Archive for ‘truth & prophets’

February 11, 2018

enough to make me hope there’s a minute or two between death and perdition

“It was all horrible enough to be funny, I suppose. Now that it’s over.”

“Yes, there’s always that to look forward to.” Then he shrugged and said, “It’s enough to make me hope there’s a minute or two between death and perdition.”

Marilynne Robinson in Home.

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February 11, 2018

you are unable to be saved alone

You are unable to be saved alone, if all others are not also saved. It is a mistake for one to pray only for oneself, for one’s own salvation. We must pray for the entire world, so that not one is lost. …I am not afraid of hell, and I do not think about Paradise. I only ask God to have mercy on the entire world and on me as well.

St. Porphyrios in Wounded by Love.

February 1, 2018

speech connects us so immediately and vitally because it is a physical, bodily process

Ursula K. Le Guin in “Telling Is Listening” found in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination:

The community created by printing and by secondary orality is not immediate; it is virtual. It can be enorrnous—the size of America. Indeed it may be literacy more than any other factor that has enabled or coerced us to live in huge nation-states instead of tribes and city-states. Possibly the Internet will allow us to outgrow the nation-state. Although the Global Village McLuhan dreamed of is at present a City of Night, a monstrous force for cultural reductionism and internationally institutionalised greed, who knows? Perhaps we shall soar electronically to some arrangement that works better than capitalism.

But so vast a community must remain more concept than tangible fact. Written word, printed word, reproduced speech, filmed speech, the telephone, e-mail: each medium links people, but it does not link them physically, and whatever community it creates is essentially a mental one.

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment.” It is marvelous that we can talk to living people ten thousand miles away and hear them speak. It is marvelous that by reading their words, or seeing a film of them, we may feel communion even with the dead. It is a marvelous thought that all knowledge might be accessible to all minds.

But marriage is not of minds only; and the living human community that language creates involves living human bodies. We need to talk together, speaker and hearer here, now. We know that. We feel it. We feel the absence of it.

Speech connects us so immediately and vitally because it is a physical, bodily process, to begin with. Not a mental or spiritual one, wherever it may end.

…In most cases of people actually talking to one another, human communication cannot be reduced to information. The message not only involves, it is, a relationship between speaker and hearer. The medium in which the message is embedded is immensely complex, infinitely more than a code: it is a language, a function of a society, a culture, in which the language, the speaker, and the hearer are all embedded.

In human conversation, in live, actual communication between or among human beings, everything “transmitted” — everything said — is shaped as it is spoken by actual or anticipated response.

Live, face-to-face human communication is intersubjective. Intersubjectivity involves a great deal more than the machine-mediated type of stimulus-response currently called “interactive.” It is not stimulus-response at all, not a mechanical alternation of precoded sending and receiving. Intersubjectivity is mutual. It is a continuous interchange between two consciousnesses. Instead of an alternation of roles between box A and box B, between active subject and passive object, it is a continuous intersubjectivity that goes both ways all the time.

…Listening is not a reaction, it is a connection. Listening to a conversation or a story, we don’t so much respond as join in — become part of the action.

…When you can and do entrain, you are synchronising with the people you’re talking with, physically getting in time and tune with them. No wonder speech is so strong a bond, so powerful in forming community.

…The voice creates a sphere around it, which includes all its hearers: an intimate sphere or area, limited in both space and time.

Creation is an act. Action takes energy.

Sound is dynamic. Speech is dynamic — it is action. To act is to take power, to have power, to be powerful. Mutual communication between speakers and listeners is a powerful act. The power of each speaker is amplified, augmented, by the entrainment of the listeners. The strength of a community is amplified, augmented by its mutual entrainment in speech.

…This is why utterance is magic. Words do have power. Names have power. Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.

January 8, 2018

we all carry within us our places of exile

Whatever we may do, excess will always keep its place in the heart of man, in the place where solitude is found. We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.

―Albert Camus, from The Rebel (1951)

January 7, 2018

she would hearken the voice of the midnight till she heard what the gods would do

For the wisest of women she was, and many a thing she knew;
She would hearken the voice of the midnight till she heard what the Gods would do,
And her feet fared oft on the wild, and deep was her communing
With the heart of the glimmering woodland, where never a fowl may sing.

From The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs by William Morris (1876). This is an epic poem (over 10,000 lines) that draws upon the Volsunga Saga and the Elder Edda. It tells the tragic story of the Norse hero Sigmund, his son Sigurd, and Sigurd’s wife Gudrun.

January 5, 2018

the world is lost in loss of patience

From one of Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems.

The world is lost in loss
Of patience; the old curse
Returns, and is made worse
As newly justified.

January 5, 2018

confirm our song and lead our feast

Excerpts from Royal Hours on the Eve of the Theophany (Epiphany).

[Served on Friday, January 5, 2018. © 2006 The Orthodox Church in America.]

The river Jordan was turned back by the mantle of Elisha,
after Elijah had been taken up to heaven.
The waters were parted in two,
and the stream became a dry path.
This was truly a type of baptism,
by which we pass over the stream of life.
Christ has shone forth in the Jordan to sanctify the waters.

To the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way of the Lord,”
You came, O Lord, taking the form of a servant.
You asked to be baptized though You have no knowledge of sin.
The waters saw You and were afraid.
The Forerunner trembled and cried aloud:
“How will the Lamp illumine the Light?
How will a servant lay his hand on the Master?
You take away the sin of the world, O Savior.
Sanctify both me and the waters!”

Today our God, the Trinity,
revealed Himself to us as one and undivided:
for the Father with a loud voice bore witness to His Son;
the Spirit came down from heaven in the form of a dove;
the Son bowed his spotless head before the Forerunner John
and was baptized in his love for us,
delivering us from bondage.

The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You and were afraid. (Ps. 76:17/77:16)

The Father bore witness to You,
and the Divine Spirit in the form of a dove descended on You,
as You came in flesh to the Jordan, O Lord.
You desired to be baptized in human form,
that in Your compassion You might enlighten us who have gone astray, and deliver us from all the snares and wiles of the Dragon.
Make your home in our souls, O loving God.

What wonder, to look down in the river
and see the Maker of heaven and earth standing naked.
Like a servant at the hands of a servant
he accepts to be baptized for our salvation.
The choirs of angels are astounded,
overwhelmed with fear and joy.
With them we worship You; save us, O Lord!

Therefore I remember You, from the land of Jordan and of Hermon.

When he saw the Lord of glory draw near,
the Forerunner cried aloud:
“Behold, the One who redeems the world from corruption!
Behold, the One who delivers us from affliction!
Behold, the One who grants us remission of sins!
In his mercy He has come forth on the earth from a pure virgin.
He makes us children of God instead of servants;
through the waters of His baptism divine,
He gives light to us in place of darkness.
Let us all glorify Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit!

The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw You and were afraid. (Ps. 76:17/77:16)

[Then the canonarch, standing in the center of the church, chants this verse:]

With your hand, O Baptist,
you touched the pure head of the Master.
With your hand and your finger you showed Him to us.
Stretch out this hand toward Him on our behalf,
since you have great boldness;
for He witnessed to you as greater than all the prophets!
And again, with your eyes, O Baptist,
you saw the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove.
Lift your eyes to Him and make Him gracious toward us!
And come and stand with us!
Come and stand with us!
Come and stand with us!
Confirm our song and lead our feast!

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Ps. 26/27:1)

Today the Lord enters the Jordan and cries out to John:
“Do not be afraid to baptize me, for I come to save Adam, the first-formed man!”

Some language from the same service in the Antiochian tradition:

O Life-giving Lord, when Thou didst come to the Jordan in the flesh, in the likeness of man, willing to be baptized to lighten us who have erred, delivering us from all the wiles of the dragon and his gins, since Thou art compassionate, the Father testified of Thee, and the divine Spirit did come to Thee in the likeness of a dove. Dwell Thou, therefore, in our souls, O Lover of mankind.

Psalm 73
But God is our king before the ages; He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst establish the sea by Thy might; Thou didst break the heads of the dragons in the water. Thou didst crush the head of the dragon; Thou gavest him as food to the Ethiopian peoples. Thou hast cloven fountains and torrents; Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham. Thine is the day and Thine is the night; Thou hast perfected the light and the sun. Thou hast made all the borders of the earth; summer and spring hast Thou fashioned. Be mindful of this Thy creation.

Psalm 90
For Thou, O Lord, art my hope. Thou madest the Most High thy refuge; no evils shall come nigh thee, and no scourge shall draw nigh unto thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon. For he hath set his hope on Me, and I will deliver him; I will shelter him because he hath known My Name.

Psalm 28
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory hath thundered, the Lord is upon the many waters. The voice of the Lord in might, the voice of the Lord in majesty. The voice of the Lord Who breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord will break the cedars of Lebanon. And He will break them small like the calf of Lebanon, and His beloved is like a son of the unicorns. The voice of the Lord Who divideth the flame of fire, the voice of the Lord Who shaketh the wilderness; yea, the Lord will shake the wilderness of Kaddis. The voice of the Lord gathereth the harts, and shall reveal the thickets of oak, and in His temple every man uttereth glory. The Lord dwelleth in the flood; yea, the Lord shall sit as king forever.

[NOTE: The following is done slowly from the center of the church.]

Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…
Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…
Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…

… the same with which thou didst point Him to us by the pointing of the finger, raise thou it to Him for our sakes, O Forerunner. Thou hast attained great favor, since it was testified of thee by Him that thou art the greatest of all the Prophets. And thine eyes also, which did behold the All-Holy Spirit descending in the likeness of a dove, raise to Him, O Baptizer, granting mercy for us.

Come, thou, and stand with us…
Come, thou, and stand with us…
Come, thou, and stand with us…
… concluding our praise and beginning the celebration of the Feast.

[Portions of the Archdiocesan Service Texts include texts from The Menaion, The Great Horologion, The Pentecostarion, and The Psalter of the Seventy, which are Copyright © Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Massachusetts. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, beyond printing out a single copy for personal non-commercial use, without the prior written authorization of Holy Transfiguration Monastery.]

January 4, 2018

small wonder that spell means both

Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men.

From “On Fairy-Stories” by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Note (from Online Etymology Dictionary) in Old English “spell” meant: “story, saying, tale, history, narrative, fable; discourse, command.” The meaning of “a set of words with supposed magical or occult powers, incantation, charm” was first recorded in the 1570s. Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore: “This later meaning of ‘spell’ is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will—unlike charms for healing, protection, etc.” Also note that our word “gospel” comes from the Old English “godspel” which is literally “good spell” (from god “good” + spel “story, message”).

January 1, 2018

the Magi worship

Stichera from the Vespers of the Nativity (Translated by Fr. Seraphim Dedes):

What shall we offer you, O Christ, because You have appeared on earth as a man for our sakes? For each of the creatures made by You offers You its thanks: the Angels, their hymn; the heavens, the Star; the Shepherds, their wonder; the Magi, their gifts; the earth, the Cave; the desert the Manger; and we, a Virgin Mother. God before the ages, have mercy on us.

Lines from Orthros hymns on the Leavetaking of the Nativity (Antiochian Orthodox):

They that worshipped the stars did learn there from to worship You.

Come, you faithful, let us see where Christ the Saviour has been born; let us follow with the kings, even the Magi from the East, unto the place where the star directs their journey. For there, the Angels’ hosts sing praises ceaselessly.
In that you did bear the Giver of Life, O Virgin, you did redeem Adam from sin, and did give to Eve joy in the place of sadness.

I behold a strange and wonderful mystery: the cave a heaven, the Virgin a cherubic throne, and the manger a noble place in which has lain Christ the uncontained God.

When the Magi saw a new and strange star appearing suddenly, moving in a wonderful way, and transcending the stars of heaven in brightness, they were guiding by it to Christ.

The star declares, the Magi worship, the shepherds wonder, and creation rejoices.

Rejoice, O Living temple of God the King, in whom Christ having dwelt worked salvation. Wherefore, we with Gabriel do praise you.

 

Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Theophylactus, commenting on Saint Matthew’s Gospel, say that the star followed by the Magi was no ordinary star. Rather, it was “a divine and angelic power that appeared in the form of a star.”

Several lines in this selection of Nativity hymns represent the large body of very early Christian hymnography that is focused on the Magi. These foreign sages are the highest examples of human worship within the Nativity story. (Mary is the greatest example of co-operation with God; Joseph of faithful discernment and care; the shepherds of humble wonder and adoration; and the angles of the eternal and heavenly worship in which humans should participate.) As the ideal examples of human worship, the Persian Magi stand in for the conspicuous absence of the religious leaders among God’s people. The priests and scholars of Jerusalem have every opportunity to seek the Christ child and to worship him. However, they hang back and whisper in passive collaboration with the insane jealousies of King Herod. The religious leaders with their critical insider knowledge become complicit in the slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem while the more uninformed pagans (who worshipped stars) brought the divine gifts that were due to this little baby. (As many scholars have noted, these gifts of the Magi are kingly and they also suggest care for the little child’s eventual death. However, the gifts are most importantly priestly and are connected to the Old Testament worship of God alone within the Holy of Holies.)

These two images below are from the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome which date back to the 1st or 2nd century (and which have long been believed to contain graves of Christian martyrs who had the Apostle Peter as their Pastor). One is a faded picture of the Magi worshiping the Christ Child as He is held by Mary. The other is a very early image of Mary and the Child Jesus (next to them is a prophet, possibly Daniel, holding a scroll and pointing to the Bethlehem star that heralded the birth of the King of Kings).

magi

maria and child

December 22, 2017

that their sufferings might be like His

The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.

George MacDonald in “The Consuming Fire” in Unspoken Sermons [First Series], 1867. [This passage has also been quoted by Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and by C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain.]

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