Tag Archives: orthodox spirituality

Solomon’s Porch

“And they were all together in Solomon’s Portch.” –Acts 5:12

Solomon’s Porch was a colonnaded space within the Jewish temple where the early disciples gathered, witnessed many good works among the people, and were in one accord. And, of course, they talked about it all.

Today we gather to talk in many places. Our blog is one corner of the public sqaure where editors of In Communion post commentary on current issues of concern to Orthodox Christians and advocate for good works of healing and peacemaking among the people.

Solomon’s Porch will consider responses to blog posts as separate submissions. Presently, there will be no option for replies to posts.  We will only post what we deem contributes to helpful conversation.

Original posts are made by contributing editors. If you would like to be a Solomon’s Porch contributing editor or know someone you want to recommend, please write to Pieter Dykhorst at [email protected]

Current contributing editors are:

Pieter Dykhorst, editor-in-chief, In Communion

Nicholas Sooy, electronic media editor, In Communion

Jim Forest, editor imeritus, In Communion

Posts about the HGC will continue to appear periodically below under the heading “Posts from Crete during the Holy and Great Council.” Newest posts appear on top.

council logo


Dia-Logos with the cosmos: A Chapter from “Being Bread” by Fr. Stephen Muse, IC70

Dia-Logos with the Cosmos

by Stephen Muse, Ph.D.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him or the son of man that Thou visiteth him?  (Psalm 8:4)

Eternity knows no duration of time but contains in itself the full compass of the centuries. Eternity without space includes in itself all the expanses of the created world. —Archimandrite Sophrony

6 christ-creating Dia Logos

Astronomers recently discovered a planet six hundred light years away from earth with seventy degree temperatures in just the right position from its sun to support life as we know it. A mere six hundred light years is of microscopic proportions in comparison to the estimated size of the known universe, the whole of which may already be infinite. Beyond that we don’t even know if ours is the only universe there is.

A light year is one of those concepts we use as if we know something, yet are totally unable to comprehend what we are saying in any meaningful way that connects with our experience. There are so many such imponderables in our lives that to go about thinking we are in control of anything or that we understand how the universe all fits together is a sure sign of madness.

I was watching an ant careen back and forth over a stone in our walkway. It was moving fast––perhaps fifteen times the distance of its own body in a second. If a six foot man moved fifteen times the length of his own body in one second he would be able to keep up with cars on the highway at speeds over sixty miles per hour.

“Now wait just a darn minute!” you say. “If that were the case, you could hardly even see the ant moving.” Relativity is all about scale and proportion. The ant only looks slow to us because we are giants on a scale logarithmically beyond the world of the ant. It’s not unlike how jets appear as tiny stars blinking in the night sky, barely seeming to move.

Some physicists have recently confirmed that neutrinos, part of the sub-atomic world that comprises the substance of the known universe, have been clocked moving faster than Einstein’s now proverbial speed of light. Think about it, these little wave-particle dualities are flying around in our bodies at speeds we can’t comprehend let alone notice.

Relatively speaking, there is as much distance between the electrons circling the nucleus of an atomic particle as there are between the planets circling the sun. These “clouds of energy” are what constitute the solid molecules that comprise the cells of our bodies. With that much space between the clouds of energy and wave particles racing through our bodies, we shouldn’t even be able to see ourselves. Come to think of it, maybe part of us could make that trip to that new planet discovered only six hundred light years away after all, if only we knew how to switch back and forth from mass to energy like those electrons.

Appearing to stroll about at three miles per hour while spinning round and round, upside-down and right-side-up in a circle at one thousand miles per hour fastened only by gravity to the 24,000 mile circumference of the earth, which is itself orbiting the sun at close to 67,000 miles per hour, in a universe expanding outward at 180,000 miles per hour in our sector alone, is a trick few of us would attempt if we realized what we were doing!

The intricate, complex balance of all these gyrations is miraculous beyond comprehension. Considering that ants are moving at sixty-plus miles per hour under my feet while neutrinos pulverize and X-ray the vast emptiness of my body alternately as both particles and light waves while everything in the universe races toward infinity, I have concerns about how it is I am able to hold it all together from day-to-day.

Most of us are accustomed to operating as the center of our individual universes. We don’t even break a sweat while managing the many spatio-temporal acrobatics of the greater cosmic dance, blissfully unconcerned how strangely empty and isolated we are. Popular religion often masks our awareness of this stunning reality that might otherwise bring us to our knees in awe. If I “believe in Jesus” (on the same scale as believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny), I may conclude that this entitles me to an insurance policy for the afterlife while I continue to live however I want without regard for obeying a larger plan than my own self-satisfaction and individual preservation.

When truly troubled by my inability to live by conscience, I can calm myself by holding forth with something like “substitutionary atonement!” That’s Seminarian-speak for “Jesus took the heat so I don’t have to. God loves everybody. Nuff said?” Such casuistry serves as an excuse to go on unawares, doing whatever I wish without any consistent daily attempts to discover the degree to which self-love rules me instead of a God-centered frame of reference. The real situation is more that we are each flung into life with-out a choice, and then just as we seem to be gaining a foothold, we are yanked out at a moment not of our own choosing and dispossessed of all we have tried to possess in between.

In the publicly shared kingdom of “consensus reality” where reason and materialism are touted as king and queen, it is actually impulsivity driven by pleasure and pain of bodily appetites and the emotionality of likes and dislikes rooted in self-love that hold power. We eat and sleep, marry sometimes and procreate, and invent and accumulate things, all the while taking for granted that the world is pretty much the way we see it and want it to be; and whatever isn’t, is too far away or blessedly unknown to be relevant to our daily lives. But why would the Creator of the universe go to the trouble of placing such tiny, insignificant creatures on such an insignificant planet on the outskirts of the galaxy in a cosmos so gigantic that we’d be afraid we were lost if we weren’t so dazzled by all the toys we have to play with in the meantime? If we live for eighty, ninety, or even a hundred years, it is still less than a nanosecond in cosmic time in comparison to the universe’s fourteen billion years of existence. Are our ordinary daily lives all we really need to be concerned with?

For five thousand years or more, the prophets of Israel, Zoroaster, the sages of the Upanishads, the Buddha, Jalal’udin Rumi, and of course Jesus have borne witness to a world that cannot be seen or comprehended by the narrow-minded “manmade” complacency we live 99.9 % or our lives believing in and conforming too. They all tell us that human life is not merely eating and drinking, marrying, and working. And they say that these cannot be what they are intended to be without recognition of the invisible world in our midst.

When the cosmopolitan, sophisticated, wealthy, and well-educated Nicodemus approached Jesus by night with the opening salvo of “Rabbi we know you are a teacher come from God because of…,” he was presuming to comprehend the mystery of God on earth according to what he already knew, based on lifelong study, reason, and the sense impressions that govern the narrow band of academic and common-sense knowing that constitutes everyday life. Jesus challenged his presumption immediately: “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born from above.” That is, unless they have encountered the Holy Spirit who noetically awakens us to the presence of an uncreated world permeating and giving rise to this one, where God, who is sovereign and source of all life, communicates with the human heart.

The greatest tragedy of our lives is that we reduce our Messenger from beyond the known universe and his prophets to fit within our paltry socially-constructed and democratically agreed upon understandings of the world as we already are familiar with it, rather than seek to encounter the One who alone can lead us out of our present darkness into a love and meaning beyond our wildest comprehension.

Apart from this set of magnitudes, Jesus all too easily morphs into insipid cultural shibboleths, redirecting us back to the comfortable and well worn paths of a civil religion acceptable in the public square. The sharp edges of Truth and the authenticity of dialogue with the Absolute God incarnated as a human being, are removed in order to seem inclusive and avoid offense. Christian faith is reduced to the magic of Disney-belief in a slot-machine deity who passes out tickets to paradise based on legalistic or sentimental adherence to religious slogans repeated by rote without heart, repentance, or obedience.

Or God serves merely as a convenient shape-shifting metaphor for fundamentalist intolerance or touchy-feely “luv” and a political correctness that reaches no higher than the natural emotional bonds of family and species that include those we like, are related to by blood, or with whom we share business transactions, while excluding others who challenge the accumulated power and privilege afforded by being in the world me-first. We are “monomeists” pretending to be monotheists.

In order to do all this without being disturbed by conscience, we console ourselves with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap Grace.” But the Message and the Messenger are far greater than this sort of theological flat-earth perspective. When asked by someone “if only a few would be saved,” Jesus responded by pointing to a difficult truth:

“Strive to enter through the narrow way, because many I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last” (Luke 13:24-30).

This narrow way begins with metanoia––repentance––which is the discovery that as we are, we are not in our right minds. We are not in our right minds because our minds belong in our hearts where grace can affect us beyond mere words and the illusions of comprehension that console us, where it can change our lives. It will take a lifetime of struggle to respond to the Divine Life.

People who have lost their worldly minds from having personally encountered the Messenger and the Message, begin to travel in a different universe, one Jesus called the Kingdom of God. Worldliness is no longer their primary frame of reference. One who considers the reality of an uncreated God who is entirely separate from human consciousness, in whose image we are made yet who is closer to us than our breath, awakens to and gains interest in and response-ability to someone greater than ourselves, someone who loves the whole of creation’s riot of diversity expressing the joy and solidarity of the Creator with beings of all colors, shapes, and sizes. One who is seized by this kind of wonder and humility begins a new vocation!

There is a Buddhist saying to the effect that it is rarer to be born a human being than for a turtle swimming in the great ocean, surfacing once every five hundred years, to surface with its neck in a single ring floating on the surface of the water. Perhaps so. I suspect this is true. What a responsibility! Unlike Descartes, I do not take for granted that “I am” simply because I appear to think or move or breathe or make money, write a book, run a company, complete a university degree, have a baby, or do any other number of things that appear to be mine in the small localized scheme of things. The fact is we can be more certain of the existence of God than of our own. How then to be responsive to the purpose of God for human life on earth and for my life in particular? What am I here for? What is the aim of my life?

These kinds of questions begin to irritate (or depress) a lot of people if they have to consider them for longer than a brief moment. As entertainment they suffice. Like the ancient Athenians observed by the Apostle Paul two thousand years ago, every-body likes the latest news for its entertainment value, but as a real moral problem to be considered over a lifetime with the seriousness that Einstein considered unified field theory or Jesus pondered over Jerusalem, it is another matter. To consider the reality of God beyond and separate from my own consciousness starts to open up those uncomfortable questions of obedience and response-ability again.

Sustain these questions long enough and they begin to reveal a hidden world that cannot be known apart from repentance, ascetical struggle, prayer, worship, and the humility that comes from being dethroned from the center of the universe. Thankfully, what disturbs our paltry “self-esteem” is also what opens the door to the Great Mystery where the journey begins. It is a path that can only be walked by those who have discovered they are paralyzed by complacency and surfeit, can only be seen by those who have discovered they are blind to the uncreated world, can only be heard by those who are deaf to counterfeit worldly ways, can only be begun by those willing to leave behind attachment to what is past at the first hint of invitation from the One to whom the path leads in the present moment.

Once having crossed this threshold, when the forces of resistance question me, as to who it is that is putting me up to all this—creating these questions and disturbing the status quo, revealing to me that I am in the world but not of it, I shall be very careful with my reply and, like Moses, when I refer to “I AM WHO I AM,” at least I will know that it is not me that I’m talking about.  IC

Environment Page

christanimalsThis is a shortened version of a text written by sisters at Annunciation Monastery at Ormylia in Greece, a monastery re-introducing organic farming methods in a region badly damaged by agricultural pesticides. The booklet includes a message from the former Patriarch of Constamntinople, Dimitrios. and details about the project being launched at Ormylia. It is available without charge from World Wide Fund for Nature, Ave. du Mont Blanc, 1196 Gland, Switzerland. The icon — part of sequence on the seven days of creation — is a mosaic at the cathedral of Monreal, Sicily. More

Holy Disobedience

Holy Disobedience: Resistance to Secular and Ecclesiastical Authority

by A. Edward Siecienski

St. Peter being released from Jail
St. Peter being released from Jail

Christian history, particularly the patristic period, is populated with heroes of the Faith and Saints who found themselves at odds with both secular and ecclesiastical authority. These heroes and saints, in order to protect the Orthodox faith, disobeyed the biblical injunction to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men” (1 Peter 2:13).

As a historical phenomenon, this intriguing reality presents a rather troubling precedent for Orthodox Christians––can an individual simply ignore secular and ecclesiastical authority whenever one thinks it right? What would then prevent Christians from challenging Church or State at every turn, claiming that they are simply following the examples of Saints Athanasius, Ambrose, Maximus the Confessor, and Mark of Ephesus? St. Paul had written that “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) and Ignatius of Antioch had once claimed “that we should regard the bishop as the Lord Himself,” and yet across the centuries, we find examples of Orthodox who followed the way of disobedience rather than obedience.

Christians have disobeyed individuals when they believed them to be, for one reason or another, illegitimate authorities––e.g., popes whose claims to universal jurisdiction were never recognized, bishops who were uncanonically elected, emperors who illegally seized the throne. Here, we will look at “holy disobedience” within the Orthodox tradition to those recognized, even by the disobedient themselves, as the legitimate secular or ecclesiastical authority that would, under normal conditions, require obedience. Perhaps we may discover what wisdom history offers Christians today as they face certain challenges in dealing with secular or ecclesiastical authority.

Any discussion of holy disobedience must begin with the Scriptures and the precedent set by the apostles themselves as the early Church began to preach Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord. According to Acts 4, “the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees” brought Peter and John before the “rulers of the people and elders” who commanded them to cease their ministry and desist from speaking in Jesus’ name. Their answer was “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). When the apostles continued to preach and heal in Jesus’ name, they were again arrested and reminded that they had been given “strict orders not to teach in this name.” Peter, speaking for the group, simply replied “We must obey God rather than human beings” (Acts 5:29), establishing a principle for dealing with authorities, both secular and religious, that would be invoked throughout the centuries.

Paul, the very man who enjoined Christians to obedience in Romans 13:1-7, seems to have had a very prickly relationship with those in authority in the Church, particularly with the “so-called pillars” James, John, and Peter. Without doubting their legitimacy as “apostles and elders,” Paul never gives them unquestioned obedience, and famously rebukes Peter in Antioch when he believes him to have violated the principles established at the Council of Jerusalem. Paul grounds his own apostolic authority in the call he received from Christ on the road to Damascus, believing this pedigree equal to (or beyond) anything claimed by the others. Therefore even if one claiming to be among the super apostles preaches a Jesus “other than the Jesus we preached” (2 Corinthians 11:4-5), Paul is clear he must be rejected.

Despite Paul’s clear call for obedience, the Church’s relation to the state during the apostolic period remained a complicated affair. Beginning in 64 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Nero, Christians in Rome found themselves persecuted for their beliefs and blamed for the great fire that had consumed the city. For the next 250 years sporadic and localized persecution of Christians occurred throughout the empire, culminating in the great imperial persecutions of Decius (249-251) and Diocletian (303-305). Having long been accused of disloyalty to the state, Christians were now asked to prove their allegiance by offering sacrifices for the safety of the empire. Most Christians were normally quite happy to oblige with obedience to imperial authority; however in demanding that believers offer sacrifices to the gods, the state had gone beyond what could legitimately be expected and Christians now found themselves duty bound to resist. According to Hugo Rahner, this refusal “had its roots in the Christian’s response to the invitation to the kingdom where the Messiah would reign in peace and justice, making it impossible to fall under the total control of a despotic state.” Simply put, Christians were first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God, and it was to this kingdom that their primary allegiance belonged. Because citizenship here was both “temporary and secondary,” all of its demands had to be weighed against the chief obligation of Christian discipleship. Provided that the state did not attempt to overstep its proper bounds by asking Christians to betray their true king, the Church could give it everything it wanted. According to Tertullian, the emperor was owed prayers and was deserving of the greatest respect, for as a man he is second only to God, protected by God, and therefore inferior only to God”; however, according to Hippolytus, when the emperor claims a level of authority that belongs to God alone, the Christian must imitate the example of Daniel and follow the decrees of God rather than those of the king, even if it may literally put him in the lion’s den.

But things changed following the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 when the Empire itself ceased persecuting the Church and began instead to patronize it. Constantine the Great, who presumed the traditional right of the emperor to regulate religious matters, not only granted Christians freedom to worship within the empire, but quickly made them the preferred sect. As Pontifex Maximus, Constantine was seen by Christians not only as the divinely appointed patron and protector of the Church, but as its visible head whose commands echoed the will of God himself. For the most part, the Church embraced this new state of affairs and the symphonia established between the empire and the Church. However, following the Council of Nicea in 325, certain figures began to reassess this relationship as Constantine and his heirs began diluting Nicene orthodoxy in the name of religious harmony. This was certainly the view of Athanasius of Alexandria, whose staunch defense of the council led him to reject all compromise with those he deemed Arian. For Constantine religious peace was a good in itself, which is why the emperor made it clear to Athanasius and the Nicene hardliners what they had to do––re-admit Arius and his followers to communion. When Athanasius refused, Constantine issued instructions that were incapable of misinterpretation:

Meantime should anyone, though I deem it most improbable, venture on this occasion to violate my command, and refuse his attendance, a messenger shall be dispatched forthwith to banish that person in virtue of an imperial edict, and to teach him that it does not become him to resist an emperor’s decrees when issued in defense of truth.

And yet despite all of the honorifics he heaped upon Constantine and his children (e.g. “most religious,” “most blessed”), Athanasius would not obey him, believing not only in the truth of the Nicene position, but also in the right of the bishops who spoke the truth to minister free of imperial interference. He wrote to the clergy, instructing them that if

you are quite unexpectedly replaced by order of the civil authorities as you presided blamelessly in your churches in union with your people…justice demands that you show your disapproval, for if you remain silent in a short time this evil will spread to all the churches.

Athanasius was not alone in condemning imperial religious policy or in urging others to resist it. Pope Julius in the West also bemoaned the fact that “the decisions of the Church are no longer according to the gospels but tend only to banishment and death.” He wrote to the Bishops of the East asking them to

denounce in writing those persons who attempt [such things], so that the Churches may no longer be afflicted thus, nor any bishop or presbyter be treated with insult, nor anyone be compelled to act contrary to his judgment…lest we become a laughing stock among the heathen and, above all, excite the wrath of God.”

When, in 353, Pope Liberius was asked to support the condemnation of Athanasius at the Synod of Arles, he refused, claiming that “I would prefer death for God’s sake rather than appear a traitor and give my consent to a judgment contrary to the Gospel.” Once more the choice appeared to be obedience to the emperor or obedience to the gospel, and the Church was forced to define for the emperor the limits of his authority and the Christian’s ultimate allegiance. Athanasius’ supporters “used great boldness of speech against him [Emperor Constantius], teaching him that the kingdom was not his, but God’s…, and they threatened him with the day of judgment and warned him against infringing Ecclesiastical order and mingling Roman sovereignty with the Constitution of the Church.” Constantius meanwhile took the traditional Roman view that the emperor had both the power and duty to regulate religious matters, maintaining that the imperial will effectively ruled the Church.” Yet not everyone was convinced by his arguments. Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari wrote to the emperor to remind him that “despite all your cruelty, you lie helpless under the feet of God’s servants, and all your imperial pomp is for us nothing. For us, you are, with all your authority, only a passing breeze.”

This same line of thinking is evident in writings of Ambrose of Milan, whose challenge to Emperor Theodosius following the massacre at Thessalonica has become almost ecclesial legend. After a charioteer was arrested for an attempted rape on a slave, the local populace revolted, killing several officials. In a fit of rage, Theodosius ordered an army unit to punish the citizens of Thessalonica. Their action resulted in the deaths of possibly seven thousand men, women, and children. In a showdown that proved to be a watershed moment in Church/State relations, Ambrose denied Theodosius communion, refusing to even serve the liturgy in his presence at all, and courageously checked Theodosius at the Church door, refusing him entry. In a letter to Theodosius, Ambrose was clear that his allegiance to God was elevated above any love, respect, or civic duty he had toward the emperor (in fact, his pastoral duty to Theodosius, an Orthodox Christian, also constrained him):

I dare not offer the sacrifice if you intend to be present. Is that which is not allowed after shedding the blood of one innocent person, allowed after shedding the blood of many? I do not think so….I have been warned, not by man, nor through man, but plainly by Himself that this is forbidden me.

St. Ambrose barring Theodosius from the Milan Cathedral. Painting by Anthony van Dyck, 1620
St. Ambrose barring Theodosius from the Milan Cathedral. Painting by Anthony van Dyck, 1620

Ambrose had other similar contests with Theodosius. He was clear that as a subject he owed  Theodosius obedience, yet he was bound to speak out “in obedience to God…and the desire to preserve your well-being…for who will dare tell the truth if the bishop does not?” As he put it plainly elsewhere,

we pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Tribute is due to Caesar, we do not deny it. The Church belongs to God, therefore it ought not to be assigned to Caesar. For the temple of God cannot be Caesar’s by right. That this is said with respectful feeling for the Emperor, no one can deny. For what is more full of respect than that the Emperor should be called the son of the Church. As it is said, it is said without sin, since it is said with the divine favor. For the Emperor is within the Church, not above it. For a good emperor seeks the aid of the Church and does not refuse it.

During the monothelite crisis of the sixth and seventh centuries, with Christianity still divided over reception of Chalcedon, the imperial desire for religious peace once again brought the saints into conflict with the emperors. Pope Martin I of Rome and Maximus the Confessor joined forces to battle both the Ekthesis of Heraclius (638) and the Typos of Constans II (648), which to them represented a form of “creeping monophysitism” that diluted the truth of the Council. Pope Martin was later arrested and taken to Constantinople, where after being defrocked and humiliated he was sent into exile, dying shortly thereafter in 655. Maximus the Confessor was also brought East and put on trial, where he maintained not only his orthodoxy, but the proper place of the emperor vis-à-vis the Church:

No emperor was able to persuade the fathers who speak of God to be reconciled with the heretics of their times by means of equivocal expressions…[You ask] “Is the Christian emperor also a priest?” [I say] no, he isn’t, because he neither stands beside the altar…nor does he baptize, nor perform the rite of anointing, nor does he ordain and make bishops…nor does he wear the symbols of priesthood, the pallium and the gospel book…During the anaphora at the holy table…the emperors are remembered with the laity…after all the clergy.

Centuries later the Church was again confronted with imperial intervention in Church matters, as the Emperors Leo IV and Constantine V began their campaign against the icons. This time it was John of Damascus who came to the Church’s defense, claiming that there had been a “piratical attack” on the Church, with bishops being exiled or killed and replaced with imperial lackeys. Once again, as with Constantius, Theodosius, and Constans II, the emperors had forgotten their place and failed to remember that

it is not for emperors to legislate for the Church…, for emperors did not speak the word to us, but apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers…. Political good order is the concern of emperors, the ecclesiastical constitution that of pastors and teachers…. We submit to you, O Emperor, in the matters of this life, taxes, revenues, commercial dues, in which our concerns are entrusted to you. For the ecclesiastical constitution we have pastors who speak to us the word and represent ecclesiastical ordinance.

As problematic as the Church-State relationship has been for Christians, the question of (dis-)obedience to ecclesiastical authority is more complicated, and thus far more vexing. Certainly there are more than a few examples, especially in the writings of the desert fathers and early monastics, of the need for obedience to one’s spiritual superiors. The Rule of Benedict clearly states that “obedience given to superiors is given to God.” According to John Cassian,

the monks rank obedience not only above manual labor, but over reading, silence, the peace of the cell, even before all virtues; they consider all things to take second place to this, and are happy to undergo any inconvenience if only they can show they have in no way infringed this one good thing.

Given this stress on monastic obedience, one might then find it puzzling that historically monks have been at odds with ecclesiastical authorities in so many different times and places. For example, Maximus the Confessor refused during his trial to commune with the hierarchy in Constantinople, believing them to be heretics condemned by the Romans and the Lateran Synod. His accusers then asked him: “But what if the Romans should come to terms with the Byzantines, what will you do?” He answered: “The Holy Spirit, through the apostle, condemns even angels who innovate in some way contrary to what is preached. Simply put, Maximus knew that in the matter of Christ’s wills he was right and the hierarchy was wrong, and he would rather die “than have on my conscience the worry that in some way or other I have suffered a lapse with regard to belief in God.”

St. Maximos before the Emperor
St. Maximos before the Emperor

In the eighth century, during the iconoclastic controversy, imperial pressure on the iconodules was supplemented by the decrees of the iconoclast hierarchy, who gathered in (an alleged) ecumenical council at Hierea in 754, and formally ruled against the icons. Despite the absence of all five patriarchs, 338 bishops, led by Theodosius of Ephesus, participated in the synod, anathematizing all who attempted “to represent the divine image of the Word after the Incarnation…[or] the forms of the Saints in lifeless pictures with material colors.” Having now been endorsed by an ecumenical council, the teachings of the iconoclast bishops became the teaching of the Church, to which religious obedience must be given. And while the emperor could (and did) employ the secular arm against the iconodules, the iconoclasts could now also demand submission to the decisions of an ecumenical council. For this reason monastic communities were told “to subscribe to the definition of our Orthodox synod” for it was not right that “idolaters and worshippers of shadows” should prefer their own view to that of the Church. Simply put, the Church has spoken and its children must obey.

Of course the absence of all five patriarchs made impugning the conciliar legitimacy of Hierea easy for the iconodules, but very often opposition to the iconoclast councils––both at Hierea in 754 and a similar council in 815––took a different tactic. Theodore the Studite, for example, called on the monks to engage in “God-pleasing resistance” to the decisions of these synods (as well as the Moechian synod of 809) because despite the veneer of legitimacy, these gatherings lacked an essential component required of all true Church councils––adherence to the canons and to the truth. He wrote that the Church of God

has not permitted anything to be done or said against the established decrees and laws, although many shepherds have in many ways railed against them when they have called great and very numerous councils, and given themselves to put on a show of concern for the canons, while in truth acting against them…. A council does not consist simply in the gathering of bishops and priests, no matter how many there are…. A council occurs when, in the Lord’s name, the canons are thoroughly searched out and maintained…, [for] no authority whatever has been given to bishops for any transgression of a canon. They are simply to follow what has been decreed, and to adhere to those who have gone before.

Thus for Theodore disobedience to the hierarchy was sometimes necessary if one was to be obedient to the canon of truth received from the Fathers, “for we have an injunction from the Apostle himself: If anyone preaches a doctrine, or urges you to do something against what you have received, against what is prescribed by the canons of the catholic and local synods held at various times, he is not to be received, or to be reckoned among the number of the faithful.” Addressing the charge that he was introducing schism, Theodore was adamant that in so much as he had remained a child of the Church and its canons (unlike the false teachers who now claimed authority) it was not he who was the Schismatic. As with Maximus before him, Theodore knew in this matter he was right and the hierarchy was wrong.

Following the disastrous Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Byzantine Empire increasingly found itself threatened by Seljuk advances in the East, losing most of its territory in Asia Minor by the end of the century. Despite the hope entertained by some (e.g., Pope Urban II) that a joint crusade would unite the two halves of Christendom, relations between Latins and Greeks deteriorated throughout the twelfth century as increased contact brought little but enmity. By the Fourth Crusade, mutual hatred boiled over, leading to the vicious sack of Constantinople by the Latins in April of 1204 and the establishment of the Latin Empire under Baldwin of Flanders. And yet, within months of Michael VIII Palaeologus’s recapture of Constantinople in 1261, Michael and many of his heirs were willing to negotiate Church union with Rome in exchange for aid against the Turks.

On two separate occasions, Church union was briefly achieved—at the Council of Lyon in 1274 and the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1439. These were thought to be “ecumenical councils” and are still regarded as such by the Roman Catholic Church. Yet we know today that both Lyons and Florence ultimately failed in their attempts at union and are not considered ecumenical councils by the Orthodox Church. The reason for this, it has often been suggested, is “holy disobedience.”

Roman Catholic historian Joseph Gill, in his monumental history of the Council of Florence, maintained that the sole stumbling block to Florentine union was the stubbornness and disobedience of one man––Mark of Ephesus––and that had Mark been silenced or punished by the emperor for refusing to accept the decisions of this ecumenical council, the history of Christendom might have been different. Gill, most would argue today, appears to overstate the council’s chances for success, yet there is something to be said for the fact that with both the Council of Lyons and the Council of Florence, disobedience to secular and ecclesial authority goes a long way in explaining the failure of these two gatherings.

From the Orthodox perspective, the Council of Lyons can hardly be called either an ecumenical council (since four of five patriarchs were absent) or a reunion council (since there was never any discussion of the theological issues dividing East and West). Indeed, Lyons is better understood as Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus’ personal submission to Rome, the resulting “union” being little more than his attempt to bring the Eastern Church along with him. Michael was keenly aware that union with the Latins had little support among the Byzantines, and in the end, despite the efforts of Michael and eight years of effort by the Patriarch John Beccus, the Union of Lyons never succeeded.

HD 4 st. mark ephesus

The Council of Ferrara-Florence was in many ways far different than the Council of Lyons. Unlike Lyons it could genuinely claim to be ecumenical in so much as the five patriarchs (or their representatives) were present and there was full and free discussion of all the contested issues. For months the two sides went back and forth on purgatory and the filioque––each side only becoming more frustrated by the seeming impasse they had reached. Increasingly, however, members of the Byzantine delegation, men like Isidore of Kiev, Bessarion of Nicea, and George Scholarius, were swayed by the Latins’ arguments. They came to believe that the Latin teaching on the procession of the Holy Spirit was genuinely orthodox, and clearly supported by the fathers, both East and West.

Emperor John VIII Palaeologus, under tremendous pressure from both the pope and unionists within his own ranks, pressed the issue. The leading anti-unionists, men such as Mark Eugenicus of Ephesus and Anthony of Heraclea, were labeled traitors and Judases who were preventing both the unity of Christ’s Church and the salvation of the Great City. But Mark remained unmoved, believing that the Latins’ texts were corrupted and their arguments contrary to the teaching of the fathers.

When a vote on the orthodoxy of the filioque was taken on May 30th, the Latin teaching was rejected by a 17-10 majority––the anti-unionists were still in control. However, it was at this point that holy obedience was invoked. Patriarch Joseph II, now close to death but convinced of the Latins’ orthodoxy, invited members of the delegation for private meetings, reminding them both of their collective theological ignorance and of their debt to him personally:

Why do you not listen to me? Was it not from my cell that you came out? Was it not I who raised you to the rank of bishop? Why then do you betray me? Why did you not second my opinion? Think you, then, that you can judge better than others about dogmas? I know as well as anybody else what the Fathers taught.

Three days later, when a second vote was taken on the orthodoxy of the filioque, the entire delegation (except Mark of Ephesus, Anthony of Heraclea, Dositheus of Monemvasia, and Sophronius of Anchialus) embraced the Latin teaching. When Patriarch Joseph died days later, the Latins were convinced enough of his commitment to union to permit him honorary burial in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, where he remains to this day.

When union was finally proclaimed on July 6th, the one notable absence from the proceedings was Mark of Ephesus, who had refused to sign. In an interview with Pope Eugene shortly afterward he explained his justification for denying obedience to what was now considered by all parties to be an ecumenical gathering:

The councils sentenced those who would not obey the Church and kept opinions contrary to her doctrine. I express not my own opinions, I introduce nothing new…, neither do I defend any errors. But I steadfastly preserve the doctrine which the Church, having received from Christ the Savior, has ever kept and keeps.

The pope demanded that Mark be punished, likening him to those who had refused to acknowledge the Council of Nicea. The emperor claimed he had already guaranteed Mark safe passage but assured the pope that steps would be taken to silence Mark unless he subscribed to the union at some point after his return.

By the time the Byzantines arrived back in Constantinople in February of 1440, the signatories had come to reject the union, wishing they too had been disobedient to pope, emperor, patriarch, and council. When the emperor tried to compel the clergy to commune with the unionist Patriarch Metrophanes, the leading anti-unionists left the city to lead the resistance from afar.

Mark of Ephesus spent his remaining years writing against the council, urging Orthodox Christians to run from the unionists “as one runs from snakes…as from those who have sold and bought Christ.” Isidore of Kiev tried to introduce the union in Moscow, entering the city behind a Latin cross with the anti-unionist monk Symeon in chains before him. Within days of including the pope’s name in the dyptichs, Isidore was in prison on charges of heresy. By the time the union was publicly proclaimed in Constantinople in December of 1452, it had already been rejected by the patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. George Gennadius Scholarius, who had urged the Greeks to union at Florence, now became the leading anti-unionist and first patriarch of Constantinople following the fall of the city to the Turks. The union was at an end, and as with Lyons, the Orthodox heroes of the council were those who would not subscribe to it—disobeying both Emperor and Patriarch in the name of the Orthodox faith.

Having examined the phenomenon of resistance to secular and ecclesiastical authority in the Orthodox tradition, one would think that we should be able to construct clear and concise guidelines for when “holy disobedience” is appropriate. Unfortunately, we cannot. In the end it is a matter of conscience whether one obeys or disobeys secular and religious superiors, hoping in either case that ultimately one is doing the will of God. That being said, I do believe there are at least two important principles that emerge from our study which can be used as Orthodox Christians wrestle with issues of obedience/disobedience in the Church today.

First, there exists a primary allegiance of the Christian to the Kingdom of God that relativizes allegiance to the powers of this world. This loyalty to God over all others forces Christians to recognize that occasionally secular authorities make claims upon the conscience that are far beyond their competence. This is particularly the case when secular authority claims for itself the right to rule over properly religious matters, to usurp or “pirate” the power of the Church, or to compel Christians to act in a manner contrary to the gospel of Christ.

Second, despite the importance of ecclesiastical obedience as a religious good, Orthodox history also teaches us that resistance to religious authorities, be they patriarchs, bishops, or councils, may be necessary to protect the faith. This is especially the case when ecclesiastical authorities have been co-opted by the state or when they clearly teach contrary to the ancient faith of the Church. Obedience to the truth of the gospel is the first requirement of the Christian. When, either by their teachings or their actions, Church authorities betray that truth for personal gain or political expediency, “holy disobedience” is entirely appropriate.

These important principles are never easy to apply. It is often hard within the Church to separate prophetic practitioners of holy disobedience from quarrelsome troublemakers or those co-opted to other interests. For centuries, individuals have invoked the examples of Saints Athanasius, Ambrose, Maximus, and Mark of Ephesus to justify their resistance to authority, and not all have been right. And yet, the record suggests that those who are today condemned for their disobedience may, in fact, be the ones remembered as heroes in the years to come.  IC

Edward Siecienski is Associate Professor of Philosophy, Clement and Helen Pappas Professor of Byzantine Civilization and Religion at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. The unedited and fully footnoted article may be found at: http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/item/ac:156404

The Inward Mission of Our Church

IMOOC st-justin-popovich-3

by St. Fr. Justin Popovich

It is very difficult for infinite and eternal life to make its way into the narrow human soul and into the even narrower human body. Held behind bars, the inhabitants of this earth suspiciously stand their ground against anything coming from without. Cast into this prison of time and space they are unable—from atavism or perhaps from inertia—to bear being penetrated by something outlasting time and outlying space, something that is eternal. Such an invasion is considered as aggression and they respond with war. A man, given the fact that he is being corrupted by the “moth” of time, does not like the intrusion of eternity into his life and cannot easily adapt himself to it. He often considers this intrusion sheer unforgivable insolence. At times he might become a hardened rebel against eternity as in its face he perceives his own minuteness; at other times he experiences fierce hatred towards it as he views it through an earthbound and worldly human prism. Plunged bodily into matter, bound by the force of gravity to time and space, his spirit quite divorced from eternity, the world-weary man takes no pleasure in those arduous expeditions towards the eternal. The chasm between time and eternity is quite unbridgeable for him because he lacks the capacity to cross it. Thoroughly besieged by death, he covers with scorn all those who say to him, “Man is immortal; he is eternal.” Immortal in what respect? In his weak body? Eternal in what respect? In his feeble spirit?

In order to be immortal, a person must, at the very core of self, feel himself immortal. For him to be eternal, in the center of self consciousness he must know himself eternal. Without this, both immortality and eternity will be conditions imposed from the outside. And if at one time man did have this sense of immortality and awareness of eternity, it has long ago wasted away under the weight of death. And we learn of this wasting away from the whole mysterious makeup of human beings. Our whole problem lies in how we might rekindle that extinguished feeling and revive the wasted-away awareness. Human beings are not able to do this; it must be done by God, who incarnated His immortal and eternal Self inside man’s self awareness when He was made man and became God-human. Christ incarnate bridged the chasm between time and eternity and restored relations between them, so that in Christ, through his body the Church, man can once more feel himself immortal and know himself eternal.

The ever-living personality of God-human Christ is the Church. The Church’s life, purpose, spirit, plan, and ways are all given in the person of Christ. The mission of the Church is to make every one of her faithful organically one with the Person of Christ. Through the Church, our sense of self is turned into a sense of Christ and our self-knowledge (self-awareness) into Christ-knowledge (Christ-awareness); our life becomes life in Christ and for Christ and our personality becomes personality in Christ and for Christ; and within us begins to live not ourselves but Christ in us (Gal 2:10). The mission of the Church is to form in her members the conviction that human personhood is properly composed of immortality and eternity and that man is a wayfarer wending his way in the sway of mortality and time towards immortality and eternity.

The Church is God-human, eternity incarnated within the boundaries of time and space. She is here in this world, but not of this world (John 18:3), in order to raise it on high where she herself has her origin. The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and the Holy Ghost to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of being and doing. Her ecumenical, all-embracing purpose is beyond nationality to unite all men in Christ without exception to nation or race or social strata. “There is neither Greek nor Jew, their is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28), because “Christ is all, and in all.” The means and methods of this God-human union of all in Christ have been provided by the Church through the holy sacraments and in her God-human works (ascetic exertions, virtues). And so it is that in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the ways of Christ and the means of uniting all people are composed and defined and integrated. Through this mystery man is made organically one with Christ, and with all the virtues of faith, prayer, fasting, love, meekness, and giving alms, a man is consolidated in this union and preserves himself in its sanctity, personally experiencing Christ both as the unity of his personality and as the essence of his union with other members of the body of Christ, the Church.

The Church as the personhood of Christ, is a God-human organism and not a human organization. As Christ is indivisible, so is his body the Church, and it is a fundamental error to divide the God-human organism of the Church into little national organizations. In the course of their procession down through history, many local Churches have limited themselves to nationalism, to national methods and aspirations, ours (Russian) among them. The Church has adapted herself to the people when it should properly be the reverse: the people adapting themselves to the Church. This mistake has been made many times by our Church. But we very well know that these were the “tares” of our Church life, tares which the Lord will not uproot, leaving them rather to grow with the wheat until the time of harvest (Matt. 13, 29-30). We also well know (the Lord so taught us) that these tares have their origin in the devil, our primeval enemy and the enemy of Christ (Matt. 13, 25-28). But we wield this knowledge in vain if it is not transformed into prayer, the prayer that in time to come Christ will safeguard us from becoming the sowers and cultivators of such tares ourselves.

It is time—the twelfth hour—for our Church representatives to cease being nothing but the servants of nationalism and for them to become bishops and priests of the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The mission of the Church, given by Christ and put into practice by the Holy Fathers, is this: that in the soul of our people be planted and cultivated a sense and awareness that every member of the Orthodox Church is a Catholic Person, an eternal person, a person who is God-human and is Christ’s and is therefore a brother to every human being, a ministering servant to all men and all created things. This is the Christ-given objective of the Church. Any other objective is not of Christ but the Antichrist. For our local Church to be the Catholic Church of Christ, this objective must be brought forward continuously among our people. The means of accomplishing this objective are themselves God-human because a God-human objective can be brought about exclusively by God-human means. It is on this point that the Church differs radically from anything which is human or of this earth.

These means are none other than the ascetic exertions and virtues and they can be successfully practiced only by God-human, Christ-bearers. God-human virtues exist in an organic kinship, each having its source in the other as they bring one another to completion.

First among the ascetic virtues is the effort of faith: The souls of our people must constantly pass through this exertion. These souls may then be given up to Christ with no reservations and without compromises, having extended down to the God-human depths and ascended to the God-human heights. It is essential to create in our people the sense that the faith of Christ is a virtue beyond nationhood, is ecumenical, catholic, and trinitarian, and entails believers in Christ waiting on Christ, and only on Christ, with every event of their lives.

The second ascetic virtue is the God-human virtue of prayer and fasting. This virtue must become the way of life of our Orthodox people, the souls of their souls, because prayer and fasting are the all-powerful, Christ-given means of purging not only the human personhood but also society, the people, and the human race at large of every defilement. Prayer and fasting are able to cleanse our people’s souls from our defilements and sinning. The souls of our people must fall in step with the Orthodox life of prayer. Prayer and fasting are not to be performed merely for the individual, or for one people, but for everyone and everything (“in all and for all”), for friends and enemies, for those who persecute us and those who put us to death, because that is how Christians are to be distinguished from the Gentiles.

The third God-human virtue is love, that love which knows no bounds, which does not question who is worthy and who is not but loves them all; loving friends and enemies as well as sinners and evildoers, without however loving their sins and crimes. It blesses the accursed and shines on both the evil and the good as does the sun (Matt. 5: 44-46). This God-human love must be cultivated in our people because its catholic character is what sets it apart from all self-proclaimed and relative loves ––among them the pharisaic, the humanistic, the altruistic, and the nationalistic––and from animal love. The love of Christ is all-embracing love, always. By prayer it is acquired because it is a gift of Christ. The Orthodox heart prays with intensity “Lord of love, this love of Thine for everyone and for all things—give it to me!”

The fourth ascetic virtue is the God-human virtue of meekness and humility. Only he who is meek at heart can appease fierce hearts that are in uproar. Only he who is lowly in heart can humble proud and haughty souls. But a person can show all “meekness unto all men” (Tit. 3:2) only when he turns his heart of hearts into the Lord Jesus who is “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). The soul of the person must be rendered meek by Christ’s meekness. The Lord humbled himself with the greatest humility—he was incarnate and became a man. Should you be of Christ, humble yourself as a worm and embed your flesh in the pain of all who are in pain, of everyone found in sorrow and grief, in the trial of everyone who is impassioned and thus tormented, and in the trauma of every animal and bird. Humble yourself lower than them all and be all things to all men, but be of Christ and according to Christ. When you are by yourself, pray: “O humble Lord, by your humility, humble me! Meek, gentle Lord, assuage my fierce soul!”

The fifth ascetic virtue is the God-human virtue of patience. The patient endure ill-use, do not render evil for evil, and forgive in total compassion all assault, slander, and hurt. To be of Christ is to feel yourself perpetually crucified to the world and persecuted by it, violated and spat upon. The world will not tolerate Christ-bearing men just as it would not tolerate Christ. Martyrdom is the state in which a Christian brings forth fruit. For the Orthodox, martyrdom is purification. Being Christian does not simply mean to bear suffering cheerfully but to pardon in compassion those who cause it and to pray for them as did Christ and the archdeacon Stephen. And so, pray “Long-suffering Lord, give me forbearance, make me magnanimous and meek!”

Our Church’s mission is to infuse these God-human virtues and ascetic exertions into the people’s way of living. For therein lies salvation from the world and from all the soul-destroying, death-dealing, and Godless organizations of the world. In response to the sophisticated atheism and refined cannibalism of contemporary civilization we must give place to those Christ-bearing personalities, who with the meekness of sheep will put down the roused lust of wolves, and with the harmlessness of doves will save the soul of the people from cultural and political putrefaction. We must execute ascetic effort in Christ’s name in response to the cultural exercising which is performed in the name of the decayed and disfigured modern way of being, in the name of atheism, civilization, or various Christless ideologies. The call within our Church today should be to return to the way of the Christ-bearing ascetics and to the Holy Fathers, among them Saints Anthony, Athanasios, Basil, Gregory, Sergios and Seraphim of the Russians, Savva, Prochios, and Gabriel of the Serbs, and others like them because it was the God-human virtues that formed their saintliness. Today only Orthodox ascetic efforts and virtues can bring about sanctity in every soul, for as Christ is the same yesterday, today and unto all ages (Heb 13:8) so is the means by which the Church makes Christians. Whereas the human world is transient and time-bound, that of Christ is ever whole. for evermore.

Orthodoxy will always generate ascetic rebirth. The ascetics are Orthodoxy’s only missionaries. Asceticism is her only missionary school. Orthodoxy is ascetic effort and it is life, and it is thus by effort and by life that her mission is broadcast and brought about. The development of asceticism ought to be the inward mission of our Church amongst our people, and the parish must become the ascetic focal point by prayer and fasting and the liturgical life. The parish community must be regenerated and in Christ-like and brotherly love must minister humbly to Him and to all people. This much is groundwork and indispensable. But to this end there exists a prerequisite––that our bishops, priests, and monks become ascetics themselves. That this might be, then, let us beseech the Lord. IC

Adapted from the article The Inward Mission of Our Church found at

Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment

Loving-Our-Enemies-cover-mediumLoving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest CommandmentJim Forest, Orbis Books, 2014, 160 pp

reviewed by Pieter Dykhorst

Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment may sound like the start of one of those tough theology lessons you want to dodge because you just don’t want to go through the pain of failing the exam. But it isn’t. Jim Forest isn’t a theologian—not in the way most of us think of them anyway—but somethi

ng undeniably of the theological arts resides in good story telling, and Jim is a first rate storyteller. Mixing theology up with stories is like giving medicine with a spoon full of sugar. Loving Our Enemies is filled with stories that make the medicine go down, stories of those who were compelled by Jesus loving them—we all start out his enemies—to begin loving their own enemies.

But Jim doesn’t rely solely on story telling. He clearly understands that “thou shalt” may be the least compelling start to a moral lesson if changing lives is the aim. Each chapter delivers what the book promises—a reflection, a devotion really, on the theme of actively loving our enemies despite how we may feel about them, the obstacles along the way, the hope and joy inherent in the effort, and the promise of potentially converting enemies to friends though there are no guarantees. By the time you finish, you will come to believe—you will have arrived there unawares somewhere in the middle— it is not only right and necessary but possible and desirable to love your enemies.

How does the reader get there? It’s fine to know who our enemies are—Jim defines them all the way down to the the one staring at us each morning in the mirror—and that we should love them, but that’s barely the start. Inspiration or feeling aren’t enough either. The subject isn’t just hard, it’s the hardest, too hard for any of us to accomplish on our own, and Jim knows that. So do we. Conversion, transformation, being made into new creatures for whom the hardest love is possible is what is wanted. This is the aim of the book, and each chapter takes the reader one step closer to going all in.

The essential oil of Christian theology is derived from the stories Jesus told, and by his life, death, and resurrection, he illustrated them, making theology something of a practical art. The reflections of Loving Our Enemies are about the possibility of transformation when knowledge, need, and inspiration move us to choice and action. That is when the anointing oil is applied and change takes place. Loving Our Enemies is about imitating what Jesus did and what many of his followers have been doing till now, and receiving the same grace they did to become new creatures capable of love.

“Making friends of enemies––and making choices not driven by enmity–– happens thanks not only to an inner act of will but still more to the grace we receive from the Holy Spirit. The word grace is often used to describe the transformed state of being that occurs at moments when God enters into our conscious lives. While the obstacles within ourselves often seem impossible to overcome—deeply entrenched boredom, indifference, prejudice, anger and hatred—the wind of grace can suddenly blow away walls that seemed immoveable and impenetrable. We can speak of “graced moments” when we see another person in such a light that we realize that, until that moment, we were blind. We “saw” but in so superficial and limited a way that we were unaware of God’s presence in that other life. The other was more a thing than a person.

“Invariably those graced occasions when God breaks through in us are turning points. We are changed and, even if held captive within the stone walls of a prison, we experience a deep freedom and unspeakable happiness. For the rest of our lives we know that what the French writer Leon Bloy said is true: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”

Ultimately, we don’t need to be convinced we have enemies, we need to know what to do with them. We need strategies, and Loving Our Enemies is about the hardest strategy, the counterintuitive strategy of love, introduced by Jesus to a desperate race wrongly convinced the only way to successfully deal with enemies is to neutralize, defeat, or eliminate them.

The book covers the tools needed for the journey: praying for enemies, confession, acts of mercy, regularly receiving communion, turning the other cheek, and more. All are amply illustrated by the lives of real people—many you’ll recognize, some appear frequently in Jim’s writing, a few might surprise you, and some you’ll likely meet for the first time. In many ways, in fact, Loving Our Enemies is not unlike Jim’s other books, but there is a key difference for me. More than any of his others, this book seems to contain more of the essential oil anointing Jim’s own life—I get the feeling as I read each chapter that I’m reading the words of someone who is beginning to close the circle, that Jim is now telling the lessons from his own life and using others’ stories to illustrate. I find few things more compelling than an old man telling his own story, having put-up as we say, but making me feel like it’s not about him.

The Philokalia: a Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality

41qVC5gNqmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Philokalia: a Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality

Brock Bingaman and Bradley Nassif, eds., Oxford University Press, 2012, 349 pp

reviewed by Pieter Dykhorst

The Philokalia: a Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality is a collection of essays compiled to introduce readers “to the background, motifs, authors, and relevance for contemporary life and thought” of the Philokalia. It is an easy to read work of scholarship that can help make the challenging spiritual insights of the Philokalia more accessible to the average Christian, while also serving as a serious textbook for seminarians.

A work by and for scholars, the book is apparently long overdue on academic shelves. Many readers will be surprised, as I was, to learn that the editors created it while doing their own Philokalic research and discovering that “a large lacuna exists in scholarly literature on the Philokalia.” To begin to fill that gap, Bingaman and Nassif produced an anthology on the “History, Theological implications, and Spiritual Practices of the ” by leading scholars of the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditions. And the list of authors makes compelling bait! The Orthodox among them include Kallistos Ware (who also wrote the introduction), John McGuckin, Andrew Louth, John Chryssavgis, and Bradley Nassif.

The Philokalia: a Classic Text is also an aid for the rest of us. If the Philokalia itself is like a field manual for spiritual boot camp, Bingaman and Nassif’s book is like the Field Manual for Dummies. Anybody familiar with the Dummies series knows that it takes an expert to make a difficult subject easy to read. While the Philokalia is considered by many Orthodox to be an indispensable guide to spiritual growth, it often seems impenetrable to the newly initiated . The essayists in A Classic Text succeed in unpacking the various themes of the Philokalia in a way that invites one in to begin the work of making it personal.

Likewise, nobody would ever take reading about fox holes as a substitute for digging one and spending the night in it. While The Philokalia: a Classic Text should prove to be an enticement to opening up the Philokalia for anyone pursuing Orthodox spiritual growth, there are no shortcuts. Before reading either book, any notions of finishing with an easy certificate in Philokalic studies should be dispensed with.

While exploring themes like the Jesus Prayer, asceticism, theology, and others––those one would expect a book like this to examine––Bingaman and Nassif included essays on more mundane but necessary topics, like the history of the Philokalia, and a few surprising ones as well, like the last chapter: Women in the Philokalia?

Other expected areas are examined through lenses that make fundamental concepts in the Philokalia understandable and useful in a modern context. A chapter by Christopher C. H. Cook, Healing, Psychotherapy, and the Philokalia, looks at “the nature of the pathologies that the Philokalia diagnoses,” what Orthodox call the passions, from the perspective of a mental-health physician. Reading again some of St. Maximos’ texts on virtue and the lengthy list of vices found in Peter of Damascus through the lens of modern psychology only made their insight more relevant to my life in a modern context.

As I read through The Philokalia: a Classic Text, skipping from section to section, I realized I was also, unexpectedly, having fun. I was treating it as if it were not the manual it is but also a travel guide. You’ll see what I mean if you pick it up: the essayists are all familiar with a beautiful place they have visited—“philokalia” means “love of the beautiful”—and write to tell about it. The best travel books don’t simply tell you where to eat, how to catch a cab, or about local customs—they make you want to go and find all those things out for yourself. This book is no different. Its authors seem to know the Philokalia and entice others to get to know it as they do. John Chryssavgis’ insights on Silence, Stillness, and Solitude, something I’m currently exploring, are like photographs from a beautiful land.

For all that, the book isn’t exhaustive, and one is left hoping for a follow-on book. Until then, this book will serve well and word of it should spread quickly as it finds its way into homes and studies.

Removing the Wall Between Mary and Martha

by Mother Raphaela

Vermeer’s painting of Mary and Martha with Christ

Again and again during the year we hear the story of the sisters Mary and Martha being visited by Jesus. While Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching, Martha was busy in the kitchen. Finally she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:38-42)

I’ve always had a hunch that, before the Lord arrived, Mary was right there with Martha getting all the food ready and cleaning the house. Martha’s problem was that she didn’t know how to enjoy her parties. My guess is that Mary was a good hostess, the kind who prepares everything ahead of time so that, when the guests arrive, she can sit down and enjoy them. But Martha was sure her guests needed to be waited on hand and foot. The Lord rightly corrected her.

Martha’s error is one many of us fall into, especially if we are task oriented. In our effort to be perfect, we end up doing things that don’t need to be done. While we may gain the satisfaction of seeing many tasks or projects completed, we may lose companionship along the way.

Because of St. Luke’s story, Mary has come to stand for the contemplative life, while Martha stands for the active life. But when we talk this way, we are taking one small episode in the lives of these sisters out of context, assuming that Martha spent her entire life busy serving while Mary was always listening.

Church tradition tells us that both women went on to be Myrrhbearers. Later, according to ancient local traditions in France and England, they became apostles and evangelists.

We see Martha in a different light in St. John’s Gospel. Here she makes the same confession of faith as Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The Lord had taught her a lesson and she learned it.

We should emulate both women, combining in ourselves both their good qualities. In an early story of desert monasticism, we are told of visitors who came to the monastery but were scandalized when they were asked to help with work. They complained that they had come to pray. So, the story goes, they were given use of a room in which to pray, but were not called when it was time to eat.

It doesn’t take long for humans to discover that they are not quite up to a totally non-material angelic life. St. Paul tells us that those who choose not to work should not eat. On an empty stomach, work begins to look good.

For the healthy and able, there is no such thing as a contemplative life stripped of all activity. Balancing the two is the key to life.

Priests’ wives have often told me that they embraced their marriage not only because they loved the husband, but also because they love God and the Church and were eager to combine married life with a deeper engagement in the liturgical life of the Church. But instead of living this wonderful life of constant Church services and prayer, and perhaps even serving the poor and otherwise helping mankind, they found themselves at home changing diapers, wiping dripping noses, and listening to parishioners’ complaints.

Novices sometimes make similar complaints. We have a farm at our monastery which means hard work. We also have a guest house to clean, meals to prepare, lawns to mow, snow to plow, bills to pay, finances to manage, furnaces and plumbing and roofs that need maintenance – and we must do it all without husbands or children to help. Plus we’re the ones responsible for making sure that services are sung in our chapel on a daily basis, usually without benefit of a priest.

So how do we manage to be contemplative nuns? It’s a problem not very different than that faced by many priests’ wives. How can we be both converted Marys and Marthas, holding together the good qualities of both?

Whatever our calling, we need to be fed with the Word of God in both Scripture and Sacraments, but if that food does not give us the eyes to see and the hands to work and the hearts to love whomever and whatever God wills to send us each day, then something major is missing. Because truly, every Christian vocation requires us to live one day at a time before God, accepting that He allows whatever happens to be for our salvation. This can seem hard.

The spiritual life does not mean spending 24 hours a day in church, but we do have to choose to take the spiritual, mental and physical nourishment we need in God’s providence to live the lives we have chosen. And indeed it is true that “not to decide is to decide.”

This means learning that we have choices about saying “no” to certain things around us. Far too many people seem to feel they have no choice – they “must” watch television, must play computer games, must get their children to every sports or school event, etc. Living such a life, there is indeed no room for prayer, or for time spent together as a family, little or no time for church, no time for learning about the faith and the saints who have gone before us.

Consider not only Mary, the sister of Lazarus, but Mary, the Mother of God. It is in the mother of Jesus that we find our best example of becoming a Christian. In St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation, after hearing the news from the Archangel Gabriel that she would be the Mother of God, Mary’s response was to go to stay with her cousin Elizabeth, then in her sixth month of pregnancy. She stayed three months, no doubt helping out until John was born.

Beneath all the glowing poetry the Orthodox Church has heaped upon the Theotokos is a sober and practical veneration for her. She is so important in the Church because her created humanity received the uncreated fullness of God.

At the Council of Ephesus, St. Cyril of Alexandria fought for her title, Theotokos, in order to make sure that the Church would never forget that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, was born as a human infant to a fully human mother.

This may not seem so important an issue in our time, but earlier generations found it hard to accept that God could walk on this earth as a human person.

We still have a touch of this. We have one way of relating to the “real world” and another way of being when we shift into a “religious” mode. Being able to weave it all together, to see Mary as both a wife and mother whose feet were planted firmly on the ground, and at the same time to realize that she brought God into the world – that her womb became “more spacious than the heavens;” this really is a stretch for us, perhaps even more than for our ancestors.

As she always has been since the day she met the Archangel Gabriel, Mary is the way to God for us. In her own person, she combines the two “Mary and Martha” vocations of contemplation and activity. It is crucial to have a healthy relationship with her as our spiritual mother.

With Mary, we realize that God needs women. He set up His creation in such a way that He could not enter it as a man without a woman. When one tries to throw Mary out, as so many Protestants have done, we may get the impression of a God who can do just fine without women.

Even in the Orthodox Church we find people who have this attitude. It can lead, for example, to those who think the Church needs only spiritual fathers and that everything is about power. If they are the ones with that power, they should rule the Church, and if they do not have that power, they should challenge those who do.

It may never even occur to such people that women (and often lay men as well) can and should be taken into account and be given more to do than show up for services, bake pieroghis or baklava, clean the church, give money, organize parish festivals, and repair cassocks.

Provided women continue to be mothers, spiritual motherhood is a reality that is urgently needed in the Church. Women can also be excellent administrators, task completers, etc.

Whether men or women, we all need to become saints: While monks in this country are frequently named after American saints, we can’t do the same for our nuns. Sadly, there are as yet no recognized female American saints.

Many of the so-called (and sometimes rightly so-called) “oppressive patriarchal attitudes” in the Church are in fact relatively late developments in Orthodox culture. Historically, widows and deaconesses had official ministries in the Church for hundreds of years.

We nuns who serve at the altar in our own chapels and do some teaching are the remnants of part of that ancient practice. St. Elizabeth, the New Martyr of Russia, consciously revived the aspect of the serving diaconate when she founded her order of deaconnesses in the early 20th century. We also see an example of this in the life of another modern martyr, St. Maria (Skobtsova) of Paris.

A deaconess is different from a deacon. I am not advocating that we women be ordained as clergy. That is another issue. I will say, however, that I think the desire that some express to have women priests in the Orthodox Church comes in part from the vacuum created by the exclusion of women from legitimate ministries.

Mary and Martha, as the women they became, provide a strong corrective to many of our misshapen ideas and impressions. Both sisters were not averse to serving as handmaidens. Both were also women of faith. Both stand in prayer with the Theotokos and share in the same glory and honor of the Queen of all creation.

All of us are called to serve, as St. Paul puts it in his letter to the Ephesians: “He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (Eph 4:10-13).

In the light of our varied callings to prayer and service in both the Church and the world, let us seek Mary, the Mother of Jesus, together with the sisters Mary and Martha of Bethany. These three women continue to be here with us as strong, active and praying presences, challenging our view of ourselves as well as our view of them and of our God.

Mother Raphaela Wilkinson is abbess of the Community of the Holy Myrrhbearers in Otego, New York. Her books include Living in Christ and Growing in Christ: Shaped in His Image, both from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. She is also a member of the advisory board of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

From the Pascha / Spring 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 49

Confronting Poverty and Stigmatization: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective

John D. Jones [1]

Department of Philosophy, Marquette University

Would you see His altar also?…This altar is composed of the very members of Christ, and the body of the Lord becomes an altar. This altar is more venerable even than the one which we now use. For it is …but a stone by nature; but become holy because it receives Christ’s Body: but that altar is holy because it is itself Christ’s Body….[which] you may see lying everywhere, in the alleys and in the market places, and you may sacrifice upon it anytime…When then you see a poor believer, believe that you are beholding an altar. When you see this one as a beggar, do not only refrain from insulting him, but actually give him honor, and if you witness someone else insulting him, stop him; prevent it.[2]

[Vagrants are the] “vast heap of social refuse – the mere human street sweepings – the great living mixen that is destined, as soon as spring returns, to be strewn far and near over the land, and serve as manure for the future crime crop of the country.”[3]

The ‘problem of poverty’ has been, and is today, defined primarily in terms of the moral values of work. Those who fail to support themselves or their families through work…without a socially approved excuse at a socially approved job…are defined as deviant….Moral degradation of the poor is used as a negative symbol to reinforce the work ethic. [4]

In developing a Christian, and in particular an Orthodox Christian, engagement with or response to poverty, one might expect to begin with poverty in its ordinary sense as an economic category.[5] Naturally, one would try to clarify what is meant by poverty: no small task given conflicting conceptual models of poverty such as inequality, absolute deprivation, relative deprivation, lack of money, etc. Moreover, to complicate matters, some notions of economic poverty can be analogically extended to other forms of deprivation so that we can talk about social or political poverty.[6] One would, of course, consider the teachings of Christ, Holy Scripture, and the Fathers concerning poverty and, hence, one would be lead to the broader issue of our relations to wealth among ourselves and with reference to God. In so doing, we would expand the notion of poverty to characterize both our general ontological dependence upon God and our nature as corrupted by sin. One would also develop a variety of spiritual or religious conceptions of poverty – poverty of spirit, renunciation of possessions, etc. – that bear more or less analogous notions to everyday conceptions of poverty. Moreover, one would at some point have to deal with a fundamental Christian ambivalence toward everyday life: an engagement with everyday life in which poverty is an evil and an ascetic renunciation of this life in which poverty is a good.[7]

In the Orthodox Christian faith, all such concerns are ordered toward our participation in the life of the Trinity, that is, the transfiguration and deification of human life both now and in the next life. To be sure, this transfiguration and deification is utterly dependent on God’s grace; but it also requires our cooperation (synergy) grounded in a recognition of all humans as icons of Christ.[8] Accordingly, we are led to consider the special manner in which Christ is present in the poor. So St. Maria Skobtsova “told her collaborators that all their charitable activities should be guided by the conviction that the human person ‘is God’s image and likeness, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the incorruptible icon of God.'”[9] This insistence on what is often called the ‘dignity’ of the poor is important given the widespread human tendency to denigrate and stigmatize the poor. Joel Handler has shown quite decisively how American public policy toward the poor is driven by the invidious distinction between the ‘reputable’ and ‘disreputable’ poor.[10] A cross-cultural study of poverty by Deepa Narayan showed widespread complaints by the poor concerning the humiliation, shame and denigration to which they are subjected, even by those who ostensibly acted to help them.[11]

It is this matter – the stigmatization of poverty and stigmatization in general – that I want to make a starting point for considering an Orthodox Christian engagement with poverty. The stigmatization of poverty is closely connected with the psycho-social dynamics of stigmatization in general.[12] While stigmatization itself is not necessarily associated with poverty in its social/economic sense, it constitutes its own form of poverty since, as we shall see, those who are stigmatized are imputed to be impoverished, that is, fundamentally defective, as persons. The stigmatization of economically poor people as such exacerbates and intensifies the suffering to which they are subjected. The stigmatization of economically poor people on account of conditions conceptually unrelated to poverty – such as mental illness, AIDS, addiction, or physical disability – likewise intensify and exacerbate their suffering as poor. Conversely, protest against the unjust evil that stigmatization imposes on people who might not be not poor also, and for the same reasons, entails protest against the stigmatization of the poor.

Stigmatization raises a host of existential and spiritual issues not just about the poor but about those who stigmatize them. Although not labeled as such, the discussion of this stigma is central to St. Gregory (Nazianzus) the Theologian’s Oration 14, “On the Love of the Poor.”[13] It also plays a central role in St. Gregory of Nyssa’s sermon, “On the Saying, ‘Whoever Has Done It to One of These Has Done It to Me.'”[14]

The oration “On the Love of the Poor” begins with a review of various Christian virtues and concludes that of all the virtues,

following Paul and Christ himself, we must regard charity (agap) as the first and greatest of the Commandments, since it is the sum of the Law and the prophets; and its most vital (kratiston) part I find is love of the poor (philoptchia), along with compassion and sympathy for our fellow man. (sec. 5)[15]

St. Gregory then delineates various forms of poverty (ptcheia) with leprosy specified as its most extreme form. In delineating the suffering that accompanies these various forms of poverty, he notes the worst is experienced by the lepers, a condition such “that most people cannot stand to be near them, or even to look at them, but avoid them, are nauseated by them, and regard them as abominations so to speak. This is heavier for them to bear than their ailment when they perceive that they are hated because of their misfortune (sec. 9).” The ‘poverty’ to which the lepers are subjected is not simply ‘economic.’ It is constituted by a radical disaffiliation and marginalization from their social world that is grounded in their denigration and stigmatization.[16]

A particularly vivid passage from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath illustrates the underlying logic of stigmatization. What follows is the conversation between two gas station attendants who have just sold fuel to the Joads after their entry into California:

“Jesus, what a hard looking outfit!” “Them Okies? They’re all hard-lookin.” “Jesus, I’d hate to start out in a jalopy like that.” “Well, you and me got sense. Them goddamn Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain’t human. A human being wouldn’t live like they do. A human being couldn’t stand it to be so dirty and miserable. They ain’t a hell of a lot better than gorillas.”[17]

In brief, the ‘Okies’ for these two attendants, like lepers for those who stigmatize them, ‘are more like animals than humans.’ This formulation constitutes the core of stigmatization: to see this, one need only consider the language and visceral reactions of racists, xenophobes, and misogynists among others.

Stigmatization, it should be noted, is not simply a matter of stereotyping. The latter essentially consists of hasty generalizations about the members of a group. Stereotypes need not be negative and typically they are not accompanied by the hostile, visceral rejection that is connected with stigmatization. Nor is stigmatization a matter of ‘marking.'[18] In this latter case, we take note of a condition such as blindness, tuberculoses, or poverty, which we judge may be an obstacle in some determinate situation. We do this when we make special accommodations for a blind person to participate in some activity, to provide appropriate quarantine for someone with tuberculosis, etc. We legitimately engage in ‘marking’ as a part of our daily activities. We may not always be correct in marking individuals – we may mistakenly make unneeded accommodations for a blind person – but we certainly do not denigrate people simply in ‘marking’ them.

Stigmatization is qualitatively different from both stereotyping and ‘marking’:

It is the dramatic essence of the stigmatizing process that a label marking the deviant status is applied and this marking process typically has devastating consequences for emotions, thought, and behavior. Many words have been applied to the resulting status of the deviant person. He or she is flawed, blemished, discredited, spoiled or stigmatized. In the classic case, the mark or sign of deviance imitates a drastic inference process that engulfs impressions of the deviant target person and sets up barriers to interaction and intimacy.[19]

Stigmatization arises when people are so ‘overwhelmed’ by encountering certain conditions, that they are repelled by those who are subjected to those conditions.[20] An acquaintance of mine who could not bear to be near people in wheelchairs betrayed his underlying anxiety by remarking, “I’d rather be dead than confined to a wheelchair.” We stigmatize various conditions because they fundamentally imperil us. We take them to be death-dealing.[21] We believe that to be subjected to these conditions would irrevocably ruin our lives and strip them of significance. To be subjected to them would involve being subjected to a ‘living death’: for those who stigmatize lepers or the poor, it would be better to be dead than to be a leper or poor. When stigmatized, then, people are defined or reified in terms of imputed death-dealing conditions. As ‘dirty’ – physically, morally, existentially and symbolically – the stigmatized provoke reactions of fear, disgust and loathing from those who stigmatize them.[22] The stigmatized then become experienced as fundamentally dangerous and deviant, and thus to be rejected and marginalized. From the standpoint of those engaged in stigmatization, the stigmatized cease to be fully human but, in the extreme, rather ‘more like animals than people’ and, thus, to be banished, or ‘quarantined’ and controlled. Whether or not stigmatized people are economically poor,[23] they are imputed to be ‘poor’ – that is, fundamentally defective – as persons. When socially legitimated, stigmatization often results in banishment or ‘ghettoization’ of those who are stigmatized. Stigmatization, then, does not consist simply in disliking people, not wanting to be around them, or even in morally censuring them for their actions. Stigmatization amounts to a kind of hatred of others[24] that effectively seeks to dehumanize and marginalize them.

The issue for those who stigmatize others is not other people, it is themselves or more precisely their embodied condition as free human beings. Jean Paul Sartre gives a remarkable analysis of this in his essay on anti-Semitism:

We are now in a position to understand the anti-Semite. He is a man who is afraid. Not of the Jews, to be sure, but of himself, of his own consciousness, of his liberty, of his instincts, of his responsibilities…of everything except the Jews….In espousing anti-Semitism, he does not simply adopt an opinion, he chooses himself as a person….The Jew only serves him as a pretext, elsewhere his counterpart will make use of the Negro, or the man of yellow skin. The existence of the Jew merely permits the anti-Semite to stifle his anxieties at their inception…Anti-Semitism, in short is fear of the human condition. The anti-Semite is a man who wishes to be a pitiless stone, a furious torment, a devastating thunderbolt – anything except a man.[25]

Let me return to St. Gregory’s oration since he, indirectly at least, provides a clue to what is at issue in confronting leprosy. First (sec. 10), there is his graphic description of the plight of lepers and the manner in which people flee from them:

There lies before our eyes a dreadful and pathetic sight; one that no one would believe who has not seen it: human beings alive yet dead, disfigured in almost every part of their bodies, barely recognizable for who they once were or where they came from…mutilated, stripped of their possessions, their families, their friends, their very bodies…even the most kind and considerate person shows no feeling for them. And on this account alone we have lost sight of the fact that we are flesh and compassed in a lowly body, and we are so derelict in our obligation to look after our fellow man that we actually believe that avoiding these people assures the safety of our own bodies.[26]

Prior to this, however, St. Gregory had detoured into an apparent digression about his own ambivalence toward his own body. The entire text in context is quite long, but I want to present the salient parts. In sec. 4, St. Gregory completes his enumeration of various virtues in this way:

beautiful is contemplation (theoria), as likewise beautiful is activity (praxis); the one… conducts our mind upward to what is akin to it, the other because it welcomes Christ and serves (therapeuousa) him, and confirms the power of love through good works.

After noting the primacy of charity and of love for the poor among the virtues and also that “Of all things, nothing so serves (therapeuetai) God as mercy because no other thing is more proper to God” (sec. 5), he then continues (sec. 6):

We must, then, open our hearts to all the poor and to all those who are in distress from whatever cause, for the commandment enjoins us “to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15)…particularly to those wasted with the sacred disease[27] that devours their flesh and bones and marrow clear through – as threatened to some[28] – and betrayed by this wretched, vile, and faithless body.

He immediately follows this with a digression, which continues through sec. 7, about his relation to his body:

How I came to be joined to it, I do not know; nor how I am the image of God and concocted of clay at the same time, this body…that I both cherish as a fellow-servant and evade as my enemy…If I struggle to suppress it, I lose the helper I need to achieve my noble aims, knowing as I do why I was created and that it is through my actions (praxen) that I am to ascend to God…(sec. 7) I show it consideration as a co-worker but I do not know how to suppress its insurgency nor how I can help falling away from God when [it] drags me down.

He then concludes (sec. 8):

But now, though confronted with the suffering of others, I have been dwelling on the infirmity of my own flesh. We must, my brothers, as I started to say, care for (therapeuteon) it as being our kinsman and fellow-servant. For, even if I have denounced it as my enemy for the distress it causes, still, I also embrace it as a friend because of him who joined us together.

Why does St. Gregory exhort himself and others to care for (therapeuteon) the body? If it is ‘suppressed’ or ‘wasted away,’ we each lose the co-worker we need to perform acts of mercy by which we “serve (therapeuousa) God,” “confirm the power of love through good works,” and “ascend to God.” But more generally, if the body ‘wastes away,’ we are cutoff from activity (praxis) in the world. The assaults on the body in leprosy, poverty and other like ‘afflictions’ thereby threatens our very freedom to engage in the world in meaningful ways. So, “we actually believe that avoiding these people assures the safety of our own bodies” – but not just our bodies, rather, our very existence in the world.

Confronted by the suffering, disfigurement, impotence, and rejection suffered by lepers and the poorest of the poor (ptchoi) generally – real threats and assaults on human beings to be sure – and overwhelmed by these conditions, those who stigmatize these people are overwhelmed in anxiety by their own vulnerability to this condition as something death-dealing that will radically strip life of its meaning – a ‘living death.'[29] To deflect their anxiety and to assure their own safety, they interpret those actually subjected to these conditions as deserving their fate through some fundamental defect as humans, that is, they are taken to be accursed and abandoned by God. What drives this sort of stigmatization, theologically expressed, is at bottom an anxiety about one’s own possible abandonment by God.

What lurks unthematized in the hearts of those who are ‘engulfed’ by the conditions, and thus the people, they stigmatize is a truncated version of Ps. 21 (LXX):

subjected to these conditions, one will be abandoned by God – “My God, my God” (v.1) you shall indeed forsake me;

in the face of exhausting suffering – since “I [will be] poured out like water, and scattered [will be] all my bones; my heart [will] become like wax, melting in the midst of my bowels” (v. 16);

denigration and rejection – “As for me, I [will become] a worm, and not a man: a reproach of men, and the outcast of the people” (v. 6);

yet bereft of the possibility of transfiguration and resurrection. For it is promised that “the Lord will not set as naught nor abhor the supplication of the poor …but the poor shall eat and be satisfied” (vv. 24, 26).

Certainly, those who stigmatize the poor fail to see them in the image and likeness, and more concretely, as an icon of Christ. As icons of Christ, we cannot find Christ in others or ourselves apart from or in spite of our embodiment, but only as embodied and, thus, in the midst of suffering, pain and denigration. But since, to follow Sartre, those who stigmatize the poor or anyone else are not fundamentally afraid of them, but anxiety ridden about themselves, such people do not just fail to see others as icons of Christ, they fail to see themselves as icons of Christ. After all, Christ became poor for our sakes: that is, took on all of our weaknesses, infirmities and suffering – actual and possible – in order to sanctify, heal and restore us to life. Yet insofar as stigmatization is grounded in an anxiety over abandonment by God, then in stigmatizing others we effectively repudiate Christ’s promise that he will be with us always (Matt. 28:30) both in respect to ourselves as vulnerable to the conditions we stigmatize and, thus, in respect to those who are actually subjected to those conditions. In stigmatizing others, then, we effectively circumscribe God’s healing power both for ourselves – since we would rather be dead than subjected to these conditions – and for those who are stigmatized, since they are imputed to be more like animals than humans and to be accursed of God.

Note also that individuals can stigmatize themselves particularly in response to stigmatization imposed by others. Howard Bahr offered this poignant description of the effects of denigration on those who lived in and were acculturated to Skid Row:

The defectiveness of the skid row man stems from his occupying several stigmatized statuses at once….To begin with there is a physical, visible basis for antipathy toward the skid row man. He is defective physically: the scarred face, the toothless mouth, the missing limbs, the strange actions of the psychotic or mental incompetent….Then there are the stigmatizing aspects of his character: the past of drunkenness, arrests and prison and the long periods of institutional living. Over everything else is the imputed alcoholism, the addiction which makes him a man out of control, perhaps not a man at all.

His defectiveness and powerlessness combine with his other negative characteristics real or imagined and predefine him to involvement in a vicious cycle of negative encounters which serve to bind him to skid row, lower his self-esteem and make a social fact out of what was at first social definition…that he is hopeless and unsalvageable.[30]

Self-stigmatization is essentially masochistic in character: viewing themselves as worthless and hopeless, people who stigmatize themselves affirm their worthlessness by seeking out punishment – abuse, humiliation and situations of self-defeat – that confirms their worthlessness. The patient suffering of evil for Christ’s sake as well as the recognition of our own wretchedness before God in prayer and confession are, of course, a central part of Orthodox spirituality. But both, grounded in the springtime of Great Lent, must take place in light of our faith and hope in the Resurrection: that is, our capacity to be deified and to participate in a whole and complete manner in the life of the Trinity. Neither patient suffering for Christ nor the recognition of our own wretchedness in repentance serve to legitimate self-stigmatization or its patient endurance but, as grounded in faith and hope, essentially protest against it. Surely, the protests that SS. Gregory and Gregory of Nyssa repeatedly lodge against the denigration of the poor[31] extends to those, who in stigmatizing themselves, view themselves as unsalvageable by God.[32] As Fr. Boris Bobrinskoy wrote about Job:

The merciless friends of Job consoled him with this logic: “You suffer; you are punished because you have sinned against God; repent before God.” With all his being, Job refused to surrender to such exhortations and did not admit his guilt. He appealed to God, in the certainty of seeing the Redeemer with the eyes of his flesh. God sided with him…Job’s refusal of unjust suffering still resonates in all human sufferings.[33]

It must be noted that charitable actions towards the poor do not necessarily counter, and may even mask, stigmatization. For, apart from the lived recognition of the other as an icon of Christ, what is given in aid to the poor is negated if we continue to exclude the poor from our world. As St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:

Let no one say that some place far away from our life is perfectly sufficient and send them off to some frontier, supplying them with food. For a plan of this sort displays neither mercy nor sympathy but is designed, in the guise of goodwill, to banish these people utterly from our life. Are we not willing to shelter pigs and dogs under our roof?… Will we disparage our own kind and race as baser than the animals? Let these things not be – no, my brothers! Resolve that this inhumanity will not triumph.[34]

This inhumanity is not simply a matter of some individuals stigmatizing others. Patterns of stigmatization are often socially sanctioned; stigmas form the ‘ideological’ basis for the oppressive and marginalizing social structures that are instituted to exclude stigmatized groups from full social life. St. Gregory gives a powerful description of this marginalization in sec. 12 of “On the Love of the Poor.”

They are driven away from cities, they are driven away from homes, from the market place, from public gatherings, from the streets, from festivities, from drinking parties, even…from water itself. They wander about night and day, helpless, naked, homeless, exposing their sores for all to see…To them a kind benefactor is not someone who has supplied their need but anyone who has not cruelly sent them away.[35]

The marginalization, here, is obviously not due just to the ‘inhuman’ actions that some individuals perpetrate on others; it indicates the failure of a community to establish structures and policies that provide even minimal recognition, mercy and justice to people. So too, as noted earlier, various scholars have argued that the American welfare system arises out of and often seeks to maintain the invidious distinction between the reputable (or deserving) poor and the disreputable (or undeserving poor). That is not too surprising since the denigration of the poor has been a feature of our economy since the origins of capitalism: when society became construed as “a collection of independent, atomized individuals all pursuing their private interests and ordering their relations with each other by means of formal, explicit contracts,” paupers became viewed as “useless, shameless drones in the context of the new values of individualism and self-reliance.”[36]

An Christian, an Orthodox Christian, response to denigration and stigmatization remains fundamentally incomplete if it fails to identify, to protest against, and to seek to root out the forms of denigration and stigmatization that lurk inside and drive social policies. As Fr. Boris Bobrinksoy wrote,

There is, in the ultimate reality of things, no nonspiritual life that is closed off to the Holy Spirit…The world that is called profane is in reality a profaned world and man is responsible for that. We have expelled God from this world: we do it every day. We chase him from public life by a Machiavellian form of separation between our private lives – pious and good – and the domains of politics, commerce, science, technology, love, culture and work, where everything is allowed. All these domains of human work depend upon the creative work of man, seized, modeled, and inspired by the Spirit of God.”[37]

Susan Holman notes that litourgiai in the ancient pre-Christian world referred to “public service performed by private citizens at their own expense.”[38] The poor, whether intentionally or not, were excluded from these liturgies. St. John Chrysostom, and the Cappadocian fathers, brought the poor and marginalized into these liturgies and ‘extended’ the sacred liturgy into the alleys and market places. In this way, they engaged the Divine Liturgy with the civic liturgies of public life.[39] It is in this context that St. John Chrysostom identifies the poor as an Altar – the Body and Blood of Christ. It is particularly important to note that while he makes this identification for the sake of encouraging charitable action toward the poor, the identification also has a powerful ‘legitimating function.’ “The poor become the liturgical image for these most holy elements in all of Christian worship: the altar and body of Christ.”[40] As Christ’s Altar, the poor are not to be despised but honored; conversely, if implicitly, those who despise the poor, thereby despise Christ.

Because the source of the anxiety that underlies stigmatization often remains unthematized and, thus, likely denied by those who engage in it, it is a particularly difficult ‘hardness of heart’ to expose and challenge. Indeed, some of the responses designed to motivate charity toward the poor are likely to misfire in their practical efficacy. First, one might appeal to the dignity of the poor: that we all share a common humanity.[41] But so far as this appeal is made simply to reason, it misfires since, even though true, what drives stigmatization is not mistaken reasoning but profound anxiety. One need simply consider the many racists in our society who were unmoved by appeals to the “self-evident truth” “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” because they cheerfully subscribed to this truth and yet held tenaciously to their racism.[42]

Second, one can appeal to Christ’s command that we are to give to the “least of our brethren.” Yet as St. Gregory of Nyssa observed, providing assistance to people in a way that banishes them from our presence still allows the inhumanity of the denigration to persist. Third, one can strengthen the appeal to charity through the analysis and condemnation of greed and miserliness. But it is not clear, e.g., that the gas station attendants in the Grapes of Wrath are either greedy or miserly. Certainly, the denigration of the poor and lepers has not been confined to those who are either greedy or misers.

In the end, the most powerful negation of stigmatization is our direct engagement with those who are stigmatized[43] in which we discover and respond to life – Christ in the person of the poor – rather than death. Indeed, St. John Chrysostom’s identification of the poor as the Altar of Christ urges and, for him, requires us to enter into that engagement. For we do not partake of the mysteries of the Eucharist at a distance; we must come forward and make physical contact with them.[44] So, too often in the profaned world in which we live, it is there in the “alleys” – marginalized social worlds – that we find the Altar of Christ in the poor and are bid to render hospitality.

Thus ought we ever to exercise hospitality by our own personal exertions, that we may be sanctified, and our hands be blessed. And if you give to the poor, disdain not yourself to give it, for it is not to the poor that it is given, but to Christ; and who is so wretched, as to disdain to stretch out his own hand to Christ? This is hospitality, this is truly to do it for God’s sake.[45]

Dr. John D. Jones

Professor, Department of Philosophy

Marquette University

P.O Box 1881

Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881

(414) 288-5938

(414) 288-3010 (FAX)

Web page: http://academic.mu.edu/phil/jonesj/


1 A version of this paper was read at the Society for Orthodox Philosophy in America, Holy Archangels Monastery, Kendalia, Texas, February 24-26, 2006. This is the first part of a more comprehensive treatment of an Orthodox response to Poverty. The notes, designed for the conference presentation, are still a bit more sparse than if they were composed for publication.

2 St. John Chrysostom, “Homily 20,3 on 2 Corinthians 10:15.”

3 From Henry Mayhew, London Labor and the London Poor, about vagrants in 19th c. England. Quoted in Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Idea of Poverty:, England in the Early Industrial Age (New York: Vintage Books, 1983): 340.

4 Joel F.Handler and Yeheskel Hasenfeld, The Moral Construction of Poverty: Welfare Reform in America (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991): 17-18.

5 One could suggest that in fact the starting point for Orthodox Christians would be the teachings of the Church. But even if we begin here, we have to have some idea of what is meant by poverty and, in the case, of everyday poverty, that takes us outside the realm of religious discourse per se into other types of discourse.

6 See, St. Gregory the Theologian, “On the Love of the Poor,” sec. 6 (Oratio 14 (=De pauperum amore) PG 35:857-909) for multiples sense of ptchoi. See, Susan Holman, The Hungry are Dying (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001): 5 for the distinction between ptchos and pens. The former connotes more extreme poverty and social disaffiliation; the latter, less extreme poverty with greater social affiliation.

7 While this ambivalence is ultimately central to understanding this matter, dealing with it is well beyond the scope of the present paper. However, Verna Harrison, “Poverty, Social Involvement, and the Life in Christ according to Saint Gregory the Theologian,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 39.2(1994): 162 makes the following observation that should be borne in mind in connection with our reading below of the Oration “On the Love the Poor”: “For the Theologian, there is an inner spiritual connection between asceticism and charity. Philoptchia [love of the poor] can mean compassion for the needy, but it can also mean a love for poverty which leads one to renounce one’s own possessions. In both cases, one is drawn toward the condition of poverty because Christ is present and manifest in it.” (See sec. 19 of this Oration.).

8 And of the Trinity? One finds Orthodox thinkers such as Archbishop Kallistos (Ware), Sr. Nonna (Harrison) and Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) who seek to understanding human community in light of the communion (koinonia) of the Trinity. On the other hand, there are others, who resist this sort of interpretation., e.g., Fr. John Behr and Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos). This matter is exceptionally complex in part because it is very difficult to relate modern concepts of the person to the patristic use of ‘person’ with reference to the hypostases of the Trinity. An inquiry into this matter is well beyond the scope of the paper. For some literature see, John Zizioulas, Being as Communion (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1985); “The Church as Communion,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38.1(1994):3-16; John Behr, “The Trinitarian Being of the Church,” SVTQ 48.1(2003):67-88; Nonna Harrison, “Human Community as an Image of the Holy Trinity,” SVTQ 46.4(2002):347-64 (qv. ftns. 17-18 for relevant articles by Archbishop Kallistos), and Hierotheos Vlachos, The Person in the Orthodox Tradition, selections on-line at http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b23.en.the_person_in_the_orthodox_tradition.00.htm (see, Chapter IV.7).

9 Verna Harrison, “Poverty in the Orthodox Tradition,” SVTQ 34.1(1990):15.

10 See ftn. 3 above. For two excellent histories of social welfare policy in America see Michael B. Katz, The Undeserving Poor :From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989) and In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (New York: Basic Books, 1986).

11 Deepa Naraya, Raj Patel, et. al., Can Anyone Hear Us? Voices from 47 Countries (Poverty Group, PREM, World Bank, 1999): 54-56, 76-78. This volume is part of a three part series, Voices of the Poor. All of the material from these volumes can be viewed on-line at: http://www1.worldbank.org/prem/poverty/voices/reports.htm.

12 There is an immense literature on stigmatization. Perhaps the best and most comprehensive treatment, in my view, is Edward. Jones, Amerigo Farinia, et. al., Social Stigma: The Psychology of Marked Relationships (San Francisco: WW Freeman and Co., 1984). This book has an extensive bibliography.

13 I am using the translation, slightly modified, by Martha Vinson in St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Select Orations (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2003): 39-71. I shall refer simply to the sections of the Oration in referencing it. All references to St. Gregory in this paper are to this oration. For the purposes of this paper, I will simply refer to St. Gregory the Theologian as St. Gregory in contrast to St. Gregory of Nyssa.

14 In illud: Quatenus uni ex his fecistis mihi fecistis (or, De pauperibus amandis 2) in Gregorii Nysseni Opera (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1967-): 9,1:111-27 (PG 46.471-90). I will follow the translation by Holman in The Hungry are Dying (pp. 199-206). I will cite this sermon by column number in PG 46 and page number in Holman, e.g., PG 472(HD p. 199). All references to St. Gregory of Nyssa in this paper are to this sermon.

15 Verna Harrison, “Poverty, Social Involvement, and the Life in Christ according to Saint Gregory the Theologian,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 39.2(1994): 151-164 , esp, 155ff., gives a fine discussion of this Oration in light of the theme of philoptchia as well as its connection with Oration 19.

16 As to the universality of the stigmatization of leprosy see Liora Navon, “Beggars, Metaphors, and Stigma: A Missing Link in the Social History of Leprosy,” Social History of Medicine 11(1998): 89-105. Based upon a study of leprosy in Thailand, she noted that there was an ambivalent reaction toward leprosy among the Thai people. The most hostile reaction was directed towards beggars who had the disease (pp. 96-7), but evidently there were lepers that were cared for by family members, largely out of public view, as well as individuals with milder forms of the disease that were not denigrated or excluded from society (p. 84). She argues that the extremely negative portraits of lepers and the concomitant accounts of hostility towards them were focused on beggars with the disease and, thus, led to exaggerated accounts of leprosy as universally stigmatized in Thailand. She also notes (p. 89) that only about 30% of the untreated cases of leprosy develop the sorts of severe effects like those portrayed, e.g., by SS. Gregory or Gregory of Nyssa. The article raises some interesting questions about the empirical legitimacy of using leprosy per se as a universal metaphor for denigration. Whether her investigations in Thailand have cross-cultural validity is an open question but it does, as she notes, highlight “the need to better understand the sources, severity, and persistency of leprosy stigma” (p. 92). Cf. Holman, p. 158. Of course, the condemnations of the treatment of lepers by both Gregories does not depend whether all lepers in their society were universally denigrated although, it should be noted, they never cite examples of lepers with relatively mild forms of the disease who were viewed less harshly.

17 Grapes of Wrath (New York: Penguin Books, 1977): 301.

18 For the distinction between stigmatization and marking and an excellent general discussion of stigmatization as a response to ‘impression engulfment’ see E. Jones, Social Stigma, pp. :4-8.

19 E. Jones, Social Stigma, p.4-6.

20 It should be clear, I hope, that ‘those who stigmatize others’ represents an social-existential ‘type’ and that I am providing a phenomenological description of that type. No inference is made, or should be drawn, about whether this type applies to specific individuals or groups. Such application is obviously an empirical matter.

21 See especially, E. Jones, pp, 82-89 for this and for the ‘symbolic’ nature of the peril.

22 See, e.g., Frantz Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks (New York: Grove Press, 1967):109-117 as well as Stig Hornshj-Mller, “On Der Ewige Jude” at http://www.holocaust-history.org/der-ewige-jude/. Der Ewige Jude was an infamous Nazi propaganda file that “depicts the Jews of Poland as corrupt, filthy, lazy, ugly, and perverse: they are an alien people which have taken over the world through their control of banking and commerce, yet which still live like animals.” The film generated “shouts of disgust and loathing” by Hitler and the Nazis who first viewed it.

23 So, the stigmatized historically have included those who are blind, physically disabled, severe stammerers, members of ethic out-groups (Jones, Social Stigma, p. 5). Of course, the bases for stigmatizations vary from culture to culture; so too, people may not be stigmatized by everyone in a particular social group.

24 See St. Gregory’s remark, quoted above, that ‘being hated for their misfortune’ is what is hardest to bear for lepers.

25 Anti-Semite and Jew, Trans. George Becker (New York: Schocken Books, 1948):53-54.

26 See, St. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 477-476(HD pp. 201-202) for even a more horrific portrait of lepers which, it must be acknowledged, comes very close to the kind of language that might be used by those who stigmatize them: e.g., they ‘have none of the appearances of a man, nor those of a beast” and “rather than men, theirs is a lamentable wreckage.” It is only St. Gregory of Nyssa’s constant stress on the full humanity of lepers as images of God that prevents these portraits from legitimating denigration of them. In addition to a ‘natural loathing’ for such conditions, which St. Gregory of Nyssa acknowledges (PG 488(HD p. 205), one might expect the avoidance of lepers to be justified because of fear of contagion. There is scholarly debate about whether leprosy is contagious and, if so, to what degree. But both St. Gregory (sec. 27) and St. Gregory of Nyssa (PG 484-488(HD p. 205) thought the fear of contagion misplaced; neither thought it justified the denigration and avoidance of lepers. See also, Holman, pp. 156-60.

27 “Sacred disease” was usually reserved for epilepsy. Holman, p. 161, notes that St. Gregory applied it to leprosy in order to “evoke the biblical image of the sacred beggar, Lazarus.”

28 See Ps. 38.3 (LXX 37.4) and 102.3-5 (LXX 104.4-6) as well as Numb. 12.10 where God afflicts Miriam with leprosy. St. Gregory, it should be noted, explicitly distances himself from the idea that every affliction is from God as a form of punishment (secs. 30-31).

29 It should be noted, though, that the threat can also take the form of an imputed daemonic presence which an embodied condition is imputed to convey. White racists are not likely threatened by blacks because they fear becoming black. They are threatened by an imputed daemonic, irrational presence that the bodies of blacks is taken to represent and which racists can avoid only by a marginalization of blacks that is justified by dehumanizing them. A similar analysis would apply to misogynists.

30 Howard M. Bahr, Skid Row: An Introduction to Disaffiliation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973): 120-21 and 15 respectively.

31 See St. Gregory, secs. 10, 14, and 15 and St. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 473-476 (HD p. 201), 476(HD p. 203), 480(HD p. 203).

32 Rollo May relates an account of his therapeutic work with a young woman who had been prostituted by her parents, but who was unable to feel any anger toward them. The woman’s response was essentially masochistic in character. Seeing herself as nothing but a servant in which she had no rights against others, she became “indentured a priori.” May was unable to lodge her from this self-degradation until he expressed, in a spontaneous and uncalculated manner, his own anger about what had been done to her (Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence (New York: Norton Publishing Co., 1972): 85-6.

33 Compassion of the Father, Trans. Anthony Gythiel (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003): 53.

34 St. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 480(HD p. 203).

35 To be sure, St. Gregory of Nyssa points to a minimal level of community among the lepers (PG 477(HD 202)) but this hardly constitutes what would be regarded as a ‘social world’ or an ensemble of institutional and other structures that allows for meaningful engagement in the world. Indeed, the “existential death” imputed by stigmatization carries with it a “social death” – a loss of social world – imposed by marginalizing social actions and structures. See the reference to Bahr above.

36 F. Allan Hanson, “How Poverty Lost Its Meaning,” The Cato Journal 17(1997)2 on-line at http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj17n2-5.html. This sort of view persists in the welfare-state in more modern notions of the ‘culture of poverty’ and the ‘underclass.’

37 Bobrinskoy, p. 28.

38 Holman, The Hungry are Dying, p. 21

39 Ibid., pp. 60-62.

40 Ibid., p. 62.

41 See, e.g., “On the Love of the Poor” sec. 14. See also Harrison, “Poverty, Social Involvement…” p, 158 for a discussion of the various senses of the “unity of human nature” in this section. See also, St. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 480(HD p. 203).

42 See, Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks, p. 119-20 for a variation on this theme.

43 As to how efficacious direct contact may be for reducing stigma see, e.g., Gregory M. Herek and John P. Capitanio, “AIDS Stigma and Contact With Persons With AIDS: Effects of Direct and Vicarious Contact,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 27.1(1997): 1-36 for a nuanced discussion of this matter in relation to AIDS patients. The authors also note that “A large body of empirical research has shown that contact can indeed reduce prejudice when it is sustained and intimate between individuals of equal status who share important goals and are supported by the institution within which it occurs” (p. 2).

44 So, Holman, pp. 161-62, notes that for SS. John Chrysostom, Gregory, and Gregory of Nyssa “lepers once set apart for their pollution, become a symbol of all that is ‘set apart’ for God… the ill beggars lying on the ground are holy coins that ‘bear the countenance of our Saviour’…They ought to be touched physically without repulsion.”

45 St. John Chrysostom, “Homily 14 on 1 Timothy 5:9.” The context makes clear that alms are given to Christ as found in the poor, not Christ instead of the poor. (PG 62, 573).

Copyright 2006 by the author; all rights reserved

Placed on the web site of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship March 2006.