Orthodox Survival Course, Class 14 – The Renaissance: Timeline Overview. Topic 1: Some Key Bad Ideas from the Start

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/class-14

Class 14 – The Renaissance: Timeline Overview. Topic 1: Some Key Bad Ideas from the Start

Timeline Overview: Renaissance to Enlightenment to Revolution

Tonight we will begin our section on the Renaissance, which for convenience’s sake we will say lasts roughly from 1300 to 1600. Of course, many conventional timelines show the 14th and 15th centuries as the “late Middle Ages,” and there are reasons for this, especially if you are considering the British Isles, the Iberian Peninsula, and Scandinavia, which remained “medieval” in various ways longer than the dynamic Italian and French cultures, the seedbeds and exemplars of all future European development. But for our purposes, since we are working on acquiring an Orthodox overview of the vast sweep of Western culture, it is most useful to zero in on the 14th century, and on Italy, as the key period and key place marking the transition to the Renaissance.

In my earlier proposal for a syllabus of Part II of our course (see the end of the notes for Class 10), I put forward the Reformation and Counter-Reformation as separate topics, but after further reflection, I think we’ll treat them as sub-topics within the Renaissance period. As with our earlier sessions, I’m not sure how long we’ll take on the Renaissance: Remember, you are here with me in the initial formation of our course, and we are going to take things as they come and adjust as we see fit.

Though, as we said, the real transition in the West from Orthodoxy to something else really took place in the 12th to the 13th centuries, yet the consequences of this transition were probably not foreseen by the men who caused it, men who believed – tragically and mistakenly – that they were laying solid foundations for a “Thousand Year Reich,” so to speak, of a genuine Christian civilization under the benevolent rule of the Pope. But that was not in fact the result. In the Renaissance, we will see, with dismay, shockingly different “Consequences” of the “Ideas” of the Western High Middle Ages: the collapse of the delicate Idealistic (to use Sorokin’s term) synthesis of the High Middle Ages into an open, unapologetic, self-adulating, no holds-barred Sensate culture marked by anthropocentrism rather than theocentrism, the shift from Truth to Power as the driving force of culture and politics, Superstition replacing Faith and Reason, the glorification of carnal passions, the elevation of the individual and his quest for human glory, and the misdirection of Science from its ancient pursuit of truth in the service of man’s spiritual and intellectual telos – i.e., virtue – to the “progressive” pursuit of power over material phenomena, in the service of comfort, pleasure, and the manipulation of the masses of people by a self-serving oligarchy of occult “insiders,” with this vast technological enterprise being funded by the alchemy of a usury-based financial system. It is as if one of those vast yet delicate Gothic cathedrals, so heartbreakingly beautiful in its dynamic upward thrust to pierce the heavens, suddenly got dizzy, lost its dynamic balance and collapsed into a pile of rubble. Meanwhile, the un-dynamic and un-progressive older brother of the Gothic cathedral, that old-fashioned “boring” Byzantine church sitting solidly on the ground – i.e., the Orthodox civilization – still stands silent, still, and unchanged, “left behind” in the “march of progress,” quietly living on in the monasteries and agrarian societies in the vast backwaters at the eastern end of the Western world: the Ottoman Empire and Old Russia (i.e., Russia before Peter I).

The headlong, frenzied race into passion and fragmentation initiated by the Renaissance will be, as we will see, temporarily arrested by the attempt of the “Enlightenment” (roughly the 17th and 18th centuries) to create a new stasis by means of “reason,” but, being merely man-made, without spiritual truth and power, without repentance, still marked by great hubris, this brittle, make-believe “reasonable” world of Newtonian science and rationalist philosophy will be crushed into a thousand pieces by the demonic power of Revolution, beginning in 1789.

During these last two periods, of “Enlightenment” and Revolution, the Orthodox East will once again encounter and be greatly affected by Western European man, and the latter’s bad Ideas will begin to have Consequences for our fathers, as well. It is essential to our survival that we understand what then happened to the Orthodox, leading right up to our own time.

The Renaissance, Topic 1: Some Key Bad Ideas from the Start – Three Pancakes and Occam’s Razor

So we will see that bad ideas in High Middle Ages led to worse things in the Renaissance. I’d like to go back and review three key transitional ideas that we have alluded to or spoken about in passing, that led inevitably to the collapse of that delicate Idealistic structure of 13th century Western Christian culture into the fragmented free-for-all of the Renaissance. I call them the three “Pancakes,” because each one involves “pancaking” two realities into one, smashing together and confusing distinct realities.

Pancake 1 – Man: Reason and Nous, Soul and Spirit. The Scholastics, and what became “Roman Catholic” anthropology generally, do not distinguish carefully between the logos in man regarded as dianoia – the discursive, analytical intellect – and the logos regarded as nous – the synthetic, intuitive, and, properly speaking, spiritual intellect. They “pancake” them into one reality, “reason,” ratio or intellectus. Another word for one’s nous is pneuma– spirit – regarded as the highest faculty of the psyche, the soul, and with its own distinctive function, that is, to act in the invisible realm of the angelic universe through direct, undeluded and synthetic spiritual perceptions. From this point on, this intellectual confusion creates a bad theological method – that of dialectic, with primacy given to kataphasis instead of apophasis, and to the analytic over the synthetic and tradition-based method – as well as lack of spiritual discernment: the Western “saint” cannot distinguish between that which is merely of “the soul,” psychological, and that which is genuinely of “the spirit,” spiritual. By opening the door to endless dialectic and analysis, this confusion leads to theological unraveling. By opening to the door to endless delusory psychological experiences, this confusion leads to complete lack of spiritual discernment.

Pancake 2 – The Church: Organism and Organization. The full-blown papal ideology “pancakes’ the organism of the Church – Her life – into the organization of the Church – Her outward structures, with the latter controlling and dominating, or, in worst cases, substituting for the former. How do you know you are in the Church? Well, you are under the Pope. How do you know you won’t spend more time in Purgatory? Well, the Pope has granted you an indulgence. How do you know someone is really a saint? Well, the Roman Curia has gone through a specific legal process and declared it so. As we know, the Orthodox respect the ancient administrative structures, ancient sees, territorial synods, etc. (which is why we are fighting about them all the time!), but the Orthodox have never identified the structures with the Church. They are in service to the Church; they are not the Church. This confusion in the West will lead to the Church being cynically regarded as just another competitor for earthly power in the race to see who will create the new, “progressive” bright future of a New World Order, Heaven on Earth. In the Renaissance, we will see the spectacle of the popes marching at the head of armies to kill Christian men and sponsoring adventures in astrology, alchemy, and usury to bring about a “better life” on earth.

Pancake 3 – God: Absolute Divine Simplicity

We do not have time, given the broad scope of our course, to give adequate treatment to the so-called Palamite controversy of the 14th century, but we need to summarize at least the points that make up its outcome. Remember how we spoke earlier of Anselm of Bec and the famous slogan of his Proslogion: “fides quarens intellectum”. The idea here is that faith is a “leap in the dark” without evidence and without logic, and that we have to correct this defect in faith with the more sure knowledge coming from experience and reason. This, in germ, is the basic idea of the “Anti-Hesychasts” who opposed St. Gregory Palamas. St. Gregory summarized centuries of the teaching of the Orthodox Fathers when he taught that

1. Theology is grounded in the direct experience of the saints, whose nous has direct contact with the uncreated energies of God.

2. Therefore, a prerequisite assumption is that God’s essence and energies are distinct, because the nous must simultaneously experience God in reality, to avoid agnosticism, without experiencing the divine essence, which would result in pantheism.

3. This knowledge is more, not less, sure than the results of the empirical experience and analytical reasoning of the scientists and philosophers.

The “Latinophrones,” or “Anti-Hesychasts” taught the opposite, that theology is the result of applying philosophical reasoning to natural and supernatural revelation, that God is Absolutely Simple, actus purus – His essence and His energies are “pancaked” into absolute identity – and that scientific and philosophical knowledge is more certain than the knowledge gained from spiritual experience. This “leap” from trusting the Saints and Tradition to trusting “reason” will result in the humanism and worldliness that will characterize the Renaissance, which, we will see, will be an age not of reason but superstition, because…

…by undercutting the basis for undeceived spiritual knowledge, the Anti-Hesychasts undercut the basis for the functioning of reason itself, which is known to exist only by Divine Revelation. This is where the Scholastics parted ways with Orthodoxy. But at the same time, over in England, William of Ockham is parting ways with the Orthodox and the Scholastics, and the Great Race to the Bottom of Western thought is off and running!

Occam’s “Razor” and Nominalism – Finally, we are coming around to the great villain in Richard Weaver’s narrative of the fall of the West: Nominalism. And we have to agree with Weaver: It’s a huge problem. Like “Anti-Palamism,” Nominalism, though one finds it before in various authors, really “takes off” in the 14th century, with the teachings of an English Franciscan friar, William of Ockham (or “Occam”). While Anti-Palamism undercuts human knowledge indirectly, by undercutting the divine-human mechanism of Revelation, Nominalism undercuts the possibility of human knowledge directly, by denying the existence of the “universals.”

Occam’s “Razor” is the nickname for an epistemological axiom attributed to the friar William: ” Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity.” As a methodological assumption for scientific work, that’s a pretty good rule: Keep it simple; throw out whatever is actually extraneous to your hypothesis. The problem is that Occam, and later many other thinkers, applied this rule to the age-old “problem of the universals,” and came up with what came to be called “Nominalism,” that is, “Name-ism,” the idea that when we call two horses by the same name – horse – it’s not because there’s such a thing as horse-ness that the horses have in common, but simply because we noticed that these two things are kind of the same and so we’ll call them both “horse” for convenience.

So what is this “problem of the universals?” A “universal” is anything predicated of more than one individual: “Man,” for example, as predicated of Peter and Paul. The “problem” is this: Does the word “man” signify something that really exists or is it just a notion, a tag, we apply to the two individuals pragmatically, for convenience’s sake? Is there such a thing as human nature, or is that a notion, a linguistic convention we can change at will? Is there such a thing as a “nature” of anything? There are three possible answers:

Nominalism – Nominalism is the idea that the universals are just names (nomina) that we give to individual substances that seem to be kind of the same. There is no such “thing out there” as human nature, horse nature, house nature, star nature, etc.

Extreme Realism – Plato combats this idea, which obviously leads to skepticism, cynicism, and the abuse of power, and which he associates with Socrates’ opponents, the sophists, with a radically opposite idea: the universals are so real that they have a separate existence in the World of Forms (τα είδη). When we perceive “humanness,” our mind is experiencing anamnesis (remembering again) of the “true world” in which our souls pre-existed before being “imprisoned” in the flesh and the delusory world of matter. There is a soteriological problem here, however: When you leave the body and re-enter the world of the forms, how does your “humanness” encounter Humanness Itself and not get absorbed by it? Thus Platonic soteriology is ultimately not different from the Hindu idea of the absorption of the individual into the One.

Moderate Realism – this is the solution of Aristotle, which in modified form is taught by the Holy Fathers.. The universals do exist, but they exist only as instantiated in individual instances. “Humanness” does exist, but we see it only in examples like Peter and Paul, not in itself. But where did our minds get these ideas? Why are we able to perceive the universals? The answer is most beautiful and satisfying: Our minds are made according to the image of the Logos, the Primordial Word of the Primordial Mind, in which, according to His energies, are found the logoi, archetypes or patterns, of all created things. The universals are created natures made after the image of the logoi, and our mind, created after the image of the Logos, can naturally perceive them. When a Christian attains theoria (the second stage of spiritual life, in which the passions are healed and the mind perceives reality accurately), he starts to perceive the logoi of all things as well as the created natures made after the pattern of the logoi.

The Scholastics, with their beloved Absolute Divine Simplicity, have a hard time explaining why the universals are not created or eternal archetypes with an existence separate from individual created instances and from God, which would throw them back into some kind of Platonism or even (if the archetypes are uncreated) polytheism, or, if the universals really do belong in the mind of God considered as pure essence, are not therefore necessarily merely notions in our own minds, since all distinctions within the divine essence are notional, not real, and this throws them back into some kind of Nominalism. The Holy Fathers, by contrast, most notably St. Maximos the Confessor, can explain the universals, as being created natures made after the pattern of the uncreated logoi, which are uncreated energies of the Logos.

But both the Orthodox and the Scholastics oppose Nominalism.

We will see how the skepticism engendered by Nominalism will infect every aspect of religion, philosophy, politics, and culture in the Renaissance and succeeding ages. If you cannot know the natures of things as they really are, then real knowledge is impossible, and the pursuit of science is not to conform the mind to reality, and the passions to the mind, but to conform reality to the demands of the will dominated by the passions. This Satanic inversion is the basis of all modern culture, a sobering thought that should really motivate us to stay “out of the mainstream” and “off the radar screen,” and really stay close to the Church.

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 13 – The Latin High Middle Ages: Politics and Chiliasm

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/class-13

Class 13 – The Latin High Middle Ages: Politics and Chiliasm

I. Introduction: Tonight is the third session in our exploration of this key period of the Latin High Middle Ages, roughly the 12th and 13th centuries, the all-important epoch of profound changes in the Western Church that marked a definitive break with Orthodox spiritual life, theology, and culture. Following Fr. Seraphim Rose’s outline in Lecture 2 of his “Orthodox Survival Course,” we are covering six topics: Scholasticism, Romance, The New Concept of Sanctity, Sacred Art, Politics, and the chiliast teachings of Joachim of Flora. Tonight we will cover the last two topics, which are actually closely related, for the new concept of the pope as a kind of world ruler fits in neatly with the chiliast conception of establishing the kingdom of God on earth.

Providentially, I was recently re-acquainted with a curious book called The Keys of this Blood, written by a rather intriguing, not to say shady, character named Malachi Martin and published in 1990. I say “providentially,” because the subject and the argument of the book fit in quite well with our topics tonight. So by way of introduction, I’m going to discuss this very recent book, to confirm a point I’ve stressed many times, that the fundamental changes which took place in the Western church in the High Middle Ages have direct consequences for our own time.

The first few pages of the book are shocking, really, because the author assures us that one-world government is inevitable, and that it will be fully in control of us during the lifetime of anyone under forty years of age at the time of the book’s publication, that is, anyone born after 1950. The only question in the author’s mind is whether this one-world system will be dominated by Soviet communism, the Western “capitalist” establishment, or…the Vatican! In other words, as late as 1990, someone is floating the idea of a world government controlled by the pope of Rome as a realistic possibility. The book was published by a big name, “establishment” New York house (Simon and Schuster), and the author is not a naive or mentally unbalanced Catholic zealot or a marginal “conspiracy theorist,” not an “outsider,” but an “establishment” figure: He was a peritus (“expert”) at the Second Vatican Council, advising none other than Cardinal Bea, the chief architect of the Vatican’s radical change, in the 1960’s, in favor of Ecumenism and in favor of a conciliatory policy towards world Communism. Later Martin pretended to be converted to Catholic traditionalism and to oppose Vatican II, but as we can see from this book, he was a great promoter of John Paul II, the pope who did more to promote inter-religious syncretism – much less ecumenism – than any other single public figure in 20th century history. John Paul II took the ecumenist theory of Vatican II and “put it on steroids,” as the saying goes.

We know, also, that in the 1960’s Pope Paul VI appeared before the UN and praised them as the “hope of mankind,” etc., and that the supposed “conservative” Benedict XVI wrote an encyclical in which he called for a single global financial authority. And these were not isolated incidents, but part of a grand design, an overarching policy thought out and executed by the oldest intelligence and propaganda organization in the world, one that commands the allegiance of a billion people. The audacity – really shamelessness – of these modern popes in proposing such obvious Anti-Christ schemes is extreme, but it is not contradictory in essence to what the papacy has stood for, for many centuries: a single world commonwealth under the direct spiritual authority and the indirect temporal authority of the pope, who, as the substitute for Jesus Christ on earth, has the moral and legal right to govern the entire earth as Viceroy of Christ the King.

This ideology was born not recently, but a long time ago, in the period we have been discussing. Let’s take a look at it.

II. The High Medieval Papacy and the German Emperors: The Degeneration from Symphonia to Competition for Dominance

A. Prior Developments during the First Millennium: The fully blown papist ideology did not spring up suddenly of course; it did not come out of nowhere. I think we know pretty well the basics of the history of the disintegration of the Roman authority in the West, and how the papacy, the Western bishops, and the monasteries came to be the stabilizing and unifying spiritual, cultural, and even political influence during the turbulent period when the barbarian kingdoms were being converted to orthodox Christianity and becoming civilized, becoming “Romanized.” Their stepping into this vacuum of power, to become not only the unifying spiritual but also temporal influence on their society, was perfectly natural – actually necessary – given the circumstances, and surely in its original intention and many of its aspects it was a God-pleasing project, an accomplishment, over centuries, of vast dimensions, that is hard for us to conceive, and which we cannot but admire. A negative outcome, however, is that the Western Church, and especially the popes, were tempted to overemphasize the extent of their temporal powers at the cost of the God-pleasing symphonia of the powers of the imperium and sacerdotium. This unbalanced view bore bitter fruit later on.

In the 8th century we have the appearance of an extremely important document, a forgery, called “The Donation of Constantine,” a supposed decree of St. Constantine giving the pope the ownership of vast territories in the Roman empire. Though in the fifteenth century it was proved to be a forgery, the idea of the Roman emperor ceding his temporal power to the pope, not simply de facto by dint of circumstances, but as an ideological position sanctioned by the archetypal Christian ruler, became “hardwired” into the medieval Western Christian mindset.

Also in the 8th century we see the rise of the Carolingian Frankish power, culminating in the establishment of what comes to be called the “Holy Roman Empire” with the crowning of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, 800. At first, these German emperors had a kind of “symphonic” relationship with the pope, more or less imitating the system in the Eastern Roman Empire, but this is not going to last.

In his lecture, Fr. Seraphim has this to say about the “Holy Roman Empire” of the Frankish kings: “…in the 800’s there was the rival empire of Charlemagne that was consciously set up as a rival. The Pope indeed chose Charlemagne over Irene the Easterner who was for the icons, and Charlemagne was against the icons, and also favored the Filioque. Already we see that this is very shaky. And this empire gave rise to what was called the Holy Roman Empire in the West. And Kireyevsky notes, ‘We have a Holy Russia because there are holy men in it, called because of holy men, but the Holy Roman Empire was holy in itself, not because there were holy men, holy emperors or holy men in it. It was called “holy” because the institution itself was conceived as being holy.’ And this is an attempt, which will come out very strongly later, at ‘sanctifying the world,’ in which an earthly institution becomes conceived as something holy.”

Something I would like to add is this: Remember that we discussed, in our earlier course on Orthodox political thought, and in our class earlier in this course on the Church and the State, that the Christian Empire is an icon that mediates the reality of the heavenly kingdom; it is not itself that kingdom. But the medieval popes and emperors have this project of creating a “holy society” on earth, which is analogous, in the political realm, to having statues instead of icons, to having saints and priests who are “other Christs,” not icons of Christ. The whole culture, being an “Idealistic” culture, to use Sorokin’s category, becomes opaque. It inspires you with the thought or feeling of the heavenly reality, but it does not mediate the reality, having become “something in itself.”

B. The Gregorian Reform – the Great Turning Point. Regardless of how one views the legitimacy of this new “Roman” empire in the West (and, of course, as the real successors to the Romans, we Orthodox have profound reservations in this regard), at least it provided a counterbalance to the papacy’s pretensions to temporal power. But in the 11th century – the century of the Schism – Pope Gregory VII definitively made the break with the tradition of symphonia to declare the papacy a power superior to that of the emperors, possessing even the power to depose emperors and kings. Until his time, bishops were chosen in a variety of ways – by local councils, popular election, appointment by local rulers, etc. – and the local dioceses were endowed with lands for their support by local rulers, independent of Rome’s approval. Gregory, however, in the course of what came to be called the Investiture Controversy, established that the popes had direct control over all episcopal appointments and the apportioning of Church lands, which represented an enormous transfer not only of spiritual but temporal power into the hands of the pope. Western Europe was transformed, by this change, into a vast fief of the pope, at least in theory, since, according to Gregory’s teaching, he had direct control over the bishops not only as spiritual but temporal lords, and indirect control over every temporal authority, including that of the emperor. The famous scene at Canossa, in January 1077, in which the Emperor Henry IV knelt in the snow for three days to beg the pope’s forgiveness for opposing him, is the symbolic moment of the triumph of this new ideology, one of the key turning points in world history.

C. The 1100’s and 1200’s – The temporal dominance of Western Europe by the pope, in practice, reached its height in the reign of Innocent III (+1216). From that time on, the “Holy Roman” Emperors and the rulers of the newly developing nation-states gradually became more powerful geopolitical rivals to the papacy. The sad thing is that the pope, while claiming to be, for all intents and purposes, God on earth, had simultaneously reduced himself to just another temporal prince in a nasty dogfight for temporal power with all the other temporal princes. As ruler of the Papal States, he employed his own military and diplomatic resources on the chessboard of international politics, right along with everyone else.

Despite the fact that, by the end of the 13th century, the papacy had less political clout than at the time of Innocent’s death, Pope Boniface VIII, at his enthronement in 1294 , declared himself “Caesar” as well as the successor of Peter. This claim – to the imperial as well as the priestly power – was not simply vanity or boasting, but an intentional and consistent statement of his beliefs, which are summarized in one of the key documents of papal ideology, his famous bull Unam Sanctam (1302), the text of which I’ve appended to these notes. In this document, he clearly states that the temporal authorities should be subject to, not in symphonia with, the spiritual authority, and that the highest spiritual authority, the Pope, can be judged by no one but God. The final words are famous: “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” That kind of says it all.

III. The Chiliast Utopianism of Joachim of Flora

This claim to what is, essentially, world dominance by the pope, is, of course, a species of utopianism, a fanatical idea that if only everyone would just obey the pope – who is, after all, endowed with the plenary authority of God Incarnate – there would be peace on earth, universal justice, and so forth. A feverish kind of mass mindset that would foster acceptance of strange ideas like this among the ordinary people was created in the 13th century by a group of fanatic Franciscans called “the Spirituals,” who took the teachings of a late 12th century Cistercian abbot, Joachim of Flora (+1202), about a “new age of the Holy Spirit,” and spread them all over Europe. Joachim taught that the Old Testament Church of the patriarchs and prophets was the period of the Father, that the New Testament Church of the priests and monks, the Church of the first thousand years AD, was the period of the Son, and that soon there would be a third and final age of the Holy Spirit, in which everyone would be spiritual and would not need kings and priests and rules and asceticism, but everyone would simply pray and be holy and happy all the time, and share everything, and there would be no sin, and so forth. Now, of course, this is a kind of “Christian anarchy” that is the opposite of an organized “Holy Kingdom of God on Earth” ruled by the emperor or the pope, but the spirit is the same: “We are going to enjoy Christ’s Kingdom right here on earth by making a perfect society that ‘sanctifies the world.'” The two seemingly opposed ideas are both species of chiliasm.

Now the 13th century Franciscan “Spirituals” who spread Joachim’s ideas went far beyond him, as fanatic “groupies” of a spiritual teacher often do, and they got into trouble by identifying the Emperor Frederick II as the Antichrist, but when he died that did not faze them, and they said the world was going to end in 1260, but of course it didn’t, and so forth. They also spread forgeries which they ascribed to Joachim, and finally got into trouble with the head of their order, Bonaventure, and with the papacy. Ultimately not only their additions to Joachim’s teaching but also the teaching of Joachim himself was condemned by Pope Alexander IV in 1256, and the Franciscan authorities suppressed their movement. Yet, as the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia states, Joachim was still regarded informally as a beatus (a Blessed, though not a Saint), and he had his own feast day, on May 29th. You can read all about him in the Catholic Encyclopedia article at http://newadvent.org/cathen/08406c.htm.

(What is interesting for us as contemporary Orthodox is that a 20th century “Orthodox” thinker, Nicholas Berdyaev, had a theory very similar to Joachim’s, and this is discussed by Fr. Seraphim in Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. The same bad ideas keep popping up – there is nothing new under the sun!)

IV. Summary: By the end of the period we’ve been discussing, by around the year 1300, we now have the full-blown papal claim to world dominance clashing directly with the claims of the “Holy Roman” [actually German] Emperors and also the rulers of the developing modern nation-states of Western Europe. The old concept of symphonia has been destroyed, and Europe will enter on a centuries-long drama of the political, diplomatic, and military adventures of the popes as rivals to the Western emperors and kings. Of course, this makes reconciliation with the Orthodox Eastern Church even more difficult, for in addition to all the theological, spiritual, and cultural differences, we now have a much different theory of how the Church is supposed to relate to the State. The “Church” has come to be identified entirely with the worldly organization under the popes, and its rulers claim to have direct spiritual authority and indirect political authority over the entire human race.

So the One-World-Government-Under-John-Paul-II-Idea in Malachi Martin’s 1990 book is really nothing new.

V. Appendix: “Unam Sanctam,” Pope Boniface VIII

“Unam Sanctam,” Bull of Pope Boniface VIII promulgated November 18, 1302

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles [Sgs 6:8] proclaims: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,‘ and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God [1 Cor 11:3]. In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism [Eph 4:5]. There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed.

We venerate this Church as one, the Lord having said by the mouth of the prophet: ‘Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword and my only one from the hand of the dog.’ [Ps 21:20] He has prayed for his soul, that is for himself, heart and body; and this body, that is to say, the Church, He has called one because of the unity of the Spouse, of the faith, of the sacraments, and of the charity of the Church. This is the tunic of the Lord, the seamless tunic, which was not rent but which was cast by lot [Jn 19:23- 24]. Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: ‘Feed my sheep‘ [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John ‘there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.’ We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: ‘Behold, here are two swords‘ [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: ‘Put up thy sword into thy scabbard‘ [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter bythe Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: ‘There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God‘ [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal. This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, but the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: ‘Behold to-day I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms‘ and the rest. Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: ‘The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man‘ [1 Cor 2:15]. This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven‘ etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2], unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth [Gen 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

-see http://www.papalencyclicals.net/bon08/b8unam.htm

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 12 – The Latin High Middle Ages: Sacred Art

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/class-12

Class 12 – The Latin High Middle Ages: Sacred Art

I. Introduction: During our last class, we began our exploration of this key period of the Latin High Middle Ages, roughly the 12th and 13th centuries, the all-important epoch of profound changes in the Western Church that marked a definitive break with Orthodox spiritual life, theology, and culture. Following Fr. Seraphim Rose’s outline in Lecture 2 of his “Orthodox Survival Course,” we proposed to cover five or perhaps six topics: Scholasticism, Romance, The New Concept of Sanctity, the chiliast teachings of Joachim of Flora, Art, and Politics. Though during class I mentioned that we would leave aside Joachim of Flora, I’ve changed my mind, because today I was studying him, and I see now why Fr. Seraphim included him, because his chiliast, utopian reinterpretation of Scripture became very influential in all subsequent Western Christian thought about the relationship of the Church to the world and a Christian philosophy of history, and his ideas, by the way, are remarkably relevant to the 20th century and our time as well. So we will spend some time on Joachim.

Also, I’ve realized that we really need to take our time and take longer to cover this period than I originally envisioned: It is the most important period, for our purposes, to study, because the errors, the wrong turns, of this period, set the direction for everything that came to pass afterwards in the second millennium, leading up to our own time. So tonight we will just concentrate on Sacred Art, and next week we’ll talk about Joachim’s utopianism and the subject of Church and Politics, which two subjects dovetail very well together.

Before we look at the sacred art and – very importantly – the architecture of the West in this period, I’d like to cover two topics as relating to this: the thought of Pitirim Sorokin, and a review of what we said about genuine Orthodox sacred art in our earlier class.

II. Sorokin’s Model of Cultural History – As I said early on in our course, now and then I’d like to introduce you to secular scholars whose work can help us acquire the intellectual tools to understand our subject matter. One important writer in this regard is a Russian named Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968), who used the methods of sociology to identify three cultural types or periods – the Ideational, the Idealistic, and the Sensate – a model that will be very helpful for us in understanding the transition from the first to the second millennium in the Christian West. Though baptized and buried as an Orthodox Christian, we should not think of Sorokin as an Orthodox thinker: He was a liberal democrat active in the Kerensky government, and his religious thought was universalist – for him Orthodoxy, which he respected but did not think was the exclusive truth, was but one stream among the various ancient streams of the Great Tradition. His historical thought, also, was cyclical, not linear, and he believed that the succession of Ideational, Idealistic, and Sensate cultures extended indefinitely into the past and into the future, that they constituted an inevitable, pre-determined cycle that could not be stopped. When you read his writings, however, you see that he really was not a cultural or moral relativist: He obviously prefers the religiously based cultures – the Ideational and, being a liberal Orthodox very inclined to admire Catholicism, especially the Idealistic, which he identifies with his favorite culture, the one we are studying tonight, of the 13th century West – and he sees only the seeds of degeneration in the Sensate, though he will praise the obvious achievements of this kind of culture as well.

So what is this “model,” what do these terms mean? He offers short explanations in most of his books. Probably the best introduction to his thought is The Crisis of Our Age, written in the 1930’s, an incredibly accurate diagnosis and prognosis of the direction of modern culture. Here tonight I have the one-volume condensation of his magnum opus, the four volume Social and Cultural Dynamics. He explains his “model” in chapter two, “Systems of Culture.” Rather than quote from him at length, I’ll summarize the three main terms: Ideational, Sensate, and Idealistic.

Ideational – In the Ideational culture, the invisible and spiritual realm is what is important, and every aspect of the culture is subordinated to this priority. All cultural manifestations are intended to lead men beyond this world to the eternal and the timeless. A society of this kind experiences very little and very slow change; it is static, highly integrated and ascetic. There can be and often is a high level of creativity, of cultural achievement, but it is accomplished not for its own sake but to lead man to his eternal purpose, and its technique and expressions are within strict canonical boundaries. It values quality and interior beauty over quantity and external mass.

Sensate – A Sensate culture is the opposite. The priority is the visible and material world, and all cultural manifestations are subordinated to this priority. The goal is not to lead men beyond this world but to “celebrate the world.” We see in these cultures the glorification of the body, man as the center of all things, and constant, ever greater experimentation in material cultural manifestations. Such a culture is constantly changing, tending always to greater variety and fragmentation, and non-ascetical, glorifying the passions and tending always to increasingly fleshly, carnal cultural expressions. It tends increasingly to value quantity and sheer size over quality and interior beauty.

Idealistic – Idealistic periods of history are short, transitional periods, in which the spiritual reality upheld in the Ideational period is still uppermost, but is “brought to earth,” so to speak, made present in this world, in new material forms of expression that partake more of the earthly yet strictly glorify the spiritual. The 12th and 13th centuries are just such a period. While, on the one hand, their culture is intensely religious, even ascetical, on the other hand, their entire project is to “bring heaven to earth,” or, rather, to make earth into heaven. This kind of Christian utopianism, creating the ideal society based on a transcendent model, here on earth, appealed to the aristocratic democrat Sorokin, and he probably admired this society more than any other in Christian history.

But Sorokin would say that the Idealistic period is always short and inevitably leads to the beginnings of a dominant Sensate culture.

III. Orthodox Sacred Art – Here we need only to reproduce some of our notes from Class 5, to see right away how Orthodox Sacred Art, and, naturally, Orthodox culture in general, is “ideational”:

The Characteristics of Genuine Christian Sacred Art (from Class 5 – The Church of the Romans: Topic 3, Sacred Art – A.Theory)

Recall our first class, on the Early Church, whose character we described as eschatological, otherworldly, martyric, and ascetical. The insights we discussed in our later two classes, regarding the Church’s true spiritual school and true theological method lead us in the same direction, which is to conclude that a genuine sacred art must lead the believer into purification of the senses, cleansing from the passions, and pure prayer in this life, and thus to the Heavenly Kingdom in the next life, which Kingdom he will already have experienced through mysteriological and prayerful communion with God. It is anagogical – Its purpose is not to “celebrate the world,” but to lead the soul upwards to union with God.

This anagogical function necessitates that true sacred art must be hierarchical and hieratic. The forms and images here below are part of a great hierarchy of forms which extend downward from the heavenly archetypes to their earthly representations, as explained by St. Dionysios. This art is hieratic, that is, priestly, in that it has a specific priestly function, which is to offer to the believer the sacred mystery and then transform the believer so that he may offer his heart – himself – as a spiritual sacrifice to the Father Who reigns at the height of this cosmic and super-cosmic hierarchy, He Who sacrificed the Lamb of God before the ages for us.

The techniques of this art, in all of its media, must therefore produce a certain transparency, for its function is not to call attention to itself but to lead up, beyond itself, to

that which is truly real. It is also an art that is anonymous, both because the artist is working as a member of a community, not on his own, and because he is performing his work as an act of worship to God, not for personal aggrandizement.

IV. High Medieval Sacred Art and Architecture: So what will happen when an intensely religious people gets tired of the really real being beyond the veil of the senses, being there, not here? They don’t want to plunge from the Ideational world of their fathers straight into Sensate worldliness. Rather, they will take their beloved Ideal and somehow make it present, here on earth, in a way that is very intense and attractive, but overstepping the canonical bounds laid down in the Ideational period. They take their Ideal and enclose it in a beautiful box so that it is right there with them, instead of in the eternal world. But it still inspires them with eternal ideals – it’s not purely carnal or sensual. This is what the Scholastics did with theology, when they made the transition from the apophatic method being primary to the cataphatic; this is what the high medieval religious orders did with sanctity, when Francis transformed the image of the saint from being an icon of Christ to being another Christ; and this is what the great artists and architects of the high middle ages did when they made the transition to idealistic rather than ideational/iconographic painting, and when they created the Gothic architecture.

Fr. Seraphim, in his Lecture 2, spends some time on the paintings of Duccio of Siena (+1319) and Giotto of Florence (+1337), the two best known high medieval Italian painters. Already we see here, though they are still staying somewhat within the old canonical boundaries, a shift from the transparent, strictly spiritual and timeless character of real iconography to a more opaque, this-worldly, and temporal approach, especially with Giotto. The change in Duccio is very subtle; you would have to study it pretty closely, and, really, pray in front of it, to discern the difference. In Giotto, it’s obvious – he is using a lot of the old forms and even some of the old technique, but he has shifted clearly to a dynamic and emotional style, bringing the spiritual reality into more of an earthly box, so to speak.

You can easily explore samples of their paintings nowadays on the Internet, but of course the best way is to see them in person. I remember spending hours, as a young man, in front of some wonderful Duccios in the West Wing of the National Gallery in Washington. It was one of those key experiences that led me to Orthodoxy, when I realized that, as great and moving as they were, they weren’t quite right. They convinced me that something had happened, that a corner had been turned, and that the religion they represented was very beautiful and dynamic, something admirable, but already of this world – not entirely, but definitely.

An earlier but equally important development took place in northern Europe, at first in France, with the creation of what came to be called “Gothic” architecture. The first clear example of this school is the famous reconstruction of the abbey church of St. Denis on the outskirts of Paris under Abbot Suger (+1151), and the most complete and sublime examples are the exquisite little “Sainte-Chapelle” in the center of Paris, built at the behest of Louis IX (“Saint” Louis, +1270), and the most (justly) famous of them all, Chartres Cathedral (built 1194-1220) .

So here are these famous buildings, done at great cost, with great devotion, and, really, they take your breath away when you visit them. So what is wrong with them, from the Orthodox point of view? The modernist Roman Catholic theologian Romano Guardini accurately and evocatively describes the spire of the Gothic cathedral as man’s finger reaching to heaven to pierce the heart of God (in The End of the Modern World). They are striving so hard to reach up to God and bring Him down to earth. In other words, these people really loved God, or at least they meant too. They are not like the later, worldly Renaissance artists who are just using religious themes in their art to glorify their egos or wallow in some fleshly subject matter or butter up some rich patron. But with their incredible zeal and talent they overstepped their bounds, in creating something so close to, such a good imitation, of the heavenly but actually being itself something worldly. Like the scholastic theology, that locks God into this Aristotelian box, Gothic architecture locks God into a wonderful but finite architectural form. The only way, however, to experience this and really know what I’m saying is to visit a very good example of a Gothic church. Here in North America, a pre-eminent example is the National Cathedral (Episcopalian) in Washington, D.C. (Here in the Detroit area we have good examples in some local Episcopalian churches, especially Christ Church in Grosse Pointe and Christ Church in Bloomfield Hills, across from the Cranbrook gardens.)

The Roman Catholic historian Christopher Dawson, whom I’ve mentioned before, offers another insight. In one of his essays, (I’m sorry, I forget which) he says that with the innovative Gothic engineering miracle – holding together these vast yet delicate frameworks of stone with the pointed arch and the flying buttress – the church building goes from being simply a building, properly speaking – something at rest, solid, comforting, static and firmly grounded on the earth, something fundamentally humble in its essence no matter how grand in its outer form – to being a machine: something in continuous dynamic tension and activity, a constant striving, never at rest. This is an admirably apt observation, and, again, it shows how we’ve gone from the method of tradition to the method of dialectic, a transition whose importance it is impossible to overemphasize. Of course, Dawson did not mean this as a criticism but a compliment. As Orthodox, on the other hand, we see that we’ve really got a problem here, because, again, as with the dialectical theology, we’ve left the sure ground of tradition for the exciting but unpredictable flight of innovation.

Another area of art that really changes is literature, and the incomparable, greatest literary monument of this period is, of course, Dante’s Divine Comedy, written around 1300. Typically, of course, this is regarded by the “mainstream” as an old-fashioned, pre-eminently Christian and “medieval” work, but actually many scholars are starting to recognize it as the beginning of modern literature. This is a huge subject in itself, of course, and all I can do, briefly, is to recommend that you read a bit of the Divine Comedy to get the flavor of it. Again, we are talking about a work of genuine belief and devotion, executed with consummate skill – really, with genius – but definitely this worldly in its medium.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 11

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/class-11

Class 11 – The Latin High Middle Ages: Introduction, Scholasticism, Romance, the New Idea of Sanctity

A [Western] Christian of the fourth or fifth century would have felt less bewildered by the forms of piety current in the 11th century than his counterpart of the 11th century in the forms of the 12th. The great break occurred in the transition period from the one to the other century. This change took place only in the West where, sometime between the end of the 11th and the end of the 12th century, everything was somehow transformed. This profound alteration of view did not take place in the East, where, in some respects, Christian matters are still today what they were then – and what they were in the West before the end of the 11th century.-Yves Congar, O.P., After Nine Hundred Years (Fordham University Press, 1959, p. 39), quoted by Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), in the introduction to his translation of the Vita Patrum of St. Gregory of Tours (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1988, p. 70)

Introduction – We are now beginning Part II of our course, in which we hope to trace the development of Western European thought and culture from the time in which the Western Church left the unity of Orthodoxy until now. Necessarily, this will be a sad story. You might say that the first part of our course was the really enjoyable part, in which we reviewed what Orthodoxy is. Now we will do the hard work of understanding what it is not, and how the subtle change from Orthodoxy to what can be called “papism” or “Latinism” in the 12th and 13th centuries began a process that became an avalanche of change that led to the drastic secularism and apostasy of today. One could summarize this entire process by saying that at the beginning, Western European Christians made a subtle shift from trusting in Holy Tradition to trusting in reason, and now, nearly a thousand years later, reason having made many twists and turns, and finally proving inadequate to deal with the greater questions of life, they have plunged into suicidal irrationality of all kinds. They fell from that which is above nature to nature, and now what we see today is hatred of nature itself, a demonic hatred and destruction of everything. Tonight we will examine how this started.

We are now entering the part of our course which is dealt with in Fr. Seraphim Rose’s lectures. Tonight’s subject is dealt with in Lecture 2, “The Middle Ages,” for those of you who want to study the transcripts of his lectures in tandem with our discussions. Fr. Seraphim divides his talk into an Introduction and six topics: Scholasticism, Romance, New Concept of Sanctity, Joachim of Floris (a teacher of a kind of chiliast utopian eschatology), Art, and Politics. We will follow his outline, and tonight we will try to cover three topics: Scholasticism, Romance, and the New Concept of Sanctity.

In his introduction, Fr. Seraphim quotes from two writers, the 19th century Russian Orthodox Ivan Kireyevsky, who with Alexei Khomiakov can be said to be the founder of the “Slavophile” movement, and the Dominican modernist theologian, Yves Congar. Kireyevsky traces the beginnings of the problems with the medieval schismatic papal church to a tendency in the [West] Roman mind from the beginning, to trust overmuch in logical deduction and to value the external aspect of the church over the interior, spiritual aspect. Congar, though his conclusion is not that the West should return to Orthodoxy but somehow create a “new theology” created by people like him, did accurately identify what happened in the transition of the 12th and 13th centuries, a transition from theology based on “…a predominantly essentialist and exemplarist outlook to a naturalistic one, an interest in existence,” and “…[a] transition from a culture where tradition reigned and the habit of synthesis became ingrained, to an academic milieu in where continual questioning and research was the norm, and analysis the normal result of study.”

A. Scholasticism – Scholasticism is the name given to the philosophical and theological thought of men like Albertus Magnus and, pre-eminently, Thomas Aquinas, in the period of the 12th through the 14th centuries, who applied the philosophy of Aristotle and the tools of dialectic to explaining and defending theological and philosophical positions acceptable to the Western church of that time. We have to realize that at the time, many Church authorities in the West were against the Scholastics, because they could see that they were overemphasizing the use of reason, and that this could lead to a break with Tradition. Eventually, however, the Scholastics, having come close to being anathematized by the popes, were approved, and finally their method became the only one accepted by the Western church.

Even before the “classic” period of scholasticism, in the 12th and 13th centuries, we have the key figure of Anselm of Bec, or of Canterbury, (+1109) who in his famous Proslogion redefined the goal of theological thought as fides quaerens intellectum– “faith seeking understanding.” In other words, instead of the mind (the intellectus) seeking to know through faith, through being transformed by God’s Word and by spiritual life, faith is seen as somehow defective, lacking knowledge, and seeking more certain truth through intellectual effort. This is really the basis of the whole modern error of “faith vs. reason,” as if faith is “blind” and “fundamentalistic” and “reason” bestows real knowledge. We already see this error in the East with Barlaam of Calabria, the famous opponent of St. Gregory Palamas in the 14th century.

Fr. Seraphim, in his lecture, goes into detail about one of Thomas Aquinas’s (+1274) demonstrations, but we don’t need to spend time on that now. The important thing to understand is that, for the Holy Fathers, Aristotle, Plato, and all philosophical method, are auxiliary to theology. The Church’s theology is revealed by God and testified to by the Apostles, Fathers, and saints. At the Ecumenical Councils, the Holy Fathers testified to what they had received, and they worked with the language of the philosophers strictly, in a limited way, as a tool, to bring out more precisely and beautifully the Tradition that everyone already believed in. The schoolmen would accept this basic idea, but in their efforts to defend the Faith they began to enclose the Faith in their syllogisms and arguments, and finally the popes began to dictate that only their explanations and definitions were the legitimate interpretation of Tradition. The problem here is that once you enter this process of dialectic, there is nothing to stop it – for every thesis there is an antithesis, and so forth, and you’ve let the horse out of the barn.

So Richard Weaver’s idea, in Ideas Have Consequences, that the degeneration of the West starts in the 14th century with Nominalism, does not go deeply enough into the problem. The problem is that the scholastics invited Ockham’s critique by leaving the security of Holy Tradition and the authority of the Fathers for the uncertain project of dialectical criticism of all the Church’s teachings.

B. Romance – The high middle ages see the beginnings of romantic literature, and the romantic ideal. We see this in secular literature such as the French chansons, Arthurian literature, the mystery plays, and the highly romanticized ideas about chivalric love and so forth. But it also finds its way into church literature and, ultimately, into spiritual life. In Church literature, a pre-eminent example Fr. Seraphim talks about is The Golden Legend, and in spiritual life, the first and greatest example is the life of Francis of Assisi.

C. New Concept of Sanctity – This romanticism is exemplified in the career of Francis of Assisi (+1225), who is a key figure in the whole development of non-Orthodox Western Christian life and thought. Francis claimed to have received a revelation which commanded him to create an entirely new kind of monastic life which was not bound by the monastic tradition witnessed to in the Desert Fathers, St. Basil, St. Benedict, and so forth, a life of wandering “troubadours for Christ” who would go around and amaze everybody by their lyric, emotional, enthusiastic “love” for everyone and everything. Francis was the ultimate example, and he certainly thought he was something special. He had the hubris to ask to receive the physical wounds of Our Lord on his body, and, in a bizarre vision of extreme delusion, he did! Here we see the beginning of the whole Western church getting unmoored from the safe harbor of the teachings of the Fathers about sobriety and true prayer, and launching out into the uncharted and dangerous sea of emotionalism and fantastic, imaginative, and, frankly, carnal experiences taken as spiritual experiences.

So by the end of this period we have a “new church” of dialectical theology instead of traditional theology, and romantic, imaginative spiritual life instead of the authentic teaching of the Fathers on spiritual life. It is already really a new religion.

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Orthodox Survival Course, Class 10

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/class10

Class 10 – Review of Our Purpose, Models of History, Overview of Part II

A. Review of Our Purpose

Why is our class called “Orthodox Survival Course”? The reason is that, to survive in your situation, you must understand it, understand why things around you came to be the way they are, and therefore how to think about them and respond to them. We all have a lot of “data” coming our way – there is no shortage of “data.” What most Orthodox people lack is the right lens to view this data, the right framework or background in which to see it, the right model of reality within which one can understand it. This lens or model or framework is what we are calling our “Orthodox Worldview.”

An integral part of learning this worldview is learning an Orthodox philosophy of history, not simply the “data” of history – though one must have that, of course – but a unifying understanding of history, a comprehensive explanation that fits all of the pieces of the puzzle together in an Orthodox way.

In Lecture 1 of his “Survival Course,” Fr. Seraphim (Rose) points out that the Orthodox explanation of the world is the only philosophy that is not “sectarian.” Even if there are very few real Orthodox, they are not sectarians, because what makes a faith or philosophy truly universal, truly catholic in the original meaning of the word, is that it does not take a little piece of truth and reduce everything to that, and limit the understanding to a little clique of people “in the know,” but rather it embraces all of reality and gives it the right meaning, which is the same meaning for everyone.

Today we have a tiny elite who are “in the know” and impose a false reality on everyone through the giant brainwashing machine of the media and educational complex, and even though it is the “mainstream” view of reality, it is still “sectarian” in that it is reductionistic and its “true meaning” is really only known by the power elite. Then there are many, less powerful, but still powerful competing sectarian philosophies, religions, groups, etc., but, again, they all take a fragment of reality and then build a whole system based on that. The papists build their system on the pope, each Protestant sect on its preacher’s interpretation of the Bible, the Mormons on the Book of Mormon, the Jews on the Talmud, the Mohammedans on the Koran, etc. The numbers of people who believe in this or that worldview is not essential to evaluating its worth; what is essential is how much of the truth the worldview comprehends.

Orthodoxy is the catholic worldview, in that it truly comprehensive and universally available. It does not reduce reality to a fragment, and it is true for everyone, not just an elite. Whether people accept it or not is up to them, and at any given time, perhaps only a few accept it. But it is still the one completely true way of seeing things, and it is intended by God for everyone.

The goal of our course is to understand how the world around us got to be the way it is today, by using our truly catholic, Orthodox worldview to understand the history of the dominant culture of the past 500 years, which we will call roughly the “Western” culture, that is, the culture of Western Europe and the Anglo-sphere – Britain and her colonies. Though Orthodoxy is the truth, Orthodoxy as a world influence has been “sidelined” for a long time, and due to Western Europe’s dominant position in world affairs for many centuries, its aggressively secular worldview has become the “mainstream” philosophy of life for everyone. How did the Christians who were once our brothers – the Western Christians – become the vehicle for the dominance of materialism, secularism, and atheism in the world, at the same time considering themselves Christians (at least until recently)? To understand this will bring us a long way to understanding where we stand now in the story of world history, and what our duty is today as Orthodox, what we must do to serve God and save our souls in this present situation.

One caveat is that we must guard ourselves against thinking that as Orthodox we are exempt from the results of this millennial degeneration. We are not. Our faith is Orthodox – may God grant – but our way of life, unless we live in a very isolated situation, is powerfully influenced to conform to the secular values of the “Western” society to a greater or lesser extent. One benefit of our course is give us a starting point for changing our thinking and thus our behavior by helping us to see accurately and to be honest about the false ideas that we have inherited and that we believe without even realizing it.

The most powerful false ideas are precisely those which we have and do not know that we have. “Ideas have consequences,” “Our thoughts govern our lives…” This is a concept I think that all we know and accept by now. But we must now also do the hard work of uprooting the false ideas, the false thoughts, and accept the truth, and then do the even harder work of conforming our lives to the truth.

In Part I of our course, the first ten sessions, which we called The Church of the Romans, we reviewed the key attributes of the “Church of the First Millennium,” which still remains today and is, simply, the Orthodox Church of all times. Part II of our course, for which we have been preparing, and whose subject matter is the subject also of both Fr. Seraphim’s “Survival Course” and Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, is primarily an intellectual history of the second millennium of Western Christendom, which is really, from our Holy Fathers’ point of view, a tragic history of the degeneration of the true philosophy of Orthodoxy into progressively more fragmented and more misleading, false ideas. These false ideas in turn have generated bad customs, bad practices, bad culture, bad art, bad politics, and so forth and so on, until we have come to the situation we are in today, which just about everyone, whatever his beliefs, regards as apocalyptic – everyone senses, feels that we are on the edge of a knife, that things cannot go on as they are going now.

“It is later than we think.” So we have a certain urgency to understand our recent history in light of God’s holy truth, in light of Orthodoxy, conform our lives to this understanding, and try to use this understanding to help those around us, to build little “arks” to survive the “flood” to come, as we strive to remain in the Ark, the True Church. Part III of course will propose to offer practical consequences of the good ideas we will have learned in Parts I and II, positive steps to take to do God’s holy will to be like Noah and preserve our loved ones in the True Faith in the midst of the coming cataclysm. But now for Part II.

B. Models of History

Before going on to the outline of Part II of our course, I would like offer three linear “models” with which to understand history, which will help us to understand where most people today are “coming from,” as they say, and to help us also to understand how the Church’s “model” offers us the way out of the doomed way of life that the false models offer to people. Both Model 1 and Model 2 are essentially worldly and deterministic, though often their believers enforce them with fanatic, “religious” zeal. Only Model 3, the Scriptural-Patristic model, takes into account all of reality, both visible and invisible, and all of what man’s potentiality is, both for good and for evil.

Note that all three models are linear in some way, not cyclical. They posit a beginning and an end. Models 1 and 2 are basically heretical forms of the Christian historical view of reality – they propose a kind of beginning and an end of all things, and a form of “salvation.” But since they can’t offer a real explanation for beginnings and endings, or for salvation, since they are worldly and deterministic, they end up collapsing into a cyclical view, that “stuff happens” and then “happens all over again.”

I am going to attach to these notes some diagrams I drew to illustrate the three models, and I ask your indulgence for their crudeness – I am not a good artist, nor do I know how to use or even own any design software. But I think they will give you a decent idea of what I am talking about. I welcome expert assistance in producing better versions for future use!

Model 1 – The Progressive Model

This can also be called the “evolutionary” or “optimistic” model. Here everything starts with the original “blob” or Ur-stuff or whatever you want to call it, and evolves into higher and higher, better and better forms of everything, towards some “bright future.” It starts with an inorganic blob and “evolves” into the most advanced civilizations, etc, and then goes out into the planets and stars and colonizes them and so forth and so on indefinitely, into some kind of secular “eternity” that will never end. All the time “things are getting better and better every day in every way.” This is the dominant model of today’s power elite, or at least what they brainwash everyone else into believing, though they probably know it is ridiculous. Some main corollaries of this idea are

– The past is bad, the future is good, but the future is never here, so we have to keep “progressing.” Change is ceaseless. Stasis is impossible. Whatever we are thinking and doing today is always better than what people thought or did in the past. But we must think and do differently tomorrow than what we are thinking and doing today.

– The only virtue is to submit to the evolutionary process. The only vice is to oppose it. If you get in the way of “progress,” you are bad. If you cooperate with “progress,” you are good. If you do not believe in progress, you are either a heretic or mentally ill. Either way, you have to be “dealt with.”

There are two main variants of this model. One is deterministic and fatalistic, leaving no room for human decision or choice, such as in Marxism. This is actually the more consistent. The other is the “liberal” model of humanist or “Christian” progressivism, which says that “do-gooders” have to work to advance the “march of history.” These people are superficially admirable, in a kind of Disney movie sort of way, but actually are very silly and deluded, and they usually make up the demographic of “useful idiots” that the real revolutionaries contemptuously do away with once they have served their purpose of demoralizing the real Christians, hollowing out the Christian institutions from the inside.

Model 2 – Inevitable Decline

This could also be called the “nostalgic” or “pessimistic” model. Here everything starts with an original Perfection, a Golden Age, from which everything subsequently declined, and this decline is, like “progress” in Model 1, inevitable. People are getting stupider and more evil all the time; morality, art, politics – all cultural manifestations – get lower and lower, and finally there is a Gotterdammerung, a final catastrophic destruction of everything.

This model appeals only to aristocratic and noble souls who are willing to fight on, knowing that they will be defeated in the end. Unlike progressivism, whose elite does not really believe in progress but only their own lust for power, and who use “progress” to delude the masses, “decline-ism” attracts a sincerely believing – and necessarily tiny – elite who don’t have Christian hope yet want to “do the right thing” anyway. The ethics of stoicism and some forms of existentialism fit in with this model. In this model, virtue consists in doing one’s duty in the face of final defeat. Only a small aristocracy trained to virtue understand this duty, and their happiness lies in doing it until the end. Vice is the normal state of the vast majority, who are hopelessly corrupt, and of the aristocrats who abandon their duty and join “the herd.”

Unlike the pedestrian, fatuous, and self-indulgent stupidity of progressivism, this view is noble and heroic – it invites the sympathy of better minds – but it is also not true.

Model 3 – Original Goodness, Sin, Temporal Decline, Eternal Triumph

This “model,” the view of history we find in the Bible and the Holy Fathers, is the only complete model, both because it takes into account the invisible as well as the visible realm, and because it offers the only satisfyingly comprehensive understanding – sympathetic but realistic – of man’s capacity for both good and evil. The first two models are this-worldly; they don’t admit any Divine Providence. The first model is stupidly optimistic about human goodness – whatever new nonsense human beings come up with “must” be good, and sin is an unknown concept. The second model is sadly pessimistic – man is just doomed, and that’s all there is to it. Only the third model offers the real solution to the whole thing – man was created good, fell, mixes evil with whatever good he does, can’t save himself, needs a Savior, has a Savior, and can overcome evil through the Savior’s grace. History is kind of up and down, with the outward tendency being mostly down, but inwardly often very triumphant, and ultimately, after things can’t possibly get any worse, God will triumph cosmically and eternally, or rather God has already triumphed and will triumph.

Only this model takes into account that the most important historical processes are invisible and inward, going on in the angelic universe, in which man is also a participant through the struggle within his own soul. Outward, temporal processes are but manifestations of this invisible and inward struggle.

As we go through the sad story of the second Christian millennium, we will always be trying to temper the sadness by seeing this period of decline in the context of God’s overall victory. All of our study should aim at giving us both realism, yes, but also – more importantly – hope. All things are under God’s Providence, and all things tend to His final victory.

C. Overview of Part II, the Decline of the West

It is hard for me to foresee how many classes this is going to take, and how many individual sessions we should devote to each historical period respectively. But here is a rough outline:

The Transition Period – the 12th – 13th centuries. This period demands very close study, and perhaps is the most important to understand, because it is the key period when Western Christianity really became something quite different, and when the whole mechanism of spiritual decline was launched. It is very important, in particular, that we accomplish this task well as an Orthodox “prelude” to Weaver’s otherwise excellent book, whose author mistakenly believed and taught that the process of decline began in the 14th century, with the assault on Scholasticism by Ockham. Key themes in this period include Scholasticism, romance, high papism as a form of chiliasm, and the changing view of sanctity.

The Renaissance – Though many regard the Middle Ages as ending roughly at 1500, the intellectual and spiritual roots of the Renaissance clearly go back to the 14th century, both in the Nominalism of Ockham and the Neo-Paganism of Early Renaissance Italy. So for our purposes we will call the “Renaissance” period roughly 1300 to 1600. But of course, there is a lot of overlap from the medieval period into the “Renaissance” and “Reformation,” and overlap of the “Renaissance” and “Reformation” periods into the Counter-Reformation and then the “Enlightenment.”

The Reformation – the Protestant Revolt against the papal church, which requires its own study as being simultaneous with but not identical to the “Renaissance.” 1500 – mid 1600’s.

The Counter-Reformation – Mid-1500’s till “Vatican II” – The reaction of the papal church and its faithful peoples to the Protestant Revolt. This will also include the Reaction against “Enlightenment” and the age of Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The “Enlightenment” – Mid-1600’s to 1789 – The period in which human reason and science are enshrined as supreme in man’s understanding of the universe and in his activities in the world.

The Age of Revolution – 1789 – Now. The current period of the open overthrow of the old Christian order of society.

Again, this is a rough outline. We will try to refine it and fill it out as we go along. At each stage, we will attempt not only to describe the errors of the period, but also what was still good about each period, and, most importantly, the Orthodox corrective to these errors.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 9

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-class-9

Class 9 – The Church of the Romans: Topic 6, Church and State

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 2: 1-4.

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.I Peter 2:15.

the whole world is like one well-ordered and united family. For our Emperor, invested as he is with the semblance of heavenly sovereignty, directs his gaze above and frames his earthly government according to the pattern of the divine original, finding strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God.”Eusebius of Caesaria, Oration in Praise of Constantine (English translation, 1845, p. 303), quoted by Christopher Dawson, The Formation of Christendom (Ignatius Press reprint 2008, p. 140)

Introduction – Our final class on the Orthodox Church of the first millennium is on the relationship of the Church to the state. I apologize that I was not able to prepare a complete set of notes for tonight’s class. Instead, we have reprinted below the summary of our course on Orthodox political theory, which we held last year. It contains the main points I wanted to make tonight.

Orthodox Political Theory

A Study of Politics from Cain to Constantine, by Vladimir Moss

Final Class – Summary


We began this mini-course in response to the turmoil in current political life. It is essential that Orthodox Christians look beyond the chaos of contemporary life and understand the timeless truths that our Faith teaches, including truths about political authority and the organization of society.

Our vocation in the current situation is to rise above political passions and witness to the timeless truths of the Faith, in order to help our neighbors.

I. The nature of legitimate authority:

A. All legitimate authority derives from above, from God, and not from below (thepeople”). This is extremely important to remember in light of our country’s political philosophy being so influenced by the 18th century idea of the “sovereign will of the people.”

B. We see right from the beginning, in Genesis, that God established earthly authority in the persons of Adam and his consort, Eve, as possessing a delegated authority over creation.

1. Adam, as head of his family, is the prototype for all earthly rulers.

2. We see here, then, that godly authority derives from God, and is hierarchical, patriarchal, and familial.

II. False Models of Authority

A. The pagan god-king

i. arose after the corruption of the human race

ii. not only is all civic and priestly authority vested in one man, but he is worshipped as a god or The God.

iii. invariably involved with human (usually infant) sacrifice and immoral sexuality, connected to demonically distorted ideas of fertility and material success

B. The Utopias of the Philosophers

i. Plato and Aristotle had many important insights, but ultimately their vision was flawed because of incomplete understanding of human nature, the reality of sin, and, of course, their lack of knowledge of the true God.

ii. Their valuable insights, however, still shed light and can be incorporated into an Orthodox Philosophy of Politics. Examples include Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as an illustration of the need to be ruled not by the most rich or powerful but by the most wise, and his theory of the Tripartite Powers of the Soul; as well as Aristotle’s explanation of three forms of legitimate government (monarchy, aristocracy, and politeia [res publica]) and their corresponding corruptions (tyranny, oligarchy, and mob-rule).

III. True Models of Authority

A. Sacred Kingship in the Old Testament Church

i. Key figure is David, who was called by God precisely because of his personal holiness. He is the archetypal image of the Good King.

ii. The sacerdotal and kingly powers are separate.

iii. The king is not God, and his rule is not arbitrary, but bound by the law of God.

iv. The king protects the Old Testament Church structure (the temple, the priests, etc.), and they are loyal subjects of the king, not rivals to the king.

B. Sacred Kingship in the New Testament Church

i. Key figure is St. Constantine. ii., iii, and iv above are all present.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 8

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-class-8

Class 8 – The Church of the Romans: Topic 5, Church and Nation

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, after whom every family [Gk patria = paternity, family, nation] in heaven and earth is named… Ephesians 3:14-15

[God] hath made out of one blood every nation [Gk ethnos] of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us… – the words of St. Paul to the Athenians, Acts 17: 26-27

Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; and when He divided the tongues of fire, He called all men into unity; and with one accord we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.- the Kontakion of Pentecost

Introduction – I had originally intended to treat the Church’s relationship to the nation and to the state in one session, but later I realized that we really needed two classes to discuss these two related yet distinct questions. The nation is the organic reality of a people formed over many generations and united by some combination of religion, blood, language, soil, and culture, which may or may not enjoy its own proper political independence, sovereignty, and unity. Some nations have endured for many centuries as identifiable ethnic entities under the rule of other people, but they are still nations. The state is the political system set up over a nation or, in the case of an empire, a group of nations. Historically and theologically, the Church has a relationship to both of these things as distinct yet related realities. Tonight we will discuss Church and nation.

When we come to our study of the West after the schism and the rise of secular culture during the Renaissance, we will notice that a key element of the new, post-Orthodox culture, is the glorification of the individual. This individualism, which has come to be seen as a defining “Western value,” is inimical to the Christian Faith and to one’s salvation, because it ignores two fundamental structures God designed to be the mandatory schools of love and self-sacrifice, within which the Christian must function to be truly human as well as truly Christian: the family and the nation, which is the natural extension of the family. An orphaned and rootless person with no family, no nation, no identity other than simply being a human being, can be saved, but only with great difficulty. God designed family and nation, and the Church baptized whole families, tribes, and nations, as the normal framework within which the soul can find its way with greater ease and security to the Heavenly Kingdom.

I. Back to Genesis – Patriarchy, Family, and Nations

Monogamy, fruitfulness, patriarchy – The family, of course, goes back to the beginning of the human race, an integral part of God’s design for man. God creates Adam, creates Eve from his rib, and commands them to “increase and multiply.” In the book of Genesis there are several genealogies, tracing the “increase and multiplication” of the various races of man, father to son. Thus we see monogamous marriage marked by fruitful childbearing and patriarchy from the very beginning, as God’s plan for the human race. In all subsequent human history, these three pillars of the family – monogamy, fruitfulness, and patriarchy – are the mark of healthy societies and strong nations, and in particular they are the only arrangement for family life blessed by the Church. Societies marked by matriarchy, the avoidance of childbearing, and/or polygamy, polyandry, and so forth, are invariably stunted, chaotic, and degenerate in comparison.

The division into races of men – Before the Flood, the great division in the races is between the sons of Cain and the sons of Seth, the wicked and the good. Finally the sons of Seth, except for Noah, are seduced by the beauty of the daughters of the Cainites, they fall away, the entire human race becomes depraved, and God destroys all but Noah and his immediate family by the Flood, after which Noah becomes the father of the human race all over again. His descendants in turn become corrupt, attempt to build the Tower of Babel, and are scattered by God across the face of the earth. This scattering, with its concomitant multiplication of languages, is the origin of the races and nations of man we see until this day.

Thus the origin of the races is due to sin, but creating the various races or nations was the act of God, in order to limit the spread of sin, and therefore the division into various races and nations is blessed by God and becomes part of His plan for man’s salvation. It is essential to understand that all plans in history to create a “universal brotherhood of man” apart from the grace-filled unity of the Church contradict the express will of God.

II. The Chosen People

After the division of the nations, God chose one nation, the descendants of Abraham through Isaac, to be the Old Testament Church. The prophets prophesied the day when all the nations would be called into God’s Church, but the carnal-minded among the Old Testament Church stubbornly refused to accept their word and persecuted and killed several of them. When the leaders of the Jewish race turned against the promised Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, they decisively chose to worship their own race over God Himself. This ethno-idolatry is the “flip side” of the coin of universalist utopianism, the One World idea. Both are heretical.

III. The Pentecostal Unity

As expressed by the Kontakion of Pentecost, which we read above, God restored human unity in the Church. In so doing, He did not eradicate racial or national differences, as indicated by the Apostles’ miraculously speaking in the various tongues of the nations gathered in Jerusalem. Rather, He sanctified and elevated national characters, creating a spiritual unity among the diversity of nations, just as He does not eradicate our personalities and make us uniform “clones” as we grow in the Orthodox Faith, but rather enhances and sanctifies our unique personalities as we simultaneously, paradoxically, grow closer in spiritual unity with each other. In the Church we have the true and life-giving “diversity” and “multicultural” humanity, as opposed to the deadly uniformity created when fallen man tries to create a “global society.”

The Church Herself is supernatural and supranational. She is from above, a divine institution. She is not limited to one nation, but gathers all the nations into a supranational unity in the Body of Christ. This unity, however, does not destroy personal, family, clan, national, or racial characteristics, but elevates and sanctifies them.

IV. The Roman Empire and the Nations

The Roman Empire was not an ethnic group but a vast polity encompassing many ethnic groups. The Hellenistic culture of the society in which the early New Testament Church first grew was not a racial phenomenon but rather a paideia, a training to live as civilized men. Just as the Church gathered in the nations, into spiritual unity that simultaneously allowed the healthy expressions of race and nation, so the Empire and its ancient culture, baptized by the Church, hosted and leavened a multitude of nations that today still trace their origins to Church and to Empire. At first the Church baptized the existing nations within the Empire, peoples who already possessed the civilized arts. Later, with the incursion of the barbarian tribes into the Empire, and the missionary outreach of the Church outside the Empire, the Church gave birth ab initio to entire Christian nations, giving formerly uncivilized people the arts of civilization. As She made Christians out of heathens, she simultaneously made Romans out of barbarians. This process characterizes in particular the baptism of the German and Celtic nations by the Western Church and the baptism of the Slavic nations by the Eastern Church.

The Church of the first millennium then, prior to the schism, both East and West, understood Herself as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, supernatural and supranational, but at the same time a communion of local or national churches, each of which possessed the fulness of the catholic faith and unity with the entire Church, Whose mission was not to obliterate but rather elevate and develop the character of the newly baptized nations. By remaining faithful to God’s plan for the human race to remain divided into nations, the Church avoids the heresy of universalist utopianism, of chiliasm. By insisting on the ontological oneness of the universal Church in Her dogmas, priesthood, and Holy Mysteries, the Church avoids the heresy of ethno-idolatry. From “the rising of the sun to the setting thereof,” the Church is One.

Later, after the Schism, the exaggerated pretensions of the papacy will develop into a type of universalist chiliasm, and, later still, the Reformation, Renaissance, and Enlightenment will encourage the growth of individualism. These two errors will lead the West farther and farther away from the diversity in unity and unity in diversity of the Catholic Church.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 7

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-class-7

Class 7 – The Church of the Romans: Topic 4, The Church

that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. – I Timothy 3:15

…[God the Father] hath put all things under His feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, Which is his Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. – Ephesians 1:22-23

Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant. – Hebrews 12:22-24

Here is born a people of noble race, destined for Heaven, whom the Spirit brings forth in the waters he has made fruitful. Mother Church conceives her offspring by the breath of God, and bears them virginally in this water. Hope for the Kingdom of Heaven, you who are reborn in this font. Eternal life does not await those who are only born once. This is the spring of life that waters the whole world, Taking its origin from the Wounds of Christ. Sinner, to be purified, go down into the holy water. It receives the unregenerate and brings him forth a new man. If you wish to be made innocent, be cleansed in this pool, whether you are weighed down by the ancestral sin or your own. There is no barrier between those who are reborn and made one by the one font, the one Spirit, and the one faith. Let neither the number nor the kind of their sins terrify anyone; Once reborn in this water, they will be holy. – Inscription above the Lateran Baptistery (Pope St. Sixtus III, +440)

Introduction – Our entire course, ultimately, is about the Church, and, specifically, learning to view history through the lens the Church gives us. But tonight we will, God willing, study ecclesiology itself for a little while, in distinction from our overall project of developing an ecclesiastical, Church centered view of history. How did the Church of the first millennium, the Church of the Fathers recognized by East and West until today, view Herself?

Obviously, we cannot teach an entire course on patristic ecclesiology in one class. To give the subject its due, I would estimate, would take two semesters of a regular academic curriculum. And, of course, experientially, through prayer, through our own reading, through our participation in the Holy Mysteries, life according to the Gospel, and, in short, everything involved in living the life of the Church, we should be acquiring and interiorizing a greater understanding, appreciation, and love of what the Church is every day. Tonight we simply wish to touch on and illustrate a few key ecclesiological themes that will come to our attention again later, when we get into the main topic of our course, which is the falling away of the West in the second millennium and how this impinges on our life today.

(For a comprehensive short introduction to Orthodox ecclesiology, “The Church of Christ,” which is Chapter Seven of Fr. Michael Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, is excellent. For our earlier course, when we read Fr. Michael’s book cover to cover, and discussed it, we produced some notes in the form of an outline to help study the book. I’ve attached those notes to tonight’s notes, for those who want to study more about ecclesiology per se. The entire text of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology can be found online at http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG0824.HTM . The URL for the beginning of Chapter Seven is http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/_P1S.HTM.)

I.The Church as Pillar and Ground of the Truth

St. Paul’s words to St. Timothy, which we read above, reveal a very different vision of the relationship of the Church to the question of “What is Truth” than that held by Protestants. The Church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” Pillars uphold; the ground provides the pre-condition for everything else. So being in the Church, being of the Church, is the pre-condition for knowing the truth, because the Church is the ground of the Truth. We don’t read the Bible and figure out where the Church is. We join the Church and learn what the Bible means. Once we learn this Truth, the Church is the pillar that upholds the true teaching, and upholds us, that supports our staying in this structure. No one person, whether a Pope or a “reformer,” can stand outside or above the Church and tell Her what the truth is. Everyone who is an authentic teacher of truth teaches that truth from within the Church and in obedience to the Church. Recall the quote we read in Class 4, from the Anglican editor’s introduction to the volume on the Ecumenical Councils: The Fathers came to the Councils not to “discover” Truth, but to witness to that which they had received. This vision of the Church as the unique place where we can know the Truth, and as the uniquely qualified judge of What is Truth, was common to all Christians of the first millennium.

II. The Church as a Family

Earlier in this same passage, St. Paul calls the Church the “house of God.” This word in Greek, oikos, means literally a “house,” but also, by extension, a “family,” an association found in many if not all languages, as in the English “household.” Recall from our earlier discussion of church architecture that the original place of worship and the center of parish organization was someone’s home. Both in Her literal buildings (churches) and in Her “buildings” figuratively speaking (parishes, dioceses, etc.) the Church never forgot Her domestic character and origin. The Church as a whole is a family, and each local Church is a family. Thus just as the family is primarily an organic reality which takes on an organizational structure for its survival and flourishing, so too the Church is primarily an organic reality which naturally takes on various forms of organizational structure for Her survival and flourishing. The two aspects – organism and organization – are not separate, but they are distinct. Which organizational aspects of the Church are inherent to Her organism, to Her divine constitution, and which are not, will become a great point of contention, first between the Orthodox and the papists, and later between the papists and the Protestants.

III. The Church as the Body of Christ

Of course, the image of the Church as the Body of Christ, employed by St. Paul in the passage above from Ephesians, is very familiar to us. It is an even more powerful image of the Church as an organism than is the image of the household or family. There are other important quotes from St. Paul containing this image, notably his great plea to the Corinthians to remain in unity, speaking of each Christian as a “member of the Body” (see I Corinthians 12), each with its unique charism. Our Lord Himself uses the organic image of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:5). We are not just servants, followers, or disciples or even just friends of Christ, though we are all of these things. We are members of His Body; we are organically part of Him, as branches are of a vine. Neither Our Lord nor St. Paul meant these as purely poetic expressions, though they certainly are beautiful considered as poetry. They meant it ontologically – yes, these are metaphors, but they are metaphors expressing something that is, not just some pleasant thoughts about some vague something or other in Never-Never land. It’s not less real than the image; it’s more real, more solid, and the image points to it, leading our intellect to surpass the earthly shadow in pursuit of the heavenly reality. Which leads us to…

IV. The Church on Earth and the Church in Heaven

The magnificent passage above, from Hebrews, states very clearly that our membership in the Church is a membership in a heavenly, not merely earthly assembly. The reality of the Church below derives hierarchically from the super-reality of the Church above. That Church is the authentic Church whose earthly manifestations are authentic participations here below in the heavenly types above. The classic, paradigmatic patristic explanation of this is The Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of St. Dionysios the Areopagite, which can be found online at https://archive.org/details/celestialandecc01parkgoog. In this essential treatise, St. Dionysios, a disciple of St. Paul, explains in detail the authentic tradition about the angelic orders and how the heavenly hierarchy is reflected in the Church’s hierarchy of bishops, presbyters and deacons, and in the Church’s liturgical life. Let’s go online and read the opening passage of St. Dionysios’ great work…

The true character of the authentic Church on earth, then, is eschatological, otherworldly, transparent and anagogical, which is why Her art is such, as we discussed in our sessions on sacred art. Her purpose is not to “build the kingdom of God on earth,” which is the heresy of chiliasm, an important topic we will discuss later in reference to high medieval Western Christianity, but to be a participation in as well as an icon of the heavenly and eternal kingdom.

V. Institutional Authority and Charismatic Authority in the Church

In Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Fr. Michael Pomazansky cites the specific New Testament passages which testify to the apostolic origin of the Church’s threefold priesthood of bishop, presbyter, and deacon, as well as quoting early Fathers. Here is St. Ignatius of Antioch, the God-bearer (+110), writing to the Trallians: “…it is essential, as indeed you are acting, to do nothing without the bishop. Likewise obey the presbytery as apostles of Jesus Christ, our hope, in Whom may God grant that we live. And everyone should cooperate in every way with the deacons that serve the ministers of the Mysteries of Jesus Christ, for they are not ministers of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God.”

St. Paul, however, often refers also to the non-hierarchical, charismatic offices in the Church, and most notably the “prophets,” those inspired directly by God to speak the Word of truth. St. Dionysios links the gift of personal holiness to the selection of the hierarchy and clergy, stating that the bishops should be in the state of theosis and the presbyters should be in the state of theoria, while it is permitted to ordain to the diaconate those still in the stage of praxis, that is, active struggle with the passions. Of course, we know that all too often – to be honest, usually – the Church cannot find enough men at the higher levels of spiritual life to fill all of Her higher positions. But it is notable that She has always understood that the hierarchical priesthood should be related to charismatic worthiness, just as “official” theology must derive from authentic spiritual experience.

There is an edifying passage in the Life of a saint we all read every year during Great Lent, the Life of St. Mary of Egypt, which illustrates beautifully the co-equal and complementary character of these two sources of authority in the Church, the institutional and the charismatic. S. Zosimas flings himself on the ground and asks S. Mary’s blessing. She demands that he bless, because he is a priest; he demands that she bless, as being one possessing higher spiritual gifts. Both demonstrate humility and charity in their mutual respect.

This question of the relationship of these two sources of authority in the Church will come to the fore during the period of the West’s falling away from Orthodoxy and its development of the “high papal” ecclesiology.

VI. The Church as a Holy Mystery

The amazing inscription from the Lateran baptistery poetically describes the Church as our Mother giving birth to a new race of men, the Christians. St. Augustine aptly relates our being members of the Body of Christ, the Church, to our receiving the Body of Christ in Holy Communion: “Behold what you are; become what you receive.”

The Church is the pan-mysterion, the All Encompassing and All Sufficient Sacrament of our salvation and deification. Very early on, in the writings of a Latin Father, S. Cyprian of Carthage (+250), regarding the unity of the Church and the non-existence of valid mysteries outside the Church, this fundamental teaching is expressed very clearly. See Volume V of the Ante-Nicene Fathers series, available online at http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/1819-1893,_Schaff._Philip,_1_Vol_05_Hippolytus._Cyprian._Novatian,_EN.pdf

The Greek Fathers, and the Orthodox East as a whole, sided with St. Cyprian in his understanding that only the Church can confer the grace of the Mysteries, as opposed to St. Augustine, and later the consensus of the Western writers, who took Pope Stephen’s contention that heretics can confer valid baptism, combined it with Augustine’s theory of sacraments performed ex opere operato, and created a sacramental theology at odds with the essentially churchly character of the economy of the Holy Mysteries. Thus the understanding of the essentially churchly character of the Holy Mysteries and the essentially mysteriological character of the Church will be obscured later as the West grows farther away from Orthodoxy.

VII. The Church as Mother – As hymned so eloquently in the Lateran baptistery inscription, through Holy Baptism the Church becomes the Mother of a new genos, a new “race,” the Christian nation, as well as the Mother of each Christian personally and of entire Christian nations considered in the plural, as various ethnic or national groups convert en masse and received a new identity and the birth of a new Christian culture from the Church. We will examine this latter reality in more detail in our next class, on the relationship of the Church to the nation and to the state.

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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 6

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/survivalcourse-class6_2

Pre-Class 6 – Corrigenda, a Clarification, and an Amplification

As we go along, when I notice mistakes or lack of clarity in earlier notes or recordings, or something glossed over that I would like to expand on a bit, I will try to correct mistakes and clear things up.

In the Class 2 recording, I mistakenly said that the English historian Christopher Dawson was a “theologian.” He is not, not even in the modern sense. I actually meant to say “historian,” and “theologian” was a slip of the tongue. By the way, Dawson’s work is an excellent example, perhaps the best written in English in modern times, of “meta-history.” But his outlook is Roman Catholic, not Orthodox, and therefore you have to take that into account when reading him.

In the Class 3 recording, I called the quote from St. John Cassian’s Conference of Abba Moses one of the “locus classici.” Well, first of all, it’s either a locus classicus or one of the loci classici, to get the grammar straight. What this term signifies is a place in the literature of a topic where you find a key statement that makes a point or reveals a truth or some information that thereafter defined the consensus understanding of the topic at hand or marks a great turning point of some kind or that is considered permanently authoritative.

Last week I mentioned that the Parthenon became a Christian church for many centuries, but then went on to say the the Church did not use the pagan temples for churches, but rather chose the basilica form. In general, that is true, but there are exceptions, and the Parthenon is perhaps the most striking. It is true, however, that the foundations or fragments of pagan temples were often used in new Christian constructions.

One of our quotes last week was from Pitirim Sorokin, who talked about “ideational” art, the category into which he would put all truly sacred art, such as Byzantine art. This category is part of an entire scheme for understanding history and cultures developed by Sorokin, a Russian emigre who founded the sociology department at Harvard University in the 1930’s. I hope to spend more time on his thought later on in our course, as a tool for understanding the course of our civilization in relation to the West’s departure from Orthodoxy.

One thing I want to clarify in advance is our use of Wikipedia sites in tonight’s class. Of course, I do not advocate Wikipedia as an authoritative or complete source by which to study a subject. It was just a handy place to go to start our exploration of photographs of some of the artifacts and buildings I wanted to talk about. Naturally, if you want to learn more, you need to do more research, but you could start with the links provided in the Wikipedia article. For example, the article on Hosios Loukas gives a link to another collection of photos of the art in the church.

Class 6 – The Church of the Romans: Topic 3, Sacred Art – B. Examples

Introduction – Last week we discussed the history and the principles of true Orthodox sacred art. This week, we shall look at examples. Before going on, however, let us briefly review the characteristics of this sacred art.

The Characteristics of Genuine Christian Sacred Art

Recall our first class, on the Early Church, whose character we described as eschatological, otherworldly, martyric, and ascetical. The insights we discussed in our later two classes, regarding the Church’s true spiritual school and true theological method lead us in the same direction, which is to conclude that a genuine sacred art must lead the believer into purification of the senses, cleansing from the passions, and pure prayer in this life, and thus to the Heavenly Kingdom in the next life, which Kingdom he will already have experienced through mysteriological and prayerful communion with God. It is anagogical – Its purpose is not to “celebrate the world,” but to lead the soul upwards to union with God.

This anagogical function necessitates that true sacred art must be hierarchical and hieratic. The forms and images here below are part of a great hierarchy of forms which extend downward from the heavenly archetypes to their earthly representations, as explained by St. Dionysios. This art is hieratic, that is, priestly, in that it has a specific priestly function, which is to offer to the believer the sacred mystery and then transform the believer so that he may offer his heart – himself – as a spiritual sacrifice to the Father Who reigns at the height of this cosmic and super-cosmic hierarchy, He Who sacrificed the Lamb of God before the ages for us.

The techniques of this art, in all of its media, must therefore produce a certain transparency, for its function is not to call attention to itself but to lead up, beyond itself, to that which is truly real. It is also an art that is anonymous, both because the artist is working as a member of a community, not on his own, and because he is performing his work as an act of worship to God, not for personal aggrandizement.

Tonight we will look at good examples of Orthodox sacred art from the first millennium, which exhibit some or all of these characteristics.

The Art of the Early Church – Recall that last week we pointed out that the art of the Church of the first three centuries was very simple and undeveloped, due in some part to the Faith’s frequently illegal status inhibiting the building of churches and the elaborate development of outward forms. Christian art in this period was either purely symbolic (e.g., the fish anagram) or consisted of childlike paintings of Scriptural scenes and images. There are, however, a few instances of Late Antique Christian sculpture.

Let’s start with the Wikipedia article (where else?), which actually has some excellent images of illustrative examples from the catacombs in Rome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Christian_art_and_architecture. This article takes us also into the 4th and 5th centuries, and therefore the first great basilicas, illustrated here by St. Sabina in Rome.

The Church of Dura Europos in Syria is a remarkably complete example of the early house-church type. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos. Providentially, the frescoes were removed carefully and are now on exhibit at Yale University. The village itself, the site of numerous, extremely valuable architectural sites, was destroyed recently by ISIS.

Early Christian sculpture usually took the form of bas relief, usually executed on sarcophagi. Completely three-dimensional sculpture was very rare. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Christian_sarcophagi

Art historians, though they agree with church historians that the Early Church period, in most respects, ended with the Peace of the Church at the beginning of the fourth century, consider the period of Early Christian/Late Antique art to extend in places as late as the seventh century, because it took that long for the transition from one form to another to take place. This Late Antique art, though not strictly speaking sacred in character, already has the character of formality and serenity that suited it very well to taking on the characteristics of sacred art we delineate above.

Late Antique Portraiture – The Fayum Portraits

There is one surviving trove of Late Antique portraiture, the famous Fayum mummy portraits from Egypt, which date from the late 1st through the 3rd century. Remember that Egypt had been Hellenized for three centuries, and part of the Roman Empire for one century, before this time. This art is almost certainly representative of Greco-Roman portraiture at this period. The depictions are realistic but, again, formal and serene. There is liveliness and warmth in the depth of the faces, but no violent emotion or any pathological disturbance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fayum_mummy_portraits

It is easy to see how this school of art lent itself to being transformed by the Church into a school providing the tools for a truly sacred iconography.

The Basilica – Recall that, when choosing a form for its church architecture, the Church chose not the pagan temple but the basilica, a large, rectangular building used originally for public gatherings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica . Let’s look at the outline of a basilica as shown in the article, and photographs of Santa Sabina, a basilica in Rome that has retained its original form to a remarkable degree.   

Two Microcosms Illustrating our Subject: Ravenna and Mount Sinai

There are two simply wonderful places that are microcosms of early Christian architecture and art, living “visual aids” to our study of this wonderful subject: The larger is the city of Ravenna, where one finds a large number of sacred buildings from the fifth and sixth centuries. The other is the Monastery of St. Catherine (or more anciently, of the Burning Bush and the Transfiguration) at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Both places offer examples of the basilica form of church architecture, and both contain iconography – mosaics at Mt. Sinai and Ravenna, and three famous panel icons at Mt. Sinai – which illustrate beautifully the transitional period when Late Antique Art became Byzantine art.

Ravenna also offers the earliest great example of the round or octagonal church – San Vitale, which by a few years predates Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. (That is, the earliest great example built from scratch as a church. The Pantheon in Rome is several centuries older but not designed as a church, for originally it was a pagan temple. It is completely round, not a dome set on a cross as are Hagia Sophia and San Vitale). San Vitale is not nearly the achievement that Hagia Sophia was, but both its architecture and especially its extant mosaics are enormously important in our understanding of early Byzantine art.

One exercise that will help you to see the transition from Late Antique to early Byzantine art is to look carefully at the decoration of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which dates from the fifth century, and then look carefully at the mosaics from San Vitale and Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, which date from the sixth century, and the great apse mosaic of the Transfiguration at Mt. Sinai, also from the sixth century.



Fully Developed Byzantine Art

There are two extant ensembles of high Byzantine art in Greece, the catholicon of Hosios Loukas monastery in Boetia (10th century), and the church at Daphne near Athens (11th century), which illustrate the full development of Byzantine art after the restoration of the icons following the end of of iconoclasm in 843. Notice that by this time all of the naturalistic elements of Late Antique art have been highly spiritualized, and the elements of hierarchy and hieraticism are developed to the highest degree:



Sacred Art after the Schism

Later we will be looking at Byzantine art in the later middle ages, at the time when the Latins have already separated from the Church, to contrast it to the newfangled style of religious art in the West, which marks a transition from the truly sacred art of the Church in the strict sense to the humanistic art of the Renaissance. 

You can listen to a podcast recording of this class at   


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Orthodox Survival Course: Class 5

You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/survivalcourse-5

Class 5 – The Church of the Romans: Topic 3, Sacred Art – A.Theory

Now, if the essences (ousiai) and orders above us, of which we have already made reverent mention, are without bodies, their hierarchy is intellectual and above sense. We supply by the variety of sensible symbols the visible order, which is according to our own measure. Those sensible symbols lead us naturally to intellectual conception, to God and His divine attributes. Spiritual minds form their own spiritual conceptions, but we are led to the divine vision by sensible images. – St. Dionysios the Areopagite, On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, quoted by St. John of Damascus in On the Divine Images

…Then we went on to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty… – the words of the emissaries of Great Prince (St.) Vladimir of Kiev, describing their visit to Constantinople in the 10th century, from The Primary Chronicle

In its content as well as in its type, ideational art articulates the major premise of ideational culture that the true reality-value is God. Therefore the topic of ideational art is the supersensory kingdom of God…Its objective is not to amuse, entertain, or give pleasure, but to bring the believer into a closer union with God. It is a part of religion, and functions as a religious service. It is a communion of the human soul with itself and with God. As such it is sacred in content and form. As such it does not admit any sensualism, eroticism, satire, comedy, caricature, farce, or anything extraneous to its nature. Its emotional tone is pious, ethereal, and ascetic. – Pitirim A. Sorokin, The Crisis of Our Age, p. 31 (First Edition, E.P. Dutton, 1941)

Introduction – We all know that Orthodoxy is extremely beautiful in all of its artistic manifestations: visual art, architecture, literature, chant, liturgical movement, etc. Why is this so? It is because, in all of history, the body of Orthodox Christian art comprises the highest and most faithful artistic manifestations of the highest unseen realities: above all things God Himself, and then, after God, the sacred hierarchy of the Mother of God, the angels, and the saints, which continues in the visible world in the hierarchy of the Church on earth.

St. Dionysios the Areopagite, the disciple of St. Paul, explains, in his treatise On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchies, how our visible rituals and symbols are anagogical, that is, they lead our minds up to the invisible realities which are their prototypes. (“Anagogical” comes from the Greek ana – “up” and ago – “to carry” or “to lead” [used of living things; for inanimate objects the verb is fero]; so “anagogical” means “pertaining to leading someone upwards”). This naturally flows from what we have already discussed in regards to Orthodox spiritual life and theological language, which are human participations in the life of God Himself, synergistic operations uniting the created powers of the human organism – body and soul – to the uncreated energies of God. Orthodoxy is a completely integrated whole, and it is only natural that its art should manifest accurately and beautifully its accurate and beautiful spiritual life and theological expression.

In discussing the history of this art, let us recall the organic image of the growth of a tree, which we employed earlier to describe the Church’s maturation of Her outward characteristics, which reached their mature form by the ninth century. She took the previously existing art of the Old Testament worship and the art of the Greco-Roman culture, and transformed and synthesized them in an unsurpassed (indeed by nature unsurpassable), breathtakingly magnificent and perfectly integrated ensemble manifesting aesthetic virtue in the highest degree, in every type of art – especially the visual, auditory, and architectonic – both in their public and domestic forms, those dedicated both to official ceremony and daily life, to explicitly sacred purposes and to apparently mundane activities.

In our classes tonight and next week, we cannot possibly cover the entire history of Orthodox sacred art or fully describe it. Our purpose is to give a brief historical overview, to summarize the character of genuine sacred art, and to relate this to our previous insights about the characteristics of the Church and of Her spiritual life and theology.

Historical Development – The New Testament Church had simultaneously to preserve the teaching of the incomprehensibility of God against the temptation of idolatry while preserving, against Manicheism and other dualisms, the teaching of the inherent goodness of creation and its instrumentality in lifting man from knowledge of the creation to knowledge of the Creator, a reality underscored by, indeed completed and made fully possible by, the Incarnation. Just as She took the Old Testament faith to the Gentiles and gave birth to the New Israel of the New Testament, so She took the highest aspects of the externals of the Old Testament worship and united them to the highest aspects of the art of the ancient world (primarily the Greco-Roman but also aspects of the Persian and other Middle Eastern cultures), to give birth to the externals of the worship of this New Israel. What we call Orthodox art can only be understood entirely within the framework of Orthodox worship, life of prayer, and theology.

The Worship of the Old Testament – It is obvious that the Early Church saw Her worship as the continuation and fulfilment of the worship of the Old Testament. Thus She preserved and elevated this worship in its chant, the use of the Psalms of David, the symbolism of the priestly service – garments, movements, rituals, etc. – and symbolism of the visual arts and architecture. The Holy Fathers constantly recur to the instructions given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai regarding the worship of Israel, and to the description of the Temple of Solomon in Kings, when discussing both the inner life of the soul as well as the outward worship of the Church, two manifestations of the one reality of the anagogical movement of man towards God.

In Christianizing the Old Testament worship, the Apostles and Fathers led this worship up from being a typos – a type, a foreshadowing – of the true worship into being the true worship, from being merely outward ritual to being the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth that Our Lord spoke of to the Samaritan Woman (John 4:23). One example of this was eliminating instrumental music, so that the chant of the Church would become more conducive to interior prayer. Another example was changing the basis of the selection of the priests from that of physical descent to spiritual fitness, as most fully explicated by St. Dionysios.

The Arts of the Greco-Roman Civilization – We must keep in mind that what we call Greco-Roman civilization was already extremely old at the time the New Testament Church came into being, and that its arts were also old and had undergone many phases and changes. But we may safely characterize the art of the late ancient world as highly developed sensate art, art that emphasized this-worldly realities, albeit in a beautiful and technically brilliant way. There was a great emphasis on sculpture, for example, whose three-dimensional character is necessarily opaque and sensual – it can convey ideas and feelings of something noble, but because it lacks transparency, because it calls attention to itself, it cannot anagogically lead the mind to the direct experience of that which is above the material. It can remind one of higher things – which are “somewhere else” – but it cannot mediate the higher things, bringing one into direct contact with them. The architecture and the use of the temple is another example of this opacity. The great temples were not built primarily to gather people for worship within but to provide magnificent backdrops for public ceremonies without. The outside of the temple was more important than the inside. This exteriority was completely appropriate to a culture in which religion was primarily a civic cult, a support to a powerful and proud this-worldly society.

The baptism of Greco-Roman art and architecture by the Church –

Visual Art – The visual art of the Early Church was for the most part either purely abstract and symbolic – as in the use of the Chi-Rho (ΧΡ, ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, Christ) and the Fish anagram (ΙΧΤΗΥΣ – ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΘΕΟΥ ΥΙΟΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ – Jesus Christ Son of God Savior), or consisted of simple Scriptural images such as the basket with the bread and the fishes, etc. Prime examples include the simple, childlike art of the catacombs in Rome and the house-church at Dura-Europos in Syria, which either present abstract symbolism or Scriptural themes. There are, by contrast, a few examples of Christian-themed Late Antique sculpture. So we have either something very simple and undeveloped on the one hand, or a few isolated uses of the sophisticated Late Antique techniques on the other hand.

Architecture – In regards to church architecture, we must remember that the Church first gathered for the Liturgy in people’s homes. The earliest term known for a place of worship is o oikos tes ekklesias/domus ecclesiae – “house of the Church.” The first stage after the house-church was the titulus, a house purchased by the local Church and dedicated completely to Church use. This domestic character of the place of worship was to endure throughout the Church’s history; indeed, it is one of the enduring and distinguishing characteristics of good Church architecture – no matter how large or grand church buildings become, the best examples retain an interior and familial quality, and do not become purely official or monumental structures. Their purpose is both to gather people together for communal, familial worship and to encourage the interior worship of the heart. The genius of great Orthodox church architecture is that it can produce a very large building that is also warm, familial, and inviting, that does not crush the worshipper with its weight or grandeur, but rather simultaneously warms and elevates him, makes him feel at home while it performs its anagogical function, leading him upward to realize his higher calling.

Literature and Music – Greek and Roman literature produced language that was extraordinarily powerful, supple, and precise. Though its content, not being the direct revelation of God, obviously could not rise to the level of Holy Scripture, its form, being words, was not as opaque as pagan sculpture or temple architecture, and therefore it lent itself more easily to the use of the Apostles and Fathers. This is probably true of the pagan Greek music as well, but it is very difficult to ascertain exactly what this music sounded like, or, for that matter, what the music of the Old Testament worship sounded like. The consensus is that Christian chant was eventually a synthesis of the two, systematizing the content of the Old Testament Church’s chant (the actual melodies) by using the theory and notation of the Greek musical tradition (a process analogous to the Apologists and the Cappadocian Fathers systematizing and articulating the content of the Scriptural revelation using the “tools” of the Greek philosophical language). The roots of what today we call “Byzantine” and “Gregorian” chant are thus the same; the two are just the respective Eastern and Western developments of the original chant of the early Church, which continued the tradition of psalmodizing inherited from the Temple and synagogue worship.

The “baptism” of the inherited linguistic and musical arts during the period we are studying is both less radical and less obvious than in the visual arts, and more complicated to explain. For our purposes, it will be enough to talk about how the Church baptized the visual arts and architecture of the ancient world.

The transformation: In the realm of the visual arts, late antique portrait painting provided much better material for Christian artists to work with than did sculpture. The famous Fayum mummy portraits provide the best example of this genre. One can easily see how this school lent itself to the later, more spiritualized iconography of the Church, for though it is essentially realistic and worldly, it is at the same time formal and serene, while, being two-dimensional and providing a “window” into the soul of its subject, especially through the expressive depiction of the eyes, it also conveys an interiority that sculpture cannot.

In the realm of architecture: When the Church was free to build large public places of worship, She chose the form of the basilica, which was a secular type of building used for civic gatherings, such as political assemblies, courts, and markets. This only makes sense, since the worship of the Church consisted of the gathering ( qahal, ekklesia) of the faithful for corporate praise and the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It took place on the inside, not the outside, and so what mattered was the inside, not the outside of the building. Of course, the Christians re-organized and adorned the interior of the basilicas to fit their new, spiritual function.

What we see in the course of the fifth and sixth centuries is a transition from what can be called Late Antique art to Early Byzantine art. One microcosm that illustrates this transition beautifully and accurately is the collection of sacred buildings in the northeastern Italian city of Ravenna, containing churches, baptisteries, and mausolea from the fifth and sixth centuries. Another, most famous example, is the Sinai icon of Christ, from the sixth century. What is taking place here is that the Church took the most spiritual forms of late Antique Art and gradually refined them into something completely Christian, which we today call Byzantine art.

The Characteristics of Genuine Christian Sacred Art

Recall our first class, on the Early Church, whose character we described as eschatological, otherworldly, martyric, and ascetical. The insights we discussed in our later two classes, regarding the Church’s true spiritual school and true theological method lead us in the same direction, which is to conclude that a genuine sacred art must lead the believer into purification of the senses, cleansing from the passions, and pure prayer in this life, and thus to the Heavenly Kingdom in the next life, which Kingdom he will already have experienced through mysteriological and prayerful communion with God. It is anagogical – Its purpose is not to “celebrate the world,” but to lead the soul upwards to union with God.

This anagogical function necessitates that true sacred art must be hierarchical and hieratic. The forms and images here below are part of a great hierarchy of forms which extend downward from the heavenly archetypes to their earthly representations, as explained by St. Dionysios. This art is hieratic, that is, priestly, in that it has a specific priestly function, which is to offer to the believer the sacred mystery and then transform the believer so that he may offer his heart – himself – as a spiritual sacrifice to the Father Who reigns at the height of this cosmic and super-cosmic hierarchy, He Who sacrificed the Lamb of God before the ages for us.

The techniques of this art, in all of its media, must therefore produce a certain transparency, for its function is not to call attention to itself but to lead up, beyond itself, to that which is truly real. It is also an art that is anonymous, both because the artist is working as a member of a community, not on his own, and because he is performing his work as an act of worship to God, not for personal aggrandizement.

Next week we will look at actual examples to illustrate these themes of anagogy, hierarchy, hieraticism, transparency, and anonymity, to form a clear picture of this fully developed, peculiarly Christian art.

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