Sunday, 8/2/15

  1. Reuben, Faerie-Seer
  2. The CEO Whiperer
  3. Venerating Mary
  4. Jesus Prayer for an anxious age
  5. Wrestling with Paul
  6. Happy Warriors


Philosopher David Bentley Hart tells of Reuben, his older friend in the north of England, Reuben, who saw things some of us don’t see – but got “cured” of it and died a relatively wretched death. (H/T Rod Dreher)

I don’t understand people like Reuben. There probably was a time when I would have cheered his “cure.” I say that in shame.

There is the seen, and there is the unseen, the material and the immaterial. That which is material can be scientifically examined and experienced, the immaterial can only be seen and experienced spiritually. These are two worlds that are only seemingly at odds with one another. If you attempt to examine that which is of a spiritual nature using a science that is by its very nature meant to explore the material realm, you will fail.

I don’t quote Abbot Tryphon here as a throw-away line. I now believe that one of the most pernicious myths of our age is that only the physical sciences can produce reliable knowledge. You mustn’t confuse thought and computation.


“That stuff is for losers.” I woke up at this, seeing as I’ve written about this very thing some years ago.
“Yes, it is. I happen to think that loser is the perfect modern term for sinner.”
“No, no, no,” he protested. “I go to church and I’m a sinner saved by grace. But I’m no freakin’ loser” … “Loser. Introvert. Loner. Same difference.”
“Then if it’s all the same to you, let me be a loner. Like now. I’ll take the loss.”
He left. I thought, sheesh, we orthodox get riled up about the masons, and here the guy is, the “CEO Whisperer.” This is uglier. And it’s the whole culture.

(Fr. Jonathan Tobias, Robbins on the Beachreformatted, emphasis added)

Yup. The whole culture. I can easily imagine hearing “I go to church and I’m a sinner saved by grace” and “I’m no freakin’ loser” from the same mouth, though perhaps not immediately adjacent as Fr. Jonathan has it.

As a matter of fact, I have heard it from someone who once was close to me, and to my ears the second part obliterated the first.


When I was doing graduate studies some decades back, I decided to concentrate my historical research on the “cult of Mary” (the veneration of Mary) in the historical Church. With that decision came a semester of intensive research, combing through materials of every sort. And throughout all of that research the question, “When did this begin?” was uppermost in my mind. I came to a surprising conclusion. It began at the beginning.

… The question is often asked, “Why do I need to venerate Mary?”

First, the Orthodox would not say, “You need to venerate Mary.” Rather, we say, “You need to venerate Mary as the Theotokos” (birth-giver of God). This is the theological title dogmatically assigned to her by the Third Ecumenical Council. She is venerated because she is Theotokos. To venerate the Theotokos is an inherent part of rightly believing in the Incarnation of the God-Man. To ignore her as Theotokos is to hold a diminished and inadequate understanding of the Incarnation.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman) I blogged way back about how a breathless, Share A Little Jesus With Goldie sounding woman on WMBI, the flagship radio network of Evangelicalism, spouted a “Mary was just a conduit for the godbaby, Jesus” version of Mary’s “greatness.”

I feel pretty confident saying that anyone who really understands Mary as a conduit, rather than as a mother, doesn’t understand Christian Christology, which puts them, in one important sense, in the same basic cult category as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and others whose fundamental mistake is bad Christology.

My Parish just put in a new icon of Mary, the Theotokos, the name of which icon is Platytera, short for Platytera ton ouranon, “more spacious than the heavens.” Anyone who realizes that Mary’s Ecce Ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum was necessary to the Incarnation, that she gave God the one thing God didn’t have (a human body and full human nature), and that her womb bore for 9 month the uncircumscribed One will not settle for muttering “Yeah, “blessed.” Right. Can we move on now?”


I know that “have mercy,” as in “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” means so much more – indeed, barely means at all – “don’t hurt me.”

But I was completely formed, for nearly 50 years, in a part of Western Christianity where the fear of God sending one to hell was front and center many Sundays. And I still live in the West. So when I pray the classic form of the “Jesus Prayer” first quoted, I think I still hear at least faint echoes of “don’t hurt me” coming out of my mouth.

Moreover, this is an anxious age, and I probably have some anxious genes. So I was glad to hear that Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon prescribes for his anxious penitents a different form of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, I put my trust in Thee.”

No echoes there. I thought you might want to know.


If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

(Apostle Paul) I’ve wrestled with this verse for nearly 50 years now.

I recall thinking, in my earliest Christian boarding school wrestling, “No, I think I’d live this way even if there might be no life after death.” In some subsequent years of the sexual revolution, when my reasoning was clouded by excess testosterone, I began to think Paul was onto something. These days, when I see the human, this-world misery people set themselves up for through dissolute living, I’m back to “no, I’d live this way regardless.” (Which may reflect a bit of unwholesome moralism, as if our moral lifestyle was central to Christianity.)

I have some suspicions about the answer, but I have no warrant to teach my suspicions. I’ll just say the textual context is important as, probably, is the broader context of the epistle: a largely gentile audience, in a pretty free-wheeling first century city where Christians were not the in-crowd.


A blog that I suspect will soon begin appearing here with moderate frequency describes itself:

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: The Jihad and Liberalism.

We are happy warriors, for our defense is motivated primarily by gratitude for what our ancestors bequeathed to us. We are hardly what the world calls “optimists,” for our sense of the crisis of our age is robust indeed; but despair is among the more fashionable sins today, and our hostility to it, too, is implacable. We put not our trust in princes, but stand on the Solid Rock, against which neither the tyranny of the Crescent nor the blank negations of Liberalism shall prevail.

All the world is darkened by these terrible falsifications of the nature of Man and the duty he owes his Creator. For solace we look not to the morbid optimism of the world, but to a hope which was ably captured in a statement of the man from whose short book we shamelessly take our own title, who by his great “metaphysical intuition of being” penetrated to the heart of these falsifications. His words were these: “The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.”

I’m not expecting a lot of nuance or infallible judgment, but I’ve already enjoyed quite a bit there. “Happy warriors” seems an apt description so far.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.