On Dying (in it’s many forms)

Here’s a saying popular among the monks of Mt. Athos, according to Kyriakos Markides:

If you die before you die, you will not die when you die.

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This post raised some questions. I seem to conflate conservatives and liberals. I fail to recognize the differences between the Republican and Democratic political parties in the U.S. (Yeah, I also noticed that they were statements rather than questions.)

In answer I will quote John Médaille. I’ve lost the source of this quote. Sorry. He’s talking about the success of William F. Buckley’s National Review.

But it was a success that came at a price, and the price was fusionism. The “conservatism” of Buckley’s journal was an odd combination of traditionalists, Austrian libertarians, and the liberal anti-communists (who would later become the “neo-cons”). These three factions were united by their anti-communism, but by little else. The traditionalists aimed at virtue, while the Austrians and the “neo-cons” aimed at “liberty,” but a liberty that was merely formal; it did not aim at the good or at anything in particular, but was mostly expressed as a lack of restraint, particularly government restraint. As Mark Popowski points out, if freedom is foremost, then no superior principle [such as virtue] could ever be invoked. This tension is at the root of all of the problems of what we today call “conservatism.”

In other words, in the 60s the glue that held the new Republican factions together was not political ideology, it was anti-communism. Once the communist threat dissipated, the stark differences between these groups became obvious. Unfortunately (if one is a conservative, that is), it was the neo-cons who now held the reins of the Republican Party. The two American political parties (Republican and Democrat) were now in control, on the one hand, of Democrats who were formerly perceived as soft on communism and, on the other, of ex-Democrats who were anti-communists. Now that communism had become an anachronism, it left Democrats and ex-Democrats in control of the whole American political process. The fall of communism was the end of the two party system for the moment. Hopefully we can regain two distinct perspectives in American politics in the near future.

Amerironica

[Having a hard time with that title? How about parentheses and one letter change: Amer(irony)ca. Sort of like Americana, but with a modern twist.]

Freedom_4

One of South Sioux City’s newest projects in Freedom Park, a place that celebrates what America is all about and the sacrifices people have made for the U.S.

Freedom_1

It’s got a long way to go. This is what the park complex looks like so far.Freedom_2

I have nicknamed the sign in the foreground the Edward Snowden Memorial Entrance Sign, or the WB (Whistle Blower) for short. Could there be any freedom without whistle blowers?

 

And ironically, is there anything that better defines the Imperial U.S. government bureaucracy (at the moment) than surveillance?

It turns out (in their mind) there can be no freedom without eternal vigilance surveillance.

 

 

The Fourfold Way of the Christian Life

Kallistos Ware, retired Oxford lecturer and titular Bishop in the Orthodox Church, is fond of describing the Christian life with God in a fourfold way. It is

  1. A gift of grace – not a human inquiry into God, but God’s disclosure of himself.
  2. A mystery – no matter how much we learn there is always more to learn and no matter how well we learn a specific thing, what we say about it falls short of the truth.
  3. A process of purification – God can reveal his inner life/light to us only to the extent that we are pure enough to not be consumed by that divine life/light.
  4. Silence, or stillness of the heart – ultimately, communion with the Living Word (ie, the Son of God) is not through words, but Being communing with being. Communion is not “conversation with,” it is “union with” God (the etymology of “communion”), Busy-ness and talkativeness distract while silence, stillness, and presence promote personal knowledge and experience with God.

In other words, the Christian life is to know God; and to know God – and to be known by God – is to do God’s will and to become like God. Knowledge, action, and transformation are facets of a single activity. There is a wonderful Greek word – perichoresis – often translated into English as “coinherence,” a word essentially invented to express the idea of perichoresis. It refers to the manner in which the divine life flows from one person of the trinity to the whole of the trinity and vice versa. The life of the Father flows into the Word and the Spirit; the life of the Word flows into the Spirit and the Father; the life of the Spirit flows into the Father and the Word.

Similarly, the Spirit indwells the Body of Christ, the Church, even as the Body of Christ indwells the very being of God so that the life of God flows into the Body while the life of the Body is known fully by God. At this point I am uncomfortable with the idea of the life of the Body flowing back into God because it implies that the Body of Christ, the church, is necessary to God’s existence. Extending the analogy that far would be a falsehood. This is why I begin this paragraph with “similarly.” Perichoresis, or coinherence, is properly a doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The analogy of between the Spirit and the Body of Christ is similar to but not the same as coinherence. This is a primary reason why we use the term “communion” to describe the divine/human relationship.

And this is why Ware’s third point, that the Christian life is a process of purification, is so critical. There is a movement back and forth between God and human; it goes both ways. God dwells in me so that I can dwell in God. But holiness and wickedness cannot be co-mingled. So it is that authentic communion (which is analogous in certain ways to perichoresis) is only possible to the extent that the human has been purified.

With this dynamic relationship in mind we realize the poverty of the term “works” when trying to describe the human side of salvation. “Washing” rather than “working” is where we begin. “Serving” others rather than “earning” anything at all (as if that is even possible!) is how we relate to others. Finally, adoration, which ultimately will lead to stillness and pure presence with one another, is how we express our life with God.

[A footnote of sorts: This fourfold way is not original with Ware. It is how the patristics, who generally wrote in Greek, viewed things for the most part. The four facets get translated into English in a variety of ways, but the Greek words at the root of these ideas, for those who want to pursue it further, are charisma (a gift of grace), mysterion (mystery, often translated as “sacrament,” via the Latin, by Roman Catholics – a highly problematic translation, but that’s another story), katharsis (cleansing), and hesychia (silence or stillness).]