Thursday, February 26, 2009

RIP: My Computer

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come to me (Job 3:25).
As I had predicted in a post a few days ago, my computer has died. I'm afraid there will be a lull in posting until it gets fixed or replaced. I once again ask for your patience.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Patriarch Pavle on Prayer

I'm a bit late in coming to this, but if you've haven't yet read Fr Milovan's three-part translation of Patriarch Pavle of Serbia's words on prayer, now is the time. Part one, two, and three.

A very brief excerpt:
In prayer we shouldn’t work up our nerves, nor sigh too much, nor hold our head up, for all this is harmful. We should pray quietly, with deep, but silent sighs, our heads lowered to the ground, patiently, from time to time looking at the icon as those who truly feel sinful before God.
His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle, is in very ill health. We can repay him for his instructive words by praying for his health and salvation.

OSB Links

Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications recently wrapped up his treatment of the Orthodox Study Bible. Here is a list of his posts, in reverse order, in his own words:
His final post on the topic is The Orthodox Study Bible: Wrap Up (For the Moment).

Other (relatively) recent posts on the OSB are Esteban's Lexical Semantics, Exegetical Fallacies, and the OSB (Or, "Woe Is Me, I Don't Have BibleWorks!") and Kevin Edgecomb's Toward Objective Evaluation of the OSB.

Special attention should be given to R. G. Jones' detailed Notes on the Orthodox Study Bible Old Testament.

I myself have thus far written four review pieces on the OSB: one, two, three, and four. Other OSB related posts on this site can be found here, here, here, here, and here. One might also have a look at my related five-part "Cradle and Convert" series: one, two, three, four, and five.

Wisdom From the Far Side

This long ago became my personal mantra. There's a lot of wisdom in those words.

Dr Trifkovic on Patriarch Alexy II

Dr Srdja Trifkovic has written an interesting tribute to the late Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. Excerpt:
While routinely accused in the West of excessively close links to the secular authorities, Patriarch Aleksy took pains to define what is permissible and what is not in the relationship between Church and state. He rejected any absolutization of governmental authority and insisted that the temporal powers of the state should be recognized as imperative only to the degree that they are used to support good and limit evil. Aleksy’s position was codified in 2000 by the Jubilee Council of Bishops. Its “Basic Social Concept”—drafted with his blessing—stated that, “in everything that concerns the exclusively earthly order of things, the Orthodox Christian is obliged to obey the law.” However, when compliance “threatens his eternal salvation and involves an apostasy or commitment of another doubtless sin before God and his neighbor, the Christian is called to perform the feat of confession. . . . If this lawful action is impossible or ineffective, he must take up the position of civil disobedience. The Church is loyal to the state, but God’s commandment to fulfill the task of salvation in any situation and under any circumstances is above this loyalty. . . . If the authority forces Orthodox believers to apostatise from Christ and His Church and to commit sinful and spiritually harmful actions, the Church should refuse to obey the state . . . [it] must resist evil, immorality and harmful social phenomena and always firmly confess the Truth, and when persecutions commence, to continue to openly witness the faith and be prepared to follow the path of confessors and martyrs for Christ.”

Christians everywhere would be well advised to reflect on the meaning and implications of those words.
(H/t to Fr Milovan.)

Computer Woes

As I noted in my return post, both my computer and I have been ill for some time. I've been getting better, but my computer has been getting worse. There's a good chance that one of these days it's going to depart from the land of the living altogether. If I suddenly stop posting or replying to your emails, you'll know happened. Consider yourselves forewarned!Link

Beware the Blini!

Tomorrow is known as Meatfare Sunday because it is the last day on which Orthodox Christians are permitted to eat meat until Pascha, some eight weeks hence. The week following Meatfare Sunday (Monday through the coming Sunday) is known as Cheesefare Week, since during that period all foods are allowed, with the exception of meat.

For those in the Russian tradition, this is the week of blini, yeast pancakes (known to most Americans by the Yiddish word blintzes) normally served with sour cream, melted butter, hard-boiled eggs, caviar, green onions, smoked salmon, and herring, often accompanied by vodka. (For a recipe with illustrations, see here.)

While this is a lovely and harmless tradition, it is possible for the pre-Lenten revelry to get a bit out of hand. This is by no means a new temptation. St Theodore the Studite, writing in the late eighth or early ninth century, began his catechesis for Meatfare Sunday with these words:
Brethren and fathers, it is a universal law on this day for those who live in the world to stop eating meat and one may see among them great competition in meat-eating and wine-bibbing, and even spectacles of outrageous pastimes which it is shameful to speak about. It is necessary to participate with moderation and to give thanks to the Lord for what we have and to make worthy preparation for the banquet before us; while they possessed by the wiles of the devil do the opposite, demonstrating that they have accepted one rather than the other.
S. V. Bulgakov, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, and citing throughout his comments from the works of the great eighteenth-century Father, St Tikhon of Zadonsk, offered these useful words of warning:
Really, by that measure as the Holy Church strengthens and ennobles its summoning voice for fasting and repentance, the world, as is known, today multiplies its amusements and entertainments, trying to take hold of the souls and hearts of the worshippers. How many seductions, temptations and dangers to the pure and undefiled heart are hidden under a seductive cover, even the so-called, innocent amusements and entertainments in these prelenten days! How manyChristian souls are turned, so to say, in their whirlwind up to self- oblivion! What darkness and gloom covers souls, betrayed by passionate, seduced hearts or to unrestrained inclinations of the flesh! How many people for whom it will be necessary to wail many and bitter tears over a few hours of immediate fun and ecstasy of feelings! Can the most cautious be praised if they regret nothing and repent nothing, if they lost none of the beneficial gifts of a pure and undefiled heart, if none have suffered in the calmness of his conscience? "Cheese Fare Week", teaches St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, "is the threshold and the beginning of the fast. That is why for the true children of the Church it is necessary to act all the more temperate in Cheese Fare Week than in the previous days, although they should always do so. However, will the Christian listen to the sweet odes of his loving mother?" "She ordains to revere these days more, but they commit more excesses; she commands to abstain, and they betray less control; she makes rules to cleanse body and soul, and they defile them more; she orders to lament committed sins, and they add more iniquities; she inspires God to be merciful, and they all the more anger the Most High God; she appoints a fast, and they overeat and revel more; she offers repentance, and they become more violent. A worthy voice of pity and weeping: "Sons are born and raised up, for you reject me! Listen, O heaven and inspire, O earth"! Children have turned away from their mother, Christians do not listen to the holy Church, those who renounced Satan and all his works are again converted to the works of an evil spirit, a lamentable and altogether terrible work! And whoever does not listen to the Church, is not the son of Church; whoever is not the son of the Church, Christ is not his shepherd; whoever Christ is not the shepherd, is not the sheep of Christ; whoever is not the sheep of Christ, vainly expects eternal life. Such are the results of a licentious celebration of Cheese Fare Week. The very celebration of butter week (maslianitsi) in the aforesaid manner is pagan work. The Pagan false god (the inventor of intoxicated drink) to whom they have established a special annual feast (so called Bacchanalia) was and spent these festivals in every dissolute abomination. Look, do not Christians also do the same in observing butter week (maslianitsi), and is the same for many of these festivals? I do not have to show it to you: see it in the light of the midday. And once again I will say, that whoever spends butter week (maslianitsi) in excesses, it becomes obvious that he is disobedient to the Church and shows himself unworthy of the name of Christian". "In order to spend Cheese Fare Week according to the Christian obligation, it is needful to act according to how the Holy Church commands during this time, namely: to drop every indecent care and to drop evil customs, remembering the Last Judgment and our ancestral Fall".
Lest you think these words hyperbolic, just recall what Mardi Gras has become in the West. Enjoy the blini, but don't overdo it!

Sunday of the Dread Judgment

Tomorrow is the Sunday of the Dread Judgment, also called Meatfare Sunday. Here are some online resources:

Meatfare Saturday

Today is Meatfare Saturday, also known as the Saturday of the Dead. Here is S. V. Bulgakov's explanation of today's commemoration:
On Meatfare Saturday, before the commemoration (on Meatfare Sunday) of the Last Judgment, the Holy Church prays for the departed, so that together with us they also stand at the right hand of the Judge, and especially prays for those who have died, who, as the Synaxarion says, were stolen suddenly by death in a foreign country, on the sea and on impassable mountains, on cliffs, from starvation, from plagues and hunger, in war, in fires, from cold, and have undergone all kinds of other generic types of death, and also about poor and needy, and in general for all who "have not received commemoration in the legitimate psalms and hymns". On a Saturday, instead of another day, before Meatfare Sunday it is necessary to pray for the repose of souls because the Sabbath Day is the day of rest, according to its innate meaning. It is the most important day for prayer for those who repose with the Saints. Besides this, the present prayer for the departed who repose the Holy Church reminds us about our inevitable end and our standing for trial before the incorruptible Judge, that, fearing these things to better prepare us for the spiritual struggle which are to come in the saving fast.
For the full entry, which includes liturgical rubrics, click here. A selection from the hymnography for today's service can be read here. The website Orthodoxy and the World has two useful entries about today's commemoration here and here. Another very good thing to read today is St Ephraim the Syrian's Sermon on the Fathers Who Have Completed Their Course. For the lives of the saints commemorated today, click here. Aaron Taylor has a post up on one of today's saints, St Sava II of Serbia, here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Changing of the Guard

Metropolitan Philaret of Eastern American and New York (+1985), flanked by subdeacons who are now (left to right) Archimandrite Luke, Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery and Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary (Jordanville, NY), and Bishop George of Mayfield. Jordanville, early 1980s.

Source.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What is Truth?

From Archbishop Ignaty's blog, via Fr Milovan:
Once a very educated man asked Abba Simeon:

-What is truth?

-It is a beautiful thing, and it would be really simple if people didn’t try to constantly explain what it is.

The Fathers on Reading Scripture, XVII

St John Chrysostom, commenting on Psalm 46 [47], writes:
All the nations, clap your hands (another version, “hand”). Shout to God in a voice of happiness (a different version says, “Indicate in a voice of praise”). Because the Lord most high is fearsome, great king over all the earth (vv. 1-2). This psalm, too, has to do with the same subject, speaking of victories and the trophies that result from fighting against enemies, and inviting the whole world to commendation of the achievements. Some people, however, may find the opening of the divine Spirit’s exhortation unworthy – such a bidding, applause, din, loud cries. These things perhaps do not become people assembling in this place dedicated to teaching, you will say, but rather those indulging in the theater and banquets, shaking rattles and applauding, whereas to men under the guidance of the grace of the Spirit tranquility and good order are appropriate. So what does the verse intend to suggest: what shouting, what clapping does it refer to? This, after all, is customary behaviour also for those is battle formation – I mean shouting and clapping for the purpose of unnerving the enemy – whereas it is foreign to the peaceful soul. The psalm, however, requires both, clapping and shouting.

So what on earth is it saying? Nothing other than giving an indication of satisfaction and a signal of victory. For the inspired author elsewhere, too, presents rivers as applauding: “Rivers, applaud this very thing,” he says [Ps 97 [98]:8]. Isaiah presents the trees also doing it [Is 55:12], while the psalmist again mountains leaping, and hills too, not for us to get the idea that mountains leap, and hills too [Ps 113 [114]:4], nor that rivers applaud or have hands (the height of folly, of course), but to learn the high degree of satisfaction. This is just what you can see in the case of human beings as well. Why did he not say “Rejoice” and “Leap,” but Clap and Shout? To show our satisfaction of a high degree. You see, just as Christ, when he says “You, on the contrary, when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,” [Mt 6: 12] is bidding not that anointing occur (none of us does this, after all) but that satisfaction be shown and there be joy in attitude (he bids the person be happy in fasting, you see, not sullen), so too here he did not give this direction for us to clap our hands but to be pleased and happy in our hymn singing.

Now, you would be right in taking the psalm more in a spiritual sense, rising above the literal sense. I mean, even if he bases the opening and introduction on material things, nevertheless he guides the listener to an intellectual level. In fact, what I said before I will say now, too: some things are to be taken at face value, others in a way different from their surface meaning, as is the case in that saying, “Wolves and sheep shall graze together” [cf., Is. 11:6-7]. We do not take this to mean wolves and sheep, nor chaff, nor ox, nor bull; instead, we depict the ways of human beings through the comparison with brute beasts. Some things have two levels of meaning: we both understand them at the material level and taken them at an intellectual level, as in the case of the anagogy of Abraham’s son [cf., Gen 22]: we know the son was offered in sacrifice, and we gather something else contained in the thought by mention of the son, namely, the Cross. In the case of the lamb in Egypt [cf., Ex 12], too, we likewise bring out the comparison with the Passion. In this verse we must do exactly the same; the reference, you see, is not simply to the Arabs and their neighbors – rather, he is summoning all nations.
Taken from Robert Charles Hill’s translation. For my brief summary of the principles of patristic exegesis, see here; for more on applause and clapping, see here. The translator notes that St John is here preaching not in church but in a “place dedicated to teaching” (didaskaleion).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Abraham's Faith

St Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews (11: 17-19), writes:
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
St John Chrysosotom, in his commentary on these verses, writes:
And he shows another thing too, by saying, that God tempted Abraham. [Genesis 22:1] What then? Did not God know that the man was noble and approved? Why then did He tempt him? Not that He might Himself learn, but that He might show to others, and make his fortitude manifest to all. And here also he shows the cause of trials, that they may not suppose they suffer these things as being forsaken [of God]. For in their case indeed, it was necessary that they should he tried, because there were many who persecuted or plotted against them: but in Abraham's case, what need was there to devise trials for him which did not exist? Now this trial, it is evident, was by His command. The others indeed happened by His allowance, but this even by His command. If then temptations make men approved in such wise that, even where there is no occasion, God exercises His own athletes; much more ought we to bear all things nobly.

And here he said emphatically, By faith, when he was tried, he offered up Isaac, for there was no other cause for his bringing the offering but that.

How to Pray

St Theodore the Studite's "Letter to the Nun Anna":
I thought that my blessed mother had died; but, it seems, she is still on earth. For what more could she have done than you in showing me a mother’s care? But though I am a sinner, I trust in the Lord that he will repay you with no ordinary grace for what you have done for my unworthiness and grant you the attainment of what you long and ask for. But enough of what has been done. For I dealt with all that in my previous letter. But you, on the other hand, have increased rather than exhausted your generosity. And so how could we not now remember your piety. With clothes, a sacred offering, food and drink you have astounded us from every side. So now put an stop to your gifts, and be confident of your reward from God. For he was no liar who said that he rewards even a cup of cold water. [Cf. Matthew 10,42]

You say you are grieved by your concern for your child, which leaves you no leisure for the necessary care for the soul. But God is perfectly well able to look after the affairs of the good child and to let you have leisure in all things to occupy yourself with what is profitable for the soul, so as to dispose you with a ready heart for your departure from the body. You are not able, because of the sickly condition of your body, to fast and afflict yourself harshly. Bear this without grieving, bringing what you can to the Lord and filling up what you lack in ascetic practices by an abundance of humility.

You ask to be taught how you ought to pray. The Lord himself taught us this through the invocation ‘Our Father’, and that we should not ask for anything temporary, but for his kingdom and eternal justice. Moreover it has been ordained by the Fathers that first should come thanksgiving to God; next confession of our sins to him; and so a request for their forgiveness, and intercession for the other things that bring salvation.

So, when you are about to pray, give thanks to the Lord and Master that he brought you out of nothing into existence; that he redeemed you from every error, calling you and counting you worthy to become a partaker in the knowledge of himself, free from pagan, free from heretical error. Next that he prepared you for the monastic life, which equals that of the Angels, after the enjoyment of life in the world. The thought of all this is enough to soften the soul to compunction and the outpouring of tears. From all this comes enlightenment of heart, sweetness of spirit, desire for God. When this is present in the heart, there comes the rejection of every evil. When you have thus given thanks to God, confess to him like this, ‘You know, Master, how many sins I have committed against you, and how many I commit each hour’, as you reckon up this sin and this offence and the ones committed in knowledge and in ignorance. But do not recall in any detail the ones that by being clearly remembered harm the soul. [Cf. The Ladder 28,58] And from this the grace of humility will dawn for you, with a broken heart [Cf. Psalm 50,18] and fear of God’s recompense. After this, ask, groan, implore your Lord for forgiveness of these sins and strengthening for the future to please him, saying, ‘My Lord, Lord, may I no longer anger you, may I no longer love anything but you, alone truly to be loved. And should I anger you again, falling down I implore your compassion, that I may be given strength from now on to please you.’ And if anything else comes to your mind that is good to be accomplished, ask for it fervently. And after this call upon the holy Mother of God to have mercy on you, the holy Angels, and the Angel you have as the guardian of your life, that he may watch over you and protect you, the Forerunner and the holy Apostles, all the Saints and those whom you usually call on especially, and the one whose memory is kept that day. These then are the things, it seems to me, which hold the power of prayer, even if each person doubtless prays with other words and not the same as these, because people who pray do not always say the same things themselves, but the power, as I reckon, is always the same. So may you be kept safe as you pray for what is necessary, and become better each day, and through a strict way of life present your entire self well-pleasing to the Lord.
I am especially struck by these lines: "You are not able, because of the sickly condition of your body, to fast and afflict yourself harshly. Bear this without grieving, bringing what you can to the Lord and filling up what you lack in ascetic practices by an abundance of humility."

Archbishop Leonty of Chile

LinkHere are a few memories of Archbishop Leonty of Chile (+1971) taken from a short oral history collected by Andrei Psarev:

Matushka Martha Iwaszewich:
Once I asked Vladyka, what should I do — children take much of my time from serving the Church. Vladyka answered: Your first responsibility before God is the family, the children. When they grow up, then you can especially dedicate yourself to the parish. When guests visited the Archbishop, he did not allow them to do anything, like prepare tea for instance. He said: I am a Bishop in all spheres. He meant that he knows not only the Church business. When they built something, he was the first to begin work, no matter that he came to Argentina with a bad heart and poor blood circulation. On other hand, he did not allow anyone to disrespect his hierarchal rank. Vladyka provided help to the needy in a humble way. When he served, we sensed that he is a Bishop. He loved that the hierarchical services should be done properly. When he made a cross with the dikyri and trikyri it seemed that he was drawing a cross on paper. He often sang in the choir. He could sing as a first or second tenor. He taught Argentineans who became the members of the Orthodox Church how to sing. He tried to do whatever was necessary to make the melodies of the Octoikh compatible with the Spanish translations. He did not serve in Spanish, but he approved of missionary activity.

Matushka remembered the following instructions of Archbishop Leonty: We are members of the Church, we live in the Church with the purpose to serve God and to save the soul. Everyone should mind his own business and not interfere with matters that are not his responsibility. Everybody in church should do his own obedience. When one parishioner makes comments to another, that person could become upset, but if the warden of the parish would say the same, nobody would be upset since it is his obedience. It needs be to said that Vladyka himself took responsibility for every matter in Church, even those outside his direct jurisdiction.
Vladimir Andrushkevich:
Vladyka Leonty wanted with every breath to serve the Church. My oldest son was very large and uncoordinated. He might step on the priest’s foot, drop the cross, the staff etc. I did not let him go to serve, but Vladyka Leonty forced him to serve during the Bishops’ service. And my wife and I watched in horror, how he stepped on the Bishop’s mantle. I said: “Vladyka, please do not take Kolia to be an acolyte, he is not fit for this role.”

Vladyka replied: “It is does not matter, everybody fits. We in Russia [during persecutions] had to take everybody.” Once we had been waiting at an airport for somebody. Suddenly there came three Englishman in pretty clean clothes with uncut hair and huge beards. Bishop Leonty exclaimed: “Wow! They would be such good priests.” I said to him: “Vladyka! They are — hippies.” "It is does not matter. If we would talk to them they may become priests.”
Photographs, top to bottom: Bishop Leonty in a DP camp near Munich, 1946; Archbishop Andrei of Rockland and Archbishop Leonty; Archbishop Leonty one month before his repose, 1971. Source.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cheerfully Plastered

Ever wonder what the title of this web log means? Aaron Taylor at Logismoi delivers the (rather surprising to me) goods.

Orthodox Psychotherapy

The notion of “Orthodox psychotherapy” has gained considerable currency in the English-speaking Orthodox world over the course of the past fifteen years. The term itself was coined by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Hafpaktos, and was introduced in his works The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition (English translation, 1993) and Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers (English translation, 1994). (In fact, the former work is intended as a supplement to the latter.) The inspiration for these works came largely from the thought of Protopresbyter John Romanides who, though not employing the term “Orthodox psychotherapy,” did frequently speak of the Church as a spiritual hospital functioning to cure spiritual illness. The most recent contribution to the genre and, in my opinion, the most helpful, is Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna’s A Guide to Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science, Theology, and Spiritual Practice Behind It and Its Clinical Applications (2007). The few comments that I offer here are not directed specifically to any single one of these works, but will be of a more general nature.

I find that the very term “Orthodox psychotherapy” creates a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. While Metropolitan Hierotheos has every right to use the term “psychotherapy” in the literal sense of “cure of the soul,” it is a stubborn fact that the rest of the world does not. “Psychotherapy” has inescapable clinical associations; it implies a clinical means of treating mental disorders. Metropolitan Hierotheos does not, if I understand him correctly, have a clinical environment in mind when employing the term. So far as I can gather, he uses the term “Orthodox psychotherapy” simply to mean the entirety of the Orthodox spiritual life. Therapy, for him, is not a technique or method; rather, it encompasses the entire experience of the spiritual life.


This results in something of an equivocation. What really is “Orthodox psychotherapy”? Is it in any way comparable to “secular” psychotherapy? Does it have clinical applications? Can it be used to cure psychological disorders? I’m afraid that Metropolitan Hierotheos largely sidesteps these questions. These questions are, however, addressed by Archbishop Chrysostomos in his above-mentioned book. Following chapters on the relationship between science and religion, on theological notions of body, soul, and spirit, and on Hesychasm and the cleansing of the mind, the Archbishop concludes with a chapter on the clinical applications of "Orthodox psychotherapy." This intention of this final chapter “is not so much one of guiding the reader from the theory of Orthodox psychotherapy to its application, as it is to offer some comments and general caveats about that application.” While not denying points of convergence between Orthodox psychotherapy and science, the author argues that the two have different aims, consequences, and assumptions:
Not only is the aim of Orthodox psychotherapy different from that of secular psychotherapy, but also the techniques of treatment that the two may employ in common adventitiously are meant to have very different consequences and are predicated on much different assumptions about the constituent components of the psychosomatic structure of man.
He offers two main caveats concerning the dangers of applying hesychastic methodology in clinical settings. The first is the lack of a strictly scientific method in the evaluation of such treatment and the generally anecdotal nature of its claims; the second is that Hesychastic methods are not “always appropriate to the clinic.” On a broader level, Archbishop Chrysostomos is troubled by a “trend in some circles within the Orthodox Church to equate certain psychological illnesses with disorders of a spiritual kind,” for instance equating spiritual despondency with clinical depression.


If we accept Archbishop Chrysostomos’ arguments, we can conclude that “Orthodox psychotherapy” and secular psychotherapy, while certainly having points in common, are radically different in both method and aim. Attempts to apply Hesychastic “technique” in a clinical setting are objectionable both from a scientific perspective and from an Orthodox perspective.

Where, then, does that leave us? The first point is to bear firmly in mind that “Orthodox psychotherapy” is simply not a form of psychotherapy in the way that term is universally understood. The second is to acknowledge that, given that the two are entirely different practices, both have a place: one does not usurp the other. A psychologically ill person should have recourse both to clinical psychotherapy and to the spiritual treatment found in the life of the Church.

C. S. Lewis, in his chapter on “Morality and Psychoanalysis” in Mere Christianity, puts the matter quite well:
[P]sychoanalysis itself, apart from all the philosophical additions that Freud and others have made to it, is not in the lease contradictory to Christianity. Its technique overlaps with Christian morality at some points and it would not be a bad thing if every person knew something about it: but it does not run the same course all the way, for the two techniques are doing rather different things.

When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved. One is the act of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his psychological outfit presents him with, and which are the raw material of his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what we would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious. Thus fear of things that are really dangerous would be an example of the first kind: an irrational fear of cats or spiders would be an example of the second kind. The desire of a man for a woman would be of the first kind: the perverted desire of a man for a man would be of the second. Now what psychoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the abnormal feelings, that is, to five the man better raw material for his acts of choice; morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.
None of what I have written is intended to imply that I disagree with the actual content of Metropolitan Hierotheos’ books. My objection is primarily to the confusion that the term “Orthodox psychotherapy” can cause. Simply put, what he calls “Orthodox psychotherapy” can too easily be taken as an equivalent of, or substitute for, clinical psychotherapy. People needing psychological help should not think that “Orthodox psychotherapy” offers them a clinical method of treatment; nor should clinical psychotherapists think that they can borrow points of practice from “Orthodox psychotherapy.”

Two final points: It is often remarked that we live in an age of therapy. I am reluctant to see Orthodoxy become yet another therapy. I am also troubled by the tendency of some Orthodox to use the models of “Orthodox psychotherapy” or of “the Church as spiritual hospital” as definitive ascetic or ecclesiological realities. They are models, images, and should not be reified.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Web Recommendations

I've been trying to make up for lost time by seeing what's new on the Church-related Internet. Two sites have especially impressed me.

The first is a site containing Archpriest Eugene Tarris' excellent English translation of Sergius V. Bulgakov's famed Nastolnaya Kniga Dlya Svyaschenno-Tserkovno-Sluzhitelei (Handbook for Church Servers). (This Bulgakov should by no means be confused with the the "Paris School" theologian of the same name.) This is truly a monumental accomplishment, and I will start linking to it regularly. It appears that so far all of part one is completed and online, with a bit from the second part (which is mainly liturgical) just going up. (The whole work is some 1300 pages in the original Russian, with very small print.) This work really is on the desk on nearly every Russian-speaking clergyman I know (the Russian title literally means "the on-the-desk-book").

The second is a new podcast by Deacon Matthew Steenberg, the webmaster of my favorite website, entitled A Word From the Holy Fathers. The only mystery to me is how someone from Minnesota could have developed such an accent.

For your convenience, I've added links to both sites – as well as to other blogs and sites that have caught my eye in the last few days – in the Webography on the right. Do take a look!

UPDATE: While you're subscribing to Fr Matthew's podcast, you should also subscribe to Fr Peter Alban Heer's podcast, Postcards From Greece, which I once before recommended.

Slip and Silly Point

Interested in figuring out how cricket works? Give up now.

The Symbiosis of Scripture and Tradition

From Fr Andrew Louth's Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology:
What unites us with the writers of the Scriptures is the life of the Church from their day to ours. It was in the life of the Church that the Scriptures emerged, but in the Church that they were recognized as Scripture, and in the Church that they are read as Scripture – as opposed to being read as ancient Hebrew literature and the writings of one of the new religions that infested the world of late Roman Hellenism. There is a symbiosis between Scripture and tradition: Scripture feeding tradition and tradition providing the kind of receptiveness in which Scripture can be read as Scripture.

This might be developed in a number of ways. Let me suggest two: one an illustration, one more of expansion. We might consider the way in which the idea of the complementarity of Scripture and tradition makes ready sense of what we know of the formation of the Old Testament. For here too historical criticism has had the odd effect of both advancing our understanding and denying us that understanding. The notion of 'original meaning' is here very complicated: do we mean what was intended by the one who first uttered a prophetic oracle, for example, or the one who first wrote it down and regarded it as a significant oracle, or the one – or more likely the many – who edited it and gave it its place in the context of the whole prophetic book as we have it? Or take the psalms, particularly their use in Christian worship: what is the meaning of these poems that we recite, and continue to recite after three thousand years or so? Is it what the original writer intended, or what whoever it was who introduced the psalm into the worship of the Temple thought, or what? Clearly too restrictive an understanding of the meaning of a psalm will make nonsense or the recitation of the psalms and deny the basis of the spiritual experience of generations of Christians. And what about those who collected the books together and formed them into a canon? And which canon anyway? It makes a good deal of difference, it seems to me, whether the Prophets come at the end of the Old Testament or somewhere in the middle of the Hebrew Scriptures. The tendency of the historical-critical method has been to concentrate on originality and regard what is not original as secondary: but if see here a process of inspired utterance and reflection on – comment on – inspired utterance with the tradition, itself regarded as inspired, then we have a more complicated, but, I suggest, truer picture. The formation of the Holy Scriptures is an object lesson in the kind of complementarity of Scripture and tradition – or inspired utterance and tradition – that I have outlined. The art of understanding is more complicated, and richer, than an attempt to isolate the earliest fragments and to seek to understand them in a conjectured 'original' context: we hear the voice and the echoes and re-echoes, and it is as we hear that harmony that we come to understanding. As I see it, it is this perception that underlies the notion of 'canon criticism,' associated particularly perhaps with the name of Brevard Childs.
UPDATE: Kevin Edgecomb was kind enough to point out in the comment box that Eighth Day Books offers a reasonably affordable reprint of Discerning the Mystery.

Egoism's Immense Vigor

Self-love is the father of all deceit, its cunning sophistries beguile our understanding and lead to two disasters: it weakens man’s will in the fight with temptation, and it hands over his soul in advance to all kinds of iniquity. The unscrupulous selfish man does not merely spoil himself morally by committing such and such sins from time to time: he is completely deprived of stability and moral behavior and his whole life is one long sin; he is inevitably unjust in his dealings with others and his personal desires are endless. There is a vitality of immense vigor in all of us, and if it be captured by egoism there is no satisfying it. Disappointment of inordinate wants begets resentment, whose impotent anger leads to discouragement and discouragement to despair – the logical end of an over-ruling self-love is madness or suicide; and those suffering from this moral sickness who stop short of such an end should thank the mercy of God and the prayers of their friends.
Here is Solovyev on the connection between the practical duties of religious life and the three "theological" virtues:
Prayer, alms-deeds and fasting are the three fundamental works of individual religious life, the corner-stones of personal religion. He who neither prays to God nor helps his fellows nor subdues his appetites is not a religious man, even though he may have thought, talked and written about religious subjects all his life. These three things are so closely connected that no one of them has efficacy without the other two. If prayer does not lead to alms-giving and self-denial it is bad and useless, vitiated by partiality and self-esteem, it is not prayer at all; alms which are not a fruit of prayer and joined to temperance are an expression of weakness of character rather than of love, sincere alms-giving is the highest justice and must lean upon heavenly grace; fasting undertaken from vanity or from egoism, as an exercise in self-control, may give strength but it is not strength for goodness, and fasting without generosity (even though prayer be joined to it) is the sacrifice of which it is said, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." It is the union of all three activities that enables divine grace to be effective, and that grace does not stop at joining us with God in prayer, it assimilates us, in charity and in temperance, to the all-merciful and all-sufficient Godhead.

The three basic religious works are also fundamental duties. We are bound to do only so much as we are able, and it is beyond man's powers to unite himself with the Godhead completely, to save mankind, or to redeem the whole of nature: therefore religion does not tell each one of us personally to do these things. But it is in our power to pray to God, to help those we know to be in trouble, and to fashion our own nature by temperance – and those are the personal duties of every man and woman.

In the discharge of these religious obligations are objectified the three God-regarding virtues: Prayer to God in faith; well-doing towards men in love; control of natural appetite in hope of the coming resurrection.
Solovyev's book is the finest modern apologetic for Christianity I've ever encountered. Highly recommended.

Bishop Jerome of Manhattan

Anyone who follows Orthodox discussion lists on the Internet will be familiar with the name of Fr John Shaw. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Fr John has since received monastic tonsure with the name Jerome (Ieronim in Russian) and been consecrated Bishop of Manhattan. He currently serves Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. Here, for your interest, is a brief autobiography:
I was born to an American family, of English ancestry and Protestant religion, on Dec. 21, 1946. I was raised by my maternal grandparents, in a small Connecticut town, not far from the 'Russian Village' of Churaevka (Southbury, CT), where I had my first real contacts with the Orthodox Church. In school, I enjoyed the study of foreign languages, and began learning Russian and Greek on my own from age 14. When I was 16 years old, I had already become interested in Orthodox Christianity through reading and personal contacts. I first went to visit St. Sergius Russian Orthodox chapel in Churaevka, on Lazarus Saturday (March 24/April 6 that year). There, I made the acquaintance of the future Bishop Daniel of Erie and his mother, and that evening went with them to the Night Vigil service at Mahopac. That day, the discussions we had about the Orthodox faith, and my first experience of worship in the Russian Church, left a lasting impression on me that remains vivid even now.

After a few weeks, I began attending Russian Orthodox services instead of the Anglican (Episcopal) church in which I had, till then, been raised.I was fortunate enough to spend the whole summer of 1963 in Greece, where, in Orthodox surroundings, I made a firm decision to embrace the Orthodox faith, and also gained practice in speaking the Greek language. My grandfather, with whom I lived, had urged me not to make any religious change till I was at least 21 years of age, but by the time I returned to America, I was already firmly convinced that the the Orthodox Church is the One, True Church, and I was chrismated on the day after my 17th birthday. It was a step I have never regretted.

Thus already a member of the Orthodox Church while in high school, I served as an altar boy for Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov) of Chicago, when he visited Mahopac, and it was his memory of me from then, that would one day lead Vl. Seraphim to ask for my assignment as priest for his Chicago cathedral. After high school, I studied at the University of Pittsburgh, where I majored in Slavic linguistics and East European history, and graduated in 1968. I also went to summer classes in Munich, Germany, at the Institut zur Erforschung der UdSSR, attended the ROCOR cathedral in Munich and the monastery in Obermenzing, and visited Russia for the first time in the summer of 1967 together with other students at Munich.

After graduation from college, I enrolled in Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY, where I was fortunate to have, as teachers, Vl. Averky, Vl. Lavr, Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitseff), Fr. Mitrofan Znosko-Borovsky, Prof. Ivan M. Andreev, and a number of other excellent 'nastavniki' of the Orthodox faith. In the fall of 1970, I was tonsured a reader by Archbishop Averky. As our class prepared for graduation, Fr. Victor Lochmatow suggested that I serve as a helper for Archbishop Nikon of Washington and Florida, and for the next 5 and a half years, I was Vl. Nikon's subdeacon, translator, secretary and chauffeur. Those years with Vl. Nikon were as important a part of my education, as the previous years in Jordanville had been. In April of 1976, on the advice of my spiritual father, Archimandrite Kiprian (Pijoff), and with the blessing of Metropolitan Philaret, I was ordained a subdeacon, deacon and then priest, and served for a few months at St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ. After the sudden repose of Archbishop Nikon on Sept. 4, 1976, Archbishop Seraphim arranged to have me assigned as priest to the Chicago cathedral, where I served from 1976 to 1991. In March of 1991, when there was a need for a priest in Milwaukee, WI, Fr. Victor Lochmatow suggested that Archbishop Alypy assign me there as pastor, and I served the Milwaukee parish from then until my present reassignment to the Synodal cathedral in Manhattan. On Tuesday, May 13, 2008, I received a phone call from ROCOR's newly elected Metropolitan Hilarion, in which Vladyka Metropolitan asked me to serve the Church as a bishop. On November 27/December 10, 2008 on the feast of Kurskaya Korennaya [Kursk-Root] Icon I was consecrated Bishop of Manhattan in the Synodal Cathedral in New York by Bishops Gabriel, Peter and John. By mutual agreement, Bishop Peter of Cleveland (who was my classmate in the Jordanville class of 1971) presided at my consecration.
Bishop Jerome is the one of three converts currently serving as a bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, along with Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany (a convert from Lutheranism) and Bishop George of Mayfield (a convert from Roman Catholicism).

The photograph above shows Seminarian John Shaw (now Bishop Jerome) with Novice Igor Kapral (now Metropolitan Hilarion), circa 1971, overlooking Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.

The Christian "I"

Metropolitan Philaret of Eastern America and New York, writes the following in his short work, On the Law of God:
The first, and the most important obligation which man has concerning himself, is the working out within oneself of a spiritual character, of our true Christian "I." The spiritual character of a Christian is not something given to him at first. No, it is something sought for, acquired and worked out by his personal toils and efforts (Lk. Ch.16). Neither the body of a Christian with its capabilities, powers and strivings, nor his soul itself - as an innate center of his conscious experiences and as a vital principle - are his spiritual personality, the spiritual "I." This spiritual character in an Orthodox Christian is what sharply differs him from every non-Christian. In the Holy Scripture it is not called a soul, but a spirit. This spirit is precisely the center, the concentration of the spiritual life; it strives toward God and the immortal, blessed, eternal life.

We define the task of the entire life of man as the necessity to use the earthly, transitory life for preparation toward the eternal, spiritual life. In the present instance, this can be said in other words: the task of the earthly life of man consists in that he is able, in the course of this life, to build up, to work out his spiritual character, his true, living, eternal "I."

One can care about one's "I" in different ways. There are people who are called egoists and who cherish and are concerned very much with their "I." An egoist, however, thinks only of himself and about no one else. In his egoism, he strives to obtain his personal happiness by any useful means - even though at the cost of suffering and misfortune for neighbors. In his blindness, he does not realize that from the true point of view - in the sense of the Christian understanding of life - he only harms himself, his deathless "I."

And here is Orthodox Christianity (i.e., the Holy Church), calling upon man to create his spiritual character, directing one in the course of this creativity, to distinguish good and evil and the truly beneficial from the pretended beneficial and harmful. She (the Holy Church) teaches us that we cannot consider the things given us by God (ability, talents, etc.) to be our "I," rather we must consider them gifts of God. We must use these gifts (like materials in the construction of a building) for the building of our spirit. For this, we must use all these "talents" given by God, not for ourselves egoistically, but for others. For, the laws of Heaven's Truth are contradictory to the laws of earthly benefit. According to worldly understandings he who gathers for himself on earth, acquires, according to the teaching of God's Heavenly Truth, he who, in the earthly life gives away and does good, acquires (for eternity). In the well-known parable about the careless steward, the main thought and the key to the correct understanding of it is the principle of making a distinction by contrast between the understandings of earthly egoism and God's truth. In this parable, the Lord specifically called earthly wealth, gathered egoistically, for oneself, "unjust wealth" and ordered that it not be used for oneself, but for others, in order that the reward be received in the eternal home.
L to R in the photograph: Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Archbishop (later Metropolitan) Laurus, Metropolitan Philaret, Bishop Constantine. Holy Trinity Seminary, graduation day, 1980.


Whence the Assumptions?

Henry Parry Liddon, in a letter to Charles Gore in 1889, writes:
Criticism is an equivocal term, and is applied to very different kinds of Textual or Exegetical work. Dr. Pusey in one sense was a great critic; in another, Strauss and Bruno Bauer and Feuerbach were. What the young “exports”, such as Professor Cheyne, mean by criticism now, is, I suppose, that kind of discussion of doctrines and of documents which treats the individual reason as an absolutely competent and final judge, and which has the most differentiating merit of being independent of church authority…. Criticism with Dr. Pusey was… the bringing of all that learning and thought could bring to illustrate the mind of Christian antiquity, which really guided him. All criticism, I suppose really proceeds on certain principles, preliminary assumptions for the critic to go upon. The question in all cases is, Whence do these preliminary assumptions come?… Certainly these placita which abound in the new “Old Testament criticism” do not appear to come from the text itself; they are imposed on it from without. (Cited in A. G. Herbert, The Authority of the Old Testament, 27.)
"Whence do these preliminary assumptions come?" This really is the essential question when approaching the findings of modern Biblical criticism (or, for that matter, of any sort of academic criticism).

Quixotic Conversations

Anyone who has the misfortune of knowing me in person will instantly recognize the pattern of this conversation:
When Don Quixote and Sancho were shut away together, they had a conversation that is recounted in the history with a good deal of accuracy and attention to detail.

Sancho said to his master:

“SeƱor, I’ve already conveyanced my wife to let me go with your grace wherever you want to take me.”

Convinced is what you mean, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “not conveyanced.”

“Once or twice,” responded Sancho, “if I remember correctly, I’ve asked your grace not to correct my words if you understand what I mean by them, and when you don’t understand, to say: ‘Sancho, you devil, I don’t understand you,’ and if I can’t explain, then you can correct me; I’m so plaint….”

“I do not understand you, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “because I do not know what I am so plaint means.”

“So plaint means,” responded Sancho, “That’s just the way I am.”

“Now I understand you even less,” replied Don Quixote.

“Well, if you can’t understand me,” responded Sancho, “I don’t know any other way to say it; that’s all I know, and may God protect me.”

“Oh, now I have it,” responded Don Quixote. “You mean to say that you are so pliant, so docile and softhearted, that you will accept what I tell you and learn what I teach you.”

“I’ll bet,” said Sancho, “you knew what I was saying and understood me from the beginning, but wanted to mix me up so you could hear me make another two hundred mistakes.”

“That may be,” replied Don Quixote.
Taken from Edith Grossman's excellent new translation; second part, chapter VII.

Who Presented Whom?

Today, the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord, we celebrate the memory of St Simeon the God-Receiver as well as the St Anna the Prophetess. Here, in honor of St Simeon's memory, is a selection from St Ephraim the Syrian's Homily on Our Lord (paragraphs 48-49):
Now Simeon the priest, when he took Him up in his arms to present Him before God, [Luke 2:28] understood as he saw [Him] that He was not presenting Him, but was being himself presented. For the Son was not presented by the servant to His Father, but the servant was presented by the Son to his Lord. For it is not possible that He, by Whom every offering is presented, should be presented by another. For the offering does not present him that offers it; but by them that offer are offerings presented. So then He Who receives offerings gave Himself to be offered by another, that those who presented Him, while offering Him, might themselves be presented by Him. For as He gave His body to be eaten, that when eaten It might quicken to life them that ate Him; so He gave Himself to be offered, that by His Cross the hands of them that offered Him might be sanctified. So, then, though the arms of Simeon seemed to be presenting the Son, yet the words of Simeon testified that he was presented by the Son. Therefore we can have no dispute concerning this, because that which was said put an end to dispute—Now let Your servant depart in peace. [Luke 2:29] He then who is let depart to go in peace to God, is presented as an offering to God. And in order to make known by whom he was presented, he said—For lo! my eyes have seen Your mercy. [Luke 2:30] If there was no grace wrought on him, why then did he give thanks? But rightly did he give thanks, that he was thought worthy to receive in his arms Him, Whom angels and prophets greatly desired to see. For lo! my eyes have seen Your mercy. Let us understand then and see. Is mercy that which shows mercy to another, or is it that which receives mercy from another? But if mercy is that which shows mercy to all, well did Simeon call our Lord by the name of the mercy that showed mercy to him—Him Who freed him from the world which is full of snares, that he might go to Eden which is full of pleasures; for he who was priest said and testified that he was offered as an offering, that from the midst of the perishing world he should go and be stored up in the treasure-house which is kept safe. For one for whom it may be that what he has found should be lost, to him it belongs to be diligent that it should be kept safe. But for our Lord it could not be that He should be lost; but by Him the lost were found. So then, through the Son Who could not be lost, the servant who was very desirous not to be lost, was presented. Lo! my eyes have seen Your mercy. It is evident Simeon received grace from that Child Whom he was carrying. For inwardly he received grace from that Infant, Whom openly he received in his arms. For through Him Who was glorious, even when He was carried, being small and feeble, he that carried Him was made great.

But inasmuch as Simeon endured to carry on his weak arms that Majesty which the creatures could not endure, it is evident that his weakness was made strong by the strength which he carried. For at that time Simeon also along with all creatures was secretly upheld by the almighty strength of the Son. Now this is a marvel, that outwardly it was he that was strengthened that carried Him Who strengthened him; but inwardly it was the strength that bore its bearer. For the Majesty straitened itself, that they who carried it might endure it; in order that as far as that Majesty stooped to our littleness, so far should our love be raised up from all desires to reach that Majesty.

Defining Joy

St Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Gal 5:22-23). The Blessed Jerome, commenting on this verse, writes:
What deserves to hold the first place among the fruits of the Spirit if not love? Without love other virtues are not reckoned to be virtues. From love is born all that is good. Now by joy people mean an elation of mind over things that are worthy of exultation, whereas gaiety is an undisciplined elation of mind which knows no moderation... We should not suppose that peace is limited to not quarreling with others. Rather the peace of Christ, that is, our inheritance, is with us when the mind is at peace and undisturbed by conflicting emotions.
Cited here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On the Profligate Son

If you do nothing else today, read Fr Ephrem Lash's translation of St Romanos the Melodist's Kotakion 49, On the Profligate Son.

Here is a short preview:

3

What is the banquet?. Let us first learn of the supper
From the Gospels, that we too may celebrate.
I will therefore recall the parable of the Profligate.
For he was formerly stripped bare of every grace,
Having squandered all his substance,
And he runs to his father with many lamentations crying out, ‘Father, I have sinned’.
So the one who sees all things saw, hurried,
And met him and kissed him,
Flung his arms round the neck of the one who had returned,
For he is the God of the repentant.
In his compassion he had mercy on his son who had fallen, he the
Master and Lord of the ages.

4

The Saviour of all seeing his son then clothed
In filthy apparel was filled with compassion;
And so he cried at once to the slaves who were serving,
‘Quickly give my child the first robe,
Which the baptismal font weaves for all,
Which the grace of my Spirit prepares, and hasten and clothe him.
Remember how when he was clothed
The enemy stripped him and made him a spectacle
For all the demons, as he attacked with envy
The king of the whole earth,
For whose sake I arrayed the whole world which I had created, I the
Master and Lord of the ages.

5

I saw him and I cannot rest content to overlook his nakedness;
I cannot endure to see my divine image like this.
For the disgrace of my child is my shame;
I will consider the glory of my child my own glory.
Hurry then, my servants and ministers
To make all his limbs beautiful once again, for they are objects of my love.
For I judge it improper to see
Unprovided for or unadorned
The one who has run to me in repentance
And been found worthy of forgiveness.
Clothe him with the robe of grace, as I have commanded, I the
Master and Lord of the ages.

This kontakion can be found with many others like it, with notes and introduction, in Fr Ephrem's On the Life of Christ: Kontakia.

Orthodox Study Bible, My Turn IV


Continued from parts one, two, and three.

It is widely known that the Septuagint was the Bible of the early Church, the version of the Old Testament cited by both the authors of the New Testament and the early Fathers. It is also known that the Greek of the Septuagint sometimes varies from that of the Hebrew versions. What might not be so well known is that a number of the key Messianic "proof texts" used by the early Christians differed from the Hebrew texts favored by contemporary Jews. In such cases it is essential that Christians today be, at the very least, aware of how such verses were read in the early Church.

One such example is found in Genesis 49:10. Here I quote from Ronald E. Heine’s invaluable recent study Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church:
The wording of the text of Genesis 49:10 differs as reported by various church fathers, all of whom were reading the Septuagint. The difference is rooted in a variation in the wording of the Hebrew text of Genesis 49:10 itself. The majority of the ancient copies of the Hebrew text have the word shiloh in the third clause of the verse. The was treated as the name “Shiloh” by later Jewish interpreters. Some copies of the Hebrew text, however, have shelo, which can mean either “he to whom it belongs” or “that which belongs to him.” The first stresses the person and the second stresses the “belongings.” In my translation of Genesis 49:10 from the Hebrew text and the Septuagint that follow, I have italicized the clause in question. The Hebrew text, as we have it today reads: “A scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a commander from between his feet until Shiloh comes and the obedience of the peoples is his.” What “Shiloh” means puzzled the ancient interpreters and translators as much as it does us today. The Septuagint text that we have reads: “A ruler shall not depart from Judah and a leader from his thighs until the things which have been stored up come to him and he is the expectation of the nations” (i.e., the Gentiles). It would appear that the translators of the Septuagint had a Hebrew text that contained shelo and that they understood the expression to mean “the things which belong to him.”
Professor Heine goes on to demonstrate that other ancient translations followed a reading similar to the Septuagint, including St Jerome’s fourth-century Vulgate and the Syriac Peshitta. Indeed, as Dr Heine notes, the “Targum Onqelos, a Jewish interpretive translation of the Pentateuch into Aramaic made in Palestine in the late first or early second century AD, renders the phrase, 'until the Messiah comes, to whom the Kingdom belongs, and whom nations shall obey.'” St Justin the Philosopher argues with Trypho (Dialogue with Trypho 120.4-5) over precisely this verse, although he asserts that the clause in question should be “until he comes for whom it has been stored up” rather than “until the things which have been stored up come to him” (a variant of which Origen was aware). All subsequent Fathers, to my knowledge, follow some variant of the Septuagint reading; none of them worries about the identity of “Shiloh.”

Considering the frequency with which Genesis 49:10 is cited by the early Fathers, as well as the solid philological basis for the Greek reading, it would seem to be beyond question that any translation prepared for the purposes of the Orthodox Church would follow the Septuagint reading. The NETS – which, although not prepared for the liturgical use of the Orthodox Church, at least is in fact a translation of the Septuagint – renders this verse as follows:
A ruler shall not be wanting from Ioudas
and a leader from his thighs
until the things stored up for him come,
and he is the expectation of nations.
Even the NIV largely follows the Septuagint:
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his.
The NIV gives a rendering from the Hebrew in a footnote: “Or until Shiloh comes; or until he comes to whom tribute belongs."

Here, however, is the OSB's rendering:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah.
Nor a lawgiver from his loins,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the expectation of the nations.
This is simply the NKJV, without a word changed. How could the editors (or "translators") of the OSB have possibly missed this? What, really, is the point of producing an "Orthodox" Bible if is does not correspond to the Septuagint even when rendering essential Messianic texts? Very, very shoddy work.

Orthodoxy: Conservative or Radical?

The Fall 2008 issue of The Intercollegiate Review is dedicated in large part to the memory of the late conservative thinker William F. Buckley, Jr. Two passages from his writing cited in this issue particularly struck me. The first is from a speech given by Buckley in 1986, cited by T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr., in his memorial article. Attempting to define the true Renaissance man, Buckley writes:
He is not the man who, with aplomb, can fault the Bearnaise sauce at Maxim’s before attending a concert at which he detects a musical solecism, returning to write an imperishable sonnet, before preparing a lecture on civics that the next day will enthrall an auditorium. No: the Renaissance man is, I think, someone who bows his head before the great unthreatened truths and, while admitting and even encouraging all advances in science, nevertheless knows enough to know that the computer does not now exist, nor ever shall, that has the power to repeal the basic formulas of civilization.
The second quotation is from Buckley 1959 classic, Up From Liberalism:
The exhortations to go truth-seeking are deafening. They are perfectly intelligible when the quest is for a cancer-cure, or some such thing – but it is not over the cancer-hunters that the fusses… are made. Other truths than scientific and methodological ones have no objective existence, the liberals… contend, and therefore cannot be apprehended… As for the young scholars, they know, in their hearts, that the exhortation nowadays reduces to “Ye shall seek the truth as though it existed; and in the seeking of it, ye shall be made free.” … The conservative emphasis is different. Conservatives do not deny the existence of undiscovered truths, but they make a critical assumption, which is that those truths have already been apprehended are more import to cultivate than those undisclosed ones close to the liberal group in the sense that the fruit was close to Tantalus… Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgment that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before.
These are profound and compelling thoughts, particularly in view of the dominant prejudice that the natural sciences alone provide the correct paradigm for apprehending the truth. (Much of Fr Andrew Louth’s classic Discerning the Mystery responds to just this.) I think Buckley is perfectly correct when referring to philosophy, and in particular to political philosophy. But I suspect that he words could not be taken to apply to theology (not that he himself intended them to be so taken). Orthodoxy cannot be made equivalent with conservatism, however that problematic term may be understood. Nor should it simply be called radical, although Fr Louth says as much in his Foreword to Fr John Behr's The Way to Nicaea: "Orthodoxy is radical, not conservative." Orthodoxy, it would seem to me, is at once conservative and radical (avoiding the political implications of these terms as much as one can). It is conservative in that it does indeed believe that the whole fullness of Truth has been revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ, and that a search for Truth must always, in a sense, be backward looking: above all to the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. It is radical, though, in the sense that it is always returning to the root (Latin, radicalis) of things: Tradition maintains its validity only to the extent that it truly and accurately reflects the image of the Living Christ. Moreover, there is something finally important that is not in fact behind us: the return of the Bridegroom at the consummation of time. It is this that Bishop Atanasije characterizes, in a passage I posted some time ago, as "a future nostalgia, an eschatological nostalgia for the future." Conservatism is essentially reactionary and pessimistic (and rightfully so, much of the time); radicalism is often anti-historical and optimistic. Christianity, however, accepts both the fallenness of man and his deification in Christ; it accepts both that the Evil One is the prince of this world and that Christ has conquered evil. Orthodoxy contains within itself both the backward-looking pessimism of conservatism and the forward-looking optimism of radicalism. (What the political implications of this, however, remains another question.) Christ, indeed, is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending... which is, and which was, and which is to come (Rev 1:8).