Saturday, March 22, 2008

This Blog Brings Peace with a Former Critic

Some may think, judging from the noise pollution of some hateful anti-Western Rite polemicists, that, should they have the temerity to speak publicly anything concerning the canonical Western Rite, they will receive only hatred and malice. That's why I was pleased to receive this response to my recent post "How Orthodox Saints Assessed Western Spirituality":
I really enjoyed reading this. I was once very zealous in persecuting post-schism devotions without any consideration other than "is it post-schism?" I've come to understand that this approach is too absolutist... too "Western" in some ways.

I would insist that imagination - in actual prayer - is to be discouraged. But, I think Archbishop Hilarion had a good point; a point which I had not considered, in fact. Now that I think about it, Russian Saints counseled that we use the imagination to "warm the heart" as a preparation to prayer. I think that, if we uphold the necessary distinction between imagination used in a limited and proper context as an aid to producing a prayerful spirit (rather than as prayer itself), we would do well.

I ask forgiveness for the times I have been too dogmatic in opposing post-schism things. I think there are still good grounds for being cautious with such things, and making sure that they are used correctly... but I have come to understand that more balance is needed on these matters.
To the man - indeed, now a monk! - who wrote this, I remember your zeal at "persecuting" devotions well! :) I'm glad we agree on a need for balance in this regard; if it was good enough for the saints, it should be good enough for us!

As to the use of imagination during prayer, as I recall we actually agreed on this point during our discussion/blowout argument about the Rosary a few years ago. I suggested meditation on the mystery under consideration prior to prayer, precisely as a means to "warm up the heart" as recommended by, e.g., St. Theophan the Recluse. (I may have used the exact phrase, but I forget.)

Balance is precisely what is needed. Whether we presently agree on the exact contours of this or not, I'm overjoyed that you wrote. I'm happy you have joined a canonical Orthodox Church body (the Greek Orthodox Church) and that you are serving God as part of a larger monastery. Thank you again, and may God save us together.

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