We Christians are properly thinking of everything backwards; that is, our knowledge doesn’t proceed from premises toward a conclusion, inquisitively and analytically, but rather from the Conclusion to everything else, practically.
The Conclusion to everything is Christ. We are not to find Him or analyze Him, prove Him or agree with Him, but we are to experience Him first and foremost. Then with Him or in Him we are to connect to everything else–things which could serve any other approach as “premises.” We then connect to the world not analytically, but practically, as a matter of life, or rather as a matter of the Life in us.
This is a radical distinction between how Christians ought to know and how others know.
In my opinion in the mystery of Christmas hides the mystery of the whole Scripture and the mystery of our lives. Christmas is the mystery of God on dirt. This mystery plays out both on every page on Scripture and in every moment of our lives. This is not to be understood, but to be experienced. The more we approach this mystery with intellectual probing and￼ our inside is removed from it by thoughts and intellections, the more we will not “get” it. This mystery comes clear to our hearts only to the extent to which we meet God on that dirt.
This lying on dirt comes natural to God’s humility. He would not know where else to lie but in the lowest of the lowness of the human condition. Yet, this lying on dirt is a terrible thing for us, because it means to face oneself, to be oneself. Therefore it feels like losing one’s life, because we have build our lives on lies and idols, that we amount to something. Therefore in this true facing of the self our entire lives come crashing down. Just us–the dirt–remains. Yet, that true human self, our nothingness, is precisely the only place in which God will dwell.
Blessed feast to all my readers! May this mystery play out in your lives, so that you stare bewildered at Christ in you!
Why does the Lord ask the demon “What is your name?” Doesn’t He know? He is the creator and God of the demons too. He knows the name of His creature. In my mind He asks in order to show all of those present there, and all of us, how wrong it is to despise our fellow human beings, regardless of how wrong or evil they are. So many of us, so often would not give other people even the smallest attention. In our twisted minds we would even consider it a sacred duty to ignore some people, not even to extend to them the courtesy of acknowledging their presence, their existence. Because they are evil. I have at times heard the argument that some people must be completely cut off from our minds, from our prayers, from our hearts. Let us ask ourselves, what is more evil than a demon? Yet the Lord asks a demon that simplest and most tender of questions–“What is your name?” And thus putting others beneath our attention is to cut ourselves off from Christ.
This Akathist hymn is taking the western Orthodox world by storm. This is puzzling to me. Recently I listened to it for the first time and it struck me how non-traditional it is. It speaks a language and betrays an ethos which do not belong to our Tradition. In a few words, this is the ethos that does not want to die.
And for our Tradition, as Scripture says, to live in Christ is to lose one’s life, to experience the death of Christ in one’s body. The only way to live is to die.
In sharp contrast, this akathist does not want to die. It has no sense of asceticism, which defines our Tradition. Rather it is a long poem of modern emotionalism, inflated with an askew sense of the cosmos and of life. It speaks of the darkness of the latter as a contrast to Christ, rather than the presence of the death of Christ in the world. It speaks of the cosmos as nature, rather than creation. And it is in awe of nature in the most sentimentalist Franciscan sense (and Franciscan spirituality has produced things much better than the sentimentalism to which it is commonly associated).
The expectation of the life in Christ as the good life is particularly disturbing. When one says things such as “The dark storm clouds of life bring no terror to those in whose hearts Thy fire is burning brightly,” one has forgotten Scripture, especially St. Paul’s description of the life in Christ as the death of the self (2 Cor 4-6).
It saddens me how quickly this takes over my world.
The life in Christ on this earth comes down to this: to be given over to the death of Christ, to be turned to nothing, to be ground into the dust which is the substance of the Kingdom to come.
Cherubim Press has put out a new Ieratikon, an English translation of the famed Simonopetra 3 volume set. The English translation is accompanied by a fourth volume of notes and explanations. It is available to buy here: http://www.cherubimpress.com.
St. John Chrysostom in his Second Homily to Eutropios says the following:
I am insatiable, I do not wish many to be saved but all. And if but one be left in a perishing condition, I perish also, and deem that the Shepherd should be imitated who had ninety-nine sheep, and yet hastened after the one which had gone astray (Luke 15:4).
He is basically saying: for the sake of any one person I will abandon heaven and go to hell with him/her. This is the meaning he finds in the parable of the shepherd who abandons ninety-nine sheep to go after the one who has gone astray. In this perfectly loving state the saint resembles so many other saints of our Orthodox tradition.