December 29, 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 12, 2008

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") .

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."