Monthly Archives: October 2009

Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε Δέσποινα

Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε Δέσποινα, ἄχραντε Θεοτόκε
Παρθένε μήτηρ ἄνασσα, πανέδροσέ τε πόκε.
Ὑψηλοτέρα οὐρανῶν ἀκτίνων λαμπροτέρα,
Χαρὰ παρθενικῶν χορῶν ἀγγέλων ὑπερτέρα.
Ἐκλαμπροτέρα οὐρανῶν, φωτὸς καθαροτέρα,
Τῶν οὐρανίων στρατιῶν, πασῶν ἁγιοτέρα.

Μαρία ἀειπάρθενε κόσμου παντὸς Κυρία,
Ἄχραντε νύμφη πάναγνε, Δέσποινα Παναγία.
Μαρία νύμφη ἄνασσα, χαρᾶς ἡμῶν αἰτία,
Κόρη σεμνή, βασίλισσα, Μήτηρ ὑπεραγία.
Τιμιωτέρα Χερουβίμ, ὑπερενδοξοτέρα,
Τῶν ἀσομάτων Σεραφίμ, τῶν θρόνων ὑπερτέρα.

Χαῖρε τὸ ᾆσμα Χερουβίμ, χαῖρε ὕμνος ἀγγέλων,
Χαῖρε ᾠδὴ τῶν Σεραφίμ, χαρὰ τῶν ἀρχαγγέλων.
Χαῖρε εἰρήνη καὶ χαρά, λιμὴν τῆς σωτηρίας,
Παστὰς τοῦ Λόγου ἱερά, ἄνθος τῆς ἀφθαρσίας.
Χαῖρε παράδεισε τρυφῆς, ζωῆς τε αἰωνίας.
Χαῖρε τὸ ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς, πηγὴ ἀθανασίας.

Σὲ ἱκετεύω Δέσποινα, σὲ νῦν ἐπικαλοῦμαι.
Σὲ δυσωπῶ Παντάνασσα, σὴν χάριν ἐξαιτοῦμαι.
Κόρη σεμνὴ καὶ ἄσπιλε, Δέσποινα Παναγία,
Θερμῶς ἐπικαλοῦμαι σε, ναὲ ἡγιασμένε.
Ἀντιλαβοῦ μου, ρῦσαι με ἀπὸ τοῦ πολεμίου
Καὶ κληρονόμον δεῖξόν με ζωῆς τῆς αἰωνίου.

Χαῖρε, Νύμφη ἀνύμφευτε.

Ὑμνος τοῦ Ἁγίου Νεκταρίου Αἰγίνης

Posted in Eastern Orthodoxy | 3 Comments

The Ecumenical Approach of Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem

First, on the Calvinists:

We also, piously following these and such like examples of Scripture, know the time to be silent, when no one disturbeth us, and urgeth us to speak; but on the other hand, when interrogated, or the time requireth, we are bound to lift up our voice. For when we are asked for a reason for faith, {Cf. I Peter iii., 15.} or certain things to be believed, we consider it terrible to shrink [from replying]. But if we are charged with impiety, {Ảσεβείας. So, Harduin rightly. Kimmel, Εὐσεβείας.} or some other heresy, by heterodox men, who have no other object in view than supporting their own opinion by calumniating others ; then assuming the more fervent zeal of Elias, {Ἡλίου. Cf. 3 Reigns [I Kings] xix., 10.} we are roused to reply; and suffering what Jeremias did, we give utterance to the same [thoughts] as he: ‘I am pained in my belly, and the organs of my heart; my soul is in great commotion, my heart is torn; I will not keep silence, for my soul hath heard the sound of the trumpet, and the cry of the war.’ {Jer. iv., 19.} For more sounding than the terrible trumpet, and louder than the cruel war, there are now reaching us from France (how we would we had not heard them!) rumblings. For the Calvinists that are there found, gratuitously indulging in wickedness, say that our Apostolic and Holy Church, the Eastern to wit, thinketh concerning God and divine things as they themselves do wrongly think. And not only by their words, but also by their writings, do these heretics, as appeareth from a certain Claud, a minister {Ὑφηγητῆ.} of the Calvinists at Charenton, endeavour to malign us; and this it is that chiefly prompteth us to enter upon the present undertaking, they neither knowing what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm; {Cf. I Tim. i., 7.} nor do they even respect men, before whom they dare thus to lie.

These things being so, since we are come together by the grace of Christ on the occasion of the dedication of the most divine temple of the Nativity in Bethlehem, according to the flesh, of Christ our Saviour and God; which the Lord hath been pleased should be rebuilt in these most terrible times of persecution, and should be elegantly adorned by the genuine children of the Catholic Church from all parts of the earth; there being found with us pilgrim-worshippers even from the ends of the earth, Priests, Clerics, and other Christians, we have thought it right to state briefly what the doctrine of our nursing-mother {Τιθηνός.} the Apostolic Church is as to those matters wherein she is maligned; so that through us our faith that was delivered by the Lord, and preached by the Apostles, and preserved by the holy Fathers, may be manifest in all the world; {Cf. Rom. i., 8.} and the lie of our adversaries being detected—although it hath already been detected as being obviously a mere bugbear, even by many that have been before us—the truth, as it were, shining more brightly than the sun, may be known. And if we seem to use tautology, and to be many times treating of the same matter, this is only done to help the reader of the present treatise to a more perfect understanding of what is said.

It is to be noted, therefore, that the leaders of these heretics, well knowing the doctrine of the Eastern Church, declare that she maintaineth {Πρεσβεύειν.} the same as they themselves do in what concerneth God and divine things; but of set purpose do they malign us, chiefly to deceive the more simple. For being severed, or rather rent away from the Westerns, and consequently being absolutely rejected by the whole Catholic Church, and convicted, they are manifestly heretics, and the chiefest {Κορυφαιότατοι.} of heretics. For not only have they become, from motives of self-love, propounders of new and silly dogmas (if it is allowable to call what are really only fables dogmas); but are entirely external to the Church, as having no kind of communion whatever with the Catholic Church, as hath been said. And as fearing lest those who have unhappily listened to them might perhaps be converted, they have thought how they might give utterance to this most transparent lie, that what they hold concerning the faith that the Eastern Church holdeth—God in His marvellous providence permitting this, and shewing that he who is not adorned with the Church’s name, cannot even be called a Christian, much less be a Christian; and teaching them that they should, therefore, join the Catholic Church, though they have not understood this. And this [they do], not as maintaining that our [teaching] is altogether true. For if that were so, they would not in other matters have maligned us, but would have agreed [with us] in all things; nor would they have desired to have become our teachers, who but yesterday and the day before, raging, meditated vain things; {Cf. Ps. ii., 1.} but would have been willing to learn of us, and to obey us, who hold what the Apostles preached, and what the Catholic Church hath held, and doth hold, and will in fact ever hold, until, that is, our Lord come, with God Himself our Saviour for her guide. But because we are at a distance from them, and in a way unable to acquaint all the Calvihists with the trick their leaders play upon them, it hath served their purpose, which was merely to deceive the more simple, to boast that whatever they, the Calvinists, have chosen to innovate, that the Eastern Church holdeth, and conversely. But, as it is impossible in this matter for light and darkness, or Christ and Beliar, to be together, {2 Cor. vi., 15.} so it is impossible for our adversaries, so long as they follow Calvin the heresiarch, as a leader, to be at one with the Eastern Church in what concerneth faith.

Second, on the Lutherans:

For fifty years after the madness of Luther, Martin Crusius of Tübingen in Germany, with other sophists, adherents of the novelties of Luther (for the notions of Luther and of Calvin are really very much alike, though they seem to differ in some particulars), sent the leading features {Κεφάλαια.} of their heresy to him that was then at the helm of the ship of the Apostolic Church at Constantinople, that they might know, as they said, whether they agreed with the doctrine of the Eastern Church. And that venerable man wrote unto them and against them three treatises or pragmatic answers, theologically and Orthodoxly rebuking all their heresy, and teaching them all the Orthodox mind which the Eastern Church hath held from the beginning; but none gave heed, bidding adieu to Orthodoxy.

From The Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem sometimes called The Council of Bethlehem holden under Dositheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1672, translated by J. N. W. B. Robertson (London, 1899). The above section on the Calvinists is found pp 5-10, that on the Lutherans, pp 13-14. The full book is available for reading or download from Google books here. I’ve placed all footnotes in curly brackets.

Posted in Eastern Orthodoxy | 18 Comments

Gorgias Press Sale

Gorgias Press, publisher and distributor of innumerable titles related to Syriac and Eastern Christian studies, is having another Gorgias BiblioPerks sale through the end of 2009: 40% off! This is the same discount they offer to authors.

This is a very welcome sale, as there are many great things available from Gorgias, and they do wonderful work.

Note especially the new A Syriac Lexicon by Michael Sokoloff: every little scholarly boy’s dream present for 2009!

Happy shopping!

Posted in Bibliophilia | 5 Comments

Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies

Mount Thabor Publishing has released Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies, their single-volume edition of annotated English translations of the surviving homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas (1286-1359), Archbishop of Thessalonica, and one of the touchstones of Eastern Orthodox Theology. While St Gregory is well-known for his support and defense of hesychasm and Orthodoxy against a creeping scholasticism, and his treatises on hesychasm (particularly The Triads) have gained much attention, his homilies have generally received less attention, and have never been completely translated into English. This very welcome complete English translation of the full corpus of St Gregory’s homilies is the responsibility of Christopher Veniamin and the Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England.

The volume is larger than I thought it would be (xxxviii + 761 pages), a sturdy hardcover, tastefully bound, with a dust jacket. A PDF file of the Table of Contents and sample pages is available on this page.

Having read through the front matter, Introduction and first sermon, with all associated notes, I thought to tell people of the excellence of this volume. The notes are extremeley valuable, including the historical notes that clarify incidental statements in the homilies, and a wealth of bibliographic help. This truly is a “scholar’s edition” as Mount Thabor Publishing has labeled it, in that one using this volume will be well-directed to the wealth of already published material on St Gregory, hesychasm, and related subjects.

Yet, this volume will also be welcome to the general reader, who is not to be expected to flip to the endnotes for all the details. Such a reader will find great benefit in St Gregory’s homilies. He was well-known and well-loved for being a great pastor, and this quality shows in his sermons. They will be of great benefit to the faithful Orthodox reader in particular, as the words of the Saints are always of benefit to us. I haven’t sat down to make a list yet, but Mr Veniamin notes in the introduction that nearly all the Sundays of the year and the Great Feasts are covered in this collection.

For those finding the price a bit high, Mount Thabor Publishing also offers a set of three paperbacks with a selection of St Gregory’s homilies, arranged thematically. These volumes are described in the bottom half of this page.

Posted in Patristics | 7 Comments

On anachronistic puffery

Some new reading is surprisingly supportive of the points I made the other day in my post titled A Core of Belief.

The following excerpts on the subject of modern perceptions of ancient Greek divinatory practices come from Michael A. Flower’s The Seer in Ancient Greece (UC Press, 2008) [Buy one now: they’re having an awsome sale!]:

I well remember an incident in a seminar that made a great impression on me at the time. A student of mind from India, who happened to be a practicing Hindu, said that he found nothing peculiar about accepting at face value the Delphic prophecies recounted by Herodotus; for it was simply the case that a god, whom the Greeks happened to call Apollo, was speaking through the priestess. The other students jeered terribly, and my attempts to defend the intellectual legitimacy of his point of vew had little effect. What this incident impressed upon me was not the authenticity of Delphic prophecy, but rather the difficulty that many of us have in taking different systems of belief seriously on their own terms.

I think that in a book of this sort it is not out of place to reveal something of my own biases right at the beginning. The reader will not find any declaration as to the validity of divination. That is not to say that I believe in the power of the Pythia to predict the future or in the ability of seers to determine the divine will by examining the entrails of sacrificial animals. But it is to say that I am convinced that the vast majority of Greeks really believed in such things. THey took their own religion seriously, and as a system of knowledge and belief it worked very well for them. It is methodologically inappropriate when modern scholars project their own views about religion on the Greeks and sometimes even claim that the seers as a group were conscious charlatans who duped the superstitious masses. Such assertions fly in the face of work on divination by anthropologists, work that reveals a good deal about the mentality of diviner and client as well as about the social usefulness of divination. From the Preface, p. xiii-xiv.

[I]t is common to be told that the priests at Delphi, who knew the questions in advance, put into verse the inarticulate ramblings of the Pythia; that generals cynically (or at least consciously) manipulated the omens to suit their strategic needs or to boost the morale of their troops; and that seers told their employers precisely what they thought they wanted to hear. Since divination is a marginal practice in industrialized Western societies, such questions and answers are formed from the viewpoint that divination must have been an encumbrance to the Greeks, something that rational individuals either had to maneuver around or else had to manipulate for their own interests. Above all, to modern sensibilities, a random and irrational system of divination must not be seen as determining what the elite of the Greek world thought and did. In fact, it has been argued that the elite manipulated divination for their own ends, whether to exploit or to assist the uneducated masses. It is easy enough to validate this prejudice by appealing to the more “rational” segment in Greek society; for instance, by quoting isolated expressions of skepticism, such as the famous line attributed to Euripides that “the best seer is the one who guesses well.”

Our own biases can be hard to overcome. As the anthropologist Philip Peek has observed, “the European tradition tends to characterize the diviner as a charismatic charlatan coercing others through clever manipulation of esoteric knowledge granted inappropriate worth by a credulous and anxiety-ridden people.” In reference to divination in sub-Saharan Africa he concludes: “Instead, we have found diviners to be men and women of exceptional wisdom and high personal character.” I am convinced that if we could go back in time and conduct the sort of fieldwork that a contemporary anthropologist is able to engage in, we undoubtedly would find that Peek’s observation would hold true for the Greek seer as well. Pages 4-5

The book is fascinating. I recommend it to all. It’s the first book-length treatment of the subject.

Posted in Biblical Studies | 6 Comments

Messiahs come and gone

(These are some notes out of my journal, inspired by some recent reading and pondering.)

In view of the approach I’m taking in seeing a strong/high expectation of the Son of David specifically as Messiah, with some very elevated characteristics, notably supernatural ones as the Son of God, there is a necessity to look at or address the different core approaches in Christianity and Judaism.

I think it’s fairly clear that prior to the advent of our Lord there was a high expectation of the Messiah Son of David, especially elevated by the fall of the Hasmonean dynasty and the rise of Rome and their client-king Herod. (Perhaps the fall of the Hasmonean priestly kingship was seen as the equivalent to the end of direct Theocracy in the time of Samuel, with a Son of David to appear soon just as David followed Saul, a cypher for Herod.) And while this entailed a political kingship in the coming kind, it also entailed the supernatural healings, etc. The advent of Jesus was only partly satisfactory to those who expected the political/supernaturally-gifted Son of David, Son of God. The political aspect was completely unsatisfied, though the supernatural was satisfied. His own teachings, however, and statements about Himself, pointed away from the expected character and nature of the Son of David/Son of God. Rather than Son of God through descent from Adam as His firstborn son in creation/humanity, He was directly God the Son. This was a surprise to His disciples, and He lost many, who were expecting something and someone else.

In that regard, we have to see the choice of various “messiahs” by the Judeans and others in the first and early second centuries, most notably Bar Kokhba. It is likely that various of the leaders of Jewish factions in the First Revolt were also presenting themselves as messiahs, though this characterization is lacking explicitly in Josephus, who prefers Vespasian (!) as his messiah. [I think it likely that Josephus is the false prophet, and Berenike the whore of Babylon in the Apocalypse.] In any case, after Bar Kokhba and the banning of Jews from Jerusalem, major changes occurred in what must be called Rabbinic Judaism, the majority sect. It was undoubtedly at this point that an emphasis on the coming Messiah Son of David was stripped out of the tradition in order to prevent any further such disasters as the Bar Kokhba War and its consequences, after which the Messiah becomes such a pale character in Rabbinic traditions. Whatever earlier readings and interpretations and aggadot relating to this vividly expected Son of David therefore fell out of the tradition at this point. Concomitantly, a picture was lost of pre-Christian Messianic expectation, which would have largely overlapped with the readings incorporated in the NT (at the very least–I expect these were, in extent, similar to the body worked up in Patristic tradition, or at the very least built upon the same principles).

It is likeewise at this point, post Bar Kokhba, that the emphasis irrevocably moves from the Messiah Son of David as the Lawgiver and the source of judgments and so on to the conception of Oral Torah–a body that stands independently of every individual, but which is preserved and transmitted by the Rabbis, predicated now as originating at Sinai in an oral tradition rather than as the ad hoc rulings of the King who was righteous because of his having internalized the Law. This is another alteration. As Jesus in the Gospels is shown as one who is above the Law, this is reflective of the pre-Bar Kokhba royal understanding of the Messiah Son of David. This conception was not to survive in Rabbinic Judaism, and so is now considered something quite outrée, if not blasphemous. On the other hand, Christianity has maintained this older tradition of the Royal Law propounded by the King Messiah, Son of David, Son of God.

Posted in Biblical Studies | 4 Comments

A match made for heaven

The “match made for heaven” is a set of the Daily Commemoration Cards from Holy Transfiguration Monastery in a Sassafras Wood Recipe Box from Smith’s Fine Woods Products.

Mrs Smith tells me that Mr Smith bought the sassafras (as fun a word to type as it is to say!) wood in 1970, and he made only 16 boxes, and will never make any more. One of these rare boxes is now sitting here in Berkeley with my set of commemoration cards in it! It’s a beautiful wood, darker than oak but similar grain-wise, at least to my untrained eye. Mr Smith said he is proud that his box is holding my commemoration cards. Isn’t that just the coolest? Everyone is happy!

Smith’s Fine Wood Products has many beautiful things available. I’m sure I’ll be buying some more of their beautiful things in the future.

Posted in Eastern Orthodoxy | 2 Comments