Monthly Archives: February 2010


I watched a rosebud very long
     Brought on by dew and sun and shower,
     Waiting to see the perfect flower :
Then, when I thought it should be strong,
     It opened at the matin hour
And fell at evensong.

I watched a nest from day to day
     A green nest full of pleasant shade,
     Wherein three speckled eggs were laid :
But when they should have hatched in May,
     The two old birds had grown afraid
Or tired, and flew away.

Then in my wrath I broke the bough
     That I had tended so with care,
     Hoping that its scent should fill the air;
I crushed the eggs, not heeding how
     Their ancient promise had been fair :
I would have vengeance now.

But the dead branch spoke from the sod,
     And the eggs answered me again :
     Because we failed dost thou complain?
Is thy wrath just? And what if God,
     Who waiteth for thy fruits in vain,
Should also take the rod?

Christina Georgina Rossetti. 7 January 1849.

Posted in Poetry | 1 Comment

Of a kind

Through the advice of the serpent which he advised to Eve, Adam went out from Paradise. Its punishment was hard and grievous. God took from it its food and gave to it the dust. It was thrown on the earth and moved on its belly. He made it without feet, because by them it had injured and rushed against Adam. It eats dust all its days until eternity, because it deceived Eve with food. He set it as an enemy and gave its head to be trampled underfoot. For like the serpent which caused Adam to err, misleading, troublesome, evil, bullying, treacherous and unrighteous people have arisen among us who build injustice and destroy righteousness.

They plant wickedness and root out grace.

They let the weeds grow and destroy the wheat.

They revile the just and bless the unrighteous.

They love the haughty and hate the humble.

They praise the treacherous and hold them to be true.

They despise and hold the truthful to be false.

They vow iniquity and fulfil dishonesty.

They conceive and bring forth words of destruction.

They pervert their tongues and speak emptiness.

They are empty of goodness but puffed up with treachery.

There are no fruits in them to eat because they are infected with the poison of the serpent.

St Aphrahat. Demonstration Fourteen: On Exhortation, 12.
Translation by Kuriakose Valavanolickal.

Posted in Patristics | 1 Comment

The Philokalia Englished

I present here some examples of the translation of texts in two different English translations of the Philokalia of Saints Makarios of Corinth and Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain. The text marked Faber & Faber is the translation of the Philokalia undertaken by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (of which translators only the latter, now Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, is still amongst us), which has to this point published the first four volumes of the five Greek volumes. The text marked Cavarnos is the translation of Constantine Cavarnos, which appears in two volumes of selected translations from the volumes of the Philokalia, available here from the Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies.

The goal of this presentation is to indicate the general tenor of the two translations, giving a kind of taster of their qualities. Others may come to their own conclusions, but I prefer the Cavarnos translation. The main reason is that the Faber & Faber translation, while often elegantly phrased, is insufficiently attentive to an accurately consistent rendition of the theological vocabulary found in the Greek texts. A sensitivity to this vocabulary is paramount in the work of Cavarnos. Indeed, he has devoted an entire book to describing the importance of such a consistency of approach in translation: Orthodox Christian Terminology (IBMGS, 1994). This is particularly the case in the Anglophonic world, which is simply not an Orthodox culture, and its religious and philosophical vocabulary is therefore not transparently applicable in translation. In such a thing as such weighty theological texts, precision and accuracy should be of greater concern than I think is perhaps found in the Faber & Faber translations, initiated more than three decades ago. Perhaps they would be done differently now. In fact, several of Cavarnos’ drafts were solicited and reworked by the Faber & Faber editors, an interesting twist to the story of the publication of the Philokalia in English.

We proceed.

St Isaiah the Solitary, On Guarding the Intellect: Twenty-Seven Texts, 1
Faber & Faber
There is among the passions an anger of the intellect, and this anger is in accordance with nature. Without anger, a man cannot attain purity: he has to feel angry with all that is sown in him by the enemy. When Job felt this anger he reviled his enemies, calling them ‘dishonourable men of no repute, lacking everything good, whom I would not consider fit to live with the dogs that guard my flocks’ (cf. Job 30:1, 4. LXX). He who wishes to acquire the anger that is in accordance with nature must uproot all self-will, until he establishes within himself the state natural to the intellect.

Anger of the mind (τοῦ νοὸς ὀργὴ) against the passions is according to nature (κατὰ φύσιν). Without such anger purity does not result in man — if the mind does not become angry at all that is sowed in it by the enemy. When Job found the enemy, he (Job) reproached them saying to them: “You who are dishonorable and of no repute, in want of every good thing, whom I did not consider worthy to be with my shepherd dogs!” Now he who wants to acquire anger according to nature cuts off all his volitions, until he establishes himself in the state of the mind that is according to nature.

Evagrios the Solitary, Extracts from the Texts on Watchfulness, 1-2
Faber & Faber
A monk should always act as if he was going to die tomorrow; yet he should treat his body as if it was going to live for many years. The first cuts off the inclination to listlessness, and makes the monk more diligent; the second keeps his body sound and his self-control well balanced.

He who has attained spiritual knowledge and has enjoyed the delight that comes from it will no longer succumb to the demon of self-esteem, even when he offers him all the delights of the world; for what could the demon promise him that is greater than spiritual contemplation? But so long as we have not tasted this knowledge, let us devote ourselves eagerly to the practice of the virtues, showing God that our aim in everthing is to attain knowledge of Him.

A monk should always be alive as if he were to die tomorrow. Again, he should treat his body as if it were to live for many years. The former cuts off thoughts of despondency (ἀκηδία) and renders the monk more zealous, while the latter keeps the body sound and maintains self-restraint undiminished.

He who has attained knowledge and has enjoyed the pleasure that comes from it will no longer be persuaded by the demon of vainglory when he offers all the pleasures of the world. For what could he promise that is greater than that spiritual contemplation? However, so long as we have not tasted this knowledge let us devote ourselves eagerly to spiritual practices, thus showing our aim to God, that we are doing everything for the sake of knowledge (γνῶσις) of Him.

St Mark the Ascetic, Concerning Those Who Think That Men Are Justified By Works, 90
Faber & Faber
The intellect changes from one to another of three different noetic states: that according to nature, above nature, and contrary to nature. When it enters the state according to nature, it finds that it is itself the cause of evil thoughts, and confesses its sins to God, clearly understanding the causes of the passions. When it is in the state contrary to nature, it forgets God’s justice and fights with men, believing itself unjustly treated. But when it is raised to the state above nature, it finds the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace and the other fruits of which the Apostle speaks (cf. Gal. 5:22); and it knows that if it gives priority to bodily cares it cannot remain in this state. An intellect that departs from this state falls into sin and all the terrible consequences of sin — if not immediately, then in due time, as God’s justice shall decide.

There are three mental places (νοητοὶ τόποι) where the mind enters through change: that which is according to nature, that which is above nature, and that which is contrary to nature. When it enters that which is according to nature, it finds itself the cause of evil thoughts, and confesses to God its sins, knowing the causes of the passions. When it enters the place that is “contrary to nature” it forgets the justice of God, and quarrels with men, that supposedly are unjust to him. When he comes to the place that is “above nature” it finds the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which the Apostle calls love, joy, peace, and so forth. And he knows that if he prefers bodily cares, he cannot abide there. And he who departs from that place, that is, from the place “above nature,” falls into sin and the accompanying dread events, and if not soon, at the time when known to God’s justice.

I find (and I believe others will agree) that the Cavarnos translations to be theologically clearer than the superficially more well-translated Faber & Faber translations, interestingly enough. While the latter certainly read more easily, in smoother, more idiomatic English, the theological point tends to be obscured through the rather loose control of the theological vocabulary. The Cavarnos translation, on the other hand, while hewing more closely to Greek modes of expression, is theologically clearer while not as idiomatically smooth English. The import of the Philokalia lies primarily in its theological and not artistic or literary value. Seeing that, I find the Cavarnos translation, while incomplete, to be preferable to the Faber & Faber, particularly for readers new to the Philokalia. A more experienced reader will be able to follow the occasionally somewhat convoluted paraphrastic reworkings of the Faber & Faber translation, and will be able to understand their theological intent clearly. But this cannot be expected of a reader new to the Philokalia. I will therefore be recommending the Cavarnos translations first to new readers of the Philokalia, for precisely the value of their clarity in concise and uncomplicated expression of the theological terminology.

Posted in Eastern Orthodoxy | 23 Comments

Popular Patristics Series, cont’d

This post follows on another in which I listed the volumes of the Popular Patristics Series published by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, indicating the contents of each volume and the texts translated where indicated. Two volumes have since been added to the series.

37. Mark the Monk — Counsels on the Spiritual Life [volumes one and two combined in one volume]
Volume 1: Translation, Notes, Introductions by Tim Vivian; foreword: Rowan Williams
Volume 2: Translation, Notes, Introductions by Tim Vivian and Augustine Casiday
Works: [Vol. 1:] A Letter to Nicholas; Nicholas’ Response to Mark; On the Spiritual Law; Concerning Those Who Imagine That They Are Justified by Works; On Repentance; Concerning Fasting; The Mind’s Advice to its Own Soul; [Vol. 2:] On Melchizedek; A Monastic Superior’s Disputation with an Attorney and Discussion with His Fellow Monks; On the Incarnation: A Doctrinal Treatise Addressed to Those Who Say That the Holy Flesh Was Not United with the Word but Rather Partially Clothed It, Like a Coat. Because of This, They Say, the Person Wearing the Garment Was Different from the Garment Being Worn; Concerning Holy Baptism; Appendix: Jerome the Greek, “Works Useful to Every Christian”
Texts: Georges de Durand, Marc le Moine. Traités I. SC 445, and Marc le Moine. Traités II. SC 455.

38. St Basil the Great — On Social Justice
Translation, Introduction, Commentary: C. Paul Schroeder; foreword: Gregory P. Yova
Works: To the Rich, I Will Tear Down My Barns, In Time of Famine and Drought, Against Those Who Lend at Interest; Appendix: The Pseudo-Basilian Homily On Mercy and Justice
Texts: Yves Courtonne, ed. and trans. Saint Basile: Homélies sur la richesse: edition critique et exégetique (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1935); PG 31.

Posted in Patristics | 11 Comments

And this…

…is my first post from my brand new 17″ MacBook Pro.

Some say I’ve gone to the Dark Side.

I say I’ve finally seen the Light!

Posted in Administrivia | 14 Comments

Some more book notes

I have received a copy of The Philokalia: A Second Volume of Selected Readings, the continuation of the translation of Constantine Cavarnos. As in the case of the previous volume, the translation style is lucid and yet solid. The texts included come from the first, second, and fifth volumes of the Greek Philokalia. The texts included here are:

St Mark the Ascetic: Epistle to Nicholas the Monk (the translation of the brief biography of this Saint, which was written by St Nikodemos, is included in the first volume of Dr Cavarnos’ translations)
St Neilos the Ascetic: Brief biography; One Hundred and Fifty-Three Sections Concerning Prayer; Ascetical Discourse
St Theodore of Edessa: Brief biography; One Hundred Exceedingly Edifying Texts; Theoretikon
Abba Philemon: Brief biography; An Exceedingly Profitable Discourse Concerning Abba Philemon
Philotheos of Sinai: Brief biography; Forty Texts on Inner Watchfulness
Elias Ekdikos: Brief biography; Gnomic Anthology; Texts of Spiritual Wisdom
St Symeon of Thessaloniki: On the Holy and Deifying Prayer; That All Christians Ought to Pray in the Name of Jesus Christ
Anonymous Saint: A Wonderful Discourse Concerning the Words of the Divine Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy Upon Me”; An Interpretation of “Lord, Have Mercy”
St Symeon the New Theologian: A Discourse Concerning Faith and Teaching; A Discourse on the Three Modes of Prayer
St Gregory the Sinaite: On How Each Should Say the Jesus Prayer; From the Life of Maximos Kapsokalyves
St Gregory Palamas: From the Life of St Gregory Palamas: That All Christians in General Ought to Pray Unceasingly

The volume was edited by Hieromonk Patapios, Archbishop Chrysostomos (who also wrote the very useful and edifying introduction to this volume) and Father Asterios Gerostergios. It is published in paperback by The Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies (the Institute’s website now takes online orders: hooray!).

Another book arrived in the package with my copy of the above-mentioned book: An Explorer of Realms of Art, Life, and Thought: A Survey of the Works of Philosopher and Theologian Constantine Cavarnos, by John Rexine, also published by the Institute. This was a gift from Fr Asterios, to my great delight. In thirty-three short chapters, Rexine provides a combination appreciation and précis for thirty-three of Dr Cavarnos’ books published in Greek and/or English, these having been between 1949 and 1985. The frontispiece to each book illustrates the beginning of each chapter, and there are other illustrations peppered throughout the book. This paperback book is printed in the same manner as most of the books of the Institute, on the thick creamy paper with heavy boards. The books of the Institute are consistently as satisfying to the hand and eye as they are to the soul and mind.

The following book has yet to be widely released: Homilies on the Book of the Revelation: Volume One, by Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios, translated by Constantine Zalalas, with a Foreword and Notes by the same. This is published by St Nicodemos Publications in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The page for this book is here. This volume covers the homilies of the Blessed Elder Athanasios given on the Book of the Apocalypse, from 1:1 to 3:22. Further volumes are obviously forthcoming. I recommend to the reader the introduction to the St Nicodemoos Publications website, also written by Constantine Zalalas. He and I and many others are in perfect agreement. There are numerous recordings of Elder Athanasios available in Greek, and translations of those into English, as well, though I’m not quite clear on where those are available. I’ve only heard about them. The publishers should have this book available through Amazon soon.

I was going to write more, but I’m having some inexplicable computer crashes. Sorry to post and run!

Happy reading!

Posted in Bibliophilia | 11 Comments

Another anniversary!

Happy International Septuagint Day!

Mark it on your calendars for next year!

The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies will thank you for it.

Posted in Biblical Studies | 3 Comments