Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Right Rev. Archimandrite Michael Trigg, RIP

I knew Fr. Trigg was dying some time ago; although it is not exactly news at this point, he passed into eternal life last Saturday. I see I failed to post a note on his translation (let's not pretend one who brought life to so many could experience death, not the true death which is to be feared).

Subdn. Robert has a beautiful tribute on his blog. Fr. Trigg was known for editing An Introduction to Western Rite Orthodoxy, as well as writing a chapter entitled, "Our Plea." However, beyond any typical expressions of sadness or polite comments on his passing, Fr. Trigg's falling asleep has provoked a genuine sense of loss among those whose lives he touched. That may well be the true measure of his life. And as a pioneering priest who labored unto his last, his reward shall be eternal.

May he rest in peace. And in time, may he intercede for us.

From the Archdiocesan website:

It is with extreme sadness that we inform you that our beloved brother in Christ, the Right Reverend Michael Trigg, Pastor Emeritus of St. Michael Church in Whittier, California fell asleep in the Lord on Saturday, May 12, 2007. The date of the funeral will be announced as soon as it is available. His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH has asked the parishes to please remember him in your prayers for the departed for the next 40 days and to hold a special Trisagion for his eternal life. May God receive him in His Heavenly Kingdom and may his memory be eternal.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

In Communion!

Today is the day ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate healed the long and painful schism that separated them. They are now in communion once again. Deo gratias!

(Hat tip: Ad Orientem)

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The Five Pillars of...Orthodoxy?

I have no idea what the background of this is, but I think it's the first time I've heard the term "Five Pillars" applied to Orthodox Christianity. From the website of the late Abuna Yesehaq (formerly of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, "Oriental Orthodox"):

Amistu A-emade Mystir (Five Pillars of Mystery)

The Pillars of Mystery are five in number and are regarded by the church as basic knowledge for all faithful and the cathechism in particular. The following are simple literal translation from the Geez and Amharic text.

Mystire Selassie (Mystery of Trinity)

The Mystery of Trinity is to believe in the Father the Begetter, in the Son the Begotten, in the Holy Spirit the One Who proceeds, One in Three and Three in One. They are three in name, in person, in work. In name they are called Father, Son, the Holy Spirit. The Father has a perfect person, perfect face, and perfect form. The Son has a perfect person, perfect face, and perfect form. The Holy Spirit has a perfect person, perfect face, and perfect form.

As far as their work is concerned, the Father is the Begetter, the Son is Begotten, and the Holy Spirit is the One Who proceeds. The Father begets and causes procession, but is neither begotten nor proceeds. The Son is begotten, but neither begets nor proceeds nor causes procession. They are one in nature, in essence, in fullness, in substantiality, in divinity, in heart, in word, in breath.

They are called Ab, Wold, and Menfes Qidus. Ab means “the Father,” Wold means “the Son,” and Menfes Qidus means “the Holy Spirit,” One Who proceeds from the Father. (Yesehaq, 124)

Mystire Seggawe (Mystery of Incarnation)

Mystery of Incarnation deals with the creation of man and the birth of our Lord Eyesus Kristos (Jesus Christ).

Man has seven works or seven elements, four natures of the flesh and three natures of the soul.

The four natures of the flesh are wind, fire, water, and earth, and the three natures of the soul are rational thought, the power of speech, and the property of life.

“He is called man by reason of his created nature.” as Gregory Thaumaturgus said. The mystery teaches the two births of the Son, that is, His birth before the world from a Father without a mother and his birth from the Virgin Mariam, without a father. He was born of two births, Son of the Father, Son of Mariam, and was honored in the union, the union of Godhead and manhood. “…He was united being one person from two persons, one nature from two natures.” Being One of the Trinity, the Son became man and put on flesh; as was said: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” “That Word became flesh; He continually abides in us. We behold his Glory in accordance with his being the only Son of his Father.”

By what is it known that he is born before the world, from a father without a mother? It is known by His being born latterly from the Virgin Mariam without a father: “His first birth was made known by his latter birth.”

Mystire Timqet (Mystery of Baptism)

What is the Mystery of Baptism? It is to believe that the Lord Eyesus Kristos was baptized at the age of thirty to be an archetype for all men and all men are to be baptized in the water of life, which flowed from the right side of our Lord Eyesus Kristos on Friday and to obtain adoption from the Trinity, to eat His flesh and drink His blood and live a Christian life. How can one obtain the water of life that flowed from the right side of Our Lord Eyesus Kristos on Friday? The priest recites the Book of Baptism over water. He celebrates the pre-Anaphora and reads some chapters from the Holy Scriptures. At the end, when the priest blesses it, saying, “One is the Holy Father; One is the Holy Son; One is the Holy Spirit,” the water changes and becomes the water of life that flowed from the right side of Our Lord Eyesus Kristos on Friday. The baptized person will be freed from condemnation and released from bondage to the devil: “By baptism men will be completely freed from bondage to Satan and from servitude to impure demons.”

We are baptized after the manner of baptism by which our Lord Eyesus Kristos was baptized in the river Jordan, at the hand of John. One might ask why the Lord was baptized when He was pure and righteous. The answer is: He did this to be an example to us and “ that He might give us, by His baptism equality of righteousness.”

Mystire Qurban (Mystery of Eucharist)

The mystery of Eucharist is somewhat identical to the sacrament of Holy Communion.

What is the Mystery of the Eucharist? It is the Body and Blood of our Lord Eyesus Kristos Who was crucified on Friday for the salvation of all; it is what believers receive in the form of bread and wine. The bread and wine are changed into the real flesh and blood of Christ when the priest blesses them with the liturgical prayers: “This bread which I give to you is My flesh, this is the bread which came down from heaven, if any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever.” “This is My blood which will be shed for you and for many people which is the surety of the New Covenant.”
The flesh and blood we receive is the Godhead proclaimed, the freedom of spirit having descended into Sheol together with the Spirit, and the Godhead abides with the flesh in the tomb. Whoever receives the flesh and blood of Christ, having cleansed his conscience from grudges and vengefulness and persevered in faith and good works. It will be to him salvation of the flesh and of the soul, and by it he will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mystire Tensaea Mutan (Mystery of the Resurrection of the Dead)

The mystery of resurrection teaches that after death there will be resurrection. When a person dies, he will not remain destroyed and rotting, but rises again.

How does he rise? There will be a proclamation saying: “You who are dead arise.” There will be three invisible sounds of horns. At the first sound, all flesh will be gathered together. At the second, the flesh and bones and blood will be united, and they will be perfect bodies without any movement or signs of life. And at the third, the dead will rise in the twinkling of an eye. They will rise with all their works written out before them, whether good or bad. The males[will be resurrected] as mature youths of thirty years and the females mature maidens of fifteen years. The dead will arise following the example of the Lord Eyesus Kristos, the firstborn who arose, destroying corruption and the grave, having remained in the depths of the grave three days and three nights. He is the firstborn of all who died.

As Severus said, “during resurrection, they do not rise, as the tall, tall; the short, short; the fair skinned, fair skinned; the dark skinned, dark skinned; the fat, fat; and the thin, thin. Instead, each person will have the same body and form.” Those who did good will arise resembling Christ, shining seven times brighter than the sun. Those who did evil will rise resembling the devil, clothed in darkness.

“…The righteous will stand on the Lord’s right hand, and those who did evil on the Lord’s left hand.” Then he will make judgment, saying to those on his right hand, “Come blessed of my Father, and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To those on His left hand he will say “Be separated from me, enemies of my father, impure of soul to the fire of Gehanna, where the fire is not quenched, where the worm does not sleep, and where is eternal mourning, But the righteous into life eternal."


Ascension Day

I'm recycling the Ascension Day post from last year.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Welcome Rejoinder

"The ways of fools are right in their own eyes, but a wise man hearkens to counsel." - Proverbs 11:15.

Someone has forwarded this comment - from a blog on that seems no longer to exist. Its author originally intended it for Western Rite Orthodox:
The Orthodox Church into which you or your community within the past century or so were received is the same Orthodox Church which has been estranged from Western heterodoxy for nearly a millennium and which also has developed its own theological teaching in the meantime, expressing the faith once delivered to the saints in formulae appropriate to the time. You were received into this Church and not into the pre-Schism Western Church. That means that you can't pretend that people like St. Gregory Palamas aren't relevant to you. For one thing, there is no East-West dividing line for what is needful in the Church, and for another, those to whom you rightly look for inspiration in the ancient West absolutely had zero problem with adopting the "Eastern" language and theology of their time (where, quite frankly, most of the serious doctrinal work was being done, due to heresy). [and where most of the serious heresy was being developed, too. - BJ.] They even adopted liturgical customs! It's not a question of what's appropriate to "the East" or "the West," but what is Orthodox. Anything else is really a form of phyletism.

You do not have more in common with either the Roman Catholic or Anglican communions than you do with the Byzantine Rite Orthodox. Thinking or speaking as though you do is really just a schism waiting to happen.
In another entry, the same blogger termed certain currents in WRO (and "Orthodox blogdom" generally) Deconstructionist: they hear a certain doctrine being spoken of as "Orthodox" and immediately set out to find counter-examples that dovetail with Anglican/Roman Catholic theology (see also the last paragraph above).

It may surprise my readers, and the original author, to know that I appreciate the general sentiment (if, as the Geico caveman says, I'm not 100 percent in love with its tone). Both Fr. Fenton and I have recently reaffirmed there is no theological difference whatever between Western Rite Orthodox and "Eastern" Orthodox. We are all merely "Orthodox," and the modifiers refer only to the (approved) rituals with which we celebrate this shared faith. Thus, developments after the Great Schism are of vital importance to WRO. The Western rite employs only what is "proper to the West" liturgically, but theologically we venerate all the Eastern Fathers and regularly refer to their theology. (St. Gregory Palamas's theology of uncreated light is particularly inspirational to me.) Is it possible to say we are Orthodox but reject 1,000 years of Church theology? That would be a form of "historical reconstructionism" unimagined.

I'd take exception on one front: Often when WR bloggers - and I among them, on occasion - have discussed the affinity some figures outside Orthodoxy have for the Church, it has been, not to show how close Orthodox are to (e.g.,) Anglicanism, but to show them how close they are in heart and mind to Orthodox, whether Eastern or Western Rite. Non-Orthodox may turn a deaf ear to St. Symeon the New Theologian, but if you mention that John Mason Neale believed the same thing, or that Bp. Charles Grafton longed for corporate reunion with the East, they may give Orthodoxy a hearing. Under no circumstances, though, should we portray ourselves as closer to heterodox than to Orthodox.

Out of respect for some of those deemed "Deconstructionist," it is true that there is an "Only Legitimate Orthodoxy" school of internet-and-newsletter theology, whose Eastern proponents vastly overplay their hand to the disadvantage of the West. These are the people who seem to believe all the world's ills, from ethnic cleansing to halitosis, stem from the fact that St. Augustine's Bible said man was "born in sin" rather than "born in sins." Such Westernphobia is supposed to be a mark of how far the "convert" has come from his old home but is rather a sign of how far he has to go.

To be fair, it's certainly true there are differences of opinion, theologoumena, on non-dogmatic issues. I cherish this freedom, as distinct from fundamentalist sects. It is also true that not everything is a matter of opinion, as in modernist churches (TEC, PCUSA, ELCA, UCC, etc.).

However, it is most emphatically not true that all theologoumena are created equal. Some seem to give the impression that presenting "The Orthodox Position"TM on anything not settled by an Ecumenical Council is impossible - that all non-condemned views are equally vying for recognition as truth, and describing any belief as "Orthodox" outside dogmatic theology is like trying to find the Orthodox view of the Balanced Budget Amendment or "Tastes Great/Less Filling."

It is not impossible to establish a theologoumenon's underlying theological pedigree, and its acceptance (or lack of same) within the Church. Although we don't conduct theology by survey, how widely a belief has been held is of pivotal importance in a traditional Church.

We must be careful, in our freedom of theologoumena, not to become "cafeteria Orthodox." Just as it is possible for one to pluck singular and idiosyncratic phrases from putatively Western missals, one line at a time, and end up with a ridiculously Byzantized Mass not at all reflective of Western piety, so is it possible to pluck from Eastern theological sources, one essay at a time, a theology that is not reflective of how mainstream Orthodoxy has defined Herself throughout history. We do Western Rite Orthodoxy no favors by indulging either fantasy.

Ultimately, theologoumena are a matter of conscience, and the perimeters of debate will not be decided online. (Deo gratias!) That is the province of our Shepherds in Christ. But let us not unnecessarily tax them. Since our Holy Mother has offered us a loving home, we must become Her grateful, and obedient, children.

I thank this defunct blog and its author (whomever it was) for reminding us of this.

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