Different Categories of Pentinents

From the book An Interpretation of the Divine Liturgy Based on Actual Events and Experiences of Holy Priests, Monks and Lay People by Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos when writing about the litany of the catechumens he explains the different categories of penitents:

Firstly: The excommunicated. The Church would cut them off completely from its Body and considered them as dead. Only after a repentance that was big and proven in action after they had confessed and signed a libel, would they again be received in her bosom. Moreover, “the ones who had denied God through sin” belonged to this category. According to the sacred Canons, those who were absent from Divine Worship for three Sundays consecutively without any serious reason – like health reasons – were excommunicated as well. Today this measure has been abolished. In those days it was applied and thus its results were beneficial. The Church would decide and the Christians were totally obedient.

Secondly: The crying and afflicted. It concerned those who had committed deadly sins, who remained outside the Temple, in the countryside, come winter or summer (in snow, rain, cold weather, hail or extreme heat) and would ask from the Christians that would enter the Church, in lots of tears, on their knees, to pray so that God would forgive them. They would not even take Antidoron.

Thirdly: Those who fall. Inside the Temple those “falling” were constantly on their knees, even on Sundays. Due to the large number of sins they had committed they would only receive the bishop’s blessing – if there was one – of that of the priest who would perform the Liturgy, and would depart from the Church together with the Cathechumens.

Fourthly: Those who stand in obedience. They are the majority of Christians today who are under a certain penance that forbids them to receive Holy Communion. They attend the Holy Liturgy until the end and take Antidoron.

There was another category of Christians who stood in obedience. They were inside the Temple during Divine Worship, they communed Immaculate Sacraments but the Church forbade them to knead prosphoron bread, that is to say bring Precious Gifts for sanctification (offertory, nama = the wine used in the Holy Eucharist, candle, oil…) to the Temple.

Fifthly: Another category of Christians, who also remained in the Nave, departed the Holy Table together with the Catechumens. It was those who were under the influence of unclean spirits. On the one hand, they were baptized but demon-possessed.

The “Apostolic Injunction” says the following about them: When the deacon proclaimed “As many as are catechumens, depart. Depart, catechumens”, also addressing those who were under the influence of unclean spirits, he would say: “Pray for those who are under the influence of unclean spirits. Earnestly, all of you, pray for them so that our Befriended God through Jesus Christ rebukes the unclean and evil spirits and delivers His supplicants from strange authority…Those who are influenced, depart.” In other words, let them also depart. This ancient liturgical order like so many others, waned or rather was abolished.

(….)

Sixthly: the hearers. The hearers could have been the Jews or heathen idolaters who used to enter the Narthex to listen to and see the first part of the Divine Worship – and to especially attend the homily – and afterwards together with the Catechumens they would step out of the Holy Temple and the congregation.

While those crying and afflicted would remain outside, the hearers, even though they could have been Jews or heathen idolaters, would step into the Narthex!

The deacon would say aloud to the “hearers”: “Let none of the hearers remain. Let none of the unfaithful. Depart…”

During the moment of their departure the Celebrant used to pray with fervor for them, so that they would not feel embittered, supplicating: “That the Lord God, the All-Merciful, may open the ears of their hearts…catechize them with the word of truth…grant them a virtuous life…etc.”

The interest of the Church for the “hearers” was real to the point that most of them would depart the holy congregation of the Divine Worship with tears in their eyes. During these prayers the people used to chant multiple times and in a spirit of devoutness the prayer “Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.”

God’s Invitation

From Fr. Patrick Reardon’s Daily Reflections for Christmas Eve (here):

Few themes, I suppose, are more pronounced in the teaching of Jesus than that of God’s invitation. Whether to a banquet or a wedding, Jesus sees man as invited by God. I believe this divine invitation implies many considerations of anthropology, but I limit myself here to one: human dignity. God invites man for pretty much the same reason we send invitations to one another—friendship. Orthodox Christian theology has always insisted that His motive is friendship.

It is difficult, it is bewildering, and it is more than slightly frightening to assimilate the notion that God finds us loveable. It is among the most astounding truths in Holy Scripture. What could God possibly find loveable in us?

Indeed, even some Christians are so bewildered by this idea that they resort to subtleties to parse away the paradox of it. They may explain, for example, that God, being love, cannot help loving us, even though He finds nothing intrinsically loveable in us. It is taken for granted, in certain Christian circles, that God could not possibly find human beings desirable. It is assumed as obvious that there is nothing in us that would attract Him. It is impossible for God to love us for our own sake, we are told, but only because of His loving nature. He is forced to love us, as it were, because love is His definition.

Let me suggest that theories like this are difficult to reconcile with what God has told us about Himself—and us. In Holy Scripture He describes Himself as a bridegroom rejoicing over a bride, who is the apple of His eye. He speaks of Himself as a father who celebrates the return of a faithless son, in whom He recognizes His own image. Surely, these are the teachings that justify that beautiful adjective by which Holy Church addresses God: philanthropos.

When the Church calls God the “lover of mankind,” She affirms an important truth about the human race: God finds man attractive. Indeed, when God made man, He put into his composition a radical point of attraction that man is incapable of destroying.

This favorable and loving attitude of God toward human beings perhaps justifies our speaking of a divine anthropotropism. God shows every sign of being drawn to man. It is hard for us to fathom this. It is as though the sun felt for the sunflower the same powerful attraction the sunflower feels for the sun. We would have to imagine a solar antheotropism prompting the sun to rush its rising each morning for another glimpse of the jonquil, the iris and the buttercup.

Holy Scripture, however, says no less of God’s feelings for man. Numerous times Jeremiah, that most tenderhearted of poets, speaks of God “rising up early” to speak to the human soul (7:13,25; 11:7; 25:3,4; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14,15; 44:4).

It is arguable, indeed, that Jeremiah was the prophet who best understood this aspect of God—and of man. It was in Israel’s supremely dark hour, the dreadful day of Nebuchadnezzar and the destruction of the First Temple, that this philanthropic God declared through the lips of Jeremiah, ” I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore have I drawn thee with mercy” (31:3). It is this everlasting love of God that summons humanity; it is His undying mercy that prompts the invitation He dispatches to human beings throughout the ages.

God loves us and desires us because He formed us in His own image, which is essential to—and inalienable from—the very definition of human nature. God’s love for us is His response to the attraction He has made intrinsic to our being. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God stop desiring us. Even the souls in hell are the object of His relentless affection, because they are formed in His image, the same image He saw on the day His hands gave them shape.

The truth is that God is drawn to us by love—that He has forcefully thrown in His lot with us, to the point of become one of us. This act of God—His deliberate assumption of our historical experience in order to make it His own—is what theology calls Divine Revelation, and its defining moment is the Mystery of the Incarnation. In the person of His Son, God has united humanity to Himself by an indissoluble bond that theology calls the Hypostatic Union—the union of divinity and humanity in the single person (hypostasis) of Jesus Christ. Human theotropism and divine anthropotropism are both fulfilled.

An Englishman in Orthodoxy

Taken from a talk given by Bishop Porfirije, quoted on these pixely pages in the past (here). The talk, posted here, is in audio format and in Serbian so, as always, I offer a very loose translation of his introductory remarks. The talk is held at the technical school in Novi Sad and he begins by saying how this school has always opened its doors in the past for such talks of a spiritual nature:

“…man is not only a technical or a materialistic being but has in him also spiritual components and has spiritual needs, regardless of whether we see him as a dichotomy or trichotomy, if we are talking of man as soul/body or body/soul/spirit. Therefore, regardless of the various different approaches to man when we see him as a person we certainly, in the first place and above all, recognize beside the regular visible material needs,  – that is besides the fact that we know of him as a materialistic being – we feel also the need for the spiritual. Certainly, for someone who bases their life on the faith which is prescribed by the Bible, the New and Old Testament, the faith which the Holy Bible teaches us, then this is not at all strange for it is there that in a simplistic language which is understand by all, it says that man was created in the image and likeness of God. This means that the meaning, fullness and goal of our lives can only be achieved if we establish a community, establish a contact and relationship with God who is above all, the spiritual being par excellence.

Therefore, all praise to this college which perhaps precisely for this reason, since it deals with technology, can better recognizes and feel and conclude this spiritual need that each man has. And, of course, that we not go further in our analysis of these needs of ours for the spiritual I rejoice that I am your guest of this Serbian Cultural Club from whose title we also see that it is also called Transfiguration….First of all, in this syntagma Serbian cultural club Transfiguration is the word “Serbian”. But it is, as far as I can see, organically tied with the last word “transfiguration”.

Every man’s fundamental feelings and experience are to belong to some area, to a certain time, to feel as being a biological being and on the foundations of biology we can extract our national values, of national belonging so that one feels they are Serbian, another Croatian, another Hungarian, Slovakian and so forth. If, and of course at the beginning we saw that we do not feel this way, but if we were to assume that this nationalistic is in and of itself the goal then we wouldn’t be able to go far. However, this word “transfiguration” is deeply an evangelical and Christian word and when we place the idea of Serbian in that context of the gospel we are instantly reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul when he speaks of Christ saying that in Christ is neither Greek nor Jew…. and we would be able to add to that by saying that there is neither Serbian or Croatian or Hungarian…. In other words, if man wants to realize the meaning of his existence basing himself exclusively on the biological and taking the fullness and meaning of his existence from this framework then he begins his existence, lives and ends it as a biological being. In other words, he has his beginning and end here and now within the framework of history. But the word “transfiguration” invites us to that which is given to us biologically speaking in Christ, that in the Church we be transfigured into something which is eternal.

In Serbia during these last few days our Church had a well known, very unusual Athonite spiritual father, as guest (Archimandrite Vasileios [Gontikakis])…. And he spoke of another great Orthodox theologian, Orthodox bishop who is English and lives in England, Kallistos (Ware), and he said the following: When he was once at a lecture of his in London Kallistos Ware said that, “Since I became Orthodox I only then became English”. On the one hand we are talking of a biological transfiguration and maybe even the suppression of that biological in our (life in) Christ yet here the bishop says that it was only when he became Orthodox that he became a true Englishman. How can this be? It’s very simple, that which has been given us nationally speaking, to say it in modern terms, has been given us – or even gifted to us – a talent which one nation received and then an individual, within the framework of the nation, so that that which he has received as a gift, its fullness through love of Christ and through Christ in relations to all people,  they can become one with all nations. After all, the Lord Himself says this addressing His Father, May all become one as You and I are one, as You are in Me and I in You, that all become one. Therefore, the fact we are Serbs is not something given to us that we jealously keep, for in the end we can’t keep anything, what can a man keep, what is he an owner of? It is given to us that we give it to others and when we keep it for ourselves we are taking it from others, we are separating ourselves from others and are doing the opposite of that which Christ said to the Father… And this word “transfiguration” reminds us of just that and calls us to become diligent, to become true Serbs only inasmuch as we recognize Christ and are transfigured in Him, transfiguring each of our talents, all of our characteristics to that level not that we Serbs become become a part of a greater whole but that the great whole become a part of us. For the point is not for us to become a part of something, but the whole world, according to St. Maxim the Confessor, becomes a part of us and not we a part of the world, but only if we experience that inseparable union with Christ. We are called, therefore, as a people to transfigure our talents and gifts and that only then when we feel the suffering of other peoples as our own sufferings and rejoice as the success of other people, only then are we going down that path.”

Summons of the Star

H/T: From Fr. Jonathan Tobias’ blog Second Terrace (here)

from For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, by W. H. Auden

I am that star most dreaded by the wise,
For they are drawn against their will to me,
Yet read in my procession through the skies
The doom of orthodox suphrosyne:
I shall discard their major preservation,
All that they know so long as no one asks:
I shall deprive them of their minor tasks
In free and legal households of sensation,
Of money, picnics, beer, and sanitation.

Beware. All those who follow me are led
Onto that Glassy Mountain where are no
Footholds for logic, to that Bridge of Dread
Where knowledge but increases vertigo;
Those who pursue me take a twisting lane
To find themselves immediately alone
With savage water or unfeeling stone,
In labyrinths where they must entertain
Confusion, cripples, tigers, thunder, pain.

A brief commentary:

This is the first section of the fourth part of Auden’s long poem, “For the Time Being,” published in 1944 and out of print in 2010.

This is not a popular work, as its deep Christianity offends Auden’s bohemian audience on one hand, and the customary Christian audience on the other.

I will not pretend to do a full exegesis here. There will only be a few short notes that may or may not do just to the argument and design of these two stanzas.

The phrase “doom of orthodox suphrosyne” leaped to my attention, with a connotation that was unintended by the poet. “Orthodox” for him meant the aggregate and rather flat sensibilities of the bourgeoisie. In an earlier section, the “semi-chorus” intones: “Joseph, Mary, pray for all/ The proper and conventional/ Of whom this world approves/ … O pray for our salvation/ Who take the prudent way/ Believing we shall be exempted/ From the general condemnation/ … O pray for us, the bourgeoisie.”

“Suphrosyne” is that all-important Greek word that, as usual, has no good English counterpart. The word can be translated as “balance” or “prudence,” or better, both of these meanings. It is the sort of philosophy that the orthodox bourgeoisie likes. It is a sensibility that is admirably expressed by Polonius to his departing son Laertes: “to thine own self be true” (Hamlet, act 1). We should remember, here, that Polonius was a buffoon, who was not brave enough to be clearly malevolent. This is usually the way of “orthodox suphrosyne.” Were there not evil and the approach of a consuming fire, then suphrosyne would be sufficient: but evil is, after all, and the Day of the Lord will be: thus there must needs be a “doom” of such orthodoxy. This, by the way, is one of the many reasons why the poor – not the bourgeoisie – are blessed.

The star that is summoning the wise men states, rather abruptly, that it will “discard their major preservation” and their “minor tasks.” The content of the former is “all that they know so long as no one asks.” This is the gnosis of static fact. Better, it is “data” mistaken as “knowledge.” It is “common sense” which, as you must know, is no good anymore. Wisdom that cannot stand up to query is not wisdom at all: this is bad news indeed for the new popular atheists, militant evolutionists and mega-church right-wingers (who speak English as a second language without possessing any primary language).

The “minor tasks” serve as an opiate to save the orthodox from realizing that their “preservation” will not preserve. The Star promises to disrupt the business of “free and legal households of sensation.” After the Star’s journey, the stuff of “money, picnics, beer and sanitation” can serve no longer as a goal. One cannot serve Mammon, or his commodities.

Wise Men following this Star must give up the comforts of propositional theology. I think, if one follows Auden far enough, that one must also give up the project of the School Men here. The way up to Logos is an ascent up a Glassy Mountain. Enthymemes are good for rhetoric, perhaps, but not so good for dogma.

I have long wondered whether propositions, too, are opiates. Do they not serve as a shield against the psychic “press” of knowledge, of awareness of substance – especially of bodiless substance and power? “Mysterium tremens” is not just a reaction to Divinity: it is the human experience of knowledge in general. Hence: ” … that Bridge of Dread/ Where knowledge but increases vertigo.”

Becoming Christian – that is, believing for real and becoming real – is not pleasant. Peaceful, finally, and ultimately beautiful, yes indeed. But not nice. We should never have thought so. We should never have said so. We make belief and becoming sound like the ultima at an Amway meeting or a hallucinogenic ingress into a holodeck rendering of a Thomas Kinkade “painting of light.”

No: it is the journey of the Magi, rehearsed at every repentance and moment of belief. “Those who pursue me take a twisting lane/ To find themselves immediately alone/ With savage water or unfeeling stone,/ In labyrinths where they must entertain/ Confusion, cripples, tigers, thunder, pain.”

Wise men discover Christ only after they have stared death in the face. Perhaps this is true of all men, not just wise. I am sure, however, that the wise and intelligent are given no excuse for shirking their existential duty. Surely, too, the Christians of “Christianity in its fullness” have no excuse: Orthodoxy (not the plastic film stuff of the bourgeoisie) is the cure of death, and it is thus the way of the Star. It must traverse desert and wend through labyrinth. Most people will not like this trip. We should not be surprised when many are called but few are chosen, when so few show up for the Wedding Banquet.

Auden has his Wise Men represent certain poetical categories. The Positive Scientist discovered that Mother Nature is “just as big a liar, in fact, as we are./ To discover how to be truthful now/ Is the reason I follow this star.”

The Man of Letters came to the understanding that “We anticipate or remember but never are./ To discover how to be living now/ Is the reason I follow this star.”

The Ethicist learned this, to his dismay: “But arriving at the Greatest Good by introspection/ And counting the Greatest Number, left no time for affection,/ Laughter, kisses, squeezing, smiles;/ And I learned why the learned are as despised as they are./ To discover how to be loving now/ Is the reason I follow this star.”

To them, the Star replies, as it does to all who want to be Orthodox in the way that transcends suphrosyne:

Descend into the fosse of Tribulation,
Take the cold hand of Terror for a guide;
Below you in its swirling desolation
Hear tortured Horror roaring for a bride:
O do not falter at the last request
But, as the huge deformed head rears to kill,
Answer its craving with a clear I Will;
Then wake, a child in the rose-garden, pressed
Happy and sobbing to your lover’s breast.

Cheers

Saw this on Pseudo-Polymath (here), taken from ABC News (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation):

Drunk Dispute Over God Leaves Two Dead

A dispute over the existence of God between four Russians, drunk on a litre of pure alcohol, resulted in two of them being killed, news agencies reported.

The disagreement began over the weekend when the female house owner, her son, a male roommate and undisclosed male relative drank the litre of pure alcohol, “which they downed with snow,” a police investigator told RIA Novosti.

“Soon after the drinking session, the suspect [the son] and the two other men got into a fight about the existence of God,” the police official in the western Siberia region of Tomsk reported.

The son ended up attacking both men with a knife, killing them both, the report said.

The suspect, who has a prior conviction record, faces life in prison if found guilty.

AFP

A Million Dollar Prize

Caught a few minutes of the new TV game show Million Dollar Drop last night. The thing that intrigues me about these shows is the amount of money placed on getting the answer right to seemingly absurd questions. A million dollars! Can you imagine? One million dollars is yours to walk away with if, for instance, you know which actress out of the following four movies won an Academy for best actress. Who cares, right? Well, to be more accurate, there are seven questions in total you have to answer for the money but I’m not certain whether the questions get any meatier with each level. Then again the focus isn’t on the questions but the prize.  As David Goldberg, chairman of Endemol North America, said in an interview about the new show, “….the questions are very accessible. You don’t have to be a game show wonk to follow it. But we’ve had grown men cry on this show. They can smell it and see it and touch it, and all they have to do is navigate this mine field.”

Then again, maybe the same applies for our salvation as well. That is, the focus is the prize – our salvation, the kingdom of heaven, etc. etc. The holy Apostle Paul makes an illusion to that affect when he writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

Ironically enough what St. Paul is referring to is the very salvation most Christians in the West think they’ve already attained through their mere faith and acceptance of Jesus as their Lord. Yet, whether we like it or not we’ll have to answer for our deeds nonetheless. And so we pray and improve and improve “straining toward what is ahead” as the holy apostle says.

But the burning question remains – is God just as valuable to us as $1 million? The answer to that seemingly simple question is the very one which will guarantee our true prize.

A new blog

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Romanos took my series The Siropoulos Project from a few weeks back and gathered all the posts together and created a specialized blog entitled, aptly enough, “The Siropoulos Project” which can be accessed here.

Thank you Romanos for the work. It looks very nice. I like the hyperlinks.