Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Anastasis Dialogue
Holy Resurrection Monastery has got a blog! These are Byzantine Catholics in the US Romanian Catholic diocese under Bishop John-Michael (Botean), a peace witness (member of Pax Christi and against the Iraq war from the beginning).

Fr Maximos and novelist Anne Rice correspond:
A truly pro-life position has as its ultimate goal not the criminalization of abortion, but its abolition. We don't just want to punish people for their abortions; we don't want them to have abortion – or to want them – in the first place.

Once you properly define the goal of the pro-life movement, you suddenly discover a whole new range of possibilities open up beyond the narrow straightjacket of two-party politics.

The goal of a complete end to abortion will be won primarily by changing hearts, not laws.
Perhaps trite — but true.

Anne Rice, Fr Maximos and I may differ on many points but I dare say we may be one on this: don’t get played.
I really do suspect that the moral vision of the Orthodox tradition can offer western Christians an important help in this regard. The Eastern Christian emphasis on personal metanoia rather than on institutional solutions is one that is badly needed to reinvigorate the whole Christian engagement with the secular world.
Could it be... Orthodox libertarianism?

There’s much I like about this kind of monk but, like Archimandrite Anastassy, also much I like about Fr Seraphim (Rose)’s kind as much as they sharply differ from chaps like me and the late archimandrite: their fervour, observance and authentically Catholic worldview making many of the same points that Western Catholic traditionalists do — the late, great G.K. Chesterton* as far back as the 1920s saw through modernity exactly like Fr Seraphim but was much less verbose and much funnier in communicating that — but sadly often marred by an anti-Westernism that’s at times pathological or worse as self-destructive online converts show. (Un-Western — thou shalt not cut and paste rites in church, as Rome agrees — does not necessarily mean anti-Western.)

Each approach has its good and bad points: Fr Maximos’s, like the Parisian/St Vladimir’s ‘liberal’ intellectual school of Russian Orthodoxy, reminds me of the authentically Catholic liberal but orthodox and pre-conciliar avant-gardeness of Thomas Merton. Not a bad thing necessarily, not at all!

The danger of course is in being too trusting of the secular world, like what happened to mainstream RCs at Vatican II (the sectarian/Old Believer/cult temptation — ‘going Amish’ — is the other extreme), so in this case you could end up a sort of Eastern-flavoured liberal Protestant or New Ager, which has its own kind of creepy anti-Western snobbery. They look down on the good tsarist Russians who were Fr Seraphim’s models as ‘scholastic’ (try it: a consistent moral theology is a good thing), ‘in Western captivity’ and so on. Essentially the same reasons liberal RCs hate the Tridentine Mass.

(Good tsarist Russians were most unlike the pathology one sees among conservative Orthodox today especially among converts and especially online in that they were not particularly hostile to other Christians! They had nothing to prove. They knew who they were yet borrowed freely from scholastic theology for example. When speaking English they went to Mass on Easter; they weren’t trying to spite Rome like some ex-fundygelical.)

But back to the positive: the Orthodox version’s got a mystical ‘kick’ all its own and an unique form of sacramental presence, the icon.

Here’s more goodness from Fr Maximos:
I remember a story once (I'm not sure where I heard it) of an old Athonite monk who was asked about reunion with the [Roman] Catholics. He looked up to an icon of the Theotokos nearby and said, "only She can do it."

In my mind this goes with another story I once heard a Russian Catholic priest tell. Father's family background is Irish Catholic, and he told us of trying to explain to his "little Irish mother" all about the Russian Church and its customs, history, problems and why he found it so exciting. Finally, his mom looked at him and said, "Yes, but do they love our Lady?"

"Oh, yes mum! Perhaps more than we do!"

"Well," she said, "that's all right then."
On fasting
...asceticism is not ultimately driven by either utilitarian or moralistic motives. Christians don't fast, for example, out of a desire to improve their physical health or support environmental causes. Nor do they give up food or drink because it is evil--that is why feasting is no less important than fasting! Now, these secondary motivations for fasting are not bad, in fact they can be tremendous benefits. But ultimately, fasting and asceticism is about sacrifice of self, that is about becoming one with the divine Word who speaks nothing of himself, but only what the Father bids him speak.
From Ad Orientem:

On intercommunion
Damascus versus Dubuque (comment)

*He gave a lecture at the first Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1920.

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