Paschal Greetings, 2019: Notre Dame and the Life-Giving Spring
You can listen to a podcast of this class at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/orthodox-survival-course-pascha-2019
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
Introduction: Hello, everyone. Before moving on to Class 38 of our Orthodox Survival Course, I thought Holy Pascha to be a good time to do something a little different. First of all, I want to greet everyone on this Radiant Feast of Feasts, whose joy should remind us that all of these worrisome problems and scary developments we’ve been talking about are temporary and, really, nothing, compared to God’s goodness and love for us. He has already conquered sin, the devil, death, and hell, and in Holy Baptism, He has already given us His Eternal Kingdom. Therefore, as St. Paul says in the Apostolos we read on Palm Sunday, “Rejoice, and again I say rejoice… the Lord is at hand.” We have only to be faithful for a short time, and he that endures to the end shall be saved.
I ask your forgiveness for not having sent out a new lecture since before Holy Week. As most of you know, Great and Holy Week is kind of a blur for any clergyman, and then Renewal Week/Bright Week is spent in a state of near-comatose exhaustion. But here we are, back in the saddle, at least for this week. Today, April 25th on the Orthodox calendar, is Wednesday of Thomas Week and the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. This coming Monday of Myrrhbearers’ Week, I’ll be going out of the country on some family business for ten days, and so I have to beg your pardon for yet another hiatus. I’m not one of those Internet celebrities that can traverse the globe talking into his smart phone (I don’t even have a smart phone) to record and send forth his wisdom urbi et orbi, so to speak, to an admiring public dying for the latest word. I have to sit here at my little wooden desk in our little wooden house in our little town of poor white folks in rural mid-America, and, with the help of morning and evening prayers and reading the Hours, and feeding my chickens, and so forth, try to say something useful every so often and hope it’s enough. I hope you don’t mind, but that’s the best I can do. If I tried to do this kind of thing on the hop, it would be junk.
As we’ve said many times, the point of our Survival Course is to construct an Orthodox lens to view history and to view our own times, in order to make prudent decisions to survive spiritually in the 21st century. Today I thought we would put the construction project on hold and actually use the lens we’ve been constructing to examine a recent event. Call it a homework exercise, like a math assignment in which you use a new formula you’ve learned to solve a sample problem, or, to use a more apt metaphor, a project in shop class to practice using a new tool the teacher has introduced. I want to talk about the fire that substantially destroyed the great Roman Catholic cathedral of the Mother of God in Paris during the week before Palm Sunday, and, in order to accompany and deepen our reflections on this portentous disaster, to meditate on the Feast of the Theotokos of the Life-Giving Spring, which we celebrated on Friday of Bright Week. Using the Orthodox lens we’ve been constructing, we may be able tentatively to approximate a useful lesson from the former and, of course, we can always securely and precisely acquire edification from the latter.
As a preliminary note, I’d like to say that I don’t want to get into the habit of discussing current events with you, for several reasons: 1. Constantly thinking about “the news” and forming opinions about it is like junk food – once you get into the habit of eating it, you don’t want what’s better for you, even though you know the real food is better. 2. The goal of our course is to see everything sub specie aeternitatis, from the point of view of eternity, to take the long view. But if we are always jumping into the stream of ongoing events, we won’t be able, after awhile, to get back onto the bank and look at the stream from that secure perspective. We’ll just flail around and eventually drown. 3. Current events are boring and tiresome, and most of the time no one knows what they really meant, anyway, till everyone alive at the time they occurred is dead. So we’ll examine a current event now and then, in order to demonstrate how to use our Orthodox lens, but only now and then. Of course, we need to be able to read “the signs of the times,” as Our Lord commanded us, but my job is to give you tools to do that, not do it for you. I don’t want to become one of those poor enslaved Internet gurus who feel constrained daily to pontificate on the latest idiotic epiphenomenon of human vanity. Also, keep in mind that one is not required to have an opinion about everything that goes on, which, besides making one look stupid, is a terrible burden, after all, isn’t it?
I. The Fire at Notre Dame – Just about everyone knows that on Monday evening of the Roman Catholic Holy Week – the last week of the Orthodox Great Lent – a great fire substantially ruined the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. In light of the ongoing campaign of violence against Catholic churches in France, it would be fatuous in the extreme to accept uncritically the predictable official explanation that what happened was an accident. Everyone suspects deep down that someone committed arson here, and we know that the anti-Christian Revolutionary elite, using their well-paid agents in the soi-disant French government, will try to use the occasion to transform the ruined church into some kind of grotesque mockery of a church, an accursed fane for the ecumenistic worship of the Anti-Christ. They are talking about sticking a Mohammedan minaret on it and so forth. So the reconstructed building could end up being not only blasphemous but hideously ugly. It is their usual modus operandi – one is no longer surprised. (It’s like “9/11” – they had the “response” all ready to go before the event occurred). And “Pope Francis” and the comically effete official “Catholic bishops” in France may very well go along with, or perhaps even cheer on, the whole thing, since they are, after all, fellow travelers of the Masonic 1789 Revolution, as one can easily see in the documents of Vatican II, in their new worship, and their new theology. Well, we’ll see.
I do not propose, however, to spend our time speculating on who did this thing and what the next step in the desecration is going to be. Whether it was accident or arson, God allowed this historic disaster, it has become part of His plan for our salvation, and we can use our Orthodox survival wisdom to reflect on its meaning. We can learn from it. By now you know that I like short lists. Let us make two observations.
Observation One: The Gothic cathedral symbolizes the departure of the West from Orthodoxy.
A few keenly anti-Latin Orthodox zealots, especially those of Greek background, may feel a kind of Schadenfreude (happiness in another’s misfortune) about Notre Dame’s destruction – “You Franks plundered us back in the Crusades, and what goes around comes around,” and that sort of thing. This response, however, besides manifesting a sinful passion, is simply misplaced. The few remaining old-fashioned kind of Catholics in France, who are grieving over this terrible blow against their historic identity, are no longer effective or serious enemies as were their ancestors. It really does not do to pour salt on their wounds. On the other hand, we do not, cannot, and should not feel and think as they do about this event, because this great building dramatically, powerfully, symbolized post-Orthodox, not Orthodox, Christianity. Remember: It was fundamentally not a church, but a secular building dedicated to a powerful religious ideology that replaced the revealed Faith, an organization that killed the living organism of the Church in the Western lands. In the image evoked by Romano Guardini in The End of the Modern World, the pointed Gothic spire, in replacing the Byzantine dome, replaced the image of God coming down to man with the image of man’s finger thrusting up to heaven to pierce the heart of God – an essentially Promethean enterprise. In the words of the Roman Catholic historian Christopher Dawson, a great Gothic cathedral is no longer even a building but a machine, for it is never at rest, its structural integrity depending on the ceaseless tension of pointed arch and flying buttress. This instability, tension, and restlessness as embodied in such a breathtaking engineering marvel of surpassing – really, heartbreaking – but earthly beauty, demonstrates in stone and glass the instability, tension, and restlessness of the new, man-made theology that in the West replaced the solid, secure, and unchanging, true, revealed Faith of the Scriptures and Holy Fathers in the course of the 12th and 13th centuries, something we discussed at length in Classes Eleven through Fourteen. As you are pondering the meaning of the Notre Dame disaster, you need first of all to ponder with an Orthodox mind the deeper meaning of this great building, and I suggest that you go back and read the notes and listen to the audio recordings of these four classes.
So now, after seven centuries of the inevitable degeneration from the starting point of the anti-Orthodox revolution of the 12th and 13th centuries, this corruptible, earthly thing – the post-Orthodox synthesis of the Western High Middle Ages – has run its course. It’s done, finished. It was manmade to begin with, and, like all manmade things, it was temporary, corruptible, and doomed to die. The end of Notre Dame symbolizes the end, the last gasp of post-Orthodox Western Christian culture. It’s over with. Only Orthodoxy offers a solid foundation, a reliable spiritual architecture, so to speak, on which to build a new Christian Europe, which, after all, was never an end in itself but the byproduct of conversion to the Gospel. Our part to play as Orthodox Christians, in this drama of the destruction of Notre Dame, is to witness to our Faith, and to pray that, through the intercessions of Notre Dame – Our Lady the Mother of God – her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of history, will use this occasion as a wake-up call to advance the cause of reconversion to Orthodoxy of His beloved First Daughter of the Western Church, la belle France. Through the prayers of St. Martin and All the Saints of Gaul, may this be so. Amen.
Observation Two: The destruction of Notre Dame reminds us that the Revolution of 1789 continues today.
Now let’s “fast-forward,” as they say, from Classes Eleven through Fourteen, to Classes 21 through 23, in which we discussed the French Revolution. If you have the time, I suggest you go back and study these classes through the notes and podcasts, and also read the enlightening articles by Archimandrite Luke and the Novi Stjenik sisterhood that I cite, as well as Lecture Six of Fr. Seraphim’s Survival Course. If you combine this study with the study of the High Middle Ages in Classes Eleven through Fourteen, you will have a more accurate understanding of what the destruction of Notre Dame means than all the media “experts” put together.
In France today, you don’t have a secular nationalist republican government and an effective Catholic Royalist opposition, as they had in the 19th century. What you have are phony republicans like Macron who are really just criminal agents running the government on behalf of the global Money Power, and, opposed to them, real republican nationalists like Marine Le Pen and the National Rally, and the republican rabble in the form of the “Yellow Vest” revolt, with a few powerless Catholic royalists off in the corner wishing for the good times to return. So no matter which way you look – whether you have Macron spouting the empty “ideals” of La Republique but actually serving the real criminal conspiracy behind the fraud of 1789, or Le Pen, who mistakenly but sincerely believes in some kind of French nationalism that incorporates the nonsensical republican ideology of 1789, or the Yellow Vests who are just sad, de-Christianized, materialistic proletariat angry at the criminal government for stealing their wine and cheese to give to the miserable Hagarenes, and who stupidly equate Macron with the King, whereas it was the conspiracy that employs Macron who murdered the King and created their meaningless proletarian existence to begin with – no matter which way you look today, all you have are secularists and materialists, not a principled Catholic royalist opposition with any real clout. 1789 rules the day. The destruction of Notre Dame is simply the continuation of the Masonic conspiracy of the French Revolution. We don’t need to establish which if any “conspiracy theory” is correct in order to formulate our Orthodox understanding of the meaning of this event. Demons, with or without the help of men, destroyed this great monument to the glory of pre-revolutionary France, as a continuation of the work they began in 1789.
Just keep in mind: all of this is part of the age-old drama of spiritual warfare. All of this is being used by the All-Wise God to bring about our salvation. Even the demons are forever chained by God’s sovereignty and omnipotence. Ultimately, the destruction of this building was designed or at least allowed by the Providence of God, for our salvation. We are not subject to the slavery to external forces imagined by the materialist fairy tale version of history – we are secure in the Ark of Salvation, the Church. We have nothing to fear. It is with the security, courage, and compassion born of true Faith that we should reach out to the non-Orthodox Christians shaken by this event, and wisely use the occasion to witness to Orthodoxy.
II. The Feast of the Theotokos the “Life-Giving Spring” – Eighteen days after the fire at Notre Dame, the Orthodox Church celebrated a feast of Our Lady the Mother of God, as She does on every Friday of Bright Week – the Feast of the Life-Giving Spring.
You can read the Synaxarion of this Feast here: http://orthochristian.com/93133.html I’d like to read it now, for you, though I won’t reproduce the whole thing in the notes – if you like, you can go to the link and print it for yourself.
So what do we see here? The Most Holy Theotokos gives to all successive Christian generations until now Her miraculous spring, which has worked and still does work countless miracles, in response to one act of Orthodox lovingkindness – the agape shown by the future emperor to a poor blind man. How wonderful! And how appropriate: You see, the greater miracle is not the physical healing, but the love itself, and it is that love and faith and hope in God that brings about the outward miracles, as a byproduct, you might say. It is the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love that bring about the magnificent churches built by the kings and mighty of the earth, and not the buildings that create the virtues. The buildings come and go, as this Church of the Life Giving Spring has come and gone and come again, and been partially destroyed, but is still there, and may be rebuilt again one day in its former glory, and so forth and so on. But the humble little Spring is still there, just as the Faith of Christians under persecution is still there, even when they must flee to the “dens and caves of the earth.”
In 1955, it was God Who allowed the Turks to destroy the large church that, in the 19th century, God had used a Turkish Sultan to build. Was this not a sign from God that the venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate should turn from its recent career of self-destruction through its heresy and apostasy, and return to Orthodoxy? But, alas, this did not and still does not occur. Their eyes are closed. What new disasters await as a result? What further judgment of God hangs over them? One shudders to think. But the humble little Spring is still there, the healings still occur – Notre Dame, Our Lady, is still caring for us. Let us have recourse to prayer more fervently, that the living Spring of God’s grace may fill our hearts, and that we may become living stones in the Temple Not Made by Hands, the Body of Christ.
Buildings come and go. God remains. This is enough for us.
Christ is Risen!