The Noonday Demon

Having blogged recently about Evagrius and Cassian, I was interested to see this recent post at Eclectic Orthodoxy describing the Evagrian passion/logismos of acedia. It is insightful, and it treads lightly on the relationship of Evagrian wisdom to depression — a place I dare not go, as one neither qualified in psychology nor suffering from depression. It’s worth the read.

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Acedia—raise your hand if you know how to pronounce this word correctly. If you don’t, click on the word. But what does it mean? The term derives from the Greek word akēdeia. The ancient ascetics used it to signify a specific spiritual condition that afflicts monks and indeed all people. Possible renderings into English include “boredom,” “inertia,” “sloth,” “apathy,” “repulsion,” “indolence,” “lassitude,” “dejection.” Hieroschemamonk Gabriel Bunge proposes “despondency” as perhaps the most apt translation, “if it is understood that in the term despondency the other shades of meaning are heard together” (Despondency, p. 46).

Evagrius Ponticus puts acedia right in the middle of his list of the eight fundamental passions or thoughts (logismoi): gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. He describes them as generic thoughts because, as Bunge writes, “not only are all other thoughts generated from them, but these eight themselves are…

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Preaching the Politics of Pascha

Powerful words about the most important message the Church needs to offer not only in post-election America but in post-Brexit Britain, in Canada, and to the ends of the earth.

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Since November 8th, contributors to Public Orthodoxy have advanced various responses to the unexpected victory of Donald J. Trump. Fr John Jillions proposes that the Church needs to practice a politics of communion, which includes charitable works, prophetic political witness, and renewed ascetical life. Aristotle Papanikolaou asserts that the Church needs to vigorously denounce racist, sexist, and xenophobic rhetoric. Samuel Bauer maintains that before the Church can effectively contribute to the healing of our country, she must “seek forgiveness from the marginalized of society, the very individuals whose dignity it has at times assailed.” Each proposal has merit, but each lacks that one needful thing, the proclamation of the gospel itself. The Church has one word that she, and she alone, can speak to the world—Jesus is risen! There are many penultimate words that the Church may and must speak; but if she does not proclaim Pascha, not just one Sunday…

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A Liturgical New Year’s Resolution: Pray the Office with Us!

My most recent post on the blog my brother and I share. Take up the challenge this Advent!

thewitnesscloud

This coming Sunday, November 27th, is the First Sunday in Advent. Advent, in the western liturgical calendar, is the start of the liturgical year. That makes it the liturgical New Year! I have to confess that I’ve never heard of anyone making a liturgical New Year’s resolution. Nonetheless, perhaps Advent is just the time to start, anyway.

After all, it’s the lead up to Christmas, ‘another year over / a new one’s just begun’, as John Lennon says. In December we often look back not so much over the past year but over past Decembers and past Christmases; hopefully with fondness, sometimes with sorrow. As we survey the history of ourselves, the history of our spiritual lives, hopefully we can seek out ways to draw nearer to our Lord Jesus — and the Daily Office as we promote here is just one way.

For the more liturgically- or traditionally-minded, Advent…

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The Essence/Energies Distinction and the Myth of Byzantine Illogic

One of the reasons I feature western poets and mystics on this blog — as I did yesterday with St Columba — is to disassemble the false dichotomy between eastern Christianity as solely mystical with mystery and western Christianity as solely interested in dogma and logic. Here is a great post by Christian Kappes, guest blogging at the excellent Eclectic Orthodoxy blog. He discusses the use of logic in the antecedents and successors of Palamas. And he even admits where there are convergences between different strands of eastern and western theology. Dogma is not the sole domain of the West; mysticism is not the sole domain of the East. Enjoy!

Eclectic Orthodoxy

by Fr Christiaan Kappes

First of all, I heartily thank Fr. Aidan Kimel for inviting me to write a guest column on Palamism. Although, in the essence of the argument, it should not make a difference, I will start by revealing my sympathy with Palamas and my general agreement with him about the distinction in God into essence and energies. However, there are actually several issues, all of which are equally complicated. Not only is there the question of what kind of (1.) ingredients are in the primordial divine soup or essence of God, but (2.) about how those ingredients are perceived by you and me (3.) and whether these ingredients in the divine soup are somehow mediatory or means of arriving at their lesser imitations in the real peas and carrots at the real dinner table.

The first question is “What kind of items go together in God?” The…

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El Greco: St Francis and St John the Evangelist

I’ve had this draft sitting here in WordPress for three years with the above title, the content consisting solely of a link to this painting:

8452a8a4b4be891When I saw this painting in the Uffizi, there were some British visitors in the room. One in a wheelchair gestured at the painting, ‘What is that one?’

The pusher of the chair, who had been telling her comrade in wheels about the art, said merely, ‘It’s some man with a cup with a dragon in it.’

And moved on.

Although she did have more to say about a still life somewhere nearby.

She could at least have read the label, which confirmed what I had suspected: St John the Evangelist and St Francis of Assisi, by El Greco.

St John is identifiable by his cup with the dragon in it. The story goes that someone one tried to poison St John, and when the saint blessed his cup before drinking, it cracked and a dragon leapt out. If memory serves correctly, the same thing happened to St Benedict.

Dragons, by the biblical imagery, are representative of the Devil, the demons, and all manner of evil and mischief. So it makes a lot of sense as an image when someone is trying to murder someone else. Also, dragons are originally drakones, which are just big snakes. And snakes in biblical and western imagery and symbolism are tricksy and twisty and not to be trusted. Fitting for someone so wriggly as to murder by poison rather than face-to-face.

I first encountered the St-John-with-his-dragon-in-a-cup image in South Queensferry at the Priory Church:

My photo
My photo

And St Francis is your typical El Greco Franciscan. I do love an El Greco Franciscan. That pictured below was my first, sent to me in a postcard by my friend Emily:

1504grec

I realise that each of us has his/her own pieces that attract us more than others in a gallery, and I shouldn’t be a snob, anyway. But I wished I could have informed my fellow visitors, without being a jerk. But I’m too much of a jerk for that, so I decided to write a blog.

Because I like this painting, and maybe you, gentle reader, will like it, too.

Nicholas Cabasilas: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word”

The wonder of the Incarnation! ‘ the Word of the Father is formed by the word of a mother, and the Creator is created by the voice of a creature.’

Enlarging the Heart

nicholas_cabasilasWith a blessed tongue, an unperturbed soul, and thoughts full of tranquillity she said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

These were the words that she said, and they were fulfilled at once: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

And, after giving her reply to God, she received the Spirit that created from her that flesh which was one with God.

Her voice was a “mighty voice,” as David puts it (Psalm 67:34 [LXX]) and the Word of the Father isformed by the word of a mother, and the Creator is created by the voice of a creature.

And just as when God said, “Let there be light,” “at once there was light” (Genesis 1:3), so, as soon as the Virgin spoke, the true Light dawned; and He Who “lighteth every man that cometh…

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