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Monday, November 18, 2013

Sir John Tavener has reposed

This news makes me really sad.  Say a canon for his departed soul; his music has brought me many hours of joy, prayer, and contemplation of and love for God and His Mother.  He has now joined Mother Thekla in the Lord.

He was a rather unorthodox, or at least unconventional, convert to Russian Orthodoxy from a Protestant background with an insufficiently imbued Roman Catholic stage.  His turn from Roman Catholicism is certainly of concern to a faithful Catholic, as is his falling out with Mother Thekla (with whom he reconciled shortly thereafter and died at peace with - a fact not often publicized by those wishing to inflate the magnitude of his tension with the Church), his insufficiently mature immersion in the heterodox universalism of Frithjof Schuon (whose gnosis I have also forayed into, and whom Tavener salvages impeccably by enshrining Schuon's insights in music rather than in discursive statements which could be either true or false), and his unfortunate public comment about the "senility" of "all religions" (unfortunate not because of what he actually said over the BBC broadcast - which he immediately clarified to preclude meaning what the reporter reported him as saying - but because of the press headline misinterpreting and misquoting him).  These facts are not mentioned to dishonor the recently deceased, but rather to urge prayer for his soul, which now rests under the Mercy.  Since that side of his personality is quite well-known and well-publicized, a gentler picture of his character should be seen with his dedication of his final compositions to Mother Thekla, his re-turn to Roman Catholic religious forms in his music, his request for his works to be premiered in Catholic cathedrals, and his dedication of his Mass of the Immaculate Conception to Pope Benedict.  Perhaps now in his repose he has achieved the synthesis and peace between his Catholic faith, his Orthodox hesychia, and his universal awareness of the presence and theophany of God.

Sir John, eternal memory and blessed repose, in a place of light and peace where the saints repose.  May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest - shantih, shantih, shantih.  Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENiwvkU5yZM

Late date for introduction of absolution formula?

I was intrigued to read in Fr. Nicholas Gamvas' little book, "The Psychology of Confession and the Orthodox Church", the claim that the formula for sacramental absolution in confession was first introduced in the West around 600 A.D., with the original practice consisting of public exomologesis (confession), penance, and admission to Holy Communion without the priest ever pronouncing the words "I absolve you..."

Fr. Gamvas presents his historical survey in "Psychology of Confession and the Orthodox Church" (Light and Life, 1989), in chapter 3, pp. 17-31.  Confession in the Apostolic Church was public, with mutual prayers for each others' forgiveness - "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects."  (James 5:16)  Contrary to much Roman Catholic apologetics, the Epistle of James is not referring to faithful walking into confessional boxes (introduced at the Council of Trent), confessing sins anonymously to a judge who says as little as possible lest he appear to be speaking in his own name rather than in persona Christi, and then absolved from legal guilt.  Repentance was rather a public, communal, and reciprocal process in which the Church strove together in prayer for salvation; the prayers for forgiveness were not given by an anonymous and depersonalized conduit acting in persona Christi through the suppression of individual personality, nor given by a "spiritual father" or staretz as seen in the later East, an incarnation and image of divine fatherhood working through and glorified through human personality and fatherhood, but rather presented as coming from a righteous man of God storming Heaven by his prayers.

A later apostolic document, the Shepherd of Hermas, is one of the first witnesses to attest to the long, thorough process of penance in the early Church.  Taking the texts of St. Hermas and St. James together, one can see that the two key elements of the Mystery, repentance and confession, were present in apostolic times.  The long, gradated process for sacramental rehabilitation through penance took the place of a sacramental absolution formula.  The process rather was exomologesis (confession), penance, and then communion.

Exomologesis seems to have disappeared entirely in the post-apostolic period close to the Council of Trent.  Historical evidence falls in two strains - first, the continuation of this practice as a Greek tradition during Great Lent, when the faithful receive Holy Communion without prior confession during Great Week after completing the Church's most rigorous fast; secondly, the testimony of the Fathers themselves, who do not mention exomologesis after Great Lent (St. Athanasios the Great's 19th pastoral encyclical is cited by Fr. Gamvas).  Confession and penance was reserved for what the West would later classify as "mortal sins", following a distinction introduced by Tertullian, rather than for daily faults and vices ("venial sins").  Pope St. Callistus and St. Cyprian are both mentioned as having extended the discipline of penance, without any major changes to the Church's practice.  The practice of personal, private confession before a priest was introduced by St. John Chrysostom, who restored the practice of confession after it had been completely suppressed by his predecessor Nektarios in 391, who had been concerned about the scandal that some of the confessions - adulterous affairs with prominent clergy! - had been causing.

In the East, the restoration of confession was mainly monastic, and is associated most notably with the name of St. Symeon the New Theologian - who confessed to a lay brother, not to a priest.  Confession in the monastic form was not public like the apostolic exomologesis, absolution was not involved, and the confession was made to a spiritual father whose efficacy lay in his personal sanctity and closeness to God, not in his priestly ministry - and some have seen St. Symeon's insistence on this practice as introducing a tension between the efficacy of monastic charism versus hierarchical ordination.  Although St. Symeon's name is often invoked, and his practice of confession to a non-ordained spiritual father often noted, the practice of reciprocal confession dates back to the Rule of St. Pachomius, and is also exhorted by St. Basil the Great (Letter 229) where he urges that confession be made to a spiritual father trusted for his guidance, rather than to any monk.  The need to go to a separate priest for sacramental confession after confession of sins to a spiritual father emerges in Greek monasticism in the 12th century.  Confession became widespread for the faithful at that same time, and became regarded as obligatory in the 15th century under the pen of St. Symeon of Thessaloniki

The "absolution formula" was first introduced in the West by St. Columban around 600 A.D. (Gamvas, p. 40).  The words "I absolve you..." to this day do not appear in the Byzantine or Orthodox sacramental practice, and for a Roman Catholic coming to the East for confession for the first time, the initial reaction is to feel "unabsolved".  For six hundred years confession was practiced, when it was permitted at all, without any "absolution formula", regarded by later scholastic theology as the "form" of the sacrament.  The question must be raised - is a verbal "form" soteriologically necessary for repentance to be "grace-filled", or in Latinspeak, for the sacrament to be valid?  A recognition and respect for the history and universal practice of the Church for more than the first quarter of its history must insist on a negative answer, and a broader understanding of the sacrament of confession.

A traditional, or at least neo-Baroque, Roman Catholic approach would be to insist on the necessity of ex opere operato sacramental absolution as the ordinary means of grace, with "true contrition" serving only as an "extraordinary" substitute in cases of emergency where confession and absolution become physically impossible, and with reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament certainly impossible to receive worthily without sacramental absolution.  It would seem, from the historical consideration offered, that such a development is not a matter of necessity from Divine Law, but rather the historical manner in which the Church's practice developed.  At one time, the Church offered penance as the means for healing - or for the remission of mortal sin; whether a juridical or medicinal metaphor is employed does not change the substance of the Church's teaching, and the two metaphors are complementary, not opposed - and today in the post-Patristic era man's laxity and weakness are taken into account, and the long hard process of public penance and excommunication are replaced with a quicker process of judicial absolution and re-admittance into the company of saints.  In both eras, the Holy Spirit has guided the Church to offer the best means of grace for the sanctification of the faithful in Her time, but the somewhat simplistic assumption that the mystery of confession necessarily involves a formula for absolution must be discarded.

To my readers - thoughts?  Is Fr. Gamvas' history correct?  How would an Eastern Christian of the Catholic communion faithful to his Orthodox patrimony answer the question?

IC XC NIKA

P.S.  This blog's output has been quite low - we are well into the Philipovka and this is only the third post this year, with the last post from 2012 being written in July.  I've been busy.  This year I've published an expanded edition of my physics textbook, which I use in the four undergraduate university physics classes I teach, and I've entered the unspeakable joy of becoming a married man.  As I am writing, we are expecting a little daughter, Cecilia Rose, whom we are worried about for some rare pregnancy complications with her growth being several weeks behind and an artery in her umbilical cord missing.  Prayers for her safety and health would be gratefully appreciated.  She is the most precious thing to have ever entered my life.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Litany to the Syrian Saints

Reblogged, with embellishments, from the Hermeneutic of Continuity:  http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/2013/08/litany-of-syrian-saints.html


Litany of Syrian Saints
For private use only

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison, Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe audi nos, Christe audi nos.
Christe exaudi nos. Christe exaudi nos.

God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Ghost,
Holy Trinity, one God,

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of Virgins,
St Michael,
St Gabriel,
St Raphael,
All ye Holy Angels and Archangels,
St John the Baptist,
St Joseph,

All ye Holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us.
Blessed Peter the Apostle, and first Patriarch of Antioch,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, born in Tarsus,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, blinded and converted on the way to Damascus,
Blessed Paul the Apostle, enlightened and baptised at the Street called Straight,
Blessed Peter and Paul, models of humility and justice at Antioch,
St Ananias of Damscus, laying thy hands on Blessed Paul,
Blessed Luke the Evangelist,
St Manahen, disciple of the Lord and foster-brother to Herod Antipas,
All ye holy Syrian disciples of the Lord,
All ye holy Syrian innocents,

St Apollinaris, pray for us.
St Felix of Nola,
St Abraham of Arbela,
St Abraham of Kratia,
St Dorotheus of Tyre,
St Eusebius of Samosota,
St Anthony of Antioch,

All ye holy Syrian Hieromartyrs,

Ss Victor and Corona, pray for us.
Ss Galation and Episteme,
Ss Cosmas and Damian,
St Romanus of Samosata,
And thy Holy Companions Ss Jacob, Philotheus, Hyperechius, Abibus, Julianus and Paregorius,
St Anastasius of Antioch, and thy Companions Ss Julian, Celsus and Marcionilla,
Ss Romanus of Caesarea and Barulas,

Ss Symphorian and Timotheus,
St Andrew Stratelates and thy 2953 Companions,
St Julian of Cilicia,

St Julian of Antioch,
All ye Forty Soldier Martyrs of Sebaste,


Ss Abiatha, Hathes, and Mamlacha,
Ss Philo and Agathapodes,
St Moura,

St Abercius,
St Eusiginius,
Ss Sergius and Bacchus,

Holy Martyr Andre Arbashe, beheaded and fed to dogs by the ungodly,
Fr Paolo dall'Oglio, spiritual son of Pere Louis Massignon and Blessed Charles de Foucauld,
Fr Francois Mourad,
Holy Maiden Miriam, through thy passion at the hands of the infidels,
Holy Martyr Lynn Qowetr,
Holy Martyr Fadi Michael Matta,
All ye holy Syrian martyrs,

St Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us.
St John Chrysostom,
St John Damascene,
All ye holy Syrian teachers of the Faith,

St Evodius, pray for us.
St Ignatius of Antioch,
St Herodian of Antioch,
St Theophilus of Antioch,
St Serapion of Antioch,
St Asclepiades of Antioch,
St Babylas of Antioch,
St Eustathius the Great of Antioch,
St Anastasius II of Antioch,
All ye holy Patriarchs and Bishops of Antioch,

Pope St Anicetus, pray for us.
Pope St Sergius I,
Pope St Gregory III,

St Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us.
St Sophronius of Jerusalem,
All ye holy Syrian Bishops and Patriarchs of Jerusalem,

St Maron, pray for us.
St John Maron, first patriarch of the Maronite Church,
Mar Awtel,
St Domnina of Syria, Virgin and disciple of St Maron,
Blessed Abdel Moati, Francis and Raphael Massabki, and thy Holy Companions,

 Mar Abai and Mar Abhai, pray for us.
Mar Abhai of Hach,
Maphriyano Baselios Sakralla III,
St Abel,
St Abd al-Masih,
Ss Abda and Sabas,
St Birillus, ordained by Blessed Peter, pray for us.
St Jacob of Nisibis,
St Frumentius, Apostle to Ethiopia
St Maruthas, Father of the Syrian Church,
St Romanos the Melodist,
St Cosmas the Melodist, and foster-brother to the Damascene,

St Palladius the Desert Dweller, pray for us.
St Thalassius of Syria,
St Alexius of Rome, the Man of God,
St Simeon Stylites,
St Baradates,
St Auxentius of Bithynia,
St Simeon Stylites the Younger,

St Eusebonas,
St Abraham the Writer,
St Abibion,
All ye holy Syrian Priests and Levites,
All ye holy Syrian Monks and Hermits,

St Philip of Agira, pray for us.
All ye holy Syrian Confessors,

St Serapia, pray for us.
St Margaret of Antioch,
Ss Domnina, Berenice and Prosdoce,
St Basilissa, pray for us.
All ye holy Syrian Virgins and Widows,
All ye holy Syrian Saints of God,

Be merciful, spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord.
From all evil, deliver us, O Lord.
From all sin,
From thy wrath,
From sudden and unlooked for death,
From the snares of the devil,
From anger, and hatred, and every evil will,
From the spirit of fornication,
From plague, famine and war,
From revolution,
From all false prophets,
From the errors of Mohammed,
From jihad,
From infidelity, heresy, paganism and heathendom,
From everlasting death,

Through the mystery of thy holy Incarnation, deliver us, O Lord.
Through thy Coming,
Through thy Birth,
Through thy Baptism and holy Fasting,
Through thy Cross and Passion,
Through thy Death and Burial,
Through thy holy Resurrection,
Through thine admirable Ascension,
Through the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete,
Through the blood of thy Holy and Blessed Syrian martyrs,
In the day of judgment,

We sinners: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst spare us: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst pardon us: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst bring us to true penance: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to govern and preserve thy holy Church: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to preserve our Apostolic Prelate, and all orders of the Church in holy religion: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to humble the enemies of holy Church: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give peace and true concord to Christian kings, princes, and rulers: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant peace and unity to the whole Christian world: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst call back to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from her fold, and to guide all unbelievers into the light of the Gospel: we beseech thee, hear us.


That thou wouldst bless the holy hierarchs and patriarchs of the Churches of Antioch, and grant peace and unity to all: we beseech thee, hear us.

That thou wouldst bring the holy Churches of Antioch into one fold and one communion; that thy prayer shouldst be answered, “that they may all be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”: we beseech thee, hear us.

That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give discernment and wisdom to the rulers of nations: we beseech thee, hear us.

That thou wouldst vouchsafe to confirm and preserve us in thy holy service: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst lift up our minds to heavenly desires: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst render eternal blessings to all our benefactors and enemies: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deliver our souls, and the souls of our brethren, relations, benefactors, and enemies, from eternal damnation: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to comfort the afflicted people of thy Holy Syria, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to give and preserve the fruits of the earth: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe to grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed: we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst vouchsafe graciously to hear us: we beseech thee, hear us.
Son of God: we beseech thee, hear us.


Agios o Theos, Agios ischyros, Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Agios o Theos, Agios ischyros, Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Agios o Theos, Agios ischyros, Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Doxa Patri kai Io kai Agio Pneumati, kai nin kai aei kai eis tous aionas ton ainon, Amin.
Agios athanatos, eleison imas.
Agios o Theos, Agios ischyros, Agios athanatos, eleison imas.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, exaudi nos Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

Christe audi nos, Christe audi nos.
Christe exaudi nos. Christe exaudi nos.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison, Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

Pater noster [silentio]
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo.

Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat.

Oremus:

For world leaders:
O God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Against Persecutors of the Church:
O Lord, we beseech thee, crush the pride of our enemies and humble their insolence by the might of thy hand. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

In any tribulation:
O Almighty God, despise not thy people who cry out in their affliction: but for the glory of thy Name, be appeased and help those in trouble. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

For our enemies:
O God, who are the Lover and Guardian both of peace and charity, give to all our enemies peace and true charity, and grant the remission of all their sins, and by thy might deliver us from their snares. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

For the defence of the Church:
Almighty, everlasting God, in whose hand are the strength of man and the nation’s sceptre, see what help we Christians need: that the heathen peoples who trust in their savagery may be crushed by the power of thy right hand. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

In time of war:
O God, who bringest wars to nought and shieldest by thy power all who hope in thee, overthrowing those that assail them; help thy servants who implore thy mercy; so that the fierce might of their enemies may be brought low, and we may never cease to praise and thank thee. Through our Lord… Amen.

For peace:
O God, from whom are holy desires, right counsels and just works; give to thy servants that which the world cannot give; that both, our hearts may be disposed to obey thy commandments, and also, the fear of enemies being removed, our times, by thy protection, may be peaceful. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… Amen.

Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat.
Exaudiat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen.
Et fidelium animae per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Heidegger's Elucidation of St. Augustine's Distentio


            In his massive and uncompleted masterpiece, Being and Time, Martin Heidegger provides an insightful and faithful phenomenological explication of St. Augustine’s Confessions, including in his use of St. Augustine’s concept of distentio.  Just as St. Augustine explores the depths of his own soul in order to reach down through memory into the depths of the God Who created him, so Heidegger also explores memory and time as being the fundamental meaning of the soul.  In outlining his project at the beginning of Being and Time, he promises that “we shall point to temporality as the meaning of that Being of that entity we call Dasein” (Sein und Zeit 38); here, I shall show that his entire work is an extended commentary on St. Augustine’s concept of distentio - one which is limited by its phenomenological approach, but which nonetheless is faithful to the Augustinian tradition.
            The phenomenological starting-point or primordial experience which is the fundamental datum that both Heidegger and Augustine draw their insights from is memory, and the intuition that memory is a form of extention, or distentio, across both space and time.  By his memory, St. Augustine’s soul could stretch back into the past and make his mother once again present; within the “vast court of [his] memory [became] present to me sky, earth, and sea, together with all things that I could perceive in them, aside from all the things I have forgotten” (Confessions 237) - all times and all places thus become present to the soul. 
            Heidegger likewise saw as an essential function of the soul’s act of being (Dasein) a stretching-out or “de-severing” across both space and time, a function which lies at the heart of both remembrance and knowledge.  “The circumspective de-severing of Dasein’s everydayness reveals the Being-in-itself of the ‘true world’ - of that entity which Dasein, as something existing, is already alongside” (Heidegger 141; his italics), and we are disposed to commit this act of de-severing by our human nature, or almost by instinct - “In Dasein there lies an essential tendency towards closeness.  All the ways in which we speed things up, as we are more or less compelled to do today, push us on towards the conquest of remoteness.  With the ‘radio’, for example, Dasein has so expanded its everyday environment that it has accomplished a de-severance of the ‘world’ - a de-severance which, in its meaning for Dasein, cannot yet be visualized.”  (Heidegger 140)  By “de-severance” Heidegger means simply making the remote object present to the consciousness, just as St. Augustine’s “distentio” means not just extending the soul out to the object, but pulling the object out of the “treasures of countless images of things of every manner” and making them present to the soul.  “The great cave of memory,” St. Augustine says, “and I know not what hidden and inexpressible recesses within it, takes in all these things to be called up and brought forth when there is need for them… When I am in that realm, I ask that whatsoever I want be brought forth.” (Augustine 236-7, 236)  Heidegger saw at the heart of this act of bringing-forth the removal of distance of the object from the soul doing the remembering: “De-severing amounts to making the farness varnish - that is, making the remoteness of something disappear, bringing it close.” (Heidegger, 139)
            Although Heidegger viewed it as being a less primordial element in the phenomenological constituency of Dasein - since the fundamental datum of experience is sense-impression and not memory - distentio across time is nonetheless an authentic human act, one which proceeds from the act of Dasein, and which itself is the phenomenological foundation for the study of time.  Temporality itself for Heidegger is the fundamental reality of Dasein, or in his words, “the primordial ontological basis for Dasein’s existentiality” (277), and “the meaning of that Being of that entity which we call Dasein” (38).  By temporality Heidegger means that Dasein remains actual through time, and not just in any individual point in time - as Augustine and the Scholastics generally thought - but through all of its time at once: “its own Being is constituted in advance as a stretching-along” (426).
            Heidegger’s conception of Dasein as actual through the totality of its times (which he calls historicality) is not found in St. Augustine, for whom “the past no longer exists, and the future is not yet in being” (Augustine 288), but it is eminently Augustinian for it is the fruition of Augustine’s introspective epistemology of the soul.  St. Augustine sought the truth of his soul by looking inward, towards his own soul’s distentio across the vast courts of memory and the depths of time, to an eternal God for Whom all is present.  Heidegger was uncomfortable with the religious terminology that this analysis implied, yet inconsistently tried to incorporate Augustine’s divine Present into his conception of Dasein.  “Dasein does not exist as the sum of the momentary actualities of Experiences which come along successively and disappear.  Nor is there a sort of framework which this succession gradually fills up.  For how is such a framework to be present-at-hand, where, in each case, only the Experience one is having ‘right now’ is ‘actual’, and the boundaries of the framework - the birth which is past and the death which is only oncoming - lack actuality?”  (Heidegger 426)  It is in God, the Eternal Present, in which all times can exist in order to be made present to the soul, Augustine would teach us, and insofar as this eternal Present is making-present time to the soul and is found in the soul, then memory is the dwelling-place of God.  “Truly, you dwell in my memory, since I have remembered you from the time I learned of you, and I find you there when I call you to mind” (Augustine 254), and it is in this way that the Being of Dasein - Who is God, the source of all being - achieves actual historicality.
            Dasein is not for Heidegger however the eternal Present, but rather in the eternal Present, for it is through the temporal Present that historizing occurs.  “Presence” or Anwesenheit is the only mode through which something can be made-present to Dasein - “Entities are grasped in their Being as ‘presence’; this means they are understood with regard to a definite mode of time - the Present [die Gegenwart]” (Heidegger 47).  Heidegger clearly distinguishes the mode of time in which entities are made-present and the ‘connectedness of life’ or eternal Present which permits the possibility of making-present:  “The movement [Bewegtheit] of existence is not the motion [Bewegung] of something present-at-hand; it is definable in terms of the way Dasein stretches along” (Heidegger 427).  By making this distinction, Heidegger rescues his system from pantheism and brings himself into full conformity with St. Augustine’s thought, despite Heidegger’s arbitrary and irrational avoidance of explicit theological phraseology.
            Reading Heidegger in this manner, an ontological-existential explanation can be made of Augustine’s description of the process of memory as found in chapter 8 of book 10 of his Confessions.  Augustine paints memory with a rather crude analogy with to a filing-cabinet, which we store in and then draw from at will.  Everything is brought into the memory according to “its own proper entrance” (p. 236), and are then recalled with varying levels of difficulty when needed.  St. Augustine believes that by exploring the recesses of his memory he can find God; Heidegger explains the ontological reasons why this is possible.  It is the meaning of the soul or Dasein to be extended throughout space and time by residing in the eternal Present; the eternal Present is the very act of being of our soul.
            Heidegger’s secular bias unfortunately hinders his description of the intentionality of memory.  What Augustine ultimately finds as the object of his memory is God, and his memory is motivated by love; but memory is not the ultimate reality but rather the passage of his love to God, or even the motion of the soul towards God, and which like all motions must be terminated in its end - and so, Augustine “will pass beyond even memory” (246) to find God, “who abides in my memory” (253).  Heidegger sees the intentionality of Dasein only in terms of the triple acts of ‘care’ (Sorge), ‘concern’, and ‘solicitude’, which even of themselves can only understood through the unifying act of love which these acts presuppose, and their intentionality (when viewed only in and of themselves) is consequently that only of being-towards-Death.  In and of itself, being-towards-Death is still a very real description of the intentionality of Dasein because of the God to Whom we go at death, but it is a very incomplete description, since God is present to the soul in the eternal present and not just the future.  If we are being-towards-death, in other words, it is because we are eternally dying, and encountering God.
            If God can be encountered through memory which is knowledge of the past, then how much more should He encountered by the Dasein’s distentio in the present in that act of intelletual union called ‘knowledge’.  Thus knowledge, for Augustine, eminently deserves the name “memory”, and several chapters in book 10 of his Confessions are devoted to the exploration of learning as anamnesis.  Thought itself is nothing but the bringing together of memories in an act of union, in a sublime analogy to the union of the divine ideas in the Godhead; this is because while memory qua memory is distentio across the medium of time, knowledge qua knowledge is distentio to the object known, which exists in a multitude of modes and times known simultaneously qua knowledge (thereby uniting the across-nesses in which the object exists, which is to say the same thing as uniting memories).  The intellect, therefore, is necessary to the very act of memory itself, for it is the intellect which is the agent that makes memory present-at-hand and therefore intelligible (since if intelligibility is union of the idea with the Dasein, then the act of knowing is identical to the act of making-present-at-hand).  As Heidegger teaches us, Dasein’s act of making-present is actual in the eternal Present, and in a very real way it is within the mind of God that all knowledge takes place, insofar as our being is in the Being of God and our logoi within the divine Logos; thus it is known that we subsist in God because in knowledge our souls dis-tend across eternity.  Knowledge, as St. Augustine’s and Heidegger’s insights suggest, is a participation in God’s own knowledge, and to rephrase this insight in a paradoxical manner, Gestalt psychology (making-present and rendering-intelligible) presupposes the Beatific Vision.
            Because he did not describe Heidegger’s ontology of Presence, St. Augustine himself does not explicitly tell us in what manner learning can be a form of anamnesis as I have attempted using Heidegger’s philosophy.  St. Augustine’s concern is theology and not phenomenological, so he does not attempt to provide a systematic and complete phenomenology of making-present as Heidegger does, nor overtly extend his description of memory as distentio to include knowledge as a more general case; however, viewing the matter phenomenologically from within Heidegger’s ontology of Dasein, this would be a consistent and enlightening step to make.  Had St. Augustine been a phenomenologist, he would have provided this analysis himself, so it is proper to say that Heidegger’s treatment of knowledge as anamnesis resides virtually within the Augustinian system itself.
            Knowledge through memory is then a making-present of reality to the soul through a distentio of the soul through the eternal Present to its delimitation as the temporal present; by describing distentio, Augustine and Heidegger have thereby implicitly described the ontological essence of time itself - an essence which cannot be described explicitly, and which will always remain a mystery to the human mind.  Augustine describes the mysteries of memory in time in quasi-apophatic terms, calling memory “an inner chamber, vast and unbounded” (238), through which - and through which alone - an infinite reality is contemplated, an “awesome thing, deep and boundless and manifold in being!  And this thing is the minds, and this am I myself” (246).  Temporality, which is the only frame in which the term “Dasein” or “soul” has any sense - the “horizon for the understanding of Being” in Heidegger’s terms (Being and Time 39) - cannot even be talked about qua itself in explicit terms in any way that is helpful for understanding it: “If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to someone who asks me, I do not know” (Augustine, 287).
            Time is incomprehensible because it can only be understood in reference to eternity; is is the “ever present eternity” (Augustine 287) in which God created time, and in which Dasein is distended across times.  Time itself, considered as the temporal present qua temporal present, is nothing for Augustine; “the past no longer exists, and the future is not yet in being” (288), but “the present has no space” either (289); the only time that exists is an ever-fleeting moment of no duration.  “If any point of time is conceived that can no longer be divided into even the most minute parts of a moment, that alone it is which may be called the present.  It flies with such speed from the future into the past that it cannot be extended by even a trifling amount.  For if it is extended, it is divided into past and future.” (289)  Time then, can only be spoken of from within eternity; and therefore Augustine proposes as a solution to the problem the fundamental role of Dasein or the soul as making-present all times to itself, within the soul’s own present:  “Perhaps it might properly be said that there are three times, the present of things past, the present of things present, and the present of things future.  These three are in the soul, but elsewhere I do not see them: the present of things past is in memory; the present of things present is in intuition; the present of things future is in expectation.” (293)  Heidegger reaches this conclusion from the opposite angle; while for Augustine, the fact that we speak of the past and future indicates an eternal Now, for Heidegger, the fact that we speak of a now indicates the presence of time.  “When we say ‘now’, we always understand a ‘now that so and so…’ though we do not say all this.  Why? Because the “now” interprets a making-present of entities.”  (460-461)  When these entities are made-present, the “past” no longer means a time which has ceased to exist, but rather a time made present to Dasein which the Dasein can reference, or what Heidegger calls its “datability”:  “The structure of the datability of the ‘now’, the ‘then’, and the ‘on that former occasion’, is evidence that these, stemming from temporality, are themselves time.”  (461)
            What makes Heidegger’s “datability” differ from the non-existent past that Augustine describes, and makes it correspond to the true “present of things past” in the memory, is that the datability of events can only be known through their making-present; that is, we do not know anything in the past through the past, but only through their presence to the soul.  As with Augustine, there is no past as past or future as future, but only present of past and future.
            To clarify the phenomenological chain of reasoning that both Augustine and Heidegger are using, it must be kept in mind that when they consider the duration of time and its infinitessitude, they are still working quite heavily within the idea of memory of experience of time as distentio, and it is this notion of distentio which logically implies both Heidegger’s “datability” and Augustine’s three “presents” as being within the soul.  It is significant that it is not until Heidegger describes the three “presents” of temporality that he explicitly and unequivocally states his doctrine of distentio, twenty pages after he identified “making-present” as the root of our experience of temporality, by quoting St. Augustine for the first and only point in his entire work:  “Inde mihi visum est, nihil esse aliud tempus quam distentio; sed cuius rei nescio; et mirum si no ipsius animi.”  “Hence it seemed to me that time is nothing else than extendedness; but of what sort of thing it is an extendeness, I do not know; and it would be surprising if it were not an extendedness of the soul itself.”  (Confessions 298, quoted in Heidegger 480)  Time is the ordering of eternity; or in Hegel’s words quoted by Heidegger, “time is the ‘truth’ of space” (quoted in Heidegger 481); and all truth qua truth exists solely in the human soul.
            Though Heidegger’s analysis neither extends nor attempts to extend beyond the phenomenology of the human soul, like St. Augustine he has looked within himself and discovered ultimate truth, for we now have all the data we need to solve the centuries-old problem of describing the difference between time and eternity; but rather than begin with time and describe eternity analogously to it, we must - even as a phenomenological necessity - begin with eternity and describe time analogously.  It is eternity, Heidegger suggests with Augustine, that we know more immediately.  Eternity is the state in which all things are made present to the soul, which is nothing other than a restating of Boethius’ definition of eternity as the “total, perfect, and simultaneous possession of unending life” (paraphrased by Maurer 33); the negation of eternity is a single point of time, in which the totality of life or things-made-present is excluded in favor of a fleeting, non-existent instant; this moment or instant Heidegger calls “punctuality” because of its infinitesimal or point-like nature.  The negation in turn of this instant is the sum of successive non-existent moments, or the “negative unity of Being-outside-itself” (Heidegger 482), and this reconstituted and disjointed series of moments, this “negation of a negation” (Heidegger 484) is what we call time.
            We have seen in the above pages that Heidegger’s analysis of time and Dasein in Sein und Zeit provides an insightful and faithful philosophical explication of St. Augustine’s description of time and memory in his Confessions.  Underlying the Augustinian description of time and memory is an introspective journey within the human Dasein in which the inquirer discovers that memory and knowledge is a form of distentio, in which the soul stretches itself out to that which it knows, making the object of memory present to Dasein, thereby revealing that the act of knowledge occurs not in time, but that time itself occurs in the eternal present of Dasein.  Eternity, then, is the underlying reality in which time flows, and which forms the Being of Dasein and the fullness of that which is merely a negation thereof.



Works Cited
Augustine, St.  The Confessions, trans. John K. Ryan.  New York:  Doubleday, 1960.
Heidegger, Martin.  Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson.  New York:       Harper and Row, 1962.
Maurer, Armand CSB.  Medieval Philosophy: An Introduction.  Toronto:  Pontifical Institute of        Medieval Studies, 1982.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Martyrdom of St. Philonedes

The Catholic Church has always been careful to make a clear distinction between suicide and martyrdom, upholding the latter as a "baptism of blood" and condemning the former as a mortal sin.  However, just as today suicide bombers claim for themselves the glory of martyrdom, in past times the line was often blurred by Christians as to what constituted martyrdom and to what degree the amount of provocation they elicited from the Romans constituted suicide.  Adherents of the Montanist heresy, which prided itself on being the "Church of the Martyrs" were known to leap from buildings to their death rather than lose their virginity at the hands of their captors in prison, after going out of their way to make it known to the authorities that they were Christian.  Traditionally this would have been considered suicide in the Catholic Church.  However, the case of St. Philonedes, a Catholic saint, gives one pause to reconsider where the difference actually lies.  The Church, at any rate, has been generous in assuming the best of one's intentions.  From
http://noctoc-noctoc.blogspot.com/2012/06/saint-philonides-bishop-of-curium.html:

Saint Philonides was bishop of Curium during the early Christian years. In the Synaxarium of Constantinople his memory is celebrated on August 30. It states that Philonides, bishop of Curium found martyrdom during the reign of emperor Diocletian, at the beginning of the fourth century. He found martyrdom along with three other Christians, Aristoklis, Dimitrianos and Athanasios.
In the Synaxarium of Nicodemus it is also stated that Philonides, bishop of Curium, found a martyr's death, but his memory is indicated as been celebrated on June 17 and not the 30th of August.
In the Synaxarium of Nicodemus it is stated that Philonides chose death, when informed of the killing of the other three martyrs and learned that the Gentiles had been ordered to attack the Christians in obscene ways, such as rape. In order to avoid this shame he went to a cliff, prayed, and jumped into the empty space, setting his own life into an end. Shortly after his death, according again to the same Synaxarium, the saint appeared as a vision to two travelers, naked, bathed in perfume, holding a palm branch and having a crown on his head. The vision led the two men to the spot where the dead body of the saint was lying. However, the Gentiles took the saint's body and threw into the sea in order to disappear. But the sea washed the corpse on the shore from where eventually the Christians took it and buried it with honors.
Philonides is the first known bishop of Curium (late third and early fourth century). His death is placed in the period between 303 -305.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ibn al'Arabi on Religious Diversity

Religious pluralism and diversity is a topic that has attracted much attention since Vatican II and the age of ecumenism.  Views on other religions tend to be classified as "exclusivist" (more traditional views verging to the fundamentalist), "inclusivist" (still traditional but more open-minded), "pluralist" (usually unorthodox) or as somehow transcending these three categories (at which there is an impasse).  The Fathers of the Church tended to hold but should best be classified as an "inclusivist" view, the view also promulgated by the Church in documents like Dominus Iesus - the Church is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, being the only means of salvation (extra Ecclesiam nulla salus), but that elements of truth and sanctification and even divine revelation are found outside the visible boundaries of the Church.  The Church subsists fully in the institution known as the Catholic Church, but while we know where the Church is, we don't know where it isn't.  Furthermore, the presence of a natural knowledge of God and prayer to or communion with Him has been dogmatic (against the "fideist" error) since Vatican I.  Consequently, "other religions" or thought-systems (be it Aristotelian philosophy, the Vedanta, or Mahayana Buddhism) can be "ancillae theologiae", the "handmaidens of theology" (as a recent "Mahayana Christology" by John Keenan termed it) and "spoliae Aegyptorum" (the rightful "spoils of the Egyptians" that are the proper inheritance of the Church, as all truth is).

In this post I want to present an argument more from the pluralist perspective, one which I do not necessarily agree with but which is intriguing.  It presumes the fact that God does work outside the visible bounds of one religion, and that He reveals Himself - whether through natural or supernatural means, it does not matter - to all men.  It is given by Ibn al'Arabi, in Chapter 48 of al-Futuhat al-makkiyya, and translated by William Chittick, in Imaginal Worlds:  Ibn al'Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity (Albany:  State University of New York, 1994), pp. 158-160.



The revealed religions are diverse only because of the diversity of the divine relationships.

[A Christian must interpose that the only religions that are truly revealed in the fullest sense are Christianity and Judaism - but various orthodox theologians, such as Fr. Roch Kereszty in the journal Communio, have tried to explain how the Providential role of God has lead people in other religions through a "revelation to the heart" (my phrase).]

If the divine relationship demanded that a particular thing be lawful in the revealed law, ofr if the relationship demanded that something be forbidden, then divine rulings could not change, but it is established that divine rulings do change.  And if divine rulings do change, then God's words would be incorrect:  To every one of you [messengers] We have appointed a right way and a revealed law [surah 5:48].  [While I do not accept that the Qur'an as a whole is the revealed Word of God, this saying does seem to be true, and therefore the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  God has left nobody without prophets and revelation - this is the Catholic dogma of the "natural law".]  But every community does in fact have a right way and a revealed law brought to it by its prophet and messenger.  So abrogation [of rulings] does take place.

We know for certain that God's relationship to Muhammed in what He revealed to him as religion is different from His relationship to any other prophet.  Were this not so and were the relationship one in every respect - that is, the relationship that demands revelation of the specific law - then the revealed religions would be one in every respect.  [One may question how much Muhammed - who seems to have started at genuinely seeking God, but corrupted into impurity by carnal attachments - understood of the workings of the Holy Spirit in his heart.  But it is true that God related to him differently than He related to Moses, to St. John the Baptist, to Hermes Trismegistus - regarded as a prophet by the Church Fathers - and to the Roman sybil.]

If you ask:  Why then are the divine relationships diverse?  We will reply,


The divine relationships are diverse only because of the diversity of the states.


One person has the state of illness.  He calls out, "O Cure-giver, O Healer!"  Another is hungry and calls out, "O Provider!"  Still another is drowning and calls out, "O Helper!"  Hence the relationships are diverse because of the diversity of the states.  [Yet Christianity is universal because we are all sinners - "all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.]  This is indicated by God's words, Each day He is upon some task... We shall attend to you at leisure, O mankind and jinn! [surah 55:29-31]  It is also indicated by the Prophet's words while describing his Lord with the scales in His hand:  "He lets down and lifts up."  Because of the state of the Scales, God is called "Uplifter" and "Downletter".  In the same way these various relationships become manifest in the diversity of the states of the creatures.


The states are diverse only because of the diversity of the times.


The cause of the diverse states of the creatures is the diverse times in which they dwell.  Their state in the time of spring differs from their state in the time of summer, their state in the time of summer differs from their state in the time of autumn, their state in the time of autumn differs from their state in the time of winter, their state in teh time of winter differs from their state in the time of spring.

One of those who is learned in the way in which the times act upon natural bodies says that you should expose yourself to the air in the time of spring, because it does to your bodies what it does to your trees.  [Not quite, but biology was in a rather primitive state back then!]  And you should protect yourselves from the air of winter, because it also does to your bodies what it does to your trees.  [That indeed it does - it freezes you!]  And God has stated explicitly that we are among the growing things of the earth, for He says, God has made you grow out of the earth as growing things [surah 71:17]...


The times are diverse only because of the diversity of the movements.

I mean by movements the movements of the celestial spheres, for these movements give rise to night and day and delineate the years, months, and seasons.  All this is what is known as "the times".  [He's getting dangerously close to astrology here, and his argument's rather weak.  How does the change in seasons justify different divine revelations for different tribes and peoples?]


The movements are diverse only because of the diversity of the attentiveness.

I mean by attentiveness God's turning His attention toward the movements to bring them into existence.  [This is the philosophical doctrine of occasionalism, rejected by Christianity since it denies the subsistent existence and order of the universe and natural laws.]  God says, Our only speech to a thing, when We desire it, [is to say to it "Be!" and it is] [surah 16:40].  If the attentiveness toward the movements were single, the movements would not become diverse, but they are diverse.  This proves that the attentiveness that moves the moon in its sphere is different from that which moves the sun in its sphere or those which move the other planets and spheres.  Were this not the case, the speed or slowness of all of them would be the same.  God says, Each of them floats in a sphere [surah 21:33] [Unfortunately they fall in ellipses - astronomy was also in a primitive stage, and allegedly there are Muslims to this day who will reject modern astronomy because the Qur'an revealed that there are spherical orbits.]  Each movement has a divine attentiveness, that is, a specific divine connection to it in respect of the fact that He is the Desiring.


The attentivenesses are diverse only because of the diversity of the goals.

[This is flatly wrong - teleological physics.]  If the goal of the attentiveness that causes the moon's movement were the same as the goal of that which causes the sun's movement, no effect would become distinct from any other effect.  But the effects are diverse, without doubt.  Hence the attentivenesses are diverse because of the difference in goals.  Thus God's attentiveness with good pleasure toward Zayd is different from His attentiveness with wrath toward 'Amr, for His goal is to chastise 'Amr and to give bliss to Zayd.  So the goals are diverse.  [Perhaps one can salvage this by pointing out that all that happens in natural processes happens according to divine providence - Providence gave the Earth the mass and orbit that it did, without detriment to any scientific explanation.  However, since earlier "the times" were linked with the heavenly bodies, the chain of reasoning is broekn when we apply these "goals" to earthly people, unless and only unless we accept the pseudoscience of astrology.]


The goals are diverse only because of the diversity of the self-disclosures.


Were God's self-disclosures one in every respect, He could have no more than a single goal.  But the diversity of the goals has been established, so every specific goal must have a specific self-disclosure that is different from every other self-disclosure.  [Are we talking about the heavenly bodies as theophanies, the self-disclosure of God in the heavens, or on earth?  Without astrology to link the two, the argument is broken.]  For the divine Vastness demands that nothing be repeated in existence.  [Why?]  It is this fact upon which a group of the Sufis depend, even though The people are in confusion as to a new creation [surah 50:15].  Shaykh Abu Talib al-Makki, author of Heart's Food, and other men of God have said, "God never discloses Himself in a single form to two individuals, nor in a single form twice."  That is why effects are diverse in the cosmos.  [Yet there is much homogeneity.]  These have been alluded to as "good pleasure" and "wrath" [yes, all human souls are unique and individual, but we have commonalities and God sometimes does repeat Himself, calling us to repentance over and over again - though the parable of Dives and Lazarus provides an example of God refusing to repeat Himself].


The self-disclosures are diverse only because of the diversity of the revealed religions.


[Certainly not if we are talking about God's self-disclosure in "the times" and heavenly movements, which have nothing to do with religions and were around for 13.74 billion years before the first religion was.]  Each revealed religion is a path that takes to God, and these paths are diverse.  Hence the self-disclosures must be diverse, just as divien gifts are diverse.  Do you not see what happens when He discloses Himself to this community at the resurrection, while within it are hypocrites?  Moreover, people's views of the revealed law are diverse.  Each possessor of independent judgment [mujtahid] has his own specific law that is a path to God.  [Some paths may not lead to God, however, and He has revealed to us The Way - as Christianity was called in the Apostolic era - in which He wants us to take, the narrow way or royal way as it is called.]  That is why the schools of law are diverse, even though each is a revealed law, within a single revealed religion.  [Example where al'Arabi's point is true:  the different rites of the Catholic Church.]  And God has established this for us on the tongue of His messenger.

So the self-disclosures are diverse, without doubt.  Each group has believed something concerning God.  If God discloses Himself to them in other than that something, they will deny Him.  But when He discloses Himself in the mark that they have established for God in themselves, they will acknowledge Him.  Thus, for example, when God discloses Himself to the Ash'arite in the form of hte belief of his opponent, whose knotting concerning God is opposed to his, or when He manfiests Himself to his opponent inf the form of the Ash'arite's belief, each of hte two groups will deny Him.  And so it is with all groups.

Then, when God discloses Himself to each group in keeping with the form of their belief concerning Him - and that is the "mark" mentioned by Muslim in his Sahih, quoting from the Prophet - then they will akcnowledge that He is their Lord.  But He is He, none other than He, so the self-disclosures are diverse because of the diversity of the revealed religions.

As for our words, "The revealed religions are diverse only because of the diversity of divine relationships," that has already been discussed.  Thus the circle is closed.  [It seems that this deliberately circular argument should have not included this step - the diversity of the self-disclosures is the fundamental starting point, and not really epistemologically justified by appeal to the plurality of religious forms.  However, al'Arabi wanted a self-enclosed circle, and a circle he got.  I leave it to the reader to judge the merits or unsoundness of his argument, considering my critiques.]  


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

St. Nikolai Velimirovich on the Praeparationes Evangeliae

All the prophets have from the beginning cried out to my soul, imploring her to make herself a virgin and prepare herself to receive the Divine Son into her immaculate womb;

Imploring her to become a ladder, down which God will descend into the world, and up which man will ascend to God;

Imploring her to drain the red sea of sanguinary passions within herself, so that man the slave can cross over to the promised land, the land of freedom.

The wise man of China admonishes my soul to be peaceful and still, and to wait for the Tao to act within her.  Glory be the memory of Lao-tse, the teacher and prophet of his people!

The wise man of India teaches my soul not to be afraid of suffering, but through the arduous and relentless drilling in purification and prayer to elevate herself to the One on high, who will come out to greet her and manifest to her His face and His power.  Glorious be the memory of Krishna, the teacher and prophet of his people!

The royal son of India teaches my soul to empty herself completely of every seed and crop of the world, to abandon all the serpentine allurements of frail and shadowy matter, and then - in vacuity, tranquillity, purity and bliss - to await nirvana.  Blessed be the memory of Buddha, the royal son and inexorable teacher of his people!

The thunderous wise man of Persia tells my soul that there is nothing in the world except light and darkness, and that the soul must break free from the darkness as the day does from the night.  For the sons of light are conceived from the light, and the sons of darkness are conceived from the darkness.  Glorious be the memory of Zoroaster, the great prophet of his people!

The prophet of Israel cries out to my soul:  Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, whose name will be - Theanthropos.  Glorious be the memory of Isaiah, the clairvoyant prophet of my soul!

O heavenly Lord, open the hearing of my soul, lest she become deaf to the counsels of Your messenger.

Do not slay the prophets sent to you, my soul, for their graves contian not them, but those who slew them.

Wash and cleanse yourself; become tranquil amid the turbulent sea of the world, and keep within yourself the counsels of the prophets sent to you.  Surrender yourself entirely to the One on high and say to the world:  "I have nothing for you."

Even the most righteous of the sons of men, who believe in you, are merely feeble shadows which, like the righteous Joseph, walk in your shadow.  For mortality begets mortality and not life.  Truly I say to you:  earthly husbands are mistaken when they say that they give life.  [St. Nikolai here is playing on the traditional of the soul as the feminine bride to the divine Bridegroom, and so "earthly husbands" refers to earthly gods, idols, like money or "success" or a career.]  They do not give it but ruin it.  They push life into the red sea and drown it, and beforehand they wrap it in darkness and make it a diabolical illusion.  There is no life, O soul, unless it comes from the Holy Spirit.  Nor is there any reality in the world, unless it comes down from heaven.

Do not slay the prophets sent to you, my soul, for killign is only an illusion of shadows.  Do not kill, for you can slay no one but yourself.

Be a virgin, O my soul, for virginity of the soul is the only semi-reality in a world of shadows.  A semi-reality - until God is born within her.  Then the soul becomes a full reality.

Be wise, my virgin, and cordially receive the precious gifts of the wise men of the East, intended for your Son.  Do not glance back toward the West, where the sun sets, and do not crave gifts that are figmental and false.


From A Treasure of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality Volume 5:  Prayers by the Lake, Prayer 48.