Monday, June 1, 2015

The faith that sings

It seems difficult to enter into discussion with someone who, by the very slips they display in their challenges, demonstrates at the outset an irrational prejudice against things that are patently undemonstrable or arguable on the basis of discussion at all. Orthodox simply do not 'adore' ikons. To even pose such an inquiry begs the question and supplies its own answer.

Archimandrite Vasileios says something to the effect that dogma cannot be understood outside of worship. The same thing, in my experience, can be asserted of holy and divine scripture. Sitting somewhere and studying the bible can lead us to one set of conclusions, experiencing it in worship leads us to sometimes a very different set, sometimes diametrically opposed.

The question then becomes, what is the Bible after all? Is it a book that fell from heaven infallible and ready to be implemented as the rule of a spiritual police state, as the Muslims believe of the Qur'an? Or is it something quite unexpected and different, a verbal mirror reflecting a living God whose will was to become the Man He always wanted us to be?

If it is a kind of mirror, it shows us ourselves as we are, and Him as He is, and bridges the gap between in such a way that migration from death to life becomes a possibility. Then, we realise that it is not meant for us to analyse the reflective surface of the mirror, which is what it is only so that we can become what He is by seeing Him and following His movements reflected in it.

History shows that the Church has understood since the beginning that the scriptures are without doubt the expression of God’s infallible word, paradoxically eternal and before the Church and yet temporal and within the Church, never over it, but rather the ground which supports it and on which it is being built, and a fertile soil for the fruition and harvest of souls.

The argument against the Orthodox faith and church, waged both on a personal and on an institutional basis, is undercut by the testimony of the fruit that it has itself produced, not very good fruit, and the kind of tree that it has proven itself to be. A very old tree that still produces much good fruit is not likely to be cut down in favor of a young tree whose fruit fails to ripen.

Reality, scientific but even spiritual reality, does not yield itself easily to quantification. Not everything perfect can be reduced to numbers and counted. Reality is not about structure but about relationship. A circle exists, and not three of its diameters make its circumference, but the relationship can be expressed only by pi, a constant, though not a number as man thinks it.

All divine things exist and operate in a frame of reference that cannot be encompassed by the human mind. The mistake of proud man is to take ownership and responsibility for what is beyond him in every way, seeking to bend it to fit his expectations. So doing, we kill what is alive, not realizing either what true life is, or that Life has come to pitch His tent among us.

This is the dividing line between religion, whether Christian or non-Christian, and the encounter with Him Who Is. Whether we start out with reams of rules or pages of pictures, neither is complete until we discover that neither was the Truth until both were taken in His hands, transformed by His touch, and given back to us breathing the fragrance of His myrrh-bathed wounds.

Sadly, the Bible’s reputed defenders worship what cannot be worshipped, as they decry us who worship only the Divine Nature, God in Three Persons, for whose love our hearts lean in veneration of all that pertains to Him, even each other, following the only divine commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. A greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends.

That is the faith that sings.

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