Saturday, April 30, 2016

What will we do?

How quickly the forty days fast flew by, even with the three weeks preparation for it! How quickly, too, the brief days and nights of Holy Week, now that we are just a few hours from beginning the Vigil of Pascha.

We will watch as the temple fills up with well-wishers, families and lovers greeting each other unselfconscious of the Resurrection that has remade their lives, and then we will meet the mellifluous chants rising above the humming ison, telling us of the wonders of God’s plan of salvation, His ikonomia.

Loneliness, even for those who have lost or left all who once lived with them and loved them, will be banished, as the brethren crowd inside the temple, sometimes so closely that one cannot force a finger between them. This is as God wants it. This is how He has ordered it to be. It is another living ikon of the life of the Most High, the unearthly Triad who has desired to mix with us, imparting to us the love that begat all worlds.

From the days of the Jewish Temple until now, the Eternal has been felling our mortality with His love, that we can bud anew, and flower in faith, and bring forth the fruit of immortality.

Soon, I will get on my sandals and make my pilgrim way to where the tribes are gathered for the Festival, all of us armed with pure tapers readied to receive the light from the unwaning Light of the Resurrection, all of us prepared to undergo the transformation from bondage to freedom which is signaled by this great mystery, as we gather under the night sky full of stars, listening for the command to leave the Egypt of our weaknesses, sicknesses, and sins, and crossing the sea of this world dry-shod, to arrive safely in the land of our testing, protected by the fiery pillar from behind, led by the mighty cloud of witnesses that goes before.

This is no mere Passover walk under the full moon, but the beginning of our redemption, itself the Redemption of the whole world, accomplished not by rules and regulations of law-givers, nor even by the exhortations of prophets, but by Messiah Himself, the Son of God, of whose Kingdom there is no end. We draw together this night to meditate, to commemorate, to celebrate the victory of Christ over death and hell.

Tomorrow the sun will rise as it always does, and we, still sleepy from our personal night journeys, will by grace be raised anew to life.

This world will be different, because not in our dreams but in our staying awake, we came close to Heaven, our very garments grazed the Gates, not of Hades, but of Paradise, and the Lord whose empty Tomb by faith we entered, again awaits our response to His call and His commands,

‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:19-20). 

What will we do?

Only three years

Sometimes looking back on my life, searching for those moments of real happiness, it seems that the longer I look, the shorter and fewer those times become. Maybe in a lifetime of fifty or sixty years, one might find only five or six years when the memory shows times of pure happiness, and not all connected either, but scattered about. This kind of pondering leads nowhere and belies the fact that one is happy right now, else there could be no leisure for such plundering of the vanished past. What’s more, everything looks and feels different in retrospect. We find that looking back seldom recovers the truth. In this body of sin, memory like everything else doesn’t work right, but always partakes of that fatal flaw that taints everything on this side of the resurrection. But on the other side of the resurrection, it’s a different story, literally.

Thinking back to my own youth, I remember how I spent four years of my life in training to become a traditional furniture maker under an old Norse-American cabinetmaker. This man was thirty-two years my senior, and I was his last apprentice. He grew up on a farm in the borders of Minnesota and North Dakota, one of twelve brothers (there was also one sister). His family was swept up in the pentecostal revivals of the 1920’s and 30’s, and he told me many stories of tent meetings and other experiences in his early life.


I was a new Christian, just having accepted the Lord at the age of twenty-four, and only six months before hiring on at the Sterling Furniture Company in Portland. I had prayed, while still living in Corvallis, to be led to a workplace where there would be at least one other Christian. In very short order, the prayer was answered.
The four years I spent with this elder were hard but happy years. Along with his teaching and example in the crafting of wood, without intending it, he passed on to me the legacy of his life in Christ, and little did he know (or perhaps he was aware) that I followed his every move so as to make it my own, my soul being stamped, like communion bread, with the cross of Christ. I was not a pentecostal, yet there was never a difference between us. Knowing about the ancient faith, he would sometimes say to me, when I had done something that especially pleased him, ‘May the saints bless you!’ For my part, it never occurred to me to think of him and his faith as different from my own. Certainly not. How could I judge him? In my eyes he was perfect, what a Christian man should be. I wanted to emulate him in every way.

Only four years with this man shaped the rest of my life to this very day. And we wonder sometimes, what effect our own lives have on the people around us. To be a Christ-bearer in the world, what possibilities, if only we live in the light of the risen Christ! In only a moment, Christ in us can change the world, forever.


Then, there is the reason behind this all. The reason being the Divine Word, through Whom the world was made, and in Whom we live and move and have our being. Though He is God, He entered into our time and assumed our flesh, living secretly, that is, unknown to the world, just as we live. No one will remember us after we’ve left this world, at least not for long, but the world remembers Him. The world doesn’t remember Him for anything He did in the first thirty years of His earthly life, or at least not much, but for what He did in the last three.

Only three years was all it took for the world to remember Him, and not only to remember Him, but to be changed forever. No other time period in all of human history has had as great and lasting an impact on the rest of time as those three years. Yet, at the time they were happening, very few noticed those years at all, in terms of the world’s population. Only a few thousand people at most, and in a land which, though it has become the center of the world’s attention from time to time, is still just a small spit of rocky soil between empires.

Only three years of one man’s life, and billions of other men’s lives are changed forever, even the lives of those who don’t know Him, who don’t ask themselves the question, ‘Who is that man?’ If that isn’t power, then I don’t know what is, and only one could have that power, the Lord Almighty, who is alive and present with us at this very moment, the risen Christ.

A Christian asks himself

How can I be living my life as though the resurrection didn’t really happen?
I say, “Christos anesti” with my lips, but what do I say with my heart?
What do I say with my life?

What is belief?
Is it just the mental agreement that a statement is true without experiencing the truth it expresses?

Can I live my life in the resurrection of Jesus while living it as though He did not die on the cross, and die on the cross for me?
I can humbly bow and cross myself with my body and kiss His image, but what worship does my spirit offer?

But the hour will come—in fact it is here already—when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
John 4:23 JB

Can I believe in the resurrection without believing in the Lord’s death?
How can I believe in the Lord’s death without experiencing it?
Can I believe in it by attending the services, or reading the bible, or is there more to believing than being a “good Christian”?
And what is a good Christian?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 16:24-25 JB

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
—Jim Elliot, Martyr of Ecuador

Can’t I be a follower of Jesus without dying?
Isn’t all the talk about being buried with Christ in my baptism just a metaphor?
But if it is, what is there to do?

Back to my original question, why am I living as though the resurrection didn’t really happen?
Is it really because I don’t believe in the death of Christ and in the power of His life-giving cross?
What is this “power” of the cross?

All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death.
Philippians 3:10 JB

Living as though the death of the Lord did happen will give you the power to live your life as though the resurrection did happen.
There is not one without the other.

You cannot live as though Jesus Christ died on the cross,
and still lie, steal and kill.
You cannot live as though He died for you,
and still treat others with disrespect.
You cannot live as though He endured temptation,
and still fornicate, alone or with another.
You cannot live as though He said from the cross,
‘Father, forgive them,’
and still hold grudges, envy the good fortune of others,
and judge your neighbor.

You cannot live as though He endured being stripped naked
and beaten,
and still look the other way and wink at wickedness,
and let the innocent be slaughtered.

You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution, so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.
Ephesians 4:22-24 JB

“Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’…”
—C. S. Lewis

So, this is the way to live a resurrected life, to live as though the resurrection of Christ really happened, to know that it happened, not just to say I believe in it:
To live a dying life, to let Christ nail not only my sins, but also my very self, what I think is me, what I think I want, to the cross.

…the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised, it embodies the spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 JB

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.
2 Timothy 2:11 JB

Lord, let me live as though You really rose from the dead, by living as though You really died for me.

Friday, April 29, 2016

To the only Life worth living

                              The cross of the earth
                              The four winds point them
                              Body to body
                              Seas to anoint them

                              The reed they brought him
                              Sponge and vinegar
                              Fiery serpents
                              Spitting gold and cinnamon

                              The moon was bleeding
                              And stars were shallow
                              And the sword that killed him
                              Was a sword of willow

                              The winter and the midnight
                              Could not hold him
                              The fire could not burn him
                              Nor earth enfold him

                              Rise up Lazarus
                              Sweet and salty
                              Brother soldiers
                              Stop your gambling and talk to me

                              The thieves were stealers
                              But reason condemned him
                              And the grave was empty
                              Where they had laid him

                              — Robin Williamson, ‘Job’s Tears,’
                              from the Incredible String Band 
                              album Wee Tam

It’s Great and Holy Friday today, the Orthodox Christian holy day corresponding to the Good Friday of ‘the other Christians,’ but it doesn’t exactly correspond. Why not? Well, because for us this Friday is the commemoration of the ‘Taking down from the Cross’ and the ‘Entombment of Christ’ at which, this evening, we shall lament, we shall sing the ‘Lamentations’ before his flowery funeral bier.

It was last night, on Holy and Great Thursday, that we witnessed the Crucifixion and venerated the Cross of Christ, as Roman Catholics and historic Protestants do on Good Friday. It was last night that we heard the priest chant, as he carried the Cross around the inner walls of the temple,
                         Today is suspended on a tree He
                         who suspended the earth upon the waters.
                         The King of the angels
                         is decked with a crown of thorns.
                         He who wraps the heavens in clouds
                         is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
                         He who freed Adam in the Jordan
                         is slapped on the face.
                         The Bridegroom of the Church
                         is affixed to the Cross with nails.
                         The Son of the virgin
                         is pierced by a spear.
                         We worship Thy passion, O Christ. (3 times)
                         Show us Thy glorious Resurrection.

The Cross of Christ is the mystery in which all humanity shares, believers and non-believers, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, strong and weak, healthy and sick, left wing and right wing. Our very man-made divisions, enumerated above, are themselves the horizontal beam to which the hands of the Son of Man and God’s Only Begotten were horribly nailed.

At His left and right also, the Lord had companions to accompany Him in His descent to Hades, to the state of non-being, idiocy and darkness. We who are alive today to witness these reenactments are the same people who as our ancestors stood by and watched the Event as it occurred in ‘real time.’ The song quoted at the head of this testimony begins with this remarkable line,

                              We're all still here
                              no one has gone away
                              Waiting, acting much too well
                              and procrastinating

I left it out till now, adding it only as another illustration of what I have just written, that we who are alive today to witness these reenactments are the same people as those who stood at the foot of the literal, historic Cross, not knowing what was really happening, not understanding that this was not just any man dying the painful death of a criminal, despised and rejected, but God as man.

Sometimes I wonder if we, that is, if I know what is really happening, if I understand that this is not just any man dying on the Cross, despised and rejected (and by whom? Is it I?) but God as man, even God as me. What else can it mean that Christ takes my place on this instrument of excruciating torture to save me, but that He has come into my life and borne my personal suffering as if it were His?

Yes, I know I have suffered. I still suffer. It hurts. It can hurt so badly, sometimes. Yet I always find myself still alive, even unable to remember the pain, looking back on it as though it had happened to Someone else. Yes, it was He, it is He, always there. He knows that I must die, and so He joins me on the Cross, so I am never alone. He reigns in me, in my suffering, as King of Glory, sharing with me His throne.

The whole of humanity participates in the Cross of Christ. The whole human race, irrespective of nationality or religion, is saved by Him who came into the world not to judge the world but to save it. The post to which the horizontal beam was fixed in erecting the Cross is rooted in the remains of the first Adam in whose loins all humanity till the end of the age is contained, watered by the Blood.

The Christ whose holy image we venerate on the Cross is no stranger to us, nor to all of mankind. He has in fact and in act borne our sorrows as the prophet sang. No one has come too early or too late, for His sacrifice was made before the foundation of the world. Therefore, brethren, let us invite each other, and hasten to the life-giving Tomb, whence buried with Christ we shall rise to the only Life worth living.

Kali Anastasis! Beautiful Resurrection!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lords of the universe

We are not at the top of the order of being. We have told ourselves that we are since we began to think of creation as stratified into tiers of increasing complexity. We haven’t found any other living things in the world which we could classify as of a higher order than ourselves. Scientifically, angels don’t count.

Once we told ourselves that our planet, be it flat or spherical, was the center of the universe. Some few people in the world today, Sa’udi clerics for example, still believe in a flat earth in the center of Allah’s creation. Most now know, or at least believe what scientists tell them, earth is a mere speck in space.

Whether being a mere speck reduces the importance of earth or not is a question to be debated by biologists and by theologians. If earth ends up being the only life-bearing planet in who knows how many galaxies, the theologian wins, and earth even regains its place as the center of the universe.

It doesn’t seem likely. Even common sense, not to mention the unscientific ancient religious mind, assumes that if there’s life on earth, there must be elsewhere, given that there are more galaxies in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth. A hundred years ago, people believed Mars inhabited.

It seems to be a question of some importance, though. Are we or are we not at the top of the order of being, even if the earth is a mere speck? We associate human consciousness and its attributes, reason, memory, and will, to the fact of our superior brain, itself a mere physical organ which all creatures have.

Our brain is bigger than most, and better, and that puts us at the top, along with our superior consciousness. Yet consciousness is experienced only when we are awake. Asleep, we are no better than, not even other animals, but no better than even rocks. What connects consciousness and the brain?

That is to ask, what connects the soul to the body? a question falling into the hands of the theologian, though it more properly belongs to the scientist, in my opinion. It is also connected to the question, who is at the top of the created order of being? ‘Created’ conveniently cuts God out of the answer.

We already believe or know that God is at the top of the order of being, or even that He is Being. We are now free to ask, with the primitive animist, why shouldn’t living things other than ourselves have a ‘soul’ or consciousness, identity, self-awareness, and so on, perhaps even why shouldn’t earth itself?

Modern animists, a New Age religion, do in fact believe earth to be a living thing, some calling it by a Latinized form of its ancient Greek name, Gaea, and worshiping it. Of course, it is a feminine deity. There is as much reason to revive sun worship, as we know what the sun looks like, but do we know what it is?

In C. S. Lewis’ children’s books, the Chronicles of Narnia, some boys and girls from earth leave the universe in which our planet exists and enter a different order of creation, where stars are not only balls of hot gas but also living things, if not biologically as we are, at least as conscious entities, with powers.

Powers such as we humans have, reason, memory, and will, but greater in scale, we attribute to such spiritual beings as angels, which are characters in our religious tradition. Do angels really exist, or are they personifications of cosmic powers such as sun, planets, and stars, acknowledged by ancient man?

The direction of my question is not to find myself in a place where I disavow the existence of the angels, but where I find myself able to justify my intuition that the search for both life, and higher forms of life, need not be limited to the biological, and also that the search for consciousness not be limited to man.

For the surge of modern thinking is being channeled ever more narrowly into a life- and consciousness-denying ravine. Angels are assumed no less mythical than ancient gods, living creatures below man are assumed inferior and at our unconditional disposal, even the human fetus, since ‘it’s not a human yet.’

I hope for a rescue both scientific and teleological from this anti-humanistic attitude. Yes, a theological rescue as well, but that rescue must be teleological, it must be ‘of the last things.’ It may be that we as a race will only come to know the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven when we are at the point of entering it.

Meanwhile, I worship the God, One in Essence, Whose Life is the Community of Persons, Father, Son, Spirit, and… the rest of us. I venerate all, not only other humans, but other life forms, even other beings not fully or un-biological in whose presence I feel an abiding consciousness, the gift of the God of all.

At least I am sure of one thing. We are not at the top of the order of being. We are not at the top of our being, which is the only being we can know intimately and directly. We start our life journey as the Adam, but the New Adam has appeared, historically in Jesus, potentially in us, both one by one, and together.

That which is higher in the order of being than our original human nature has already taken its place in our genes, from the time that Deity was formed in the womb of an obscure Jewish girl, Mary of Nazareth, and there it waits for us to activate it. To follow her and her Son is the most important step in evolution.

Once that step is taken, we as a race look back with wonder at our wars, our doomed attempts to explore and conquer the universe, even our search for life beyond earth is shown to have been a waste of time. The mirage we pursued vanishes, leaving us the real lords of the universe, living images of the Lord of all.

The creation waits in eager expectation 
for the revelation of the sons of God.
Romans 8:19

Monday, April 25, 2016

Wounded by love

Follow the Lord to Golgotha.

A man wounded, knowing how to bear weakness

Isaiah 53:3 Septuagint

Be wounded
and know how to bear pain.
The Cross must be familiar and acceptable to you as a place to be and a mode of existence.

Then the Lord will come at some time, without fail, as He knows best. He will come and find you. He will touch your aching head, as "…He touched the leper" (Matthew 8:3).
He will speak to you. He will enter into you like light, repose, paradise. You will be aware of Him. You will feel Him. You will actually live His passion and resurrection. You will find yourself inside the icon of the Resurrection, of the Descent into Hades.

This icon will be an expression of your life. Christ will be constantly leading you by the hand, bringing you to light, to freedom, to an unending journey which is Himself.


You understand then the words of the Lord, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" (Luke 24:26) Christ had to suffer and to come forth as a Bridegroom from the tomb.
A great mystery!


You feel that you had to suffer, to endure pain, to die in the earth like a seed, so that there might shoot up from within you something that does not pass away.

I am created for some specific purpose, for something intangible, invisible to the naked eye, and yet incarnate.
I know it. I believe it. I experience it.


When I move away from it, everything goes awry, in my soul and in my body. When I am within it, I am firmly grounded and recover everything, the health of my soul and body. When I am alone, I am in communion with the saints. When I am in a crowd, I am nourished by the pure spring welling up in the desert within.

Reverence for this least and greatest thing takes the form of constantly going outdoors without protection, of asking at every moment only that His will should be done. Asking it not with my mouth and voice, but with my whole manner of living, all the time.

And when you ask that His will should be done, when your whole being is one bleeding petition, it happens. But this happening is not something you can determine in advance. It may happen by happening or by not happening. It may be that before your petition is even finished, the answer comes. Or you may wait years and wear yourself out, and be disappointed, and reach utter exhaustion, and be destroyed. And then, when you are no longer expecting anything—neither you nor anyone else—He Himself will come to raise you up, to take you with Him on a new journey.
Then you will understand why He was slow in coming for you. He was with you "in another form" (Mark 16:12), even when He had not come and you were waiting for Him.

How everything functions as a whole! How nothing is irrelevant, nothing is wasted! How the blessings go deeper than we hoped! How the afflictions, the pains and the perplexities till the field of our souls like a deep-cutting ploughshare! How totally and utterly the strange and heaven-sent rest differs in nature from the rest and satisfaction afforded by any earthly and temporary success! How it teaches us humility, how it schools us in love, how it reconciles us with others! It strengthens us, it invigorates us, and at the same time it makes us weaker, without any prickles or sharp corners which could wound others!
—Archimandrite Vasileios

My citadel is God Himself.
the God who loves me is coming…
Psalm 59:10 Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Ship of Faith

I am the first to admit that there are many others who are far more intelligent, far more learned, and especially far wiser than I, and yet I keep on thinking, and writing, about issues with which I struggle, sometimes appearing as though I have just uttered definitively a truth that cannot be questioned. This is only a shadow of the rigor with which I hold myself, not you, dear reader, accountable to the God who is at once my savior and my judge.

I used to struggle with the idea of the Church—what is it? who is it? where is it? why is it? After thinking myself into a Gordian knot, one day a line I had read dozens of times in a book by one of my few favorite Christian writers, Sergey Fudel, finally cut through that knot and saved me any further trouble trying to undo it. ‘The Church is a pan-human reality,’ he writes in his book Light in the Darkness. That idea confirmed much of my experience.

Once I understood that the Church is a pan-human reality, that every human being is included in it, my whole view of what constitutes evangelism changed. The root meaning of evangelion, the good news, the gospel, was revealed to me as essentially this, that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,’ the famous John 3:16. Now the struggle was ‘whoever believes.’

I had read another famous line, ‘There is no salvation outside the Church,’ and I witnessed the great lengths to which people have gone to try to impress belief on the unbelieving, everything from trying to extract their faith by spectacles, to squeezing it out of them by social pressure, to arguing it out of them by debate, to threatening it out of them by hell fire, even to extorting it out of them by barely disguised bullying—all of it, mere religious marketing.

Then I heard the words of another of my few spiritual teachers, Mother Gavrilia, who said, ‘Our faith is not for sale.’ A light turned on in my head and a fire kindled in my heart. Right, Christ and His holy apostles were not salesman for a heavenly product—salvation. They were the great King sallying forth with His chosen ambassadors to announce that Love has appeared in human form and the gates of paradise have been forever opened to all who would enter.

The Church is now revealed not to be a ‘true Church’ surrounded by its enemies, dissenters, sectarians who have fallen off, or been thrown out of, the ship of faith. No, there is Christ and the Theotokos, there are the holy apostles and saints, there are all human beings who have ever been born of woman—yes, and even those only conceived but unborn—sailing together in the ship of faith, whose mast is the Holy Cross, whose sails are filled with the Holy Spirit.

And who are outside, who not aboard, that ship? who flailing hopelessly adrift in the stormy sea? who crouching, bows and javelins in hand, behind rocks to shoot at, to spear those safely sailing in the ship of faith? I see no one and nothing but shadows flickering on the restless waves, shadows of those very saved ones peering out at the sea as they fill the decks. Shadows, that is, fears, that have now been proven to be nothing at all, though they threatened many a saved soul to abandon ship. Yes, shadows flickering on the restless waves, fears alone are the lost, forever separated from the souls on board.

There is no ‘Catholic’ Church. There is no ‘Orthodox’ Church. There is no ‘Evangelical’ Church. There is only the Church, only the Ship of Faith, only the Body of Christ, only the Bride of the Lord and Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Yes, ‘the’ beyond name and number, ‘the’ before all division and multiplicity. The Church that recognizes this truth knows that its field is the whole earth, that there is no territorial limit to its jurisdiction or its responsibility. There is no religion or lack of it that excuses us from fulfilling the ‘great commission’ or from announcing the Message, ‘Be reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:11).

We have a great ally in the work of handing on this reconciliation. The same Lord who commands us, ‘Go,’ is also present in every living soul to which we are sent. He awaits our arrival in the heart of every human being whom He has created for eternal joy, and to whom the Door to that joy is He Himself, dwelling secretly within. As the unborn forerunner John leapt in his mother’s womb at the sound of the voice of the Theotokos, the Mother of his Lord, so leaps the unborn spiritual heart of every person when we announce the true gospel of Christ to them, without guile or condemnation, but with genuine love.

Now I know that the Church is not only invincible—the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it—but that it is inevitable. It is where the whole human race is heading, like it or not, because mercy is irresistible. New birth cannot be stopped any more than birth can. An infant has no choice. It must be born. It must leave the familiar and comfortable womb of its mother. It must receive breath. It must shortly be nursed at the breast, and then rebel against it as it should, as its mother desires. The Church is the mother of the entire race, and when she recognizes all as her children, she raises them together.

The weak really are strengthened, not rejected. The ignorant really are taught, not despised. The insane really are cured, not tolerated. The wayward really are disciplined, not indulged. The addicted really are freed, not abandoned. The hopeless really are encouraged, not driven to despair. So, human will returns to God. The Church knows that it cannot be divided, nor was it ever by anything real, only men’s vain opinions which, like Hades’ infamous gates, shall never, because they never could, prevail. ‘A mighty fortress is our God’ is transfigured to ‘God is inside the City, she can never fall, at crack of dawn, God helps her’ (Psalm 46).

It must be written that in the first decades of the first century of the third millennium of the Church, great persecutions raged, horrible crimes against humanity were committed, but that these only deepened the furrows and fertilized the earth for the reception and growth of the seed of the New Adam, these only cleared away the brambles that had been choking the seed sown before. Yes, a new humanity, a race of priests and kings, first-born sons and universal citizens, God’s incarnate images on earth male and female, that is what the Church is, was, and will be, to the ages of ages.

Yes, the Ship of Faith.

Ikon not made by hands

Yes, there seems to be, and it seems that there has always been, a kind of subtle war between the male and female sexes. We have the saying, ‘It's a man's world,’ and in a strange sort of way it's true. In most places, through most of human history, the male sex dominates society, at least outwardly. In recent times, the women's movement throughout the world has won for the female sex ‘rights’ that previously only men possessed. Actually, going beyond the equalization of ‘rights’ this movement has in many places declared war on the male sex in a barely hidden push to gain ascendancy, and even to collect ‘reparations’ from the offending sex. This post will not be a diatribe against feminism, but simply reviews the state of affairs between the sexes as we find them. What God creates is a humanity that is His image and likeness in two complementary forms. What sin results in is a humanity that is fragmented and distorted and at war with itself.

The Son of God comes into the world—yes, as a male human, a man, according to the Divine economy—to integrate the two natures, human and Divine, in a single person, and in so doing, He also integrates the two sexes, female and male, in a single humanity. He proves true in eternity what was true in time. ‘God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them’ (Genesis 1:27). He also provides the antidote to the sin of gender supremacy by His death on the Cross, His burial in the Tomb, His descent into Hades and His triumph over it, and by His bodily Resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of Divine Majesty. He does so by becoming the Divine Bridegroom, the Second Adam, and by revealing hidden in His side the Divine Bride, the Second Eve. Yes, His virgin Mother is the Second Eve, but not the only one. She is the Mother of all who follow, all who like her become ‘God-bearers.’

The Marriage of earth and heaven makes the earth heavenly and heaven earthly. The divine Bridegroom makes the human Bride divine, just as the unwedded Bride, the human mother of Jesus Christ, makes the divine Bridegroom human. Heaven comes down to earth, so that earth can ascend to heaven. And we, following Jesus, follow her, His mother, and like her also make the divine human. Brotherly love now becomes theological, because to love our brother and sister whom we can see proves that we love God whom we cannot see. In truth, our love for our neighbor, even for all of creation, makes the invisible God visible.

But how does Christ by His Divine economy, His plan of salvation, provide the antidote to the sin of gender supremacy, how does He bring reconciliation and peace between the male and the female? Does He make them equal, as modern social theory attempts to do? Does He remove precedence, privilege, and patriarchy? We still see a male God in heaven, the Father, and a male Son, Jesus Christ. Some see a female God in the Holy Spirit, but all this is just trying to fit the unknowable within the limits of human understanding. We are still thinking in pictures that we have made, but it is the Ikon not made by hands that reveals the Truth.

The Bridegroom and the Bride. This is where we find ourselves when we seek to know the truth of all things. And in the Bridegroom's wounds we are revealed to be His Bride. All of us, male and female, in a single new humanity, one with each other as the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are One in the Holy Triad, who was, who is, and who is to come.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Gatekeepers

It has always irked me, that when a major religious holiday occurs, the gatekeepers of the modern world, such as Google, unfailingly flaunt their non-recognition of it. Be it Passover, as it was today, or Easter, as it was at the end of March, or the coming feast of Pascha, the Orthodox Easter that will be observed a week from this Sunday, anything else is more important, anything else is to be celebrated.

Today it was Earth Day, a new holiday of the religion of the Green Movement, the ecology cult. The gatekeepers will defend themselves, as keeping ‘church’ and ‘state’ separate, as not favoring any religion by closeting all, yet they do allow select religions to be out, this time flaunting un-apologetically their double standard, religions just as pushy as they claim Christianity to be.

Why is it they cannot recognize what is going on right under the noses? That others have a right to honor their God? That to acknowledge a religious holiday of any and all religions does not make them devotees of that God or accomplices of His crimes? What are they afraid of? Are they admitting by their disrespect that Someone is objectively above them, and before them?

They do this, all the while knowing inwardly, in their consciences (for now we must admit that we are talking about individual human beings with free will who make choices, not just the impersonal results of those choices that are written large on our windows) that they are commandment breakers.

Commandment breakers? How can they be commandment breakers when they don’t acknowledge the commandments or Him that commands?

They’ve already told us, in not so many words, they do not accept Him or His commandments. These are the self-proclaimed non-religious, even when some of them claim to be spiritual, or even that they are religious only in private, where religion belongs, now that what used to be private, such as one’s sex life, is as public as what hangs out to dry on the clothes lines.

Yes, commandment breakers, and they needn’t go further than the first commandment, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me’ (Exodus 20:2-3).

The modern translation loses the second person singular in which the original Hebrew is cast, unfortunately also the immediacy of the one-on-one encounter, ‘I and thou’ as spoken by Spirit to soul, the God to the man (or woman). The ‘you’ of our modern talk dulls both edges of the ‘double-edged sword’ (Revelation 1:16 and 19:15) by grouping us in a plural second person where nobody in particular can be blamed (or rewarded). You know, safety in numbers.

The gatekeepers may have excused themselves of not recognizing the Ten Commandments or Anyone who might have issued them, but they are gravely mistaken. We know both the commandments and the Divine Being whose nature it is that there should be commandments, through our own consciences, or I should say, conscience, because there is but one human conscience in which all inevitably share.

Their objections, the gatekeepers’, that the Ten Commandments are part of the Jewish and Christian, and therefore banable, religions doesn’t help them. It is not the form of the commandments, or where we find them written down, that limits them to one segment of humanity. Everyone, religious or irreligious, has the commandments written inside them, to be carried out or to be rejected.

Even the polytheist, even the atheist, knows what is commanded in the first commandment, that Who is not limited by name or number is not to take second place. The Christian has the saying of Jesus, ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33), the first commandment in a different form.

‘The truth, the truth, anything but the truth’ must be the guiding principle of the gatekeepers who keep the ‘truth imprisoned in their wickedness’ (Romans 1:18). Just as it is easier to love than to hate, to believe in God than to disbelieve, how hard it must be for the gatekeepers to keep their eyelids shut and their ears plugged not to see and hear the world of life that surrounds them!

‘The whole world was shining with brilliant light and, unhindered, went on with its work; over them alone there spread a heavy darkness, image of the dark that would receive them. But heavier than the darkness, the burden they were to themselves. But for Your holy ones, all was great light…’ (Wisdom of Solomon 17:19-20, 18:1).

Like the unbelieving Jews—those who would disbelieve, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence, such as the raising of the dead man, Lazarus of Bethany, after four days in the tomb—the gatekeepers of today will stop at nothing to prevent the good news from reaching those who are poor enough to receive it. So, the remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt is glossed over by Earth Day.

Celebrating William Shakespeare, who died April 23, 1616, four hundred years ago today, by far more significant than Lazarus, a mere nobody, whose resurrection after four days by the calling forth of Jesus of Nazareth, another mere Nobody, certainly should take precedence on the gatekeepers’ roster, something to cheer them up, to bring a faint glimmer of gladness to their gloomy world.

Meanwhile, as scripture says, ‘The whole world was shining with brilliant light and, unhindered, went on with its work…’

Come out, and live!

The Saturday of Lazarus, absolutely my favorite liturgical Saturday of the year, except for the following one, Holy and Great Saturday, is dawning upon us.

This is the day in the life of Christ that finally sealed His fate in the minds of his earthly opponents, the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine. Preaching, teaching, even performing miracles of healing—I’m sure his enemies did not accept the other miracles, such as the feeding of the five thousand—were bad enough, in their eyes, but now this! He doesn’t claim to have raised a man from the dead that was entombed for four days. No, he doesn’t claim it, but everyone else does! The story must be considered the first example of information gone viral. With this evidence in front of them—not that he raised a man from the dead, but that hordes of people believed he did, and then, there was the man himself, Lazarus of Bethany—they had to act, and quickly.

Thus begins the final week in the mortal life of Jesus of Nazareth. Though the events probably did not unfold lickedy-split in factual history as they seem to do in the eight days from Lazarus Saturday to the Saturday of the Harrowing of Hades, they do come at us speedily, just as they did to the people that experienced them when they happened. We, like they, almost have no time to catch our breath, or, at least, starting tomorrow, we shan’t feel much at ease or relaxed. The Lord of all whom we now know to be among us goes to His ever-memorable and glorious humiliation, emptying Himself for us whom He has always filled with good things, in order to make our inheritance in Him, in God, permanent and more certain than any other truth we can ever know.

He dies, that we may live. And not just the way Lazarus was given life again when he was raised from his four-day burial. No, this life which we are granted by Christ, Him ‘who was dead and is alive forever,’ is outside the bounds of what we normally experience as life and death. It is outside physical nature, and yet not entirely within the realm of spirit either. It seems to be that point where times past, present and future, as well as heaven and earth, come to a fruitful conjunction. It is the singularity in which lies latent the new universe that will burst forth with more than a ‘big bang’ on that Day of Resurrection of which Pascha, the day of the resurrection of Christ, is harbinger, first-fruits, and ineffaceable ikon. For ‘all who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, alleluia.’

Alas for the earthly authorities who put to death the God-man who would otherwise never have tasted death, for He is the only sinless one. Alas for their vain hopes that He who raises the dead to life could ever be buried in the depths of a grave, for He opens the tombs, then as He did with Lazarus of the four-day burial, now as He does for all those who do not die but only fall asleep, believing in Him who says, ‘he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’ Alas for death itself, for it was plundered not just once in the raising of Lazarus, but once for all in the harrowing of Hades, which now lies in darkness below, having been emptied by the One who commands all who have ever lived or shall live, as He commanded Lazarus, ‘Come out!’ and us, ‘Unbind him, let him go free!’

There is no more darkness. There are no more tears. The dwelling of God is with men. He, calling us back to life who lay dead in our sins, commands us, as He commanded His beloved friend, as if each of us were His one and only, ‘Come out, and live!’ Let us join with Lazarus who like his Lord ‘was dead and is now alive’ and follow Him, as He goes once for all to ascend of His own free will the Tree of Life. Brethren, let us assemble with palms to welcome Him who comes to us a poor man, and not rush to reject Him and hand Him over, as did he who lusted after glory, and having betrayed the Truth in human form, hung himself in despair. That misbelieving man descended to Hades and was bound there, captive. But He whom he betrayed descended to dissolve darkness and bondage forever.

This year in Jerusalem

…I wish! At the end of the Passover Seder, we used to pray, ‘O Pure One, Who dwells on high, raise up the countless congregation, soon—guide the offshoots of Your plants, redeemed, to Zion with glad song. Next year in Jerusalem!’

I miss the festival of Pesach, the Jewish Passover. We used to observe Pesach with a Seder at our house while our four sons were growing up. Sometimes with guests, sometimes not, but an extra seat was always ready for the unexpected guest… may it be holy prophet Elijah! We haven't observed Pesach as a family for many years now. You see, we're Greek Orthodox, and we're not supposed to. Oh well, nobody said we couldn't! I miss it, nonetheless.

I compiled a Passover Haggadah, celebrating Pesach with the Messiah, in those early days, and gradually evolved it over the years. This year I had intended to finish laying it out afresh with new graphics, and possibly having a Seder here again at Sky House, but I ran out of time. It has been a very busy year, right down to the day. God grant me to complete it for next year. Now that self-publishing is so easy, when I finish the new version, I can have it printed and bound for a couple of dollars a copy.

This year the Jewish Passover starts before the onset of Holy Week. Some years, however, it coincides with it. Usually it’s close enough to gently merge into Palm Sunday and the Bridegroom services. Thinking about this makes me wonder what it will be like in Jerusalem this year. I wonder how the holy fire will appear in the kouvouklion (tomb of Christ) inside the Anastasis (Resurrection) Church, what Western Christians call the ‘Church of the Holy Sepulchre.’ This year the Catholic and Orthodox observe Pascha five weeks apart! Next year it will be on the same Sunday. Who will get to go inside, when Greeks and Latins venerate the resurrection of Jesus on the same day? They must take turns. But, as for the holy fire…

In case any of my friends and readers in the Portland area find this post, I want to encourage them to experience at least some of the many daily services of Great and Holy Week. The services are beautiful and edifying in every detail. We venerate Christ the Bridegroom, and we hear Him say to us in the gospel, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me’ (John 12:23-26). What an awesome invitation to follow Jesus, revealing both the cost of discipleship, and its reward.

In the first Bridegroom service, held on Sunday evening, the noble Joseph, an Old Testament prophetic type of the Christ, is lauded.

‘Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph, but his noble son was seated in a chariot and honored as a king; for when he refused to be enslaved by the fascinations of the Egyptian woman, he was glorified by Him Who beholds the hearts of men and bestows an incorruptible crown.’ [Kontakion]

‘Let us now add our lamentations to him who laments, and let us pour out our tears with those of Jacob bewailing his glorious and wise son. For Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom and became lord over all Egypt. For God prepares for His servants an incorruptible crown.’ [Ikos]

As for us, we sing these words paraphrasing the words of our Savior Jesus:

‘All the powers of the hosts of the Gentiles shall be ranged against you, for My portion is not with the minds of rulers nor with their authority. He therefore who would be chief among you, let him be the servant of all; and knowing Me as your Lord, sing praises, and exalt unto all ages.’ [Troparion]

To everyone, I extend good wishes for a blessed Pascha, happy Pesach, and a beautiful Resurrection.
‘Let us sing unto the Lord, Who by His divine command dried up the impassable and foaming sea, and permitted the people of Israel to pass through on foot; for gloriously has He been glorified.’
[1st Ode, 2nd Tone, Irmos, from the 1st Bridegroom service]

Exodus

Open your eyes and look within:
Are you satisfied with the life you're living?
We know where we're going;
We know where we're from.
We're leaving Babylon, y'all!
We're going to our Father's land.

Exodus!
Movement of Jah people!

The reggae legend Bob Marley died on 11 May, 1981, over 30 years ago, in a Miami hospital after an 8 month battle with cancer. He was 36. To the masses he was known as Bob Marley, the man who brought them reggae and Rastafarianism. His was the voice of classics like No Woman No Cry, recorded live at the London Lyceum Ballroom in 1975.

However, what most people don't know, and many try to cover up, is the fact that Bob Marley converted to Christianity in 1980. In fact, on 4 November 1980 he was baptised and became a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. When he was buried under Orthodox rites on 21 May, 1981, it was with his Bible and his Gibson guitar!

Bob Marley was born at Nine Miles, St Ann's in Jamaica. His father was Norval Sinclair Marley, a 50-something Liverpool born captain in the British Army. His mother, an 18 year old teenager, was Cedella Booker. His birthday is thought to be 6 February, 1945, although no birth certificate has ever been found.

His mother, and his grandparents, read the Bible at home and worshipped in a Christian church. Bob Marley strayed away from that upbringing as a teenager and as an adult embraced Rastafarianism. He had married Alpharita Anderson in February, 1966, and while he was away in the USA earning some money to pursue his musical career she had converted to Rastafarianism, following the visit to Jamaica of Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Rastafarians worshipped Selassie as the Messiah and Saviour. Bob followed suit and spent his career espousing the beliefs of Rastafari in songs like One Love, Jammin, and Exodus.

The worship of Selassie is a little ironic as Selassie was a Christian and in the 1970's personally commissioned Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq to go to Jamaica to start a church that worshipped Christ and not himself, in the hope that Jamaicans would follow the true Christ. Yesehaq became the head of the Kingston chapter of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The archbishop told how Bob Marley had come to his church for some time. When he had expressed a desire to be baptised, people close to him who controlled him and who were aligned to a different aspect of Rastafari prevented him from going ahead.

Bob was under the spiritual guidance of the archbishop but was baptised just a year before his death, after 3 aborted attempts to convert in Kingston. He backed out each time, says the Archbishop, after being threatened by other rastas. Marley was finally baptised in the Ethiopian Church in New York where less resentments were less inflamed. The Archbishop christened him Berhane Selassie, ‘light of the Trinity.’

Yesehaq testifies: ‘I remember once while I was conducting the liturgy, I looked at Bob and tears were streaming down his face. Many people think he was baptised because he knew he was dying, but that is not so. He did it when there was no longer any pressure on him, and when he was baptised, he hugged his family and wept. They all wept together for about an hour."

Yesehaq is adamant Bob's conversion was genuine. It is clear that Marley denounced the belief of Selassie as God at his conversion and baptism into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and accepted the faith, otherwise his funeral would never have taken place in the church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church does not allow any ceremonies including funerals for non-members.

Why is the story of Bob Marley's conversion not more widely known? Judy Mowat, one of Marley’s backing singers the I Threes, says,

‘If people knew, they would be drawn to Jesus Christ. Nobody wants to promote that in Jamaica. I said it on a popular television program over there, and a Rasta man met me, and asked me why did I have to say that? I told him it was because it's the truth! But he never wanted me to reveal that and I think that nobody wants it to be revealed because so many people would be drawn to Jesus.’

Bob Marley's official website doesn't even mention his conversion, although a number of fan sites do. Bob Marley found a Redemption Song that Satisfied his Soul. The question is will the People Get Ready for their Exodus!

Bob Marley knew Jesus. Do you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Born again

If there is a real God, I can guarantee you that He is going to have a very definite personality and nature—definite, mind you, but not necessarily definable, not as we would have it, anyway. That’s the strange thing about Him that irks some people and gets others in a good deal of trouble. The other thing about Him, if He exists, is that He is not going to fit into our nice, little systems and formularies any more than the wind can be caught in a sack. The only human being who even comes close to being able to speak for Him (because this person declares Himself to be His Son and has an astounding curriculum vitae to prove it) says things like, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

See the kingdom of God? Be born again (or ‘from above,’ as His words also mean)? This is obviously not something a man can just sit down and decide to do, or reach by mere thinking. This God, if He exists, is not like the capricious gods of Olympus or of the great Hindu epics. He doesn’t play games with us, doesn’t bait and switch, doesn’t taunt and tantalize us with riddles. He speaks plainly—that is, if Jesus (the Son of God I was quoting) is who He says He is, and if His words are true. He says things that at first hearing don’t make sense. And why should they? There’s no reason in the world to assume that this God is ‘just like us.’ We’ve heard that we’re ‘made in His image,’ but if this is true, it still doesn’t help us know Him, or at least know much about Him. Can you draw many conclusions about what a man is by looking at a statue, if you’ve never met one?

Here’s why educated people cannot wrap their brains around the kind of God I am talking about, one that has a definite personality and nature.

They see Him boxed and bagged up, dollified and denatured, defined and dogmatized, used and abused, and flagrantly fantasized by people who say they believe in Him, know all about Him, and want to make sure that you do too. Some of these people hold out threats, that if you won’t accept Him on their terms, you’re a goner, you’re hatched, your goose is cooked, hey man, you’re just plain damned. It leaves a nasty taste in one’s mouth, especially if you’ve studied and experienced life as it is, and have come to expect that if there is a God, He has to be at least as real as that.

So if people think He might or must exist, they try to find out about Him on their own, but usually this gets them no closer than believing that the universe exists, that it functions by means of unalterable laws, that it possibly has no beginning or end; but that somehow falls short of any human expectations. We know we’re here, and we want to know why, and if possible, we want to know if we’re wanted, or just ‘cosmic dust’ blown into a shape by chance, soon to be dissipated, the sooner the better.

There’s a book called the Bible that’s the fearsome foe of all rational and modern men, and women too, since they now know they’re the equal of the less fair sex. Without ever actually looking into it, most people find themselves opposing this Book and its supposed teachings, based solely on what is talked about in the marketplace of ideas. They find it preposterous to believe that if there is a God, He would let Himself be limited to revealing His personality (if He has one) and nature (He’d better have one) in only one ‘holy book.’

Sometimes, either on the sly, or with a mocking attitude and audience, a modern man decides to ‘give God a chance to explain Himself’ and reads passages from this Book. What guides him or her in the selection of passages is often whatever is currently being talked down and mocked in the world of ideas. Going into the reading with a foregone conclusion, a ‘guilty unless proved innocent’ mindset, at once any chance of meeting the God who says He can be found there is derailed.

It doesn’t help matters that all the while the reader’s mind is seething with reports of the excesses of religious fanatics of all stripes, but particularly of Jews and Christians. How desperate it all must seem, if He is watching, to this God who really exists but whom we keep pushing away from us any way we can, unbelievers and believers.

Back to my original statement, if there is a real God, I can guarantee you that He’s going to have a very definite personality and nature and, if He exists, He’s not going to fit into our nice, little systems and formularies any more than the wind can be caught in a sack.

Why would I say this?
Well, because this is the God that I have come to know, and because I know Him I can believe in Him. It’s not knowledge of things I’m talking about, it’s not knowledge of teachings or even history, though I believe that both of these reflect His personality and nature, yet they are not He.

Sorry, friends, but it’s not the great religious edifices you have built up over the centuries and that you’re still rushing to build, saying, ‘if we build them, people will come.’ It’s not the institutions either.

But the real God, heavier than the weight of the whole universe and more solid, so perfectly present and aware of everything that moves that even the scientists can’t count or size, unimaginably involved as the ground of consciousness of every living creature, forgetting nothing, never being exhausted nor diluted by being spread so widely, being so unutterably One that no plurality within Him divides His singularity, yes, He has a very definite personality, but it puts all our attempts at definition to deepest shame.

When we enter His presence, all definitions die away before His face. We are known, we know, and now we believe. This is not a ‘religious experience.’ It is man coming face to face on the field of honesty with Him who alone is, the Being. Where you go from there, what you do with it, is all that matters. Now everything makes sense, everything can hardly wait to make sense to you, and now you know for sure that it is He who is, who says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

‘Who touched me?’

The following ramble on slavery, freedom and love is something that my oldest son Jacob wrote a few years ago, and then as now his words touch down in me like lightning to earth at a number of places. How little we know of each other's sufferings, thoughts and loves. I found these thoughts worthy, and I hope you do too.

‘Being a house slave is better than being a field slave, but you are never part of the family.’

It's related to another quote I read someplace about someone who went to do missionary work... ‘I wanted to be a missionary in the Congo because I wanted to help the poor. Then I realized I wanted to help the poor because I wanted to feel rich. Then I realized that when I got home I thought I was rich but was actually poor. Then I wanted to be with the poor because that was my real home.’

Hmm... there was definitely a time when I thought it was because I wasn't Greek. But that's not it, because there are Greek house slaves too. Then I thought it was because I wasn't rich… but there are rich house slaves. It was also possible that it was because I was not part of the family... but I have seen a lot of family members get treated like house slaves... No, I think it is simply because I'm not cool enough.

I do think my statement applies to converts primarily, but I think it also can affect Greeks who are trying to be who they want to be, and not be driven by trends and what other people want. And yet, at this point in time perhaps, it is worth looking at Malcolm X's understanding of the house slave.

‘You have to go back to what the young brother here referred to as the house Negro and the field Negro back during slavery. There were two kinds of slaves, the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes—they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good because they ate his food—what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved the master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master's house, quicker than the master would. If the master said, ‘We got a good house here,’ the house Negro would say, ‘Yeah, we got a good house here.’ Whenever the master said ‘we,’ he said ‘we.’ That's how you can tell a house Negro.

‘If the master's house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house Negro would say, ‘What's the matter, boss, we sick?’ We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than his master identified with himself. And if you came to the house Negro and said, ‘Let's run away, let's escape, let's separate,’ the house Negro would look at you and say, ‘Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?’ That was that house Negro.’

Perhaps this is even why the unspeakable tension caused by people who believe that American Orthodoxy should be autocephalous... who knows? For me, there is an underlying sense that no matter how hard I strive to maintain the Orthodox faith, I am a commodity—owned not by Jesus Christ and the mandates of the gospel, but by the hoops I am asked to jump through and the hazing I am expected to put up with, in order to be a ‘member.’

I think part of the Southern Gospel struggle comes from this idea that people are not supposed to own other people, and that we are suppose to live freely under the eyes of God, and to live out a life of service to fellow humans as Jesus Christ did... that through deliverance through Christ they could throw off the shackles of race, social status, and especially of the work of building capital for someone else's dreams.

Well, the situation with house slaves could be pointed at as being a sign that 'slavery works'… Ask the slaves, and they are happy. Ask the masters, and they are happy.

The Church is nothing more than a modern name for the tree of life. Such a structure will always succeed… grows a branch, for example, and branches will fail if they become more concerned with the sturdiness of the branch at the expense of the fruit. A diseased branch consumes the energy to make the fruit… it becomes sterile. The trunk says, ‘What's going on here? I'm sending water and nutrients through the system and yet there is no fruit.’ It is a misallocation of resources.

I allow it because I hope it will cultivate something good… sometimes a seed, sometimes a plant. But sometimes it is a waste… life goes where it does not belong, because I'm foolish, and I can't see where the true need is.

However, the tree of life is inescapable… I am born into it, because of it, and will live in spite of myself because of it. It's a mysterious grace we have inherited. Slavery has always been about milking that life—that grace—from others.

There are people who believe love is only possible through enslavement. God operates against this and eventually it will fail… through death or isolation. It is entirely inevitable… we aren't designed for it. We were made to be free.

Freely have you received, freely give.

I admit it, I allow people to seduce the energy God gives me away from where it should go… to petty projects, or to dead-end relationships, or to feed their compulsions and addictions. I don't know if knowingly entering into these situations with delusional hope is sinful. But I feel stupid every time it happens… even though it helps me recognize who is trying to use me, and who is not.

‘Who touched me?’ …I wish it was that easy for everyone to know when they have loved someone or something as God hoped they would.
— Jacob Gorny