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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Theology and Drama, part II


In this post, I shall continue the train of thought started in the last post, which was interrupted by the blog's space limits.

Wojtyla - following Kotlarczyk - wished the actor to minimize his own personality and any unnecessary fabrications of personality imitating that of a character so that the bare splendor of the Word could shine through. Minimizing the role of personality not only emphasized the story of the play rather than its mode of presentation, but also brought the actor out of the realm of some fictitious space and temporal sequence and into the souls of the audience. Once the actor becomes emptied of his self and identified (in the audience’s minds) only with the text or narrative of the play, eye contact between stage and audience turns the theatrical form of communication into an intensely interpersonal encounter, with direct communication between the soul of the actor (or playwright) and the beholder.

Seen in this light, Kotlarczyk believed that the theatrical act was a means of sanctification in which the actor transmits the Word of God to, and thus enters into a sort of communion with, the audience. The theatre is a liturgical act which by its artistic character renews and re-presents the mundane world. Just as secular life is a type or image of the Mass (which is the nuptial banquet of supernatural life), Kotlarczyk believed that life mirrors drama and not just vice versa; human drama transmits the divine Drama which is the ultimate meaning of the world as seen in God’s eyes. Faithful to the traditional Catholic symbol of salvation history as being a divine dance or symphony, Kotlarczyk believed that the whole of reality is structured as a drama with the crux of the plot centered around the phenomenon of man - that is, in the man who was also God.
This seemingly radical view of art as a reflection of the divine drama of salvation is in fact well within the Scholastic tradition. For the Scholastics, poetry (including drama) uses the outward form to reveal an inward form of beauty, which is a reflection of the Form of forms, God. As the Catholic philosopher Edward Ingram Watkin wrote (A Philosophy of Form, p. 358):

“We might almost call art a natural religion of immanence, prelude and antechamber of the supernatural religion of transcendence. Every natural beauty, since it is a form, is the objective praise of God, the Exemplar of which every created form is a revelation. And every beauty of art, since it is a presentation of form, is His human praise. The work of art is an objective and continual act of worship. The artist, nature’s priest, does on his lower plane what the liturgical priest does on the higher. Both are to offer a sacrifice of praise, respectively natural and supernatural. The rubric bids the priest at the opening of the Canon spread out, raise and join his ands, lifting his eyes to heaven to drop them immediately to the altar in a profound reverence. The artist also spreads out his hands to embrace the whole of nature, sub-human and human, in a generous and universal acceptance and love, then raises hands and eyes in a profound concentration of thought and feeling as though to draw the outer world into his personal experience. At the same time he lowers his eyes by a penetrating glance into his own spirit, to attain those rich creative depths whence his intuition proceeds. The minor artist no doubt does this also, but remissly and more superficially. Only the great artist carries out the operation with the power and profundity it demands. That is why he is a great, the former a minor, artist. But it is everywhere the ritual and movement of art.”

If this is a true description of art, then drama is something primarily transcendent and not human in origin, in which God transmits the Word to the soul through the playwright and the actors. The soul of such a playwright must be enlightened by sanctifying grace, because all art transmits beauty precisely by manifesting the beauty of the soul of the artist, which, in order to manifest a divine origin, must first have been deified. In the words of Frithjof Schuon (Spiritual Facts and Human Perspectives, p. 38), “Metaphysical or mystical poets such as Dante and some of the troubadours, and also the Sufi poets, expressed spiritual realities through the beauty of their souls. It is a matter of spiritual endowment far more than a question of method, for it is not given to every man sincerely to formulate truths which are beyond the range of ordinary humanity.” The word can now be deified for the same reason that the human soul can be, namely the Incarnation of the Eternal Word in a human flesh and a human soul.

Like drama, Wojtyla believed that poetry is an expression of the natural human longing for God. As such, poetry complements the “theatre of the inner word”, since it rises upward seeking transcendent beauty; it enlarges the human soul beyond its natural capacity, helping open it up to receive the bare nakedness of the Word, and the perspectives of literature qua drama and literature qua poetry are seen to be mutually implicit. In a letter written to a friend and fellow-student at the Jagiellonian University and quoted by Adam Boniecki's The Making of the Pope of the Millennium (Kalendarium of the Life of Karol Wojtyla), p. 80, Wojtyla expressed this idea by saying that poetry was “not just a longing for beauty, but a demand for it… Art does not exist merely to be a realistic truth, merely a diversion, but above, it is a superstructure, a gaze forward and upward. It is the companion of religion and a guide onto the road to God; It has the dimension of a romantic rainbow: from the earth and from the human heart towards the Infinite.”

While art may be a natural religion of immanence, a prelude and antechamber to the supernatural religion of transcendence, the fact of Christ' Incarnation now means that all purely natural religions have been fulfilled.  Human nature has been radically and irreversibly changed for ever, and this means that our artistic theory must take this fact into account.  To quote Hans Urs von Balthasar (Theo-Drama III:25, 32), "with the coming of Christ something has been done to man that continues to have an effect; man will never again be what he was before Christ... On the basis of this eschatological provocation introduced by Christ, the drama enacted between God and mankind, and between men themselves as they put forward and defend their warring systems of meaning, is already a drama 'in Christ'.  Tidings of him are destined to spread from 'Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8); this does not mean that all nations must necessarily be converted to his message, but at least they cannot escape being confronted by it."  What is the relationship between the Word and the "inner word", when the Word itself has become a character in the divine drama?  We must be sensitive to Professor Conzelmann's complaint that "the Twelve give the impression of being stage extras" (quoted in von Balthasar, Theo-Drama III:124); Christ may be the central character, but nonetheless by virtue of His humanity just one character among others, while on the other hand He is not just an individual actor, but also "the very condition that renders the play possible" (Theo-Drama III:41); "He is, as it were, the the one who creates a 'stage' in the first place so that characters can appear on it - and here 'stage' means, paradoxically, both a 'concrete area' and an 'empty area'." (ibid)

It is impossible for any character created by an author's imagination to be at once a character and the condition that renders the play possible, so theatre is incapable of realizing the supernatural religion of transcendence, but only pointing to and hinting at it, and making it present in the manner of something beyond itself.  There are characters who come close to this Christ-like status by identifying with the context of the play and making the play possible, and these characters, who usually give a vaguely demiurgic impression, are the most properly said to be the symbols of and sacraments to Christ.  Examples of such would be Chesterton's "Thursday" and Wojtyla's Jeweler, and it is to Wojtyla's enigmatic Jeweler that I shall turn in the next post.

Theology and Drama, part I

In the second part of his monumental magnum opus, Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote a "Theo-Drama"; that is, an examination of theology as couched in theatrical, dramatic terms as the story of salvation.  Though it would be a travesty to compare one blog post written in an afternoon by a young amateur to a five-volume series by one of the most preeminent theologians of the 20th century, my purpose in this post shall be a bit of the opposite of what von Balthasar was trying to do - instead of looking at theology viewed through the eyes of drama, I shall look at drama viewed through the eyes of theology; however, unlike von Balthasar's first series, The Glory of the Lord, I shall be looking at drama qua drama rather than at theological aesthetics per se.  In this post, I shall only be considering the general theory of the relationship between drama and theology, or more precisely a theological reading of drama, and use this as a prolegomenon for a subsequent post where I shall take a more detailed look at one piece of drama in particular, Blessed John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop.

Though I said I would be looking at drama qua drama, in reality all fiction, all stories, are dramatic in nature, with their characters coming to life and playing their roles in the mind of the reader rather than on a physical stage.  Hence it would be more accurate to say that I am looking at literature qua drama, rather than the equally valid and insightful perspective of literature qua poetry.

One prominent aspect of drama that stands out in characterizing it is the presence of the audience.  All literature has its audience - its readers - but a piece of literature qua literature is meant to stand on its own; rather than a performance, when one discusses the literature one discusses the story and text abstracted from any physical reading or material situation.  Drama can be discussed in this same way, and the finest dramas - such as the works of Shakespeare - have no difficulty standing on their own as works of literature.  However, like poetry in its original state, drama is meant to be performed, raising the question of the audience.

Different playwrights have accorded different roles to the audience.  In classical drama the audience is a mere spectator; the play could be performed just as well without them.  Awareness of the audience took on a much bigger role with the advent of postmodernism and liminal theatre.  Audience participation began to become part of the show, giving the actors - now more like buffoonish clowns than serious characters - feedback and direction on their improv shticks, and likewise the actors would take an active role critiquing and involving their audience in their show.  I recall attending production once of a play entitled "The Complete History of America, Abridged" when the actress (playing a soldier during World War I) soaked the entire audience with a child's "Super-Soaker" water gun.  In similar fashion, actors in Philip Glass' opera "Einstein on the Beach" would make an implicit point about the tardiness of their audience by beginning half an hour before the show was scheduled to begin so that the audience arrived in media res, and metatextual jabs at the text's own status as a construct became a staple of postmodern literature, for example in Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.

Obviously, neither extreme - the reduction of the audience to mere spectator and the buffoonish reduction of literature to metatextual awareness - are fitting models for the type of drama encapsulated in the Divine Liturgy, which makes present to us a serious story with very real and serious characters, but in which the congregation is hardly a passive "audience".  Following the reasoning that the critical theory which will elucidate the theological aspect of drama the most is that which describes best the dramatic nature of theology and of the Liturgy, I will turn to Bertrold Brecht's critical theory to lay the groundwork for the theological elucidation of a play in my next post.

Turning to Brecht is not entirely my own idea; in doing so I am following the venerable Fr. Geoffrey Preston, O.P., in his posthumously edited Faces of the Church.  Brecht was a Marxist, not a Christian, and arrived at his ideas for different reasons than Christian hermeneutics would.  Brecht turned away from the introspective psychological turn that had characterized literature since the Romantic period, and come to an extreme in the Modernist period with James Joyce and Marcel Proust, where story-telling took as its object only the labyrinthine paths of the human subconscious, with external relations taking a secondary role.  This is equally useless for both Christian soteriology and Marxist dialectic, for the obvious reason that both Christianity and Marxism are corporeal soteriologies.  Brecht restored the primacy of the story to his plays, writing only plays which were truly narrative in character.

The narrative emphasis in Brecht led him to shift our view of the role of an actor.  Whereas in classical theatre whose consummation came in the form of cinema sought for its actors to maintain an illusion of becoming their characters in the audience's mind and identifying as strongly as possible with their characters, Brecht argued instead than actor's job is not to identify with a character, but to narrate his story, to act in his person rather than to imitate his action, and to communicate this story to the audience rather than just make the story come to life on the stage irrespective of whether anyone is watching or not.  Just as the priest's job is to make Calvary mystically present to us rather than to be another Jim Caviezel, the purpose of an actor in Brechtian theatre is to make a story present to us, not to imitate the characters.

Using Brecht as a pointer to start us off, we can pursue a theological dramatic theory by next asking the question how an actor as narrator conveys this story to the audience in a dramatic rather than sacramental way.  Because drama and sacrament are analogous acts, the manner of communication is analogous - the connection between the audience and the actor occurs through the word, the uncreated Word of God in the latter case, and what the Polish director and critic Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk called the "inner word" in the former case.  In scholastic theology, the "inner word" is that act of understanding which emanates from the Logos, or Eternal Word; by attempting to convey the inner word directly, the intellectus (or the “eye of the heart” as Orthodox tradition following St. Basil calls it) would be spoken to immediately instead of through the manipulation of the passions. The truths thus expressed would be both perfectly subjective and perfectly objective.

Kotlarczyk was the mentor of the young playwright Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, and like his more famous mentor was heavily influenced by the Polish Romantic poets such as Adam Mickiewicz and Cyprian Norwid.  However, according to Rocco Buttiglione (Karol Wojtyla:  The Thought of the Man who became Pope John Paul II, pp. 21 ff.), Kotlarczyk was also influenced heavily by Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society, which in the tradition of magic and witchcraft believed heavily in the power of the spoken word.  Unlike Blavatsky, however, Kotlarczyk was a devout Christian, and for him the word was not a means of attaining power over creation, but an attribute of divinity, the means by which God created the world, and by which God affects and sanctifies the soul.  Seeking to purify theatre of all distractions in order to find the purest medium for conveying the Word, Kotlarczyk introduced his "theatre of the inner word", in which - devoid almost entirely of action, props, costumes, and other conventional methods - the bare nakedness of the spoken Word could affect the soul directly by its own power.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Theatre of the Incarnation

In this post, I will begin a series of several devoted to the relationship between theatre and theology, a topic which has already seen a lot of ink spilled over the past three or four generations, but which I hope a can contribute a couple fresh new insights.  In the spirit of medieval manuscript writing, I shall begin with a prayer for God to guide my work, and bring it to a speedy conclusion.

In particular, in this post I wish to explore the different specific genii of the Latin and the Greek rites, in order to determine more rigorously what constitutes a false Latinization in the Byzantine Rite, what constitutes an improper influence from the Greek Rite in the Latin as distinguished from genuine cross-fertilization and mutual enrichment, and why each Rite has its own integrity that must be preserved, despite the arbitrary and manmade character of the specific differences of the two Liturgies.

To begin with, one must emphasize that the different poles of expression I am emphasizing are postdictive constructs, impositions of unity attributed to Liturgies whose historical development was convoluted, arbitrary, organic, and did not occur with the symbolism I describe consciously present to mind.  Nonetheless, the historical development was guided by common cultural, philosophical, and theological assumptions that enforced and guided the historical path that the liturgical developments took.

The claim I am presenting here is that the Latin (Tridentine) and Byzantine Divine Liturgies are both dramatic expressions of the Incarnation, presented from opposite but complementary perspectives and points of reference.  The fundamental principle guiding these complementary points of reference is the difference in the metatheological analogy informing theological expression and spiritual direction, and the zenith of liturgical efficacy lies in the purity of these two complementary perspectives, implying that spiritual convergence between ritual traditions lies not in greater similarity of rite but in greater fidelity to their own traditions.

As a premise, I assume the dramatic nature of the Mass or Liturgy, already discussed in great detail, especially in context of the liturgical dramas that arose as part of the medieval Mass and developed into mystery plays, evolving into all subsequent Western theatre.  Secondly, the nouvelle Theologie has emphasized the dramatic character of "salvation history", most notably in Hans Urs von Balthasar's series Theo-Drama, and the mystical re-presentation of salvation history especially in its climax on Calvary during the Liturgy gives the Liturgy itself a sharing in this dramatic character.

The metatheological analogy informing theological expression in the East is that of martyrdom, which since the metanoia of the relationship between Church and State under the direction of the Emperor St. Constantine has shifted and sublimated to a self-imposed ascetic martyrdom.  The ascetes of the Egyptian Thebaid were called "athletes for Christ", and as they willingly renounced the world to experience a foretaste of the joys of Heaven, their theology, which informed the Liturgy and all subsequent Byzantine, monastic, and hesychastic theology, came to express the perspective of Heaven, of transfigured reality, of the divinized creation.  One need not accept the angelistic excesses that the language used by the likes of Evagrius Ponticus to see the world in the light transfigured by Taboric Light, to begin one's theology from the viewpoint of the Trinity.

Likewise, the metatheological analogy informing theological expression in the West is what Orthodox critics such as Fr. Stephen Freeman have labeled the "forensic metaphor", an emphasis on the corporeal, juridical or jurisdictional nature of the visible Church, a court judging sinners and an army fighting one's inner vices, taking its language and imagination from Roman law.

It has often been said that the Greek East is more "Platonic", and the Latin West more "Aristotelian".  This is an error, as the West has seen its fair share of Platonists - St. Augustine, St. Boethius, Eriugena, and a strong Neo-Platonic tradition through the scholastic period - and the East emphatically rejects any intrusion of philosophy either Platonic or Aristotelian into its theology, as can be seen by the first book of the Triads of St. Gregory Palamas, for example.  However, the metatheological orientation of the East is more predisposed to the apophatic approach of St. Dionysious the Areopagite - long dismissed by scholars as a 4th-century Syrian disciple of Proclus rather than the disciple of St. Paul that his liturgical and theological place calls him - and St. Gregory Palamas than the West which never reached an apophatic theology, instead only admitting a via negativa as an intellectual exercise but not as an experiential reality.  Likewise, the metatheological orientation of the West predisposed it much better for the scholastic synthesis of philosophy and theology grounded in an Aristotelian world-view which was never able to take root in the East.

The starting-point of the West predisposed it to express theology in a much more rigorous, precise, and formulaic fashion than later Eastern theology, and the starting-point of the East predisposed it to express more strongly the paradox and mystery of Christianity.  As an illustration, let us compare the Preface from the Mass of St. Pius V with the equivalent prayer in the anaphora of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

From the Mass of St. Pius V:

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere:  Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus:  Qui cum unigenito Filio tuo, et Spiritu Sancto, unus es Deus, unus es Dominus, non in unius singularitate personae, sed in unius Trinitate substantiae.  Quod enim de tua Gloria, revelante te, credimus, hoc de Filio tuo, hoc de Spiritu Sancto, sine differentia discretionis sentimus.  Ut in confessione verae sempiternaeque Deitatis, et in personis proprietas, et in essentia unitas, et in majestate adoretur aequalitas.  Quam laudant Angeli atque Archangeli, Cherubim quoque ac Seraphim:  qui non cessant clamare quotidie, un voce dicentes:  Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.  Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.  Hosanna in excelsis.  Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.  Hosanna in excelsis.
It is truly meet and just, right and profitable for our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, Everlasting God; Who, together with Thine Only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord; not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance.   For what we believe of Thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or inequality.  So that in confessing the True and Everlasting Godhead, distinction in Persons, unity in Essence, and equality in Majesty may be adored.  Which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and the Seraphim do praise: who cease not daily to cry out, with one voice saying:  Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.  Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.
By contrast, the apophatic approach of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

It is proper and right to sing to You, to bless You, to praise You, to thank You and worship You in every place of Your dominion:  for You are God, ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing yet ever the same, You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.  You brought us out of nonexistence into being, and when we fell, You raised us up again, and left nothing undone until You led us into Your Heavenly kingdom.  For all this we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for the manifest and hidden benefits bestowed on us.  We also thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands, even though there stand before You thousands of Archangels and tens of thousands of Angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft on their wings, Singing, shouting, crying out, and saying:  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.  Heaven and earth are filled with Your glory; hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.
Now we can demonstrate how the entire Liturgy expresses these two perspectives, as a drama of salvation history and a narrative of the life of Christ.  I will not dwell too much here on the theory of drama itself and its relationship to theology - that shall be saved for a later post - but rather on the correspondences between liturgical action and theological typology.

To begin with, the church building itself is a type of the Church.  In the West the Church recalls to mind the ark of Noah, a symbolism often explictly referenced (for example, the carving of Noah's Ark on the exterior of Holy Family Catholic Church in Brooklyn, New York), and the church building is a type of the Church, buffetted by the roaring seas of secularism to cite Cardinal Ratzinger's address shortly before his elevation to the Papacy, as St. Thomas Aquinas explained in his Summa Theologiae ("There is no entering into salvation outside the Church, just as in the time of the deluge there was none outside the ark, which denotes the Church" - ST Tertia Pars, Q. 73 art. 3).  However, in the East the church building is a type of Heaven.  According to St. Symeon of Thessaloniki, “The narthex corresponds to earth, the church to heaven, and the holy sanctuary to what is above heaven.”  (Quoted in Michelson, “The Kinetic Icon and the Work of Mourning:  Prolegomena to the Analysis of a Textual System”, in Lawton, ed., The Red Screen:  Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema (London and New York:  Routledge, 1992))

As a type of Heaven, the Byzantine temple veils the mystery of the Eucharist by nothing other than the communion of saints, the wall of ikons representing both the Body of Christ itself and the "boundary between created and uncreated nature", an appellation given to the Theotokos and by extension all perfectly deified saints by St. Gregory Palamas in his homily 53 ("On the Entry of the Theotokos into the Holy of Holies II", p. 431 in the translation by Christopher Veniamin, Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).  The Eucharistic anaphora is chanted and heard by the whole congregation.  By contrast, in the Roman Mass, which takes place in the Church on Earth, one is viewing the Incarnation in the stable in Bethlehem, and it is greeted with a reverential silence.  The Canon of the Mass is therefore whispered.

The two symbolisms also govern the style of liturgical art.  The canons of iconography require that ikons depict transfigured reality, using inverse perspective, and studiously and self-consciously avoiding realism.  They are venerated, not just used as sentimental aids in devotion.  The Roman Mass takes place from the viewpoint of earth, and realistic, down-to-earth three-dimensional statues are used, and while they are often prayed before and adorned with flowers, one would never prostate oneself before a statue or kiss it.  They are not sacramentals, just aids in prayer.

The actions of movement of the priest during the Divine Liturgy reflect and narrate the life of Christ.  The Liturgy begins at the prothesis, a side-altar representing the Cave of Bethlehem, and often having an ikon of the Nativity before it.  The Eucharistic elements are prepared in a rite called the proskhimedie, although the actions of the priest during this rite recall our Lord's Passion rather than His Nativity; yet the Nativity indeed was nothing but a preparation for His Passion, and foretype thereof.  The Altar is the Cross of Calvary, and the priest only dares approach the altar twice during the Liturgy, the Minor and Great Entrances, when he, as bearer of the Word, ascends the Cross bearing first the Holy Gospel and then the prosphora, the Eucharistic elements.  Then, during the Anaphora, the priest consecrating the Eucharist takes the place of Cross mounted on His Cross, and as the veil of the Temple is rent between Heaven and Earth, the Royal Doors are opened and the mystery of the Trinity beyond Heaven is made visible to the resurrected and deified Church.

There is only one place in the Liturgy where the priest stands behind the altar, and this is during the singing of the Trisagion, the "thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity".  By this posture, the absolute ineffability and transcendence of the Holy Trinity is evoked.

Finally, by understanding this distinction between the genius of the Byzantine rite and the genius of the Latin rite, we can more clearly understand when a liturgical borrowing from one rite to another violates its liturgical integrity and should be thrown out.  The most obvious example is the tendency for the Latinizers to tear down iconostases, destroying the boundary between created and uncreated nature and bringing the priest down to the level of his audience.  A more subtle example would be the practice of "low Mass" in the East.  If the nave represents Heaven, then the congregation must join their prayer with the song of the angels, and sing.  Speaking the words of the Liturgy has no history in the Byzantine Rite, except for Latinized Ukrainian parishes.  Nor does kneeling, a gesture of penitence in the East which is canonically forbidden on Sundays in the Byzantine Rite, as a gesture inappropriate when in the mystical presence of the Resurrection.

In subsequent posts, I hope to explore more fully the relationship between theology and drama per se, and demonstrate the consequences of this analysis by looking at specific examples of theological literature, such as Blessed John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Welcome

After seeking the opinion of several of my opinionated friends, I have been encouraged to stop bothering them with my various strong opinions in philosophy, theology, and aesthetics, and to instead start organizing my thoughts in a coherent fashion in a forum where I can get feedback and correction from my friends and strangers - in other words, to start my own blog.  Since this is my first post, I would like to lay out the intentions and scope of this blog, in order to provide a roadmap or table of contents for what I intend to accomplish.  Secondly, although most of my readers will already know me at least as I get my blog started, I will provide a brief introduction of myself and my background.

After opening this account I checked to make sure I wasn't plagiarizing the name, and came across a different blog entitled "The Wild Truth:  Reeling but Erect:  Adventures in Orthodoxy", which looks quite interesting but has no posts to show.  Any similarity to that blog is completely accidental, except for the fact that we both take our cue from our mutual inspiration, G. K. Chesterton.

I am a 22-year-old graduate student in astrophysics, having graduated cum laude from Benedictine College with degrees in physics, mathematics, and astronomy, and a minor in philosophy.  I was received into the Roman Catholic Church along with my family in 2002, and after exploring different rites of the Church I found my home in the Byzantine Rite, and after a period of discernment requested and was granted a canonical transfer to the Carpatho-Rusyn Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma in Great Lent of 2011.

My goal is evangelization through culture, to seek the fullness of truth as it is expressed through beauty.  Like the emissaries of St. Vladimir, when I first entered a Ukrainian Catholic temple, I knew not whether I was in Heaven or on earth, and had seen no such beauty on earth.  I am a Romantic by temperament, worldview, and choice, and I live the fullness of the beauty which the Romantic poets, artists, and composers described in the Catholic religion by living it and striving after the holiness it promises.  My heritage is both the theological aesthetics grounded in literature given to us by Hans Urs von Balthasar and the living liturgical and iconographical heritage of the Christian East, and I seek to meld those two as perfectly as possible in my own life and thought, without compromising the real distinctions between East and West (in other words, a synthesis, not syncretism). 

I strive to practice the Eastern Catholic faith in its fullness and purity, and to fight the so-called "Latinizations" and other corruptions that have plagued our Church especially since the Unias.  Likewise, I respect and fight for the traditional, authentic form of Roman Catholicism practiced in the Tridentine Mass.  I obey the holy Pope Pius XII's call to Eastern Catholics to "convert the Latins - that is, convert them to a love and appreciation for the Christian East", in order to overcome the schism (in mentality and mutual regard and not just in ecclesiastical separation) that has divided East from West, and divided our separated Oriental brethren from both of us.

I also seek to cross the divide between the Judaeo-Christian civilization which so admirably reconciled the revealed religion coming from the Jews with the natural philosophical wisdom of the Greeks and the Oriental civilization whose origin stems from India.  If all men are granted logoi spermatikoi orienting them to the Word of God as the Fathers taught, and if all truths are "spoliae Aegyptorum" which must be planted in the bosom of the Church, then if the Church is truly universal its truths can subsume and adopt the language and heritage of India no less easily than that of Greece.

Finally, I want to overcome the chasm that has developed between faith and reason since the birth of the scientific revolution.  Modern science has explained the physical world admirably well where traditional metaphysics failed, but scientists have yet to go back to the scholastic metaphysical project and re-work the traditional ascent from physics to metaphysics to theology using modern physics rather than the antiquated speculations of Aristotle.  As a Ph.D. student in actual physics, I am receiving the tools I need to carry out this metaphysical project, though this is not the fundamental purpose of getting a Ph.D. in physics which is simply to do research in physics.

Everything I write is only provisional, subject to correction by the final teaching of the Church to whom the deposit of faith is entrusted, and divinely appointed arbiter of Orthodoxy.  Making errors is a professional hazard for the amateur theologian, one which I expect to make many times especially as I wander into uncharted waters.

I humbly dedicate and consecrate this blog to Our Lady the Theotokos, "our tainted nature's solitary boast", and to St. Cecilia, patroness of sacred beauty, for whom I have a special fondness.

Slava Isusu Christu!  Slava Na Viki!  Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory to Him forever!

I close with a poem of Wordsworth, taken from his Ecclesiastical Sonnets, part II, sonnet XXV:


Mother! Whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast:

Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven, the suppliant knee might bend
As to a visible power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in thee
Of a mother’s love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene.

-Wordsworth