Monday, June 28, 2010

Ukrainian Glory, Blessed Feast

This past Sunday, following a visit to Holy Protection Cathedral in NYC, I drove over to the American Bible Society, where they had a display of Ukrainian icons and other liturgical items (this will be on display through most of September), called "The Glory of Ukraine." To the right, you have a pectoral cross of one of the saintly monks (you will have to forgive the lack of provenance in the post; I was approached by a docent who told me after I had snapped photos that such was not allowed; I was thus unable to go back and take detailed photos of the descriptions of these three items). The cross is more or less a foot long, with Christ in the center, the holy apostles flanking Him on both sides, St. Theodotus above Him, and another saint beneath Him who has since been rubbed off.

The royal doors to the right are a gorgeous example of Ukrainian liturgical artistry; along with the seamless inclusion both of the Annunciation and of the four Evangelists, a grape cluster motif ties the doors in quite nicely to their main liturgical function of presenting to us the Vine of life. Also on display was a popular Ukrainian motif of the 17th-18th centuries (not pictured) where a western-style Bridegroom Christ has a vine growing out of the wound in His side which, after arching over his head, comes down His other side to an angel, who, grabbing a cluster of grapes, squeezes the juice into a chalice. A gorgeous reminder that His Blood is drink, indeed.

The final icon, from Lviv, if I remember correctly, this much more Byzantine-style icon dates to the 13th century, as opposed to the dates of Roman Catholic Ukrainian monarchs who commissioned Renaissance-style, linear-perspective, iconographically-non-functional images. One such image was the "vigilant eye" icon, wherein an infant Christ lies, peacefully asleep, on a cross, with the instruments of the crucifixion strewn about him. The light of heaven shines down from one side, showing how this small one was the one who would die, yet who, as a human infant, remained innocently unaware of it. I found myself wondering how much of Orthodox thought and practice was getting "lost in translation" by being hosted by Protestants, but everything seemed to be very well-described. There was one jab about Ukrainians often praying to St. Paraskevi for matters of the home "instead of to God," but...oh well. That a Protestant group would agree to display such things is something for which I'm grateful.

I wish all of you a blessed feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul! Click on the icon of Ss. Peter and Paul in the sidebar for a sermon by St. Augustine of Hippo (taken from given for the feast.

Troparion - Tone 4

First-enthroned of the apostles,
teachers of the universe:
Entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world,
and to our souls great mercy!

Kontakion - Tone 2

O Lord, You have taken up to eternal rest
and to the enjoyment of Your blessings
the two divinely-inspired preachers, the leaders of the Apostles,
for You have accepted their labors and deaths as a sweet-smelling sacrifice,
for You alone know what lies in the hearts of men.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honor
The rock of Faith and leader of the Apostles,
Together with Paul and the company of the twelve,
Whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith,
Giving glory to the one who gave glory to them!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Antiochene Insufficiency

In response to a recent post at Beggars All, I thought I'd post an apt response here; this happens to be my answer to an essay question on my Patristics final, second semester.


The charge that "Only the Antiochene theologians present a realistic picture of the human Jesus" may seem to have some merit when taken at face value, but upon further inspection and comparison with its neighboring, Alexandrian tradition, it becomes apparent that a long-standing misunderstanding of the human nature of the on Christ is at work in such a statement. A strict Antiochene christology is based on a prosopic union; that is, that the one being, Christ, is the result of the one, divine πρóσωπον, being the result of an ουσíα and its distinguishing υπóστασις, assuming or taking to himself a full separate, human πρóσωπον, existing and self-activating apart from his divine Assumer. In this system, the former πρóσωπον is the Λóγος τοῦ θεοῦ; the latter is the man, Jesus. According to Nestorius, what this assures is that Jesus, the man who performs all human actions in Christ is 1) a singular man, absolutely free from any interference from the Λóγος that would detract from his human experience, and 3) in possession of a human nature that is in no way different from the rest of humanity. Given such a deliberate attempt to identify Jesus with the rest of humanity, one can easily see why the statement at the beginning of this essay might be made.

The problem with such a statement, however, is whether a supposedly "realistic" human picture is in turn going to be 1) a true picture, or, more importantly, 2) a salvific picture. If Christ is, in fact, merely the result of two independent being working side by side, then humankind has no way of communicating with the divine One. Indeed, the son of David is fully human, but never the man shall meet with the divine Son of God, and thus, this "realistic picture" has thus disrupted the whole divine economy with a "two-sons" christology.

"How, though, could it be otherwise?" an Antiochene sympathizer of today might ask. The Alexandrian theologian Apollinarius had clearly shown, in the Antiochene mind, the consequences of failing to confess what they saw as the full, human nature within Christ. Apollinarius had rather opted to say that the one conscious subject in Christ--o Λóγος τοῦ θεοῦ--had assumed a mindless, soulless corpse of flesh and, animating it as a mere instrument, had accomplished the bodily deeds of the salvific economy. This, the Antiochians said, was not truly consubstantial with humanity, and on this they spoke correctly. What, then, might an Alexandrian theologian posit as a sound alternative to these two, nonsensical extremes?

Enter St. Cyril of Alexandria († 444), the bishop of Alexandria who served as the chief opponent of and eventual victor over Nestorius and the Antiochene school of thought, and who reconciled the need for one subject only within Christ (unsuccessfully addressed by Apollinarius) with the need for a fully functioning and present human nature within the one Christ (unsuccessfully attempted by Nestorius et al.) In his work That Christ is One, St. Cyril explicitly states multiple times that the Word of God was made flesh (Jn. 1.14) and dwelt among us--as opposed to a mere assumption of another being. Yet the term flesh is not necessarily to be seen in the strict, Apollinarian sense of a fleshly puppet. Sy Cyril quotes the prophet Joel in the old Testament to prove that St. John was making use of synecdoche: Just as one would not say that the Holy Spirit, being "poured out on all flesh" as Joel said, was poured out on lifeless corpses but rather on complete human beings, so we should say that the "Word made flesh" is speaking of one Subject (the Word and Son of God) who has made proper to Himself all that is proper to humanity (including a human mind, will, and emotions) and has thus become, not just flesh, but man.

This distinction is crucial, for St. Cyril can no longer be accused w/teaching Apollinarianism--that the WOrd is some sort of "drivine, animating force" within a lifeless body; rather, the Word is the one Subject Who is predicated two different ways: As God, He does things in His full, uncreated divinity; as man, He does other things in the ful humanity--body and soul--which He fashioned for Himself in the womb of the Θεοτóκος.

Thus, because our human life--and, most importantly, our human act of death performed by CHrist on the cross--has been experienced to the full by the very One who is divine with His Father's glory, we who are ομοουσιοι with the Son in His humanity can thus communicate with the divine nature, as well, upon entering into the likeness of His death (through baptism) and taking into ourselves nothing less than the glorified body of God (through the Eucharist). It is here that the "tow-sons" christology of the Antiochenes falls apart most tragically. If the One who was "given the name above every name" and who will be universally confessed as "Lord, to the glory of God the Father" is not the same One who "considered not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself, taking the form of a servant" by becoming flesh and becoming "obedient to death on a cross" (Phil. 2.5-11), then a way of communion between our nature and the divine nature has not been opened, and we are not save. Since, however, the One who had glory with the Father before the worlds existed (As Christ said in John's gospel), the Son of God as indeed dwelt among us as man, and by sacramentaly entering into the reality of God's own death and resurrection, we can indeed become "partakers of the divine nature" as the Apostle Peter said (2 Peter 1.4).

The quote which begins this essay, therefore, is a misunderstanding of the way in which the one Christ has been understood and confessed historically. The man called Jesus is indeed a human consubstantial with us in every way, but this does not mean that he must therefore be separate from the Word as a distinct, second πρóσωπον, with its own, intact ουσíα and υπóστασις. To do so would be fatal to the CHristian faith, as has been shown. The only "realistic picture of the human Jesus," then, that can be put forward, is that of the divine Person, the Λóγος τοῦ θεοῦ, who has become everything that we are, so that we might have and be, by grace, everything that He has and is by nature.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Towards an Evangelical Image...?

[EDIT: The post linked to below is apparently no longer on Fr. Basil's blog]

"I don’t personally care whether our hierarchs are from this continent or not. Insisting that the bishops be from the “mother country” or from the United States and Canada are just different forms of the same over-emphasis on race. What we need are bishops and church leaders (ordained and lay) who see that what stands before us is about the Gospel and its proclamation to the people of this continent."

From Fr. Basil Biberdorf's reflection on the SVS Hellenism Symposium, HERE.

As I said in the comments, we are in the unique position of participating in a movement towards jurisdictional unity that, for once, is not only approved of by our patriarchs, but initiated by them for the express purpose of establishing an Orthodox-style episcopacy of one bishop/one city. I don’t care if we wind up with some of our hierarchs being from another continent, either; in fact, having some from other countries may help us get over some of our American exceptionalism. Having one bishop to answer to as the authority figure, however, is an important step towards presenting the Gospel which Fr. Basil mentions. This is not to say that any given bishop who governs his given region will do so evangelically or even competently (I pray they will), but it seems to me that putting such a plan in action is of great importance and the primary purpose of both the EA and Chambesy, and ultimately essential to proclaiming the Gospel in the first place, for it must be done "decently and in order," and this cannot be done to the full given our shattered ecclesiological image in this place at present.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas

Troparia are linked to via the icon in the sidebar.

Blogger won't let me link their lives to their names, so here it is (taken from HERE):


Apostle Bartholomew of the Twelve

The Holy Apostle Bartholomew was born at Cana of Galilee and was one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. After the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, it fell by lot to the holy Apostles Bartholomew and Philip (November 14) to preach the Gospel in Syria and Asia Minor. In their preaching they wandered through various cities, and then met up again. Accompanying the holy Apostle Philip was his sister, the holy virgin St Mariamnne.

Traversing the cities of Syria and Myzia, they underwent much hardship and tribulations, they were stoned and they were locked up in prison. In one of the villages they met up with the Apostle John the Theologian, and together they set off to Phrygia. In the city of Hieropolis by the power of their prayers they destroyed an enormous viper, which the pagans worshipped as a god. The holy Apostles Bartholomew and Philip with his sister confirmed their preaching with many miracles.

At Hieropolis there lived a man by the name of Stachys, who had been blind for 40 years. When he received healing, he then believed in Christ and was baptized. News of this spread throughout the city, and a multitude of the people thronged to the house where the apostles were staying. The sick and those beset by demons were released from their infirmities, and many were baptized. The city prefect gave orders to arrest the preachers and throw them in prison, and to burn down the house of Stachys. At the trial pagan priests came forth with the complaint that the strangers were turning people away from the worship of the ancestral gods.

Thinking that perhaps some sort of magic power was hidden away in the clothes of the apostles, the prefect gave orders to strip them. But St Mariamne became like a fiery torch before their eyes, and none dared touch her. They sentenced the saints to death. The Apostle Philip was crucified upside down. Suddenly there was an earthquake, and a fissure in the earth swallowed up the prefect of the city, together with the pagan priests and many of the people. Others took fright and rushed to take down the apostles from the crosses. Since the Apostle Bartholomew had not been suspended very high, they soon managed to take him down. The Apostle Philip, however, had died. After making Stachys Bishop of Hieropolis, the Apostle Bartholomew and St Mariamne left the city and moved on.

Preaching the Word of God, Mariamne arrived in Lykaonia, where she peacefully died (February 17). The Apostle Bartholomew went to India, where he translated the Gospel of Matthew into their language, and he converted many pagans to Christ. He also visited Greater Armenia (the country between the River Kura and the upper stretches of the Tigrus and Euphrates Rivers), where he worked many miracles and healed the daughter of King Polymios from the demons afflicting her. In gratitude, the king sent gifts to the apostle, who refused to accept them, saying that he sought only the salvation of the souls of mankind.

Then Polymios together with his wife, daughter, and many of those close to them accepted Baptism. And people from more than ten cities of Greater Armenia followed their example. But through the intrigues of the pagan priests, the Apostle Bartholomew was seized by the king's brother Astiagus in the city of Alban (now the city of Baku), and crucified upside down. But even from the cross he did not cease to proclaim the good news about Christ the Savior. Finally, on orders from Astiagus, they flayed the skin from the Apostle Bartholomew and cut off his head. Believers placed his relics in a leaden coffin and buried him.

In about the year 508 the holy relics of the Apostle Bartholomew were transferred to Mesopotamia, to the city of Dara. When the Persians seized the city in 574, Christians took the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew with them when they fled to the shores of the Black Sea. But since the enemy overtook them there, they were compelled to leave the coffin behind, and the pagans threw it into the sea. By the power of God the coffin miraculously arrived on the island of Lipari. In the ninth century, after the taking of the island by the Arabs, the holy relics were transferred to the Neapolitan city of Beneventum in Italy, and in the tenth century part of the relics were transferred to Rome.

The holy Apostle Bartholomew is mentioned in the Life of St Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4). Having received from a certain man part of the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew, St Joseph conveyed them to his own monastery near Constantinople, and he built a church in the name of the Apostle Bartholomew, placing in it a portion of the relics. St Joseph ardently desired to compose hymns of praise in honor of the saint, and he fervently besought God to grant him the ability to do so.

On the Feast day in memory of the Apostle Bartholomew, St Joseph saw him at the altar. He beckoned to Joseph and took the holy Gospel from the altar table and pressed it to his bosom with the words, "May the Lord bless you, and may your song delight the whole world." And from that time St Joseph began to write hymns and canons to adorn not only the Feast day of the Apostle Bartholomew, but also the Feast days of many other saints, composing about 300 canons in all. Sts John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius of Cyprus and certain other teachers of the Church regard the Apostle Bartholomew as being the same person as Nathanael (John 1:45-51, 21:2).

Apostle Barnabas of the Seventy

Holy Apostle Barnabas of the Seventy was born on the island of Cyprus into the family of the tribe of Levi, and he was named Joseph. He received his education at Jerusalem, being raised with his friend and fellow student Saul (the future Apostle Paul) under the renowned teacher of the Law, Gamaliel. Joseph was pious, he frequented the Temple, he strictly observed the fasts and avoided youthful distractions. During this time period our Lord Jesus Christ began His public ministry. Seeing the Lord and hearing His Divine Words, Joseph believed in Him as the Messiah. Filled with ardent love for the Savior, he followed Him. The Lord chose him to be one of His Seventy Apostles. The other Apostles called him Barnabas, which means "son of consolation." After the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven, Barnabas sold land belonging to him near Jerusalem and he brought the money to the feet of the Apostles, leaving nothing for himself (Acts 4:36-37).

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem after his conversion and sought to join the followers of Christ, everyone there was afraid of him since he had persecuted the Church only a short while before. Barnabas, however, came with him to the Apostles and reported how the Lord had appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:26-28).

Saint Barnabas went to Antioch to encourage the believers, "Having come and having seen the grace of God, he rejoiced and he urged all to cleave to the Lord with sincerity of heart" (Acts 11:23). Then he went to Tarsus, and brought the Apostle Paul to Antioch, where for about a year they taught the people. It was here that the disciples first began to be called Christians (Acts 11:26). With the onset of famine, and taking along generous alms, Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem. When King Herod killed St James the son of Zebedee, and had the Apostle Peter put under guard in prison to please the Jews, Sts Barnabas and Paul and Peter were led out of the prison by an angel of the Lord.

They hid out at the house of Barnabas' aunt Maria. Later, when the persecution had quieted down, they returned to Antioch, taking with them Maria's son John, surnamed Mark. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophets and teachers there imposed hands upon Barnabas and Paul, and sent them off to do the work to which the Lord had called them (Acts 13:2-3). Arriving in Seleucia, they sailed off to Cyprus and in the city of Salamis they preached the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues.

On Paphos they came across a sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was close with the proconsul Sergius. Wishing to hear the Word of God, the proconsul invited the saints to come to him. The sorcerer attempted to sway the proconsul from the Faith, but the Apostle Paul denounced the sorcerer, who through his words suddenly fell blind. The proconsul believed in Christ (Acts 13:6-12).

From Paphos Barnabas and Paul set sail for Pergamum of Pamphylia, and then they preached to the Jews and the Gentiles at Pisidian Antioch and throughout all that region. The Jews rioted and expelled Paul and Barnabas. The saints arrived in Iconium, but learning that the Jews wanted to stone them, they withdrew to Lystra and Derben. There the Apostle Paul healed a man, crippled in the legs from birth. The people assumed them to be the gods Zeus and Hermes and wanted to offer them sacrifice. The saints just barely persuaded them not to do this (Acts 14:8-18).

When the question arose whether those converted from the Gentiles should accept circumcision, Barnabas and Paul went to Jerusalem. There they were warmly received by the Apostles and elders. The preachers related "what God had wrought with them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27).

After long deliberations the Apostles collectively resolved not to impose any sort of burden upon Gentile Christians except what was necessary: to refrain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:19-20). Letters were sent with Barnabas and Paul, and they again preached at Antioch, and after a certain while they decided to visit the other cities where they had visited earlier. St Barnabas wanted to take Mark along with him, but St Paul did not want to, since earlier he had left them. A quarrel arose, and they separated. Paul took Silas with him and went to Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas took Mark with him to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).

Having multiplied the number of believers, St Barnabas traveled to Rome, where he was perhaps the first to preach Christ.

St Barnabas founded the episcopal see at Mediolanum (now Milan), and upon his return to Cyprus he continued to preach about Christ the Savior. Then the enraged Jews incited the pagans against Barnabas, and they led him out beyond the city and stoned him, and then built a fire to burn the body. Later on, having come upon this spot, Mark took up the unharmed body of St Barnabas and buried it in a cave, placing upon the saint's bosom, in accord with his final wishes, the Gospel of Matthew which he had copied in his own hand.

St Barnabas died in about the year 62, at age seventy-six. In time, the burial spot was forgotten, but numerous signs took place at this spot. In the year 448, during the time of the emperor Zeno, St Barnabas appeared three times in a dream to Archbishop Anthimus of Cyprus and indicated the place where his relics were buried. Starting to dig at the indicated spot, Christians found the incorrupt body of the saint, and upon his chest was the Holy Gospel.

It was during this time that the Church of Cyprus began to be regarded as Apostolic in origin, and received the right of choosing its head. Thus St Barnabas defended Cyprus against the pretensions of the opponent of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the heretic surnamed Knapheios, who had usurped the patriarchal throne at Antioch and tried to gain dominion over the Church of Cyprus.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sheehan Quote

Father Stephen recently cited an article by Dr. Donald Sheehan on the concept of "Memory Eternal" as used in the Orthodox Church, in commemoration of his recent repose in the Lord. Most of us have probably read Father's post; I thoroughly recommend reading the article by Dr. Sheehan. I quote the article's final words here (emph. mine):

"[In an opening quotation of Zosima's biography] is the most beautiful understanding of Memory Eternal both in Eastern Orthodoxy and in Dostoevsky. It is the soul's seeking out what is precious - that is, what is unceasingly alive - even in the darkest, most afflicted of circumstances. And the crucial point, in the novels and in the Church, is that such seeking can succeed most fully and directly through what Dostoevsky calls 'a whole life's obedience' to the historical Orthodox Church and Her long traditions of fasting and prayer. For in this obedience, we avoid the terrible fate of those who (like Ivan Karamazov) seek to find themselves in themselves. Instead, like Alyosha and (in the end) Dmitri, we come to understand that we are precious not in our self-assertion but only in our self-emptying."

May the memory of our brother, the professor and subdeacon Donald Sheehan, be eternal.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Naming and Being Named as Salvation

Steve Robinson has written "one of those posts" which I imagine I will have to read over and over again. Beautiful meditation; to my knowledge, it's heretofore unprecedented in Orthodox thought, but very much in line with what we know and teach about theosis. What was it Florovsky said about "the mind of the fathers," again?

My Life (Again) in a Few Months, Lord Willing...

Thursday, June 03, 2010

We're All Limping

Darlene has raised some good questions in the comments in the Patmos post below. I posted the following there, then thought it might ought to be here, too:

Darlene --

Don't fret yourself; "If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might be an annoying convert, I more..." ;)

I struggled with the issue of baptism, too, about five years ago. I met with Archbishop Dmitri about it--you can read about my thoughts before my meeting w/him HERE (along with links to two good articles), and my thoughts after the meeting HERE--as well as an answer to someone's question last year about the history of the two approaches to baptism HERE. I know it's a lot (more!) to read, but perhaps it will help. It's not a comfortable issue for many of us enamored with finding Christ's Church, but it need not be a stumbling block.

"My limited understanding of the Orthodox faith is that all the motions we go through, from icon-kissing, to crossing ourselves, to attending Divine Liturgy, even to receiving the Eucharist, are only meaningful if we are participating in the life of Christ."

"They could just be going through the motions without an inward devotion to Christ."

Those statements are true. I would add to the thought, though, that it is ultimately useless for any person or group of people to make it their business to try and label certain behaviors as indicative of whether x or y type of person is or is not "participating in the life of Christ" or "just...going through the motions." The concept is solid, but the application of it to real people in real life is where it gets thorny. "There's a wideness in God's mercy," after all, that may cut the Greek electrician who drinks too much and goes to work late (if at all) slack that the energetic, college-educated, type-A personality former Evangelical convert to Orthodoxy (not describing anyone in particular here) may not get. So his kissing the icon may be the only time God shows Himself to him--and may make that to an ultimately greater effect in his life--whereas someone else might do it to condemnation. We're all limping. Doesn't mean we shouldn't at least "go through the motion" of "left foot...right foot..."

Holiness is absolutely the standard for Christians. How quickly or thoroughly an individual is expected to approach it in this life is unknown. I am not the electrician's Judge; I shall leave the unknown factor to Him.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Georgia and Patmos

I couldn't pass up the chance to honor someone as eccentric (to our ears) as St. Dodo of Georgia. A good opportunity to lighten up. Click the name for his vita.

Finished reading A Place of Healing for the Soul: Patmos by Peter France, a BBC religion columnist for several years who, after spending extensive time on the island of Patmos as a skeptic and secularist, eventually joined the Church of which his wife had already been a member for some years in a way I imagine would make many of the read-and-reason-your-way-in converts squirm (in spite of his reception at the hands of Archimandrite KALLISTOS (Ware)). God takes us where we are, to be sure, and thank God He does.

From the book:

"I have described the ceremonies of initiation. Although he photographs record that I emerged from the experience flushed and excited, I did not see any blinding lights during or after my total immersion. No certainties were revealed. I emerged still agnostic, but with a difference. A part of me was opened that had been shut. I heard no messages, but felt ready to receive them. If I had received grace, it had come in the form of an increase not in conviction, but in awareness, in receptivity.

"Very soon, after my second or third communion, I realized that I was beginning to experience as realities what I had taken to be colorful imagery. The divine energies present in the mystery of the Eucharist open within us a capacity to see, or to sense, spiritual realities to which we were insensible. That sentence is a myth for those without the experience; a reality for those who have it.

"I realized that during the long years I had spent studying Christianity to see whether or not I found it credible, I was missing the point. The creeds of the Church do not contain the Christian truth that Christ said would set us free. They were formalized and written down in response to challenges from outside, when the Church was forced to defend itself by using the language of philosophy to define its dogma. But that language belonged to the world of concepts against which the Church was attempting to defend itself. Most important, the Greek philosophers were building systems of thought by using terms that became part of the vocabulary of individuals whether or not they were bale to experience the realities those terms expressed.

"The full doctrine of the Church was made available only to baptized Christians. It still is. Much of it is written and so accessible to all, but the most important aspects are passed on orally and symbolically because they can only be transmitted to someone who is ready to receive them. And by their very nature they cannot be written. But taking the first step, by being baptized into the Orthodox Church, I had not experienced any new convictions but had opened myself to an evolving mystery which the Church has preserved and which exists to communicate to its members.

"And, on Patmos, I had become normal" (pp. 152-3).

Lest the reader think that this is merely a pietistic read about theology, rest assured that much of it deals with nothing other than the beauty and the slow pace associated invariably with this gorgeous island. Their hassles (most of them humorous, but only in hindsight) in finagling through the refreshingly infuriating social mores of Patmian real estate in order to secure themselves not one, but two different homes on the island (the second one being a shack with no lack of challenges endured simply for love of isolation and the need to eschew the busy ports) make this a travelogue in much the same vein as Markides' Mountain of Silence. The antics of a ξενος simply trying (unsuccessfully) to bribe a building inspector, the history behind the British scholar Dr. Edward Daniel Clarke's raid of a Patmian monastery library (allegedly with the aid of its own abbot) -- all this makes for a fascinating cultural and historical read. The aspect of the island which the book makes most immediate to the reader, however, is that of light, in what could be considered both literal and metaphorical senses...though it would seem that Patmos would have it one way--a μία φύσις φωτός--which illuminates all at once:

"Patmos is the place to read St. John's Gospel, and not just because he once walked here. His imagery is full of light, and although the special quality of light on the island seemed to me one of clarity, Felicia pointed out one morning as we looked across the sunlit valley that here the light does not seem to simply fall on objects--it infuses them and makes them radiant: as if it were giving them life; as if the life and the light were one.

"But there is a danger in reading St. John on Patmos. It is that the surroundings, the atmosphere and finally the people might come to persuade you that he speaks the truth...when you live amongst people who have not rejected the spiritual dimension in their lives, his words are sharper: they point not to fantasy but to reality. Every day there is the risk of coming across a situation that reminds you of this. I remember one of the first" (pp. 87-8).

Following a description of his fear of "church festivals...with women in the finest of their finery--an unnerving sight on Patmos, where the finery takes the form of jackets with shoulders like Al Capone's, handbags with yards of brass chain attached and black high-heeled shoes with enormous bright buckles," he and Felicia ducked into the Monastery of Diasozousa on August 14th and found what I think Arturo might have been alluding to:

"A long queue of local people was waiting to kiss the wonder-working icon...I chatted with people I knew--the electrician, the grocer, the carpenter, the plumber--I was struck by the fact that these people, practical workingmen with no very obvious religious slant to their lives, were doing something extremely odd. They were all patiently standing there in their best suits waiting to kiss a painting. What was really going on?

"I remembered something that Philip Sherrard...had written about Western society's having lost is way. Materialism had become the creed of the majority, and it was opposed not by the churches but by those who claimed a vague spiritual allegiance or inkling which they insisted had nothing to do with 'organized religion.' But Sherrard pointed out that any genuine religious tradition provided for some formal discipline as a means of spiritual realization. He wrote that people who attached themselves to these modern, rather gaseous trends of New Worldism were spiritually inferior to the simple believers who practiced a faith sincerely but with only the slightest knowledge of the metaphysical principles on which it was based.

"...these people, by the simple act of kissing the icon, were rejecting the closed system of materialism in which most people of the West are living today. Even if the act is a formal one, done because everybody does it, to revere an icon is to perform an action which proclaims that the material world is not the end--that there is a spiritual dimension to life which we may not understand and which we may ignore in our daily business of living but which on occasions such as this we can come together and publicly acknowledge. To kiss an icon, to cross oneself, to say 'Αν θέλει ο Θεός' ('God willing'), however perfunctorily or unthinkingly these actions are performed, is to strike a blow at the closed universe of the materialist.

"These dawning realizations are among the risks to which anyone exposed to the influences of Patmos is vulnerable" (pp. 88-90).

Encounters are what persuade him. Fr. Amphilochios Tsoukos, their oftentimes guide and helper, helped him see, through a bit of pretense in expressing a desire to learn English, that Peter should "see things differently, but [Amphilochios] was discerning enough to realize that this could not be achieved through argument or discussion. Faith comes through grace; and grace operates most effectively through people--but always through what they are, and not what they say" (p. 85). When Peter asked how Fr. Amphilochios would approach mission work to Peter's secularized "tribe" in the West, Father replied that he "would not say anything...I would simply live with you. And I would love you" (p. 82).

He sees the "essence of humility" in the "complete absence of regard for the self in the way" a young nun in the Evangelismos convent lived: head down, face serious, she was the epitome of focused, monastic, regimented work. But the moment she noticed Peter and his empty, un-refilled sherry glass, her face brightened and she hurried, with a radiant smile, to serve him. "Either the work mattered or the person mattered...real not thinking yourself less than the dust. It is thinking of others so completely that you do not think about yourself at all" (p. 39).

I encourage all of you to read this very short, very joyous, book.