Archive for October, 2007

Depravity and the Absolute Importance of Prayer

October 29, 2007

Recently I’ve been reading one of the basics in Orthodox spirituality: “The Way of The Pilgrim, and The Pilgrim Continues His Way.” So I guess, that would actually be two books, but it’s in one volume, so…eh. But the Pilgrim books are the old story of a Russian pilgrim who wonders across the land with nothing but a knapsack on his back with breadcrusts and his Bible in it. He travels to various holy sites, attends liturgy, and somehow finds a way to get enough hospitality to survive.

One day the Pilgrim hears an epistle reading during liturgy in which the words “Pray without ceasing…” are said, and from then on he decides he must find out what this means. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Orthodox prayer/spirituality. In the “Sixth Meeting,” in “The Pilgrim Continues His Way,” the pilgrim is having a conversation, when one of the wiser men decides to give him a lecture on some of the mysteries of the “Philokalia.”

Within this talk, the man decides to explain what part men play in their own salvations, ie: what is left up to our wills. First, he brings up faith, because obviously faith is necessary for salvation. But, the man says, man can’t just have faith. Faith is a gift from God. On his own, man cannot even produce faith the size of a mustard seed. So how can we get this gift? Ask and ye shall recieve the man responds.

Next, he brings up works. For as St. James says, “Faith without works is dead,” and “For a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” However, St. Paul reveals to us that we are powerless an unable to justify ourselves by keeping all the commandments of the law. So how can one be saved? The Savior Himself reveals this mystery: “Without me ye can do nothing,” and “He who abides in Me…bears much fruit.” To be in Christ, the man says, is, “continually to know His presence and to unceasingly to ask in His name.” So the man says, once again we see that it is only through prayer that one can ever perform good works. This, he says, is “why prayer is necessary above all else, because it gives life to faith and through it all the virtues are aquired.”

Not so fast though, the man next tells us that “True prayer requires its own conditions. It mus tbe offered with a pure mind and heart, with ardent zeal and undivided attention, with tremendous awe and profound humility.” Yet, obviously no one does this because as the blessed St. Paul tells us, “…we do not know what to pray for as we ought…” So what can a man do if he can’t even pray right, but all of salvation comes down to prayer? The only thing that is actually up to our will, the man says, is quantity.

So there you have it. How depraved are we? Pretty doggone depraved, but not completely. We have it within our power to choose how frequently we pray. It’s not within our power to have faith, do good works, or to pray rightly, but we can choose how much we pray in our own feeble, imperfect manner. True prayer is a gift of grace.

So the question is…how often do call up on the name of the Lord for mercy? Might want to rethink the priority that you currently assign to your prayer life. I know I have. Peace and blessings.

2nd Century Palamism: Essence and Energies in Irenaeus

October 28, 2007

Energetic procession occasionally lists Irenaeus quotes, and I thought it would be helpful to compile some of these that are of interest. Irenaeus may not have used the exact same terminology as Palamas (all the time) but…

4. There is therefore one God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and
arranged all things; but this is the Creator (Demiurge) who has granted this world to the human race, and who, as regards His greatness, is indeed unknown to all who have been made by Him (for no man has searched out His height, either among the ancients who have gone to their rest, or any of those who are now alive); but as regards His love, He is always known through Him by whose means He ordained all things. Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. Wherefore the prophets, receiving the prophetic gift from the same Word, announced His advent according to the flesh, by which the blending and communion of God and man took place according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Word of God foretelling from the beginning that God should be seen by men, and hold converse with them upon earth, should confer with them, and should be present with His own creation, saving it, and becoming capable of being perceived by it, and freeing us from the hands of all that hate us, that is, from every spirit of wickedness; and causing us to serve Him in holiness and righteousness all our days, in order that man, having embraced the Spirit of God, might pass into the glory of the Father.

5. These things did the prophets set forth in a prophetical manner; but they did not, as some allege, [proclaim] that He who was seen by the prophets was a different [God], the Father of all being invisible. Yet this is what those [heretics] declare, who are altogether ignorant of the nature of prophecy. For prophecy is a prediction of things future, that is, a setting forth beforehand of those things which shall be afterwards. The prophets, then, indicated beforehand that God should be seen by men; as the Lord also says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But in respect to His greatness, and His wonderful glory, “no man shall see God and live,” for the Father is incomprehensible; but in regard to His love, and kindness, and as to His infinite power, even this He grants to those who love Him, that is, to see God, which thing the prophets did also predict. “For those things that are impossible with men, are possible with God.” For man does not see God by his own powers; but when He pleases He is seen by men, by whom He wills, and when He wills, and as He wills. For God is powerful in all things, having been seen at that time indeed, prophetically through the Spirit, and seen, too, adoptively through the Son; and He shall also be seen paternally in the kingdom of heaven, the Spirit truly preparing man in the Son of God, and the Son leading him to the Father, while the Father, too, confers [upon him] incorruption for eternal life, which comes to every one from the fact of his seeing God. For as those who see the light are within the light, and partake of its brilliancy; even so, those who see God are in God, and receive of His splendour. But [His] splendour vivifies them; those, therefore, who see God, do receive life. And for this reason, He, [although] beyond comprehension, and boundless and invisible, rendered Himself visible, and comprehensible, and within the capacity of those who believe, that He might vivify those who receive and behold Him through faith. For as His greatness is past finding out, so also His goodness is beyond expression; by which having been seen, He bestows life upon those who see Him. It is not possible to live apart from life, and the means of life is found in fellowship with God; but fellowship with God is to know God, and to enjoy His goodness.

6. Men therefore shall see God, that they may live, being made immortal by that sight, and attaining even unto God; which, as I have already said, was declared figuratively by the prophets, that God should be seen by men who bear His Spirit [in them], and do always wait patiently for His coming. As also Moses says in Deuteronomy, “We shall see in that day that God will talk to man, and he shall live.” For certain of these men used to see the prophetic Spirit and His active influences poured forth for all kinds of gifts; others, again, [beheld] the advent of the Lord, and that dispensation which obtained from the beginning, by which He accomplished the will of the Father with regard to things both celestial and terrestrial; and others [beheld] paternal glories adapted to the times, and to those who saw and who heard them then, and to all who were subsequently to hear them. Thus, therefore, was God revealed; for God the Father is shown forth through all these [operations], the Spirit indeed working, and the Son ministering, while the Father was approving, and man’s salvation being accomplished. As He also declares through Hosea the prophet: “I,” He says, “have multiplied visions, and have used similitudes by the ministry (in manibus) of the prophets.” But the apostle expounded this very passage, when he said, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of ministrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” But as He who worketh all things in all is God, [as to the points] of what nature and how great He is, [God] is invisible and indescribable to all things which have been made by Him, but He is by no means unknown: for all things learn through His Word that there is one God the Father, who contains all things, and who grants existence to all, as is written in the Gospel: “No man hath seen God at any time, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has declared [Him].”

Against Heresies V:20:4-6

[H]aving received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father, who freely gives to this mortal immortality, and to this corruptible incorruption, because the strength of God is made perfect in weakness, in order that we may never become puffed up, as if we had life from ourselves, and exalted against God, our minds becoming ungrateful; but learning by experience that we possess eternal duration from the excelling power of this Being, not from ou
r own nature, we may neither undervalue that glory which surrounds God as He is
, nor be ignorant of our own nature, but that we may know what God can effect, and what benefits man receives, and thus never wander from the true comprehension of things as they are, that is, both with regard to God and with regard to man.

V:2:3

“They blaspheme the Creator, who is truely God, and who empowers us to find the truth. And they imagnie that they have discovered another god beyond God, or another Pleroma, or another dispensation. Therefore, the light which is from God does not enlighten them, because they have dishonoured and despised God, considering Him of little worth because, through His love and great beneficence, He has come within reach of human knowledge (knowledge, however, not with regard to His grandeur or according to his essence-for no one has measured or handled that-but such that we may know that the One who made and fashioned humanity, and breathed into it the breath of life, and nourishes us through creation, confirming all things by His Word, and binding them together by His Wisdom-He it is who is the only true God). But they dream of a non-existent being above the true God, believing that they have discovered the great God, whom no one can know, who does not communicate with human beings, and who exercises no direction over earthly affairs. So it turns out that they have discovered the god of Epicurus, who takes care neither of himself nor others; a god without proviedence.”

III:24:2

Excerpt #1

October 16, 2007

Continental Philosophy, def.: French people with difficult-to-pronounce names trying to piss me off by being as unclear and confusing as possible.

(From “The Commonsense Man’s Dictionary of Analytic Philosophy”)

Thomas Reid's Argument for Natural Language

October 15, 2007

I don’t know much about philosophy of language but here’s an argument I picked up while reading Thomas Reid’s “An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense”. Reid is arguing that human beings have a “natural language”–a way of communicating using symbols that is prior to cultural development or any kinds of agreements about the meanings of symbols. Artificial language is those signs whose meaning has been fixed by an agreement to use them a certain way. His argument goes as follows:

1. Artificial language assumes an agreement to affix meaning to certain signs.
2. Therefore there must be compacts or agreements before artificial language and artificial signs.
3. But there can’t be compacts or agreements without language.

Therefore there must be a natural language before artificial language.

This argument does seem intuitively plausible to me. I would like to learn what critics have said in response to it.

Thoughts anyone?

Still very good.

October 9, 2007

Genesis 1:26-29
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:31
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good

Psalm 8:4-6
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all [things] under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field. The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, [and whatsoever] passeth through the paths of the seas.

The telos of human nature was to reign (Genesis 1:26-29). That telos was good when God made it (Genesis 1:31). The fact that man still has that good telos after the fall (Psalm 8:4-6) means that human nature is still very good, in a very important sense.