Resurrection, imperfect

Sleep sleep old Sun, thou canst not have repast
As yet, the wound thou took’st on friday last;
Sleepe then, and rest; The world may beare thy stay,
A better Sun rose before thee to day,
Who, not content to’enlighten all that dwell
On the earths face, as thou, enlightened hell,
And made the darke fires languish in that vale,
As, at thy presence here, our fires grow pale.
Whose body having walk’d on earth, and now
Hasting to Heaven, would, that he might allow
Himselfe unto all stations, and fill all,
For these three daies become a minerall;
Hee was all gold when he lay downe, but rose
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make even sinfull flesh like his.
Had one of those, whose credulous pietie
Thought, that a Soule one might discerne and see
Goe from a body, at this sepulcher been,
And, issuing from the sheet, this body seen,
He would have justly thought this body a soule,
If not of any man, yet of the whole.

John Donne, before 1633

While clod returns to clod

Before the mountains were brought forth, before
     Earth and the world were made, then God was God :
And God will still be God when flames shall roar
     Round earth and heaven dissolving at His nod :
     And this God is our God, even while His rod
Of righteous wrath falls on us smiting sore :
And this God is our God for evermore,
     Through life, through death, while clod returns to clod.
For though He slay us we will trust in Him ;
     We will flock home to Him by divers ways :
     Yea, though He slay us we will vaunt His praise,
Serving and loving with the Cherubim,
Watching and loving with the Seraphim,
     Our very selves His praise through endless days.

Christina Georgina Rossetti, before 1882

Metropolitan Kallistos, Part Three

Following on parts one and two, this is the final in the presentation of my notes from the discussion Building the Body of Christ given by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) at my parish church, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension in Oakland. Please keep in mind that these are notes, and only seldom verbatim; I don’t write that quickly. As in the other sections, I’ve made an attempt to track down and present in full various quotations. Likewise, the “I” in these notes is Metropolitan Kallistos, not myself. We continue and conclude with this installment.


Saturday afternoon, 23 February: “Eternity in the Present: Baptism and Eucharist”

Last night there was a question that still needed answering, about the salvation of all. Will it happen that the majority are not save, and would that mean God has failed?

Answer: We cannot answer this. First Timothy [2.4]: God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The offer of salvation is made to all. In extreme forms of Calvinism, some are predestined to hell. The Orthodox have never believed that. The offer of salvation is to all. But in creating man with free will, God took a risk. He is a God of love and love requires freedom. Desiring a world of love, humans are all created with freedom of conscience. God’s love is infinite. But we are free. We can say Yes to God, or say Not to God forever, which is hell. God doesn’t wish anyone to go to hell. Some Christians have theorized that all would be saved, like Origen, an idea called apokatastasis. He was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council. Gregory of Nyssa believed the same. Isaac the Syrian hoped for the same, saying God does not requite evil, but sets evil aright. He found it a mystery. He couldn’t believe that God’s love would fail. It is false to say, with Origen, “All must be saved.” But it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved. In this we are confronted with something beyond our imagining. From Father Sophronius in his book on St Silouan:

I remember a conversation between him [St Silouan] and a certain hermit, who declared with evident satisfaction, “God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.”

Obviously upset, the Staretz [St Silouan] said, “Tell me, supposing you were in paradise, and there looked down and saw somebody burning in hell-fire—would you feel happy?”

“It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault,” said the hermit.

The Staretz answered him with a sorrowful countenance. “Love could not bear that,” he said. “We must pray for all.”

Continue reading “Metropolitan Kallistos, Part Three”

Metropolitan Kallistos, Part Two

Today, the program of discussions led by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Building the Body of Christ, continued and concluded. Below are expansions of my notes for the first half of the day, which one should not take to represent precisely His Grace’s addresses to us. As notes usually, are, they pick up the gist of things, so must really only claim to be a set of somewhat interpretive abstracts. If I hear of recordings being made available, or transcripts thereof, I’ll post information on them. As in Part One, the “I” of these notes is Metropolitan Kallistos, not myself. We continue.


Saturday 23 February. Morning session: “Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in our Daily Experience.”
My grandmother long ago once wondered, “Why is the Holy Spirit never mentioned in sermons? Hearing of Him is liking hearing news of an old friend one hasn’t heard of in a long time.” We will hear of news of this old friend today. St Symeon the New Theologian wrote this invocation to the Holy Spirit:

Come, true light.
Come, life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, raising of the fallen.
Come, resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly your create, refashion and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved, yet at every instant you are wholly in movement; you draw near to us who lie in hell, yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips; yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.

Continue reading “Metropolitan Kallistos, Part Two”

Metropolitan Kallistos, Part One

Tonight I attended the discussion with Metropolitan Kallistos I mentioned earlier, titled “My Lord and My God: Personal Faith in Christ, the Savior.” There were roughly five hundred people in attendance. Below I expand my notes as far as my memory will allow, in order to share what His Eminence shared with us this evening. If recordings or a transcript are made available of these, I’ll post about them. In the meantime, these will give you at least an outline of his talk. Please note that the “I” in the below notes represents Metropolitan Kallistos, not myself. We begin.

~ + ~

The title of this talk is “My Lord and My God: Personal Faith in Christ, the Savior.” That “My Lord and my God” is a quotation of St Thomas the Apostle [John 20.28], his words of recognition and acclamation at recognizing the risen Christ. Though he is often referred to as “Doubting Thomas” it would be better to refer to him as “Believing Thomas” for he travelled from doubt to belief. Note the very personal nature of this acclamation: my Lord, and my God. This personal relation is something for all of us. It is not just that some time ago, as an historical even, Christ was born, was crucified, and died, but that Christ is born for me, was crucified for me, died for me.

Continue reading “Metropolitan Kallistos, Part One”

An Eminent Best

Our parish, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascenscion in Oakland, California, is hosting Building the Body of Christ: A Weekend of Spiritual Enlightenment with Bishop Kallistos Ware. His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia is the well-known author of The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way, and among the translators of The Philokalia of St Nikodemos the Hagiorite and several books of translation of Orthodox liturgical texts, among other things.

Here is the schedule:
Friday 22 February
7:00 pm: Refreshments
7:30 pm: First Discussion: “My Lord and My God: Personal Faith in Christ, the Savior”

Saturday 23 February
9:30 am: Registration and Refreshments
10:15 am: Second Discussion: “Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in our Daily Experience”
12:00 noon: Lunch provided
1:00 pm: Third Discussion: “Eternity in the Present: Baptism and Eucharist”

Sunday 24 February
9:00 am: Orthros (Matins)
10:00 am: Divine Liturgy with Homily by Metropolitan Kallistos
12:15 pm: Luncheon with Metropolitan Kallistos

The registration for Friday and/or Saturday is $25.00. One may pay at the door, of course. Sunday’s Orthros and Liturgy are, of course, free. The suggested donation for the Sunday lunch is $15.00 ($5.00 for students).

Last Sunday, our priest mentioned that His Eminence will also be having high tea on Saturday with college-aged young adults. Sounds like fun!

Our priest mentioned that people are flying in from across the country for this. If you plan to attend, let me know. I’m also planning to be there.

Mishnah Comparison Chart

I’ve just posted a comparison chart detailing the coverage of the tractates of the Mishnah in the Tosefta, the Talmud Yerushalmi, and the Talmud Bavli. It should prove useful as a general reference.

As one can see in the chart, the Tosefta gives the widest coverage, with the Yerushalmi and Bavli providing coverage of roughly two-thirds of the Mishnaic tractates, and different ones at that, though they do both cover a number of tractates. The only tractates to have no presence in Tosefta and the Talmuds are Abot, Middot, and Qinnim. In the case of Abot, this is likely because it was added to the Mishnah some time later than its original compilation. Middot and Qinnim were likely excluded due to their subject matter, being the measurements of the Temple precincts, and complications related to bird sacrifices, respectively.

As always, suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Neusner Talmud Bavli update

I’ve corrected a few errors in the file I created with hyperlinks to the individual chapter files of the Hendrickson Publishing and Ages Software edition of Jacob Neusner’s The Babylonian Talmud: Translation and Commentary.

Here is a basic file, with default colors.

This file is the same file, with a black background and colored text, which I find easier on my eyes.

If you own the Neusner Babylonian Talmud CD, you’ll need to have the files installed to your hard drive, and you’ll need to place the above file(s) in the directory in which the pdfs of the chapters are installed. Either that, or you can edit the paths in the html. The corrections involved some of the folio numbers which my too hasty copying/pasting reduplicated in tractates Shabbat and Eruvin.

Random Acts of Aggadah

“Take heed of the heavens” (Deut 32.1). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Say to them, to Israel: Gaze at the heavens, which I created to serve you. Have they perhaps changed their ways? Does the orb of the sun perchance not rise out of the east and light up the entire world, all of it? The fact is: the sun rejoices in its commission to do My will, for Scripture says, “The sun . . . is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run his course” (Ps 19.6).

“And let the earth be heard” (Deut 32.1). Gaze at the earth, which I created to serve you. Has it perhaps changed its ways? Have you perchance sown seed and it has not sprouted? Or have you sown wheat and it brought forth barley? Or did the heifer perhaps say, “I will not plow,” “I will not thresh”? Or did the ass say, “I will bear no burden,” “I will not move”?

Likewise, the sea. “I . . . have placed the sand for the bound of the sea (Jer 5.22). Has it perhaps changed its ways and, rising, flooded the world?

Is this not a matter to be argued a fortiori? The heavens, the earth, and the sea were created to receive neither reward nor penalty. If they earn merit, they receive no reward; if they go astray, they are subjected to no penalty. They need not be concerned about their sons and daughters. Yet they have not changed their ways. You—who receive reward when you earn merit and receive punishment when you sin, who are concerned about your sons and daughters—how much more and more by far should you not change your ways.

The Book of Legends 7.492
(a translation by William Braude of the classic Sefer ha-Aggadah, edited by Hayim Bialik and Yehoshua Ravnitzky)

Holy Baba Batra!

[UPDATE: See the comments below for welcome attribution information from Professor Neusner, and information on forthcoming electronic editions of his translations of the Rabbinic canon. The attribution information is lacking in the electronic edition of the Talmud Bavli translation.]

I just yesterday received a copy of Jacob Neusner’s The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary on CD (Thanks, Eisenbrauns!). Hendrickson Publishers used Ages Software to create the program, which is essentially just pdf files of all the chapters (of Neusner’s devising) of the tractates. Neusner’s work in outlining the entire Babylonian Talmud is a truly breathtaking labor of great erudition. The precision of language and the patterns observable in the original are conveyed very well indeed in this translation, which fortunately doesn’t skimp on the explanatory parentheses necessary to make the extremely telegraphic nature of the Talmud’s language intelligible to those not very familiar with it. A general introduction to the Babylonian Talmud is included, as well as an introduction for and a treatise on the structure of each tractate. Very interesting.

There are, however two drawbacks. The first is the lack of facility in searching by the traditional folio numbers. Neusner’s outline organization of the tractates breaks them down into chapters, which the files are also broken into, but this means each tractate then has a number of files, and one needs to open several before finding the proper one with the correct folio numbers in it. The “Talmud Librarian” page doesn’t list the folios at all, and you’ll only find the folios included in the chapter headings. Oh, hold on a minute . . . . After a bit of work, I’ve come up with a basic html file that includes links to all the files, with the titles, transliterations, and descriptions given by Neusner in the general introduction, and including the folio numbers next to each link, a vast improvement I think. To get it to work, you’ll of course need to have purchased this Neusner Talmud CD, and having installed that, you’ll simply save this page (or this color-coded one) to the same directory in which all the files are installed. The pages will open in your web browser when you click the links, if you’ve got Adobe Acrobat (or its Reader) installed. (Note that it must be saved in the same directory that the files reside in for the file to work as is. If you’re comfortable with html editing, you can change that if you like.)

[UPDATE: The following paragraph/drawback is incorrect. Neusner’s is a complete translation of the Babylonian Talmud, which itself only comments on 37 of the Mishnah’s tractates. The presumption of forgetfulness is a wretched thing!]

The second drawback, which you’ll notice upon looking at that file, is that only 37 of the Babylonian Talmud’s 63 tractates are actually included in Neusner’s translation. This was quite a disappointment. Perhaps he’ll complete it in the future. If that’s the case, I’ll make a note of it here. It’s a fine translation, and the outline format is extraordinarily useful, helping to clarify the text, so I certainly hope Newusner’s Babylonian Talmud translation will be completed in the same format, and likewise made available on CD to complete this collection seamlessly. In the meantime, the (older, and thus somewhat inferior) Soncino translation of the complete Babylonian Talmud is available online, also in pdf format.

[UPDATE: Note that I have removed the link, as the pdfs of the Soncino Talmud to which I linked are clearly both a poor presentation of the Soncino Talmud, and in copyright infringement.]