A Faith You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

skellig-michael-cine-tourisme

In a now-famous experiment, volunteers were fitted with inverting lenses, such that everything they saw appeared upside-down. In a few days their brains adjusted and what they saw appeared correctly. When the lenses were removed, their naked eyes now saw things inverted, though again, after a few days their vision returned to normal. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and created in such a fashion we adapt to even very strange circumstances. We were created to survive. This adaptability is both a wonderful and a dangerous gift. It allows us to survive, but it also allows us to tolerate severe distortions of reality.

This is important to bear in mind as we go through a world that boasts of its objectivity and commitment to what’s “really there.” To the average modern person, objects appear to be inert, empty and stable. They belong to a material world devoid of spirit and the like. To attribute properties to matter that go beyond such an inert notion is perceived as mere superstition. Things are just things – any value they have beyond their mere existence is wholly within the mind of the beholder.

This perception, if viewed from a classical Christian understanding, represents a distortion, the result of a set of lenses that render the world flat, devoid of any dimension other than what seems most obvious. Our language preserves the memory of a different world, a time when thing and spirit were not seen as separate.

One of the most observant scholars of this aspect of our language was Owen Barfield, close friend of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, one of the Inklings. Both Lewis and Tolkien were profoundly affected by Barfield’s thoughts and observations. Those who are carefully familiar with the work of all three can see Barfield ever present within Narnia and Middle Earth. But his observations were not intended for the world of fantasy, but for our own.

The word “spirit” is itself a good example. It is a borrowing from the Latin, with an early meaning of “breath” or “wind.” This meaning is also true for the Greek word “pneuma.” In English itself, the more common pre-Latinized word was “ghost,” as in “Holy Ghost.” That word is derived from the Old English “gast,” probably from the Old Saxon, “gest.”

Our modern ears hear this and only imagine metaphor. We think, “They believed that spirit is like breath.” That is inaccurate and anachronistic. It would be more proper to say that spirit, breath, wind are all one thing, without a particular distinction. The world was perceived, according to Barfield, with “original participation.”

Our modern consciousness separates from the words their meanings and that to which they refer. Indeed, we say “spirit,” and have no thought whatsoever of the wind or our breath. It is simply a word, and we’re not at all sure about its referent. Spirit is only a sound for us, a placeholder in a sentence used to discuss an abstraction. “Klaatu barada nikto” would work just as well.

This abstraction from our very words represents more than a shift in meaning: there is a shift in our very consciousness of the world itself. Barfield completely destroys the theory that primitive man invented stories and concepts to explain cause-and-effect which he did not understand. He does not call the wind “breath” because He is imagining its cause to be some giant being breathing. It is breath, just as is his own breath, the two not being particularly distinct.

God breathes into Adam, and “he becomes a living soul.” Breath/soul/life have a common meaning in a manner that modern people can barely imagine.

In the service of Holy Baptism (Orthodox), the priest breathes on the water. Modern onlookers see this activity as a ritualistic symbol of the Holy Spirit moving over the waters in the Genesis creation account. But the priest also breathes in the face of the one being baptized during the exorcisms. He also breathes over the oil of the catechumens that he blesses. The modern imagination, if it goes so far to accept the notion that objects and people are somehow “blessed” of God, then they imagine this happening in a manner that cannot be seen or described. Actions such as those of the priest are of little importance. Mostly what matters are the words he says. Man speaks, God listens. God hears, thinks about it and answers.

Such a modern imagination actually creates a distance between ourselves and the world in which we live. It is, at its very heart, a denial of the Incarnation of Christ, or a failure to fully engage the actual reality of the Incarnation. In St. John’s account, when Christ gave the Spirit to His disciples, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:22). This, like the Last Supper, involves a communion between word, action, reality. They are not three separate things, but one.

This is not just an ancient way of seeing and understanding. It is also a better description of life as we actually experience it. It is our consciousness, represented in our use of language, that has changed, not reality. We are, in fact, utterly embodied creatures. The soul is the life of the body, not the “ghost in the machine.” Every thought has a chemical/biological component, and the information we receive from the world around us comes to us in physical form (I include light within this description). At every turn, God has shown Himself to us by means of the very physicality with which He had created us. St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “Man is mud whom God has commanded to become god.” This, however, does not mean that we cease to be embodied.

St. Maximus the Confessor maintains:

that the soul remains just as intrinsically oriented toward its body, even after death, as the body is toward it and that therefore the final perfection of knowledge and experience can be expected only when the whole range of sensible and intellectual capacities is restored. (from Cosmic Liturgy, Hans Urs von Balthasar)

The vision of the Church is that expressed in St. Paul in which creation is not overcome, but “set free” into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21). It would be ironic if modernity had to await the Second Coming in order to return to a truly embodied existence.

Fortunately, there remains a truly embodied Christianity, completely consonant with the deposit of the faith once delivered to the saints. What is endangered, however, is the consciousness of that embodied faith. Orthodox Christians within the contemporary world are as likely as anyone to wear the distorting lenses of modernity and notice only a feigned sacramentality. Accepting the materiality of the faith, its full incarnate reality, is probably a greater difficulty than any other facing the Church. It is all the more difficult in that it is generally unaddressed in the writings of the fathers – they lived in a pre-modern world where human consciousness had not been robbed of its perception of reality.

My own observation of encountering an earlier consciousness is that it strikes the modern mind as superstitious. My suggestion is, therefore, to pay attention whenever something seems so, it might be a clue to reality. A Greek priest friend once commented to me that he always gets a better crowd at Church when “we’re giving away something.” What he meant was when a service involved the blessing of water for distribution, or the blessing of oil, or bread, basil, the many things that are associated with various feast days, those services draw a crowd. Protestants will turn out for an idea, or an entertaining service. The traditionally Orthodox want holy things. They understand that holiness most frequently comes in the shape of things.

When the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God returned to Russia in 2004, the crowds gathered in numbers that would strain credulity. It was seen as a sign of the Mother of God’s favor – “she” was coming home. I should add that I’ve never heard of great icons being described as “it.”

The abstracting of our faith, its transformation into precepts and sentiments, robs us of the power of the concrete. Human beings are not angels – they should not seek to pray like them. Embodied prayer is the tradition.

I will conclude with one of the finest examples of embodied prayer, from one of the greatest saints of the West.: The Lorica, or St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

 

44 comments:

  1. Thank you, Father. Glad to see you expounding on Barfield again. I think he is generally not given his due, either for his own writings or his influence on C.S. Lewis. As a lifelong Protestant I find many of your essays challenging, but almost always a blessing.

  2. I don’t know if this is helpful, Father, but in Russian the word for icon is “икона” which is feminine. Therefore it requires the Russian feminine pronoun “она” which usually means she. I would be curious to know whether they were referring to the Theotokos or to the icon itself. The only language I know that uses “it” is English. As a side note: I really love reading your articles! They are so helpful as I continue my podvig!

  3. The title of your post reminds me of the following passage from St. John Chrysostom’s Homily on the Gospel of John. Apologies for the long copy-and-paste passage, but I think it’s worth reading:

    Wherefore it is necessary to understand the marvel of the Mysteries, what it is, why it was given, and what is the profit of the action.

    We become one Body, and “members of His flesh and of His bones.” Let the initiated follow what I say. In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into that flesh. This is effected by the food which He has freely given us, desiring to show the love which He has for us. On this account He has mixed up Himself with us; He has kneaded up His body with ours, that we might be a certain One Thing, like a body joined to a head. For this belongs to them who love strongly; this, for instance, Job implied, speaking of his servants, by whom he was beloved so exceedingly, that they desired to cleave unto his flesh. For they said, to show the strong love which they felt, “Who would give us to be satisfied with his flesh?”

    Wherefore this also Christ has done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He has given to those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His flesh, and to embrace Him, and satisfy all their love. Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which He has shown for us.

    Parents often entrust their offspring to others to feed; “but I,” says He, “do not so, I feed you with My own flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born, and holding forth to you good hopes for the future.” For He who gives out Himself to you here, much more will do so hereafter.

    “I have willed to become your Brother, for your sake I shared in flesh and blood, and in turn I give out to you the flesh and the blood by which I became your kinsman.”

    This blood causes the image of our King to be fresh within us, produces beauty unspeakable, permits not the nobleness of our souls to waste away, watering it continually, and nourishing it. The blood derived from our food becomes not at once blood, but something else; while this does not so, but straightway waters our souls, and works in them some mighty power. This blood, if rightly taken, drives away devils, and keeps them afar off from us, while it calls to us Angels and the Lord of Angels. For wherever they see the Lord’s blood, devils flee, and Angels run together.

    St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46 on the Gospel of John, S. 3
    (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240146.htm)

  4. Father bless,
    When Jesus breathed on the Apostles, giving them the Holy Spirit – does that mean somehow that His human breath was the Holy Spirit?

  5. Zachary,
    It is the same “she” used in English among Orthodox dealing with very holy icons. They are spoken of, and treated with a very sense of person-bearing (which they are).

  6. Thank you for this beautiful piece father, especially St. Patrick’s prayer. Your post reminds me of being a child and seeing fairies and wonder at every corner but as an adult I have to work a lot harder to see wonder, even though it is always there. I’ve never read all of St. Patrick’s prayer before, but suddenly I was reminded of Madeleine L-Engle’s book, “A Swiftly Titling Planet.” In there she has a slightly different form of part of this prayer but I have always loved it.
    At Tara in this fateful hour,

    I place all Heaven with its power,
    And the sun with its brightness,
    And the snow with its whiteness,
    And the fire with all the strength it hath,
    And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
    And the wind with its swiftness along its path,
    And the sea with its deepness,
    And the rocks with their steepness,
    And the Earth with its starkness
    All these I place
    By God’s almighty help and grace

    Between myself and the powers of darkness

    Now to memorize St. Patrick’s prayer.

  7. Father Bless, Interestingly Hebrew is in line with the Greek of Spirit for it too (Ruach) means breath, wind and spirit. Perhaps the ancients were indeed not so much superstitious as much smarter than us.

  8. I ask how we “know” Truth but by love. I guess (thank you Mike H) St. Chrysostom does indeed answer that question! But I suppose I would like to hear your answer Fr. Stephen if you wish to reply. You have got me reading Florensky’s letters now, painstakingly but fruitfully for me.

    Thanks also for all poetry posted here

  9. Thank you for all the posts about modernity and the Church, and for the discussions in the comments. They help get to the roots of so much wrong “Modern superstitions” which I even thought to be deeply right and Orthodox.

    But it is incredible how the Real Man, though buried, is not dead: for example, I had heard before about the “spirit/wind/breath”, but just couldn’t grasp it at all.
    Though when packed in a bus, it’s just impossible to inhale the breath of strangers (no matter how fresh it might smell). I hold my breath or turn my face away. It just strongly feels “too personal”, “incompatible”. My head only now realises why, but something inside already knew.

  10. Dana,
    The easiest, but least theoretical, is History in English Words. Poetic Diction is possible. The hardest, I think, and most developed, is Saving the Appearances.

    I would suggest looking around at secondary material – it’s often the easiest way into anything.

  11. Good articles Fr. S,

    I love St. Patric’s payer I pray it every morning. I would like to ask you a few questions. C.S. Lewis, in some of his writing, seems to suggest that universals are angels. Or that angels are personifications of universals. Have you run across that?

    And also: have you ever thought about modern science in terms of nominalism? Modern science thinks in terms of nominalism almost exclusively. But it need not be and was not always so. A scientist, Rubert Shaldrake has writing about this in a book entitled THE SCIENCE DELUSION.

  12. kevien,
    Modern science works on the premise of objectivity, which is generally nominalist by definition. As long as someone understands what it does and what is useful for, and what it’s not useful for, then there’s no problem.

  13. To continue on Nicholas’ thought:

    Wind, life, and spirit are all caught up in the same concept of “prana” in Hindu thought (prana = ‘breath of life’).

    Similarly, the chinese 气 (qi, i.e. ‘chi’) translates as breath, air, gas, vital energy, spirit, life force, etc.

  14. A realtor friend once complained that she had a “turkey” on her hands, a house in perfect condition in a desirable location which she was offering for tens of thousands of dollars below the market value. The problem was that a particularly heinous and public murder had been committed there.

    I asked her why that should matter and she said she didn’t know. She didn’t believe in ghosts nor did the people to whom she was showing the house. Yet another house which had been owned by a Methodist minister and his wife who were known for their piety and prayer sold at listing price with no negotiation.

  15. Mule,
    Very telling example. There is a deep instinct about such things…an instinct that we would reject as superstition and baseless, but not an instinct so insignificant that you would blithely take a mortgage out to prove it wrong…

  16. Has anyone read “Irrational Man”? – i’m not sure of the author.
    Long before i discovered Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church, i stumbled across this book, was amazed that it was a required reading for Philosophy 101 in a very liberal college. It talks about the Hebrew/Hellenistic sources of western civilization and actually states that the problem with the west is its loss of beauty and sensitivity to the Hebrew sources/sensitivity (and specifically mentions how the reformation churches are bare, plain with no ornamentation) leaving man in a terrible state; that western man is all in his head so to speak.
    I don’t really know how to express it well, but it is a phenomenal book, made my heart sing. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention the Orthodox Church but through God’s grace I discovered the church a few years later.

  17. Father Freeman, thank you so much for the articles you continue to write. They’re water to this parched soil. Ravenray, I’d also like to memorize St. Patrick’s poem, but at 70 might take a couple of years. 🙂 You write about how we have been made a living spirit, and how we must worship God with our whole being, body and spirit. In the early 70’s I would meet weekly with a group of men at Sambo’s. I remember many discussions about the physicality of worship we saw in the Bible, especially in Revelation, the Acts and Isaiah. I longed to worship God in just this way, but it wasn’t until more than 20 years later that the Lord led us into His holy Church. Something else I recall from my late teen years. My brother-in-law, a pentecostal, had heard of a small church in S.F. where Bibles seemed to be anointed, at times, with heavenly oil when placed upon the altar. Looking back, I think it may have been an Orthodox church. I still remember how the pages of the Bible were crimped, as if it had been quickly dipped in and out of water. Long after, I again smelled that same heavenly aroma which his Bible exuded, wafting up from a myrrh flowing icon of our most blessed Theotokos. Christ answered the longing of my heart for what I had desired as an evangelical. He has given me a faith I can sink my teeth into, most especially as I partake from the Holy chalice. Our whole being is involved in worship in the liturgy and other services. We are anointed with chrism, we cross ourselves, at times do prostrations (especially in the monastery we attend), bow before and kiss holy icons, hear the bells on the censor, smell it’s fragrance, are sprinkled with holy water, and in many other ways worship Christ with our total being. These many years later, after liturgy, I still often feel born again, again!

  18. Dean,
    The poem was set to music as a hymn-a very popular hymn indeed. I mention this because learning to “sing” the poem is easier when set to music as appealing as this hymn. I know there is a YouTube recording of Keble College choir singing it and there are bound to be versions on Amazon music downloads. I haven’t looked in an Episcopal church hymnal in years but it was long there. A wonderful hymn!

  19. Maria,

    This looks like William Barrett’s book. Here’s the wiki entry..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrational_Man

    Berdyaev and Dostoyevsky are referenced. When one digs deeply the connections begin to be made. I find it interesting that Barrett, perhaps did this well.

    It looks like something worth picking up.

    Ben,

    Thanks for sharing these two pieces. Speaking of connecting these dots, these are great examples. The gospel is universal and shreds of it can be found everywhere. Let’s not forget that the 3 wise men were ahead of those that had the torah in their understanding of the coming messiah.

    These things were very encouraging for me in my early days of exploring Orthodoxy (confirming the Goodness of God) and was one key distinction from my protestant background. “Whatever things are said correctly among men, is the property of us christians” – St. Justin Martyr.

    Make no mistake about it, he was Orthodox, died for his faith and was not syncretistic.

    The truth is universal or it is nothing at all.

  20. Father Stephen,
    I am so grateful for your articles and your comments, both yours and your commentators’. Like so many here I learn and digest these words as food for my soul.

    Your comment to kevien was provocative for me. Sometimes I want to pitch in and write right away, and I know it’s better for me to receive this food and think about these things before writing. I wish to say so much but lack time at this point and also believe that the lack of time is a kind of blessing to keep me living with your words longer.

    A few words I offer at this moment is about the meaning of the word “objectivity” which I believe shifts among the speakers who call themselves scientists. One example is that scientists who work for a corporation and are paid for finding results that serve their corporate interests might call their work “objective” and may be using the term in the nominalist way. Others might reject that meaning. The arguments about what is objective take on a sociological and political hue, which has forced the use of “operational definitions”. Even those are hotly argued. What ends up being the “norm” in usage doesn’t necessarily put to rest the issue among scientists.

    Your use is within a framework of philosophy which I’m only beginning to learn (or relearn). (just to be open about my history I suppose I should mention that my first degree was in philosophy with a focus on the classics and epistemology of science–but that was so very long ago that my memory is extremely rusty) But based on my professional experience, I believe that I have fought against the nominalist perspective in science, even before becoming a Christian. That’s my sense of my professional history at this time as I learn more specifically from your description of the one story universe.

    Last, I probably should divulge that my mom was Seminole. My early childhood had a mix of science (dad was an electronics engineer) and traditional culture from my mom’s side. My dad had an high school diploma and learned his trade in the Army. My mom didn’t finish high school. As a young kid I moved from “science” and into the traditional culture, as real and tangible rooms in my home (electronics gear in the garage, native medicine in the kitchen) without knowledge that such “fields” were segregated in the so called “real world”. That was something I learned in school. And I learned early to keep my mouth shut.

  21. Fr. Stephen, what would you recommend for someone, like me, who wants to move beyond words as representations of abstract ideas to words as representing an experiential reality, specifically with prayer? Often in my prayer life I feel like I’m simply reading words from a page. I know the spiritual life is cultivated through constant, and imperfect, commitment. Is there anything you would specifically recommend, though?

  22. A couple brief thoughts:

    1. We simply must disenchant the world if we are to treat it as we do, as a non-sentient object, a “resource” to deplete and destroy for our hedonistic whims.

    2. Looking at it backwards – were we to attempt to explain the difference between the words “spirit” “wind” and “breath” to an ancient man, he simply could not understand any distinction.

  23. Mule, Fr Stephen:
    I had an experience of that. As a teenager, our family was shown an older home by a Realtor. Instantly upon crossing the threshold, I somehow just knew the house had been the scene of a grizzly murder. The feeling grew as we approached the room in question – I could’ve painted a big red X on the very spot (I was unable to enter that room). Upon exiting, my father inquired as to why the house was being offered at such a huge discount, well below market value (he strongly suspected it was in need of undisclosed expensive repairs). Without thinking, I replied “Because an extremely bloody and violent murder took place in the upper living room right in front of the fireplace.” My father got angry (at me), the realtor’s jaw hit the ground. She sheepishly confessed that was indeed the case, and inquired how I knew. I didn’t quite know how to reply; I just gave some vague dismissive answer. Had I given the real answer, my father would’ve taken me to some therapist (a conjunction of two words: the-rapist) to “fix” me.
    Murder doesn’t just leave a mark on the human soul, it also leaves a mark on anything else in all creation involved.

  24. Justin,
    “His blood cries out…” You better believe it does. And the blood of the innocents across the nation and world are a roaring chorus…We must all pray and do penance for the sins of the world and the repose of these sweet souls.

  25. Justin, this is also why the Church prays for the dead and blesses everything in the material world She reappropriates for holy purposes (including our homes).

  26. “Every thought has a chemical/biological component, and the information we receive from the world around us comes to us in physical form (I include light within this description).”

    Therapists and the 12 step recovery movement talk about memories and trauma stored in our bodies. Sounds odd to modern ears, but seems aligned with this.

  27. “God breathes into Adam, and “he becomes a living soul.” Breath/soul/life have a common meaning in a manner that modern people can barely imagine.”

    Recently came across this: “Possibly [Lynn de Silva’s] most notable contribution to theology is the book titled The Problem of the Self in Buddhism and Christianity (de Silva 1979),[6] in which he points out an age-old misconception held by Buddhists and Christians that the notion of an immortal soul is a biblical teaching.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_de_Silva

    Reminded me of some NT Wright stuff: http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_SCP_MindSpiritSoulBody.htm
    http://www.afterlife.co.nz/2013/media/video/rethinking-life-after-death-nt-wright/

    I heard an Orthodox monk speak at a local Greek parish. He reminded us that Adam means dirt. I guess our whole existence is by God’s grace. But the whole idea of the resurrection of the body seems hard to integrate especially if the second coming can happen in the past tense as a previous article mentioned.

    “Barfield completely destroys the theory that primitive man invented stories and concepts to explain cause-and-effect which he did not understand.” Would be interested in reading that.

  28. Thank you Boyd for this quote from Fr Stephen and your reflection. The Church offers her Therapy to all of us through the acts of the Physician. I’ve begun to intone parts of the Divine Liturgy with the choir. I have discovered physical healing in that very act which culminates in the Communion with Christ..

    As an infant in the faith I stumble and fall easily as I try to walk. When that happens everything hurts. Divine Liturgy is a kind of embrace that a fallen child might receive as they are picked up off the ground. The Blood and Body in the Cup is healing balm to heart, soul and body.

  29. Regarding the Breath. The Seminole people describe Whom I would call God, the Breathmaker. This was a meaning I was taught when I was very young that I don’t even recall being taught this directly, rather I have a memory of telling my mother that I was scolded for it in a Sunday School class. I felt shame in Sunday School. My mother’s antidote was to show me the passage in Genesis, where God breathes into Adam. Then she asked, now what do you think? I said “that’s Breathmaker!” She said “yes!”. Then I asked “but why didn’t my sunday school teacher know this?” She said, “some people just don’t know these things.”

  30. I should make it clear that the sunday school I attended for a time as a child that I referenced in the previous comment was non-Orthodox.

  31. “Breath-maker.” I like that. Think of this passage:

    “Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath [ruach, or pneuma, breath, wind, spirit], prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath,`Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”‘” (Eze 37:9)

    Here the Scripture is actually naming God as “Breath.”

  32. Yes! Thank you Father for that passage and for highlighting God’s name in it. I needed hear that. This is about the Coming Resurection isn’t it?

  33. “I bind this day to me for ever…His bursting from the spiced tomb”

    This reminds me of the wonderful short reading of Fr. Schmemann, how we are not simply remembering and reenacting scenes from the past at Church, rather that the Divine Liturgy makes us present at those events.

    Father, is that correctly said?In the Divine Liturgy we are not speeding through time away from the Resurrection week after week and century after century, rather we are brought to that event with the opportunity to ‘bind’ ourselves in faith to the event?

  34. What’s the difference between The Lorica and an Akathist?

    Does anyone know where I can find an Akathist to St Sava?

  35. Terry,
    The Lorica is Gaelic for “Breastplate,” and refers to the Hymn written by St. Patrick, called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. The Akathist is a poetic form of a hymn commemorating a saint, or Christ, etc. The first one was written by St. Romanus the Melodist in the 8th century (I think). I has, more or less, 12 sections that meditate on the life or theological significance of a saint, etc.

    Most major saints have an Akathist that has been composed in their honor. Not all are available in English. I’ll look around for St. Sava’s. Do you mean St. Sava of Serbia, or St. Sava in Judaea?

  36. Terry,

    the Lorica is the long prayer-poem written by St Patrick (“I bind unto myself this day…”). I’m not sure it adheres to any particular literary form. “Lorica” is the name of the portion of Roman armor that covered the shoulder and extended over the breast (it is sometimes translated “breastplate” but that’s not entirely accurate) – so very important for protection.

    An Akathist is a specific kind of prayer that developed in Constantinople. It has 13 divisions, with each division having 2 parts. After the final division is a prayer that is said 3 times, then the first division is read again, but in reverse order (part 2 first, then part 1). The original Greek form is an alphabetical acrostic, but that doesn’t translate well into English. The pattern for all akathists is the first one, composed in honor of the Theotokos. You can find that in almost any Orthodox prayer book and in many places on line. I can’t find one for St Sava; perhaps if you contacted your nearest Serbian church, or the diocesan office, they could help.

    Dana

  37. Thanks for the explanation. I wondered how close the hymn is to a Akathist.

    I have not found an Akathist to St Sava of Serbia.

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