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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Immaculate Conception and the Orthodox Church
By Father Lev Gillet
From Chrysostom, Vol. VI, No. 5 (Spring 1983), pp. 151-159.
I. It is generally agreed, I think, that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is one of the questions which make a clear and profound division between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Is this really the case? We shall try to examine quite objectively what Orthodox theological history has to teach us on this matter. Leaving aside the patristic period we shall start on our quest in the time of the Patriarch Photius.
II. It seems to me that three preliminary observations have to be made. First, it is an undeniable fact that the great majority of the members of the Orthodox Church did not admit the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as it was defined by Pius IX in 1854.
Secondly, throughout the history of Orthodox theology, we find an unbroken line of theologians, of quite considerable authority, who have explicitly denied the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Among them I shall refer to Nicephorus Gallistus in the fourteenth century and Alexander Lebedev in the nineteenth, these two representing the extremities of a chain with many intermediary links. There is even an official document written against the Immaculate Conception: the letter of the Patriarch Anthimus VII, written in 1895; we shall come later to a discussion of its doctrinal value.
Thirdly, we recognize the fact that Latin theologians very often used inadequate arguments in their desire to prove that the Immaculate Conception belonged to the Byzantine theological tradition. They sometimes forced the sense of the poetic expressions to be found in the liturgy of Byzantium; at times they misinterpreted what were merely common Byzantine terms to describe Mary's incomparable holiness, as a sign of belief in the Immaculate Conception; on other occasions they disregarded the fact that certain Byzantines had only a very vague idea of original sin. Speaking of the Theotokos, Orthodox writers multiplied expressions such as "all holy", "all pure", "immaculate". This does not always mean that these writers believed in the Immaculate Conception. The vast majority – but not all – Orthodox theologians agreed that Mary was purified from original sin before the birth of Our Lord. By this, they usually mean that she was purified in her mother's womb like John the Baptist. This "sanctification" is not the Immaculate Conception.
The question must be framed in precise theological terms. We do not want to know if Mary's holiness surpasses all other holiness, or if Mary was sanctified in her mother's womb. The question is: Was Mary, in the words of Pius IX, "preserved from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her conception" (in primo instanti suae conceptionis)? Is this doctrine foreign to the Orthodox tradition? Is it contrary to that tradition?
III. I shall begin by quoting several phrases which cannot be said with absolute certainty to imply a belief in the Immaculate Conception but in which it is quite possible to find traces of such a belief.
First of all - the patriarch Photius. In his first homily on the Annunciation, he says that Mary was sanctified ek Brephous. This is not an easy term to translate; the primary meaning of Brephos is that of a child in the embryonic state. Ek means origin or starting point. The phrase seems to me to mean not that Mary was sanctified in the embryonic state, that is to say, during her existence in her mother's womb, but that she was sanctified from the moment of her existence as an embryo, from the very first moment of her formation - therefore - from the moment of her conception. (1)
A contemporary and opponent of Photius, the monk Theognostes, wrote in a homily for the feast of the Dormition, that Mary was conceived by "a sanctifying action", ex arches - from the beginning. It seems to me that this ex arches exactly corresponds to the "in primo instanti" of Roman theology. (2)
St Euthymes, patriarch of Constantinople (+917), in the course of a homily on the conception of St Anne (that is to say, on Mary's conception by Anne and Joachim) said that it was on this very day (touto semerou) that the Father fashioned a tabernacle (Mary) for his Son, and that this tabernacle was "fully sanctified" (kathagiazei). There again we find the idea of Mary's sanctification in primo instanti conceptionis. (3)
Let us now turn to more explicit evidence.
(St) Gregory Palamas, archbishop of Thessalonica and doctor of the hesychasm (+1360) in his 65 published Mariological homilies, developed an entirely original theory about her sanctification. On the one hand, Palamas does not use the formula "immaculate conception" because he believes that Mary was sanctified long before the "primus instans conceptionis", and on the other, he states quite as categorically as any Roman theologian that Mary was never at any moment sullied by the stain of original sin. Palamas' solution to the problem, of which as far as we know, he has been the sole supporter, is that God progressively purified all Mary's ancestors, one after the other and each to a greater degree than his predecessor so that at the end, eis telos, Mary was able to grow, from a completely purified root, like a spotless stem "on the limits between created and uncreated". (4)
The Emperor Manuel II Paleologus (+1425) also pronounced a homily on the Dormition. In it, he affirms in precise terms Mary's sanctification in primo instanti. He says that Mary was full of grace "from the moment of her conception" and that as soon as she began to exist … there was no time when Jesus was not united to her". We must note that Manuel was no mere amateur in theology. He had written at great length on the procession of the Holy Spirit and had taken part in doctrinal debates during his journeys in the West. One can, therefore, consider him as a qualified representative of the Byzantine theology of his time. (5)
George Scholarios (+1456), the last Patriarch of the Byzantine Empire, has also left us a homily on the Dormition and an explicit affirmation of the Immaculate Conception. He says that Mary was "all pure from the first moment of her existence" (gegne theion euthus). (6)
It is rather strange that the most precise Greek affirmation of the Immaculate Conception should come from the most anti-Latin, the most "Protestantizing" of the patriarchs of Constantinople, Cyril Lukaris (+1638). He too gave a sermon on the Dormition of Our Lady. He said that Mary "was wholly sanctified from the very first moment of her conception (ole egiasmene en aute te sullepsei) when her body was formed and when her soul was united to her body"; and further on he writes: "As for the Panaghia, who is there who does not know that she is pure and immaculate, that she was a spotless instrument, sanctified in her conception and her birth, as befits one who is to contain the One whom nothing can contain?" (7)
Gerasimo. patriarch of Alexandria (+1636) taught at the same time. according to the Chronicle of the Greek, Hypsilantis, that the Theotokos "was not subject to the sin of our first father" (ouk npekeito to propatopiko hamarte mati); and a manual of dogmatic theology of the same century, written by Nicholas Coursoulas (+1652) declared that "the soul of the Holy Virgin was made exempt from the stain of original sin from the first moment of its creation by God and union with the body." (8)
I am not unaware that other voices were raised against the Immaculate Conception. Damascene the Studite, in the sixteenth century, Mitrophanes Cristopoulos, patriarch of Alexandria and Dosithes, patriarch of Jerusalem in the seventeenth century, all taught that Mary was sanctified only in her mother's womb. Nicephorus Gallistus in the fourteenth century and the Hagiorite in the eighteenth century taught that Mary was purified from original sin on the day of the Annunciation. But the opinions that we have heard in favour of the Immaculate Conception are not less eminent or less well qualified.
It was after the Bull of Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, of 8 December, 1854, that the greater part of the Greek Church seems to have turned against belief in the Immaculate Conception. Yet, in 1855, the Athenian professor, Christopher Damalas, was able to declare:
"We have always held and always taught this doctrine. This point is too sacred to give rise to quarrels and it has no need of a deputation from Rome". (9)
But it was not until 1896 that we find an official text classing the Immaculate Conception among the differences between Rome and the Orthodox East. This text is the synodal letter written by the Oecumenical Patriarch, Anthimes VII, in reply to the encyclical Piaeclara Gratulationis addressed by Leo XIII to the people of the Eastern Churches. Moreover, from the Orthodox point of view, the Constantinopolitan document has only a very limited doctrinal importance. Although it should be read with respect and attention, yet it possesses none of the marks of infallibility, nor does ecclesiastical discipline impose belief in its teachings as a matter of conscience. and it leaves the ground quite clear for theological and historical discussions on this point.
IV. Let us now consider more closely the attitude of the Russian Church towards the question of the Immaculate Conception.
Every Russian theological student knows that St Dmitri, metropolitan of Rostov (17th century), supported the Latin "theory of the epiklesis" (10); but young Russians are inclined to consider the case of Dmitri as a regrettable exception, an anomoly. If they knew the history of Russian theology a little better they would know that from the middle ages to the seventeenth century the Russian Church has, as a whole, accepted belief in the Immaculate Conception (11).
The Academy of Kiev, with Peter Moghila, Stephen Gavorsky and many others, taught the Immaculate Conception in terms of Latin theology. A confraternity of the Immaculate Conception was established at Polotsk in 1651. The Orthodox members of the confraternity promised to honour the Immaculate Conception of Mary all the days of their life. The Council of Moscow of 1666 approved Simeon Polotsky's book called The Rod of Direction, in which he said: "Mary was exempt from original sin from the moment of her conception". (12)
All this cannot be explained as the work of Polish Latinising influence. We have seen that much was written on the same lines in the Greek East. When as a result of other Greek influences, attacks were launched in Moscow against the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, a protest was made by the Old Believers - a sect separated from the official Church by reason of its faithfulness to certain ancient rites. Again in 1841, the Old Believers said in an official declaration that "Mary has had no share in original sin". (13) To all those who know how deeply the Old Believers are attached to the most ancient beliefs and traditions, their testimony has a very special significance. In 1848, the "Dogmatic Theology" of the Archimandrite Antony Amphitheatroff, approved by the Holy Synod as a manual for seminaries, reproduced Palamas' curious theory of the progressive purification of the Virgin's ancestors, a theory which has already been mentioned and which proclaims Mary's exemption from original sin. Finally, we should notice that the Roman definition of 1854 was not attacked by the most representative theologians of the time, Metropolitan Philaretes of Moscow and Macarius Boulgakov.
It was in 1881 that the first important writing appeared in Russian literature in opposition to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It was written by Professor A. Lebedev of Moscow who held the view that the Virgin was completely purified from original sin at Golgotha. (14) In 1884, the Holy Synod included the question of the Immaculate Conception in the programme of "polemical", that is to say, anti-Latin theology. Ever since then, official Russian theology has been unanimously opposed to the Immaculate Conception.
This attitude of the Russians has been strengthened by a frequent confusion of Mary's immaculate conception with the virgin birth of Christ. This confusion is to be found not only among ignorant people, but also among many theologians and bishops. In 1898, Bishop Augustine, author of a "Fundamental Theology", translated "immaculate conception" by "conception sine semine". More recently still, Metropolitan Anthony then Archbishop of Volkynia, wrote against the "impious heresy of the immaculate and virginal conception of the Most Holy Mother of God by Joachim and Anne." It was a theologian of the Old Believers, A. Morozov, who had to point out to the archbishop that he did not know what he was talking about. (15)
Footnotes:
1. Photius, homil. I in Annunt., in the collection of St. Aristarchis, Photiou logoi kai homiliai, Constantinople 1901, t. II, p. 236.
2. Theognostes, hom. in fest. Dormitionis, Greek Cod. 763 of the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris, fol. 8. v.
3. Euthemius, hom. in concept. S. Annae, Cod. laudianus 69 of the Bodleian Library, fol. 122-126.
4. Photius, In Praesentat. Deiparae, in the collection of Sophoclis Grigoriou tou Palama homiliai kb', Athens 1861.
5. Manuel Paleologus, orat. in Dormit., Vatic. graecus 1619. A Latin translation is to be found in Migne P.G. t. CLVI, 91-108.
6. Scholarios, hom. in Dormit., Greek Cod. 1294 of the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris, fol. 139 v.
7. Lukaris, hom. in Dormit., Cod. 263 of the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre in Constantinople, fol. 612-613, and hom. in Nativ., Cod. 39
of the Metochion, fol. 93.
8. Hypsilantis, Ta meta ten alosin, Constantinople, 1870, p. 131. Coursoulas, Sunopsis ten ieras Theologias, Zante, 1862, vol. I, pp. 336-342.
9. Quoted by Frederic George Lee, in The sinless conception of the Mother of God, London 1891, p. 58.
10. See Chiliapkin, St Dmitri of Rostov and his times (Russian), in the Zapiski of the Faculty of history and philology of the University of St. Petersberg, t. XXIV, 1891, especially pp. 190-193.
11. See J. Gagarin, L'Eglise russe et L'immaculee conception, Paris 1876.
12. See Makary Bulgakov, History of the Russian Church (Russian) 1890, t. XII, p. 681. On the Polotsk brotherhood, see the article by Golubiev, in the Trudv of the Academy of Kiev, November 1904, pp. 164-167.
13. See N. Subbotin, History of the hierarchy of Bielo-Krinitza (Russian), Moscow, 1874, t. I, p. xlii of the Preface.
14. An article by M. Jugie, Le dogme de l'immaculee conception d'apres un theologien russe, in Echos d'Orient, 1920, t. XX, p. 22, gives an analysis of Lebedev's monography.
15. Letter of Archbishop Anthony of Volhynia to the Old Believers, in the organ of the Russian Holy Synod, The Ecclesiastical News of 10 March 1912, p. 399. Morozov's reply is contained in the same periodical on 14 July 1912, pp. 1142-1150.

Friday, August 26, 2011

John Paul II on the natural purity of women

From Love and Responsibility, pp. 176-177:

Since sensuality, which is oriented towards 'the body as an object of enjoyment' is in general stronger and more importunate in men, modesty and shame - the tendency to conceal sexual values specifically connected with the body - must be more pronounced in girls and women.  At the same time they are less aware of sensuality and its natural orientation in men, because in them emotion is usually stronger than sensuality, and sensuality tends to be latent in emotion.  This is why woman is often said to be 'purer' than man.  This tells us nothing about the virtue of chastity.  Woman is purer in as much as she experiences more powerfully the value of 'a human being of the other sex', the value of a sort of psychological 'masculinity'.

Too true - that sums up the psychological difference between men and women right there.  Bless the Lord for creating women!

(Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility,  San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1993, pp. 176-177)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three Meanings of "Orthodoxy"?

The word "Orthodoxy" has three different semantic meanings.

The first refers sociologically to a body of some three hundred million Christian faithful, primarily of the Byzantine rite or sometimes (when a distinction is made between "Eastern Orthodox" and "Oriental Orthodox"), one of the other Oriental rites.  There is an Orthodox Church, and Roman Catholics and Protestants and Rastafarians and Unitarians are ipso facto "not Orthodox".

The second refers to a system of beliefs held as normative by some authority.  The Russian word for this is orthodoksia, a loan-word from Greek.  In this sense of the term, there is a Marxist orthodoxy, a Neo-Conservative orthodoxy, a Catholic orthodoxy, an Orthodox (pravoslavni) orthodoxy, a Jewish Orthodoxy (which, if you want to be pedantic, you could consider a separate meaning of the word altogether), etc. etc.

The third is right doctrine or right teaching (stemming from the Greek orthos + dokein), or right glory (orthos + doxa).  This is the sense in which Catholics say they are orthodox.  However, the Russian language uses the same word for this - pravoslavije - as for the first meaning of the term, just as in English the word "catholic" (denoting universality and totality) is the same as the word "Catholic".

I will argue that they are not separate meanings at all.  We call ourselves Orthodox because that is what our Liturgy calls us.  We pray during the Great Entrance and during the ektenias "for all Orthodox Christians" (sikvas Pravoslavni Khristian' - apologies if my spelling is a bit unstandard), and traditional Melkite and Ukrainian Catholic churches will leave the term "Orthodoxy" capitalized.  At Vespers we pray for God to "strengthen the Orthodox Faith".  We have prayed like this since the 4th century, and this is why we call ourselves Orthodox.  And as we share the same faith as the Church of Rome, she too is Orthodox.

Likewise, the term "Catholic" appears in both the Apostles' and the Nicene Creed.  When we say we believe in "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church", we are referring to nothing other than the Catholic Church.  When St. Ignatios Theophoros said "where the bishop is, there is the Catholic Church", thereby introducing the term into our vocabulary, he was referring to nothing other than the Catholic Church.  There is no distinction between "catholic" and "Catholic".  Protestants or non-Christians who participate in salvation do so through and only through the Catholic Church, and are ipso facto Catholic insofar as they are saved, whether they are aware of the fact or not.  The Catholic Church is not just one expression or manifestation of the catholic Church.  She IS the catholic Church.  And, therefore, since we are not Feeneyites, it follows that there may be people who are Catholics without realizing the fact.  We know who is in the Catholic Church.  We do not know who is not.

The necessity of the dormition of the Theotokos

In this post, I would like to offer a few thoughts I had intended to post a couple days ago, on the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God.  Procrastination as usual got the better of me, but I offer my thoughts now.

The Dormition is the central focus of the disagreement between Eastern and Western Christianity over original sin and the Immaculate Conception.  The Western view of the Immaculate Conception is described most succinctly and precisely in the bull defining the Immaculate Conception, Ineffabilis Deus of Pope Pius IX:
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.
The East, by contrast, has often been said to reject this dogma.  I use the phrase "often been said" because ample documentary evidence can be touted to the contrary, including many prayers said on a daily basis in the Orthodox Church which seem to teach the Western dogma of the immaculate conception (like the prayer "More honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim..."), the use of the phrase by Ukrainian Orthodox luminaries like St. Peter Mohila in the 17th century, the Mariology of St. Gregory Palamas, etc. etc., which are worthy of consideration in a post in their own right.  The actual disagreement over the Immaculate Conception boils down to a difference in the notion of original sin considered in its application in different interpretations as to what happened at the Dormition.  The East uses the phrase "original sin" (or the more common phrase "ancestral sin") to mean death; the West uses it to mean the reatus inherited from Adam's sin (a Latin word often mistranslated as "guilt", though it is not synonymous with "culpa").  The difference on original sin will be explored in more depth in a subsequent post; for now, it suffices to say that from the viewpoint of the East whether the Theotokos was immaculately conceived depends entirely on whether she died or not.

A venerable Dominican theologian, Fr. Ryan Erlenbush of the New Theological Movement (http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2011/08/death-of-blessed-virgin-mary-latin.html), has argued that the Dormition (passing) of the Theotokos is just as strong a tradition in the West as in the East.  If so, one must still ask the question why the Theotokos died.  Did she have to die, or was her death a free choice like that of Christ's?  In the East, it is considered dogmatic that the Theotokos had to die - it is in this sense, and this sense alone, that the Theotokos was subject to any taint of Adam's fall.  In the West, it is taught that she did not have to die, but willingly chose death in order to unite herself to the death of her Son (as I was taught when being instructed in the Faith by a Roman Catholic priest before being received into full communion with Rome).  As a Greek Catholic seeking to show the perfect harmony between both lungs of the Church, I would like to argue that these two views are in fact compatible with each other.  I will take my cue from St. Dimitri Tuptalo, the Latinophile Orthodox archbishop of Rostov who received his seminary training in Rome (while remaining Orthodox) and was known to pray the Angelus on a daily basis and go on pilgrimages to Greek Catholic shrines in Belarus.

St. Dimitri, an Orthodox theologian and saint, also argued that the Theotokos chose to die in order to unite herself to the sufferings of her Son.  How then do we reconcile this with the East's insistence on the necessity of her death?  One must consider that as the all-pure Mother of God, she lived in the deepest expression of the truth, in the fullest grounding in reality.  It is impossible that one as holy as the Mother of God should be bound and enslaved to matter, something less than her; as the New Eve, she lived the fullness of the freedom given by the Holy Spirit, and could not have been carnal in the Pauline sense (in the sense of being enslaved to and unable to transcend matter, rather than matter serving your good). She chose to die because she willed reality into being, co-operating with God in willing the creation of the world and the nature of its denizens (including the consequences they received from original sin), and therefore willed her own death as part of the way things are supposed to have worked. Christ told some saint that He does nothing without asking His mother, and this includes her death, the necessary consequence of the ancestral sin.

It is truly a wonderful thing to will one's own reality. Sartre said that "man makes himself", and Kierkegaard often spoke of man's authenticity, and in the Theotokos we saw the perfect example of this, where will and truth are perfectly united.  Sartre never understood any of his words anywhere close to the full depth of their meaning.

The Theotokos could not lay down her own life as her Son could.  But she abided in prayer, and as the only human being "full of grace", perfectly divinized, she was omnipotent through her prayer, for God never refuses His Mother.  It was through the prayer of the Mother of God that her Dormition was both a necessity of the ancestral sin and her own free choice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How Alexander VI helped the Papacy

Sometimes, it takes evil to shed clearer light on the good.  Just as a heresy helps delineate truth, so historically the wickedness of a Pope helped clarify the dogma of the Papacy.  He did this both by (a) demonstrating most clearly the distinction between his office (which was holy) and his person (which was not), and (b) by showing the holiness of his office by attacking it in such a profound and thorough manner.  The Inkling Charles Williams, companion to C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as well as Evelyn Underhill, gave a quotation about Pope Alexander VI worthy of Chesterton in its eloquence, wit, style, and insight,  It is found in his breathtakingly profound and succinct history of the Church, The Descent of the Dove, pp. 156-157.

The magnificent and magical figure of Alexander had once, for those who could accept it, a particular attraction. And only morons were repelled by it from the theory of the Papacy. Romantics who were not morons were drawn to it precisely because of the theory of the Papacy. Wicked bishops and wicked kings were common enough. But that the concentration of wickedness - avarice, pride, murder, incest - should exist in the See; that the infallible Vicar should possess the venom and be in love with his own uneconomical daughter; that the daughter should be throned in the Chair itself over adoring Cardinals, and that the younger of her two brothers should assassinate the elder, and the awful three - the Pontiff and the two children - should win the world into their own skein of lust and cunning… this was the kind of thing that demanded the implicit presence of the whole future Roman development. The incarnation of Antichrist (romantically speaking) must be in the See of Christ. The Scandal of the Church had to be a scandal of the True Church, or it lost half its lurid glory.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Aristotle's Proof of the Necessity of Friendship

Aristotle gives an extended argument that friendship is necessary for happiness in his Nicomachean Ethics,
1170a14-b19.  Since some of the pro-syllogisms are only implied, one Professor Burnet wrote out the argument in explicit syllogism form.  Here I present a similar analysis by Sir David Ross, which he credits to Burnet but with minor variations.  Credit goes to Ross' translation of the Ethica, in a footnote to pages 241-243:

Pro-Syllogism A:
Capacity is defined by reference to activity.
Human life is defined by the capacity of perception or thought.
Therefore, human life is defined by the activity of perception or thought.

Pro-Syllogism B:
The determinate is good by nature.
Life is determinate.
Therefore, life is good by nature.

Pro-Syllogism C (implied):
What is good by nature is good and pleasant for the good man.
Life is good by nature (conclusion of pro-syllogism B).
Therefore, life is good and pleasant for the good man.

Pro-Syllogism D (implied):
Life is good and pleasant for the good man (conclusion of C).
Perception and thought are life (conclusion of A).
Therefore, perception and thought are good and pleasant for the good man.

Pro-Syllogism E:
What is desired by all men and particularly by the good and supremely happy man is good in itself.
Life is so desired.
Therefore, life is good in itself.

Lemma:
Perception and thought are accompanied by consciousness of themselves.

Argument F:
Perception and thought are life (conclusion of A).
Therefore consciousness of perception and thought is consciousness of life.

Argument G:
Consciousness of having something good is pleasant.
Life is good in itself (conclusion of both B and E).
Therefore, consciousness of life is pleasant.

Argument H (implied):
Consciousness of life is pleasant (conclusion of G).
Consciousness of perception and thought is consciousness of life (conclusion of F).
Therefore, consciousness of perception and thought is pleasant.

Lemma:
The existence of the good man is specially desirable because the activities of which he is conscious are good.

Argument I:
The good man is related to his friend as he is to himself (conclusion of chapter 4 from the Ethica, previously).
His own existence is desirable to him (conclusion of C).
Therefore, that of his friend is desirable to him.

Argument K:
His own existence is desirable because of his consciousness of his good activities (a premise drawn from a previous statement in the Ethica).
Therefore, consciousness of his friend's good activities is also desirable to him.

Argument L:
If a man is to be happy, he must have all that is desirable to him.
Friends are desirable for a man (conclusion of I).
Therefore, if a man is to be happy, he must have friends.

There seem to be two weak chains in the argument, though I do not dispute the conclusion.  The first weak chain seems to be the minor premise of A, that the capacity for perception or thought is what defines human life (note that both terms here are distributed, so the chain of syllogisms is logically valid).  Though this goes into proving a conclusion I would not want to deny - the conclusion of D - it seems a simplistic reduction of the richness of human life to reduce it to thinking, especially the way the term is used in E (is the activity of perception and thinking desired by all men?).  The second weak chain is the minor premise of argument L, that if a man is to be happy, he must have all that is desirable for him.  There are many things desirable for me.  I will not have all of them in my life, nor do I expect to.

I'd chalk this up to a good demonstration of the effort that goes into proving philosophical conclusions (twelve syllogisms), and to the imperfection often inherent in philosophical reasoning for uncontroversial conclusions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Izbavlenie Posla

Russian Polyphony at its finest, courtesy the Tallis Scholars.


Hymn of Praise: The Veneration of Icons, by St. Nicolai Velimirovich

HYMN OF PRAISE: THE VENERATION OF ICONS
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

To what, in such a manner, do you my Christian bow,
When you, O my Christian, venerate the icons?
Before the Living God the Creator, I am bowing down,
With all my soul, heart and mind, I bow down to Him.
Mortal am I and, am unable upon Him to gaze,
Therefore, before His image I bow;
What, my Christian, do you so fervently reverence,
When, the icon O my Christian, you kiss?
Christ the God and Savior, I am kissing,
The choirs of angels, the saints and the Mother of God.
Mortal am I and, therefore am unable them to touch,
But when their images I kiss, my heart is at ease.

-St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Entrance of the Organ into Western Liturgy

In this post, I shall examine the conservatism the Church has taken in both the East and in the West regarding sacred Liturgical music, in order to give an explanation of the introduction of the organ to the Roman Catholic Mass, a bizarre fact given the instrument's sordid origins. 

Only the human voice, as the conveyer of the Logos, is permitted a place in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy (like the "theatre of the inner word", the Liturgy must be free of distractions that impede the communication of the Logos), and likewise the Roman Church has been particularly conservative in its admission of any secular instrumentation.  Like traditional Ruthenian Catholic churches where to this day only prostopinije plainsong is used, polyphony was only admitted in the Western Church with severe limits - the Council of Trent required that the words still be intelligible - and then only after Palestrina had demonstrated (in his Missae Papae Marcelli) that these requirements could be met.  Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, upheld Gregorian plainchant as the normative form of liturgical music, with the admission that Renaissance polyphony could be done in accord with the same spirit:

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.
Though the Church's teaching on instrumentation became universally ignored in the 1970s, the Western Church has also restricted secular instrumentation during the Liturgy, except for the organ.  Tra le sollecitudini, a bull of Pope St. Pius X issued in 1903 and never abrogated, directs the following:

The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.
It is strictly forbidden to have bands play in church, and only in special cases with the consent of the Ordinary will it be permissible to admit wind instruments, limited in number, judiciously used, and proportioned to the size of the place-provided the composition and accompaniment be written in grave and suitable style, and conform in all respects to that proper to the organ.

The fact that pride of place is given to the organ seems on the face value to be particularly bizarre.  Though there are some aspects in which the organ resembles the human voice - by virtue of conveying wind through pipes - the same is true of any wind instrument,  While traditionally the organ is thought of as a purely sacred or liturgical instrument in the West, inherently associated in people's minds with church, this is a bizarre fact that needs to be explained.

It is bizarre because historically the organ accompanied circus acts in the Roman Empire - acts which in earlier days accompanied the martyrdom of Christians, and in later days were pornographic in character; the terms "actress" and "prostitute" were synonymous among the Byzantine Romans.  The old Catholic Encyclopedia relates that "the fact remains that by the Fathers of both East and West all forms of the drama were banned indiscriminately and in terms of the severest reprobation," and the Council in Trullo - regarded as an Ecumenical Council by the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, though it was never promulgated in the West - banned actors and actresses from Communion.  Even pagan priests under Julian the Apostate's regime were banned from attending the theatre.  Consequently, that a musical instrument with this association should end up a liturgical instrument is simply bizarre.

Egon Wellesz gives an explanation in his History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, pp. 97-98:

The use of the instrument in the Western Church may be explained in the following way. In 757 Constantine Copronymus sent an organ as a present to King Pippin. In 812 Michael I presented Charlemagne with another instrument. The gift was accompanied by musicians who knew how to play the organ, and who obviously taught their art to Frankish musicians. It is also reported that the instruments were copied by Frankish craftsmen and the new organs used to assist the teaching of Plainchant. Since all this work was done by the monks, it follows that the organ was gradually introduced inside the church and spread all over the West as a church instrument.  Organs of a larger size were built, and the Byzantine portable organ was replaced by instruments of the size we know nowadays, one of the earliest being the great organ at Winchester, built in 980.

Relations between the Byzantines and the Franks were tense, to say the least, especially when the Franks started claiming the title of "Roman Emperor", since the Byzantines held territory in the West and had historical continuity with the real Roman Empire.  Though Michael I gave lip service to Charlemagne as "basileus", one can imagine his gift of the organ being a tongue-in-cheek insult that went over the Frankish barbarian's head.  Though this interpretation is just a guess on my part, if so, this insult gave rise to a great tradition in Western sacred music, which owes its patrimony to the fact that European culture was redeveloped by a Frankish invader free of any knowledge of the connotations that the organ had in Roman culture.

Monday, August 1, 2011

An Eschatological Romance, or The Jeweler's Shop Part IV: Its Theological Conclusion

In this post, I shall show how the scene discussed in the previous post - where the Jeweler weighs the rings - discloses the true nature of Wojtyla's play as an eschatological romance, and thereby uncovers an otherwise hidden narrative structure - the narrative of all of salvation history - demonstrating that even this play sub specie aeternitatis conveys and reveals the Word like a natural sacrament because it is centered around a narrative.

The scene takes place not just that particular moment when a piece of metal is being measured. The play is not about just the lives of its characters. Time and eternity meet in the eyes of the jeweler, and The Jeweler’s Shop is an eschatological romance. The wedding feast which is always anticipated but never mentioned is the Masque of the Seven Days; it is the ball of the winged season, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the feast for which Wisdom hath built herself a house.

Yet the text of play indicates that this beatific feast is already present now, though not in its consummation. It is present, of course, in sanctifying grace; but also by virtue of the elevation of matrimony to a sacrament, it is present in love. In the chorus’ song about nuptial union, wine - the Biblical symbol of the Heavenly feast - becomes a symbol of love, and of the very being of the lovers.

Wine also sparkles. Wine is a thing.
Let it live in the other man,
man - is love. Teresa and Andrew
wine, wine -
radiate mutually into each other’s lives.
 


The entire married life is, in fact, nothing but a symbol of the spiritual life, and by the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, the married life converges into the spiritual life and becomes a means of sanctification. Wojtyla devotes all of Act II - “The Bridegroom” - into exploring the spiritual life of a woman, Anna, in an unhappy marriage. It is not her marriage that is at the root of her unhappiness, however, but the state of her soul. Her unhappiness is ontological, not just emotional; that is, it permeates her entire being -

Bitterness is a taste of food and drink,
it is also an inner taste - a taste of the soul
when it has suffered disappointment or disillusionment.
That taste permeates everything we happen
to say, think or do; it permeates even our smile.


“It was as if Stefan [her husband] had ceased to be in me,” she later says. Her situation is analogous to one who was baptized but then lost sanctifying grace. Anna became married, yet in her marriage the two are no longer one flesh. The result is a profound loneliness and alienation. Having separated herself from him who is united to her ontologically and indissolubly, Anna has “disinherited her self”. The divorcee is no longer even single.

For Anna to be healed, she must return to the Bridegroom. The bridegroom is both her husband, in the literal sense of interpretation, but also at a deeper level the divine Bridegroom. Her unhappy marriage is not simply an event in life of one of six billion individuals; it is the eschaton of a soul. “The Bridegroom will come shortly” - yet Anna remains a foolish virgin. She waits for a perfect bridegroom to come along, while neglecting her true Bridegroom - her husband. The man in the street identified as the “bridegroom” is not actually her husband, but looks very similar, bringing Anna to the realization that she must see Christ in her husband, and even to see her husband in Christ. She sees the Bridegroom, Christ - but He reveals Himself as her husband.

Anna, a lost soul, cannot save herself or even recognize the cosmological significance of her situation without divine grace. The man who guides her back to salvation calls himself Adam or “man”. He is not the Jeweler, but seems faintly reminiscent of him; he appears out of nowhere as a “chance interlocutor”, but knows Anna’s name - and the state of her soul. He remains throughout the rest of the play serving as a spiritual guide to all the characters, yet we never find out who he really is. He performs the function of divine grace, leading the soul back to God, and opening her eyes to the meaning of the world. “The Bridegroom is coming. This is his precise hour…” By rejecting her husband, Anna rejected the divine wedding feast, the feast of Cana, in which water was turned into wine; and now she is a foolish virgin with no oil in her lamp, for “it is not with oil that the flame is fed, but with rain water” - Christ has not turned her water into wine. When she sees the Bridegroom, she can only see Stefan’s face - and she can only see it with horror and repulsion. The state of her soul at the moment is a sign or signal of the final eschaton. Anna is, in a way, all of us, and through this play, Wojtyla is asking,


“Andrew, do you believe in signals?”

The Jeweler's Shop, Part III - The Jeweler Himself

In a previous post, I spoke of the possibility of characters "who come close to this Christ-like status by identifying with the context of the play and being the condition that makes the play possible", and in this post I shall explore one such figure, the Jeweler of John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop, exploring his demiurgic resemblance to Christ but also the manner in which he, as a character in a play, cannot be fully Christ-like and thereby raise the theatre up to a supernatural "religion of transcendence".

The Jeweler is a bit of an enigmatic figure. He is not God, exactly; on the surface meaning of the text (from which all deeper levels are uncovered), he is simply an old man with a philosophical bent. I wish to propose that the best description of him is perhaps the revelation or intimation within the created realm of the apophatic and transcendent meaning of our existence. In his soliloquy on “the proper weight of man”, he hints at man’s transcendent origin without actually telling it to us outright or even seemingly being capable of telling us. The best parallel in other literature is the unstated but implicit sense of God’s presence - what C. S. Lewis experienced as holiness, and what I experienced more as a sense of transcendent meaning - in George Macdonald’s Phantastes. More tangible but less adequate parallels include the Master in Novalis’ The Apprentices at Sais, who in guiding his students along the path to wisdom reveals himself to be the ultimate mystery. Another is Chesterton’s Sunday in The Man Who Was Thursday, a seemingly diabolical figure who turns out to be Nature, the mask - or back-side - of God; yet again we see the quasi-divine yet quite finite mysterious bride in C. S. Lewis’ Dymer, and the archetypal sacerdotal figure of Prester John in Charles Williams’ War in Heaven. The Jeweler is a bit like all of these - a spokesman for God, divine in a sense but without actually being God per se.

Not being God in an exact sense, the Jeweler does not reveal to us the mysteries of God’s Providence; and yet through his soliloquy the mystery is made perfectly clear, leaving nothing to be asked. A mystery when seen does not leave any questions to be asked; it is seen in a simple insight, and even amidst this insight remains totally incomprehensible. Thus the saints in Heaven will have no questions to ask about the essence of God; they will see Him, face to face. The situation is probably analogous to the Zen experience of satori, though involving divine and lofty mysteries rather than simple natural (and quite often banal) ones. The ultimate answer to the mystery of man’s existence is not a statement; it is rather an act of humility and awe.


“The weight of these golden rings,”
he said, “is not the weight of metal,
but the proper weight of man,
each of you separately
and both together.
Ah, man’s own weight,
the proper weight of man!
Can it be at once heavier,
and more intangible?
It is the weight of constant gravity,
riveted to a short flight.
The flight has the shape of a spiral, an ellipse - and the
shape of the heart…
Ah, the proper weight of man!
This rift, this tangle, this ultimate depth -
this clinging, when it is so hard
to unstuck heart and thought.
And in all this - freedom,
a freedom, and sometimes frenzy,
the frenzy of freedom trapped in this tangle.
And in all this - love,
which springs from freedom,
as water springs from an oblique rift in the earth.
This is man! He is not transparent,
not monumental,
not simple,
in fact he is poor.
This is one man - and what about two people,
four, a hundred, a million -
multiply all this
(multiply all the greatness by the weakness),
and you have the product of humanity,
the product of human life.”
 

The Jeweler does not tell us anything outright, because it is He who is the questioner, not us; the Jeweler is the Hound of Heaven. Nor does He question us with words; He questions us with his eyes, the icons of the soul. “At one point,” Andrew says, “my eyes once more met the gaze of the old jeweler. I felt just then that His gaze was not only sounding in our hearts, but also trying to impart something to us. We found ourselves not only on the level of His gaze, but also on the level of His life. Our whole existence stood before Him. His eyes were flashing signals which we were not able to receive fully just then, as once we had been unable to receive fully the signals in the mountains - and yet, they reached to our inner hearts. And somehow we went in their direction, and they covered the fabric of our whole lives.”

In the next post, I shall show how this scene reveals the nature of Wojtyla's play - uncovering its hidden Brechtian narrative - as an eschatological romance.

The Jeweler's Shop, Part II - The Stage and the Incarnate Logos

In this post, I shall continue the examination begun in the previous post by looking at how the notion of space is transfigured from everyday experience in John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop, in order to move our attention away from it and prepare us for experiencing without any obstacles the pure perception of the state of love.  However, in keeping with the play's context after the historical event of the Incarnation, I shall show how the stage as a sacred space takes on the function of the Logos, the condition which makes the revelation of the Word possible.

Like time, physical location also takes on an aspect of eternity within the play. There is in reality only one place in the play - the jeweler’s shop. Just as kairos is time invested with meaning, so there is such a thing as place invested with meaning, and it is these place and time which are invested with meaning which are the archetypes of which our linear “time” and “place” are reflections.

Sacred space is used in a triple manner in the play. On the one hand, the stage itself is a type of or analogy to sacred space - it is where, through an act of communion between actor and audience, the [W]ord is revealed. The sacred space itself is the silence which gives birth to the [W]ord; it is in this silence, and only through this silence, that the [W]ord can be received. In this way, and only in this way, the sacred space takes on a feminine character; giving birth both to the Word and the world of the play; the stage itself becomes a type of the Church, the Bride of Christ, and thus of Mary, Mother of God, and of the divine Sophia of Proverbs 8 and 9.

The stage is also, by virtue of its typological relationship to the Sophia, capable of becoming a sacred space in another sense, namely that it is a type of the Mass. This is obvious in one sense, in that the Mass is preeminently centered around the Word; it is also true in another, however, which Karol Wojtyla of all men was most fitted to express. The Jeweler’s Shop is a play about love. All poetry is love; in other words, the phenomenon of primal poetry (in Friedrich von Schlegel’s terminology) or pure poetry separated from all words or sensible images is the same experience as human love; both resemble sanctifying grace in a natural manner, because they are echoes (akin to Lewis’ Sehnsucht, Wordsworth’s “intimations of immortality”, and Plato’s anamnesis) of that act of divine grace which was our creation. It is not unreasonable to see that, given the inherent rootedness of poetry itself in love, that when poetry (such as The Jeweler’s Shop) is consciously meant to depict love, and therefore has both its origin and final end in love (or in that Love which is God), it becomes a form of communion with love, and using the created logos as its sacramental matter, is an echo of the “Feast of Love” in which the Logos Incarnate is adored on the altar.

There is also a sacred space within the context of the plot of The Jeweler’s Shop, and this place is the shop itself. The shop is, as stated before, the only place in the play. Being a true place, it is invested deeply with meaning and not just physical location. It is in the shop that the mysteries of the world are revealed; these mysteries are revealed by probing the depths of man, the center and meaning of the cosmos. It is in the jeweler’s shop that the rings, the ultimate symbol of unity, love, and God, are fashioned. As Andrew recalls, “The rings in the window appealed to us with a strange force. Now they are just artifacts of precious metal, but it will be so only until that moment when I put one of them on Teresa’s finger, and she puts the other on mine. From then on they will mark our fate... They are, for all time, like two last links in a chain, to unite us invisibly.” It is in the jeweler’s shop that time, the reality which is ultimately our being (Da-sein) and our love, is determined: “that was our “now”: the meeting of the past with the future… We are secretly growing into one because of these two rings.”

A second symbol of love and destiny related to the jeweler’s shop is the shop window. The window in the jeweler’s shop is a potent symbol for divine Providence, for it “has turned into a mirror of our future - it reflects its shape… it was not an ordinary flat mirror, but a lens absorbing its object. We were not only reflected but absorbed. I had an impression of being seen and recognized by someone hiding inside the shop window.” Other windows reflect the humdrum life on the streets, but anyone looking into the window on the Jeweler’s shop is contemplating his own destiny. For through this window is the mysterious Jeweler, who forges the rings that make man’s future.

It is easy, though scarcely tempting, to stop at the window; that is, to make a deity out of Providence or History or Destiny or “the Absolute” or some other impersonal and per se non-existent abstraction. Being a Catholic, and coming from the tradition of Cyprian Norwid rather than Schelling and Hegel, Wojtyla does not make this silly error. “The wedding rings did not stay in the window,” Andrew says. It is the Jeweler himself, not the window, that gives the soliloquy on the meaning of man’s existence which forms the heart of the play, and who shall be the subject of the next post.

"My Life's Companion", or The Jeweler's Shop, part I - The Transfiguration of Time in the Experience of Love

In this and several following posts, I shall use my previous posts as a preamble to a theological reading of Pope John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop, taking it as a phenomenology of love.

I spoke in a previous post of how the "theatre of the inner word" pares down the unessential distractions in a theatre so that the bare nakedness of the spoken Word could affect the audience directly by its own power.  As an example of this, John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop paints in its words a phenomenological description of the experience of being in love, but theatrically transfiguring being, time, and the physical stage - those unessential distractions - in order to let the essence of love shine forth more directly and more clearly through the inner word, and by doing so he created a logos-like figure, the Jeweler, who is both a character in the play and the condition that renders the play possible.  I shall devote one post to the transfiguration of time in the service of experiencing love, another to the transfiguration of space and Wojtyla's treatment of the stage, a third post to the figure of the Jeweler, and a final post to the play's eschatological conclusion.

Instead of being a coherent story stuffed into a single place and a simple linear passage of time, The Jeweler’s Shop gets all of its unity from the aspect of eternity. Indeed, though the Brechtian emphasis on narration will become evident in the story's eschatological conclusion, there is no story per se, for what is important are not the ephemeral relationships between the characters, but rather their experience of love as their relationship to God and to those made in His image. Instead of being a story, the play is an extended phenomenology of love, in which each of the characters in turn reveals his own soul and by doing so reveals the greater reality of love in which it subsists. At the heart of this phenomenology, Wojtyla discovers time - kairos - as the ultimate reality within human love. In this respect, he may have been influenced by thinkers such as Heidegger and Bergson who had also come to the conclusion that man’s being is nothing other than time, but by giving a phenomenology of love rather than of being Wojtyla reaches his conclusion quite independently of previous thinkers. Wojtyla believed that time was redeemed and given its meaning by love, and that through love, time meets eternity - that love “cannot be a single moment; man’s eternity passes through it”. In the play, Teresa describes this conjunction between time and eternity by recalling the words with which Andrew had proposed to her.

We were just walking on the right side of the market square when Andrew turned around and said,
“Do you want to be my life’s companion?”
That’s what he said. He didn’t say: do you want to be my wife,
but: my life’s companion.
 


It is in one’s life - one’s Da-sein - that time is found, and love defines one’s life. When a husband and wife are wedded, their love is eternal, as all the poets have known - but their love is also what time is made out of, as Wojtyla shows us. It is lack of love - especially in the form of unchastity - that turns meaningful time (kairos) into a meaningless succession of events. Pure kairos has nothing to do with the mere succession of events. Teresa could not recall what time it was when Andrew asked her to marry him; in a very real ontological sense, this was because there really was no time. In the inner world of the theatre, where pure kairos can be present without chronos, the meaningless and linear succession of events simply has no relevance. “At such moments one does not check the hour, such moments grow in one above time.”

On the other hand, when one falls in and out of love and changes lovers as his fancy suits him, he makes everyone incapable of being his “life’s companion”. It still remains possible to have a succession of sex partners, and even that indissoluble domestic arrangement officially known as marriage; but true matrimony - when the two become one flesh, as “life’s companion” to each other - becomes impossible. Each successive love affair makes mockery of the previous one, depriving it of all its meaning; as permanence is lost, consciousness of time - that is, of the possible dissolution of the love at a point some time in the future - makes it impossible for one to love the beloved in an altruistic manner. Such a lover is not loving the eternal soul of the beloved - which exists irrespective of chronological time, and which will never cease to exist - but is rather loving the soul as it exists, and only as it exists, now. To love with consciousness of time is to love a fleeting experience, and not an eternal soul - consciousness of time is almost unthinkable, for example, in the love between a mother and a son. Loving now is not ontological; it does not alter one’s being, only one’s emotions. True and real love completes the person; when the two become one flesh, they are no longer just themselves. After Teresa married Andrew, they existed no longer except in each other. Man is composed of an intellect, a will, and a body - thus in love, the bodies become one, the spouses know each other more intimately than it could be thought humanly possible, and most fundamentally, their wills are for nothing but each other. “Love - love pulsating in brows”, the chorus sings, “in man becomes thought and will: the will of Teresa being Andrew, the will of Andrew being Teresa.” An identity this close pertains to the essence of man, and is thus unchanging; it cannot be severed by material events such as death, for “love is stronger than death”. After Andrew was killed in the war, Teresa said “Andrew did not die in me, did not die on any front, he did not even have to come back, for somehow he is.” Presence, as Gabriel Marcel has told us, has nothing to do with physical location - bringing us to the phenomenological interconnectedness between time and presence and space, and to the subject of the next post.