The Thinking Part of the Universe

Digital Universe (14)December 1, 2013
Third Sunday of Advent
Father Pat’s Pastoral Ponderings

The human being is not only a part of the created Universe; he is also the thinking part. Human thought is the only place where the Cosmos is conscious, critical, and self-reflective. It is the sole forum where Creation can examine itself, render an assessment, and even make cognitive adjustments as they are required.

The human being is also the only part of the created Universe where thoughts—both interpretive ideas and thoughts of resolve—are deliberately chosen. Man’s mind is conscious of being free; indeed, cognitive freedom and critical self-reflection are so bound together that man may experience them as identical. For this reason, man is the sole portion of the Universe where “effects” cannot be adequately explained by purely physical causes. Man is innately aware of this freedom, nor does it take him very long to infer that this freedom imposes moral responsibility upon him. Adam was—and knew himself to be—the head of the Universe, its sole deliberative agent.

Consequently, the human being is the only place where the Cosmos itself can deliberately, intentionally change its mind. Man’s organic and formal cohesion to the rest of Creation is the reason Adam, when he fell, took the Universe down with him. For all of its brevity Genesis 3:6—“she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat”—describes the metaphysical mix-up of Creation itself. When the Universe fell, it fell “head first.”

Saint Paul is explicit on this point. “Through one man,” he wrote, “he hamartia eis ton Kosmon eiselthen, sin entered into the Cosmos, and, by sin, death” (Romans 5:12). In Adam everything—ta panta—succumbed to mortality and metaphysical bondage, and the very Universe became a medium of confusion and corruption. From that point on, “death reigned” (5:14).

And why did God, with a view to redeeming that hopeless situation, “give his only begotten Son”? Very simply, says Saint John, because He “so loved the Cosmos”—Houtos gar egapesen ho Theos to Kosmon (John 3:16). This is the reason Saints Paul and Irenaeus argued that the Universe had to be “re-headed” by Christ, the incarnate Logos.

>From Cosmology we may go on to speak of History. But to speak of History, we must first speak of language; there is no separating the two. None of the foregoing activity—freedom of thought, reflection, consciousness, choice—is possible without language, and language, in its turn, is inherited from History.

It is through language that Cosmology and History converge in human consciousness. There is an obvious corollary to this observation: History, as an object of man’s knowledge, must actually precede Cosmology. Israel certainly regarded reality in this sequence. In the New Testament, likewise, the thinking of the Church worked from her historical experience of the Man Jesus to her contemplation of the eternally begotten Word, in whom “all things came to be—panta egeneto.”

The ability to assess one’s consciousness with respect to the ongoing sequence of time and the incorporation of memory into interpretive narrative is among the most distinguishing features of the human being. It is arguably the feature most indicative of the metaphysical difference between human language and the emotive, communicative sounds used by animals.

The importance of these considerations is apparent if we bear in mind that a major underlying assumption of Christian Theology is—and here we come to the nub—the historical nature of Revelation and Redemption. Indeed, this assumption has the quality of a principle.

When I speak of the “historical quality” of Revelation and Redemption, I do not mean simply that certain facts and events actually happened and were significant. Using this term I mean to include, more particularly, the awareness and knowledge of specific human beings (patriarchs, prophets, sages, apostles, and, above all, the Savior) whose living experience incorporated and transmitted this Revelation and Redemption. That incorporation and transmission pertain in a special way to the composition of the Holy Scriptures, which both record Salvation History and embody the Spirit-filled dynamism of Holy Tradition.

In the biblical faith man neither seeks nor receives “deliverance” (redemption, salvation, deification, reconciliation-pick your favorite) by escaping from history and time. The biblical believer will insist, on the contrary, that “deliverance” comes only through a specific historical process.

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Historical and Contemporary Holiness

bishop-martinAnyone in the Chicago area might be interested in listening to Bishop Maxim speak December 7th at Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

More info here.

Here’s a snippet from the cathedral website:

We asked the bishop, in advance of the seminar, if there was a difference between historical and contemporary holiness.

“There aren’t essential differences, but there are differences in expressions and types of holiness — just as there are differences, for example, between saintly efforts (podvizi) during the time of martyrdom and the epoch of St Photius the Great,” Bishop Maxim explained.

“These differences relate to expressions and living conditions, as well as the mentality of people who live the Gospel and confront the challenges which stand in the way of personal togetherness with God,” he added, noting that at no previous time in history was there such an open “de-holification” of faith as there is today, driven by certain celebrities and media.

Your iniquity is taken away

slika_22Another quote from Fr. Andrew Louth’s wonderful book Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology. He dedicates an entire chapter to sacraments, holy mysteries, and their symbolism. He writes at one place about communion:

“The holy gifts are given to the laity on a spoon, called in Greek lavis – a word which does not really mean a spoon, but rather a pair of tongs. The reference is to the vision of Isaias in Isaias 6, when the prophet saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and raised up, the whole house being full of his glory. Around him were standing the seraphim, crying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Sabaoth, the whole earth is full of his glory!’ Isaias is filled with a sense of sin and unworthiness. One of the seraphim takes a burning coal from the altar with a pair of tongs, a lavis, and touches the prophet’s lips with it, saying, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips, your iniquity is taken away and your sin purged’.”

Becoming Rich Towards God

H/T: Ancient Faith Radio, Roads From Emmaus Podcast (here)

From a homily given by Fr. Andrew S. Damick on the Parable of the Rich Fool:

“….Even if the parish had a billion dollar endowment that paid all the bills and funded every ministry, I would still need to give. Even if the parish had a staff of multiple clergy ready to serve everyone’s needs, I would still need to serve. Even if this church was completely full to the walls every time we held a church service, I would still need to attend. That’s because giving is a spiritual act and I am the only one who could become rich toward God for me…”

Orthodox Churches Working Together


H/T: Orthodox Christian Laity (here)

Pan-Orthodox Festival – A Beginning in Farrell, Pennsylvania

by Alan Rummel

Farrell is a small town in western Pennsylvania which once thrived as a steel town and supported five very active Orthodox parishes.  Today, the steel mills are gone and the parishes are struggling.  This is a story of how they have made a beginning to work together so as to survive.

It all started during a general assembly meeting of Annunciation (Evangelismos) Greek Orthodox Church. Our membership is now down to 28 families, and we needed some help from other parishes to pull off another festival. It was suggested at the meeting to ask the assistance of other Orthodox churches, since they would provide more manpower, a wonderful site in Hermitage, and financial support.

Two meetings were scheduled with Romanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Greek and Carpathian Russian parishes. During the first meeting, we discussed the idea of a festival together, what it might cost to pull off, and potential profit. It was determined that each church would take this information back to their respective parish and discuss the festival possibility with their parish boards/councils.

At the second meeting, all parishes agreed to participate except for Carpathian Russians. They had just completed construction of a new church and really “had too much on their plate” at this time. They indicated the desire to be a part of this the following year if there would be a second such festival. Keep in mind, this was in July, and we were looking for a possible date in September, so we were pressed for time.

At our subsequent meetings, the following topics were addressed and implemented: 1. A two-day festival date was scheduled.  2. Several committees with members from each parish were established and reports from each were required at future meetings.  3. After selecting a chairperson and treasurer, we listed common expenses, such as advertising, menus, beverages etc. and shared the cost. Of course, all of the parishes would share the profits.

The festival was held on September 28-29, 2013. The weather was perfect, and all the parishes sold out of EVERYTHING by Sunday afternoon. The Lord was watching over us. It turned out to be a huge success.

We had a follow up meeting two weeks after the festival, and all would like to have another festival next year. The dates have been set for September 20-21, 2014. WE EXPECT YOU TO BE HERE!!

It was mentioned that our coming together like this shows what can be accomplished working as one team to benefit all our parishes. We are all excited to meet again, not only because of the financial gain, but because of friendships that have developed working with our fellow Orthodox Christians.