Monday, 31 December 2012

Review: Journey to the Kingdom

An Insider's Look at the Liturgy and Beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church

If you buy this book hoping for an explanation of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, you will not be disappointed. In a style that is fresh and approachable, Fr. Vassilios takes the reader through every step of the Liturgy, explaining in detail their primary themes, their meaning and purpose. However, I have to disagree with the author when he writes that “this book could be regarded as a form of liturgical catechism.” It should be regarded as a form of catechism, for that is precisely what it really is. Already by the third chapter, the reader has been provided with a concise and wonderfully clear exposition of Orthodox Triadology, Christology, and the incarnational theology behind icons (the major themes of the 7 Ecumenical Councils), as well as the role of the laity and bishop in forming the Church’s catholicity, among other things. An overview of Church history is obviously beyond the scope of this work, but that aside it is as complete a catechism as any other. What makes this book so much more engaging than other catechisms or introductions to the Orthodox Church, though, is that, being structured around the Divine Liturgy, it is connected to something dynamic and tangible, to sights and sounds, ‘smells and bells’. It thereby avoids the theoretical abstractions and dry formalities that put so many people off the study of theology. This book is theology in action. Fr. Vassilios presents the teachings of the Church in a way any reader can relate to, and shows us that they are not irrelevant philosophies contained in dusty old books, but are deeply practical and meaningful to every Christian. Through the prayers and structure of the Liturgy, he also brings out the major themes of Christian spiritual life – love, humility, sin, repentance, etc. – presenting the timeless wisdom  of Orthodox spirituality in a way that, once again, is engaging and relatable. His explanation of the traditional Orthodox understanding of ‘temptation’ – a word most of us probably think we know the meaning of - in his chapter on the Lord’s Prayer, for example, is one many will probably find surprising and refreshing.

Furthermore, one of the things that have always irked me about many introductions to the Orthodox Church is that what these books and articles really concern are the obvious differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and/or Protestantism – veneration of icons, intercession of the Mother of God and the saints, conciliarity vs. papacy, etc. – rather than what Orthodoxy actually is: a living and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While Fr. Vassilios addresses all those issues, this book, by approaching the Orthodox Church through its worship, shows you Orthodoxy on its own terms, rather than in comparison to something else. It is therefore much more balanced than many other works, never allowing itself to be sidetracked by exotic peculiarities and lose sight of the ‘one thing needful’. In a time when people are increasingly unaffiliated with any kind of Christian confession, this is very important indeed.

Those who are already familiar with Fr. Vassilios’ essays and articles will know that he has a talent for presenting difficult and complex subjects in a way that is simple, but not simplistic. This book is no exception. Everything he writes is expressed in a way that is clear, straight forward and easy to understand, but without any sense of ‘dumbing down’. Each of the 20 chapters is short – around 10 pages – which makes it easy to get through without feeling tired, and makes it particularly well suited for use in catechism classes. A good way to get the most out of the book would be to sit down with the text of the Divine Liturgy and read the relevant sections after each chapter. I also really liked the use of caption boxes to explain words and concepts mentioned in the text, rather than relegating them to the forbidding realm of bulky footnotes. The beautifully drawn treasure map on p.7 provides the reader with a wonderfully original way of learning and remembering the structure of the Liturgy, while the photographs that accompany each chapter will be particularly helpful for inquirers who have yet to attend an Orthodox service.

In short, this is an excellent book, equally suited to inquirers and lifelong Orthodox Christians, and one I have already recommended to several people belonging to both those categories.

For more information, sample pages, and other reviews, please see the entry.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Encountering the Word of God

After reading a recent blog on biblical inerrancy, I began thinking about my first encounter with the Bible. I had intended to use this highly subjective anecdote as part of a longer blog post, one with an argument, a point, a conclusion: sacred reading as a form of prayer (the listening part rather than the speaking part we normally make due with) was one topic that came to mind. Perhaps another time...

Growing up as a nominal, non-practicing, cultural 'Christian' my only experience of the Holy Scriptures had been through my occasionally perused illustrated children's Bible, which was no Bible at all, but merely a superficial retelling of the main narratives of the Bible in the form of 365 short stories. I was familiar with some of the more well known sayings of Christ - the Sermon on the Mount, 'Go sell all ye have', and so on - but I was entirely ignorant of even the basic tenets of Christianity and had never even heard the words 'Trinity' or 'Incarnation'. That Christ is God was an idea entirely foreign to me, and so I understood His words to be those of a holy man, a prophet who bore the title 'son of God' merely as an honourific one, not the words of God. I still remember the first time I opened a real Bible - a leatherbound copy of the Authorised Version I had received at school aged 11. While I remember well receiving it, I don't recall exactly when I first attempted to read it. Having then only been in England for a few months, still trying to get the hang of 20th century English, I was not quite ready for the 17th century English of the KJV! In any case, I remember turning to one of the Old Testament prophets and coming across the words 'Thus saith the Lord'. Reading the words of God Himself - something I never realised I could find in what I thought was little more than a story book - gave me goosebumps, made my hairs stand on end, and filled me with such an awe that I had to close the Book after just a few lines. The words themselves did not matter at that time - I, dust of the earth, had heard God speak: He was knowable, He was personal. Only later when I came to learn about His Incarnation ('the reason for the season') did I realise just how personal!

Monday, 17 December 2012

AXIOS! HH Yohanna X of Antioch

His Eminence John (Yazigi), Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe has been elected to become the new Patriarch of Antioch, following the recent repose of His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius (Hazem) IV a couple of weeks ago. May God grant the new Patriarch strength, particularly now with the unfolding tragedies in Syria, where his flock is facing a period of persecution and martyrdom!

From the Orthodoxwiki entry:
His Eminence Metropolitan John (Yazigi) heads the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western and Central Europe headquartered in Paris, France. Before his election and enthronement as Metropolitan, he had been titular bishop of Pyrgou (al-Hosn), Syria. He was also formerly the dean of the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology (Tripoli, Lebanon), the patriarchal seminary attached to the University of Balamand.

His Eminence has a Degree in Theology from the Balamand seminary (1978), a Diploma in Byzantine Music from the Byzantine Music Conservatory in Thessalonica (1981), and a PhD. in Theology with a specialization in Liturgics from the University of Thessalonica (1983). While at the Balamand, he served as Professor of Liturgics (1981-2008), as well as in the abbacy of St. George Al-Humayrah Patriarchal Monastery (1993-2005) and the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand (2001-2005).

His Eminence is also the author of numerous books and articles on Orthodox theology and liturgics.

Christ is born! The Katavasies of Christmas in English

Chanted by the Romeiko Ensemble

Ode One.
Christ is born; therefore, glorify! * Christ is come from heaven; encounter Him. * Christ is on earth; arise to Him. * Sing to the Lord, all you who dwell on the earth; * and in merry spirits, O you peoples, praise His birth. * For He is glorified.
Ode Three
To the Son, begotten * without flux, of the Father, before the ages, * and who was lately made incarnate * of the Virgin without seed; * to Christ God now let us cry aloud: * You have exalted the horn of our strength. Only You are holy, O Lord.
Ode Four
Jesse’s root produced a branch, O Christ, * and You its flower blossomed forth, * from the Virgin who by Hábakkuk prophetically once was called * overshadowed, dense mountain. * From her who knew not man You came incarnate, * the immaterial God. * Glory to Your power, O Lord.
Ode Five
God of peace and Father of mercies, Your Son * You have sent unto us as Your messenger, * the Angel of great counsel who is granting us Your peace. * Therefore having been guided to the light of godly knowledge, * waking from the night to dawn, we sing Your glory, O Lover of man.
Ode Six
Such as it received * Jonah as an embryo, the sea beast disgorged him from its bowels intact. * With the Virgin, though, when the Logos had dwelt in her taking on flesh, * He came forth from her preserving her yet incorrupt. * For from her no fluxion suffered He, * and He kept her unaltered in childbirth.
Ode Seven
The children nurtured piously together, * with contempt regarding the impious king’s decree, * intrepidly faced the threat of holocaust, * and while standing in the midst of flames they chanted thus, * saying: O God of our fathers, You are blessed.
We praise, and we bless, and we worship the Lord.
Ode Eight
Babylon’s bedewing furnace bore the image * of an extraordinary wonder. * For it did not burn the youths it accepted, * nor did the fire of Divinity consume the Virgin’s womb wherein it went. * So let us melodiously chant in praise: * Let all creation bless and extol the Lord, * and let it exalt Him supremely to the ages.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

My first attempt at a sermon

I was asked to give a short sermon at this morning's Divine Liturgy - the first time I've ever attempted to write or deliver a sermon. The congregation was smaller than usual today, so only a tiny number of people were subjected to my poor delivery, the awkwardness of which is thankfully avoided in the written version below:

Saturday 24th of November, St. Clement of Rome

Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1-3
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have laboured side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

St. Luke 10:19-21
Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Today we celebrate the memory of our holy father St. Clement of Rome, who we heard mentioned by St. Paul in the Epistle reading: he has “laboured side by side with me in the Gospel with…the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” This inscription in the book of life is also the theme of today’s Gospel reading, where the Lord tells his disciples to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” To have your name written in the book of life means to have found salvation in Christ. That our names are written down is significant because it shows that our salvation is personal. We are called by name. As we are told in the Book of Revelation, “To him who overcomes,” God will give a “white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” The word ‘personal’ implies a relationship. For a Christian, being ‘saved’ means entering into a personal relationship with Christ, and through Him, with all of those He has created. “If anyone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar”. We cannot love Christ without also loving those He loves. Now, I am sure you have all heard this many times before. However, it is important to stress this first in order to understand the rest of the Gospel reading we just heard, which is one many people find difficult to get their heads round.

First, we hear Christ saying to His disciples that He has given them the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and that nothing shall hurt them. In parts of America, entire churches are set up based on this verse, where part of the service involves people picking up real rattlesnakes and scorpions as a way of showing their faith. It goes without saying that this probably isn't quite what Christ had in mind. What He is talking about here is the power of the devil and the demons. When we are with Christ, nothing can hurt us. As St. Nikodemos says, you should not be afraid of the devil, he should be afraid of you! And yet the Lord tells them “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” We should not trust in our own ability and strength, even when these are good things given to us by God, as this leads to pride. If we’re proud, we look inward, to ourselves. In order to be persons, to build relationships with God and our fellow man, we have to be humble and look outward to those around us. Like St. Paul, St. Clement and those with them, we have to “work side by side” in the Gospel. This is what Jesus means when He says that the Father has “hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes”. A child looks to its parents for everything - for food, for clothing, for shelter, for understanding – while the man who considers himself wise looks only to himself. If we want our names to be written into the book of life, and have God call us by name, we have to learn how to be humble, like babes.

As St. Clement says, “Let us be humble, brothers, laying aside all arrogance and conceit and foolishness and anger, and let us do what is written. For the Holy Spirit says: “Let not the wise man boast about his wisdom, nor the strong about his strength, nor the rich about his wealth; but let the one who boasts boast in the Lord, to seek him out and do justice and righteousness.” – 1 Clem 13

Friday, 16 November 2012

On exploitation of the workforce

by St.Nicodemos the Hagiorite

For foremen, sitting idle and doing no work at all, make acquisitions and gains from the toil and sweat of their apprentices and colleagues, whereas those poor and hapless folk who do work remain in deprivation. The proprietors of estates daily exhaust the unfortunate farmhands who work their fields and vineyards, exploiting them inhumanly with interminable and intolerable chores; they use their bodies as though they were irrational animals or, to put it better, insensate rocks; they regard them as bought servants and slaves and behave towards them with greater harshness than did Pharaoh towards the enslaved Hebrews in Egypt,[69] becoming new taskmasters and inhuman tyrants towards those poor folk. And the worst evil that they do to them is this, that after the farmers have threshed the crops and put the wine and the oil into the presses, the owners of the fields come along and, not content with receiving their share of the field and the vineyards, while leaving the rest to the farmers, in addition to this they take from their fruits and take also the interest of the money that they have lent to the farmhands; or else they give them a low price and themselves take all of the fruits. Hence, there remain neither a few crops on the threshing-floor nor a small amount of wine or oil on the presses for the poor labourers to take to their houses to nourish their wives and children. Instead, these hapless men toil for the entire year, working, contending wit the cold of the winter and the heat of the summer, sowing, reaping, threshing, digging, pruning, harvesting, and treading; much later on, the poor wretches return to their homes empty-handed, dejected, grief-stricken, and anguished. Oh, what bestial inhumanity this is! Oh, what greater injustice can there be than this_ How, then, are those unhappy men to govern their households? How are they and their wives to sustain themselves? How are they to console their children when they cry and clamor, groaning from hunger? God be gracious unto us!

For this reason the great Chrysostomos was right to call such proprietors of fields and vineyards more unjust than all other men and harsher than any barbarians, saying:
Who are they? Those who possess fields and reap the wealth that comes from the earth. And what could be more unjust than this? For if one were to examine how they treat their wretched and misearble labourers, he would see them to be more savage than barbarians. For upon those who are wasting away with hunger and toiling throughout their lives they both impose constant and intolerable payments, and lay on them laborious tasks, and they treat their bodies like asses or mules, or rather like stones.[70]
For this reason the same Chrysostomos was right to call the poor labourers who suffer the aforementioned evils more pitiable than all men, saying: "What could be more pitiable than this, when after having toiled throughout the winter, and being worn out from frost and rain and lack of sleep, they depart empty-handed, and even in debt?"[71] For this reason, with every justification, after all of this the same golden John exclaims with perplexity and astonishment that for these evils and injustices that landowners do to their labourers Heaven should shudder and the earth tremble: "Wherefore, it is meet to adduce the Prophet and to say, 'Be astonished, O Heaven, and shudder, O earth.'[72] To what great brutality has the human race been carried away!"[73] And in truth, Heaven ought to shudder and the earth tremble on account of this exceeding wickedness on the part of landowners; for they become murderers, shedding blood and disipating the lives of their poor farmhands. Indeed, they take from them the food that they were going to live on, as the wise Sirach declares:
The bread of the needy is the life of the poor: he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. He that taketh away his neighbour's living slayeth him; and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a blood-shedder. [74]
Again, he says:
My son, defraud not the poor man of his living....Make not an hungry soul sorrowful; neither provoke a man in his distress...Reject not the supplication of the afflicated; neither turn away thy face from a poor man. [75]

Hieromonk Patapios (ed. trans.), On Christian Morality by St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies: Belmont, MA 2012pp.242-3

[69] Exodus 1:8-14
[70] "Homily LXI on St. Matthew," §3, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. LVIII, col. 591.
[71] Ibid.
[72] Cf. Jeremiah 2:12
[73] "Homily LXI on St. Matthew," §3, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. LVIII, col. 592.
[74] Ecclesiasticus 34:21-22
[75] Ecclesiasticus 4:1-4

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Reccomendation: Journey to the Kingdom

An Insider's Look at the Liturgy and Beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church

I intend to write a detailed review of this book in the not so distant future. For the time being, I just wish to say that this is an excellent book, equally suitable for both inquirers into the Orthodox faith and those who are already members of the Orthodox Church. For more information, sample pages, and reviews, please see the entry.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Concert Lumina Crucii

I just came across the following video on YouTube and thought it was a wonderful example of Byzantine chant. I encourage you all to listen to it. The concert was held in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Iasi, Romania. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Kyrie eleison!

In the Life of Gregory Xandzta by Giorgi Merchule (8th-9th century), Gregory is asked to define the Georgian nation. "Georgia," he answers, "is that land where the Divine Liturgy is chanted in the Georgian tongue, but Kyrie, eleison is sung in Greek."[1] While the Christian Church has a long standing tradition of translating the divine services into the vernacular[2] - first the canonical hours and later the Divine Liturgy - this did not extend to every single part of the service. Just as the Hebrew phrases amen, hallelujah, hosanna, etc. remained untranslated in the context of Christian worship, so a number of Greek words and petitions remained even as vernacular services came to replace Greek outside the Hellenic world.[3] One such phrase, used more frequently than all the others combined, was the Kyrie, eleison (Lord, have mercy). Were you today to attend a Latin Tridentine Mass, a Syriac Liturgy, Coptic Liturgy, Ethiopian Liturgy, or even a Norwegian Lutheran Mass, you would hear Kyrie, eleison being sung in Greek. 

While the other prayers and petitions of the services were translated into the vernacular of each nation and people, in accordance with the divine will of God as revealed on the day of Pentecost, Kyrie, eleison - which is the summary of all other prayers, encompassing every need of the human condition - remained the universal prayer of the Christian people, citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, raised up to God "as with one voice" emphasising the fact that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian or Scythian.[4] It seems a pity that the only liturgically centered churches in which Kyrie, eleison is no longer sung in Greek are those of the Eastern Orthodox, despite the fact that the rite of Constantinople, the heart of the Greek-speaking eastern Roman Empire, has been their only liturgical tradition for the last millennium. 

Of course, this is not a matter of dogma, but it would be nice if those local Eastern Orthodox churches who worship in the vernacular rather than the original Greek could rediscover and reinstate this last remaning remnant of Christian linguistic uniformity and universality,[5] which so beautifully expresses the unity we all share in the one Christ. At the very least, it should be something taken into account now as a host of new translations of the Liturgy are appearing in every corner of the world, particularly those used in Greek Orthodox churches.

[1] There is, as of yet, no proper English translation available, so this is an approximation.
[2] "Venacular" is, of course, not completely accurate. Church Slavonic, for example, is a language artificially constructed specifically for the purpose of liturgical translation - artificial in that it preserves the word order and syntax of the Greek original - and can therefore not be called a vernacular. Likewise, were you to visit an Arabic church, the language you would hear would be Fusha, a form used only in writing or formal communication, not a spoken language. It would therefore be more accurate to say that the Orthodox Church has always translated the services into a language that was understood, rather than a spoken vernacular. 
[3] The Trisagion, for example, was always sung in Greek in the Roman Church, long after it switched to Latin, and is still always sung in Greek in the Coptic Liturgy.
[4] cf. Colossians 3:11
[5] I make a distinction between the uniquely Christian character of the Greek phrase Kyrie, eleison and the Hebrew phrases, of which Amen is certainly the most important, which, although also signets of unity, are ones we share with the Jews (and, in the case of Amen, also Muslims). Therefore, while these Hebrew phrases remain, and act as an important link to our Judaic roots, the preservation of this Greek phrase should receive equal emphasis because it attests to the particular unity that should exist among Christians.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Genocidal God of the Old Testament?

Simple thoughts on some difficult passages

Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ – 1 Reigns (1 Samuel) 15:2-3

They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every male...And the people of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones, and they took as plunder all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods. All their cities in the places where they lived, and all their encampments, they burned with fire, and took all the spoil and all the plunder, both of man and of beast…Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves. – Numbers 31:7,9-11,15-18

Passages such as these have long made the historical books of the Old Testament1 a stumbling block to believers, and a cause for ridicule for the disbeliever, for whom “the genocidal God of the Old Testament” has become something of a battle cry.

Many try to distance themselves from these passages with the oft repeated “That was in the Old Testament, now we have the New!” Not only is this a cop-out, but its implications are heretical. There is not one God of the Old Testament and another of the New. God is One. Moreover, while the movement from the Old Testament to the New signifies a change in man’s relationship with God, God Himself remains unchanged. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind”2 and in Him “there is no variation or shadow due to change.”3 Consequently, while God acted differently with His people in the time of the Old Testament, condescending to their weaknesses and limited knowledge, gradually leading them to greater understanding, it is still the same One God we encounter in the New. If someone, then, convicts God of unrighteousness in the Old, simply pointing to the New is no answer.

Rather than ignoring these passages, a second possibility, based on the Holy Fathers, is to interpret them symbolically. The command to slaughter our enemies must be understood as an exhortation to put to death our sins, of which men, women, children, infants, ox and sheep, etc. all represent different forms and stages. For example, when the Psalmist says to the Babylonians “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock,”4 the Fathers understand this to mean that we should destroy all sin, no matter how small. For just as an infant grows into an adult, so do minor temptations quickly become overwhelming if we do not immediately dash them against the Rock, who is Christ. This is certainly how we should be reading the Old Testament as Christians. However, while such a reading explains verses like the one from the Psalmist, the historical books are so called because the events they describe actually took place. Thus, while symbolism gives them meaning for us today, the question remains: how do we reconcile these events with the God of love we hear of elsewhere?

What must be remembered is that the Old Testament is first and foremost a work of theology, and that its purpose is prophetic. Not only is the text of the Old Testament prophetic, but the very purpose, existence, and life of the Chosen People was prophetic. The bondage of the Israelites in Egypt, for example, represents humanity's bondage to sin, their escape from death by the blood of lambs humanity's salvation through the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, on the Cross, their escape from Pharaoh through the waters of the Red Sea our own liberation from the tyranny of the devil through the holy waters of baptism, and so on. Many often scoff when they find in the Law of Moses, the code by which the life of Israel was governed, seemingly bizarre or meaningless prohibitions like not wearing clothing of mixed fibres,5 or not eating a particular set of animals.6 What these people fail to do is take into account prophecy. Every act of God's People, down to the clothing they wore and the style of their hair, was prophetic. We see a perfect example of this in the Book of Ezekiel, where the holy prophet is commanded to lie on his side for 390 days in order to prophesy about the siege of Jerusalem,7 or in the Book of Hosea, who had to take as his wife a prostitute, Gomer, in order to prophecy against the adultery Israel was committing against God through their unfaithfulness. Perhaps the most difficult elements of Mosaic Law are the many instances of capital punishment, which is applied not only to things like murder, but to seemingly undeserving offences, such as cursing ones parents,8 homosexual relations,9 sorcery,10 working on the Sabbath,11 or blasphemy.12 These too must be understood in light of the prophetic nature of both the Law and the very life of the people who lived by it. We should not forget that much of Old Testament Law, and the accompanying punishments, was already present in pre-existing Semitic tribal law.13  As Christ said to the Jews who questioned him on divorce: "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.."14 God, then, did not wholly overturn existing cultural practices, but imbued them with new meaning, allowing them to continue for the sake of prophecy. "The wages of sin is death," St. Paul tells us, "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."15 It was through the fall of Adam that death entered into the world,16 and it was the bondage of death from which our Lord Jesus Christ saved us through His glorious death and resurrection, trampling down death by death. The calls for capital punishment in the Law are first and foremost prophetic and theological, making ever present this connection between sin - the turning away from God, who is Life - and death. This is highlighted by the fact that in Jewish tradition, a Sanhedrin that issued the death penalty more than once in the course of seven years was considered "bloody,"17 pointing to the infrequency of its actual implementation.  

Returning, now, to the question of genocide. Although quite different from the issue of capital punishment, in that I do not believe it can be explained merely through God's condescension to human weakness by permitting existing cultural norms, here too we must understand the synthesis between historical reality, prophecy and theology, and the reordering of purpose. In the case of the historical books, what we see are descriptions of the Jewish people in conflict with their enemies, and the realities of warfare in the Iron Age Near East, but told from a theological perspective, giving prophetic meaning to an otherwise conventional act of war. Throughout the Holy Scriptures we see the evil deeds of men being used by God to serve a good purpose. This is not to say God willed evil, but rather that, once evil had been committed,18 God, as He is wont, turned something evil into something good. Likewise, here, the gruesome realities of war are presented to us as an image of our own spiritual battle, turning these stories into a source for our spiritual edification. In light of this, it seems to me that, while we read the descriptions of war as historical events, the words “Thus says the Lord,” and similar denotements of divine sanction and exhortation, apply not to their battle, but to ours. What we see in these books is not God saying to the Israelites “Kill your enemies” but rather God saying to us “As the Israelites defeated their foes, do likewise to your spiritual foes. As they left no one alive, not even infants, let no sin remain alive in you, no matter how small it may seem.”

The key to understanding these difficult passages, then, is to recognise that they are both historical and theological, neither abandoning historical truth in favour of pure symbolism, nor imposing on a theological text the rigidity of a common historical document, but simply reading Scripture as Scripture.

[1] I include in this term also the historical accounts we find in the books of Moses or the Prophets.
[2] Numbers 23:19
[3] James 1:17
[4] Psalm 136:9, apparently a verse too difficult even for Boney M.
[5] Leviticus 19:19
[6] Leviticus 11
[7] Ezekiel 4
[8] Exodus 21:17
[9] Leviticus 20:13
[10] Exodus 22:18
[11] Exodus 35:2
[12] Leviticus 24:16
[13] The prohibition against the eating of pork, for example, is attested to in ancient Egypt.
[14] Matthew 19:8
[15] Romans 6:23
[16] cf. 1 Corinthians 15:21
[17] Mishna (Mak. 1:10, Mak. 7a)
[18] And necessary evil is evil nonetheless.  "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezekiel 33:11).

All quotations of Holy Scripture are taken from the English Standard Version (Anglicised).

Thursday, 30 August 2012

"Come and See" - Some (disorganised) thoughts

Questions posed by inquirers into the Orthodox Christian faith are often met with the simple response “Come and see.” What is meant by the use of these words of Christ to the inquiring disciple is that Christianity is not merely a philosophy to be grasped through the reading of books or intellectual discussion, but a living relationship with Christ, only properly understood through experience. Moreover, nowhere is the faith of the Christian Church quite so clearly and purposefully expressed than in her worship – lex orandi, lex credendi. While certainly an appropriate way to convey this important truth to inquirers, rarely do those among whom the phrase has become something of a cliché, particularly on the infamous Orthodox internet fora, consider exactly what these inquirers are to come and see.

“Of Thy mystical supper, receive me today, O Son of God, as a communicant. For I shall not speak of the Mystery to Thine enemies, nor will I give Thee a kiss as did Judas, but as the thief I confess Thee, remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom.” This prayer of the faithful prior to the reception of the Holy Gifts hearkens back to the early centuries of the Church when the divine Mysteries were treated precisely as that. The rites of baptism, chrismation and the Liturgy of the Faithful were a jealously guarded secret (μυστήριον means secret). Not only were the non-baptised prohibited from participating in or seeing these rites – the Orthodox Liturgy to this day includes the expulsion of the catechumens after the reading of the Holy Gospel – but believers were strictly ordered not to divulge any information about what they witnessed in church. To do so, as the hymn above suggests, was considered tantamount to Judas’ betrayal of Christ. In other words, not a trivial offence. Only the φωτιζόμενοι, those catechumens who had been enrolled for baptism the coming Pascha, would be given an explanation of the rites they were to undergo, though in some places even these had to wait, and retrospective explanations were given to the newly baptised. Even detailed explanations of doctrine were withheld from all non-baptised, save the φωτιζόμενοι, and the articles of the Symbol of Faith were only handed down to them orally – lest a written copy should fall into the wrong hands – days before their impending baptism. [This, incidentally, was the primary role of the godparent, something to remember next time you see a godparent at a modern day baptism stutter through a written copy of a wholly unfamiliar text!] St. Cyril of Jerusalem tells them that “This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it, and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper, but engraving it by the memory upon your heart, taking care while you rehearse it that no Catechumen chance to overhear the things which have been delivered to you.[Catechetical Lectures 5:12] To similar effect, prefacing his Catechetical Lectures is the following warning: These Catechetical Lectures for those who are to be enlightened you may lend to candidates for Baptism, and to believers who are already baptized, to read, but not at all to Catechumens, nor to any others who are not Christians, as you shall answer to the Lord. And if you make a copy, write this in the beginning, as in the sight of the Lord. We find similar sentiments expressed by more or less all patristic authors of the same period.

There is debate among scholars as to whether this practice of secrecy, known as the Disciplina Arcani in academic circles, has its origins in the New Testament period or is of later origin. In support of the former we find Christ’s own words regarding parables and secrecy, while those who favour a later date cite open discussion of the Mysteries in the 2nd century (though the question naturally remains whether these were the exception rather than the rule). In any case, we know it to be firmly established by the 3rd century, and see a greatly heightened emphasis on it in the 4th. I mention this because it is important to understand that the concern to keep the Mysteries out of the gaze of non-Christians heightened, not under persecution, but at the time when the Church had just gained her freedom and Christianity had risen to a position of imperial favour. In other words, secrecy was a matter of sincere principle rather than fearful pragmatism. The disappearance of the Disciplina in later centuries was not due to a change in the Church’s attitude to the exposure of the Mysteries to the non-baptised, but in a world in which the vast majority of people were baptised Orthodox Christians it was simply no longer a matter of concern. That infant baptism, which in earlier centuries had been a fairly uncommon occurrence, later became the norm probably also accounts in part for its disappearance: the children would have had a harder time than their parents keeping what they saw in church to themselves.

In many ways, we in the West now live in societies much more reminiscent of the earliest centuries of Church history. Practicing Christians are an ever diminishing minority among a secular majority, with only history and cultural identity giving us an ‘upper hand’ over the myriad of other religious groups around us. We are therefore far removed from the overwhelmingly Christian society in which the Discplina Arcani fell into disuse. Yet, a quick google search will reveal countless images, audio recordings, and videos showing the Mysteries of the Church in every detail. Few will bat an eyelid when they see a camera man irreverently barging into the sanctuary during the anaphora, or pushing the priest aside to get a good shot of the godmother’s dress or mother’s hat during a baptism. One priest I know referred to filming in the altar as “liturgical pornography,” a description I find particularly apt as the Eucharist is the most intimate act of the Church, the Bride of Christ, with her Bridegroom. Many parishes broadcast the Divine Liturgy live on the radio, televison, or live steaming online. Not only does this needlessly expose the Liturgy to those unfit to see or hear it, but also undermines the simple fact that the Liturgy of the Faithful is meant for participation, it’s not a spectacle. It further undermines the reality of the Liturgy as a synaxis, a gathering, of the people of God, on which Met. John Zizioulas has the following to say: “The Eucharistic gathering, as an image of the last times, certainly should involve only the baptized. In this sense, we are talking about a closed community which comes together ‘the doors being shut’ (Jn. 20:19; cf. the exclamation ‘The doors! The doors!’) The Eucharistic gathering can never be a means and instrument of mission, because in the last times, which it represents, there will be no mission; anyway, mission presupposes dispersal, not a gathering ‘in one place’. Consequently, it is contrary to the nature of the Eucharist as image of the Kingdom to broadcast it over television or radio, whether for pastoral reasons or for the purpose of mission (a way of broadcasting or advertising the ‘richness’ and ‘beauty’ of our worship). In the Eucharist, one participates either ‘gathered in one place’, or not at all. Participation at a distance has no meaning. As for those who are sick or unable to come to the gathering, the Church’s very ancient practice is to bring them the fruit of the gathering (Holy Communion, antidoron, etc.), and not the gathering itself, either aurally or visually.” [The Eucharistic Communion and the World, New York, NY: T&T Clark, 2011, p.48]

Certainly a total restoration of the Discplina Arcani in a media driven age such as ours is neither possible nor desirable. The internet is littered with hosts of erroneous, often laughable, descriptions and explanations of Christian doctrine and practice. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Moslem apologists, quite confident despite their ignorance, go to great lengths to demonstrate the tri-theism of Christianity, or Protestant sectarians ridiculing the blasphemous cannibalism and vampirism of the traditional Christian understanding of the Eucharist. It is precisely such blasphemous derision the Fathers cite as the reason knowledge of the Mysteries should be kept from those too spiritually immature and not sufficiently educated to hear them. Now, however, it’s too late, and not making the correct information on those subjects available would probably be a bad idea. Furthermore, the basic doctrines of faith and the sacraments of baptism, chrismation and communion are shared by a number of heretical and schismatic groups, and were the Orthodox to attempt to re-institute the Discplina, it would be of little effect in this respect.

What is possible, however, and in my opinion also desirable, is for us Orthodox to cease our shameless and wholly unnecessary parading of the Mysteries before the non-baptised (or trivialising them in the eyes of the baptised, for that matter). The Liturgy of the Faithful is so called for a reason. While I personally think the re-introduction of the dismissal of non-Orthodox from the Liturgy following the Gospel would be a good thing – and it does still happen in a number of places – I understand the obvious pastoral difficulties this involves, and it should only be done in a way that is pastorally sensitive, lest we cause needless offence and drive away potential converts. There are no such pastoral concerns when it comes to uploading pictures, videos, and recordings on the internet, however. A priest should not feel afraid to deny a camera crew entry to the sanctuary, nor to admonish an altar boy trying to photograph something on his camera phone. Those who have such pictures and videos up on the internet should be encouraged to remove them, and, if they really need to, replace them with something taken at a Vesper, Matins, or the Liturgy of the Catechumens, which are no less beautiful or awe-inspiring services. If someone wishes to make a video of a “Teaching Liturgy” or some such thing, these can be distributed to parishioners directly through the parish bookshop, or online via private mailing lists (even youtube has a privacy setting allowing you to chose who can see the videos you upload). Those churches who broadcast live can limit these broadcasts to the Liturgy of the Catechumens. Perhaps this would in turn encourage priests to deliver the sermon immediately after the Gospel, which is its proper place, rather than moving it to the end of the Liturgy or, more disruptively, to just before the Communion of the Faithful.

While there generally is still a strong sense reverence around the Eucharist in our churches, the same can sadly not be said for most baptisms, at least of the infant variety. These tend to be a rather disorganised affair, and are seen by most simply as a rite of passage, a celebration of the birth of a new child. Emphasis is not on death and rebirth into Christ, the reception of the Holy Spirit, or the making of a Christian, but on the attire of those present and the cuteness of the baby, assuming s/he is at all visible behind the photographer and camera man. The venerable position of the godparent as a spiritual guide for the new believer has become nothing more than a way to honour a good friend or relative, regardless of their spiritual life. I have had the misfortune of witnessing a number of baptisms at which the godparent was not even an Orthodox Christian! Perhaps if there was a renewed emphasis on baptism as a Mystery rather than a spectacle, open not to the general public but only to the prayers of the faithful, and where photography and such was limited, we might be able to regain at least some sense of reverence for baptism and an appreciation for its tremendous importance.

Thus, by all means, encourage the world to “come and see” what the Church has to offer. “Here is order, here is discipline, here is majesty, here is purity: here even to look upon a woman to lust after her [Matthew 5:28] is condemnation. Here is marriage with sanctity, here steadfast continence, here virginity in honour like the Angels: here partaking of food with thanksgiving, here gratitude to the Creator of the world. Here the Father of Christ is worshipped: here are taught fear and trembling before Him who sends the rain: here we ascribe glory to Him who makes the thunder and the lightning[St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 6:35]. But let Mystery remain mystery.

Τοῦ δείπνου σου τοῦ μυστικοῦ σήμερον, Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, κοινωνόν με παράλαβε· οὐ μὴ γὰρ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς σου τὸ μυστήριον εἴπω· οὐ φίλιμά σοι δώσω, καθάπερ ὁ Ἰούδας· ἀλλὡς ὁ λῃστὴς ὁμολογῶ σοι μνήσθητί μου, Κύριε, ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ σου.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

New Book Available!

A slightly revised version of the Commentary on the Creed by St. Cyril of Jerusalem posted below can now be purchased in book form from

Commentary on the Creed
by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Price: £2.16
Ships in 3-5 business days

This book is a small collection of citations taken from St. Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures, arranged so as to serve as a commentary on the Symbol of Faith, which faithful Orthodox Christians recite at least twice a day, morning and evening, as well as at every Divine Liturgy.

Pages: 40
Publisher: Olsok Forlag
Published: 31 July 2012
Binding: Paperback

Monday, 30 July 2012

On the Sanctity of Marriage

By St. Cyril of Jerusalem
[The] Holy Spirit wrought in Elisabeth; for He has in knowledge not virgins only, but acknowledges married women also, so that their marriage may be lawful. 
[If you are] observing chastity, be not puffed up against those who choose the humbler path of wedlock. For marriage is honourable, and the bed undefiled, as the Apostle says. [Heb. 13:4] Were not you who keep your purity born of married persons? Do not, because you have a possession of gold, set at nought the silver. But let also those who are married and use marriage lawfully be of good cheer; those who subject their marriage to laws, not making it wanton by unbounded license; who observe the seasons of abstinence, that they may give themselves unto prayer; [1 Cor. 7:5] who with pure garments bring their bodies also pure to the assemblies of the Church; who have entered into the state of matrimony, not for indulgence, but that they may have a home. And let not those who have been married only once set at nought them who have involved themselves in a second marriage. Continence is indeed a noble thing and admirable; yet we should make allowance for a second marriage, that the weak may not commit fornication. It is good for them if they abide even as I, says the Apostle; but if they cannot contain, let them marry; it is better to marry than to burn. [1 Cor. 7:8-9] But let everything else be put far away from you - fornication, adultery, and every form of incontinence - and let the body be kept for the Lord, that the Lord also may look upon the body. And let the body be nourished with meats, that it may live, and serve without hindrance; but not that it may be given up to indulgence.
Catechetical Lectures 17:7 & 4:25-26

Again?! Yet another fast is upon us

Cell at Katounakia, Mount Athos
Falling only shortly after the two lengthy fasting periods of Great Lent and the Apostles' Fast, the Dormition Fast beginning on the 1st of August is often met with grumbling. This is hardly a surprising reaction when we continuously present fasting as something burdensome, tiring, and difficult. A time of don't's rather than do's. But is it?

I remember the first time I visited the Holy Mountain. I had spent a night at St. Ephraim's Skete at Katounakia, a small gathering of cells situated on steep hills at the very edge of the peninsula, and was making my way back down to the port after the morning services and breakfast. When I had made it about half way down the seemingly endless steps, a tiny old monk from one of the other sketes, to whom I had briefly been introduced the day before, came running towards me shouting "Norwegian! Norwegian!". He wanted to remind me that the day after next was one of the feasts of our Lord. "Tomorrow," he said with a big smile, "you must remember to fast strictly, and only eat bread and water at the evening meal so that you'll be ready for the Feast the following day!" While what he was telling me was certainly strict by any measure - exceeding even the akrivia of the Church's fasting rules - his words contained no trace of prescriptiveness, but were said with an infectious joy and enthusiasm. He was simply excited about the Feast and wanted to let me know so that I didn't miss out on anything. I wonder if we shouldn't also imagine the Church Fathers as having had the same radient faces when they wrote the words that to us in the 21st century often sound harsh and overly demanding. 

Perhaps if we observed the fasts and discussed the topic of fasting with the same excitement, enthusiasm, and love for Christ as this simple monk, those around us might come to understand that fasting is not a burdensome obligation, but a privilege and opportunity to be longed for and greeted with joy not reluctance. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

St. Cyril of Jerusalem on Church Politics

This particular quote refers specifically to the doctrinal divisions that took place in the Church in St. Cyril's day - primarily the battle of the Orthodox against Arianism - but I feel his words are in many ways applicable to those of us who take an often unhealthy interest in Church politics and spend more time worrying about which patriarchs are fighting over jurisdiction in a particular area, or different figures who clash over opposing ideologies, etc. than we do about our own sinfulness and relationship with Christ.
"If you shall hear that bishops advance against bishops, and clergy against clergy, and people against people even unto blood, be not troubled; for it has been written before. Take no notice of the things now happening, but the things which are written. Even if I who am teaching you am to die, you do not die with me. No, a hearer may even become better than his teacher, and he who came last might be first, since the Master receives even those of the eleventh hour . If among the Apostles there was found treason, are you surprised that even among bishops there is found hatred of the brethren? But the sign concerns not only rulers, but the people also; for He says, And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Will any then among those present boast that he entertains sincere friendship towards his neighbour? Do not the lips often kiss, and the face smile, and the eyes brighten truthfully, while the heart is planing guile, and plotting mischief with words of peace?" 
Catechetical Lectures 15:7

Happy Olsok!

The Holy Passion-bearer Olaf, 
Eternal King of Norway - 29th of July
Apolytikion in Tone V
Desiring the supernal glory of God, thou didst toil for Him to the end of thine earthly life; and, having laboured well, thou didst increase the talant He entrusted to thy care, being faithful to Him even to the shedding of thy blood. Wherefore, as a martyr thou hast received a crown for thy pangs from the right hand of Christ our God, Whom do thou earnestly entreat, that we be saved who hymn thee, O glorious King Olaf.
Kontakion in Tone VIII
With the faithful of Norway let us praise the divinely wise king as is meet, for he was a most excellent champion of piety and an undaunted martyr for the Truth of Christ. As he hath boldness before the Lord our God, let us beseech him to ask mercy for us who glorify him, that with gladness we may cry aloud: Rejoice, O ever-memorable Olaf!

St. Olaf was born in 995, the son of a Norwegian lord named Harald Grenske, the great grandson of Harald Fairhair, and Asta Gudbransdatter. Olaf grew up in the household of his stepfather, Sigurd Byr of Ringarike. From the age of 12, he went on expeditions to the Baltic coast, Denmark and the Netherlands. Between 1009 and 1013 he fought under Thorkell the Tall against the English at London, Ringmere and Canterbury. For a time he was a captain of mercenaries for Duke Richard of Normandy, and in 1013 or 1014 he was converted to the Faith of Christ and baptized in Rouen. Then he entered the service of the exiled English King Ethelred and followed him back to England, where he fought on the English side at the taking of London Bridge. When the Danish King Canute conquered England, Olaf joined his service.

According to The Saga of St. Olaf, the two men were at first great friends. However, King Canute then became jealous of the younger man. Moreover, the Saga continues, "the bishop [St. Sigfrid, enlightener of Sweden] always waited for Olaf at Divine service, but not for Canute, and the bishop called Olaf king, and this Canute could not bear to hear, and spoke to the bishop about it in such strong words that the latter had to desist, because of the king's authority, for the king's heart was filled to overflowing with pride and ambition, because of his power and place. So things went on until it came to Lent. Then Canute began to speak to Sigfrid: 'Is it true that you called Olaf by the title of king this winter? Now how do you defend your words, when he has no settled country nor wears a crown?'

"'It is true, my lord,' said the bishop, 'that he has no land here, and he wears no crown of gold or silver. Nay, rather is he chosen and crowned by the highest Lord and Ruler, the King of all kings, the one almighty God, to rule and govern that kingdom to which he is born, and this special destiny awaits him, to rule a kingdom for the comfort and profit of the people, and to yield to God the fitting fruit of his coming into his kingdom. All the people in Norway and the lands tributary to it, and not these parts only, but no less the whole of the region of the north as well, shall have reason to remember and keep in mind this pillar and support of God's Christendom, who will root out all brambles and weeds from God's field and vineyard, and sow in their stead the noble seed of God's holy words. All these words will flourish and come to perfect growth, and every man who accepts them will himself be acceptable to the highest King of heaven, world without end.'

"King Canute said: 'You cannot be said to have made good the words which we are told you have spoken, my lord Bishop, declaring that he outshines us in miraculous virtues, above all if you make so great a distinction between us, that you declare that we show no virtues at all.'

"'You have heard rightly concerning these words of ours,' said the bishop.

"King Canute said: 'It avails me little, then, to chastise myself more than King Olaf, if I am bound to fall short of him in some respect, for now, since Lent has begun, I wear a linen and not a silken shirt, a scarlet kirtle, and not one of velvet or purple. I drink also ale and not mead. But Olaf wears a shirt of silk and a kirtle of velvet. He has the choicest foods prepared for him, and a vessel of wine stands on his table.'

"The bishop said: 'It is true, my lord, that Olaf wears a shirt of silk, but he wears a hair-cloth under the shirt, and a belt about his body so broad that it reaches from hip to shoulder-blade, and iron extending from it in front. You will always see that when King Olaf takes his seat and the choicest foods are brought before him, there is a mound in the place where he is wont to sit. There is hidden a cripple, and it is he that eats the dainties, but Olaf eats salt and bread. There is also a vessel of water, and this Olaf drinks, and has no more to drink than that, but it is the cripple that drinks out of the wine-cup.'

"Then King Canute was so enraged against Bishop Sigfrid, that King Olaf could not stay there because of the jealousy of King Canute, and a little later it went the same way with Bishop Sigfrid."

In 1015 Olaf and Sigfrid went to Norway, where Olaf succeeded in seizing the kingdom in spite of much opposition. First, by distributing money, and with the support of his kinsmen on the Opplands, he gained control of Ostland. Then, on Palm Sunday, March 25th, 1016, he conquered the country's principal chieftains, Sven Hakonsson Jarl, Einar Tambarskjelve, and Erling Skjalgsson, in the sea battle at Nesjar (between Larviksfjord and Lengesundsfjord). In the same year he was accepted as King at the Oreting in Trondelag.

He had a comparatively peaceful reign for almost 10 years, and during this period considerably advanced the unification of Norway. Olaf's work of unification assumed concrete form as territorial dominion over a kingdom which extended from Gautelven in the south up to Finnmark in the north, from the Vesterhav islands in the west to the forests toward the realm of the Swedes in the east. Olaf was the first high king who secured real control over the inland areas of Trondelag and Opplandene. Moreover, he gained a foothold for the Norwegian national kingdom on the Orkney islands and Hjaltland.

Olaf also laid the foundation for nationwide local government and introduced a certain division of labor among the royal housecarls. He installed sheriffs recruited from the nobility and the landed gentry throughout the country and tried by means of his year-men to keep control of the political activities of the sheriffs. According to Snorre a division of labor seems to have occurred in the King's household into actual housecarls (military functions), guests (police functions), house chaplains, and churls (duties within the palace). Moreover, several titles of the masters of the King's court are known from this time: standard-bearer, King's Marshal, House Bishop.

With the aid of his English missionaries he succeeded in making Norway Christian. At the meeting of the Ting (Parliament) At Moster, Bomlo in Sunnhordland (1024), Norway acquired a nationwide ecclesiastical organization with churches and priests, a Christian legal system and a first organization of the Church's finances. Gwyn Jones writes: "The Christian law formulated at Moster was of prime authority; it was read out at the different Things, and there are confirmatory references to it in the oldest Gulathing Law." The king established peace and security for his people, remaking old laws and insisting on their execution, unaffected by bribes or threats. He built many churches, including one dedicated to St. Clement at the capital, Nidaros (Trondheim). All other faiths except Christianity were outlawed.

At the beginning of his reign St. Olaf did not enjoy good relations with Sweden; for the Swedish King Olof Skotkonung had seized a portion of Norway in about the year 1000. However, through the mediation of St. Anna, King Olof's daughter, it was agreed that St. Olaf should marry his other daughter Astrid, and relations between the two Christian kings were restored. In this way the foundations were laid for the Christianization of the whole of Scandinavia.

After the death of the King Olof in 1022, St. Olaf made an alliance with his son Anund Jacob against Canute of England and Denmark. For Canute's hatred had not been extinguished; and the jealousy of this Cain was destined both to open a fruitful mission-field and to provide a martyr's crown for the latter day Abel. But in 1026 the allies were defeated by Canute at Helgean in Skane, Sweden.

Then, as Florence of Worcester writes, "since it was intimated to Canute, king of the English and Danes, that the Norwegians greatly despised their king, Olaf, for his simplicity and gentleness, his justice and piety, he sent a large sum of gold and silver to certain of them, requesting them with many entreaties to reject and desert Olaf, and submit to him and let him reign over them. And when they had accepted with great avidity the things which he had sent, they sent a message back to him that they would be ready to receive him whenever he pleased to come." So the next year (1028), "Canute, king of the English and Danes, sailed to Norway with 50 great ships, and drove out King Olaf and subjected it to himself," appointing the Danish earl Hakon, son of Eirik Jarl, whom Olaf had banished in 1015, as his viceroy.

Olaf decided to flee to Sweden and thence to the court of his kinsman, Yaroslav of Kiev, whose father, the famous St. Vladimir, had given shelter to Olaf Tryggvason in his youth. And it was the same Olaf Tryggvason who appeared to his successor and namesake one night and said:

"Are you sick at heart over which plan to take up? It seems strange to me that you are pondering so much, and similarly that you are thinking of laying down the kingdom which God has given you, and moreover that you are thinking of staying here and taking a kingdom [Bulgaria] from kings who are foreign and strangers to you. Rather go back to your kingdom which you have taken as your inheritance and have long ruled over with the strength God has given you, and do not let your underlings make you afraid. It is to a king's honor to win victories over his foes, and an honorable death to fall in battle with his men. Or are you not sure whether you have the right in this struggle? You will not act so as to deny your true right. You can boldly strive for the land, for God will bear you witness that it is your own possession."

In 1029 Hakon died in a shipwreck in the Pentland Firth on his way home to Norway. This gave Olaf his opportunity. Early in 1030 he set off for Norway over the frozen Russian rivers. When the sea-ice broke, he sailed to Gotland with 240 men. King Anund of Sweden gave him 480 more, but when he faced Canute's army at Stikrlarstadir, he had no more than 3600 men (Swedes, Jamtlanders from Northern Sweden, Icelanders and his Norwegian companions) against a peasant army 14,400 mrn - the largest army ever assembled in Norway.

Then, like Gideon, the saint decided to reduce his numbers by choosing only Christians to fight in his army. So he was eventually opposed by overwhelmingly larger forces. And as the sun went into total eclipse on July 29, 1030 (July 30, according to modern astronomers), his army was defeated and he himself was killed, as had been revealed to him in a vision just before the battle.

But immediately a great fear fell on the soldiers of Canute's army. And then miracles began to be manifested at St. Olaf's body: a light was seen over it at night; a blind man recovered his sight on pressing his fingers, dipped in the saint's blood, to his eyes; springs of water with healing properties flowed from his grave; and then, to the chagrin of Canute's first wife, Elgiva, and her son King Swein of Denmark, his body was found to be incorrupt. Soon the penitent Norwegians expelled the Danes, and recalled Olaf's son Magnus from Russia to be their king.

The incorruption of Olaf's body was certified by his loyal Bishop Grimkel, whose see was Nidaros (Trondheim). As we read in St. Olaf's Saga: "Bishop Grimkel went to meet Einar Tambarskelver, who greeted the bishop gladly. They afterwards talked about many things and especially about the great events which had taken place in the land. They were agreed among themselves on all matters. The bishop then went into the market and the whole crowd greeted him. He asked carefully about the miracles which were related of King Olaf and learned a great deal from this questioning. Then the bishop sent word to Torgils and his son Grim at Stiklastad, calling them to meet him in the town. Torgils and his son did not delay their journey, and they went to meet the bishop in the town. Then they told him all the remarkable things which they knew and also the place where they had hidden the king's body. The bishop then sent word to Einar Tambarskelver, and Einar came to the town. Einar and the bishop then had a talk with the king and Elgiva and asked the king to allow them to take up King Olaf's body from the earth. The king gave permission, and told the bishop to do it as he wished. Then a great crowd assembled in the town. The bishop and Einar then went with some men to the place where the king's body was buried and had it dug up. The coffin had by this time almost risen out of the earth. In accordance with the advice of many, the bishop had the king buried in the ground beside St. Clement's church. It was twelve months and five days from the death of the king to the day his holy relics were taken up, the coffin having risen out of the earth and looking as new as if it had just been planned. Bishop Grimkel then went to the opened coffin of King Olaf, from which there proceeded a precious fragrance. The bishop then uncovered the king's face, and it was completely unchanged: the cheeks were red as if he had just fallen asleep. Those who had seen King Olaf when he fell noticed a great difference in that his hair and nails had grown almost as much as they would have done if he had been alive in this world all the time since his fall. King Swein and all the chiefs who were there then went to see King Olaf's body.

"Then Elgiva said: 'A body rots very slowly in sand; it would not have been so if he had lain in mould.'

"The bishop then took a pair of scissors and cut off some of the king's hair and also some of his beard (he had a long beard, as was the custom at that time). Then the bishop said to the king and Elgiva:

"'Now the king's hair and beard are as long as when he died, and since then they have grown as much as you now see shorn off.'

"Then Elgiva answered: 'This hair will be a holy relic to me if it does not burn in the fire; we have often seen the hair of men who have lain longer in the earth than this man whole and unscathed.'

"The bishop then had fire brought in on a censer. He made the sign of the cross over it and put incense in it. Then he laid King Olaf's hair in the fire. And when all the incense had burned the bishop took up the hair from the fire and it was not burned. The bishop let the king and the other chiefs see it. Then Elgiva ordered them to lay the hair in unhallowed fire. But Einar Tambarskelver ordered her to be silent and said many hard words to her. Then the bishop declared, and the king agreed, and the people deemed, that King Olaf was truly holy. The king's body was then borne into St. Clement's church and placed over the high altar. The coffin was wrapped in a pall and over it was placed a beautiful cover. And then many miracles took place at the holy relics of King Olaf."

King Canute made no opposition to the veneration of St. Olaf, and churches dedicated to the saint were soon being built throughout the Viking world, from Dublin to the Orkneys to Novgorod. Forty ancient churches were dedicated to St. Olaf in Britain, and his feast occurs on several English calendars.

It was in connection with a miracle attributed to St. Olaf that a chapel was dedicated to him in Constantinople. Thus Bishop Ambrose von Sievers writes: "From other sources I have established that the Panagia Varangiotissa was situated by the western facade of Hagia Sophia, almost touching it. In about the reign of Alexis Comnenus (or a little earlier) St. Olaf was included among the saints of Constantinople and in the church of the Varangian Mother of God a side-chapel was built in honor of St. Olaf, while the old church itself was transformed into a church to which a women's monastery was attached."

According to the medieval Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, in 1066 as St. Olaf's half-brother, King Harald of Norway was preparing to invade England, he dreamed that he was in Trondheim and met St. Olaf there. Olaf told him that he had won many victories and died in holiness because he had stayed in Norway. But now he feared that he, Harald, would meet his death, "and wolves will rend your body; God is not to blame." Snorri wrote that "many other dreams and portents were reported at the time, and most of them were ominous." Harald was killed, in accordance with the prophecy of St. Olaf, at the Battles of Stamford Bridge in England.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

How did the early Church view nationalism?

"For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life…But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. [Emphasis mine] They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted. They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are in need of everything, yet they abound in everything. They are dishonoured, yet they are glorified in their dishonour; they are slandered, yet they are vindicated. They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life. By the Jews they are assaulted as foreigners, and by the Greeks they are persecuted, yet those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility.
In a word, what the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but is not out of the body; likewise Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world. The soul, which is invisible, is confined in the body; which is visible; in the same way, Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible."
Letter to Diognetus 5:1-6:4
in Holmes, Michael W. (ed. trans), The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and 
English Translation (3rd ed.), Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007, pp.701-5

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Commentary on the Creed

The articles of the Orthodox Symbol of Faith accompanied
by a selection of passages from the works of St. Cyril of Jerusalem

I believe
“For God seeks nothing else from us, save a good purpose. Say not, ‘How are my sins blotted out?’ I tell you, from willing, from believing; what is shorter than this? But if your lips declare your willingness, but your heart is silent, the one who judges you knows the heart.” [Protocatechesis 8]

“Just as a writing-reed or a dart has need of one to use it, so does grace require believing minds.” [Catechetical Lectures 1:3]

in one God
“Lay then in your souls as a sure foundation the doctrine concerning God: That God is only one, unbegotten, unoriginated, unchangeable, unalterable: neither by another begotten nor having another to succeed Him in His being: who neither began in time to be, nor shall ever have an end.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:4]

“We explain not what God is; but we honestly confess that we have no exact knowledge of Him; for on the subject of God, it is great knowledge to confess our want of knowledge…It suffices us for devotion, to know that we have a God; a God who is One, a God who is, is always; always like unto Himself; and has no Father, none mightier than Himself, no successor to dispossess Him of His kingdom: manifold in name, all-powerful, in substance uniform.” [Catechetical Lectures 6:2,7]

“Fly from the error of many gods; fly from all heresy.” [Catechetical Lectures 8:8]

First Ecumenical Council in Nicea
“It is not enough to believe in One God: we must receive with reverence this also, that He is the Father of the Only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ. For thus our view of religion will rise above the Jewish. For the Jews receive indeed the doctrine of One God…but they deny that He is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…For the name of the Father, in its very utterance implies the Son: as in like manner to name the Son, is at once to imply the Father also. For if He is a Father, plainly the Father of a Son; and if a Son, plainly the Son of a Father…God then, though He is in an improper sense the Father of many things, yet by nature and in truth is Father of One only, the Only-begotten Son our Lord, Jesus Christ: not becoming so in course of time, but being from everlasting the Father of the Only-begotten; not first without Son, and then becoming a Father, by a change of purpose; but before all substance, and all intelligence, before times and all ages, God has the prerogative of Father; and more honoured is this than in all the rest. A father, not by passion, not by union, not in ignorance, not by effluence, not by diminution, not by alteration.” [Catechetical Lectures 7:1-2,4-5]

“By belief ‘in one God,’ we utterly eradicate the mis-belief in many gods, using it as a weapon against the Greeks, and every opposing power of heretics: and by adding, ‘in one God the Father,’ we oppose those of the circumcision, who deny the Only-begotten Son of God…Now we add to this, that He is also ‘Almighty;’ and that, because of the Jews and Greeks together, and all heretics. For some of the Greeks have said that God is the soul of the world. Others again, that His power reaches only to heaven, but not to earth as well…And heretics again…acknowledge not One Almighty God. For He is Almighty, whose might is over all things, who has power over all things. But they who say that there is one God, the Lord of the soul, and another the Lord of the body, make neither of them perfect, because each lacks what the other has…But according to Holy Scripture, and the doctrines of truth, there is but One God, who has dominion over all things by His power, and suffers many things of His will. For He has dominion even over the idolaters, but He suffers them of His forbearance; and over even the heretics who deny Him, but He suffers them in His patience; over the devil too, but He suffers with him, of His patience, not from want of power, as if foiled…Nothing then is excepted from the range of God’s power.” [Catechetical Lectures 8:1-5]

“The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not confined to any place…He is in and around all things…He foresees the future: He is mightier than all things: He knows all things, and does what He wills; not subjected to antecedents or consequents, or to nativities, or chance, or fate; in all things prefect, and possessing in Himself the absolute form of every excellence; neither waning, nor increasing, but in mode and circumstance ever the same; who has prepared chastisement for the sinners, and a crown for the righteous.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:5]

Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible
“There is then only one God, the Maker of both souls and bodies: there is one the Artificer of heavens and earth, the Maker both of Angels and Archangels, - the Creator of many things, but the Father of One only before the worlds, even of His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom He made all things, visible and invisible.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:4]

“Heretics have dared to say that say, that there are two Gods, a source of good, and a source of evil, and that both of these are unoriginate…At one time they say, that as to the world’s creation the evil god has nothing in common with the good God…They say that the good God is the Father of Christ…and the world, according to them, was made by the evil god. [Catechetical Lectures 6:13]

“The Divine Nature then with the eyes of the flesh we cannot see, but from the Divine works we may obtain some idea of His power…[W]e say, ‘We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;’ that we may remember that the same is both the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Maker of heaven and earth, and thus secure ourselves against the bye paths of ungodly heretics, who have dared to speak evil of the All-wise Artificer of this world…No one must tolerate such as say, that the Maker of light is different from the Maker of darkness.” [Catechetical Lectures 9:4,7]

And in one Lord, Jesus Christ
“They who have been taught to believe in One God, the Father Almighty, ought also to believe in His Only-begotten Son; for whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father [1 John 2:23]…If then a man wishes to be religious towards God, let him worship the Son; since otherwise the Father accepts not his service…Be not inveigled by the Jews, who craftily say, ‘There is only One God;’ but together with the knowledge that God is one, know also that God has an Only-begotten Son…We say One Lord Jesus Christ, to signify that God’s Son is Only-begotten; we say, ‘One,’ lest you should suppose another.” [Catechetical Lectures 10:1-3]

“He is called Christ, the Anointed; not anointed by human hands, but having eternally from the Father an unction to be High-Priest over man…He has two names, Jesus Christ; Jesus, because He saves, - Christ, because of His priesthood…Jesus then means among the Hebrews, ‘a Saviour,’ but in the Greek tongue, ‘a Healer:’ seeing that He is Physician of souls and bodies, and curer of spirits…Kings among men have a royal style, which they keep to themselves; but Jesus Christ being the Son of God, has counted us worthy to be called ‘Christians.’ You are called Christians; be tender of that Name; let not our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, be blasphemed through you, but rather let your good deeds shine before men; that they who see them may, in our Lord Jesus Christ, glorify the Father who is in heaven.”  [Catechetical Lectures 10:4,13,16,20]

the only-begotten Son of God
“We must not simply believe in Jesus Christ, nor receive Him, as if one of the many, improperly called christs. For they were figurative christs, but He is the true Christ, not raised by advancement from among men to the Priesthood, but having this dignity eternally from the Father. And for this cause the Faith guarding us beforehand, lest we should suppose Him to be one of the ordinary christs, adds to the profession of the Faith, that we believe ‘in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God.’ And again, when you hear of the Son, think Him not an adopted Son, but a Son naturally, a Son Only-begotten, having no other for His brother; for therefore is He called Only-begotten, because in the dignity of the Godhead, and in His generation of the Father, He has no brother. But we call Him the Son of God, not of ourselves, but because the Father Himself named Christ His Son; and that name is true which is given to children by their fathers…Our Lord Jesus Christ then became man; but by the many He was not known. Wishing, therefore, to teach that which was not known, He assembled His disciples, and asked them, Whom say men, that I, the Son of Man, am? Not from vain-glory, but wishing to show them the truth, lest dwelling with God, the Only-begotten of God, they should think lightly of Him as if He were a mere man…Again, I say, when you hear of the Son, hear of Him as a Son, not merely in an improper sense, but in a true sense, as a Son by nature, unoriginate; not as having come from bondage into the higher state of adoption, but as a Son eternally begotten, by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation. And in like manner, when you hear of the First-born, think not that this is according to men; for the first-born among men have other brothers also.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:1-4]

begotten from the Father before all ages
“He was not begotten to be other than He was before, but was begotten from the beginning, the Son of the Father, being above all beginning and all ages…He is then the Son of God by nature, and not by adoption, begotten of the Father…But when you hear of God’s begetting, fall not upon bodily things: think not of corruptible generation, lest you be profane. God is a Spirit: [John 4:24] spiritual is His generation: for bodies beget bodies, and need that time should intervene; but time intervenes not in the generation of the Son from the Father. And in the one case what is begotten, is begotten imperfect; but the Son of God was begotten perfect; for what He is now, that is He from the beginning, being begotten without beginning. And we are begotten, so as to pass from infantine ignorance to a state of reason; your generation, O man, is imperfect, for your increase is progressive. But think not that it is thus with Him, nor impute defect in power to Him who begat: for if that which He begat was imperfect, and in time received perfection, you impute defect in power to Him who begat; since that which time afterwards bestowed, this, according to you, the Father from beginning did not bestow. Think not, therefore, that this generation is human, as Abraham begat Isaac. For when Abraham begat Isaac, he begat, not whom he wanted, but whom another bestowed on him. But in God the Father’s begetting, there is no ignorance nor intermediate deliberation. For to say that He knew not what was begotten is the greatest impiety; and it is as great to say that after deliberation held in time, He afterwards became a Father. For God was not before without a Son, and afterwards in time became a Father; but He has the Son eternally, having begotten Him, not as men beget men, but as only He knows, who begat Him before all ages, True God.” [The Catechetical Lectures 11:4-8]

“The Father begat the Son, not as among men mind begets thought. For the mind in us is something subsisting; but our thought, when uttered, is scattered abroad in the air and comes to an end. But we know Christ to be begotten, not as a word sent forth, but a Word subsisting and living; not spoken by the lips, and dispersed, but eternally and ineffably begotten of the Father and in a Person…Nor did He first resolve, and afterwards begat Him; but He begat Him eternally, and far more quickly than our words or thoughts; for we speaking in time, take up time; but in the case of the Divine Power, the generation is apart from time…Allow not any who say, that the beginning of the Son is in time; but acknowledge the Father, as that Beginning apart from time; for the Father is the Beginning of the Son, timeless, incomprehensible, without beginning; the Father is the fountain of the river of righteousness, even of the Only-begotten; who begat Him as only He knows. And would you know, that our Lord Jesus Christ is likewise King Eternal? Listen again to Him when He says, Your father Abraham rejoiced greatly to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad. [John 8:56] Then, when the Jews received this hardly, He says again to them something yet harder; Before Abraham was, I am. [v.58] And again, He says to the Father, And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was; [John 17:5] for He has plainly said, ‘before the world was, I had glory with Thee.’ And again, when He says, for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world, [v.24] He evidently declares, ‘I have eternal glory with Thee’.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:10,14,20]

Light from Light, true God from true God
“The Son of the Father [is] in all things like to Him who begat Him, eternal of an eternal Father, Life of Life begotten, and Light of Light, and Truth of Truth, and Wisdom of Wisdom, and a King of a King, and God of God, and Power of Power…He is then the Son of God by nature, and not by adoption, begotten of the Father…For the Father being true God, begat the Son like to Himself, true God. Not as teachers beget disciples, as Paul says to some, In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. [1 Cor. 4:15] For in this case he who was not a son by nature, became a son by discipleship; but in the case before us, He is a son naturally, a son truly…for at the time of His baptism [the Father] addressing Him with the words, ‘This is My Son,’ He said not, ‘This is now become My Son,’ but, ‘This is  My Son:’ that He might make manifest, that even before the operation of baptism, He was a Son.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:4,7,9]

begotten not made
“He did not bring the Son from nothing into being, nor take him who was not into sonship; but the Father, being Eternal, eternally and ineffably begat One Only Son, who has no brother. Nor are there two first principles; but the Father is the head of the Son; [1 Cor 11:3] One is the beginning.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:14]

“[The Son is] Himself God of all things, yet styling the Father, His own God; for He is not ashamed to say, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. [John 20:17] But let you should think that He is the Father of the Son and of the creatures in a like sense, He has in what follows signified a difference. For He said not, ‘I ascend to our Father,’ lest the creatures should be made fellows of the Only-begotten: but He said, ‘My Father, and your Father;’ in one way Mine, by nature, - in another yours, by adoption. And again, ‘to My God, and your God;’ in one way Mine, as His True and Only-begotten Son; in another yours, as being His workmanship. The Son of God then is True God, ineffably begotten before all ages.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:18-19]

consubstantial with the Father
“Believe [that] Our Lord Jesus Christ [is] like in all things to Him that begat Him: [He] began not His existence in time, but was before all ages eternally and incomprehensibly begotten of the Father and is God’s Wisdom and Power, and Righteousness personally subsisting…together with the Father reigning…wanting nothing to the dignity of Godhead, and knowing His Father, even as He is known by His Father…And neither should you separate the Son from the Father, nor by confusing them together believe that the Son is the Father. But believe that of One God is One Only-begotten Son, who was before all ages, God the Word: the Word, not uttered externally and dispersed abroad in the air, nor like to words impersonal, but the Word, the Son, the Maker of all who have the Word, the Word who hears the Father and Himself speak.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:8]

“He said in the Gospel, The Father is in Me and I am in the Father. [John 14:11] He said not, I am the Father, but, the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father. And again, He said not, I and the Father am one, but, I and the Father are one; that we should neither separate them, nor so confound them, as to make the Son the Father. One they are, in respect of the attributes which belong to Godhead, since God has begotten God. One, from consideration of their kingdom; for the Father does not reign over these, and the Son over those…but that kingdom which the Father has, the same has the Son likewise. One they are, because there is no disagreement or division between them; for the will of the Father is not one, and that of the Son another. One, because the works of Christ are not one, and the Father’s other…The Son then is Very God, having the Father in Himself, not changed into the Father; for the Father was not made man, but the Son…The Father suffered not for us; but the Father sent Him who should suffer for us. Neither let us ever say, ‘There was a time, when the Son was not’; nor let us admit that the Son is the Father. But let us walk in the king’s highway; let us turn aside neither to the right-hand nor to the left. Neither let us, thinking to honour the Son, call Him the Father; nor, supposing to honour the Father, imagine the Son to be some of the creatures. But let the One Father through the One Son be worshipped, and let not their worship be separated…Let us neither make a separation nor confusion between the Father and the Son; and neither should you ever say, that the Son is foreign to the Father, nor give way to them who say, that the Father is at one time the Father, at another, the Son; for these things are strange and impious, and not the doctrines of the Church. But the Father, having begotten the Son, remains the Father, and is not changed. He begat Wisdom, yet retained Wisdom Himself; and begat Power, yet became not weak; He begat God, He lost not His Godhead; and neither has He Himself lost anything, by diminution or change, nor has He who was begotten any thing wanting. Perfect is He who begat, perfect is That which was begotten; He who begat, is God, He who was begotten, is God.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:16-18]

through Him all things were made
“When the Father proposed to form all things, the Son at the will of the Father, created all things, that the act of willing might secure origination to the Father, and the Son in turn might be sovereign over His own workmanship, - the Father not separated from lordship over His own works, and the Son reigning over things created not by others, but by Himself. For, as I have said, neither did the Angels create the world, but the Only-begotten Son, who was begotten, as I have said, before all ages; by whom all things were made, nothing being excepted from His creation.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:22]

“Christ made all things, whether you speak of Angels or Archangels, Dominions or Thrones. Not that the Father availed not to create the works Himself; but He willed the Son to reign over His own workmanship, Himself giving to Him the design of the things to be made…And this may we most certainly know from the Old and New Testaments. For when He said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, [Genesis 1:26] it is manifest that He addressed some one present. But most decisive of all are the words of the Psalmist, He spake, and they were made: He commanded, and they were created; [Psalm 148:5] as if the Father bade and spoke, and the Son created all things at His will…He who through His loving-kindness descended into hades, at the first created man out of clay. Christ then is the Only-begotten Son of God, and the Maker of the world…Not only of the things which appear, but also of the things which appear not, is Christ the Maker, at the will of the Father.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:23-24]

For our sake and for our salvation, He came down from heaven
“The Lord heard the prayer of the Prophets. The Father did not overlook our race which was perishing; He sent His own Son, the Lord from heaven, to be our Physician.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:8]

and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
The Annunciation
“Believe that He, the Only-begotten Son of God, for our sins came down from heaven to the earth, having taken a manhood of like feelings with us, and being born of the Holy Virgin and the Holy Spirit, not in appearance or imagination, but in truth: nor did He pass through the Virgin as through a channel; but truly took flesh of her, and of her was truly nourished with milk, and truly ate as we do, and truly drank as we do: for if the Incarnation was a phantom, salvation likewise is a phantom.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:9]

“We receive God the Word, who was truly made man, not of the will of man and woman, as the heretics say, but made man of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit according to the Gospel, not in appearance, but in reality…Heretics go wrong on many ways. Some of them altogether deny that He was born of the Virgin; others say that He was born, yet not of a virgin, but of a woman married to a husband. And others say that Christ was not God made man, but that a man was made God; for they have dared to say that it was not the pre-existing Word who became man, but that a certain man by advancement was crowned… Let us loathe them also, who say that the birth of the Saviour was of a man and woman, and who dare to say that it was of Joseph and Mary, because it is written, And he took unto him his wife. [Matthew 1:24] For let us call to mind Jacob, who before he had received Rachel said to Laban, Give me my wife; [Genesis 29:21] for like as she, in virtue of the promise only, was called the wife of Jacob, before the marriage took place, so also Mary, in that she was betrothed, was called the wife of Joseph.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:3,31]

“The Holy Spirit…came upon the Holy Virgin Mary; for since He who was born was Christ the Only-begotten, the power of the Highest overshadowed her, and the Holy Spirit coming upon her, [Luke 1:35] sanctified her, that she might be able to receive Him, by whom all things were made. [John 1:2] I have no need of using many words for you to learn that the birth was without defilement or taint.” [Catechetical Lectures 17:6]

“Since through Eve, a vigin, came death, it was necessary that through a virgin, or rather from a virgin, life should appear; that as the serpent had deceived the one, so to the other Gabriel might bring good tidings.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:15]

“The Archangel Gabriel is His witness, bringing good tidings to many; the Virgin Theotokos is His witness; the blessed manger is His witness.” [Catechetical Lectures 10:19]

and became man
The Nativity of Christ
“The Lord took on Him what man required. For since man sought to be addressed by one of like countenance, the Saviour took on Him a nature of like affections, that men might more readily be taught…Men, having forsaken God, made images in the form of men; since then that which was in the form of man was untruly worshipped, God became truly man, that untruth might be destroyed…By those very weapons then have we been saved, by which the devil was used to vanquished us. The Lord took of us a like nature with us, that He might save human nature. He took a like nature with us, that to that which lacked He might give the larger grace; that sinful humanity might be made partaker of God.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:14-15]

“Christ was twofold, Man in what was seen, God in what was not seen: eating truly as Man like us, (for He had like feelings of the flesh with us,) but feeding with the five loaves the five thousand as God: dying as Man truly, but as God raising him who had been four days dead: sleeping in the ship truly as Man, and walking on the waters as God… Although he was despised of men and beaten as a man, yet He was acknowledged by the creature as God; for the sun, beholding his Lord outraged, hid his light in trembling, not enduring the sight.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:9-10]

“For neither is it religious to worship the mere man, nor is it pious to speak of Him as God only, separate from His manhood. For if Christ, as He truly is, be God, but took not manhood, we are aliens from salvation. Be He then adored as God, but let it be believed that He became man; for neither is there any profit in calling Him man without His Godhead, nor is it salutary, if we confess not His manhood together with His Godhead. Let us confess the presence of the King, and the Physician.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:1]

He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate
“He was crucified for our sins truly, should you be disposed to deny it, the very place which all can see refutes you, this blessed Golgotha, in which, on account of Him who was crucified on it, we are now assembled: and further, the whole world is filled with the portions of the wood of the Cross.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:10]

“Every deed of Christ is a boast of the Catholic Church, but her boasts of boasts is the Cross; and knowing this, Paul says, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Christ. [Galatians 6:14]…Now the glory of the Cross has led into light those who were blind through ignorance, has loosed all who were held fast by sin, and has ransomed the whole world of men. And wonder not that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:1]

“He was glorified as God always; but now He was glorified in bearing the Crown of His patience. He gave not up His life by force, nor was He put to death violently, but of His own accord. Hear what He says, I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again; [John 10:18] I yield it of My own choice to My enemies; for unless I chose, this could not be. He came therefore of His own set purpose to His passion, rejoicing in His noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of men; not ashamed of the Cross, for it saved the world. For it was no common man who suffered, but God in man’s nature, striving for the prize of His patience… Adam by the Tree fell; you by the Tree are brought to Paradise. Fear not the serpent; he shall not cast you out; for he is fallen from heaven. [Luke 10:18]” [Catechetical Lectures 13:6,31]

“These things the Saviour endured, making peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven and things in earth. [Colossians 1:20] For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. One of two things therefore had to happen: either that God, keeping His words, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness, He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both to His sentence its truth, and to His loving-kindness its exercise. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live to righteousness. [1 Peter 2:24] Of no small account was He who died for us; He was not a literal sheep; He was not a mere man; He was more than an Angel; He was God made man. The transgression of sinners was not so great, as the righteousness of Him who died for them; we have not committed as much sin as He has wrought righteousness who laid down His life for us, - who laid it down when He pleased, and took it again when He pleased.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:33]

“He stretched out His hands on the Cross, that He might encompass the ends of the world; for this Golgotha is the very centre of the earth.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:28]

and suffered
“Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also. His death was not in appearance, for then is our salvation also a tale.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:4]

and was buried
“He was laid truly as man in a tomb of rock, but the rocks burst asunder through fear because of Him. He descended to the regions beneath the earth, that from thence also He might redeem the just. For, tell me, could you wish the living only to enjoy His grace, and that, though most of them are unholy; and not wish those who from Adam had for a long while been imprisoned to have now gained their liberty?” [Catechetical Lectures 4:11]

“His body then was made to bait death withal, to the end that the dragon hoping to devour Him, might cast forth those whom he had already devoured.” [Catechetical Lectures 12:15]

He rose again on the third day
“But He who descended to the regions beneath the earth, again ascended from there, and Jesus who was buried, rose again truly on the third day.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:12]

“Now therefore the Dead is risen, - He who was free among the dead, [Psalm 88:5] and the deliverer of the dead. He, whose head was bound, by reason of His patience, was bound in scorn with the crown of thorns, has now, being risen, put on the diadem of His victory over death...Death was struck with dismay on beholding a new visitant descending into Hades, not bound by the chains of that place. Why, o porters of Hades, were you scared when you saw Him? What unwonted fear seized you? Death fled, and his flight betrayed his cowardice. The holy prophets ran unto Him, and Moses the Lawgiver, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; David also, and Samuel, and Esaias, and John the Baptist, who bore witness when he asked, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another? [Matthew 11:3] All the Just were ransomed, whom death had devoured; for it behooved the King who had been heralded, to become the redeemer of His noble heralds. Then each of the Just said, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? [1 Corinthians 15:55] For the Conqueror has redeemed us.” [Catechetical Lectures 14:1,19]

in accordance with the Scriptures
“For all things concerning Christ are put into writing, and nothing is doubtful, for nothing is without a text. All things are inscribed on the monuments of the Prophets; clearly written not on tablets of stone, but by the hand of the Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 13:8]

“For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn side by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell you these things, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:17]

and ascended into heaven
“And Jesus having finished His race of patience, and having redeemed men from their sins, ascended again into the heaven, a cloud receiving Him: and Angels stood by as He went up, and Apostles gazed.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:13]

“Think not that because He is absent in the flesh, He is therefore absent also in the Spirit. He is here present in the midst of us, listening to what is said of Him, and beholding what is in your mind.” [Catechetical Lectures 14:30]

and is seated at the right hand of the Father
“Concerning the Son’s sitting at the right hand of the Father…let us not curiously pry into what is properly meant by the throne, for it is incomprehensible: nor endure those who falsely say, that it was after His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, that the Son began to sit on the right hand of the Father. For the Son gained not His throne by advancement; but from the time that He is, (and He is ever begotten), He also sits together with the Father.” [Catechetical Lectures 14:27]

“Let the One Son be proclaimed, who before the ages sits at the right hand of the Father; partaking in His throne eternally, not by advancement in time, after His passion.” [Catechetical Lectures 11:17]

“For the throne at God’s right hand He received not, as some have thought, because of His patient endurance, being crowned as it were by God after His Passion; but throughout His being – a being by eternal generation – He holds His royal dignity, and shares the Father’s seat.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:7]

He is coming again in glory
“We preach not one advent only of Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the former. For the former gave to view His patience; but the latter brings with it the crown of the divine kingdom. For all things, to speak generally, are twofold in our Lord Jesus Christ. His generation is twofold: the one, of God, before the worlds; the other, of the Virgin in the end of the world. His descent is twofold: one was in obscurity, like the dew on the fleece; the second is His open coming, which is to be. In His former advent, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger; in His second, He covereth Himself with light as with a garment. [Psalm 104:2] In His first coming, He endured the Cross, despising the shame; [Hebrews 12:2] in His second, He comes attended by the Angelic host, receiving glory. Let us not then rest in His first advent, but look also for His second.” [Catechetical Lectures 15:1]

“This Jesus Christ, who has ascended, is coming again from heaven, not from earth. And I say, not from earth, because many antichrists are now come from the earth; for, as you have seen, many have already begun to say, I am Christ: [Matthew 24:5,15] and besides there is to come the Abomination of Desolation, usurping the name of Christ. But look for the true Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, who is henceforth to come not from the earth, but from heaven, appearing to all more bright than any lightning or other brilliance.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:15]

to judge the living and the dead
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, comes from heaven; and He comes in glory at the end of this world, in the last day. For this world shall have an end, and this created world shall be made new. For since corruption, and theft, and adultery, and every sort of sins, have been poured forth over the earth, and blood has been mingled with blood in the world, therefore, that this wondrous dwelling-place may not remain filled with iniquity, this world shall pass away, that that fairer world may be made manifest…Let us not sorrow, as if we alone died; the stars also shall die; and perhaps rise again. And the Lord shall roll up the heavens, not that He may destroy them, but that He may raise them up again more beautiful…The things then which are seen shall pass away, and there shall come things which are looked for, things fairer than these; but as to the time let no one be curious.” [Catechetical Lectures 15:3-4]

and His kingdom will have no end
“He will reign with a kingdom, heavenly, eternal, and without end…And should you ever hear anyone say that the kingdom of Christ shall have an end, abhor the heresy; it is another head of the dragon…A certain one has dared to affirm, that after the end of the world Christ shall reign no longer; and he has dared to say, that the Word which came forth from the Father shall be again absorbed into the Father, and shall be no more; uttering such blasphemies to his own perdition…For as we may not speak of the ‘beginning of the days’ of Christ, so neither endure anyone who at any time speaks of the end of His kingdom. For it is written, His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. [Daniel 7:27]” [Catechetical Lectures 4:15 & 15:27,32]

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life
“Believe also in the Holy Spirit, and hold concerning Him the same opinion which has been delivered to you to hold concerning the Father and the Son…This Holy Spirit is One, indivisible, of manifold power; working many things, yet Himself without parts…who with the Father and the Son is exalted with the glory of the Godhead.” [Catechetical Lectures 4:16]

“There is One Only Holy Spirit, the Comforter; and as there is One God the Father, and no second Father; - and as there is One Only-begotten Son and Word of God, who has no brother; - so is there One Only Holy Spirit, and no second spirit equal in honour to Him. The Holy Spirit then is Power most mighty, of a divine and unsearchable nature; for He is a living and intelligent Being, and is the sanctifying principle of all things made by God through Christ.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:3]

who proceeds from the Father, who together with
the Father and Son is worshipped and together glorified
“There is not one glory to Father, and another to Son, but one and the same with the Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 6:1]

Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
“The Father through the Son, with the Holy Spirit, bestows all things; the gifts of the Father are none other than those of the Son, and those of the Holy Spirit; for there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord, His only-begotten Son; One Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things; but enquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it…for it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:24]

“[The Holy Spirit] together with the Father and the Son is honoured, and at the observance of Holy Baptism is included with them in the Holy Trinity. For the Only-begotten Son of God said plainly to the Apostles, Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. [Matthew 28:19] Our hope is in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We preach not three gods…but we preach One God, by One Son, with the Holy Spirit. The Faith is indivisible; religious worship undistracted. We neither divide the Holy Trinity, like some; nor do we…introduce confusion.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:4]

“The Father through the Son, with the Holy Spirit, bestows all things; the gifts of the Father are none other than those of the Son, and those of the Holy Spirit; for there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord; His only-begotten Son; One Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things;  but enquire not curiously into His nature or substance…for it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:24]

who spoke through the Prophets
“The Holy Spirit Himself spoke the Scriptures; He has also spoken concerning Himself as much as He pleased...[He] through the Prophets preached of Christ, and when Christ was come, descended, and manifested Him.” [Catechetical Lectures 16:2-3]

In one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
“Now it is called Catholic [from the Greek καθὅλον – ’according to the whole’] because it is throughout the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches catholically and completely one and all the doctrines which out to come to men’s knowledge, concerning both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly; and because it subjugates in order to godliness every class of men, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it catholically treats and heals every sort of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gift. And it is rightly named Church [ἐκκλησία from ‘ἐκ καλέω’ – ‘to call out’], because it calls forth and assembles together all men.” [Catechetical Lectures 18:23-24]

“Of old the Psalmist sung, Bless ye God in the Church, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel. [Psalm 68:26] But since the Jews for their evil designs against the Saviour have been cast away from grace, the Saviour has built out of the Gentiles a second Holy Church, the Church of us Christians…For now that the one Church in Judaea is cast off, the Churches of Christ are increased throughout the world…Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of truth. [1 Timothy 8:16]. But since the word ‘church’ or ‘assembly’ is applied to different things…and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of the evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics…the faith has delivered to you by way of security the article, ‘And in One, Holy, Catholic Church;’ that you may avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which you were regenerated. And if you ever come to any city, inquire not simply where the ‘Lord’s House’ is, (for the sects of the profane also make an attempt to call their own dens, the houses of the Lord,) nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Body, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God.” [Catechetical Lectures 18:25-26]

I confess one Baptism
“The bath of Baptism we may not receive twice or thrice; else, it might be said, ‘Though I fail once, I shall go right next time: whereas if you fail once, there is no setting things right, for there is One Lord, and One Faith, and One Baptism: none but the heretics are re-baptised, since their former baptism was not baptism.” [Protocatechesis 7]

for the forgiveness of sins
“Jesus sanctified baptism, being Himself baptized. Since the Son of God was baptized, what religious man can despise Baptism? He, however, was baptized, not to receive forgiveness of sins, for He was sinless: but being sinless, to grant divine grace and dignity to the baptized.” [Catechetical Lectures 3:11]

“Great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom to captives; the remission of offences; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot of heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption.” [Protocatechesis 16]

“The grace of God which is given through Christ at the new birth of the Holy Bath is a new birth not of bodies, but the spiritual new birth of the soul. For our bodies are born by means of parents who are seen, but our souls are born again by means of faith.” [Catechetical Lectures 1:2]

“Regard the Sacred Laver not as simple water; regard rather the spiritual grace given with the water. For as the sacrifices of the altars, being by nature without meaning, by invocation of the idols become polluted, so contrariwise, plain water, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, and of Christ, and of the Father, gains a sanctifying power. For whereas man’s nature is twofold, soul and body, twofold also is his cleansing; the spiritual for the spiritual, the material for the body. The water cleanses his body, the Spirit seals his soul: that being by the Spirit sprinkled in heart, and washed in body with pure water, we may draw near to God. [Hebrews 10:22]…consider not the bare element; look for its saving power by the operation of the Holy Spirit; for without the two you cannot be made perfect. This is not my word, but the Lord Jesus Christ’s…He says, Except a man be born again, and he expands, of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:5] Neither he who is baptized in water, without the privilege of the Spirit, has the entire gift; nor be he ever so virtuous in his deeds, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven, except with the seal vouchsafed through water.” [Catechetical Lectures 3:3-4]

I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.
“The root of all good works is the hope of the Resurrection; for the expectation of recompence nerves the soul to good works. He who believes that his body shall remain to be raised again, is careful of his robe, and defiles it not with fornication; but he who disbelieves in the Resurrection, gives himself to fornication, and misuses his own body, as though it were not his own. Faith therefore in the Resurrection of the dead, is a great doctrine and lesson of the Holy Catholic Church.” [Catechetical Lectures 18:1]

“Endure not any of those who say, that the body belongs not to God: for they who hold this, and that the soul dwells in it as in a vessel which belongs not to itself, readily abuse it to fornication…Be tender, I beseech you, of this body; and know that you shall arise from the dead, to be judged with this body…But though the resurrection is common to all men, it is not alike to all; for we all indeed receive everlasting bodies, but not all the same bodies. For the just receive them, that trough eternity, they may join the Choirs of Angels; but the sinners, that they may undergo for everlasting the torment of their sins.”[Catechetical Lectures 4:22,30-31]


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