terms of life and piety, not preaching or knowing, is a major part of the conversion of our intellect. Somewhere along the line what we are admiring, imitating and trying to live out has to change and become the Orthodox ideal of perfection.

This isn't to put down the intellectual aspect of our faith. Many great saints worth admiring were highly intellectual theologians. But part of our detox has to be to see this in its proper place - as one outgrowth of the Christian life, not as the central ideal for which we are striving.

#36 Rick H.

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 11:09 AM

Hi Anna,

Granted I'm reading through blurry eyes with the first cup of coffee for today, but I have read this long quote above in your last post three times now and it is still swimming before my eyes, I don't understand why you posted this here. I cannot figure out what the point is as it relates to this thread. If you have time could you spell this out please?

Maybe the writing about the inner and outer piety of the dutchess parallels the comments about the PC preachers/missionaries below? Although, I don't agree with this because it was the holiness of men like Oswald Chambers that makes both their message and their life attractive and credible and to be imitated (not just the preaching or missionary efforts). But, I'm missing the point about what this has to do with the intellect and converting the intellect.

#37 Scott F

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 02:49 AM

I sometimes wonder whether the intellect is needed at all. I work with older people, and I notice that as one ages language tends to deteriorate. I can foresee the point where on my deathbed I might have no language at all. What will remain, will be the core person I have struggled to become. If I have pursued a life of attachment to this world, I may be a very unpleasant person to be around (angry to leave all my loves behind). If alternatively I have striven after the pearl of Great price, and allowed the Holy Spirit to free me of the shackles which bind me. My experience has been that these folks go peacefully, even joyfully.

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 03 October 2011 - 02:03 PM.
Extraneous line breaks removed


#38 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 02:01 PM

Scott F wrote:

What will remain, will be the core person I have struggled to become. If I have pursued a life of attachment to this world, I may be a very unpleasant person to be around (angry to leave all my loves behind). If alternatively I have striven after the pearl of Great price, and allowed the Holy Spirit to free me of the shackles which bind me. My experience has been that these folks go peacefully, even joyfully.


This is so very true. I have buried over 30 of my parishioners during my time here and tended to them as they were dying. What is striking is how peaceful death was for most of them, not at all as portrayed in the movies or whatever. Everything extraneous gets whittled away and only the person remains; and that's how they pass from here to there.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 03 October 2011 - 02:04 PM.
Extraneous line break removed


#39 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:05 PM

Sorry to be so dull, but what is meant by 'intellect' here? Is it 'dianoia' (intellect in the modern sense, discursive reason, cognitive functions with no direct apprehension or participation in that which the reason examines; in other words, it is in the realm of created or natural things), or is it 'nous' (the faculty of apprehending truth or attaining to spiritual knowledge by spiritual intuition or inner vision; in other words, the realm of the divine)? In any event, I wonder if something my late spiritual father, Bishop Irenaeus, used to say goes anywhere towards an answer: 'you must learn to think with your heart'.

#40 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 01:28 PM

Greetings Andreas!

I would say that by intellect we are talking about the apprehending faculty in man.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael




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