Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Catholic Sociobiology: 'Being as Communion' and John Zizioulas

by David Pence

When the first-ever papal encyclical on Ecology was presented in June 2015, the unconventional subject matter chosen by Pope Francis was introduced at the opening press conference by the preeminent Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas. When the Eastern Bishop gave his packed-house introduction, there was nary a word about global warming but a reflection on the spiritual and Eucharistic dimension of man, nature, and God. He emphasized the priestly role that man plays in a proper ordering of matter in time and space. This dimension was missed by secularists and conservative Catholics alike. But Rev. Zizioulas sees relations that others miss, and he applauded the prayer of Francis the saint and the initiative of Francis the pope.

The contribution of Bishop Zizioulas to Catholic Sociobiology is fundamental. He has had an uncanny ability to present the Trinity, the person, and the Eucharist as interlocking truths which never lets one think of them in isolation again. He did the same thing with the Eucharist, the Bishop and the Church in his 1965 thesis (later published as a book). As he was finishing his thesis, the bishops of the Catholic Church were completing the Second Vatican Council which was a significant meditation on a more liturgical definition of the Church and Eucharistic understanding of the bishop in the local Church. Many Catholics who had been shaped by the Vatican II formulations were driven into even more profound reflection by the searing light that came from the Eastern bishop. A strikingly similar intellectual synergy occurred as the Polish philosopher Pope John Paul II emphasized Christian personalism as uniquely necessary for modern man emerging from the twin totalitarian ideologies of race and class. Just as that radical Christian personalism was being exploited by the individualization of libertine atheism, Zizioulous gave a renewed emphasis to relation as the heart of personhood. He showed how the Greek development of personhood came from the theological grappling with the Trinitarian nature of God. How best to describe what was being experienced and revealed – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Person as mask gave way to person as relational. Person was further marked by an interiority directed to some Other. By studying God and Christ, man found out who man was. Pope John Paul had promised just that.

Some younger readers are not as struck by Zizioulas as we were thirty years ago because so many of his insights are now so deeply incorporated in our theological grammar. Because of the good metropolitan I know:

a) I will never look at a bishop as an administrator again.

b) When we say that man is made in the image of God that means we are many persons in the One Body of Christ, as there are three Persons in the one God.

c) The Bishop and his priests and the diocese constitute the local church, not the parish. Where the Bishop is; there is the Eucharist. The Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist. The Eucharist was left in a body of men: the Apostles. They are still here in the bishops.  
d) To say the local Church is Catholic is not just to say it is linked in space and time to the universal Church in the world through the ages. The Greek expression Katolik implies that "the whole is contained in this part." There is something about retaining the fullness of Christ and his Church in the locality without devolving into congregationalism. It is the Bishop who safeguards this essential ingredient of Catholic ecclesiology.

Let the Metropolitan speak:

"The question that preoccupied the Fathers was not to know if God existed or not - the existence of God was a "given" for nearly all men of this period, Christians or pagans. The question which tormented entire generations was rather: *how* he existed. And such a question had direct consequences as much for the Church as for man, since both were considered as 'images of God'."
― John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church

"The person is otherness in communion and communion in otherness. The person is an identity that emerges through relationship; it is an 'I' that can exist only as long as it relates to a 'thou' which affirms its existence and its otherness. If we isolate the 'I' from the 'thou' we lose not only its otherness, but also its very being; it simply cannot be without the other."

"The Church is not simply an institution. She is a 'mode of existence,' *a way of being*. The mystery of the Church is deeply bound to the being of man, to the being of the world and to the very being of God.
Ecclesial being is bound to the very being of God...it cannot be realized as the achievement of an individual, but only as an ecclesial fact.

"The fall consists in a refusal to make being dependent on communion in a rupture between truth and communion. In a fallen state communion is no longer constitutive of being. Death is not a punishment for an act of disobedience as much as an effect of individualization."

To be interiorly oriented to the Other is not an act of the will—it is an ontological characteristic of the being.

To be aware of being but not communion is the fallen state -- it is individuation. It is the modern existentialist with his understandable preoccupation with suicide. The individual has life but not the true life which is unending. The fallen state is a status -- a state of sin -- a social position separated from the Trinity who made us for communion. The sacraments beginning with baptism and culminating in the Eucharist draw us back into the joy of personhood and communion. They change our status-- we have been drawn into the "state of grace."

Baptism is then an ecclesial act which draws the individual into communion. Confronted with the reality of the Trinity true personhood is possible as one is interiorly awakened to the Divine Other. We begin to be neurobiologically wired into the organism(the Body of Christ) that the human person as a species is meant to participate in. Christ made himself visibly present in one place in one era to one set of witnesses. He makes himself present through the ages. Once again he is here in a physical, limited way -- the sacramental Church. The Spirit works to draw all toward this common breathing living organism. Be careful how you judge the Spirit -- He blows where he will, and configuring a group to be grafted to the Vine may not look like "Christian Prep" at our first glance.

John Zizioulas (b. 1931) is the Eastern Orthodox Titular Metropolitan of Pergamon (in modern Turkey) and chairman of the Academy of Athens.

Monday, June 27, 2016



by A. Joseph Lynch

In a previous Map on Monday post, we mapped the British Empire as it stood in its height and as British holdings look today. The "Brexit" vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union, however, leads us to look at the history of Great Britain's formation and its potential dismemberment.

England has and remains the core of Great Britain. Some make the mistake that England and Britain are synonymous. "Britain" comes down from the Roman name for the island: Britannia. England is a name for the kingdom of the Angles: "Angle-land" - which became England. The formation of England is a history in and of itself, with important moments taking place during the reign of Alfred the Great "King of the Anglo-Saxons" and defender against the Vikings (d. 899), the Norman Conquest under King William the Conquer at the Battle of Hastings (1066), and the signing of the Magna Carta (1215).

The rugged topography of Wales and Scotland naturally brought about independent development from England. But where the comparatively gentle terrain of England led to royal consolidation, the terrain of Wales and Scotland made internal unity and cohesion difficult (the mountainous Balkans historically suffered from the same problem). English influence increased in both areas and gradually brought both into London's orbit. Although Wales had long been deeply connected to England, the Act of Union in 1536 fully integrated Wales and England, bringing with it the English administrative system.

Ireland had also come increasingly under English sway. Henry VIII made Ireland a full kingdom in 1541, and he was soon declared the King of the Irish by the Irish parliament. As England, Wales, and Scotland moved into the Protestant camp, however, Catholic Ireland refused political conversion in fear it would lead to religious conversion. The 1603 Union of the Crowns gave England, Wales, and Scotland a common king and effectively made Ireland a subject nation of the English crown.

The Acts of Union in 1707 created the Kingdom of Great Britain. Both kingdoms of England and Scotland were abolished, along with their respective parliaments. In their place was Great Britain and a single Parliament. At this point, the old island of Britannia had become officially united.

1801 witnessed the merger of the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland (which had been a kingdom since 1541). With it came a new title: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This union lasted until the rise of the Irish Free State of 1922. This, however, left Ireland divided between a Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland and a Catholic south, known today as the Republic of Ireland. The official titled of the U.K. today is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This name, however, might undergo a new revision. With the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, Scotland might seek independence. Though it favored remaining in the U.K. by a vote of 55-45 in the 2014 Scottish Referendum, the map below (blue = stay, red = leave) reveals that Scotland heavily favored remaining in the E.U. North Ireland also sought to remain in the E.U. - and a movement is underway to reintegrate North Ireland into the Republic of Ireland so that it may return to the European Union under a reunited Ireland. Meanwhile, Spain seeks the return of Gibraltar and one can only wonder what might happen with the Falklands and Argentina.

The formation of Great Britain is a relatively recent phenomena that began to break down within  about a hundred years of its fullest formation. The future of Great Britain remains to be seen, but it is not altogether unlikely that it may soon encompass only England and Wales.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 25

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


Citizens in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) voted for Great Britain to leave the European Union. This was against the urging of the British Prime Minister who has resigned and the US president. It was against the advice of the cosmopolitan press and financial experts. The vote to leave was led by older voters and the working class of the English countryside. Scots and Northern Ireland, as well as the city of London, voted strongly to remain. A leftist-dominated Scotland will now probably vote to leave Britain and stay in the European Union. This will cause acute economic re-configurations. Long term it is devastating to the European project and its institutions -- the EU and NATO. The two foreign leaders who will cheer this are Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The foreign leader most discredited by this action is Merkel of Germany.


ORLANDO - A FAMILIAR SOFT TARGET FOR A JIHADIST OR A HATE CRIME AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS: We know the gunman was an excellent marksman. We know his father is misdirecting the narrative. He said his son (the shooter Omar Mateen) was upset that his three-year-old boy had seen a couple men kissing. But multiple witnesses have said Mr. Mateen was a regular visitor to the Pulse nightclub. He was not repulsed by the Pulse, and while not adapting a gay identity, he had no problems with male-male sexual contact for release. We need to see much more of the transcripts of negotiations. But what has been released makes no comments about the degeneracy of the club. When asked his name he stated: "My name is I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the-Islamic State." Now that is a pretty clear identity and plenty of motivation.

The New York Times, the FBI, and  NBC have been quick to downplay his proclivity for same-sex relations. Almost all political officials have said this was an attack on "the LGBT community for who they are.” The FBI has said there is no physical evidence that “he was gay”. There are multiple witnesses to his homosexual interests but technically witnesses are not “evidence.”  There will also be some publicity seekers  whose lies will be used to discredit all other testimony. There is desire to paint this story as more hate crime and  less jihad.  But once the gay pride parade season is over, the obvious truth will emerge if there are men who will speak it. It will help if we understand the man who did the mass shooting has told us clearly why he did it. It will also help if we leave the peculiar modern western notion that same sex encounters constitute a “gay identity."  Along with 99.9% of all men who have regularly or sporadically engaged in such acts, Mr. Mateen would never consider himself or call himself “gay" and neither would his relatives.   It seems more likely that the Pulse club was a very well known, very soft target in which one killer could execute a maximum number of Americans in retaliation for "bombing my country" and in solidarity with the new Islamic caliphate of al-Baghdadi. He knew the place well and did not fear there would be a "let’s roll" response to thwart him. At one point he asked people hiding in the bathroom if there were any blacks among them. He said he would spare them  because they had suffered enough. As of now there are no reports that he made any distinctions of special animus in terms of sexual proclivities.

A homosexual nightclub (like the printing offices of Charlie Hebdo’s anti-religious pornography magazine) will prove to be an irresistible symbol of a depraved United States for ISIS propaganda. ISIS will spin this as a heroic single Muslim gunman able to kill fifty and wound fifty spiritually emasculated Americans. This model of warfare is much more deadly and repeatable than the highly coordinated, capital intensive attacks of 9/11 which required government level organization and funds. This was a huge loss for America.


CHINA AND INDIA - PICKING SIDES, GOADING DIFFERENCES, LIVING TOGETHER: Getting these two civilizational nations right is what  the "tilt toward Asia" is really about. This review of Manuel’s new book is a good start. Anja Manuel, This Brave New World: India, China and the United States.

IS THE US POLICY TO SURROUND THE CORE CIVILIZATIONAL STATES OF RUSSIA, CHINA, AND IRAN? "In the coming era, the avoidance of major intercivilizational wars requires core states to refrain from interfering in conflicts of other civilizations." Samuel Huntington.

US fleet forward in Pacific. Apparently no one read Huntington’s book (Clash of Civilizations) about allowing regional powers their own spheres of influence in a post-bipolar world. The US is building up military forces against Russia on her land border to the West and against China on its eastern sea border. Both countries were attacked from these areas of US build-up in WWII - a war in which those two allies of the US lost millions more soldiers and civilians than we did. In the Mideast, here is a typical rather hysterical account of how "our allies" like Saudi Arabia are feeling abandoned because the US is not doing enough to restrain the hegemony of Iran. Hegemony is the state of dominance by one power in a region. It is a fairly natural state of affairs which can be acceded to by lesser powers (often called bandwagoning) or opposed (often called balancing) when allies are recruited against the dominant power.

ARMS INDUSTRY - TOP SELLERS AND TOP BUYERS: The top buyers are Saudi Arabia (by a big margin), India, Egypt, UAE, Australia and South Korea. The five top sellers are a who’s who in the UN Security Council: USA, France, Russia, China, and then Germany. Is there something wrong with this picture?


BODY COUNT - OBAMA AS MCNAMARA: In answering a June 12 question about why Islamic terrorism was not named as the enemy, press secretary Josh Earnest defended the strategic incoherence with this: "Obama's record combating terrorism speaks for itself, and that record includes a lot of dead terrorists." This reminds us of the worst days of General Westmoreland in Vietnam and the "body count" rubric for success. While there is no clear strategy it is true there have been a lot of killings.

From a Council on Foreign Relations report on death by drones: "As of today (January 2016), there have been approximately 550 strikes - 50 under George W. Bush, 500 under Obama, which have cumulatively killed an estimated 3,405 militants and 470 civilians." -Micah Zenko in January 2016 report on those killed by drones.

HILLARY AND THE SAUDIS: The Saudis got this quote offline in a hurry but they are big fans of Mrs. Clinton's campaign. They put their money where their mouths are. What if the state we need to declare war against is Saudi Arabia?

THE WAR CAUCUS: Fifty officials in the State Department sent an unusual letter to the president urging resumption of bombing of Assad government. While the president seems to passively welcome Assad and Russia fighting ISIS, there are plenty of dissenters in his government. This could be résumé padding for a job interview with a future Clinton administration. Mrs. Clinton has been much more hostile toward Assad than has President Obama.

IMMIGRATION REFORM NEEDED BUT NOT BY FIAT: The Supreme Court was deadlocked and thus a lower court voiding President Obama’s executive action to change the status of millions of illegal immigrants will not go into effect. The one best chance President Obama had to reform immigration was in his first term when he had both House and Senate majorities. No laws were passed at that time and thus he tried to do by fiat what he chose not to do by legislation earlier.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday BookReview: "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

[Doc Pence has long considered Mrs. Stowe's 1852 classic, which outsold every other fictional work of the 19th century, as the Great American Novel.

The masthead lookout, however, promises that a review of Farmer's nomination will swim into view next month "spouting his frothed defiance to the skies."]


Here are excerpts from an essay by Kelly S. Franklin (he's a professor at Hillsdale College):

In its first year of publication, Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold more copies in America than the Bible did.

The novel catapulted Harriet Beecher Stowe onto the world stage, and by 1854, only two years after publication, the novel had been translated into 37 different languages. Attacking the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which forced free states to assist in recovering escaped slaves, Stowe ignited the powder keg of popular sentiments surrounding the tragedy of American slavery. She gave us the memorable figures of Uncle Tom and Little Eva, and the daring escape of Eliza Harris across the floating ice of the Ohio River...

As a professor of American literature, I face a challenge every time I teach Stowe’s famous book in the classroom. Her stock characters, her melodramatic set pieces, and the moralizing of her narrator grate on 21st-century readers. Yet this strange, sensational novel remains one of the most important works in our cultural heritage.

Is it, we might ask, just an artifact of our history? Do we dutifully overlook Stowe’s imperfect artistry for the sake of the admirable (if dated) anti-slavery message of her book? But as we read it, we find that inexplicable power surging between the lines of her prose. "You’re going to hate it," I tell my students, "and then you’re going to love it."

So why do I teach Uncle Tom’s Cabin? I teach it not only because of its anti-slavery message, but just as importantly because of the way that Stowe delivers it. That is, I think Stowe’s great contribution to American culture lies not merely in rejecting slavery, but in the amazing narrative technique that deeply moved millions of readers. Stowe’s powerful novel works not so much by arguing against the evils of slavery (although it does), but rather by bringing readers face-to-face with a suffering fellow human being. In that encounter, she creates dramatic moments of empathy that—for Stowe—serve as the necessary foundation for any future social or legal action. Her approach, even a century and a half after slavery’s abolition, remains extremely relevant to us today, as we face our own array of moral and societal evils. Stowe offers a fundamentally democratic approach to solving national problems: we must first change hearts if we want to change laws.


By the time Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, all the arguments for and against slavery had already been made. Legislators and thinkers on both sides of this divisive issue had used philosophy, economics, science, law, and even the Bible to make their case. But in Stowe’s mind, both argument and law had failed the American people, and the United States needed an approach that appealed instead to the human heart. Even for many Americans opposed to slavery, the issue remained somewhat abstract; but Stowe’s novel brings her readers into a fictional encounter with an individual slave, where human empathy—the power of shared feeling—does the work that other forms of persuasion had failed to do.

To bring about this encounter, Stowe consciously draws readers into the world of her novel. In the fourth chapter, titled "An Evening in Uncle Tom’s Cabin," she even addresses us directly with this invitation: describing Tom’s home, a “small log building,” Stowe’s narrator says, “Let us enter into the dwelling.” Indeed, the title of the novel itself is Uncle Tom’s Cabin so that when we begin to read, we enter the book itself, as if we were entering the cabin...

In the ninth chapter of her novel, titled "In Which It Appears that a Senator Is But a Man," Stowe takes readers into another home, that of the fictional Ohio senator John Bird, who is personally opposed to slavery but a vocal advocate of the Fugitive Slave Act. The senator defends this contradiction to his wife, protesting, "Mary! Mary! My dear, let me reason with you." We can hear Stowe’s own frustration in Mrs. Bird’s response: "I hate reasoning, John,—especially reasoning on such subjects. There’s a way you political folks have of coming round and round a plain right thing." For Stowe, American reasoning can no longer be trusted, because politicians have sacrificed the good and the true upon the altar of the pragmatic.

But when the escaped slave Eliza Harris, fleeing the Kentucky master who tried to sell her child, arrives on Senator Bird’s doorstep in distress, Stowe creates an encounter that changes the heart of the legislator. The abstract issues of law and property collide with the physical presence of a suffering woman and her child. The senator, struck by Eliza’s real sorrow, and by her fierce love for her child—for he, too, is a father—rejects the Fugitive Slave Act and breaks the law. Stowe’s narrator tells us that, before this encounter,

his idea of a fugitive was only an idea of the letters that spell the word,—or , at the most, the image of a little newspaper picture of a man with a stick and bundle, with “Ran away from the subscriber” under it. The magic of the real presence of distress,—the imploring human eye, the frail, trembling human hand, the despairing appeal of helpless agony,—these he had never tried.

Here it is the vaguely Eucharistic "real presence" of an actual escaped slave (Stowe claimed to have conceived the novel during a communion service) that converts Senator Bird. Empathy—the compassionate experience of another’s suffering—rather than logic or debate, has won. Senator Bird himself helps Eliza escape, driving her by carriage at night to a safe location. Empathy has turned into real charitable action, for as Mrs. Bird says to her husband, "Your heart is better than your head."

Stowe does more than change the hearts of her characters; she acts out this life-changing encounter for her readers in hopes that we will respond in kind. To move us in this way, she leaves one tragedy unanswered by the resolution of the novel: the brutal murder of Uncle Tom at the hands of Simon Legree. Tom’s death, for all its melodrama and heavy-handed Christian allegory, retains real dramatic power and clinches Stowe’s appeal to empathy. The characters in the novel cannot save Tom. Now it is we whose hearts must change to end the horror of human slavery. Stowe leaves it to us to decide what comes next...

The meeting between President Lincoln and Mrs. Stowe

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Christian Realism: Learning from Huntington while teaching him Religion

by David Pence

Last week we reviewed Samuel Huntington’s paradigm-shifting book on The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. This week we want to redraw his map by asserting his fundamental thesis more aggressively than his Harvard-educated mind would allow him. In his book’s last chapter ('The West, Civilizations, and Civilization') he lays out his concluding two mandates. First, America must reassert itself as a "Western People" (against multiculturalists who do not accept the American Creed, and immigrants who will not assimilate). If America cannot defend the West then there will be no West, he says. He, strangely, does not see the loss of a living allegiance to God as a major problem. "The erosion of Christianity among westerners is likely to be at worst only a very long-term threat to the health of western civilization." He cites the "declining proportions of Europeans who profess religious beliefs, observe religious practices, and participate in religious activities. This depicts not hostility to religion but indifference. Swedes are probably the most un-religious people in Europe, and yet you cannot understand the country unless you see all its practices fundamentally shaped by Lutheran heritage." The Harvard professor approves of a West created by a religion, but maturing away from it. He does see a threat, however.

"A more immediate and dangerous challenge to the American Creed (liberty, democracy, individualism, equality under the law, constitutionalism, and private property)… is the challenge from intellectuals and publicists in the name of multiculturalism." Their assault, he sees, as "substituting the rights of individuals with the rights of groups defined largely in terms of race, ethnicity, sex, and sexual orientation." He argues further that if Americans lose their western identity, the West cannot survive. America is the indispensable core state of the West.

While he circles the western wagons, he warns that the West is NOT a universal civilization and cannot try to be one. "The Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false, it is immoral, and it is dangerous." Other than that, go for it!!

With all respect to the professor he has developed a major blind spot in his thinking. Call it the "atheist cataract." It can be environmentally induced from the air and water of Ivy League colleges. Those colleges themselves are beautiful communal institutions of learning which have betrayed the mother religions which gave them birth. Those once-Christian institutions now perpetuate the theories that Huntington knows are dissolving our national identity. Huntington shows graphs with a straight linear relationship of belief in God and national identity. He incisively depicts the de-nationalization of the elites and their loss of religion. He posited at the beginning of his book on civilizations that the most essential element in civilization is religion… and yet… and yet.


In his world map showing the new paradigm he splits three huge Christian civilizations -- the Orthodox, the Latin, and the West from each other. There are three persons in One God says the Christian, just before the jihadist cuts off his head. But the Harvard professor immersed in the acids of modernity could not profess our baptismal Ummah. He split what is one into three, and if we follow him we will lose them all. The last time we let this happen, the Nazi and Soviet monstrosities were spawned. How very Protestant of him to not see the Latin Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as Christian brothers; how very Harvard-like indeed.

And yet much of the material Huntington highlights in his work is a powerful argument for Christian realism. His blind spot is that he cannot see the full living reality of global Christianity. That same blind spot significantly diminishes his understanding of American identity. He cannot see that our common religion and allegiance to a Living God binds Protestant college professors to the southern immigrant Christians who roof our houses and grow our food. We are Christian brothers and can be American citizens together. The same pinched view of Christianity which blinds Mr. Huntington to our common links with the Russians stops him from seeing that immigration from Latin America makes the United States more Christian not less. Apparently, he does not meet these fellow Christians and future citizens at church on Sundays; and they are outside the building mowing the lawn during faculty meetings.

Huntington is absolutely correct that the West should not seek to universalize itself. For the West has lost the transcendent reality which makes a nation’s mission universal -- a relationship with a God who created humanity, and Christ who has come to return all the nations to the House of the Father. Christianity is universal and the nations who have grown out of her soil can form deep bonds with one another and peaceful bonds with other nations who come forth from the same Creator. We are not Darwinists plotting a war of all against all. It is deeply woven into the Christian biblical narrative that there will be many nations. That is the wide-radius trust that Christianity engenders. Christianity is the soil of our liberal democracy, but as Eisenhower said in his first inaugural: "Honoring the identity and the special heritage of each nation in the world, we shall never use our strength to try to impress upon another people our own cherished political and economic institutions." God is really very big and he can handle the many political and economic forms which develop among the different nations.

There is a huge blind spot in this great teacher. Let us learn from Mr. Huntington and take his thesis seriously. There is no Western civilization without Christ, and there is no Body of Christ without the baptized nations -- Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Let us take the professor seriously. Among the emerging civilizations, America is built on global Christianity and we are part of a tapestry with many national forms. The "West" is a dying alliance of states without souls who are using their technological advantage against more robust cultures in an expensive and destructive death rattle. Of course, the West shouldn't universalize. The West should dissolve and let the nations of Europe reemerge as Christian nations. Global Christianity in many national forms is ready to make peace among the nations whenever possible, and decisive war when necessary. Huntington’s paradigm is very rich indeed. He has that great honor of writing something that so corresponds to the truth that its full import can only be understood when new students discover its most profound implications.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Francis and Fraternity: Orthodox/Catholic unity

Maybe it is time for all of us -- the broad spectrum of defenders and critics -- to take a break from the cycle of Pope Francis' impromptu remarks transmitted through the jarring megaphones of today's media.

Slow down when you have a chance, and listen to this recent address (40 minutes, followed by questions) of Orthodox bishop TARASIOS. Much of it is about the close friendship he forged with Francis when both of them led their flocks in Buenos Aires.

Metropolitan Tarasios was born in Gary, Indiana, in 1956. One of the men he studied under was the Jesuit expert on Eastern Christianity, Father Robert Taft (part of the political family). Tarasios spent four years in Rome, and later worked with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople: Bartholomew. That high cleric (accompanied by Metropolitans Tarasios and Zizioulas) attended the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis -- the first time that had occurred in all of Church history!
Patriarch and Pope

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Catholic Sociobiology: Liturgical Theology with Rev. Simon Chan and Fr. Schmemann

by David Pence

 A surprising but very clear teacher of Liturgical Theology is an evangelical Pentecostal whose book on Asian theologies we have reviewed here. Dr. Simon Chan, who teaches in Singapore, begins his explanation with a startling definition of church. He writes to the evangelical who seeks to be saved by a faith act. He starts, not suggesting the individual needs to join a church, but that the Church PRECEDES the world.
Dr. Chan

"The church precedes creation in that it is what God has in view from all eternity, and creation is the means by which God fulfills his eternal purpose in time. The church does not exist in order to fix a broken creation, rather creation exists to realize the church."

"What marks Christians as God's people is that they have become a community that worships God in spirit and in truth. This is what the church must aim at in mission. Mission does not seek to turn sinners into saved individuals; it seeks, rather, to turn disparate individuals into a worshipping community."
- Liturgical Theology, pg. 45.

"... truth is not part of living worship but is almost exclusively confined to the sermon... The operating assumption is that teaching people the right things will lead to right living... Right belief and right practice (orthopraxis) can only come from right worship (orthodoxia), and vice versa."
- Liturgical Theology, pg. 52.

"Sunday points to the transformation of time. It is one of the days of the week, the first day, yet it points beyond present time to the new creation, the kingdom 'not of this world,' the eighth day.
"By remaining one of the ordinary days, and yet by revealing itself through the Eucharist as the eighth and first day, it gave all days their true meaning. It made the time of this world a time of the end, and it made it also the time of the beginning."
- Liturgical Theology, pg. 81.

Reverend Chan is one of the most integrative scholars and preachers in all of global Christianity. His presence in this discussion reminds us that East and West as Orthodox and Latin may no longer be the relevant distinctions.

We close this reflection by returning to Fr Schmemann. (Our tribute here. Last week introduction).  When Schmemann watched Pope John Paul II say Mass on his visit to New York in 1979, he recorded that his first impression is how liturgically impoverished the Catholic Church has become. He continues to write:

"In 1965, I watched the service performed by Pope Paul VI in the same Yankee Stadium, and despite everything it was the presence, the appearance on earth of the eternal, the super-earthly, whereas yesterday I had the feeling that the main thing was the message. And the message is again and again: peace and justice, human family, social work. An opportunity was given, a fantastic chance to tell millions of millions people about God, to reveal to them that more than anything else they need God, but here, on the contrary, the whole goal it seemed consisted in proving that the Church can also speak the jargon of the United Nations.
"The West either loses the eschatological nature of the Church in becoming worldly-wise, or else it ceases to be the life of the world as it becomes heavenly minded and of no earthly good."

Fr. Schmemann was not a blanket critic of "western error." It was in France that he found a lasting instance of liturgical theology.

 "During my school years in Paris on my way to class I would stop by the Church of St. Charles of Monceau for two or three minutes, and always in this huge dark Church at one of the altars a silent Mass was being said. Sometimes I think of the contrast: a noisy proletarian street and this never-changing Mass. One step, and one is in a totally different world. This contrast somehow determined in my religious experience an intuition that has never left me. The coexistence of two heterogeneous worlds, the presence in this world of something absolutely and totally Other. This Other illumines everything in one way or another, everything is related to it.
The Church is the Kingdom of God among us and inside us. For me the streets never became unnecessary or hostile or non-existent, and hence my aversion to pure spiritualism. On the contrary, the street as it was acquired a new charm that was understandable and obvious only to me who knew at that moment the presence, the feast revealed in the Mass nearby. Everything became alive, intriguing: every storefront window, the face of every person I met, the concrete tangible feeling of that moment, the relationship between the street, the weather, the houses, the people.
This experience remains with me forever, a very strong sense of life in its physical bodily reality. At the same time, this interest has always been rooted solely in the correlation of all this with what that silent Mass was a witness to and reminder of. What is that correlation? It seems to me that I’m quite unable to explain and determine it, though it is actually the only thing I talk and write about liturgical theology."

Fr. Alexander Schmemann was born (1921) in Estonia to Russian émigrés. His family moved to France, where he received his university education. He married Juliana Osorguine in 1943, before completing his theological studies at the Orthodox Theological Institute of St. Sergius in Paris and was ordained a priest in 1946 by Archbishop Vladimir (Tikhonitsky).

The Schmemanns

From 1946 to 1951, Fr. Alexander taught Church History at St. Sergius Orthodox Institute, founded in Paris in 1925 as the theological center of expatriate Russian orthodox after the Bolshevik revolution. He taught at St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York from 1951, and was dean from 1962 until he died in 1983.