This is the famous opening word of Homer’s Iliad. Many translations in English fail to sufficiently convey the power of the word and its place as the opening utterance in this ancient classic. For non-classicists, citing Homer’s Iliad might mean very little. The cultural knowledge of our modern world with regard to the ancient is abysmal (as is our knowledge of even the past half-century). Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were in many ways, for ancient Greece, what the Scriptures were for Israel. They were not seen as Scripture, per se, but they were the most ancient writings known, embodying an epic tale from earlier times, and permeated with encounters and tales of the divine (or divinities). It was a writing whose stories would have been part of common cultural knowledge from about 100 B.C. to 1000 A.D. in the Mediterranean world. Educated persons of the period would have a wide take on its stories. Greeks and Romans, educated in various schools of philosophy, would have found the portrayal of the gods in Homer rather embarrassing. Their internal conflicts and base motivations were everything that a truly good life would have spurned. But the stories had a valued place in the culture – thus they were interpreted in a manner that made them useful. Allegory, as a literary tool, was a very natural way of treating these texts. That we see a similar use of allegory in handling of the Old Testament is thus not surprising.

But it is interesting to think of the wrath of God in a cultural context where wrath itself plays such a large part.

In the Iliad, Achilles wrath (μῆνις), is a dominant theme. It is his downfall. A related term in Greek is a form of delusion (ἄτη). It can be a form of madness sent to a man by the gods. The result is always catastrophic. The two images work together. The man who is the object of the gods’ wrath, is given over to madness (ἄτη) by the gods, and the drama (tragedy) plays itself out. That very idea of tragedy played a very large part in the Greek and Hellenistic world-view. It was a form of story that seemed to explain the rise and fall of fortunes in the world.

These images have been playing through my mind lately – as, strangely – I’ve been watching a couple of television series. Both have a Western theme (cowboy-style), though in contemporary settings. One is Longmire, the other, Justified. Both of the protagonists have problems with anger. The lead character in Justified says in the series pilot, “I’ve never thought of myself as an angry man.” His ex-wife says, “You’re the angriest man I’ve ever known.” If Sophocles were the author of series, you would know that the character was headed for ruin. In American television, however, anything is possible.

Real life, however, is much closer to Sophocles than television. Our rage, like that of Achilles, is often the beginning of catastrophe, both for ourselves and for those around us.  The wrath of God is more problematic.

The gods of Achilles’ world are fickle. They have their demands and expectations, but they also have their pettiness and vindictiveness. In some cases the gods are seen as subject to envy (it was never thought wise to be too beautiful, too brave, too excellent). There can even be competing waves of divine wrath – a cross-fire to be avoided at all costs!

The wrath of God in the Scriptures is singular – the God of Israel has no competition. And the wrath of God in Scripture is seen as righteous – it is not petty or vindictive. But it sometimes seems to have a similarity to the pagan stories. We are told that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Pharaoh’s actions are similar to those of Achilles. His rage drives him to repeatedly deny the requests of Moses. At last, in an insane act of folly he plunges his army headlong into the miraculously parted waters of the Red Sea. His drowning ranks with the great tragic stories of antiquity.

But we are troubled (rightly) by a God who sends such hardness on the human heart. For we are all the victims of our own rage from time to time.

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psa 130:3 NKJ)

Some of the fathers assure us that such wrath is not punishment, that it is not sent upon us to satisfy anything, not even the demand for justice. For them, the clear teaching is that every action of God towards us is ultimately for our healing and correction. Ultimately such a teaching is rooted in the goodness and love of God. The Christian revelation, in contrast to that of the ancient Greeks, is that human beings are part of the good creation of the good God. The goodness of creation (Gen. 1) is not a description of creation’s morality, but of its fundamental existence. God does not create and command, “Be good!” He creates and declares, “It is good.”

As such, the good creation (including humanity), is not created for destruction and torment. Our madness and the rage of sin draw us into the vortex of wrath – but the vortex of wrath draws us into the love of God. I recall a monastic once speaking about Pharaoh and his army beneath the waters of the sea. “Christ descended into the waters to bring them out again,” he said.

I volunteer one day at week at an alcohol and drug treatment center. I encounter many men and women (most of them young), whose lives have been brushed with the rage of sin. The destruction many of them have already experienced in their short lives is more than I would want in the whole of a lifetime. Many of them began their rageful journey in the backwash of other destructive lives. Sin is ancient and generational. On an individual basis, however, I witness, week in and week out, the transformation of wrath. The very destruction that has come upon a life becomes the means by which it is healed. “I had to become sick in order to become well,” is a common sentiment.

The drama in which I participate is not a tragedy. These children of Achilles are not beset with a rage sent to them from the gods of the Achaians. If they have encountered the wrath of God, then it has clearly been for their salvation.

I wonder at those who cannot see in such small events, the greater pattern of the redemption given to us in Christ.

If God be for us, who can be against us?



  1. Father I have often wondered how many people have entered heaven sitting in an electric chair!

  2. Wrath (others not our own) is the only thing that will force us to look at our own sinfulness. I stopped watching Justified after its first season as it was just to contrived for my taste and the cycle of wrath as faux justice that bound the characters together became distasteful to me.

    The Longmire of TV does not do sufficient justice to the deeply spiritual quest of the Longmire of the books. In the books Longmire, though a white man, is deeply attracted to and deeply experienced in Native American spirituality and the intertwining of the seen and the unseen which it expresses. But being a white man, he can never fully enter that realm of understanding.

    Wrath is a natural product of our falleness I think. Any prideful thought leads us there like a magnet because how else are we to handle our estrangement from our creator and Lord. Deep humility and sorrow or pride and the wrath it produces. Thus we are apt to perceive any effort by God to humble us as wrathful and a ‘hardening of our hearts’.

    What is our reaction when someone we love deeply (often for largely selfish reasons) dies. Wrath or a deep sorrow that leads, if we allow it, to the tomb ourselves and there, if we allow it, to a knowledge of the Resurrection and a terrible joy in the midst of our grief, sorrow and devastation. It is a joy difficult to fathom and more difficult to bear for some around us. Easier to just be sorrowful.

    Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath bourn our griefs and carried our sorrow, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.

    Perhaps it is not God’s wrath He suffered on the Cross, but ours and in the midst of that He forgave and implored is Father to forgive also so that we might no longer have cause for wrath?

    How utterly human of us to see it the other way around.

  3. Michael,
    I actually watch little TV. These two series have been rare exceptions. Justified is outrageous – almost in a manner like Flannery O’Connor. I’m not sure I expect much more. I’ve started reading the first Longmire book and can see that the series bears almost no resemblance whatsoever.

    I appreciate the question, “Whose wrath?” My purpose in writing this piece – more a reflection than theology – was something of an imaginative exercise – even modest theoria. I see plenty of wrath (the human form and the wrathful consequences). There’s nothing theoretical in it. But I marvel, utterly marvel in awe and wonder, at the redemption I encounter in people’s lives. It is astounding. When I sit in a room of addicts and share the simple good news of the unwavering love of God, and see adults weeping, I am awestruck. I’m not given to working the “emotional” angle. Many of the people I work with here in Appalachia have never heard the gospel as the work of a loving God. It is a joy to see even the wrath as redeeming love.

  4. My wife and I recently pulled the plug on TV.

    No wrath is not theoretical as the violence, the depression and the addiction in our world bears clear witness. I know people who are eaten up by it. It certainly has scared my own soul deeply.

    When my late wife reposed it was a few weeks before Pascha. We’d been married 24 years. It was like having half of my soul ripped from me. Yet, the angels came and got her and that Pascha was the most incredibly joyous experience even though it had little impact on my over all grief at the time. I knew the Resurrection and participated in it like at no other time. I came out of the sanctuary beaming. Some thought I was faking it and approached me in a somber way. All I could say was “Christ is Risen!!!!!”

    His joy is always available and is the gift of His life no matter the existential difficulties we may be going through. Remembering that as we struggle is at times a chore but it is either joy or wrath. Wrath is all too easy. Allowing the experience of joy to overtake us….well it should be even easier, but is usually not at least not for me.

    Yes, it is difficult for people to believe the goodness of God as we have experienced too much wrath.

    Is not wrath of demonic origin born of the rebellion against God?

  5. I wonder … in Homer’s eyes, is Achilles’s wrath responsible for his downfall or for his apotheosis? I’m imagine that Aristotle would suggest the former, but I’m not sure about Homer. 40+ years ago I attended a series of summer lectures by Bernard Knox on the Iliad at George Washington University. If my memory holds, I believe he maintained that the wrath of Achilles elevating Achilles to near-divine status, albeit temporarily. There is no downfall of Achilles in the Iliad. Rather, when his wrath finally leaves, he is restored to his humanity.

    How very alien this is to we Christians.

    Just thinking out loud.

  6. Hey – Can I ask you guys a question that’s off-topic but is really bugging me?

    When Martin Luther was given the old heave-ho by the RCC, why didn’t he become Orthodox rather than starting his own gig?

    He still held with all the sacraments and creeds of the church. The only thing he seemed to have cast off was the apostolic succession bit in the Nicene creed.

    Once burned, twice shy? Or was there some other reason not to join with the Orthodox churches that weren’t under sway of the RCC?

    Sorry to crash the party but I’m getting flak from some Protestants who are really ticking me off and I’m wondering how much agony ML could have spared the world if he had simply gone over to you guys.

  7. I really wish there was no such thing a Protestant Christianity. History would have been very different if the Orthodox held greater sway.

  8. TLO,
    I have no idea why he didn’t. I have had the same question myself, especialy considering how Orthodox his inital protests were (which eventually resulted in an ever greater distortion of Christianity), maybe someone here knows the details of ML’s personal history…

  9. TLO,
    There were overtures. Also an Anglican group made overtures a century or so later. At the time, the communication was with Constantinople and Jerusalem, both of which were under Turkish domination. Communication was slow, and global awareness was pretty well missing. So, maybe we chalk it up to bad timing.

  10. Perhaps not bad timing but the timing of God… I am ever so slowly learning to be patient waiting for answers, changes, conversions. I want instant results from prayer, but I am coming to see the greater glory that comes as God works with and through and over time. Sometimes, to me, very long time.

    Your post was just such an answer to a long time prayer! I have always wondered about the hardening of Pharoah’s heart and your quote from the monastic brought tears. I have also been in prayer for a long time about someone I love who has a hard heart towards God now, but I am comforted, knowing God has him in his love and mercy.

  11. TLO et all, the intellectual and social climate has to be considered. The impact of Scholasticism and Catholic humanism both of which diminished the understanding of natural hierarchy and God’s immenance which in turn diminished the experience of the life in scarament has to be taken into account.

    Schism leads to more schism; the evil one wants us divided. Perhaps without the Turkish Yoke, we Orthodox would have splintered too.

    The temptation in the Garden of Eden to be like God still abides in us.

  12. Remember that Luther was an ordained priest who thought it was no big deal to marry a consecrated nun. The Orthodox frown on that sort of thing.

  13. The impact of Scholasticism and Catholic humanism both of which diminished the understanding of natural hierarchy and God’s immenance which in turn diminished the experience of the life in scarament has to be taken into account. Michael do you have a reference for this truth?

  14. No single reference just my impression frome all of the reading I have done, historical and theological in my life and the experience of the difference bewteen western Christian thought, belief and practice vs. eastern Christian thought, belief and practice

    The western philosphical movement was to make “man the measure of all things” It took quite awhile to get there specifically but each movement starting with the Schism pushed God a little further away. That, of course, was one of the things that the Reformation attempted to recover but they did it in a man centered way rather than in a theocentric way.

    It is impossible to understand sacrament in a anthropocentric sub-rational (totally subject to our rational powers) universe.

    When God led me to the Orthodox Church it was such a relief. Here there was a unity that I had been searching for all of my life. It allowed me to begin the process of healing the bifurcation of my own soul that my culture had impressed upon me was necessary: head or heart can’t have both (and God was definately of the heart).

  15. Leonard,
    what Michael mentioned seems to expand above and beyond the issue of the Reformation.
    Saint Nicholas Velimirovich and St Justn Popovich have written similar things (I haven’t specific references right now), (sometimes fairly “polemic”) concerning the Western:“man the measure of all things” notion, in comparison to the Eastern Eucharistic understanding of the Cosmos with “Christ as the measure of all things”.

  16. Michael,

    Ironically, however, I might suggest that it was precisely such a rationalism which led to modern science and the ability to believe things under “sublunar” realm could be have natural ends as well as supernatural ones. Now, I agree this moved away from the Patristic-Platonic conceptions of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, East and West. Perhaps, in time, it even led to Weber’s demythologization and “disenchantment” of the world and the infamous “manual theology” of the 19th century. Yet that was certainly not their intent.

    St. Thomas tried to keep a healthy apophaticism about the Divine. His Eucharistic prayer certainly displays that. Besides, one still sees bounteous immanent theology alongside Scholasticism. Meister Eckhart and the Rhineland mystics, the Beguines, Joachimites, and the Franciscan masters such as John Duns Scotus and Bonaventure attest to that. Not to mention later mystics like St. John of the Cross.

    In fact, ironically enough, it was the belief in the Platonic immanence of divinity within light in the Franciscan theology of St. Bonaventure which led to the study of optics and the extraordinary, almost humanistic confidence in the mind of one Roger Bacon. It’s a weird and wonderful story, and here I am largely dependent on Rubenstein’s excellent work, “Aristotle’s Children.”

    Third, even after Aristotelian Scholasticism had the theological ear of the West, one still finds what I would call mystical residues – albeit displaced and somewhat heretical. In Renaissance Italy and post-Renaissance Northern Europe with the rise of Greek and Hebrew studies, one finds a resurgence of belief in the immanent Platonism and Christianized Jewish mysticism in figures such as John Dee, Pico della Mirandolla, Johannes Kepler and Nicolas Copernicus, and Raymond Llull. In fact, the harshest intellectuals against Galileo were such people led by Ludovico della Colombe. Christopher Columbus was inspired to go East, at least partially, by the belief that he could launch a missionary effort, trigger last crusade against Islam, reunite Christendom, and usher in the Final Age and the conversion of Israel according to the prophecies of Joachim then circulating at that time. Similarly, Isaac Newton was not above alchemy and believing Solomon’s Temple as described in the Bible held the key to ancient alchemical secrets. Certainly the Reformation represents one such a product.

    My point is that the immanence of God – which I hesitate to term “magical thinking” (which is a bastardization of divine immanence as magic is religious “technology”) by the Renaissance – and the penetration of the sacred persisted in the West within in both Catholic and splinter groups long after the Scholastics and operated alongside their work.

    Finally, the dependency of the natural upon the supernatural was reaffirmed by Post-Vatican II theologians such as Henri de Lubac (who got into a theological stink because of it, I will admit) and von Balthasar.

    If you were talking about the 19th century and “fortress Catholicism,” I would agree with you. But I think that everything prior to that tends to be forgotten – perhaps by the West itself at times, which is why Vatican II was supposed to be a matter of “ad fontes” and “ressourcement.”

    Whether that has actually occurred, of course, different people will say different things, and I will leave it at that.


  17. Dante, what you describe actually makes my point in a way: the rational vs the “mystic”. The rationalist vs the pietist. Each to his own ‘individual’ thinking/experience. Separated in this manner and made linear they both become heretical in nature destructive of unity, sacrament and community.

  18. I would agree except for the fact that the West did not separate those elements. Throughout its history, yes, different groups emphasized different elements (the Franciscans vs. the Dominicans, for example), but I would not go so far as to say they ever parted ways. They all were elements of Catholicism, and – yes – some of them veered into heresy, but many did not.

    If you are saying that the “mystic” (which, I agree, is a catch-all term) strain became cut off from the life of the Church, then I would agree insofar as that had been a persistent danger. The Beguines and Cathars might be good examples.

    But I would never say there was a time when those two elements had been completely brought apart or ever unrecognized together. After all, St. Thomas according to legend admitted his own work to be nothing but straw thereafter.

    Even in the East, one of the major dangers which Pseudo-Dionysius recognized was the tendency for ascetic “mysticism” to separate itself from the institutional life of the Church – which he sought to remedy as well as St. Basil.

    Now, I will admit the one advantage I do see in the East is that St. Basil kept the monastic-ascetic life firmly under the authority of the local bishop whereas the Benedictine communities remained more autonomous.

  19. Dante I was reading a book of systematic theology called Spiritual Theology by Jordan Aumann OP for most of the day. It was kind of interesting.

  20. Dante,
    I am with Michael in this one.
    The various dualisms (whether a spirit-matter or any other bifurcation) that have found soil in the West, whether Aristotelian or Platonic have now all not far from leading to schizophrenia…!
    The East has kept (not so much in its Theology, but mainly in its Liturgical Life – in the Eucharistic Ontology) a singular, unified, holistic oneness.
    It is what Father describes as a one story universe.

  21. Dante perhaps someone deeply into the life of the Catholic Church as you seem to be can appreciate the oneness but culturally and anthropologically especially since the reformation the effect has not been oneness.

    As Dino points out the celebration of the Eucharist is our unifying element. The Life of the Eucharist units us all as fully human and fully God.

    Nothing magical just the presence of the Holy Trinity transforming and uniting us. There is nothing like it in the west that I have seen.

    The epiclesis in our Liturgy: “Send down the Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here spread forth” is the heart. Correct me if I’m wrong but there is no longer an epiclesis in the RC Mass is there?

    That, IMO, allows the magical thinking to enter. But like always, I could be wrong. Whatever the source the west is dualistic in the extreme in our culture and philosophy which has negative impact on our psyche.

  22. Michael, perhaps you could expand on the great unity that is found in Orthodox ecclesiology. It has always impressed me.

  23. Michael here are the epiclesis…..

    II: Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray
    by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall,
    so that they may become for us
    the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    III: Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you
    by the same Spirit graciously make holy
    these gifts we have brought to you for consecration,
    that they may become the Body and Blood
    of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
    at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.

    IV: Therefore, O Lord, we pray:
    may this same Holy Spirit
    graciously sanctify these offerings,
    that they may become
    the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
    for the celebration of this great mystery
    which he himself left us
    as an eternal covenant.

  24. Leonard,
    the crux of the disunity, the corrosive ‘dualism’ (that has now spread even to the traditionally Orthodox countries) is the bifurcation: Secular – Holy. It is essentially the fruit of secularisation that started very long ago, when the Eucharistic and Crucificial ontology that was at the heart of Christianity (a Christianity that was not of this world but that transformed the world from the inside, in each person), was replaced with a (very typically western, although also Pharisaical- Jewish) ‘paradise on this earth’ (brought through political power/legislation and mass influence) delusion. This also led to a pietism and a worshipping of the Eucharistic Gifts in the West (Eucharist as a ‘thing’ rather than a Praxis of communion in congregation.
    It is very characteristic that the ancient understanding of the Eucharist as an act of a congregation (as a communal manifestation of the whole Church, not as a vertical relationship of an individual with God), is a characteristic that the East preserved (proven by the fact that there has never been a concept of an “individual” liturgy in the East, -unlike the West)…. The Eucharist is essentially something that is a Praxis not of each individual, but of the whole Church.

  25. Leonard,
    The Catholic Mass place an epiclesis in the service after the Vatican reforms. It was not there in the Tridentine services. Anglicans only added in Scotland at the request of the Orthodoxy during the Non-Juror period. From there the US Church picked it up. It is common in liturgical revisions today to include an epiclesis.

    Of course there was no epiclesis in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus did not “consecrate” bread and wine to be His Body and Blood (i.e. “the first Mass”), He revealed them to be what they are – what all bread and wine are in His hands. The feeding of the 5000 was the Eucharist. Christ is the Eucharist – he never handed anyone bread that was anything other than the Eucharist. He is the Kingdom. In the Kingdom there is only the Eucharist, the Bread of the World.

    The Orthodox recognize the possibility of a Eucharistic prayer that does not include an epiclesis – there have been examples of this in Orthodox history. The prayers of the epiclesis are very integral and important to Orthodox in its mature form. There is an epiclesis in all of the mysteries of the Church – ordination, marriage, etc. It is probably the most common liturgical thread in all of those services, a thread that is often overlooked.

  26. Father the Tridentine mass did have an epiclesis that reads: Come, O almighty and Eternal God, the Sanctifier, and bless this Sacrifice, prepared for the glory of thy Holy Name. What is interesting is they left it out with the reforms of Vatican 2. However, they retained this: Be pleased, O God, we pray,to bless, acknowledge,
    and approve this offering in every respect;
    make it spiritual and acceptable,
    so that it may become for us
    the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son,
    our Lord Jesus Christ.

    This is now the epiclesis in Eucharistic prayer 1

  27. Dino, I have a little experience with worshiping the Eucharistic gifts. Which indicates that delusion can be mistaken for “Spiritual experience” It’s possible that this was the case

  28. Leonard,
    yes, and the epiclesis or lack of it is not the main point either. That point -the main one- is secularisation, the two story understanding of the world, which seeped in largely from the Western notion that “man is the measure of all things”, as opposed to the Ancient Eucharistic understanding “Christ as the measure of all things”.

  29. “Yeah, I suppose you are right.”

    I rejoice at perhaps the holiest thing I have seen anyone write in a long time.

  30. My understanding is that at some point at one of the Vatican councils (I or more probably II), in order to simplify and shorten the liturgy, the RCC removed the epiclesis from it with the argument that Christ used those words that are quoted in the Gospels. So, in this new view, those words would suffice to transform the bread and wine of the Eucharist into the Body and Blood of Christ. However, the Orthodox practice (and up to that point the RC practice as well) has always been to quote the Gospel so as to document how Christ instituted the Holy Communion, but to invoke the Holy Spirit in the epiclesis for the actual transformation. The Orthodox argument is that we need the epiclesis since we are not the Son of God and also because otherwise merely reading the Gospel accounts can inadvertently make some bread and wine present into the Body and Blood of Christ (something mentioned in a story about a novice monk who was bringing the bread and wine to church).

  31. Anna what the RCC did was put the epiclesis and the words of institution side by side. Now nothing is offered until after the consecration is complete. We do a thanksgiving for the unconsecrated gifts…. Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life. I personally like this

  32. Anna,

    Your comment brings to mind the following scripture:

    “For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them“.
    Douay Rheims 18:20

    This is understood of such assemblies only as are gathered in the name and authority of Christ; and in unity of the church of Christ — St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage circa AD 249 to 258 in De Unitate Ecclesiae.

  33. Anna, et al
    The Orthodox understanding, at its best, doesn’t put such fine points on all of this. The discussions of how and at what point the bread and wine become the Body and Blood are quite medieval, part of the whole scholastic mindset – in my opinion – one of the worst periods in Christian thought that continues to leave destruction in its wake. It certainly found some voices in Orthodoxy to engage in its discussion, but, on the whole has proven to have no real traction within the Orthodox mind. Generally, it is understood that the “whole service consecrates.” We cannot pull anything, the Words of Institution, or the Epiclesis, out of the context of the entire liturgy and focus on them. If you will, the entire liturgy should be seen as one single spoken reality, and not broken and analyzed into discrete moments. This fragmentation and analysis was one of the hallmarks of Scholasticism – and renders a false picture of reality – all reality. Reality is a whole – not parts.

    I do not know about RC practice, but in the American Episcopal (Anglican) practice, if you run out of sacrament in the service, having not consecrated enough, the priest can simply take more bread or wine and pray a small formula that is a mini epiclesis and words of institution. It is a bizarre practice. The phrase (I work from memory) is something like, “Bless, O Lord, this (bread) with your Word and Holy Spirit, that it, too, may be the (Body) of our Lord Jesus Christ, who took the bread and said, “Take, eat, this is my body…” It’s terribly close to a notion of magical consecration. Does Rome do this as well?

  34. If I may:

    And he said to them: The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath also.
    DRB Mk 2:27


    He Who is Lord of the Sabbath is Lord of the Eucharist. He Who consecrated the Sabbath also consecrates the Eucharist (by the same Holy Spirit).

  35. Father, bless! Let me see if I am understanding this comments thread properly (even though it may be a bit off-topic with regard to the post). The “epiclesis” is the priestly prayer within the Orthodox Liturgy of the Eucharist whereby the Holy Spirit is invoked to transform the consecrated bread and wine to be the Body and Blood of Christ. This prayer simply makes explicit what has always been the implicit understanding of the nature of Holy Spirit’s work in the Eucharistic Liturgy as a whole (and by extension the nature of the the Mystery of Christ in His Church) within the Orthodox faith. Am I getting that right?

  36. Karen,
    yes, and [a significant point here is that] the Holy Spirit is invoked “upon us” as well as “and upon these gifts here presented”

  37. Yes, Karen. “As a whole” is crucial. The epiclesis itself, as a small paragraph, makes no sense without everything that comes before and that which comes after. To isolate these things is just scholastic nonsense.

    In the dialectic of East/West over the past centuries, however, the scholastic arguments (Words of Institution versus Epiclesis, for example), had a way of dominating the argument. It was a very unhelpful conversation for Orthodoxy, part of what is (rightly, I think), described as the “Western Captivity” of the Church (Florovsky’s term). Coming out of that during the 20th century, there has been a growing awareness that the very nature of the argument is flawed. This realization has made some of the past arguments to be entirely dismissed. At the same time, shifting the thought towards the whole of the Liturgy has been helpful for Orthodoxy in recovering its own right mind, but also liberating for many in the Western traditions as they themselves have begun to see scholasticism as a distraction from the main body of Christian thought.

    Thus, the arguments of Epiclesis versus Words of Institution should be a non-argument for the Orthodox. It asks the wrong questions.

  38. The “Western Captivity” is indeed a most corrosive influence – close to being a synonym for secularisation when viewed from the purity of the Orthodox tradition.
    The famed saying of the Greeks of old, “better bodily slaves to the Ottoman’s than spiritual slaves to the West” seems closely connected to this way of seeing things.
    There is certainly great holiness in the West, but far more ‘individually’ than collectively. And there might be sinfulness in the East, but, as a whole it The Orthodox Church is the only place where one can find the answers to all the burning questions that confront Man.
    This brings to mind the fact that She (the Orthodox Church) “missed out on” some centuries (under bondage), when She did not have the luxury of taking place in certain discussions that were going on in the West (many arising from modern developments in sciences) and are now reaching stale-mate in the modern West. But now She might be reaching the time where She will start slowly formulating answers in these matters…

  39. Yes it’s not good to focus on when the transformation takes place. The Liturgy of Addai and Mari has no words of institution and it’s accepted by the RCC. The idea being that the entire anaphora is consecratory. The idea “what’s the least that could be done and the Hocus pocus would work is insane

  40. Thank you, Father (and Dino). It probably helps that I am wired to be a right-brain dominant thinker. I tend to always want to see the big picture and am not satisfied I understand anything until I can see where it fits within that. Jordan Bajis’ book Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian does a good job of putting this wholistic perspective in place in order to better explain what Orthodoxy is vis-a-vis the various philosophical developments that affected Christian expression in the West. His book played a vital role in helping me sort all that through as I was clearing away obstacles in what I had been raised to believe in order to embrace a fully Orthodox faith.

  41. …but also liberating for many in the Western traditions as they themselves have begun to see scholasticism as a distraction from the main body of Christian thought….This is a true statement and happened as a result of Vatican 2. The problem with Vatican 2 is that we uprooted a lot of unhelpful stuff but didn’t know enough about the Orthodox tradition to properly replace it. Slowly but surely we are trying to get there. Unfortunately it won’t be in my lifetime.

  42. Karen,
    Yes. Bajis is one of many (indeed most) Orthodox writers who today would pay attention to the picture of the whole rather than break things into discrete parts. This, as I noted, is only one example of many things that came into focus as a result of the critical reaction of modern Orthodoxy to what is termed the “Western Captivity.” There are a few modern Orthodox writers who attack the notion of a Western Captivity, for whatever reason, either they do not want to admit that Orthodoxy ever underwent such a period, or they don’t like those who first noted the Captivity and sought to critique it. But my experience of their work is that they do not see the “whole” picture themselves. Thus it is easy to read St. Philaret of Moscow, for example, whose catechism is, indeed, Orthodox in its details, but not see that the “form” of a catechism is itself part of the Captivity. The form effects how we think and perceive far more than disjointed, even if correct, information.

    There is a “whole” that is gained and sustained by the continuity of the liturgical life, particularly in its monastic expression and this is why monasticism and the prayer life of the Church preserved Orthodoxy. Had the scholasticism of a period been allowed to “reform” the liturgy (and it has in small ways), the result would be a diminution.

    Some of this discussion comes up today in a critique (proper I think) of the elimination of certain sections of the liturgy (the prayers for the Catechumens, for example) and the innovation of evening liturgies for feast days. In isolation and point by point, these changes make sense. But almost all changes make sense in their details. It is the whole that can be lost. I don’t mean to debate any of these sorts of changes (they are not in effect in my world of the Russian typicon), only to imagine what and how “reform” would look in an Orthodox context.

    By its nature, reform is almost always rationalized. Whereas the whole is trans-rational, being greater than the immediacy of rational apprehension.

  43. I think that the only welcome reforms I have witnessed in the Orthodox Liturgy are due to someone being influenced by monasticism.
    The unwelcome ones seem also usually due to Western-style and secular influence.
    The first tend to bring it closer to what goes on in a Monastery (Liturgically), while the second seem to deviate from that, leaving out loads -more than half- of what goes on (while still managing to last longer due to the far slower pace of chanting and the weight that is put on Homilies!)

  44. If the wiki has it right the prayers for the Jewish People during matins of Great Friday are something that some have tried to reform. I haven’t verified the veracity of the article but they seem a tad harsh. We in the RCC have reformed our Good Friday prayers

  45. A dancer who is counting and concentrating on the steps never learns the joyous freedom of really dancing.

    Still the center is the point to which all movement flows and from which it moves outward. To me that is the Epiclesis: the Incarnation, death and Resurrection.

  46. If I am not mistaken, the Fathers of the Church differentiate human anger from our incensive power. Our incensive power is part of our image of God in my understanding. It is the power to see evil and declare it so with out doubt or equivocation among other things. Although it has outward applications as well. I believe that Jesus cleansing of the temple was one such.

    In line with that we are to use our incensive power most often within our own selves to simply say “no more’ to our sins, to throw them out. It can look much like anger but has a completely different source and intent. Human anger is destructive of both the target and the one who is angry. Proper use of our incensive power is not destructive at all.

    I wonder if God’s wrath is not much the same?

  47. Our incensive power is part of our image of God in my understanding. It is the power to see evil and declare it so with out doubt or equivocation

    That’s certainly how God’s presence and power is manifest in the OT. Not in the great wind or earthquake and neither in the fire but in the effortless memory of a gentle breeze (cf. Gen 2:7 and 1 Kings 19:11-12). Breath and soul (“np̄eš” and “nap̄šā” )are analagous in Aramaic.

    St. Gregory of Sinai says that the body was created incorruptible (“such that it will be resurrected”) but that through sin, the passions caused it to become “unreasoning and senseless, subject to anger and lust” like the animals.

  48. Father,

    Did any fathers or doctors of the Church consider the bread which fed the five thousand to be the body and blood of our Lord? You’ve said this a number of times, and I’ve also read this assertion, I believe, in Fr. Schmemann. I’ve read commentaries on the feeding by Chrysostom, Augustine, Hilary, and Jerome, and have yet to see anything to support this astonishing — albeit intriguing — claim. It seems to me that we must be most careful to distinguish the sacred mystery of the altar from various types and foreshadows which are found through Scripture.

    Concerning the epiklesis: The tradition which attributes to the Word the mystical transformation of the bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ is ancient and venerable. This tradition links transubstantiation to the Word, and specifically the Words of Institution.

    The connection is made as early as Justin Martyr: “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is *blessed by the prayer of His word,* and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, ‘This do in remembrance of Me, this is My body;’ and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, ‘This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone’ (First Apology).

    St. Irenaeus waxes eloquent, “The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s Word they become the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ” (Against Heresies).

    St. Ambrose writes in a similar vein: “This bread before the sacramentary words, is the bread in common use; after consecration it is made of bread Christ’s flesh. And what are the words, or whose are the phrases of consecration, save those of the Lord Jesus? For if His word had power to make those things begin to be which were not, how much rather will it not be efficacious to cause them to remain what they are, while they are at the same time changed into somewhat else? For if the heavenly word has been effectual in other matters, is it ineffectual in heavenly sacraments? Therefore of the bread is made the Body of Christ, and the wine is made blood by the consecration of the heavenly word” (On the Mysteries).

    And further: “The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: ‘This is My Body.’ Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood,” (On the Mysteries).

    St. Gregory of Nyssa is quite clear on this matter: “Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word … In this case the bread, as says the Apostle ‘is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer’ … It is at once changed into the Body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, “This is My Body'” (Catechetical Oration XXVII).

    St. John Chrysostom agrees, “[Christ] says: ‘This is My Body.’ This word changes the offering'” (Homily on the Betrayal of Judas).

    St. Augustine, too: “The Word is added to the element, and this becomes the sacrament” (Tractates on the Gospel of John).

    Finally, St. John of Damascus testifies to this tradition: “The Word of God is quick and energizing, and the Lord did all that He willed ; if He said, Let there be light and there was light, let there be a firmament and there was a firmament; if the heavens were established by the Word of the Lord and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth; if the heaven and the earth, water and fire and air and the whole glory of these, and, in truth, this most noble creature, man, were perfected by the Word of the Lord; if God the Word of His own will became man and the pure and undefiled blood of the holy and ever-virginal One made His flesh without the aid of seed , can He not then make the bread His body and the wine and water His blood? He said in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth grass Genesis 1:11, and even until this present day, when the rain comes it brings forth its proper fruits, urged on and strengthened by the divine command. God said, This is My body, and This is My blood, and this do ye in remembrance of Me. And so it is at His omnipotent command until He come” (On the Orthodox Faith).

    Of course, the Word does not act alone. He never does. The Spirit is active as well, as many of these same fathers testify. As the Catechism affirms, “In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ’s body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all.”

    Nevertheless, it seems obvious that the Roman doctrine is both patristic and scriptural, rather than the product of degenerate scholastic speculation, as is often suggested. To be honest, discussions like this leave me wishing that the Orthodox would do more to understand Roman teaching. This conversation is rife with caricatures and misunderstandings. We must both do our best to truly comprehend what the other is saying — only then will reunion be a possibility.

    God bless you and everyone else. Good day.

  49. Many fathers, east and west, acknowledged a moment of consecration, although their theologies differed from century to century and rite to rite. The operation of the Spirit is increasingly emphasized as time goes on, especially after St. Cyril’s modifications to the influential Jerusalem liturgy. So-called “operative clauses” are apparent (at least in seed-form) as early as St. Justin (cf. First Apology, 66), and they are widespread and clear-cut by the forth century (witness the testimonies of figures as diverse as St. Ambrose as St. Gregory of Nyssa).

    St. John Chrysostom wrote:

    “It is not man who makes the gifts which are set forth to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but Christ Himself Who was crucified for us. The priest stands fulfilling a role
    and saying those words, but the power and the grace are of God. ‘This is My Body’, he says; these words transform the elements. And just as that which was spoken ‘Increase and multiply and replenish the earth’ was said once but is for all time operative in bestowing on our nature the power of procreation, so this which was spoken once makes complete
    the sacrifice at every altar in the churches from then until now and until His coming again.”

    A theology of consecration rests upon a theology of the priest as one who acts in persona Christi — as St. Chrysostom demonstrates above — which in turn rests upon a proper understanding of the person and ministry of the Lord.

  50. According to St. Chrysostom, Christ *did* offer the holy mysteries at the Last Supper, and even consumed His own flesh and blood:

    “And He Himself drank of [the chalice]. For lest on hearing this, they should say, What then? do we drink blood, and eat flesh? and then be perplexed (for when He began to discourse concerning these things, even at the very sayings many were offended), therefore lest they should be troubled then likewise, He first did this Himself, leading them to the calm participation of the mysteries. Therefore He Himself drank His own blood” (Homilies on Matthew).

  51. PJ,
    Oh my. I’m certain I will never be able to disabuse of the misreading engendered by the collection of quotes you offered. Yes, of course, God the Word, by His word makes the bread and wine to be His Body and Blood. Of course. But such is statement is a world away from saying that those words “this is my Body, etc.” are a “moment” of consecration. For the one in persona Christi, who says these words says many other words before, and many other words after. And in saying the words after, specifically prays that the Holy Spirit will come and “change” the BREAD, etc. I think it is improper as well to attribute to the epiclesis the force of a “consecrating moment,” for those words are not spoken alone, etc.

    But the concatenation of quotes you offer are brought forth as though a question had been put to each of these various fathers, “Is there a consecratory moment within the liturgy?” Which most certainly is not the case. All of the Fathers believed the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. But the notion of a specific moment, as a specific thought and argument, does not arise until the advent of the debates between Rome and Constantinople. I might add that the string of quotes you offered appear to come from just such a post-Photian collection.

    I would not in any way diminish the importance of the institution narrative. Though it is your RC Church that recognizes that the Prayer of Addai and Mari is consecretory though it does not contain the words of institution (its an ancient Syrian usage).

    I haven’t said these things to criticize Rome. Many Roman theologians would probably agree with me. But much of the “theories” are indeed developments within Scholasticism. They are certainly not without merit, but, the Scholastic system, I contend, is destructive of true theology. Again, many Roman theologians would probably agree. The conversations between Rome and Orthodoxy, interestingly, do not turn on an acceptance of Scholaticism. Frequently, agreement has turned on what is “meant” and isolating it from a system which has generated so much trouble. Protestantism itself is a product of scholasticism – Calvin being easily the best example.

    On the feeding of the 5000. I’ve no idea about thoughts of the fathers on the matter. It still seems right and true to me. I don’t think this is in any way diminishes the mystery of the altar. I’ll hang with Schmemann on these things. And, I might add, so would large numbers of RC liturgical theologians. It is interesting that many of Schmemann’s critics within Orthodoxy attack him precisely because of his close work with Roman thinkers on such things. His work, I would comfortably suggest, has done more to promote mutual understanding, than any defense of scholasticism. But you can’t find a concatenation of quotes on the topic.

  52. “But such is statement is a world away from saying that those words “this is my Body, etc.” are a “moment” of consecration.”

    I will let St. Chrysostom speak for me: “‘This is My Body’, he says; these words transform the elements.” I might not be sophisticated enough to understand what is really being said here, but the meaning seems plain enough.

    “But the concatenation of quotes you offer are brought forth as though a question had been put to each of these various fathers, “Is there a consecratory moment within the liturgy?” Which most certainly is not the case.”

    You’re right to say that this wasn’t a matter of explicit debate, but Dom Gregory Dix — one of the leading liturgists of the last century (and not a Catholic) — makes clear that the Church of the forth and fifth centuries was very interested in discerning and defining a moment of consecration, and that in particular the evolution of the various liturgies during this period makes this interest clear.

    Schmemann is popular among many Catholics, yes. I enjoy his writing, and have profited from it very much. However, I think that his genius was crippled by certain prejudices which he simply could not shirk. I don’t think he’s alone in that: witness how many wonderful, pious, and intelligent souls on this very blog are fixated on the evils of “scholasticism” (such a convenient term!). But how much time and effort — not to mention prayer — has been put into meditating upon the works of these Latin boogeyman, which fed the soul of an entire civilization? The fact is, next to Augustine and Peter Lombard, Aquinas’ three favorite theologians were John Damascene, John Chrysostom, and Dionysius the Areopagite. That tells you something right there!

    I don’t mean to disrupt your interesting conversations. Just consider what I’ve said. I’m off to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a talk on Athanasius’ “Dei Incarnatione.” Good night, all!

  53. PJ,
    I won’t belabor the point. But “these words transform” by no means is the same thing as “this is the consecratory moment.” Of course the words “transform.” But they are not the only transformative words in the prayer or the service, else there would be no need for the whole prayer or the service. Surely the words of the epiclesis which specifically ask that the elements be transform are “transformative” as well. But these do not take place in isolation either.

    What is destructive about scholasticism is precisely its drive to break things into discrete parts and to analyze in such a manner. It frequently created false impressions about many things and unwittingly reduced the whole to its parts. The result was a distortion of piety in many cases. I didn’t set about an article to bash scholasticism – though I am far from being its friend. The critique of scholasticism is not some sort of East/West thing. There are many critics of scholasticism within Rome itself.

    To find fault with Scholasticism is not to bash Aquinas. He didn’t invent it – he worked within the world he lived in. But the shape of that world, I believe, has been less than salutary in the history of the faith.

  54. Father, are there any works you might recommend devoted to a scholarly discussion of Medieval Scholasticism and a comparison of its approach to theology (and its effects on the praxis of the faith) with the pre-modern approach of the apostolic and patristic periods?

  55. Scholasticism eventually devolved into asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s a theology that badly hurt the Roman church and thankfully its days are waning. I’ve found some parts of it useful but only selectively. To slice up the mystery of the Holy Eucharist and put it under a microscope to me is borderline blasphemous. And I’m a roman catholic. I’m no fan of traditionalism.

  56. I referenced Fortescue on this point last night. He believes that the epiklesis first appeared in the forth century in Syria or Jerusalem. It was briefly adopted in the west. In Rome, he speculates, after Msgr. Batiffol, the epiklesis was originally dedicated the Word, and only later, under Pope Gelasius, to the Spirit. It seems that Gregory scrapped it altogether, as the west was by then decisively recognizing the Words of Institution as the source and summit of the consecration, as per St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Isidore, St. Caesarius, and so on. Of course, Fortescue admits that “the liturgy … is one united prayer, in answer to which God consecrates.”

    Leonard, the arch-scholastic is St. Thomas — a man whose Eucharistic piety has rarely been matched. The same man who wrote the Summa also wrote the Office for Corpus Christi. I used to feel similarly, but then I actually read the theologians I so breezily dismissed. Turns out, I was poo-pooing great riches. Do I agree with and enjoy every article of the Summa and the Catechism of Trent (etc.)? No. But I’ve discovered wonderful wisdom. It has been popular to diss the scholastics (if it is even appropriate to use such a catch-all) ever since the Second Vatican Council. I look forward to the day they are once again appreciated.

  57. Karen,

    Could I recommend “Orthodox Readings of Aquinas” by Marcus Plested?

    “This book is the first exploration of the remarkable odyssey of Thomas Aquinas in the Orthodox Christian world, from the Byzantine to the modern era. Aquinas was received with astonishing enthusiasm across the Byzantine theological spectrum. By contrast, modern Orthodox readings of Aquinas have been resoundingly negative, routinely presenting Aquinas as the archetype of as a specifically Western form of theology against which the Orthodox East must set its face. Basing itself primarily on a close study of the Byzantine reception of Thomas, this study rejects such hackneyed dichotomies, arguing instead for a properly catholic or universal construal of Orthodoxy – one in which Thomas might once again find a place. In its probing of the East-West dichotomy, this book questions the widespread juxtaposition of Gregory Palamas and Thomas Aquinas as archetypes of opposing Greek and Latin theological traditions. The long period between the Fall of Constantinople and the Russian Revolution, conventionally written off as an era of sterility and malformation for Orthodox theology, is also viewed with a fresh perspective. Study of the reception of Thomas in this period reveals a theological sophistication and a generosity of vision that is rarely accounted for. In short, this is a book which radically re-thinks the history of Orthodox theology through the prism of the fascinating and largely untold story of Orthodox engagement with Aquinas.”

  58. I always recommend that Orthodox read Aquinas’ Catena Aurea (Golden Chain). It is a compilation of patristic quotations on most every verse in all four gospels. Aquinas cites Jerome, Hilary, Chrysostom, Origen, Athanasius, the Cappadocians, and others. What most don’t realize is that the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were a time of extensive engagement by the Latin doctors of the Greek fathers. The Latins held the Greeks in great esteem, despite their differences. This was particularly true of St. Thomas. In a real way, Aquinas functions as sort of mediator between East and West, and his synthesis of eastern and western fathers laid the intellectual groundwork for the attempts at reunion in the waning years of the Middle Ages.

    Over the last one hundred years, the western church has dedicated itself to rediscovering the eastern fathers. Now, the east must rediscover the glory of the Latin doctors of the middle ages, who built so gracefully upon the labors of the patristic era. There can’t be any progress without mutual understanding. At very least, we must be able to read the other with sympathy and good will. I know that we in the Roman Church have much work to do — but can’t we expect a two way street? I pray that we come to greater understand in charity.

  59. PJ I’m a secular member of the arch-scholastic’s religious order, the Dominicans. The Summa has some good stuff in it however you can thank scholasticism for the fact that they excommunicated you immediately after they baptized you and the excommunication lasted around 7 years. And yes I do like the angelic doctor. Perhaps one way to look at it is of the many scholastic theologians that have been, not many were Thomas Aquinas

  60. “you can thank scholasticism for the fact that they excommunicated you immediately after they baptized you and the excommunication lasted around 7 years.”

    I presume, Leonard, you are referring to the separation between the baptism of infants and their first communion. If so, you are wrong to attribute this to scholasticism. The problem lies in the decision, which well antedates the emergence of medieval scholasticism, to restrict confirmation to bishops. This decision disrupted the ancient unity of Christian initiation. The pastoral question then became, Can someone receive communion before confirmation and if yes, then at what point do we begin communing that person?

    The practice of delaying communion for years after baptism gets established first, and then theologians have to find justifications for the delay.

  61. PJ,
    I believe that the short answer (which is simple and you probably know already) to the question of ‘why has Orthodoxy seen the Western style of Theology with increasing suspicion’ (whether individual Orthodox representatives have been unacceptably critical or not), is that the East has always only trusted Empirical Theology (to be found in those who have beheld God) while the West developed a reliance in Stochastic Theology (to be arrived at through the mind processes of those who have not yet reached Theosis)

  62. Re: Scholasticism

    I find little fault with the piety of Aquinas, but I find little connection between his piety and his scholasticism. The account of his beatific vision suggests as much.

    The problem with Scholasticism is in its method. Because the subject matter is sublime, like all of theology, there will obviously be sublime thoughts within it. It is not such nuggets that are to be criticized. It is the method.

    The application of logic and reason in the manner employed by scholasticism yielded the false impression that such a method was the proper means for arriving at truth. It changed the nature of theology. The point offered viz. Byzantine interest in scholasticism is certainly important. For scholasticism indeed found many admirers and practitioners within Byzantium. A modern champion of the Byzantine scholastics is David Bentley Hart. I part ways with him on the topic. The victory of Palamite theology in the Orthodox Councils of the 14th century was a historic rebuff to the method of scholasticism in Orthodoxy and the elevation of hesychasm (prayer, asceticism) to its dominant place both in Orthodox piety and as the ground of Orthodox theology.

    The Vatican 2 reaction against scholasticism and growing interest in Eastern theology was, I think, a reaction to how stifling the reality and fruit of scholasticism were for the inner life of the Church. That was not a conclusion drawn by Orthodox men – but by the sons of scholasticism itself.

    I think there is plenty of fruitful encounter to be had between the content of medieval Rome and the content of Orthodox hesychasm. But a return to the methods of scholasticism would be perhaps the most crushing thing I could imagine to the life of the Church.

    What I hear among defenders of Scholasticism is, a longing for the beauty of mystery sometimes found in pre-Vatican II Rome when compared to the deadening secularity of contemporary piety. The love of Scholasticism, I think, is not a fascination with the methodology of its syllogisms, but a longing for something precious that was lost. I understand that completely.

    But your pleading for a mutual sympathy for Scholasticism, as though it would contribute to the cause of understanding, falls, I think, on deaf ears in Rome. Why would the Orthodox be expected to love something that Rome itself has rebuffed? Again, I speak of the difference between method and content. Why would the Orthodox be expected to love or accept something that it rejected in council in a decisive manner?

  63. The problem with contemporary piety in the west can be paraphrased by something a physicist Richard Feynmann said about physics theories. “It’s not so much that something is wrong, but what do you replace it with.” We overthrew a bunch of dead stuff in Vatican 2 but it left a vacuum that should have been filled by Orthodox ways of doing things. The only problem was that almost no one knew anything about that. So, instead it was replaced by the “really really great ideas” that everyone came up with.

  64. True piety is probably best taught by a living Tradition. It can be difficult if not impossible to re-invent.

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