Monday, February 28, 2011

My Mind not in My Heart

We think too much. At least I do. This is not an anti-intellectual rant. No, it an observation and confession about myself and perhaps others like me. I like many Orthodox today came into the Church via my head.

I stumbled upon a Church Father, an Orthodox book, an interesting website. This discovery felt like a mysterious treasure that had been hid from me, and I could not wait to open. I opened, and found a wealth of books, treatises, and arguments I never considered. I consumed it like a tasty treat or a rich meal.

Then one day it occurred that I should visit a real Orthodox church. For some this is a fulfillment of all the books read, and for others it is a bewildering assault to the senses that thrust them back to the books. It was enough for me to keep returning and eventually entered the Church through her sacraments.

Because of the method of entry, I assumed the way of the journey would be the same. Yes, it was not all in our minds, for I did adapt to some externals--bought a prayer rope, crossed myself, learn to prostrate, erected a prayer corner--but the mind was still in control.

The renewal of mind is a Gospel command. We are to encounter the ideas outside the Church and engage them. Heresy must be spotted and outed, orthodoxy must be defined in new areas of inquiry, and ides of anti-christ need identified and defeated. The command can not be defined solely by the intellectual quest. For not everyone has the same intellectual ability. Most Christians do not have the leisure required to contemplate the world of ideas.

Is there an alternative or antidote to this imbalance toward the mind?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bluegrass in St. Gregory of Nyssa

Today I stumbled onto something in Gregory of Nyssa that made my heart leap. I love the Fathers but occasionally their illustrations need some updating because of the gap in time and culture. But today it was different, and only my time in the Bluegrass prepared me for this one.

Our Sunday School is about to jump into a study of Exodus. Besides commenting on the literary meaning of the text, which is extremely important, my goal is also be true to the way the Church and the Fathers read Scripture. Allegory, types, salvation, and moral images were all important for them. Many times it is really hard to communicate this way of reading into modern minds. It helps to follow the Church in her liturgical texts and the way she reads a particular passage and symbols. To accomplish this I try to find as much Patristic commentary on what we are studying, and let it become part of my own heart and understanding.

For Exodus, one source I have picked up is St. Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses. It was the first paragraph that made me hear bugles, see big hats, and feel wind and dirt swirl around my face. If I was not ready for St. Gregory before this text, I am now.

Read the following out loud, and vist us in the Bluegrass (I have taken some liberties with the text):

"At horse races the spectators intent on victory shout to their favorites in the contest, even though the horses are eager to run. From the stands they participate in the race with their eyes, thinking to incite the [jockey] to keener effort, at the same time urging the horses on while leaning forward and flailing the air with their outstretched hands instead of with a whip. They do this not because their actions themselves contribute anything to the victory; but in this way, by their good will, they eagerly show in voice and deed their concern for the contestants. I seem to be doing the same thing myself, most valued friend and brother. While you are competing admirably in the divine race along the course of virtue, lightfootedly leaping and straining constantly for the prize of the heavenly calling, I exhort, urge, and encourage you vigorously to increase your speed. I do this, not moved to it by some unconsidered impulse, but to humor the delights of a beloved child."


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