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Janeiro 2009

Janeiro 2009

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The Kingdom of God is Within You
January 25, 2009 by fatherstephenAgain, some thoughts from Kalomiros’ Nostalgia for Paradise. This particular selectionis on the reality of the Kingdom of God within us - and the particular importance of Hesychasm, the practice of inner stillness and the knowledge of God dwelling within us.I have written myself about the utter centrality of communion with God. His work underlines and expands this in a marvelous way.God is the place, the means, and the power of any communion. He is the communionitself, the love itself, because God is a Trinity, a loving communion of Persons. Only thecommunion with God is capable of providing the communion of creaturely persons.Any attempt at direct communion among humans is doomed to failure because it is powerless. There is no true power of communion but the divine energy. Only acommunion with the divine energy enables true communion among ourselves. Anycommunion that overlooks or ignores God comes to self-delusion. Indeed, if acommunion of persons exists in the Church, it exists to the extent that those personshave communion with God.When there is no personal communion with Him, a simple gathering of persons in thehouse of God, even around the Table of Sacrifice and in the communion of His Bodyand Blood, can be blasphemy against God and unworthiness before the Church’s mostsacred mystery. For communion with God is in persons, by the Holy Spirit.Whether a Christian is in a church, in the street, at home, in a crowd of people, or alone,the matter of communion with God is a matter of turning inward. It is in our hearts thatwe will encounter God. And when we do, He will take us by the hand and put us incommunion with others. And in our communion with others, the bond that joins us willalways be God Himself.So there is no other path to the Kingdom of God but the one which leads to our heart,the one which leads “within you.” It is the path of hesychasm or stillness. Hesychasm isthe deepest characteristic of Orthodox life, the sign of Orthodox genuineness, the premise of right thinking and right belief and glory, the paradigm of faith andOrthodoxy. In all of the Church’s internal and external battes ever, we had thehesychasts on one side and the anti-hesychasts on the other.The very fabric of heresy is anti-hesychastic.Posted in Orthodox Christianity, Union with Christ, knowledge of God, religion | 10Comments »
Icons and ScriptureJanuary 24, 2009 by fatherstephen
The great summary statement of theology at the Seventh Ecumenical Council issuccinct: Icons do with color what Scripture does with words. The first time I read this,I was a graduate student at Duke University, studying Systematic Theology. I wound upwriting my thesis on the “Icon as Theology.”
What was new for me - and the thought that became central in my mind - was theinherent possibilities in the simple statement of the Seventh Council. To make the link  between icon and Scripture is not quite the same thing as saying, “Icons tell a story.”Many icons do indeed tell a story - but they do so in a particular manner. Thus it is firstoff quite interesting to say that you can tell a story with color.Icons indeed tell stories - but they do so in a very unique manner. Icons are notcartoons. Cartoons tell stories, but usually through a certain caricature of reality. Theyare like little movies with most of the action removed. I was a great lover of comic books as a young boy - indeed I had a friend who was a great lover of “Classic Comics”all the way through high school, since those comic books often provided a shortenedversion of some of the books we were required to read as literature.But icons are not cartoons. They fairly early on developed an artistic “grammar,” a wayof saying things with color that words could not always easily repeat. In that sense,icons do something with color that Scripture does with words - but Scripture does thingswith words that sometimes require icons to help us read.The artistic grammar of icons is commonly known as “reverse perspective.” Instead of letting the traditional rules of perspective make distance a matter of lines convergingwithin the painting (so that the farther away they are the closer the lines become), iconsuse just the opposite. The space of an icon “opens up” and becomes larger as we look atit. This grammar is the reason icons frequently show buildings in which “both sides” are portrayed. It also largely governs the “look” that we see in human faces - we are seeingthe face of another in which the “reality” of the person expands and grows greater -rather than shrinking away from us. As such, the grammar of icons is not the traditionalgrammar of “historical” painting, of the painting to which the West became accustomedwith the Renaissance. Icons are not photographic. They do not obey the historical andartistic grammar of photography.Scripture, particularly as read by the Orthodox Church, has a grammar as well. Thatgrammar is the reality of Pascha. We can say that the Scriptures, both Old and NewTestament, have a “Paschal Shape.” The more firmly you understand and know thereality of Pascha, the more clearly you will see its image portrayed over and over in thestories of Scripture. And the more firmly we know the reality of Pascha, the more theScriptures will open that reality to us.One of the great “grammatical” moments in the life of the Church is found on HolySaturday. There we hear 15 lessons of Scripture, mostly drawn from the Old Testament.Genesis 1:1-3 which draws its meaning from the fact that it stops on the 3rd day, theday on which life is created. It is a commentary on the Third Day of Genesis which wasa Paschal Shape. On the third day, Pascha brought forth new life as well.Isaiah 60:1-6 Which begins, “Arise shine, for your light has come.” What follows isfulfilled in the Pascha of Christ, who is our arisen light.Exodus 12:1-11 The intstitution of the first Pascha (Passover)
Jonah: 1:1-17, 2:1-10. 3:1-10. 4:1-11 Jonah, contrary to fundamentalist literalism isabout Christ three days in the belly of the earth. Thus we read:Thus Johan prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the whale saying, “I called tothe Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, andThou didst hear my voice. For Thou didst cast me into the deep, into the heart of theseas, and the flood was round about me; all Thy wave and Thy billows passed over me…”If you read the whole passage it is the voice of Christ from Sheol, not Jonah from the belly of a whale.And on the readings go in the same manner. These are not just OT passages thatcoincidentally remind us of Christ’s Pascha. They are Scriptures about Christ’s Pascha.I am not saying that they are literature about Christ’s Pascha. They are Scriptures(Christian) about Christ’s Pascha. Christians need to get over their fear that someone isgoing to prove their history wrong. Christ is raised from the dead. If you don’t believeit, all the history in the world will not make you feel any better. You must know theRisen Lord. Then all will seem clear.But these marvelous passages of Scripture, like the beautiful grammar of icons, need to be learned in proper manner. The historians cannot give us the grammar of Scripture.The Church alone knows this grammar.We need to learn to speak the language of color.
The Smashing of Images
January 22, 2009 by fatherstephenI have a quote on the sidebar from an earlier posting. It is about the need we have for  proper images and the danger inherent in “image smashing” or “iconoclasm.”We have to renounce iconoclasm. In so doing, we inherently set ourselves againstcertain forces within modernity. The truth is eschatological, that is, it lies in the future, but we also believe that this eschatological reality was incarnate in Christ, theBeginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. We do not oppose the future inembracing the Tradition we have received. We embrace the future that is coming inTruth, rather than the false utopias of modern man’s imagination.There is a strange spirit of iconoclasm (the Greek for “icon smashing”) and it breaks outnow and again across human history. It is not just a short period in Byzantine historysuccessfully resisted by the Orthodox but a strange manifestation of human sin that hasas its driving force and hence allurement, the claim that it is defending the honor of God.The icon smashers are as varied as certain forms of Islam or certain forms of Puritanism(and some of its Protestant successors). Some icon smashers direct their attention to

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