Commenter Roger G sends along a greeting to the whole orthosphere:
Christmas almost being upon us, again I am reminded of a science fiction short story that I read long ago, and still find particularly moving. In a recent email exchange with Tom I sent him the summary below, and asked if he recalled the author and title. He did not, but maybe someone else out there will.
The protagonist is captain of an enormous alien ship. His race learned of their world’s coming destruction in time to build the vessel, and escaped to search the galaxy for a new home. Initially they had seen the journey as a great adventure, but having long failed to find a suitable planet for themselves, they have become despondent.
They discover what turns out to be Earth, and view it at first with great hope. The ship is placed in a geosynchronous parking orbit, and the captain leads a patrol down to conduct sustainability tests. To their despair, they determine conditions on Earth to be unsuitable.
They come upon a scene that turns out to be the Nativity. Mary, being who she is, knows who they are without requiring explanation, and comprehends their plight. She tells them that God has in fact sent them as a sign of man’s deliverance, and that just as He is giving humanity a Savior, so likewise will He provide for them.
As to the sign, their orbiting ship is the Star of Bethlehem.
Merry Christmas to you all!
We are here honored to present a guest essay by fellow orthospherean Mark Citadel.
My knowledge of the lives of Christian saints is sub-encyclopedic to say the least, in part due to a lack of time to really sit down and read. I have, in my time, gained a familiarity with some of the greats; St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Basil the Great, and one of my personal favorites, St. John of Kronstadt. However this barely even scratches the surface of the rich history extending from the Mediterranean to the frozen north of Europe, and even to the modern United States with great teachers such as the likely soon-to-be-canonized Seraphim Rose.
Saints of course have huge significance in Christian theology and ritual. Nicolas Zernov stated in his study on Orthodox practice that saints were treated “as teachers and friends who pray with them and assist them in their spiritual ascent. Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry was surrounded by disciples who did not prevent others from meeting Him, but on the contrary helped newcomers to find the Master. In the same manner fellowship with the saints facilitates communion with God, for their Christ-like character brings others nearer to the divine source of light and life.”
On the Eve of Christmas under the reckoning of our Orthodox brethren, we are pleased to offer a Guest Post by Mark Citadel.
At a time when Eastern Christianity celebrates Christmas (as per the Julian calendar), the importance of Christ’s birth is more often misunderstood than it is underemphasized. Indeed, for the true Christian who sees beneath the surface of what holidays have become, Easter (or Pascha) is far more important than Christmas, for it contains the recognition of action on the part of Christ to redeem mankind so that he may not perish from the Way. Whether this action is more fully defined by sacrifice or victory is irrelevant to the event’s significance as such. Events surrounding the death of Christ are adorned with symbolism, and areas of vagueness that have intrigued theological study for centuries. Yet of course without birth there is no death, and thus to ponder the Incarnation itself is necessary for a richer understanding of His final significance.Frithjof Schuon wrote on the nature of the risen Lord:
If the Incarnation has the significance of a “descent” of God, Christ is thus equivalent to the whole of creation, containing it in a way; he is a second creation, which purifies and “redeems” the first.
Orthospherean Dale Nelson commented on my recent post about That Hideous Strength:
Interested readers can find my old commentary on That Hideous Strength [at Bruce Charlton’s Notion Club Papers, Bright Lights Under the Shadow of the Hideous Strength: The St. Anne’s Household — and Our Own Households.] Printed, it runs to about 60 pages including its appendices. It could use some revision but I think there is a lot of good material in it. It was originally prepared as a paper for a Christian retreat in rural Wisconsin. If anyone reads it and would like to discuss it, could The Orthosphere host that discussion?
That Hideous Strength is indeed an inspiring work, and my paper provides some leads for further reading.
We are pleased to offer another guest post by blogger Mark Citadel.
In Gustav Aulén’s 1931 book Christ the Victor, he writes, “the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.”
Such a concept is unsurprisingly alien to most Western readers who have for so long been believers in a very different theory of atonement, that is, what exactly occurred at the metaphysical level during our Savior’s crucifixion. While Aulén’s theory would not have been at all controversial before the turn of the first millennium after Christ, when the east and west were divided, the western portion of the Occident was heavily influenced by the works of St. Anselm of Canterbury and his book Cur Deus Homo?, which was published in 1097. It’s important we understand what this model puts forth.
In a comment here at the Orthosphere, Wm. Lewis quotes Lawrence Auster to great effect in responding to the claim made by some that Protestantism is the mother of Liberalism:
Some commenters have observed, correctly, that formerly Protestant countries are in the vanguard of liberalism and its destruction of the West. This is due not to some defect within Protestantism; formerly Roman Catholic countries are also being destroyed by liberalism. We also see leaders within the Roman Catholic Church advancing liberal destruction (e.g., American bishops advocating open borders), so vulnerability to liberalism is unique neither to Protestantism nor to Roman Catholicism.
Whence this weakness to liberalism? Any number of factors could be cited, but one of the most important is the inherent risk, as Lawrence Auster put it, of Christian society: Continue reading
A guest post by Richard Cocks:
There is a pathology responsible for many seemingly unrelated problems besetting higher education: liberalism. Once we understand the liberal mindset, we can identify the cause of the problems and what can be done about it.
One problem involves standards. Less and less is expected of students. So many different things contribute to this that it may be regarded as ‘over-determined;’ i.e., any one of these things might be enough to have the same result. The liberal mind, however, doesn’t even have the necessary tools to address the problem. For many liberals the idea of a canon itof great works is anathema. It is seen as elitist. The canon typically gets replaced with books regarded as politically, not literarily, worthy – designed to highlight issues of gender, class and race. Thus, students are not primarily being asked to understand difficult, challenging books that provide a source of cultural literacy, but mostly to parrot back the liberal political views of their teachers.
A guest post by commenter JMSmith:
In an interesting post, Foseti returns to the Puritan Question, and affirms that “one key tenet” of Neoreaction is that Progressivism is a “nontheistic Christian sect.” No doubt there is much to be gained by understanding Progressivism as a messianic movement, and much to be regretted in the fact that Progressive chiliasts were so long cosseted in the cradle of Christian culture, but Progressivism is not a nontheistic Christian sect. It is that old skin-changer Gnosticism, now divested of Christian symbols, acting under a new guise suited to the sensibilities of nontheistic men and women.
I suggest that the real Puritan Question is, what exactly is Puritanism? To frame the question in Aristotelian terms, we should ask, which attributes are essential to Puritanism, and which are accidental? And then, more specifically, we should ask, whether Christianity (however loosely defined) is one of these essential attributes, or whether it was only accidentally, contingently, and temporarily associated with this essentially alien spiritual tendency?
My answer is, obviously, that the association was accidental.
A guest post by commenter JMSmith:
When we say that Western Civilization is post-Christian, we do not mean that Christianity has become irrelevant. It will not be irrelevant so long as we continue to be defined in a vital way by our answers to the decisive question that Jesus posed to his disciples: “whom say ye that I am?” To this question three basic answers are possible. There is the orthodox Christian answer that he is the Son of the triune God, there is the infidel answer that he was a silver-tongued grifter, and there is the humanitarian answer that he was an exemplary human being and harbinger of what all men will one day become. We are post-Christian because the first answer is not so popular as it once was, but also because the question itself remains vital and decisive.
Today the humanitarian answer is the most respectable, and quite possibly the most popular. It avoids the offensive nastiness of the infidel answer and the metaphysical mysteries of the orthodox answer, so it appeals to people who aspire to be nice and normal. Moreover, it carries the flattering implication that these nice and normal people are also more than a little Christ-like. The question is, are they Christian?
A guest post by commenter JMSmith:
If you are a conservative Christian, you have no doubt been assailed with the allegation that your religion leans to the left. This has been said by godless leftists, who wish to set you marching under the red banner, and this has been said by godless rightists, who wish to convert you, or purge you, or maybe just pull your nose. And because there are some trace elements of truth in this allegation, your may be tempted to believe what these mountebanks say.