December 29, 2008

Zbor isihast





















ZBOR ISIHAST


- de Florin Caragiu

Peste-ntinsa mare,
Veghetorul dor
Caută în zare
Ţărmul primitor.

N-are loc de-odihnă
În întinsu-i zbor,
Singura lui tihnă
E un vânt uşor.

Taie lin noianul
Aripile-n cruce:
Poartă-n sân limanul
Numelui cel dulce!

(in imagine: Florin Caragiu şi Dan Puric la Sala Oglinzilor, 6 Decembrie 2008).

Octacube
























OCTACUBE:
a sculpture designed by Dr. Adrian Ocneanu, Professor of Mathematics at Penn State and built by the machinists in the Penn State Engineering Shop. Jill Grashof Anderson (PSU '65, Mathematics) sponsored the sculpture, dedicated to the memory of her husband, Kermit Anderson (PSU '65 Mathematics), killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attack on 11 September 2001. The octacube encodes a rich variety of structures arising in advanced areas of Mathematics and Physics (Quantum Field Theory). For details, see Adrian Ocneanu's commentary and the Penn State octacube page.

December 25, 2008

Hristos Se naşte! Slăviţi-L!



Hristos Se naşte! Slăviţi-L!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!







In imagine:
Icoana Nasterii Domnului (detaliu), Andrei Rubliov (1405).


  • "Naşterea Ta, Hristoase, Dumnezeul nostru, răsărit-a lumii lumina cunoştinţei. Că întru dânsa cei ce slujeau stelelor de la stea s-au învăţat să se închine Ţie, Soarelui dreptăţii, şi să te cunoască pe Tine, Răsăritul cel de sus. Doamne, slavă Ţie !" (Troparul Naşterii Domnului - glas 4)
  • "Fecioara astăzi pe Cel mai presus de fiinţă naşte, şi pământul peştera Celui neapropiat aduce. Îngerii cu păstorii slăvesc şi magii cu steaua călătoresc. Că pentru noi S-a născut prunc tânăr, Dumnezeu Cel mai înainte de veci" (Condacul Naşterii Domnului - glas 3)
  • "Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a Star to adore You, The Sun of Righteousness, and to know You, the Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You!" (Troparion - Tone 4)
  • Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The wise men journey with a star! Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child! (Kontakion - Tone 3)




Troparul Naşterii Domnului - de la Manastirea Sihastria




Condacul Nasterii - grupul Stavropoleos



Kontakion of Christmas (in English) - Third Tone. Composition by St. Romanus the Melodist

December 19, 2008

Parintele Ghelasie Gheorghe - despre rugaciunea duhovniceasca

Despre rugaciunea duhovniceasca - cu Parintele Ghelasie Gheorghe de la Manastirea Frasinei.


Parintele Ghelasie - Rugaciunea duhovniceasca pe video.crestinortodox.ro

Saint Athanasius the Great: On the Incarnation


"For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us." (Saint Athanasius the Great - On the Incarnation. Chapter 2: The Divine Dilemma and its Solution in the Incarnation).


In image -
Romanian Nativity Icon

December 13, 2008

Trei pastori

Trei pastori se intalnira, Trei pastori se intalnira
Raza soarelui, floarea soarelui
Si asa se sfatuira :
Haideti fratilor sa mergem,
Haideti fratilor sa mergem
Raza soarelui, floarea soarelui
Floricele sa culegem.

Si sa facem o cununa,
Si sa facem o cununa
Raza soarelui, floarea soarelui
S-o-mpletim cu voie buna.

Si s-o ducem lui Hristos,
Si s-o ducem lui Hristos,
Raza soarelui, floarea soarelui
Sa ne fie cu folos.


Trei pastori - in interpretarea lui Stefan Hrusca:

December 12, 2008

Patriarhul Daniel al României despre Colindul Sfânt şi bun

La Centrul de presa BASILICA al Patriarhiei Române puţeti cititi meditaţia Preafericitului Părinte Patriarh Daniel rostită la sfârşitul Concertului jubiliar – 2008, organizat la Sala Polivalentă – Bucureşti - despre COLINDUL SFÂNT ȘI BUN.

Cosmology and the shape of the garment...

The "shape"/"flow"/"dynamics" of the postlapsarian "garment" follows - albeit in a randomized fashion - the "shape" of the uncorrupted, prelapsarian "body" (which is beyond the chance/determinism duality, and of a different type of temporality) and thus, we could say that the prelapsarian Cosmos "explains from beyond" why the cosmological structures we perceive today are as they appear to us. For the image - Hubble ultra deep field - credit goes to NASA/ESA.










December 11, 2008

A Truly Christian Ecology

Continuing the line of previous thoughts, I would like to add three more short observations on the patristic understanding of the the prelapsarian Cosmos, which in the words of Fr. Seraphim Rose of blessed memory,is very mysterious to us who live entirely in corruption, "quite different from what we know now”, and cannot be investigated without the aid of Divine revelation, for a different “law of nature” (in the words of St. Symeon the New Theologian) existed before the fall, and it is very likely that even the nature of matter was different.

First, one should be careful not to identify any "singular" feature(s) - such as "big bang" (as viewed in contemporary cosmology) - of of the postlapsarian world ("garments of skin") with the Creation! Fr. Ghelasie Gheorghe, of blessed memory, insisted on this distinction. We have seen that the recent noncommutative geometry - based model of Michal Heller discussed earlier by us, also suggests such a distinction, from a philosophical/cosmological perspective.

Second, the Patristic Understanding of the Cosmos before the Fall - through the cosmological implications of the man's fall - is a solid theological ground for a genuine respect and love for nature, respect and love in repentance. This attitude should be viewed as a truly Christian "ecology" ! We see that in the life of Fr. Seraphim Rose, who...
"had a practice of walking around the monastery grounds early in the morning before services, blessing and even kissing the trees. When asked why he was doing this, he would only smile and continue walking. We had always interpreted this as a manifestation of Fr. Seraphim’s honor and love for God’s creation, as he contemplated it not only in its present broken state but also in its original incorrupt state and in its final, incorrupt and deified state."
Third, the Patristic Understanding of the Cosmos before the Fall will stand in place regardless of the features (singularities - if any, resolvable or not, multiple cosmological "patches", etc) of the postlapsarian "garment(s) of skin".


December 10, 2008

What kind of moon, what kind of sun, what kind of light...

Just a couple of thoughts on the Hieromonk Damascene's article, in the light of Fr. Gheorghe Ghelasie's view on the distinction between the "big bang of the Creation" and the "big bang of the fall". Let me go back to the words of St. Barsanuphius of Optina, in reference to Prophet David's words:

“Thou has gladdened me,” he says, although this is only a hint of that wondrous beauty, incomprehensible to human thought, which was originally created. We don’t know what kind of moon there was then, what kind of sun, what kind of light.… All of this changed after the fall.
Due to the fallen condition of humanity, the prelapsarian Cosmos is incomprehensible to human thought. What we have are only glimpses - "fragments" - that are revealed to us. Those "fragments" can be contemplated by those participating in the life of the Church, in constant repentance, dispassion and prayer, all through the grace of God. On the other hand, we have the postlapsarian Cosmos, displaying deep features of randomness, as well as wonderful regularities (the physical laws) both at a microscopic (quantum) and macroscopic (cosmological) level, and surprising anthropic features as well. One way to look at the post-lapsarian Cosmos is to use the idea of "garments of skin" (Gen. 3:21). Thus, one can say that the postlapsarian Cosmos (approachable by the postlapsarian humanity in a number of ways, one of them being science) is a "randomized chothing " of the prelapsarian Creation, in which (given the patristic view of the Cosmos before the Fall) there was no death, and therefore no "physics" as we know it. References to "time" in connection with prelapsarian Cosmos will also have to be made with great care, since there may be an important distinction between the unfallen or prelapsarian time and the postlapsarian time, of a stochastic nature (cf. the idea of "arrow of time" - introduced in 1927 by Arthur Eddington) . Fr. Ghelasie of Frasinei Monastery used to make the distinction between "the Big Bang of the Creation" (that is, the Creation, ex-nihilo, as revealed by the Book of Genesis) and "the Big Bang of the Fall" (which may or may not be associated to the "Big Bang" of contemporary cosmology). The scientific method may help us take a peak into the (postlapsarian) space-time-matter phenomenology close to the Big Bang "singularity" (assuming such a singularity exists) but it will not be able to go beyond the Big Bang of the Fall, into the prelapsarian Cosmos. That is why attempts to identify the "very good" (Gen. 1:31) prelapsarian Cosmos to a "segment" of the post-fall Cosmos (scientifically-approachable, even if not necessarily scientifically decidable) should be rejected, in the light of the patristic view of the Cosmos before the Fall. Examples of such attempts include both "theistic evolutionism" (exhibiting the tendency to identify the days of the Creation with a sequence of "natural eras"), as well as those literalistic/"young-earth" views assigning "exact/current 24-hours" periods (as in "postlapsarian days") to the unfallen Days of the Creation, in a more or less physically homogeneous cosmos at large. Needless to say, one should equally reject the views equating the "garments of skin" with the emergence of matter or material body of man: indeed, man had a body and there was matter the prelapsarian cosmos, albeit of an uncorrupted nature. The most we can say - albeit poetically, following St. Barsanuphius of Optina is that every beautifully amazing day in this postlapsarian Cosmos is only a pale hint pointing to the "wondrous beauty, incomprehensible to human thought", of the unfallen Days of the prelapsarian Universe. The postlapsarian days/postlapsarian Cosmos may be seen as prelapsarian days/prelapsarian Cosmos clothed in garments of skin. However any glimpse, any intuition from the "cloth" to "the body that is clothed" comes only through participation, through repentance and dispassion, in the revealed truth.

Finally, the idea of the (postlapsarian) Universe as a "garment of skin" (stochastic reformatting, one could say, even if the words are not of too much use here), clothing the (uncorrupted) "body" of the prelapsarian Creation has two dual consequences: a garment can conceal/hide (and here we may reflect on the stochastic features of the Universe as we know it as fallen human beings) but it can also reveal some of the features of the "body"/prelapsarian Cosmos (and here we may reflect at the extraordinary architecture of laws of a deep mathematical nature, in conjunction with the anthropic features of the Universe as we know it, again, as fallen human beings). Thus, while science probes various sections of the "garments of skin", it discovers incredible depth and complexity (cosmological "cloth patches" of diverse kinds and - as a garment both conceals and reveals- constantly and unavoidably faces "elements of randomness" as well as "elements of design") . Incidentally, the patristic view of the Cosmos before the Fall provides a theological ground for the anthropic features of this (postlapsarian) Universe. At the same time, the scientist confessing the Christian faith knows that "postlapsarian cosmic garment-wonders" are echoes of the "wondrous beauty, incomprehensible to human thought" of the "body" that is "clothed" by those garments. In the end though, the "garments of skin" will be renewed - becoming "garments of light"; in the words of St. Symeon the New Theologian:

"Just as the created world was first brought into existence as incorrupt, and then later, man, so again it is creation which must first be transformed from corruption into incorruption, changed, and then, together with it and at the same time, the corrupted bodies of men will be renewed, such that, himself become at once spiritual and immortal, man may have an incorrupt, and spiritual, and everlasting country in which to make his home…. Just as our bodies, although they dissolve for a time, do not pass away forever, but will be renewed again at the Resurrection, so, too, will heaven and earth and all that is within them—that is, all of creation—be made anew and liberated from the bondage of corruption. The elements themselves will share with us in that incandescence from above, and in the same way that we shall be tried by fire, so, according to the Apostle, shall all creation be renewed through fire.… The whole world will become more perfect than any word can describe. Having become spiritual and divine, it will become united with the noetic world; it will become a certain noetic Paradise, a heavenly Jerusalem, the inalienable inheritance of the sons of God."


December 9, 2008

The Patristic Understanding of the Cosmos before the Fall

The Patristic Understanding of the Cosmos before the Fall
By Hieromonk Damascene

Source: Monachos.net Discussion Community.
Reproduced with permission.


In this talk I will attempt to provide an overview, drawn from the Holy Scriptures and Patristic writings, of the Orthodox teaching on the cosmos before the fall of man. After presenting this teaching, I will speak on how it relates to Orthodox soteriology and eschatology, that is, to the redemption of man and the cosmos and to their state beyond the General Resurrection. Finally, I will offer some reflections on how the Patristic teaching on the prelapsarian cosmos can influence our understanding and experience of our natural environment in its current condition. According to the Orthodox Patristic cosmology, the entire visible universe was made for the sake of man, and man was made for union with God through love. Man was created “in Divine Grace,” as St. Gregory of Nyssa affirms. St. John Damascene states that, in Paradise, Adam “had the indwelling God as a dwelling place and wore Him as a glorious garment. He was wrapped about with His Grace.” Man was meant to participate in God’s life through the Divine Energies, to be fully and perfectly penetrated by Grace, and thus to attain to union with God—theosis (deification). St. John Damascene teaches that Adam was not deified at his creation, but was created for deification: he was “to complete the mystery by being deified through reversion to God—this, however, not by being transformed into the Divine Essence, but by participation in the Divine illumination.

Based on both the Old and New Testaments, the consensus of the Holy Fathers holds that man and the rest of the visible creation were physically incorrupt (ἄφθαρτος, without decay) before the fall. St. Symeon the New Theologian writes:

Adam was created with a body that was incorrupt, even though material and not yet spiritual, and he was placed by the Creator God as an immortal king over an incorrupt world, not only over Paradise, but also over the whole creation which was under the heavens.… This whole creation in the beginning was incorrupt and was created by God in the manner of Paradise.


Here St. Symeon is echoing the Wisdom of Solomon, in which it is declared: “God did not make death, neither does He take delight in the destruction of living things. God created all things that they might have their being; and the generations of the world were for preservation, and there is no poison of destruction in them” (Wis. 1:13–14).

We will return shortly to the subject of the original incorruption of the whole cosmos. For now, let us look specifically at the original state of man, who St. Symeon says was created as “lord and king of the whole visible creation,” and who, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, is “for God more precious than all creation.” Again in the Wisdom of Solomon it is said: “God made man incorruptible, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless, through the envy of the devil death came into the world” (Wis. 2:23–24). As the Holy Fathers universally taught, and as the Sixth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils affirmed, Adam was created potentially immortal, that is, if he had not sinned he could have lived forever in an incorrupt body, partaking of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Originally, the bodies of Adam and Eve did not have, in the words of St. Gregory the Theologian, the “coarser flesh, mortal and contradictory” that our bodies now have. According to St. Gregory of Sinai, they were without “moisture and coarseness”; in the words of St. Maximus, they did not have “the temperament which makes the flesh thicker, mortal, and tough.

From the writings of many Holy Fathers—for example, St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximus, St. Symeon, and St. Gregory of Sinai—we know that, before the fall, Adam and Eve had no sexual relations or even sexual passions; they were free from bodily needs, including shelter, clothing, and sleep; there was no emission of seed; their was no conception, parturition, or suckling; they did not void bodily waste; their eyes did not produce tears; they knew no afflictions, disease, labors or sorrows; they were not subject to old age; they were not subject to cold and heat, or to the elements; they could not be physically hurt. Thus, writes St. John Chrysostom,

Before the fall men lived in Paradise like angels; they were not inflamed with lust, were not kindled by other passions either, were not burdened with bodily needs; but being created entirely incorruptible and immortal, they did not even need the covering of clothing.

From the writings of St. Maximus and St. Gregory of Sinai, we learn that the first-created man possessed God-given wisdom; his mind was not impressed by imagination; his memory was not diversified but one-pointed, being recollected in God. By drawing ever closer to God in love, by seeking spiritual pleasure in God rather than physical pleasure through the senses, he was to become ever more holy and spiritual, ever more in the likeness of God, ever more transformed by the Grace of God.

St. Symeon the New Theologian writes that, if the first people had fulfilled their original designation, in time they would have ascended to the most perfect glory and, having been changed, would have drawn near to God, and the soul of each would have become as it were light—shining by reason of the illuminations which would have been poured out upon it from the Godhead! And this sensual and crudely material body would have become as it were immaterial and spiritual, above every organ of sense.

We have already quoted briefly from St. Symeon’s description of the cosmos that man originally inhabited. St. Symeon is quite explicit that the entire visible creation, and not only Paradise, was in a state of incorruption before the fall of man. He writes:

God did not, as some people think, just give Paradise to our ancestors at the beginning, nor did He make only Paradise incorruptible. No! … The whole world had been brought into being by God as one thing, as a kind of paradise, at once incorruptible yet material and perceptible. It was this world, as we said, which was given to Adam and to his descendants for their enjoyment. Does this seem strange to you? It should not.

Describing the incorrupt state of the original creation, St. Symeon wrote that it did not “give corruptible fruits, and produce thorns and thistles” (cf. Gen. 3:18). Elsewhere he affirmed that God gave man in Paradise “various fruits which never spoiled and never ceased, but were always fresh and sweet and furnished for the first-created ones great satisfaction and pleasantness. For it was fitting to furnish also an incorruptible enjoyment for these bodies of the first-created ones, which were incorrupt.” In other words, it was appropriate for incorrupt first-created man to be given both an environment and a food that corresponded to his condition.

St. Gregory of Sinai gives us further details about the state of the creation (in particular, Paradise) before Adam’s transgression:

Eden is a place in which there was planted by God every kind of fragrant plant. It is neither completely incorruptible, nor entirely corruptible. Placed between corruption and incorruption, it is always both abundant in fruits and blossoming with flowers, both mature and immature. The mature trees and fruits are converted into fragrant earth which does not give off any odor of corruption, as do the trees of this world. This is from the abundance of the grace of sanctification which is constantly poured forth there.

In Genesis, chapter 1, we learn that at the beginning of the creation God indicated that animals were to eat plants rather than each other. Following from this, the Holy Fathers affirmed that there was no carnivory in the prelapsarian world. In setting forth this teaching, St. Basil the Great states explicitly that animals did not die before the fall:

Nothing died of these things given meaning or brought into existence by God, so that vultures might eat it. Nature was not divided, for it was in its prime; nor did hunters kill, for that was not yet the custom of human beings; nor did wild beasts claw their prey, for they were not carnivores. And it is customary for vultures to feed on corpses, but since there were not yet corpses, nor yet their stench, so there was not yet such food for vultures. But all followed the diet of swans and all grazed the meadows.

We have now set forth the lineaments of the Patristic teaching on man and the cosmos before the fall. This is the creation as it was when God finished making it and called it “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Fr. Seraphim Rose, who extensively researched the Patristic teaching on this subject, stated that the condition of creation before the fall “is very mysterious to us who live entirely in corruption,” that we do not know “precisely what it was,” and that “it is enough for us to know that Paradise, and the state of the whole creation before the fall of Adam, was quite different from what we know now.” The nature of the first-created world, he said, cannot be investigated without the aid of Divine revelation, for a different “law of nature” (in the words of St. Symeon the New Theologian) existed before the fall, and it is very likely that even the nature of matter was different.

But, however we may regard the first-created world—whether we call it “incorrupt” (as do many Fathers) or “placed between corruption and incorruption” (in the phrase of St. Gregory of Sinai)—we can say for certain that the “very good” prelapsarian world as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and in the consensus patrum is not the same as the world we find in the fossil record, which is a record of suffering, violence, and bloodshed; of animals devouring each other; of disease (including cancer, tuberculosis and gout); of the deaths of all kinds of living things including man; and, finally, of the decay (corruption) of both plants and animals.

Since he possessed both soul and body, man was the link between the originally incorrupt material world and the noetic world of the angels. As he became more spiritual and divinized by drawing closer to God, he was to make all of creation more spiritual and divinized as well. According to St. Maximus the Confessor, man was to unite, “through love, created nature with Uncreated Nature,” drawing everything to deification.

Such was man’s lofty original calling. But as we all know and experience every day, the first man fell from this state and brought himself and all of creation into a state of corruption and death.

With the entrance of sin through the free decision of Adam and Eve, human nature became corrupted. “Sin … nailed itself to the very depths of our nature,” St. Maximus says. As a result, all of Adam and Eve’s descendants inherited, not the guilt of their sin, but rather an inclination or tendency to sin.

Because of the corruption of his nature, man lost the Grace in which he had been created. He became separated from God. Grace was now foreign to his nature, and so it did not dwell within him as it had before. St. John Damascene writes:

And so, man succumbed to the assault of the demon, the author of evil; he failed to keep the Creator’s commandment and was stripped of Grace and deprived of that familiarity which he had enjoyed with God.

In the book of Genesis, God told Adam: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). In fact, Adam did not physically die on the day he ate from the tree. According to Patristic teaching, however, God’s words were true: Adam did die on the day he ate the fruit. He experienced spiritual death, which is the separation of the soul from God; and this spiritual death, in turn, made him subject to physical death, which is the separation of the soul from the body. Of this St. Gregory Palamas writes:

It was indeed Adam’s soul that died by becoming through his transgression separated from God; for bodily he continued to live after that time, even for 930 years. The death, however, that befell the soul because of the transgression not only crippled the soul and made man accursed; it also rendered the body itself subject to fatigue, suffering, and corruptibility, and finally handed it over to death.

With his fall into spiritual corruption, man’s body became more grossly material. As such, he became subject not only to pain and death, but also to the bodily needs we know today, and to physical corruption or decay after death. St. John Chrysostom goes so far as to say that God “refashioned” (μετεσκεύασεν) man’s body at the fall to accord with his new condition. In the words of St. John Damascene:

[Man] was clothed with the roughness of this wretched life—for that is what the fig leaves signify—and put on death, that is to say, the mortality and the grossness of the flesh—for this is what the garment of skins signifies; he was excluded from Paradise by the just judgment of God; and was condemned to death and made subject to corruption.

St. Maximus writes of how man’s nature (or, strictly speaking, the mode of his nature) was changed from incorruptibility to corruptibility at the fall:

In Adam, with his own act of freely choosing evil, the common glory of human nature, incorruption, was robbed—since God judged that it was not right for humanity, having abused free choice, to have an immortal nature.… The deviance of free choice introduced passibility, corruptibility, and mortality in Adam’s nature.… Hence the mutation of human nature over to passibility, corruption, and death is the condemnation of Adam’s deliberate sin.

Man’s spiritual corruption also made his soul unable to partake of eternal union with God after death. Adam had been barred from Paradise during his earthly life, and he remained barred from both Paradise and heaven after death. Furthermore, at the fall the entire visible creation fell into corruption along with man: death and decay were introduced into the creation. Thus, not only did man fail to fulfill his original designation of raising the creation to God, but he lowered it from incorruption to a state of corruption. In Romans 8:20–21, the Holy Apostle Paul says that the creation entered into “futility” and “the bondage of corruption.” St. John Chrysostom, in his commentary on these verses, explains that the words “for the creation was subject to futility” mean that “it became corruptible,” and that this occurred because man “received a body mortal and subject to sufferings.” Addressing mankind, he says, “The creation became corruptible when your body became corruptible.” Likewise, St. Symeon the New Theologian teaches: “God did not curse Paradise … but He cursed only the whole rest of the earth, which was also incorrupt.

St. John Chrysostom explains that this was a fitting consequence of man’s sin, since the visible creation had been made for the sake of man. Commenting on Romans, chapter 8, he writes:

[St. Paul] expands on the subjection (of creatures to corruption) and shows why it has occurred, i.e., because of ourselves. And so, shall we say that in enduring this for someone else, all of creation suffers injustice? Not at all! The reason for its existence is me. If it exists for my sake, then what injustice is there in its suffering corruption for my correction?… By this it suffered no injustice; and this is exactly because through you it will again become incorruptible.

Let us recall St. Symeon’s teaching, quoted above, that it was fitting that the creation supply incorrupt man with incorruptible food in the beginning. Elsewhere St. Symeon affirms that, after the fall, it was fitting that creation be made corruptible along with man, so that it could furnish man, for whose sake it had been made, with corruptible food.

Thus, through the Holy Scriptures and their interpretation by the Holy Fathers, the Orthodox Church confesses that death and corruption exist not because God made them in the beginning, but because man brought them into the world through his sin. In Romans 5:12 the Holy Apostle Paul writes that “By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin.” Expounding on this teaching, St. John Damascene writes:

The creation of all things is due to God, but corruption came in afterwards due to our wickedness and as a punishment and a help. “For God did not make death, neither does He take delight in the destruction of living things” (Wis. 1:13). But death is the work rather of man, that is, its origin is in Adam’s transgression, in like manner as all other punishments.

St. Maximus the Confessor writes:

Through sin, this cosmos became a place of death and corruption.

And again:

Through man, [sin] impels all created things toward death. All this was contrived by the devil, that spawn of sin and father of iniquity who through pride expelled himself from divine glory, and through envy of us and of God expelled Adam from Paradise, in order to destroy the works of God and dissolve what had been brought into existence.

We are all the inheritors of the death and corruption that entered into man’s nature at the fall. St. Gregory Palamas says that, through Adam’s one spiritual death, both spiritual and physical death were passed on to all men. The same saint, however, affirms that it is by means of death—Christ’s death—that the power of death is destroyed. As spiritual and physical death entered the world through Adam’s one spiritual death, so both kinds of death are overcome through Christ’s one physical death and His subsequent Resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes: “He [Christ] is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15).

Death is the consequence of sin. When Christ died on the Cross, He took upon Himself this consequence. However, since He was wholly without sin He was undeserving of death, and since He was Divine He was unable to be held in the bonds of death and hell. Thus, the spiritual and physical death that had entered the world through the primordial transgression were abolished through Christ’s death and Resurrection, and all mankind was given the possibility of being delivered from them.

Because the first Adam brought himself and the entire visible creation into corruption, the Second Adam—Jesus Christ—came to restore what was lost: He came to restore man to the communion with God and to the incorruption in which he lived before the fall, and to restore the entire cosmos to a state of incorruption. But Christ did incomparably more than that. As we shall see, He made possible the full and final deification of man (both in body and in soul), and, together with man, the deification of the entire visible creation.

In the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul writes of the future age of the renewed, incorrupt creation which will come into being after the General Resurrection:

I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God [i.e., those redeemed by Christ]. For the creation was made subject to futility, not willingly, but because of Him [God] Who subjected it [to futility] in hope [i.e., in hope of the General Resurrection]. Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only the creation, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:18–23).

St. Symeon the New Theologian further describes the state of man and the cosmos beyond the General Resurrection:

Just as the created world was first brought into existence as incorrupt, and then later, man, so again it is creation which must first be transformed from corruption into incorruption, changed, and then, together with it and at the same time, the corrupted bodies of men will be renewed, such that, himself become at once spiritual and immortal, man may have an incorrupt, and spiritual, and everlasting country in which to make his home…. Just as our bodies, although they dissolve for a time, do not pass away forever, but will be renewed again at the Resurrection, so, too, will heaven and earth and all that is within them—that is, all of creation—be made anew and liberated from the bondage of corruption. The elements themselves will share with us in that incandescence from above, and in the same way that we shall be tried by fire, so, according to the Apostle, shall all creation be renewed through fire.… The whole world will become more perfect than any word can describe. Having become spiritual and divine, it will become united with the noetic world; it will become a certain noetic Paradise, a heavenly Jerusalem, the inalienable inheritance of the sons of God.

When St. Symeon says that the cosmos will become “spiritual and divine,” he is referring to nothing less than its deification. It will be remembered that, according to St. Maximus, man’s original designation was not only to become deified himself but also to bring the whole created universe into a state of deification. Further expounding St. Maximus’ teaching, Vladimir Lossky writes: “Since this task which was given to man was not fulfilled by Adam, it is in the work of Christ, the Second Adam, that we can see what it was meant to be.

Here we see how the Orthodox teaching on the incorruption of the first-created world has direct bearing on Orthodox soteriology and eschatology. The Scriptural/Patristic doctrine that death entered the world as a consequence of man’s sin forms a foundation for the doctrine that Christ took upon Himself that consequence—that is, by dying on the Cross—in order to “put away sin,” to “bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:26, 28), to redeem mankind from all the consequences of sin. The teaching of prelapsarian incorruption forms a basis for the doctrine that Christ came in order to give back to man what Adam had lost at the fall, physically as well as spiritually, and that, through Christ’s death and Resurrection, there will be a restoration, perfection, and spiritualization of the incorrupt first-created world. Finally, this teaching provides a foundation for understanding the words of the Apostle Paul in the way that the Holy Fathers understood them: “For since by man came death, by man came also the Resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.… The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Cor. 15:21–22, 26).

As the Orthodox teaching on the original incorruption of the cosmos has a direct connection to eschatology and soteriology, so also does it have relevance to our view of the natural environment. One conclusion that one might draw from this teaching is that there is no need to care for or respect the environment now, in its present state of corruption, since the natural environment will inevitably be restored to incorruption after the General Resurrection anyway. Such a cynical conclusion, however, is not the conclusion that the Orthodox Church has drawn from her own divinely inspired teaching. In fact, the mind of the Church, expressed most clearly in the lives and writings of her saints, is quite the opposite. As we have said, the Church confesses faith not only in the redemption of the human soul, but also in the redemption of the body. Furthermore, we confess that the entire visible creation will be redeemed along with the human body. God’s creation was made not for destruction, but, as the Wisdom of Solomon (1:14) says, “for preservation”; and in the eschaton it will be preserved forever in a state of deification. Therefore, because we believe that death and corruption was not part of God’s original, “very good” creation, and because we believe that it is in His Economy to restore it to that state and to deify it, we believe that we are to respect and care for the creation.

A clear testimony of this can be seen in the Church’s attitude to the human body after death. The fact that the body is subject to corruption after death and that it will one day be restored to incorruption does not mean that we should have no care for the body of a dead person. On the contrary, because the Church believes in the redemption of the body, she teaches us to respect the body by burying it in the earth, where it is to await the General Resurrection. The Church has traditionally forbidden cremation because this reflects a certain scorn of the body and a lack of faith in the Resurrection. Of course, even if a body of a person is burned to ashes, God can and will resurrect that body at the last day, but still we are called to honor the body by burying it.

Our veneration of the relics of the saints is a further testimony to our respect for the body and our belief in its ultimate redemption. God strengthens our faith in the redemption of the body by granting, in some cases, a certain relative incorruption to the bodies of the saints.

Amidst the visible creation, God’s saints have attained to the highest degree of participation in God through His Grace, and thus the Church rightly accords special veneration to them and to their relics. But according to Orthodox theology, all created things participate in God in varying degrees, and thus all are worthy of some degree of honor. Again, the testimony of this is seen most clearly in the lives of the saints, who showed compassion, respect and honor to God’s creatures, and who lived in harmony with them as did Adam and Eve before the fall. In a Life of a saint of our own times, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, we read the following:

When we walk along a path, we stretch out our hands right and left and pick a leaf from this tree, a flower from that; we break a sapling from carelessness or bad habit. But when the Elder saw a broken tree he made a little splint for it and bound it up. One can see many such splints in the area where he lived.

This brings us to the final point that I would like to bring up in this contemplation of how the Orthodox teaching on the original incorruption of the cosmos can influence our attitude toward the environment today. When we view our surroundings from the Orthodox perspective of the Scriptures and Holy Fathers, we will recognize the fact that suffering, illness, death, and decay, together with all the other manifestations of the brokenness of creation—that these were not part of God’s original “very good” creation. They are present because man brought them into the world through his sin. And we ourselves, although we do not bear the guilt of the fall of our first ancestors, still participate in the sins of the family of Adam. This in itself should give us pause, and make us have compassion for God’s creation in its brokenness. In the above story about Elder Paisios, we see a man who had such a heightened degree of this compassion that he went around putting splints on broken trees.

The co-founder of our monastery, the above-mentioned Fr. Seraphim Rose, had a practice of walking around the monastery grounds early in the morning before services, blessing and even kissing the trees. When asked why he was doing this, he would only smile and continue walking. We had always interpreted this as a manifestation of Fr. Seraphim’s honor and love for God’s creation, as he contemplated it not only in its present broken state but also in its original incorrupt state and in its final, incorrupt and deified state. Recently, however, our monastery was visited by Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, who in a talk about Fr. Seraphim offered a further insight. Affirming that Fr. Seraphim was indeed contemplating the future transfiguration of the trees along with the rest of the creation, he added that, in blessing and kissing the trees, he was “as if begging forgiveness that because of our sins they also suffer.”
This is a profound thought, arising from a well-developed Patristic consciousness. As we enter more deeply into the mind of the Holy Fathers—which is the mind of the Church, which is the mind of Christ—our perspective on the world will be informed by such an awareness.

In the words of St. Barsanuphius of Optina Monastery, we see only “fragments” of the original, incorrupt cosmos, a cosmos that was “broken” because of man’s sin. Once, when standing before a window at night, St. Barsanuphius pointed to the moon and said to his disciple (the future Elder Nikon):

Look—what a picture! This is left to us as a consolation. It’s no wonder that the Prophet David said, “Thou has gladdened me, O Lord, by Thy works” (Ps. 92:4). “Thou has gladdened me,” he says, although this is only a hint of that wondrous beauty, incomprehensible to human thought, which was originally created. We don’t know what kind of moon there was then, what kind of sun, what kind of light.… All of this changed after the fall.

As St. Barsanuphius affirmed, in beholding the “fragments” that remain of God’s original handiwork, we can still find delight and consolation. At the same time, in contemplating what was in the beginning and what will be in the future age, we can understand God’s plan for His creation, His Economy. With this understanding can come a deeper sense of honor and respect for our natural environment, a deeper repentance for our participation in the sins of humanity, and a more vibrant hope in the renewed creation that, through our Savior Jesus Christ, will one day come into being.


December 6, 2008

Pe scurt - The mysteries of our Faith...

The mysteries of our Faith are unknown and not understandable to those who are not repenting. (Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov, ‘Awareness of God’ in the Orthodox Word Magazine, July-August 1976). Pentru un crestin ortodox, aceste cuvinte sugereaza o conditie necesara oricarui dialog adevarat ce angajeaza teologia, un dialog in duh treimic, de la persoana-chip la persoana-chip (mai degraba decat ideile de dialog ce insista - intr-un fel sau altul - pe "sisteme", "discipline" sau "scheme") .

Sfântul Ierarh Nicolae, Arhiepiscopul Mirei Lichiei



"Îndreptător credinţei şi chip blândeţilor, învăţător înfrânării te-a arătat pe tine, turmei tale, adevărul lucrurilor. Pentru aceasta ai câştigat cu smerenia cele înalte, cu sărăcia cele bogate. Părinte Ierarhe Nicolae, roagă pe Hristos Dumnezeu să mântuiască sufletele noastre!" (Troparul Sf. Ierarh Nicolae). [sursa]

La trecerea la cele veşnice a Patriarhului Alexei al II-lea





















Citiţi mesajul de condoleanţe adresat astăzi (5 decembrie 2008) Sfântului Sinod al Bisericii Ortodoxe Ruse, de catre Preafericitul Părinte Daniel, Patriarhul Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, la trecerea la cele veşnice a Patriarhului Alexei al II-lea al Moscovei şi al întregii Rusii.

Biography on the official site of the Moscow Patriarchate

De pe blogul Ier. Savatie Baştovoi:
Preşedintele Rusiei şi-a întrerupt turneul politic pentru Patriarhul Alexei
Imagini inedite cu Patriarhul Alexei al Moscovei

Evenimentele majore care au marcat perioada de pastorire a Patriarhului Alexei sunt renasterea Ortodoxiei in Rusia post-sovietica, si reconcilierea cu Biserica Ortodoxa Rusa din afara Rusiei (ROCOR).

December 3, 2008

Din arhivele ziarului "New York Times"

Din arhivele ziarului "New York Times", articolele din perioada 1851-1922 sunt in domeniul public. E interesant si cutremurator de urmarit articolele ce vizeaza instaurarea bolsevismului in Rusia. Cateva mostre (linkurile trimit catre articolele complete scanate):

November 19, 1917, Monday "Rebels destroy shrines in Moscow. Cathedral of the Assumption Wrecked by Shells and St. Basil's Set on Fire."

July 20, 1919, Sunday "Prelates and Priests Martyred Under Bolshevist Rule, Says Archbishop Platon. Holy Relics Desecrated by Followers of Lenin and Trotzky. Appeals for America's Aid. Fears Spread of Bolshevism."

January 18, 1920, Sunday "Red Propaganda Trains [...] thus described in the German Bolshevist paper the Kommunist as reproduced in the Stockholm Bolshevist paper Folkets Dagblad Politiken, on Dec. 16 [...] The train consists of fifteen carriages, adorned with pictures in bright colors with plain and vigorous revolutionary inscriptions. It contains a cinematograph, a bookshop [...] During its journey the train distributed books, newspapers and pamphlets to the value of over half a million rubles..."

July 20, 1921, Wednesday "In the huge wheat belt of the east central Russia [...] the population is leaving their homes in a panic stricken exodus westward, driven by the terror of starvation and yet the deeper fear of divine vengeance upon "Holy Russia" for the sins and atheism of the present rulers. [...] The recent appeal of Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow to the churches of America and Great Britain emphasizes the reality of the famine cloud overhanging Russia."

May 14, 1922, Sunday "Plea for Russian prelate. President Harding asked to save Tikhon from Bolsheviki."

July 7, 1922, Friday "Eleven persons, including the Petrograd Metropolitan, Benjamin, have been sentenced to death by the Petrograd Revolutionary Tribunal, for interfering with the seizure of church treasures."

November 29, 2008

Un poem cu numere transfinite

ALEFURI

predicţie
de Florin Caragiu

atunci când un păianjen îşi ţese plasa şi tu i-o rupi
o face din nou cu răbdare şi migală...
dacă o strici a treia şi a patra oară
o urzeşte la loc însă cu vizibile greşeli, dar dacă o destrami iarăşi
în mod repetat, începe să nu mai poată s-o facă,
trage nişte fire haotic prin aer de parcă ar fi uitat meşteşugul
şi ajunge să moară de foame

Cantor era convins că numerele transfinite
i-au fost şoptite de Dumnezeu
ştia că vor veni asupra lui necazuri
care îi vor adânci bucuria
Kronecker gândea că numerele iraţionale nu există

ajuns aici cauţi ceva care să te surprindă
un şir de infinituri ascunse după un titlu scris cu roşu,
deliberat inducător în eroare,
care nici măcar nu indică lucrul cel mai semnificativ:
puterea continuumului
inconsistenţa mulţimii tuturor mulţimilor
sau căldura libertăţii de a urma Adevărul
oriunde te-ar purta lumina descinsă

o imposibilă predicţie gravitând
în jurul punctelor limită

apariţiile tale îmi schimbă starea
la impactul cu ele întrebările trec de pe o orbită pe alta
se ating de vâlvătaia paradoxului care le vindecă

November 28, 2008

Pe scurt - "Non-materialist mind"

Pe 26 Noiembrie 2008, "The New Scientist" a publicat o scrisoare ("Non-materialist mind") semnata de Mario Beauregard (Montreal) si Jeffrey M. Schwartz (Los Angeles). In scrisoare autorii critica un articol semnat de Amanda Gefter ("Creationists declare war over the brain", New Scientist, 22 Octombrie 2008) care, facand dovada de o ignoranta fundamentala in materie, rastalmaceste si falsifica pozitia si motivele celor ce sustin modele non-materialiste ale interactiunii minte-creier.

November 24, 2008

God and the Creation


To make this blog more self-contained, I include below a personal selection of fragments from Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky's Orthodox dogmatic theology (taken from The IntraText Digital Library - www.intratext.com). The first item will be a short introductory section dealing with Theology, Science and Philosophy. Secondly I will include fragments from Chapter 3 - God and the Creation, in Part II - God Manifest in the World. The last item, one of the appendices dedicated to "New currents in Russian philosophico-theological thought", will bring us back to Philosophy and Theology. Needless to say, there are many other things in Fr. Pomazanski's book (or any serious Orthodox Dogmatic Theology book, for that matter) that are relevant to a "meaningful contact" between Orthodoxy and Science. This selection is personal, inherently minimal, made by someone who is not a theologian, and for reasons of convenience for the visitors of this blog. That is why you should not stop here; instead, you'd better visit the Orthodox dogmatic theology pages and see for yourself. Also, The Burning Bush blog has an excellent post on a similar topic: Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky on the Creation of Man. M.C.


(Image:
Saraca Monastery)






Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
Orthodox dogmatic theology
(from The IntraText Digital Library - www.intratext.com)


Introduction.
C. Dogmatic Theology.
Theology, Science and Philosophy.


The difference between theology and the natural sciences, which are founded upon observation or experiment, is made clear by the fact that dogmatic theology is founded upon living and holy faith. Here the starting point is faith, and there, experience. However, the manners and methods of study are one and the same in both spheres; the study of facts, and deductions drawn from them. Only, with natural science the deductions are derived from facts collected through the observation of nature, the study of the life of peoples, and human creativity; while in theology the deductions come from the study of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The natural sciences are empirical and technical, while our study is theological. This clarifies the difference also between theology and philosophy. Philosophy is erected upon purely rational foundations and upon the deductions of the experimental sciences, to the extent that the latter are capable of being used for the higher questions of life; while theology is founded upon Divine Revelation. They must not be confused; theology is not philosophy even when it plunges our thinking into profound or elevated subjects of Christian faith which are difficult to understand. Theology does not deny either the experimental sciences or philosophy. St. Gregory the Theologian considered it the merit of St. Basil the Great that he mastered dialectic to perfection, with the help of which he overthrew the philosophical constructs of the enemies of Christianity. In general, St. Gregory did not sympathize with those who expressed a lack of respect for outward learning. However, in his renowned homilies on the Holy Trinity, after setting forth the profoundly contemplative teaching of Triunity, he thus remarks of himself “Thus, as briefly as possible I have set forth for you our love of wisdom, which is dogmatical and not dialectical, in the manner of the fishermen and not of Aristotle, spiritually and not cleverly woven, according to the rules of the Church and not of the marketplace” (Homily 22). The course of dogmatic theology is divided into two basic parts: into the teaching 1) about God in Himself and 2) about God in His manifestation of Himself as Creator, Providence, Savior of the world, and Perfector of the destiny of the world.


Part II
God Manifest in the World
3. God and the Creation


Introduction.


In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1). Moses' divinely inspired account of the creation of the world, set forth on the first page of the Bible, stands in exalted grandeur, quite independent of the ancient mythological tales of the origin of the world, as well as from the various hypotheses, constantly replacing each other, concerning the beginning and development of the world order. It is extremely brief, but in this brevity is embraced the whole history of the creation of the world. It is presented with the help of the most elementary language, with a vocabulary consisting of only several hundred words and entirely devoid of the abstract ideas so necessary for the expression of religious truths. But in spite of its elementary nature, it has an eternal significance.

The direct purpose of the God-seer Moses was — by means of an account of the creation — to instill in his people, and through them in the whole of mankind, the fundamental truths of God, of the world, and of man.

A. Of God. The chief truth expressed in Genesis is of God as the One Spiritual Essence independent of the world. The first words of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created,” tell us that God is the sole extra-temporal, eternal, self-existing Being, the Source of all being, and the Spirit above this world. Since He existed also before the creation of the world, His Being is outside of space, not bound even to heaven, since heaven was created together with the earth. God is One. God is Personal, Intellectual Essence. After presenting in order the stages of the creation of the world, the writer of Genesis concludes his account with the words, “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

B. Of the world. From the magnificent schema given by Moses of the origin of the world, there follow a series of direct conclusions about the world, namely:

(1) How the world arose:

(a) The world does not exist eternally, but has appeared in time.
(b) It did not form itself, but is dependent on the will of God.
(c) It appeared not in a single instant, but was created in sequence from the most simple to the more complex.
(d) It was created not out of necessity, but by the free desire of God.
(e) It was created by the Word of God, with the participation of the Life-giving Spirit.

(2) What the nature of the world is:

(a) The world in its essence is distinct from God. It is not

(1) part of His Essence,
(2) nor an emanation of Him,
(3) nor His body.

(b) It was created not out of any eternally existing material but was brought into being out of complete non-being.

(c) Everything that is on the earth was created from the elements of the earth, was “brought forth” by the water and the earth at the command of God, except for the soul of man, which bears in itself the image and likeness of God.

(3) What the consequences of the creation are:

(a) God remains in His nature distinct from the world, and the world from God.
(b) God did not suffer any loss and did not acquire any gain for Himself from the creation of the world.
(c) In the world there is nothing uncreated, apart from God Himself.
(d) Everything was created very good — which means that evil did not appear together with the creation of the world.

C. Of man. Man is the highest creation of God on earth. Recognizing this, man would belittle himself if he did not think, and be exalted in thought, about His Creator, glorifying Him, giving thanks to Him, and striving to be worthy of His mercy.

But these things — glory, thanksgiving, prayer — are possible only on the foundations that are given in Moses' account of the creation of the world. Without the acknowledgment of a Personal God, we could not turn to Him: we would be like orphans, knowing neither father nor mother.

If we were to acknowledge that the world is co-eternal with God, in some way independent of God, in some way equal to God, or else born from God by emanation, then this would be the same as saying that the world itself is like God in dignity, and that man, as the most developed manifestation of nature in the world, might be able to consider himself as a divinity who has no accountability before a Higher Principle. Such a concept would lead to the same negative and grievous moral consequences, to the moral fall of men, as does simple atheism. But the world had a beginning. The world was created in time. There is a Higher, Eternal, Most-wise, Almighty, and Good power over us, towards Whom the spirit of a believing man joyfully strives and to Whom he clings, crying out with love, “How magnified are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all, the earth is filled with Thy creation. . . . Let the glory of the Lord be unto the ages” (Ps. 103:26, 33).


The manner of the world's creation.

The world was created out of nothing. Actually, it is better to say that it was brought into being from non-being, as the Fathers usually express themselves, since if we say “out of,” we are evidently already thinking of the material. But “nothing” is not a “material.” However, it is conditionally acceptable and entirely allowable to use this expression for the sake of its simplicity and brevity.

That creation is a bringing into being from complete nonbeing is shown in many passages in the word of God; e.g., “God made them out of things that did not exist” (2 Maccabees 7:28); “Things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3); “God calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17).Time itself received its beginning at the creation of the world; until then there was only eternity. The Sacred Scripture also says that “by Him (His Son) He made the ages” (Heb. 1:2). The word “ages” here has the significance of “time.”

Concerning the days of creation, Blessed Augustine, in his work The City of God, said “What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more for us to say!” (Bk. 11, ch. 6; Modern Library ed., New York, 1950, p. 350). “We see, indeed, that our ordinary days have no evening but by the setting, and no morning but by the rising, of the sun. But the first three days of all were passed without sun, since it is reported to have been made on the fourth day. And first of all, indeed, light was made by the Word of God, and God, we read, separated it from the darkness, and called the light Day, and the darkness Night; but what kind of light that was, and by what periodic movement it made evening and morning is beyond the reach of our senses; neither can we understand how it was, and yet we must unhesitatingly believe it” (City of God, Bk. 11, ch. 7; p. 351).

God created the world by His thought, by His will, by His word, or command. “For He spake, and they came to be; He commanded, and they were created” (Ps. 148:5). “Spake” signifies a command. By the “word” of God, the Fathers of the Church note, we must understand here not any kind of articulate sound or word like ours. No, this creative word signifies only the command or the expression of the almighty will of God, which brought the universe into existence out of nothingness.

St. Damascene writes: “Now, because the good and transcendentally good God was not content to contemplate Himself, but by a superabundance of goodness saw fit that there should be some things to benefit by and participate in His goodness, He brings all things from nothingness into being and creates them, both visible and invisible, and also man, who is made up of both. By thinking He creates, and, with the Word fulfilling and the Spirit perfecting, the thought becomes deed” (Exact Exposition, Bk. 2, ch. 2; Fathers of the Church tr., p. 205).

Thus, although the world was created in time, God had the thought of its creation from eternity (Augustine, Against Heresies). However, we avoid the expression “He created out of His thought,” so as not to give occasion to think that He created out of His own Essence. If the word of God does not give us the right to speak of the “pre-eternal being” of the whole world, so also, on the same foundation one must recognize as unacceptable the idea of the “pre-eternal existence of mankind,” an idea which has been trying to penetrate into our theology through one of the contemporary philosophical-theological currents.

The Holy Church, being guided by the indications of Sacred Scripture, confesses the participation of all the Persons of the Holy Trinity in the creation. In the Symbol of Faith we read: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . through Whom all things were made. . . . And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life.” St. Irenaeus of Lyons writes, “The Son and the Holy Spirit are, as it were, the hands of the Father” (Against Heresies, Bk. 5, ch. 6). The same idea is found in St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ).


The motive for the creation.


Concerning the motive for the creation in the mind of God, the Orthodox Confession and the Longer Orthodox Catechism express it thus: The world was created by God “so that other beings glorifying Him, might be participants of His goodness.” The idea of the mercy and goodness of God, as expressed in the creation of the world, is to be found in many Psalms, such as Psalms 102 and 103 (“Bless the Lord, O my soul”), which call on one to glorify the Lord and give thanks for one's existence and for all of God's providence. The same thoughts are expressed by the Fathers of the Church. Blessed Theodoret writes, “The Lord God has no need of anyone to praise Him; but by His goodness alone He granted existence to angels, archangels, and the whole creation.” Further, “God has need of nothing; but He, being an abyss of goodness, deigned to give existence to things which did not exist.” St. John Damascene says (as we have just seen), “The good and transcendentally good God was not content to contemplate Himself, but by a superabundance of goodness saw fit that there should be some things to benefit by and participate in His goodness.”


The perfection of the creation.

The word of God and the Fathers of the Church teach that everything created by God was good, and they indicate the good order of the world as created by the Good one. The irrational creation, not having in itself any moral freedom, is morally neither good nor evil. The rational and free creation becomes evil when it inclines away from God; that is, by following its sinful attraction and not because it was created thus. “And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). “And, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

God created the world perfect. However, Revelation does not say that the present world was perfect to such an extent that it had no need of, or would be incapable of, further perfecting, whether in the days of its creation or in its later and present condition. The earthly world in its highest representatives — mankind — was fore-ordained to a new and higher form of life. Divine Revelation teaches that the present condition of the world will be replaced at some time by a better and more perfect one, when there will be “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13), and the creation itself “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption” (Rom. 8:21). To the question: How did the life of God proceed before the creation of the world, Blessed Augustine replies, “My best answer is: I do not know.” St. Gregory the Theologian reflects, “He contemplated the beloved radiance of His own goodness. . . . Inasmuch as one cannot ascribe to God inactivity and imperfection, what then occupied the Divine thought before the Almighty, reigning in the absence of time, created the universe and adorned it with forms? It contemplated the beloved radiance of His own goodness, the equal and equally perfect splendor of the Triply-shining Divinity known only to the Divinity and to whomever God reveals it. The world-creating Mind likewise beheld, in His great conceptions, the world's forms devised by Him, which, even though they were brought forth subsequently, for God were present even then. With God, everything is before His eyes: that which will be, that which was, and that which is not” (St. Gregory the Theologian, Homily 4, On the World).

To the question, How was God's omnipotence expressed before there was a world, St. Methodius of Patara notes, “God Omnipotent is outside every dependence upon the things created by Him.”


Appendices
New currents in Russian philosophico-theological thought


Philosophy and Theology.


Into contemporary theological thought there has penetrated the view that Christian dogmatic theology should be supplemented, made “fruitful,” enlightened by a philosophical foundation, and that it should accept philosophical conceptions into itself.

“To justify the faith of our Fathers, to raise it to a new degree of rational awareness” — this is the way V.S. Soloviev defines his aim in the first lines of one of his works, The History and Future of Theocracy. In the aim thus formulated there would be nothing essentially worthy of blame. However, one must be careful not to mix together two spheres — dogmatic learning and philosophy. Such a mixture is liable to lead one into confusion and to the eclipsing of their purpose, their content, and their methods.

In the first centuries of Christianity the Church writers and Fathers of the Church responded broadly to the philosophical ideas of their time, and they themselves used the concepts which had been worked out by philosophy. Why? By this they threw out a bridge from Greek philosophy to Christian philosophy. Christianity stepped forth as a world-view which was to replace the philosophical views of the ancient world, as standing above them. Then, having become in the fourth century the official religion of the state, it was called by the state itself to take the place of all systems of world-views which had existed up to that time. This is the reason why, at the First Ecumenical Council in the presence of the Emperor, there occurred a debate of the Christian teachers of faith with a “philosopher.”

But there had to be not simply a substitution (of Christian philosophy for pagan). Christian apologetics took upon itself the aim of taking possession of pagan philosophical thought and directing its concepts into the channel of Christianity. The ideas of Plato stood before Christian writers as a preparatory stage in paganism for Divine Revelation. Apart from this, in the course of things, Orthodoxy had to fight Arianism, not so much on the basis of Sacred Scripture as by means of philosophy, since Arianism had taken from Greek philosophy its fundamental error — namely, the teaching of the Logos as an intermediary principle between God and the world, standing below the Divinity itself. But even with all this, the general direction of the whole of Patristic thought was to base all the truths of the Christian faith on the foundation of Divine Revelation and not on rational, abstract deductions. St. Basil the Great, in his treatise, “What Benefit Can Be Drawn from Pagan Works,” gives examples of how to use the instructive material contained in these writings. With the universal spread of Christian conceptions, the interest in Greek philosophy gradually died out in Patristic writings.

And this was natural. Theology and philosophy are distinguished first of all by their content. The preaching of the Savior on earth declared to men not abstract ideas, but a new life for the Kingdom of God; the preaching of the Apostles was the preaching of salvation in Christ. Therefore, Christian dogmatic theology has as its chief object the thorough examination of the teaching of salvation, its necessity, and the way to it. In its basic content, theology is soteriological (from the Greek soteria, “salvation”). Questions of ontology (the nature of existence), of God in Himself, of the essence of the world and the nature of man, are treated by dogmatic theology in a very limited way. This is not only because they are given to us in sacred Scripture in such a limited form (and, with regard to God, in a hidden form), but also for psychological reasons. Silence concerning the inward in God is an expression of the living feeling of God's omnipresence, a reverence before God, a fear of God. In the Old Testament this feeling led to a fear of even naming the name of God. Only in the exaltation of reverent feeling is the thought of the Fathers of the Church in some few moments raised up to beholding the life within God. The chief area of their contemplation was the truth of the Holy Trinity revealed in the New Testament, and Orthodox Christian theology as a whole has followed this path.

Philosophy goes on a different path. It is chiefly interested precisely in questions of ontology: the essence of existence, the oneness of existence, the relation between the absolute principle and the world and its concrete manifestations, and so forth. Philosophy by its nature comes from skepsis, from doubt over what our conceptions tell us; and even when coming to faith in God (in idealistic philosophy), it reasons about God “objectively,” as of an object of cold knowledge, an object which is subject to rational examination and definition, to an explanation of its essence and of its relationship as absolute existence to the world of manifestations. These two spheres — dogmatic theology and philosophy —are likewise to be distinguished by their methods and their sources.

The source of theologizing is Divine Revelation, which is contained in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The fundamental character of Sacred Scripture and Tradition depends on our faith in their truth. Theology gathers and studies the material which is to be found in these sources, systematizes this material, and divides it into appropriate categories, using in this work the same means which the experimental sciences use.

Philosophy is rational and abstract. It proceeds not from faith, like theology, but seeks to base itself either on the indisputable fundamental axioms of reason, deducing from them further conclusions, or upon the facts of science or general human knowledge.

Therefore one can simply not say that philosophy is able to raise the religion of the Fathers to the degree of knowledge. However, by the distinctions mentioned above, one should not deny entirely the cooperation of these two spheres. Philosophy itself comes to the conclusion that there are boundaries which human thought by its very nature is not capable of crossing. The very fact that the history of philosophy for almost its whole duration has had two currents — idealistic and materialistic — shows that its systems depend upon a personal predisposition of mind and heart; in other words, that they are based upon something which lies beyond the boundaries of proof. That which lies beyond the boundaries of proof is the sphere of faith, a faith which can be negative and unreligious, or positive and religious. For religious thought, what “is above” is the sphere of Divine Revelation.

In this point there appears the possibility of a union of the two spheres of knowledge, theology and philosophy.

Thus is religious philosophy created; and in Christianity, this means Christian philosophy. But Christian religious philosophy has a difficult path: to bring together freedom of thought, as a principle of philosophy, with faithfulness to the dogmas and the whole teaching of the Church. “Go by the free way, wherever the free mind draws you,” says the duty of the thinker; “be faithful to Divine Truth,” whispers to him the duty of the Christian. Therefore, one might always expect that in practical realization the compilers the systems of Christian philosophy will be forced to sacrifice, willingly or unwillingly, the principles of one sphere in favor of the other. The Church consciousness welcomes sincere attempts at creating a harmonious, philosophical Christian world view; but the Church views them as private, personal creations, and does not sanction them with its authority. In any case, it is essential there be a precise distinction between dogmatic theology and Christian philosophy, and every attempt to turn dogmatics into Christian philosophy must be decisively rejected. (Probably the most successful attempt, from the Orthodox point of view, at the creation of a true Christian philosophy in 19th-century Russia, is to be found in the philosophical essays of I.M. Kireyevsky (+1856), a spiritual son of Elder Macarius of Optina who also helped the Elder in the Optina translations of the works of the Holy Fathers. Unfortunately, Russian religious thought in the second half of the 19th century did not follow his lead; if it had, Russian Orthodoxy might have been spared the neo-Gnostic speculations of Soloviev and such followers of his as Bulgakov and Berdyaev, whose influence continues in "liberal" Orthodox circles even to this day. Kireyevsky's philosophy might well be considered the Orthodox answer to these speculations. See Father Alexey Young, A Man Is His Faith, London, 1980.)