Faithful Catholics are expected to accept that, although the Pope is elected by the Conclave of (eligible) Cardinals, the One who really selects the Pope is the Holy Ghost Himself: the cardinals are His catspaws, so to speak. It is a grave offence to leak the proceedings of the Conclave (which is why such leaking is so rare), but if the preceding is to be accepted, the machinations in the Conclave are irrelevant. Therefore, I can appreciate both the smile and the squirm of orthodox Catholics who, in these very pages, see the so-ordained Pope described as … ahem … Pope Fruit Loops I.
A second guest post by our commenter PBW, continued from Part I:
Time past and time future Allow but a little consciousness. To be conscious is not to be in time But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden, The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
TS Eliot, from Burnt Norton Stanza II
In 1937, The Philosophical Review published an article by Hermann Hausheer (HH) titled St. Augustine’s Conception of Time. It’s a lovely discussion of Augustine’s wrestling with the mystery of time, by a writer with great affection for the saint. He invites us to ponder, yet again, Time’s inescapable coils. Hausheer’s sources are primarily from the book in which autobiography, as we still understand it, seems to have been invented – Augustine’s Confessions – with some additional material from The City of God.
Augustine’s examination starts by laying out the conventional three-fold division of time into past, present and future, and finds stumbling blocks of paradox. For the past has ceased to exist, the future does not yet exist, and only the present is actual. The present, however, is itself a paradox. For, the present is an instant which can no further be divided into smaller particles … This time-particle or present … being the only real time … is diminishing to an inextensive point. [HH, 593] The current moment, the present, the only realisation of time, vanishes to a mathematical concept, like the derivative of a function at a point which has no dimension, no extension in space.
Imagine, for the moment, that at some time in the 1850s a Royal Navy vessel, operating to the south of Samoa, in running from a cyclone, finds a large uncharted desert isle. Inhabitants are nowhere to be found, but inhabitants there were, at least under the analogy of William Paley’s Watchmaker, because the island is replete with the artefacts of a much more technologically advanced civilisation than that of the explorers. There are buildings of peculiar construction and materials, and most mysterious of all, in all of these buildings are large “moving picture” frames. At one moment they will display scenes as from a play, though switching rapidly between characters who, while speaking, fill the whole frame. At the next, they might display scenes in strange cities of similar construction, filled with self-propelled vehicles moving at dizzying speed. In the skies are machines that fly. Again, they might show scenes from exotic landscapes, or views from the heavens onto the country far beneath, presumably from the flying machines. The people are heard to speak in a strange language, and music, often discordant, accompanies every scene. The people represented in these frames display a moral degeneracy as astonishing as the engineering itself.
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.
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.
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.
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.