Archive for category New Nuggets

Rohr: “Third Eye Seeing”

Fr. Richard Rohr – is a Franciscan priest, Christian mystic, and teacher of Ancient Christian Contemplative Prayer.  He is the founding Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.

 

Rohr1“In the early medieval period, two Christian philosophers offered names for three different ways of seeing, and these names had a great influence on scholars and seekers in the Western tradition. Hugh of St. Victor (1078-1141) and Richard of St. Victor (1123-1173) wrote that humanity was given three different sets of eyes, each building on the previous one. The first eye was the eye of the flesh (thought or sight), the second was the eye of reason (meditation or reflection), and the third was the intuitive eye of true understanding (contemplation). 

I describe this third eye as knowing something simply by being calmly present to it (no processing needed!). This image of “third eye” thinking, beyond our dualistic vision, is also found in most Eastern religions. We are onto something archetypal here, I think!

The loss of the “third eye” is at the basis of much of the shortsightedness and religious crises of the Western world, about which even secular scholars like Albert Einstein and Iain McGilchrist have written. Lacking such wisdom, it is hard for churches, governments, and leaders to move beyond ego, the desire for control, and public posturing. Everything divides into dualistic oppositions like liberal vs. conservative, with vested interests pulling against one another. Truth is no longer possible at this level of conversation. Even theology becomes more a quest for power than a search for God and Mystery.

One wonders how far spiritual and political leaders can genuinely lead us without some degree of contemplative seeing and action. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that “us-and-them” seeing, and the dualistic thinking that results, is the foundation of almost all discontent and violence in the world.  It allows heads of religion and state to avoid their own founders, their own national ideals, and their own better instincts. Lacking the contemplative gaze, such leaders will remain mere functionaries and technicians, or even dangers to society.

We need all three sets of eyes in both a healthy culture and a healthy religion. Without them, we only deepen and perpetuate our problems.”

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Olivier Clément: “For God will never reject anybody, his love is offered to all.”

Olivier-Maurice Clément (1921 – 2009) – was an Orthodox Christian theologian, who taught at St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris, France.  There he became one of the most highly regarded witnesses to early Christianity, as well as one of the most prolific.

 

clement“Thus will come about the completion of all things, when the Spirit of life, through the communion of saints, will manifest the whole universe as the glorified Body of Christ. Then each person, in giving his face to the transfigured universe, will rediscover his flesh; flesh vibrant with all its natural sensitivity, our earthly flesh, but bathed in the life and fullness of God, who will be ‘all in all’, abolishing the separations of time and space, making possible among the risen a communion beyond anything we can now imagine…

Nevertheless, although the hell of our fallen state has been secretly abolished in Christ, and although God must be revealed at the Last Day as ‘all in all’, there remains the heartrending mystery of the ‘second death’ of the Revelation, the final death of the human being without love plunged into the divine love. For God will never reject anybody, his love is offered to all. But the fire of that love, as St Isaac the Syrian says, is eternal joy for those who welcome it and infernal torment for those who refuse it. Generic hell, as we might call it, may have been destroyed by Christ, but for each free individual there remains the terrible possibility of personal hell. But does this not amount to a fatal obstruction to the divine plan for that universal communion which is the only hope for the fulfilment of the person?”   ~ Olivier Clément, On Human Being:  A Spiritual Anthropology

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Elder Sophrony (Sakharov): On Pride

Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) (23 September 1896 – 11 July 1993) – also referred to as Elder Sophrony, was best known as the disciple and biographer of St Silouan the Athonite and compiler of St Silouan’s works, and as the founder of the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Maldon, Essex, England.
These excerpts are taken from Elder Sophrony’s book, We Shall See Him as He Is, written late in his life.

 

Sophrony “Pride is the dark abyss into which man plunged when he fell. Heeding his own will, he became spiritually blind and unable to discern the presence of pride in the impulses of his heart and mind. It is only when the uncreated Light descends on us through our belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ that we can perceive the metaphysical essence of pride. The grace of the Holy Spirit enlightens man’s heart and discloses the malignant, fatal tumor within him. He who has experienced divine love finds himself revolted by the poisonous fumes emanating from the passion of pride. Pride separates man from God and shuts him up in himself.
The manifestations of pride are innumerable but they all distort the divine image in man. Outside Christ, without Christ, there is no resolving the tragedy of the earthly history of mankind. The atmosphere reeks with the smell of blood. Day after day the universe is fed with news of the slaying or torture of the vanquished in fratricidal conflicts. Black clouds of hate screen the heavenly Light from our eyes. People make their own hell for themselves. Unless and until we allow repentance to change us totally there will be no deliverance for the world – deliverance from the most terrible of all curses, war. Better be killed than kill is the attitude of the humble man of love [cf. Matt. 10.28; 5:21-22].”   (p. 30 -31)

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Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) – Making Your Theology be Reflected in Your Practical Life

Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) – was tonsured as an Orthodox monk in 2005 at Rasca monastery in Bucovine, North Moldavia. He has a PhD in Modern Theology from the University of Durham (UK) for a thesis on Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)’s Ecclesiology. He is currently obeying God’s calling to found the Monastery of all Celtic Saints on the Scottish Isle of Mull. This will be the first Orthodox monastery in Celtic Britain in over a millennium (See http://www.mullmonastery.com).

 

seraphim-aldea“The great thing about having this theology is that then it must be reflected in your practical life. And if you look at humanity the way Father Sophrony looked at humanity, very hot contemporary issues are instantly solved.

Questions concerning immigration, questions concerning war, or how to behave in times of war, questions concerning the use of guns and the right to kill other people in any context: all these extremely controversial issues suddenly become perfectly boring because it’s so clear, everything is so clear. Once you have his mind, his theology all these issues are perfectly clear.

You cannot be a Christian in his sense and allow for war or use of guns against other human beings at the same time. That can only mean two things. Either you have a wrong theology and that is reflected in your practical life, or you have a correct theology but you don’t allow that to affect your practical life.

…He used to say that somebody who has correct theology but that correct theology is not reflected in his life is like a bird with one wing. Forever looking up and thinking it will get there not knowing he is already condemned to forever be on Earth. If you don’t allow your theology to inform your life, your values, your choices, then you’ve missed the point and you’ll never fly.”

~ From a lecture delivered in 2016 reflecting on the theology of Elder Sophrony of Essex

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Fr. Seraphim (Aldea): Foundation of True Prayer.

Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) (1965 –  ) – was tonsured as an Orthodox monk in 2005 at Rasca monastery in Bucovine, North Moldavia. He has a PhD in Modern Theology from the University of Durham (UK) for a thesis on Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)’s Ecclesiology. He is currently obeying God’s calling to found the Monastery of all Celtic Saints on the Scottish Isle of Mull. This will be the first Orthodox monastery in Celtic Britain in over a millennium (See http://www.mullmonastery.com).

 

seraphim-aldea“Prayer in the most early stages is something you have to do.  You do it because your spiritual father says so, because the Holy Fathers say so, and because Christ Himself says so.  Although this is not really prayer, by following someone else – the way the Apostles did – you lay the foundation for real prayer; this foundation is obedience.  You do something not out of your own will, but because someone else tells you to.  You may not be aware of it, but in doing this, you have declared war on your own nature, because it is deeply un-natural in our fallen world to oppose your own will, to reject your own logic and to let go of self-control.  It is against reason, against instinct, against all the things we have become in order to survive.  

When you start praying, you have in fact started your wandering through the desert.  It may last less than forty years; it may last until the day you die.  You may see the Promised Land while still in this life; you may die in the desert, and only enter the Kingdom after you have departed this life.

The one thing that matters is that you start; as long as you keep going, you will be all right.  The advice you will find in all the Fathers is to keep praying, keep yourself on the path; although you may feel it has no effect and that it leads to nowhere, in reality the fruits of this cross are already present in you.  The roots of the prayer are already growing in your flesh and soul, and that is a painful process; that is why you are in pain.

During these long years, you will not be levitating, you will not be swallowed in light, but you will become more humble, more aware of how weak and limited you are, and less inclined to judge other people.  These fruits are the foundation upon which real prayer will be built at the right time.  If you do not go through this process of transformation, if your faith does not survive this desert, if you do not conquer this hell by patience and humility, you will not reach the Resurrection of true prayer.” 

~ Excerpt from the booklet, “On Prayer”, published by The Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints

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David Bentley Hart: “Saint Origen”

David Bentley Hart (born 1965) is an American Orthodox Christian philosophical theologian, cultural commentator and polemicist.  Here, in one short essay published in First Things in 2015, Prof. Hart addresses three topics that institutional Orthodoxy would prefer to avoid:  apokatastasis, Saint Origen, and the church’s chronic propensity to sleep with worldly empire (e.g., Byzantium and Russia)

 

DB-Hart

“Saint Origen”

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Father Seraphim (Aldea): Elder Sophrony on hypostasis, or person.

Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) –  was tonsured as an Orthodox monk in 2005 at Rasca monastery in Bucovine, North Moldavia.  He has a PhD in Modern Theology from the University of Durham (UK) for a thesis on Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)’s Ecclesiology. He is currently obeying God’s calling to found the Monastery of all Celtic Saints on the Scottish Isle of Mull.  This will be the first Orthodox monastery in Celtic Britain in over a millennium (See http://www.mullmonastery.com).

 

seraphim-aldea“In general terms, Fr. Sophrony used ‘hypostasis’ to refer to the ontological state of a being that has fully actualized its nature.  And very frequently this is opposed with the idea or state of an ‘individual’.

Although they appear to be synonymous, the two concepts [‘hypostasis’ and ‘person’] carry different meanings for Father Sophrony.  While ‘hypostasis’ denotes an ontological state  of existence, the ‘personal’ principle, or ‘personhood’, refers to a process.  It’s almost as if ‘hypostasis’ is the destination of a process [‘personhood’].”

~ Fr. Seraphim (Aldea) from a lecture on the theology of Fr. Sophrony (Sakharov) delivered in 2016.

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Christos Yannaras: “Christian life”

Dover Beach

Christos Yannaras“Increasingly, Christian life seems to be nothing more than a particular way of behaving, a code of good conduct. Christianity is increasingly alienated, becoming a social attribute adapted to meet the least worthy of human demands – conformity, sterile conservatism, pusillanimity and timidity; it is adapted to the trivial moralizing which seeks to adorn cowardice and individual security with the funerary decoration of social decorum.”

Christos Yannaras

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Rohr: “Every time Paul uses the word flesh, just replace it with the word ego…”

Fr. Richard Rohr – is a Franciscan priest, Christian mystic, and teacher of Ancient Christian Contemplative Prayer.  He is the founding Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.

 

Rohr1“The dialectic that we probably struggle with the most is the one Paul creates between flesh and spirit. I don’t think Paul ever intended for people to feel that their bodies are bad; he was not a Platonist. After all, God took on a human body in Jesus! Paul does not use the word “soma”, which literally means “body.”  I think what Paul means by “sarx” is the trapped self, the small self, the partial self, or what Thomas Merton called the false self. Basically, spirit is the whole self, the Christ self that we were born into and yet must re-discover. The problem is not between body and spirit; it’s between part and whole. Every time Paul uses the word “flesh” [sarx], just replace it with the word “ego’, and you will be much closer to his point. Your spiritual self is your whole and True Self, which includes your body; it is not your self apart from your body. We are not angels, we are embodied human beings.”  ~ From a meditation: “Paul as a Nondual Teacher“, Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

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Romanides: “The schism between Eastern and Western Christianity was not between East and West Romans.”

Father John Romanides (1927 – 2001) – was a prominent 20th century Orthodox Christian theologian, priest, and writer.  He was Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, MA and later Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece.  His books include: The Ecclesiology of St Ignatius of Antioch (1956); Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay Between Theology and Society (1982);  Ancestral Sin (2002);  An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics (2004); and The Life in Christ (2010).

Romanides traced the 1054 split between the Eastern and Western Christian churches to a long political, military, and ethnic struggle between the Roman East and the Germanic conquerors of the Roman West.  These German tribes started with the Visigoths in AD 410, culminating with Charlemagne and the Franks in AD 800.  The Great Schism of 1054 had more to do with a Frankish – Eastern Roman power struggle than it did with religious doctrine.  In the West, the church was simply used as a tool in that imperial struggle.


“The schism between Eastern and Western Christianity was not between East and West Romans. In actuality, it was a split between East Romans and the conquerors of the West Romans.”


Romanides John

Fr. John Romanides

“In the background of dialogue and the Ecumenical Movement for the reunion of Christendom lies the generally recognized fact that there is an interplay between theology and society, which may lead to a dogmatic formulation and become the cause of doctrinal differences.

Within the Roman Empire doctrinal conflicts took place usually among Roman citizens in a atmosphere of religious and philosophical pluralism. With the official recognition of Orthodox Christianity, we witness the beginning of the use of doctrinal differences in support of nationalistic movements of separate identity and secession from Roman rule, both political and ecclesiastical. Both Nestorianism and so-called Monophysitism, although initially promoted by Roman nationals, were finally supported by separatist tendencies among such ethnic groups as Syrians, Copts, and Armenians. Indeed, both Persians and Arabs took care to keep Christians separated.

By the eighth century, we meet for the first time the beginning of a split in Christianity which, from the start, took on ethnic names instead of names designating the heresy itself or its leader. Thus in West European sources we find a separation between a Greek East and a Latin West. In Roman sources this same separation constitutes a schism between Franks and Romans.

One detects in both terminologies an ethnic or racial basis for the schism which may be more profound and important for descriptive analysis than the doctrinal claims of either side. Doctrine here may very well be part of a political, military, and ethnic struggle and, therefore, intelligible only when put in proper perspective. The interplay between doctrine and ethnic or racial struggle may be such that the two can be distinguished, but not separated.

The schism between Eastern and Western Christianity was not between East and West Romans. In actuality, it was a split between East Romans and the conquerors of the West Romans.

The Roman Empire was conquered in three stages: 1st by Germanic tribes who became known as Latin Christianity, 2nd by Muslim Arabs, and finally, by Muslim Turks. In contrast to this, the ecclesiastical administration of the Roman Empire disappeared in stages from West European Romania (the Western part of the Roman nation), but has survived up to modern times in the Roman Orthodox Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

The reason for this is that the conquerors of the West Romans used the Church to suppress the Roman nation, whereas under Islam the Roman nation survived by means of the Church. In each instance of conquest, the bishops became the ethnarchs of the conquered Romans and administered Roman law on behalf of the emperor in Constantinople. As long as the bishops were Roman, the unity of the Roman Church was preserved, in spite of theological conflicts. The same was true when Romanized Franks became bishops during Merovingian times and shared with Roman bishops church administration. 

During the seventh century, however, the seeds of schism appear. The Visigoths in Spain had abandoned their Arian heresy and had become nominally Orthodox. But they preserved their Arian customs of church administration, which became that of the Carolingian Franks, and finally, of the Normans. The Visigoths began subjugating the Spanish Romans by replacing Roman bishops with Goths and by 654, had abolished Roman law.

During this same century, especially after 683, the Franks also had appointed Frankish bishops en masse and had rid their government administration of Roman officials.

Earlier, during the sixth and early seventh century, rebellions of leaders in Francia were joint conspiracies of Franks and Romans. By 673, however, the rebellions had become purely Frankish. “   ~From the Introduction to “Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine; An Interplay Between Theology and Society

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