Part III: To Know & Believe: Intellectual Formation, Gratitude & Humility

Here’s the conclusion to yesterday’s post on intellectual formation. I hope to have the last post on pastoral formation and the whole essay available by the middle of next week.
In Christ,
+FrG

HighPriest21The Personal Awareness of Grace. Just as I can’t live a Christian life without the grace of the sacraments, I can’t live this life without at least some subjective awareness of God’s presence in my life. It is here, in my subjective or personal, awareness of God that my intellectual formation becomes important. While not unrelated to academics, intellectual formation prepares me for joy. Undertaken in the right spirit, my studies are a preparation for the enduring experience of happiness that is essential to a wholesome human and holy Christian life. How does this happen? Continue reading

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Creators in the Creator

The recent statement on the environment by His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (here) got me thinking about the theological implications of creation (notice I didn’t say the environment).  Briefly, I would suggest that the creation—the cosmos—is a sacrament of God’s love. This is to say that the creation— both as a whole and in each part—is both a revelation (mysterion) and a pledge (sacramentum) of God’s love. For this reason, in God the creation—again both as a whole and in each part—is a fit object for human love and so our personal and collective creativity.

This last point I think is important for our consideration of what some would call “environmental ethics.” Yes, we should respect the creation and, as the Patriarch has said, we need to repent of materialism and a purely materialistic and mechanical understanding of humanity’s relationship to the larger created order and to ourselves. We need to do this not simply because materialism is harmful to the environment but because materialism is not fitting for human beings created in the image of God and called to live in likeness to the divine life.

At the same time what we can’t do, and the Patriarch’s statement unfortunately if unintentionally lends itself to this, is engage the larger creation in a way that neglects, minimizes or undermines human creativity.  Yes, economic development can and has caused environmental harm even as it has harmed society and the individual. To be human, to be a loving human being, is necessary that we be creative after the example of God. While we can’t create ex nihilo, that is from nothing, we do have the God-given ability to bring a fitting human order to creation and so reveal creation’s internal meaning (logos) in a humanly meaningful fashion. Continue reading

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Economics, Unintended Consequences and the Virtue of Humility

The conference on economics, the environment and ethics began yesterday in earnest. Our arrival on Monday was largely limited to basic housekeeping duties for the conference and an evening social. But yesterday we had some four 90 minute sessions covering the basic economic information need for a conversation on environmental stewardship.

At the risk of speaking ill of my brother clergy, I am often amazed at how little information or understand they have in the natural, social and human sciences. Not that Orthodox clergy, or leaders in other religious traditions for that matter, need to be biologist or economists or sociologists; they don’t. But the findings of these disciplines can not only be helpful to parish ministry, they also have a direct effect on public policy and the moral issues of our times. Continue reading

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Obedience & the Christian Life

4th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Hieromartyr Methodius, Bishop of Patar (312). Rt. Blv. Prince Gleb Andreevich (son of St. Andrew Bogoliubsky—1174). Translation of the Relics of St. Gurias, Archbishop of Kazan’ (1630). Martyrs Innas, Pinnas, and Rimmas, disciples of Apostle Andrew in Scythia (1st-2nd c.). Martyrs Aristocleus—Presbyter, Demetrian—Deacon, and Athanasius—Reader, of Cyprus (ca. 306). St. Leucius, Bishop of Brindisi (5th c.). St. Callistus, Patriarch of Constantinople (1363). Icon of the Most-holy Theotokos “HODIGITRIA” (“THE GUIDE”) at the Monastery of Xenophontos on Mt. Athos.

Romans 6:18-23  (Epistle)
Matthew 8:5-13  (Gospel)

Especially given the events of the 20th century, the rise of Communism, Fascism, world and regional wars and the persecution and slaughter or men, women and children because of religious or ideological differences, the virtue of obedience has–understandably–fallen into disrepute not only among non-Christians but Christians as well.  It is as if we have said, personally and collectively, “I have been betrayed by those in authority and so I will no longer trust anyone but myself.”  While not universally the case, many of us–again whether Christian or not–live not so much in willful disobedience but in helpless fear.  At its core our not wholly unreasonable suspicion of

obedience reflects the scars left by love and trust abused.

The Gospel this morning, however, places obedience at the center of our attention. And it is not simply a generic obedience but the kind of obedience we have come as a culture to dread and fear I think more than any other.  It is a soldier’s obedience to his commander; a commander’s expectation of obedience from his troops.  “…I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (v. 9). Continue reading

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Humility and the Obedient Life

A common mistake in the spiritual life is to confuse what I’m feeling with the truth of my life.  But my  feelings are transitory and at their best only reflect a small fraction of the truth of my life.

So for example, it is easy to assume that humility (which Dan in his comment rightly points out is essential to obedience) with feelings of lowliness or  unworthiness.  To be sure those feelings often do accompany the virtue of humility but they did not do so.  And just as humility is not about feelings of self-reproach, pride is not about feeling good about one’s life.  Again, these may be present but they didn’t be.  More than that, we need to be very careful about assuming any correspondence between a particular emotion and the presence of vice or virtue in the soul. Continue reading

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