segunda-feira, 3 de julho de 2017

Jean Bies, Journey to the Holy Mountain

Jean Bies
From the book "Journey to the Holy Mountain"


Chapter X 
Holy Orthodoxy (1) - The first evening meeting in a Turkish house


"Imitation of the nature of God." 

Before describing the very meeting in the monastery, I would like to tell you about an interesting conversation that we had with Father Cyril. This conversation took place in the preceding days and chronologically and logically, as it were, announced the subsequent events.

Was it all in reality? Even before coming to the Lavra, I spoke with Father Cyril, and before that I had to go down to Mount Filoteu to collect my notes, which I accidentally left there. I easily found them there, in a small Turkish house, next to Mount Filotheu, which towered with graceful fragility over the surrounding buildings: my notes were lying on a bench, on the floor, mixed up by the wind, and I collected them, trying to lay out the sheets in order.

At the beginning of the conversation, after a few phrases of the greeting, a long silence reigned, in which some important revelations seemed to be slowly ripening, which were supposed to turn our too calmed and too modern consciousness. These were moments of "contemplation of nature," which is a very important element of Orthodox mysticism, something close to Japanese practices. I would say that this is a contemplation of the logoi spermatikoi ("seed logos"), these intangible seeds contained within all creatures ... Filled with these logoi, virgin nature reminds us of paradise purity. It is a vegetable remembrance of the earthly Paradise and the anticipation of Heaven's Paradise: the earthly sanctuary containing the particle of the heavenly, the mysterious presence of the invisible in the visible. Contemplating on such evenings the beauty of St. Athos - "this tabernacle of the covenant, created without the help of human hands," according to Palamas - we discovered the essential identity of cosmic manifestation and its Principle. Fathers say perfectly about this: "God wanted to discover his beauty and created matter." The Greek text of Genesis also adds after each day of creation: "And God saw that it was good" (Kalon).

[...]

Father Cyril contemplated not so much these things themselves as their internal "flame" - the "watermarks", katanyxis, their invisible spiritual substance, and at the same time his eyes, like the very spirit of Orthodoxy, were full of "sobriety," nepsis. A pacified look directed at them to nature seemed to pacify her even more, brought her back to the source, not so much to the temporary source, as to the eternal and only Source beyond time.

Elder's glance from under the half-closed eyelids barely noticeably slipped through these wild gardens and parks. He himself, with his pacified appearance, with his calmness, with his beard, seemed to us the embodiment of that spiritual Obviousness and inner certainty, which we, the people of the West, had long and hopelessly lost.

"What is Christianity, honorable father?" We asked him to begin the conversation.

Father Cyril crossed himself and began this way:

"Christianity, beloved brethren, is" imitating the nature of God, "as St. Gregory of Nyssa said beautifully ... But you see, the brethren in Christ, before asking what Christianity is, you need to recreate the Christian way of thinking. Until you renounce university prejudices, reinforced by the thousand conventions of the profanity world, this "abomination of desolation" - bdelygma tes erenoseos - from constant criticism, pseudo-explanations, dialectics, systematic doubts, from philosophical anxiety leading only to suicide, you are not You can understand the essence of Christianity, which is on a super-rational level and uses the language of analogies and symbols ... You are pretty students, but at the same time you are already victims of poisonous reasoning, contradictory arguments, nyaemyh theoretical constructs that lead to the beginning to the denial of God, and then to the denial of man, of his image. [...] And you will comprehend in your heart what you can not comprehend by reason. Do not trust the historicist spirit of the people of the West, Dysis, both atheists and believers, because they want to see only historical "events" in everything and are only interested in the person of Jesus, forgetting about the eternal Christ and denying miracles and Resurrection in the flesh. Therefore, your churches are so fond of history, and then politics, and gradually, following this path, they come to secularization, to a loss of spirituality, to seclusion ...

Such a beginning was promisingly unusual. Interested, curious, but at the same time with a sufficient degree of skepticism we asked Father Cyril to clarify his idea.

"Truth," he continued, "they limited to a mere 'fact'. " The relative became absolute, and the absolute itself was simply discarded. Immediately, they invented the myth of the "sense of History", the unlimited progress of species, which is surprisingly easy to refute, simply by looking at the ancient civilizations and analyzing the human soul. The blessed and glorified Holy Fathers were indifferent to the historical Christ the Savior, preferring to see in him the pre-temporal Logos, Eternal Sophia, Wisdom. His earthly life, his actions, his words - all these they interpreted as allegories ... If you think about it, beloved brethren, you will begin to understand what it means to "imitate the nature of God."

Paradosis-Paradeisos 

Then I intervened:

- Do not you think, dear elder, gheron, that the Church is sometimes forced, while remaining faithful to the essence of its message, to change some of its sides in accordance with the changes of the era or in order to better meet certain conditions?

The old man did not wait for an answer:

- Do you know why the Holy Orthodox Church enjoys such respect? Because She does not allow anyone to manipulate herself or exert influence on her ... The church should not adapt to "innovations" that will become obsolete tomorrow and will be replaced by others. The Church should not go to meet us, but we the Church. And the Church does not need to strive for agreement with the spirit of the world, or to conform to it, since this spirit of the world is only a manifestation of the corrupting gloom ... Why should the Church be subject to the limitations and philosophical, political, scientific temptations of this world, which is destined to disappear like autumn grass ?! She does not need to open herself to the world, because she, according to the Holy Fathers, is above the first of Creations. But he who enters the Church must leave this world and curse it at the threshold of the Temple, or not enter it at all if he refuses to repent and mortify his shamelessness, greed and pride ... Take, for example, the so-called "social Justice" talk about which spread today on the world: it will remain a pure illusion until a person finds God in his heart ... Any other understanding of justice is a pledge of decay and decomposition (as I translated the expression "he arche tes aposyntheseos ").

Father Cyril continued after a few moments:

- We are reproached for being too harsh, refusing concessions of time. But what leads to the easing in the fast? To their complete abolition. And the reduction of prayers? To the appearance of sacrilegious worship. And subordination to the age? The devastation of churches and the reduction of the priesthood. The more Western churches come up with new ways of attracting young people, the more they lose faith ...

"Then what is the mission of the Church?"

- Pass the faith of ancestors and God-bearing fathers, the whole and pure faith. Even if this is not liked by the powers and entails persecution [...]. Orthodoxy is the fidelity of Tradition, Tradition clear as a crystal, Holy Tradition, sealed by God, not subject to changes - Paradosis lampotera krustallon, hagia, theosphragistos, akonotemetos. Orthodoxy is a perfect continuity without restraints or additions - mete meiosis mete auxesis - even a single word, even a single letter. [...] And the holy divine Mark of Ephesus: "No concessions with respect to our faith, its impermissible." So in the "clay vessels" - in the vessels of our beings, unworthy and sinful - we keep the treasure of the Faith whole and unchanged. "But my father, what is Tradition?" Could you say a few words about it? Tradition is a tradition, the transmission (Paradosis) of spiritual realities and the guarantee of the continuity of knowledge going from the beginning of the world, from paradise (Paseradeisos). This Tradition is the Faith given by the God-man, our Lord Jesus Christ to his apostles and taught by the Church to the generations. ... The formula of the Faith, the catholic ordinances, the patristic writings, the words that came from the most eminent lips, the canonical and doctrinal treatises, liturgical treasures, holy icons, the divine liturgy ...

- But you do not recognize the authority of all the Councils?

- The seven great and most holy Ecumenical Councils laid the clear foundations of the whole Church. We obey them with faith and piety. They clarified the norms of the Christological message of the Church, the mysteries of Christ, the true God and true Man, the absolute Unity of God, inseparable from the multiplicity of hypostases, the union in Christ of two natures, the motherhood of Mary, the "synergy" between divine grace and human effort... The subsequent Councils did not add anything new, and only led to distortions or distortions of Truth, the source of life ... The Seven First Councils, the first and last of which were held in Ephesus, prove the [...] Christ cycle. This week symbolizes the seven seals of the Spirit, the 7 columns of faith in the Word on which the Church, the One, the Holy, the Catholic and the Apostolic are based ... So, what the Fathers said, we also say (hoi Pateres eipon Kai hemees legomen).

- However, not all Orthodox patriarchates unequivocally reject modern influences ...

- Despite the annoying exceptions that owe their existence to the insufficient knowledge of doctrines and the lack of information, all Holy Orthodoxy refuses to collude with the falling away, the apostasy, the modern world, with the kingdom of the Antichrist.

And Father Cyril minted this phrase, which for him was probably the deepest inner truth:

- The civilization of the Antichrist is nothing more than human dehumanization (ho politismos tou Antichristou estin he apanthropopoiesis tou anthropou).

Antichrist and his Majesty man of Europe

But we did not want to interrupt the conversation at this interesting place. My friend asked:

"And what is the Antichrist, dear father?"

Father Cyril did not answer right away, either because he was surprised by our ignorance, or hesitated whether to continue the conversation on this topic at all. Finally, he said:

- Antichrist, beloved children, in whom the mankind will see his supreme benefactor, but who will be his worst enemy. It is for the sake of his coming that atheists work and many Christians who are unaware of the consequences of their actions, as well as people who happily share materialistic theories and follow the gospel from wolves turned by pastors (lykopoimenes), genuine tools of dark forces (hypokeiria ton skoteinon dynameon ). Antichrist does not want to destroy religion, he wants to put it in his service. But for this he needs to undermine the faith in Christ, the faith that the Lord will find so hard to find on his Return as he himself predicted. The Antichrist's efforts consist in first making a person forget everything that allows him to rise to the Infinitely Alive, to God, and replace it with technocratic amenities, entertainment, social guarantees, all this scrap (skylaba) in front of the eyes of God. It is in his interest to make everyone think that the "bread" requested in "Our Father" is only that material "daily bread" that he can distribute at his own discretion. The poverty and dullness of such food is obvious. In fact, the speech in prayer is about the bread of the super-substantial (ton arton ton epiousion), i.e. about the Holy Spirit ... It is in the interests of the Antichrist to erase human persons, and replace them with individuals, an amorphous mass, anonymous and irresponsible, whose immediate instincts the Antichrist will satisfy, while tempting them with idealistic slogans ... Like the beggar, the Lord Jesus Christ will receive the last place at the table of this world, and the best places will be left to politicians, intellectuals, sportsmen, bankers, and in thousands of magazines and books they will begin to glorify those who blaspheme daily, humiliating the greatness of God.... Christ our Lord is forgotten and mocked. In the place of his temples came temples of the God-damaging culture.

- They say that Mount Athos is a refuge from the Antichrist. Is this true, Holy Father?

- In all Orthodoxy, the Holy Mountain - the strictest guardian of the Christian Tradition - overcomes in integrity and unharmed all the storms of human history: it survived the fall of the Byzantine Empire, escaped the Mohammedan crescent, abandoned the Roman tiara and the Moscow sickle, tirelessly battling with all heresies of the East and West .

"But, tell us, because you, thinking like this, constitute an insignificant minority among modern Christians ..."

"The majority is a herd that does not hurry to get the proper information and which knows almost nothing ... ... The Church, which never received the promises of earthly victory, will live to the end, even turning into a very small flock ... I know, beloved brethren, that everywhere they say that we are a bunch of miserable, fanatical ignorant monks, and we are here so that in spite of all our insignificance and our ignorance we testify of the glory of the Almighty. Soon they will say that we are only a sect, whereas the totality of heresies accumulated during 20 centuries will be considered the Truth! .. We accept the hatred of people, because we are eternally and inseparably merged with God-human love. Yes, we belong to the "remnant" - as the divine apostle Paul says - who will never kneel before Baal. We know together with Basil the Great that "the majority will not be saved," and together with Nicephorus the Confessor, that "even if a small number remains faithful to Orthodox piety, it is what makes up the Church."

"You have perfectly explained to us, venerable father, an indestructible adherence to the Orthodox Tradition. And yet it is curious enough that in addition to this unchanging and hieratic aspect in Orthodoxy, there is something especially modern that is not known even to the West. We are referring to the use in the Liturgy of local languages [...], as well as the election of priests by the people and priestly marriages.

- Here we are not talking about various aspects - some ancient, others modern. Tradition has always been the same. The compulsory use of Latin in all Christian countries of the West "froze" the Tradition, uniformized it, illegitimately deprived it of the variety of liturgical expressions ... Parish priests have always existed in Orthodox Christianity, where the monastic status never mingled with the priestly rank. At the Nicaea Cathedral, the great Egyptian hermit, Saint Paphnutius, recalled the spiritual innocence of marriage love and the full compatibility of the priesthood and marriage. Both are sacred rituals ... A careful and faithful wife of the priest is the mother for all the parishioners. We have whole kinds of priests, as there is in the world of the genus of musicians ... But the West forgot about all this, [...], about the mystical practice of evoking God's Name, about many other things.

- You severely criticize the West, holy elder, gheron. Is the Roman Church, despite all its mistakes, not "Catholic", i.e. "Cathedral", "universal" in the broadest sense of the word?

- Misconception consists in confusing the concept of "Catholic", i.e. "Universal", with the concept of Roman, meaning only the power of Caesar. In the same way, the sacral dissolves in external interests or in the Church's reliance on authoritarian and hierarchical structures. Hence the arrogant expression "simple believers", "simple parishioners", hence the "special wine", intended only for the clergy. When Westerners talk about the Church, they understand this not so much the mystical Body of Christ as the organizational hierarchy.

"You just said, honored father, about using Latin in the entire Christian West." But this language cemented all the Catholic nations and consecrated the Roman unity in the face of Orthodox anarchy.

"You take for anarchy, beloved brethren, a multiplicity from pentecosts ... Roman unity is a unity of legal, administrative and abstract order, gravitating towards centrism. Orthodox unity, on the contrary, rests on faith common to all autocephalous churches. This is an inner unity, doctrinal and ritual, the unity of the first Christian communities, helping each other, while remaining free in mutual respect for languages ​​and national customs. This unity in plurality, this is a symphony, not a monologue.

- Do you think the West is the culprit of the modern crisis of Christianity?

- Alas, yes, entirely ... His Majesty the Man of Europe created the religion of Man, having sent the God-man to the distant heavens.

- How so?

--Humanism, which came from ancient paganism, declared man to be the higher Deity. In his pride, the European man desired to be God, the measure of all things, denying everything that surpasses him and that he can not comprehend with his own understanding. If he also recognizes Christ, then only as a man, and not as a supreme God. It is a thorn in the eye of the Church, cacodoxy, named after the Arian heresy ... Christ is the true God, consubstantial to God the Father (homousios). That's why He is the Savior, the Redeemer and the Lord. Denying the consubstantiality, Arianism deprives God of his divinity. It seeks to explain God with the help of the mind alone, and the mind of the fallen man. However, "an explicable God will cease to be God," says Saint Athanasius, this fiery tongue of the Holy Spirit. Logic can not understand the incomprehensible, comprehend the incomprehensible. Today, modern thought, reducing everything to man, enclosing only in him everything great,  resurrects Arianism in all its glory! .. They are imbued with the whole of Western culture. Hence the struggle against the Spirit (pneumatomachia), which uses relativism and positivism as its weapon. Hence the greatest bankruptcy of our time.

"But reason can serve to prove the existence of God. Saint Anselm, for example ...

- God himself testifies of himself, through his Creation, through his Revelation, through his Incarnation. Anselm began to prove God by deduction and ontological arguments: this is how Scholasticism emerged, the daughter of Arabized Aristotelianism, who chose as his counselor the Reason instead of the Holy Spirit. Later came the rationalism, and then - Protestantism, individualism and its "freedom of choice" (libre arbirtre), the rejection of metaphysics, criticism of texts and scientism. And parallel to this Western dualism, the Greek world, born of Plato and Plotinus, developed Christianity inspired by mystery and poetry under biblical inspiration. The West chose a culture, at first "religious", then profane. The East has preserved "things that are above us," deep knowledge, gnosis.

The night slowly enveloped us with a star shroud. It was the image of this Divine Gnosis, which is hidden in the depths of the Orthodox mysteries. Perhaps, Father Cyril did not tell us everything? We know that Irenaeus, Basil the Cesar, Gregory of Nyssa, Dionysius the Areopagite, Evagrius Pontus and others hinted in their writings that there was an oral and secret tradition coming from Christ Himself and transmitted through the Apostles. We remembered that Christ forbade casting pearls before swine. And if some phases of the "terrible mysteries" in the Orthodox Church go beyond the iconostasis, this must have some basis. And we realized that, having lost esotericism, esoterika, the West has lost a genuine understanding of what he himself continues to reason about, and that his decline is much more serious than is usually assumed.

But we stop at this edge of the abyss. Blessed hesychasts tell us proper behavior: "Even the most exalted conversation becomes chatter if it lasts too long." 

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