Friday, November 30, 2012

The Life of Faith (Central Things, Part 4)

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light has shined. [...] For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given...." Is. 9:2, 6

To the law and to the testimony, said the Lord, and those who do not walk by them are one with the dark. But there was a new light coming, a living light. Not just illumination, but He who illumines (John 1:4, 9; 12:46). Not just truth, but He who is true (John 14:6). Not just a word, but the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14). The Eternal-Speak of God made His dwelling among us, and what can we say to this? What words can we find to comprehend this Word? None, except that nothing like this has ever happened before. God has not simply spoken: His very Speech has spoken.

Our faith is not built upon pleasant phrases or static objects but this living Light, a Light ravenous against the impotent dark (John 1:5), a Light come to free captives (Luke 4:18-21), heal the sick (Matt. 8:14-17), and call sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:12-13). This Light has really done these things, with real hands and real mouth from a real body, and it is to this Light, to this raised brazen serpent fresh from the furnace, that we must cast our weary eyes. God has called us to believe, to believe in Him, to believe in what He has said, and here is what He has said: "This is my beloved Son; listen to Him" (Mark 9:7).

So here is the center of faith: not dead words but the living Word; not dead light but the living Light; not dead principles but a living Person. This is salvation: our faith has found a resting place in the Light. And this is damnation: the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light (John 3:19). We must keep the eyes of our heart always steady on that center: believe God, believe what He has said, and believe what His Son has said. It is that simple. It is that hard. But it is the way of abundant life.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Grounds of Faith (Central Things, Part 3)

"To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them...and they shall look unto the earth and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish, and they shall be driven to darkness." Is. 8:20-22

The foundation of faith is not in hunches but in revelation, in the divine communique between the Creator and His creatures. This is a fact that is often missed. Too often, well-intended religious and secular types paint faith as the outgrowth of sincere, strong emotional leanings, certain of the emotion but vague in its object. Real faith, however, real Christian faith, is quite the opposite: its object is sure, though its emotions may rise and fall with the tide. Faith is not haphazard. The outskirts of the individual life may seem haphazard, but the core of faith is stable because it rest upon a stable thing: the revelations of God. "Thus saith the Lord" is the bedrock of belief, not "I feel strongly about this."

Now, the revelations of God are not merely petrified statements. They are living realities. I do not mean that they change (for God does not change: Num. 23:19; Heb. 1:10-12; James 1:17), but that they are not static, dead things. Rather, they are dynamic, living things. Their substance is constant and active, and thus to come into their presence is to step into the furnace; you cannot walk away unaffected. For example: God's two main forms of revelation are His word and His Son (Heb. 1:1-3), neither of which are dead things (Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:18). In addition, both the word and the Word are sources of "light" (Ps. 119:105; John 1:4-5, 9), which means that they are sources of illumination, clarity, and guidance. To come into their presence is no empty thing. It is literally an en-lighten-ing.

To accept God's word and Word, to hear and believe what they say, what they reveal, what He reveals, is no mere intellectual assent. It is to be filled with the life and light and (consequently) peace of God. Our faith has found a resting place, not in device or creed, but in the everliving words of the Everliving One. Inversely, to be without God's illumined and illuminating words, to have no solid anchor for the flittering inconsistencies of solely emotional faith, is to be "driven to darkness," away from God's living truth and into madness and despair.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Courage of Faith (Central Things, Part 2)

"...neither fear their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Is. 8:12-13

There are many people who do not like the "fear of the Lord." Either their cream puff marshmallow version of God cannot allow anyone to fear Him, or the idea of "fearing" God conjures up images of frightfully bowing down before a great and furious despot. Either God is cruel and we are weak or vice versa, neither or which is an attractive option. Many often wonder what is this cowardice that God demands from us, but I have had a different thought: what is this impossible bravery that He has called us to?

Think about it: all of His commands to fear Him are qualified to say that we should only fear Him and nothing else. Others may be offended that God would call us to be weak cowards before His face; I marvel that He would call us to such insane courage in the face of everything else. Fear only God; everything else is not worth your terror. It seems that implicit in our humbling ourselves before God is also a call to reckless confidence (one could almost say braggadocio) before this world with devil's filled. And the grounds of this confidence is not in ourselves but in the knowledge that God is not only greater than us but also greater than all other terrors.

Of course, the "fear" of the Lord has nothing to do with cowardice. Rather, it is about reverence. As I suggested early, it is a matter of humility, of seeing God as actually greater than all (including and especially yourself). In other words, the "fear of the Lord" is about God being the highest thing in your world, the central fact and assumption that informs every other facet of your life. Simply put, it is about being Christ-like, for God was the highest of all to Christ as well (Matt. 26:39; John 5:30, 6:38). Such a life will not only produce holiness but also courage, courage as a product of holiness.

To "sanctify" God in our hearts, to set Him apart as the highest thing that we will ever know, is a fountainhead of not only sanctification but also bravery. If you believe that the great God of all is for you, then truly who or what can be against you? Fear is swallowed up in victory. Oh fear, where is thy sting? Oh dread, where is your victory? You who are faint of heart: lift your anxious hands and strengthen your feeble knees and fear the Lord who loves you, and let the boldness of your belief drown out every lesser terror in the light of His glory and grace.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Romance of Faith (Central Things, Part 1)

"If you will not believe, then surely you shall not be established." Is. 7:9

Faith is central to the Christian life. This is Sunday School 101 for many, but the basics are always the first to be forgotten, or at least diluted. That is the problem with so-called "Sunday school answers": not that they are simple (for that is a point in their favor), but that they can be deemed inconsequential because they are simple. They are mistaken for the icing on the cake, when in reality they are more like the foundation stones of a house: subsumed beneath the greater structure, yet ever-present and always necessary. Yet we too easily cruise right over what is holding the whole edifice erect. Faith is one of those foundational things. Without it, we have no leg to stand on.

The reason faith is central is because it is about trust, which should be obvious but is often missed. We have a "relationship" with God (as anti-religion types are quick to tell us), and central to any relationship is trust: between spouses, family members, or friends. Without trust, there is no relationship. Acquaintance, maybe, but not relationship. We can have knowledge (either factual or guess work) of another person, but that's equally reason to keep them at arm's length. A true relationship knows no "arm's length". It comes close, too close for comfort unless there is trust, i.e., confidence in who the other person is and what they will do. That trust is the common knowledge of all unions, whether they be between causal friends or intimate lovers.

It is also the secret beauty of Christian faith. Faith is not an act of religious duty (and it is certainly not against reason); rather, it is proof of how seriously God takes His union with us. He wants to be close; "danger close," as soldiers say. That is why He doesn't often (if ever) ask us to understand Him, but He does ask us to believe Him, to trust Him, to lay hold of Him as He has laid hold of us and take the wild dive into the unknown. Unknown to us, but known to Him. That is the romance of faith.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Lonely Maker (some Advent poetry by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, the Christmas season can officially begin. (That's right: I'm a purist. Don't hate.) In light of this and in honor of the season, I'll be sprinkling my blog with an occasional "Advent post," starting with this excerpt from George MacDonald's Diary of an Old Soul.

I do remember how one time I thought,
"God must be lonely--oh, so lonely lone!
I will be very good to him--ah, nought
Can reach the heart of his great loneliness!
My whole heart I will bring him, with a moan
That I may not come nearer; I will lie prone
Before the awful loveliness of loneliness' excess."

A God must have a God for company.
And lo, thou hast the Son-God to thy friend.
Thou honor'st his obedience, he thy law.
Into thy secret life-will he doth see;
Thou fold'st him round in live love perfectly--
One two, without beginning, without end;
In love, life, strength, and truth, perfect without flaw.

Thou hast not made, or taught me, Lord, to care
For times and seasons--but this one glad day
Is the blue sapphire clasping all the lights
That flash in the girdle of the year so fair--
When thou wast born a man, because alway
Thou wast and art a man, through all the flights
Of thought, and time, and thousandfold creation's play.

We all are lonely, Maker--each a soul
Shut in by itself, a sundered atom of thee.
No two yet loved themselves into a whole;
Even when we weep together we are two.
Of two to make one, which yet two shall be,
Is thy creation's problem, deep, and true,
To which thou only hold'st the happy, hurting clue.

No less than thou, O Father, do we need
A God to friend each lonely one of us.
As touch not in the sack two grains of seed,
Touch no two hearts in great worlds populous.
Outside the making God we cannot meet.
Him he has made our brother; homeward, thus,
To find our kin we first must turn our wandering feet.

It must be possible that the soul made
Should absolutely meet the soul that makes;
Then, in that bearing soul, meet every other
There also born, each sister and each brother.
Lord, till I meet thee thus, life is delayed;
I am not I until that morning breaks,
Not I until my consciousness eternal wakes.


Go, my beloved children, live your life.
Wounded, faint, bleeding, never yield the strife.
Stunned, fallen-awake, arise, and fight again.
Before you victory stands with shining train
Of hopes not credible until they are.
Beyond morass and mountain swells the star
Of perfect love--the home of longing heart and brain.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Purpose-Driven Light (The Gospel According to Isaiah, Part 4)

"Then said I, 'Here am I! Send me.'" Is. 6:8

It is not that we are just saved from damnation, though God knows that would be bounty enough. We have not simply been granted a free pass on Hell. What has also happened is a transformation: we have been made new, refashioned into a completely new creature. That is why salvation has sometimes been called "conversion". We often think of conversion as an intellectual realignment, but (if you remember your science books) it is actually more like a fundamental realignment. The very substance of our being has changed, and subsequently our desires and direction change. We have been set on a new path, given a new journey and new destination. I say "new" journey and destination, but it is really the old journey and destination: the journey of mankind walking with God deeper and deeper into God. Communion with God was our original purpose, a purpose lost and refound. It is only "new" to those of us who happen to be walking around at the moment.

The point cannot be stressed enough: in Christ we new life, not just a spot in heaven. That is the great truth of salvation: If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things have become new. We are crucified with Christ, and yet we live; yet not us, but Christ who lives in us. And the life we now live in the body we live by faith in the Son of God. God has delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Now we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that we should show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. In times past we were not a people, but we are now the people of God; and because He who called us is holy, so we ought to be holy in all manner of living. For He died for us all that we who live should not henceforth live unto ourselves but unto Him who died for us and rose again.

Now our life is hid with Christ in God, and we are the temple of the living God, as God has said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Therefore we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, being not conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may discern what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that we might have life and life more abundantly. And herein is eternal life: that we might know Him, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:13; I Pet. 1:15, 2:9-10; II Cor. 5:15; Col. 3:3; II Cor. 6:16; Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 2:10; John 10:10, 17:3).

Christianity was never about fire escapes, and Jesus is so much more than a bus pass out of Hell. We have not just been called out of darkness, but also in to light. A living Light, full of purpose, and we are one with that purpose. We who are saved and being saved have a call, a commission, a meaning radically different from the ways of the world, for life ought not and cannot be the same once you are known of God.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Purging Touch (The Gospel According to Isaiah, Part 3)

"Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from off the altar. And he laid it upon my mouth and said, 'Lo, this has touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged.'" Is. 6:6-7

Key to the working of salvation is the purging from without. By "without," I do not mean a mere outward or surface cleansing, like a bath. Rather, what I mean is that this cleansing, this purging, is not wrought by us. It is not a product of any act or acts on our part. It is wholly without, i.e., coming from outside of our selves and abilities. Our only action is to acknowledge our need of cleansing and receive it; the cleansing itself is not our doing, for how could it be? Mankind is many things, but one thing it most certainly is not is its own salvation. We have erected many institutions and enacted many initiatives to save ourselves, to purge ourselves of what ills us, but it is no use. The ill lies lower than our reach, to the very fabric of our making. In short, our ill is ourselves, and therein lies our despair: the very apparatus of our activity is what's poisoning us.

If we are to taste of true salvation then we must face the truth: Cursed is the man that trusts in man, for the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? The Lord searches the heart and tries the innermost being. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed. Save me, and I shall be saved. In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed. Deliver me in Thy righteousness, for there is no other name under heaven given to us whereby we must be saved. Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Scarcely for a righteous man will anyone die. Perhaps for a good man some would dare to die. But God demonstrated His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, by whom we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand. For by grace we are saved through faith. It is not of ourselves: it is the gift of God (Jer. 17:5-14; Ps. 31:1; Acts 4:12; I John 4:10; Rom. 5:1-8; Eph. 2:5-9).

We can we say to these things? We are not our own salvation. The purging touch is from without. The cleansing is from another hand, a mighty hand, the hand of the Mighty Maker. Only He can undo the damage done in our very being. Only He can unpoison the well. There is but one move on the board left to us: to take the coal or refuse it. Whichever way we go is our choice, but the coal is not ours. We did not make it, nor can we offer it to ourselves. We cannot claim ownership or cite precedent. We can only recognize our poverty and desperation, and from that position reach out to receive so great a salvation with trembling, grateful hands.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Desolating Law (The Gospel According to Isaiah, Part 2)

"Then said I, 'Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips! For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.'" Is. 6:5

Herein is the meaning behind those mysterious phrases about how "the letter kills" and works "the ministry of death" (II Cor. 3:6-7). When we catch sight of the Law, of God's holy standard, which is the substance of His quality and character, there can be no other response but despair and desolation. That standard is not simply beyond us; it is completely outside of our categories. We could not even approach such a venture, and all of our tools and plans fall from our hands as useless things. The perfections of God shatter all of our vanities and unravel all of our tightly woven self-delusions, bringing us face to face with the truth: Who then can be saved? There are none righteous. No, not one. There are none that understand. There are none who seek after God. We have all gone astray and become unprofitable. There is none that does good. No, not one. Our end is everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, and we will cry to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us! And hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne!" (Luke 18:26; Rom. 3:10-12; II Thess. 1:9; Rev. 6:16).

If you would find salvation, then there is no way past this dark night of the soul. The horror of great darkness must fall upon you, for your confidences are your failures, and your strengths are your weaknesses. The foundations must be destroyed if new ones are to be laid, and is not God's word "like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces" (Jer. 23:29) and "a sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit" (Heb. 4:12)? Is not the Word Himself like a great stone, and "whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, and on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Matt. 21:42-44)? So you see, destruction and desolation are tied up into the nature of salvation, for we are not in need of rehabilitation but a revolution, a great upheaval of our being, uprooting and unknotting the fabric of our corrupt constitutions so that they made be made new. In short, when we catch sight of the heavenly vision, we are undone. We must be undone, for there can be no beginning of the new if there is not first an end to the old (II Cor. 5:17).

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Heavenly Vision (The Gospel According to Isaiah, Part 1)

"...I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up...." Is. 6:1

No man comes unto God unless He draws him unto Himself by His own revelation and disclosure (John 6:44-45; Rom. 10:14-17); and whereas in the past He revealed Himself by the prophets, to us He is revealed through His Son (Heb. 1:1-3; Col.1:15; John 14:6-7). By the word and the Word we hear and see and know God. This is the only route, the only way home. Salvation does not begin with good deeds or good intentions towards good deeds. It does not begin with preparation on our part but rather revelation on God's part. He opens our eyes to see the truth of Himself, for only that truth can set us free.

And this is His truth: Who is a God like unto Thee? Who pardons iniquity...[and] delights in mercy? [He is] merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin [but] will by no means clear the guilty. Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so [that] iniquity shall not be your ruin, for God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Come now and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. For He is a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness (Micah 7:18; Ex. 34:6-7; Ezek. 18:30-32; Is. 1:18; Jonah 4:2).

Salvation does not begin with us, nor does it come from us, for cursed is the man who trusts in man; rather, salvation comes from without, from beyond, from the Lord most holy, for blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord (Jer.17:5-8). We could never know this truth, these truths of God, on our own. The religions of men are full of retribution and legalism, and retributive and legalistic gods. It is based solely on the worldly-wise system of the merits of the adherents. Such things can only degraded into the oppression of the Pharisee or the skepticism of the Sadducee. It takes a revelation, a heavenly vision, a single gleam from the Empyrean Prime, to awaken our senses and clear out the dust and darkness. We have a revelation. We have the Word who came, and the word that has been "written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and by believing you might have life through His name" (John 20:31).

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Hymn of Trees (poetry by an orthdoox rebel)

And now a return to calmer waters, as well as a return to something I haven't posted for a while. Enjoy.

I see shaggy cypress, hard-hided oak,
Smooth-skinned maple, silver or red,
With timid poplar resting in between.

Leaves folded over one-by-one,
Laying like coats of emerald armor,
Rattling their scales and sabres
As the wind winds through them
Like threaded needle through a cloth.

The fabric of forestry, woven tightly together
By the unseen force and feeling
Of the wind.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Contradictions of Liberalism (a practical demonstration and an impractical rant by an orthodox rebel)

First of all, read this article. Read all of it. It is short, sweet, and thoroughly infuriating.

With all due respect to that article's author (who I have no reason to doubt is a fine young woman), and with apologies to my more sensitive readers (and my mother), but that sort of stuff pisses me off. Seriously. I've dealt with it before, and I didn't find it very pleasant or amusing back then either. And now, after all that's happened? It's just even more aggravating.

In response to that article, I want someone to please explain something to me:

Why is it that "conservative Christians" are the only ones who "live in a bubble"? Do liberals not live in bubbles? Bubbles of socialism and skepticism as well as twisted views of "tolerance" and "equality"? Are they incapable of delusions or deceptions? Are they the only free-thinkers and open-minded ones left in the whole world? How can that be? Is not the article itself a close-minded, condescending assertion about conservative Christians?

Why is it that "conservative Christians" are the only ones who work "through fear, discrimination or a movement farther" down the political extreme? Do liberals not incite fear about nasty conservatives and their supposed backward-thinking ideas and inevitable fascist ends? Do they not discriminate against those whom they deem (in their infinite wisdom) to be intolerant bigots? Is not the article itself a discrimination against conservative Christians, and is it not a call to a movement farther left?

And why (someone please tell me WHY?) is it that when "America speaks" it is the Christians who need to "listen"? If Christians are supposed to "be listening to Christ, and the Bible above all else," then why are we supposed to "listen" to America? Since when does a nation, any nation, determine and decided the contours of our Faith? Since when does a culture, any culture, dictate to us what it is to be Christ-like? Did not this same Christ say that His true disciples are those who do the will of His Father (Matt. 12:47-50) and not the will of their current nation/culture?

It's fallacious. Blatantly and ridiculously fallacious. The whole article, the whole line of reasoning, the whole thing is a ludicrous and laughable contradiction, a contradiction wrapped in condescension feigning humility, so that we'll swallow it easier, like a spoonful of sugar helping the arsenic go down. I only ask why they ask me to accept such poison, but I doubt I'll ever receive an adequate answer.

Thank you. Good night.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Passing Political Thoughts on this City of Man (by an orthodox rebel)

So Obama has won, and we get four more years on his crazy train. You know what? I say, "Fine." Even in defeat there was still victory. Four years ago, even with all the hype in the world, Obama only won 53% of the vote. This time? 51% of the vote. He lost ground. His hold on America was weak before and it's weaker now. That is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

And you know what? In two years, we'll get another chance for victory, even if it's small. Congressional elections can change the game just as much as presidential ones can. And you know what else? Two years after that, it's time for another victory: 2016 will be the end of Obama one way or the other.

So listen up everybody: the greatest threat to our country is not Obama, nor Liberalism, Socialism, the Democratic Party, or Obamacare. Our greatest threat is despair, and we cannot and ought not give in to that dark night. America was not built by one president and it will not be destroyed by one president. It was not built in a night and it will not perish in a night. Not as long as good men and women continue to choose to do something about it. As the Brits once put it, "Keep calm and carry on."

"Carry on" is what we must do, and carry on magnificently. Obama's campaign slogan was "Forward". I say we commandeer it for ourselves. Let it sum up our initiative: Forward. Forward into the fray. Into the dark. Into one of the last good fights we'll ever know. The fight for the future of our country. Wage it wisely and with good cheer, for this city of man cannot crumble so easily; and even if it does, the city of God still stands untouched and undimmed before the failures of the world.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Parthian Shot on Glory (from one more Original Orthodox Rebel)

One final post on the premise I laid down here, the following is some thoughts by St. Maximus the Confessor. I find it interesting that Maximus (and Augustine and Symeon) lays foundations not only for the idea of Lewis' notion of "glory" but also for the idea of what Lewis would call "the Great Dance," i.e., the infinite bliss of eternal communion with the triune God.

(The following excerpts can be found in "Ad Thalassium 2" and "Ad Thalassium 22" in The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ.)

God, as He alone knew how, completed the primary principles of creatures and the universal essences of beings once for all [at the Creation]. Yet He is still at work, not only preserving these creatures in their very existence but [also] effecting the formation, progress, and sustenance of the individual parts that are potential within them. Even now in His providence, He is bringing about the assimilation of particulars to universals...[to] make them harmonious and self-moving in relation to one another and to the whole universe. In this way, there shall be no intentional divergence between universals and particulars. Rather, one and the same principle [i.e., communion with God] shall be observable throughout the universe...[and] displaying the grace of God effective to deify the universe. It is on the basis of this grace that the divine Logos, when He became a man, said, "My Father is working even now, and I am working" (John 5:17). The Father approves this work, the Son properly carries it out, and the Holy Spirit essentially completes both the Father's approval of it all and the Son's execution of it, in order that the God in Trinity might be "through all things and in all things" (Eph. 4:6), contemplated as the whole reality proportionately in each individual creature as it is deemed worthy by grace....


Since, therefore, the ages predetermined in God's purpose for the realization of His becoming human [i.e., the Incarnation] have reached their end for us...the other "ages"---those which are to come about for the realization of the mystical and ineffable deification of humanity---must follow henceforth. In these new ages, God "will show the immeasurable riches of His goodness to us" (Eph. 2:7), having completely realized this deification in those who are worthy. For if He has brought to completion His mystical work of becoming human, having become like us in every way save sin...then God will also completely fulfill the goal of His mystical work of deifying humanity in every respect, of course, short of an identity of essence with God; and He will assimilate humanity to Himself and elevate us to a position above all heavens. It is to this exalted position that the natural magnitude of God's grace summons lowly humanity, out of a goodness that is infinite.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Continuing Defense of Glory (from another Original Orthodox Rebel)

Continuing the premise laid down in this post, here is an excerpt from "Hymn 1" of St. Symeon's Hymns of Divine Eros. It not only speaks of the reception into glory awaiting the faithful, but also the rejection by glory that awaits the unbelieving.

[T]hus are those who have stood by God Who glorified them:
they persevere, astounded by the excess of glory
and by the endless addition of divinity's splendor.
For the end will be eternal progress,
the condition of additional, endless fulfillment,
and shall make an attainment of the Unattainable, and God,
of Whom no one can get enough, shall become the source of satisfaction for all.

But the full measure of Him and the glory of His light
will be an abyss of progress and an endless beginning;
and just as those who have Christ transformed within them
stand by Him Who shines unapproachably,
so also the end in them becomes a beginning of glory.
And---in order to make the idea more clear to you---
in the end they shall have a beginning and in the beginning an end.

Understand me: one who is overflowing needs no addition,
and runners do not overtake the end of the infinite.
For if this sky that we see passes away,
as well as the earth and all things in the earth, then seek what I say:
it will be the attainment of the place where you find fulfillment.
This All is filled with the divine divinity

And so those who have a share in Him, those who dwell in Him,
how may they embrace all of Him, and so be satisfied?
How, tell me, would they grasp the end of the endless?
It is impossible and by all means impracticable.
For thus neither for the saints still in the body,
nor for those departed to God
can such a thought at all penetrate them.

For they also are covered by the light of divine glory;
they are enlightened, and they shine,
and they revel in all these things.
And they truly know as though by every certainty
that their perfection shall be endless,
and the progress of their glory shall be everlasting.

I wonder where those who fall away from God stand,
those who stand afar off from Him Who is everywhere?
These also shall certainly be within the All,
but they shall be outside the divine light
and certainly outside of God;
for just like those who do not see when the sun shines,
even if they are illuminated all around,
they finish their lives outside the light.
They are separated from the sun
by perception and contemplation.

So also is the light of the Triune Divivity in the All,
and in the middle of the light the sinners are enclosed in darkness,
not seeing, not having any divine perception at all,
but burning in their conscience,
and being condemned, they shall have unspeakable calamity,
and an unutterable suffering unto eternity.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Defense of Glory (with an excerpt from an Original Orthodox Rebel)

Not too many posts ago, I published an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' essay "The Weight of Glory". One of the things I like about Lewis is the perfect way that he puts things. His wording not only sounds nice but also makes his ideas make sense. Another thing I like about him I discovered recently: he's not original, at least not entirely. Much of his thinking was just a rewording (or "redelivering") of what Christians have believed and taught as orthodox for centuries. As proof, I present this excerpt from St. Augustine's Confessions (viz., XIII.10). This small section is a good representation of one of the key elements on Augustinian thought, i.e., that we can never rest until we rest in God. Such thinking sounds suspiciously like Lewis; or perhaps I should say, Lewis sounds suspiciously like Augustine. You be the judge.

Why is it said of him [i.e., the Holy Spirit] alone that he is "your gift"? [Because] in that gift we find our stability, there we enjoy you yourself. Our stabilization is our peace. So love tumbles us toward it, your Spirit's favoring will drawing our lowliness up from the portals of death. In that favoring will is our peace.

A physical object tends by its weight to find its natural level. It does not tend, necessarily, downward but toward whatever its natural level is. Fire tends up as a stone tends down. Their weight keeps them in motion until they find their own level. Oil poured under water comes to the surface. Water poured out over oil sinks below it. Their weight keeps them in motion until they find their level. Out of their proper place, they are unstable. In their proper place, they are stabilized. The weight moving me is love. By your gift we are kindled and borne upward, we are set afire and we go, we "ascends the heart's ascents" and "sing the climbing song." It is your fire, your fire for good, that burns in us as we go up toward "our peace, which is Jerusalem," since "I take joy from those who told me, We are going to the Lord's house." There your favor will give us our proper place and we shall wish for nothing but "to stay there eternally."