Other blogs

As I mentioned previously, I have been working on a new site for Life-Giving Spring and it has just gone public. I was originally just going to make a page on this blog for those who may want to contribute to what we are doing, but realized that making a separate site allows one more freedom for putting up material that one will need to have somewhere in the long term anyway. I will hopefully develop it more before too long once things are more organized.

As one can see on the news page, I am making slow progress and have had to accept that it will take time to settle. And I am having to get used to living in two places at once – the biggest disaster so far happened this week when I forgot my laptop’s cord in Robertson, when I had been planning to do serious computer week on the weekday evenings! But overall, I have been delighted with the way things are coming together there and with the space that is emerging… and I am very grateful to God for the people who are supporting this venture!

Salvation is not how to get people like me (or like you) into some place safe from the fires of hell. That is a transportation problem at best, or a legal problem, at worst. The point of salvation is how to change people like me (and you). It is about changing us such that seeing the resurrection becomes possible.

Father Stephen Freeman, here.

Implied in the Orthodox liturgical tradition, and axiomatic as well in the modern Liturgical Movement, is the basic principle that what we do and what we say in corporate worship directly influences our beliefs, our attitudes and our daily behavior. That influence is indeed one of liturgical worship’s intended effects. Liturgy teaches. Liturgy is designed to affect life. Bad liturgy therefore has bad effects…

A Call for Liturgical Renewal. The Liturgical Effectiveness of Pews

A couple of months ago I thought of posting something that asked: What is it about Protestants and pews? By strange coincidence, in a fairly short course of time as I had been investigating some South African Christian blogs, I had come across three rather negative references to pews from Protestant Christians. And what struck me was that although they all used pews as a symbol for something negative, none of them seemed to question the inevitability of pews. From an evangelical-cum-conservative perspective pews seemed to symbolise routine and lack of commitment (those attending church were seen as simply “pew warmers”) while from a more liberal-cum-engaged in the world perspective, pews seemed to symbolise a “churchiness” that was separated from the world. And yet nobody seemed to see what to me would have been the obvious solution: if pews are such a problem, then why not get rid of them?

I thought of responding to this at the time but, as so often happens, I didn’t get to it. But I also realised that contemporary Orthodox praxis often doesn’t present that much of an alternative to the Protestant and Catholic reliance on pews. Moreover, this touches on so many issues, including the role of the body in worship, and the impact of modernity on us, and much of my own reaction is a gut level one rather than one of carefully thought out theory. I know from my own experience that worshipping in a church without pews or chairs affects me at a level that is deeper than just theory but which is not so easy to explain. And I also know that being expected to sit during prayers that one should stand for hits at something deep in my being.

Anyway, this week someone posted a link to the above article on Facebook that expresses this better than I could and that is definitely worth reading. And someone else posted link to this fascinating paper given by the Anglican John Mason Neale in 1841 in which he argued

For what is the HISTORY OF PUES, but the history of the intrusion of human pride, and selfishness, and indolence, into the worship of GOD? a painful tale of our downward progress from the reformation to the revolution: the view of a constant struggle to make Canterbury approximate to Geneva, to assimilate the church to the conventicle. In all this contest, the introduction of pues, as trifling a thing as it may seem, has exercised no small influence for ill; and an equally powerful effect for good would follow their extirpation.

I don’t know if there are any readers of this blog from South Africa, and more specifically from Gauteng, who don’t read Khanya, or, failing that, The Way in Cape Town, but in case there are it may be worth noting that Deacon Stephen has a post announcing that they are going to be starting The Way soon in Gauteng. As regular readers of this blog know, The Way is an introductory course in Orthodox Christianity that has been developed by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, and which we have been running in Cape Town in the last few months (and is one of the reasons I have been neglecting this blog…) It is extremely well produced and is highly recommended.

I’m afraid that I am very late posting this, but let me do so in case there are people who haven’t seen it elsewhere. Herman Middleton, the translator of  Greece’s Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis has asked me to draw attention to a series of four posts that he has written on this book, and which have been published on the following blogs:

Blog Post #1: September 30th, Byzantine, TX
Blog Post #2: October 4th, Eighth Day Books Blog
Blog Post #3: October 6th, Bombaxo
Blog Post #4: October 11th, Mystagogy

It looks very interesting!

I made a rather silly typo in a blog comment yesterday. Or, given that I repeated it twice, perhaps it was more a Freudian slip than a typo. Instead of writing “sola scriptura” I wrote “schola scriptura”. Perhaps I am just an irreformable closet Benedictine after all!

Now, I probably should not have written the comment (or the one that preceded it) in the first place, and I am not going to link to it as it is clear that there is really no room for conversation with the blogger concerned. It’s just that, well, there are certain things that I find really shocking, in this case the idea that Christ did not die for all people, that I felt that I had to say something. But in any case, I should have known better. (Note to self: do not comment on Calvinist blog. In fact, better, do not read Calvinist blogs. Of course the trouble is that, with a few exceptions, most Christian blogs in South Africa seem to be either Calvinist or post-everything, but that is another topic).

But, as I realised that I had written “schola scriptura” instead of “sola scriptura,” it struck me that it was perhaps not such an insignificant difference. For, the school of the Scriptures, with its attitude of sitting at the feet of the biblical authors, and being formed by them, sounds like a far healthier and more traditional attitude to have towards the Scriptures than to see them as a quarry from which to extract arguments with which to defend pre-existing positions. And that reminded me of these words from Father Andrew Louth that I posted over three years ago – how much has happened since then!

The presupposition that lies behind all this – a presupposition either defended (more or less desperately) or finally relinquished – is the principle of sola scriptura, understood as meaning that Scripture is a quarry from which we can extract the truth of God’s revelation: that allied to the more recent notion that the tool to use in extracting meaning from literary texts is the method of historical criticism. We have an alliance between the Reformation and the Enlightenment: not something that inspires confidence. But as will be clear from our considerations so far, both the principle and the method are questionable.

The principle of sola scriptura actually leads one away from the traditional devotion to Scripture as the Word of God which we find par excellence in the Fathers. Scripture is being understood as an arsenal and not as a treasury (to use the contrast drawn by Paul Claudel in his Du sens figure de l’Écriture). And such an understanding leads to a false and misleading notion of the nature of Christianity as a biblical religion. If the bible is seen as a quarry from which truth is to be extracted, then the truth thus extracted – the truth of Christianity – is naturally seen as ‘biblical’. … But as Henri de Lubac protests in his Exégèse Médiévale:

Christianity is not, properly speaking, a ‘religion of the Book’: it is a religion of the word (Parole) – but not uniquely nor principally of the word in written form. It is a religion of the Word (Verbe) – ‘not of a word, written and mute, but of a Word living and incarnate’ (to quote St. Bernard). The Word of God is here and now, amongst us, ‘which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled’: the Word ‘living and active’, unique and personal, uniting and crystallizing all the words which bear it witness. Christianity is not ‘the biblical religion’: it is the religion of Jesus Christ. [Exégèse Médiévale, II/1 (Paris, 1961), pp. 196-9.]

And in those words de Lubac echoes the cry of St. Ignatius of Antioch: ‘For me the archives are Jesus Christ, and the inviolable archives his cross and death and his resurrection and faith in Him.’ [Ep. Philad. VIII. 2.] The heart of Christianity is the mystery of Christ, and the Scriptures are important as they unfold to us that mystery, and not in and for themselves.

Andrew Louth, Discerning the Mystery,  101-102.

I mentioned previously that we were planning to run The Way, the course developed by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, in Cape Town. I also mentioned that this blog was hibernating, not only because I had been preparing to sell books at a craft market (which went reasonably well for the first time), but also because I was involved in another project. That has taken much longer and been more time consuming than I had expected, but it is now completed – or, probably more accurately, ready to begin.

As part of our preparation for the Way, our Archbishop, His Eminence Archbishop Sergios, had suggested a blog. This was originally envisaged as a page on the Archbishopric’s web site, but that proved to be technically problematic and so I suggested starting a separate blog which would enable us to give more information – but little envisaging how much time it would take! Anyway, I have just made it public and it can be found here. If you are by any chance in Cape Town, and interested, we would love to hear from you. And, if not, please do remember us in your prayers.

I have just added John Sanidopoulos’ Mystagogy to my blogroll on the strength of this post. There are other blogs that I have been considering either adding or deleting, and there are multiple factors involved in all that, but recent events have a way of clarifying Christian identity in a rather piercing and quite frightening way. May God have mercy on all of us.

For those who don’t know him, and for anyone looking for a bit of economic and Christian sanity, and, even more so, anyone likely to be taken in by the Tea Party rhetoric, you would do well to read Father Ernesto Obregon’s blog, and especially his last post The witheld wages cry out to the Lord of hosts.

I don’t intend entering North American* debates, the details of which I neither know nor plan to spend much time on, but they do unfortunately have consequences for the rest of the world. And reading Father Ernesto’s posts – and some of the discussions after them – make me grateful that not all Americans live on another planet…

       *My apologies to Canadians, but I don’t know what the appropriate adjective is for citizens of the U.S.A.

In case anyone is interested, I thought that I should perhaps mention that I have a new blog! And it has nothing to do with theology, or Orthodoxy, except for the fact that I have bound some liturgical books and bibles. (I have a priest who is pioneering the translation of liturgical texts into Afrikaans, so that does present some unique binding opportunities!)

The reason for this is that I am exploring the possibility of doing private binding work and so wanted to create an online presence. There are various factors involved in this, including the fact that my job is a contract post and so I need to explore what happens after the contract ends, and the fact that, while I am generally happy at work and like the people I work with, the work itself is not of the highest quality and I would like to keep and develop my skills and do something that I can take pride in, and other factors that I had probably best not speak of at this point. This whole venture is exploratory, and at present is taking up far too much of my time, which is something I am concerned about, but I need to see how it develops.

In any case, if anyone is interested, you can find the new blog here.

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