Interview with Archimandrite Zacharias

One of the things I look forward to every week is the next interview to be heard on the Illumined Heart radio program.  It’s great to hear catechetical programs and academic lectures, but there’s nothing like some good dialogue between interesting people.  It’s great to get to know the Orthodox world, and how it dialogues with others (there’s a really interesting interview with a Jewish rabbi). This week however is a real treat – Archpriest Josiah Trenham and Archimandrite Zacharias Zakarou. 

He is the spiritual son of Elder Sophrony Sakharov (and thus the spiritual grandson of Saint Silouan), the author of some wonderful books, and I have it on good authority that he has been blessed with the gift of clairvoyance.  I was blessed to hear him preach at my parish in February.

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Our Preservation by the Cross

This is the eve of the Sunday of the Cross. Tonight at Vespers we watched as Archbishop DMITRI carried the cross from the altar to the icon stand in the center of the Church. The congregation, following the lead of the bellowing deacons, sang the toparion repeatedly: “Oh Lord save Your people and bless Your inheritance, Grant victory to Orthodox Christians over their enemies, and by virtue of Your Cross preserve Your habitation.”

Why the Cross, and why now?  As the Archbishop reminded us, we venerate the Cross in the center of the Great Fast because it reminds us what all of this is about.  It isn’t about restriction, it isn’t about comfort, and it isn’t even about growing.  It is about living, but the kind of living that only takes place when we participate with Christ to the point of sharing in His crucifixion.  My Lenten troubles and my ascetic feats are nothing compared to death on a cross, and even this is nothing without participation with Christ. 

The fact is that we can easily avoid our cross, and we can easily avoid Christ.  It looks good, reasonable, and healthy.  After all, avoiding our crosses so often look like avoiding death.  We need to be close enough to Christ, and be under enough obedience to see how we can follow him to our death, knowing that we have the same power in us that rose Christ from the dead. 

In our historical perspective we often only see the crucifixion in light of the resurrection, but before we can get there we need to see – in its stark reality – the cross.

After tonight’s service we drove home past several phenomenal architectural church buildings.  One of them had a rather typical sign on its electronic marquee: “come grow with us”.  To a certain extant, this message is opposed to the Cross.  As Christians we could be easily saying: “come die with us”.  We are after all the Church of the martyrs.

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt suggests that the only appropriate Christian bumper sticker is the cry of St. John the Baptist, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Any religion can get on board with the resurrection, but the crucifixion –  which even Plato saw to be the unavoidable consequence of a Divine Incarnation – is something that is distinctively Christian.  As the troparion says, is “by virtue of Your Cross” that preserves the Kingdom of God.  It is not a humanistic fixation of growth, it is not news of a get-out-of-jail-free grace, but the incredible story of a real man who is fully God climbing on a tree to die and trample down Death. 

Hard to swallow?  Yeah, it is for me too.

Nourishing the Senses

We frequently think of nourishing our body with what we intake, and often think about nourishing our minds by what we contemplate.  A deeper thought is how we nourish our whole beings through the intake of the Holy Mysteries.  Our senses apply both to the realm of concepts and thinking and the realm of the physical.  By this I mean that the senses are obviously “means by which we understand and interact with the physical world” and simultaneously “part of us; not dissociated with the rational and conceptual activities that belong to us”.  It is this unity of the “raw” sensual nature of these faculties and the ability to have concepts, thoughts, and reasoning about conceptual and imaginative things that allow us to perform everyday functions like: thinking about the world, interacting with the world, imagining, and remembering.

So the senses does not exclusively belong to the realm of “the mind” or the realm of “the physical world”.  Continue reading “Nourishing the Senses”

This is not Christian

While sporadically working on a post about why it is reasonable to come to the Church to find Christ, I read Rod Dreher’s blog on this sorry excuse for a Christian community. Note that the web address is “coolplace.ca”.  This way is the path to damnation.  No serious Christian should tolerate this idolatrous masquerade that is separating people from Christ and putting them in delusion.

I have to disagree with Dreher on one point however; Dreher doesn’t believe that this should be taken very seriously.   To quote:

How on earth do people persuade themselves of such patent nonsense? The only Christianity truly failing in the world today is the kind of rationalist Christianity favored by liberal Western Christians, whose churches are dying. In fact, Pentecostalism, which is explicitly anti-rational is sweeping the world. No need to feel threatened by the Rev. Gretta and her Spong-y gang. There is no there there. She’s just playing church 

I would agree with him if West Hill United “Church” was an isolated event.  Sadly it is not.  Protestantism evolves with every generation, and it has already begun to morph into more subtle forms of this monstrosity.  This in turn has left thoughtful Protestants with a choice – and it was this pushed me towards Orthodoxy – do I succumb to “popular monotheism” or find a tradition that is stable?  Is it about community or Christ?  How did these two options become so distanced?  If Protestants wanted to stop losing their young’uns to Orthodoxy and Rome, they would immediately spend their time dealing with the Emergent church.

 I think that + BASIL was right to say that this is the insidious heresy of our generation.  Lord have mercy.

The Feast of St. Gregory of Palamas

This second Sunday of Great Lent is the Sunday of St. Gregory of Palamas, Wonderworker of Thessalonica, champion of Orthodox theology, and one of the saints dearest to me.  “For God is not only beyond knowledge, but also beyond unknowing.” 

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O light of Orthodoxy, teacher of the Church, its confirmation,
O ideal of monks and invincible champion of theologians,
O wonder working Gregory, glory of Thessalonica and preacher of grace,
always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved.

A Note about Shrines

Today I went to the Alamo.  I had been there back in August, but this time it was with my family in law over spring break; when the weather was nice and the lines were long.  There are places in the US with such a profound and iconic presence in the American identity – but they are few: Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Independence Hall.  This is rather unique to the US; that where we live doesn’t usually have a meaningful heritage.

I think that this is a problem, and my visit to Washington D.C. a couple years back bears evidence to it.  It is a strange thing for Americans to suddenly be in the presence of a historic place like the Lincoln Memorial, or Vietnam Memorial.  We are used to seeing it on a postcard or movie, and when we it the presence of the place itself we find that we don’t know how to act.  Continue reading “A Note about Shrines”