Then the Kingdom of the Heavens will be compared to ten virgins who, taking their lamps, went out to meet the Groom. But five of them were prudent and five were dull, which five dull, taking their lamps, did not take with them oil. But the five prudent virgins took oil in their vessels along with their lamps. The Groom being delayed, all grew drowsy and slept. But in the middle of the night there came a cry: ‘Behold! The Groom comes! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins rose up and tended their lamps. But the dull said to the prudent: ‘Give us from your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ The prudent, however, answered, saying: ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to those who sell and buy for yourselves.’ But while they were going out to buy, the Groom came and those who were ready entered into the marriage celebration with him and the door was closed. Later, the remaining virgins also come, saying: ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.’ He, then, having replied, said: ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be watchful, then, for you do not know the day, neither the hour, in which the Son of Man comes.
Friday, 29 February 2008
A reader named ‘Juliana’ has sent us two comments on our post ‘Hope’. We don’t know who Juliana is but she seems very pleasant, sincere and serious. Here are her two comments:
1. Dear Brother,
Please tell me where I can read more about the marriage of the soul with Christ.
Three times I said that I would join myself to Christ, and then I affirmed it three more times, but until reading your post I hadn't considered that He was making the same commitment to me.
I sincerely thank you.
Please pray for me,
unworthy blogreader Juliana
2. Oops. I should have written "Dear Father." I'm ignorant. But you knew that. Forgive me.
First of all, lest Juliana be embarrassed by having her name as the title of a blog post, one of the problems that any journalist faces—and blogging is a sort of journalism—is to come up with a title for his column, article or blog post. We find it convenient to use the name of our commenter—who in any event has a very nice name.
Next, we hope that we ourselves do not get hung up on details such as whether someone addresses us as ‘Brother’ or ‘Father’, although the norm in the Orthodox Church is ‘Father’. Also, we are not sure what Juliana thinks we knew (‘But you knew that.’) but we assure all our readers that we are completely lacking in charisms so they shouldn’t worry about what we know. As ‘anonymous’ has demonstrated, we know nothing.
The first book that came to mind as something that Juliana might read is Wounded by Love, a collection of homilies and reminiscences of an Orthodox Elder named Porphyrios (1906 – 1991). If you Google the book title you are sure to find an on-line bookstore that will sell it to you. It is published by Denise Harvey.
The next book that came to mind is the Ladder of Divine Ascent by St John of Sinai. While St John does not use the image of the spiritual marriage—at least not that we remember—he does speak of the soul’s ascent to God. He calls the spiritual marriage in this life ‘dispassion’. We recommend the edition of the late Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston, MA.
The next book that we would recommend is the Gnostic Chapters of St Diadochos of Photiki, which is to be found in the first volume of the Philokalia. The Philokalia is published in English translation by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware by Faber & Faber, London. If you can read French easily, it would probably be better to get the Sources chrétiennes edition of the Gnostic Chapters (Les Éditions du Cerf, Sources chrétiennes No 5 ter). That also has the critical edition of the original Greek.
St Hesychios’ Pros Theodoulon is also in the first volume of the Philokalia. The translation of Pros Theodoulon by Fr Theophanes (Constantine), with commentary, is probably the best English translation available; the actual text itself is fairly short and can easily be read on-line.
Finally, and here we can begin to get to the substance of Juliana’s comments, St Diadochos in the Gnostic Chapters and St Hesychios in Pros Theodoulon discuss the role of Eros in the spiritual life, especially the Hesychastic life. The image of the spiritual marriage has much to do with the role of Eros in our relationship with God. After all, in common English, ‘erotic love’ refers to marital love, and ‘erotic’ is derived from ‘Eros’. Hence, what is of concern to us here is the role of an ardent love in our relationship to God.
One of the greatest Christian writers to deal with the theme of Eros in our relationship to God is St Ephraim the Syrian, a contemporary of St Basil the Great. Many of St Ephraim’s writings have now been translated into English from the Syriac, although we do not know how good the translations have been. Dr Sebastian Brock has been responsible for much of this.
Another Syrian, St Isaac of Nineveh (commonly known as St Isaac the Syrian), makes Eros a very important part of his mysticism, but his writings are considered advanced. The most complete and comprehensible translation is the one done by Dr Dana Miller, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston.
In this reply to a young man, we discussed books that he might read. Juliana might find it useful to read over the series of posts dedicated to this young man: perhaps something will strike her as interesting or useful.
—But let us take things from the top.
First of all, the image of the marriage of the soul with God is a very important element of female psychology as concerns both the woman’s relationship to God and her understanding of monasticism. While this image of the marriage to God is not as strongly represented in the Orthodox tradition as it is in the Roman Catholic Church—notably in the Carmelite spirituality of St Theresa of Avila—it is present and is discussed by modern Elders, especially those who have nuns as disciples.
One of the things that Juliana could do is to reread the Gospels, studying all the images—or vignettes—that occur of Jesus’ interaction with women: how the women are portrayed and, most importantly for Juliana, how Jesus is portrayed as responding to these women. We are not suggesting this to Juliana as an academic exercise. Rather, she will thus understand much better Jesus’ attitude towards Juliana. The vignettes we find in the Gospel were put there by the Holy Spirit as models of our own relationship with God in Jesus Christ, who is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’.
If Juliana reads these Gospel passages with prayer and attention, we hope that Jesus will illuminate her spiritually so as to enter into her heart. Recall that it is said in the Revelation to John 3, 20: “Behold! I have stood at the door and I am knocking. If someone should hear my voice and open the door, both will I enter in to be with him and will I sup with him, and him with me.” This is a clear statement in Scripture that Juliana’s realization is well-founded that Jesus is making the same commitment to her that she is making to him.
Recall also that in the Gospel, God is consistently portrayed as inviting all to the marriage feast of his Son. Here, Juliana should look at the Parable of the Ten Virgins—the five foolish and the five wise virgins—to think about what she is being called to (Matthew 25, 1 – 13). There are many interpretations of this Parable, but in the first instance we generally refer people to St John Chrysostom’s interpretations of Scripture. Volume 10 of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series has a translation into Victorian English of St John Chrysostom’s commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew. This series is reprinted in hard copy by Zondervan and available on the Internet at CCEL either for download or for reading on-line.
As a gift to Juliana, we have posted a translation of the Parable of the Ten Virgins as our next post.
Next, since Easter is upon us—or, at least, Great Lent—Juliana would do well to attend the services of the Orthodox Church.
Here we have to digress for a moment. We do not know if Juliana is Orthodox, although that seems to be the case.
If we can continue the metaphor of marriage, to be married to God in Jesus his Son, we have to be ‘virtuous maidens’. Now this is not to suggest that sinners are not saved; here we mean something completely different. What we mean is that we have to enter in by the door of the sheepfold, by baptism into the Orthodox Church. We strongly recommend this to Juliana if she is not a baptized member of the Orthodox Church. Baptism makes you a ‘virtuous maiden’ whose spiritual beauty appeals to Jesus Christ so that he will want to take you into his bridal chamber for you to abide with him there.
Baptism is the foundation of our spiritual relationship, our marriage, with God in Jesus Christ, and all the Grace that we receive unto eternity is a consequence of this baptism.
In this regard we must confess to a certain confusion about Juliana’s remark. She says that she has three times said that she would join herself to Jesus Christ and three times affirmed it. What we do not know is how Juliana herself understands this. Does she mean that she has three times given herself over to Jesus Christ in an Evangelical Protestant sort of way so that she might be born again? Or does she mean that as a member of a church that recognizes monasticism she has committed herself to Jesus in a way that a woman who is a member of the Orthodox Church (or the Catholic Church or the high Episcopalian Church) would commit herself to a life consecrated to Jesus Christ, in a way of life that would ordinarily result in a monastic tonsure to the state of being a nun?
In the first case, that of an Evangelical commitment to Jesus to be born again, we would reiterate that the foundation of our spiritual marriage is Orthodox baptism.
In the second case, we would suggest that Juliana read our translation of the Vows to the Tonsure of the Great Schema, along with the commentary that we have referenced there.
As we have pointed out elsewhere, our views on Orthodox monasticism are contained in this blog and anyone interested in them should read this blog from the first post to the last.
Next, and this is very important, Juliana should realize that on the Internet ‘no one knows that you are a dog.’ Part of being a virtuous maiden is being very careful: be careful, Juliana, about the Internet, about what you read there and what you ask; it is very dangerous to trust anyone on the Internet. On the Internet there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing. This is especially true in the case of people labeling themselves as ‘Orthodox’. As Jesus himself says, in that day he will say: ‘Never did I know you. Depart from me you who work iniquity.’ (Matt. 7, 23.)
It is also very important for Juliana to encounter Orthodoxy as it is taught by the Fathers, not by members of the Orthodox Church who have gone out into deep waters, got lost in the jungle, whatever.
If we suppose that you, Juliana, are a member of a Church that recognizes the priesthood, you should be discussing these matters with your priest.
In the case that you are a member of the Orthodox Church, you should be discussing these matters—including this post—with your confessor.
These things having been said, if you wish to continue the dialogue, feel free to leave a comment.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
Well! We have been put in our place! Our old friend ‘anonymous’ has driven by and trolled us, saying this in a comment to our post Nicene Creed:
dear neophyte monk:
please correct. "We believe" is corporate and is the original creed, so you are teaching innovation
maybe get some education and read original in greek
it NEVER said "i believe"
you must be a convert from protestantism cause your lack of theology is blinding
Dear Anonymous: Undoubtedly you are right about our being a neophyte monk and demonstrating a complete lack of theology. You don’t know the half of it. We also have a complete lack of virtue.
However, anonymous, to check one of the collections of the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils we would have to travel some distance to a university and our dog-sled is on the kaput, so would you be so kind as to do the following? Would you go to your local university and ask for one of the collections of the Acts of the Ecumenical Synods? Explain to the theological librarian that you want the original form of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the original Greek, that is, the Creed after it was established in the Second Ecumenical Synod of Constantinople in 381? Could you photocopy the original Greek text of the Creed as it was established in the Second Ecumenical Council and email it to us (by means of a scan) together with the title page of the reference work? If it is possible, you could do the scan directly in the library and, if you have a laptop with you and the library provides a link to the Internet, you could email the scan directly. Of course, if you have one of the collections of the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils at home, so much the better.
When we translated the Nicene Creed (from the Greek) we used a service book published by the
Since we were not in a position to check collections of the Acts of the Ecumenical Councils directly, we looked a little on the Internet. The Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese of America provides a translation which begins “I believe”. They don’t provide the Greek but they are a Greek jurisdiction, so they must know something.
Any of our readers in a position to clarify the historical evolution of the first word of the Creed? (Not from Wikipedia, we can look there too.)
Thanks very much. Our email address is orthodox dot monk dot blog atsign gmail dot com.
And thanks for putting us down, anonymous. We needed it.
Orthodox Monk Neophyte Monk
Someone who writes under the name orrologion has left us a comment:
The Creed, as approved by Nicea I and
Not sure what difference it makes since it has such an ancient, wholly Orthodox pedigree, or why such vehemence on the part of Anonymous, but perhaps something was lost of the subtlety and thoughtfulness of his comments in translation.
Thank you very much for this comment Orrologion.
Liturgical use is clearly a very strong witness to the faith of the Church: that the norm in the Greek Church is to use in a liturgical setting the singular of the verb ‘believe’ in the Creed—where with our modern sensibility we might expect the plural—is a witness to the underlying meaning of the confession. It is a personal confession.
In liturgical studies, Russian practice is often an excellent witness to more ancient Greek practice: Russian liturgical usage is very conservative, remaining very close to the texts that were received by the Russians from the Greeks upon the Russians’ conversion (taking into account of course the later reform). Hence, Russian liturgical practice might still have the plural (we are guessing) and that might indicate that the Greek practice of using the singular is subsequent to the introduction of the Greek liturgical texts into
We suspect that anonymous belongs to a Russian jurisdiction, one that is perhaps a little rigorist—and that is why he has had such a radical response. Of course, he is welcome to post a reply to explain more fully how he sees things. Of course, if he goes overboard, we might not accept to publish it: we have some informal standards of decency and courtesy.
We would like to point out that comments posted as comments in the comments section cannot be edited by us but only accepted or rejected by us. We ordinarily accept comments unless they seem to add nothing to the matter at hand or unless they seem to be beyond our standards of decency and courtesy.
Only when we copy comments into a post so as to discuss them are we able to we edit them. In such cases we will sometimes clean up the punctuation and spelling. However, we always indicate any major changes or ellipses. In any event, our practice is to accept any comment that we are going to discuss in a post, so that the original comment is always accessible to the blog reader. Unless we are pressed for time we will even back-link to the post on which the comment was made.
In the case of anonymous’ comment we didn’t touch a thing. Anonymous seems to be a regular reader of our blog, so the question would arise—well why? If you don’t like the blog, there are literally millions of other blogs to read. You can even write your own. We always have the newspaper we love to hate, the blog we love to read that drives us nuts. But still, anonymous, don’t you have anything better to do than waste your time with a theological illiterate?
Orrologion has made another relevant comment on this post:
The only people I have seen that use the plural are Westerners. The OCA [Orthodox Church in America, follows the Russian Typikon] and GOARCH [Greek Orthodox Church in America, follows the Greek Typikon of the Patriarchate of Constantinople] parishes I belong to use only the singular, and the ROCOR [Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, follows the Russian Typikon] English-language parish at Synod HQ in NYC also only used the singular. Perhaps Old Believers [those Russian Orthodox that did not accept the reforms of Patriarch Nikon referred to above, around 1655] use the plural, which would be telling re your comments on the conservativism of Russian practice. (Fr. Georges Florovsky once quipped that Russia got everything she has from the Greeks, too bad they didn't keep any of it.) [The clarifications in square brackets are from Orthodox Monk.]
Reply: Well, given that ROCOR is pretty conservative, if ROCOR uses the singular, chances are that the use of the singular entered into the Russian Typikon in 1655, with the reforms that Patriarch Nikon introduced into Russian practice, or even earlier, but we are guessing. It would take a liturgiologist to explain. Obviously it’s not something that came into the Orthodox Church from Western Protestant practice in the last few months.
As for your remark from Florovsky, we’re a little out of our depth on this but it seems that part of Patriarch Nikon’s reforms was to remove local Russian accretions to the Russian Typikon that diverged from the practices the Russians had received from the Greeks at the time of their conversion. However, we also understand that Patriarch Nikon was also introducing Greek practices that had been introduced into the Greek Typikon after the transmission of Orthodoxy to Russia. We understand that the present day Russian Typikon is a good witness to older Greek practice that does not reflect changes that have occurred in the Greek Typikon since Patriarch Nikon’s time. The Greeks are somewhat less intimidated by their Typikon than the Russians and more at ease with reinterpretation.
Thanks for the good comments, Orrologion.
This being the Sunday of the Tax-Collector and the Pharisee, the beginning of the Triodion, we thought that we might break our silence first with the text of the Nicene Creed and then with a discussion of spiritual pride. We all know what pride is from our own personal lives, so the real question is: what do we mean when we use the term spiritual pride? How is spiritual pride different from regular, everyday, garden-variety pride?
Everyone would agree, we think, that the Pharisee evinces spiritual pride. What can that tell us about spiritual pride?
We think the answer is this. Everyday, garden-variety pride seeks its own way and doesn’t humble itself but it doesn’t set itself up as a teacher of God’s truth: it just wants its own way. Spiritual pride sets itself up as a spiritual teacher of others, as a judge of others, especially in spiritual matters. This is especially clear of the Pharisees, High Priests and Rulers of the People in the Gospel—in their treatment of Jesus.
We met a man with spiritual pride recently, a man who teaches false doctrine. What struck us about his spiritual pride was that it made him impervious to rebuke, one; and, two, set him up as a spiritual teacher.
What we can see from this is that spiritual pride is demonic in a way that normal pride is not: spiritual pride is the activity of a demon in us, one of what are called the princely demons, ones responsible for heresy and false doctrine. This spiritual pride, as an activity of this sort of demon, enters into the person and blinds him in a way that not even regular pride can. You can talk within reason to a man with regular pride. To a man with spiritual pride? Not a chance.
A man with love will pray for someone who has harmed him without recompense. A man with humility will lower himself to teach only when he is obliged. A man with love will pray for someone and be free of worry: his loves conveys a dignity to the praying person; this is an activity of the Holy Spirit that dignifies his heart. A man with humility will lower his heart to teach, out of obedience, out of respect for the other person, out of love.
In advanced cases, the man with spiritual pride has visions. Then he can’t be talked out of his delusion (plani, prelest) by any means whatsoever. We are reminded here of Leo Tolstoy, who essentially invented his own religion. A truly spiritual man might have visions, but they are of a different sort, and with a different result on him. A true presence of the Holy Spirit leads to humility: it cannot possibly do otherwise; there is no possibility of the presence of the Dove leading to spiritual pride.
In one God, Father, Ruler of All, Maker of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten; Him Who was born from the Father before all the Ages; Light out of Light; true God out of true God; begotten, not made; of the same substance with the Father; through Whom all things came to be.
And Who rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures;
And Who ascended into the Heavens and Who sits on the right hand of the Father;
And Who is coming again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of Whose Kingdom there shall be no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord; Him Who makes alive; Him Who proceeds out of the Father; Him Who is worshipped together and glorified together with the Father and the Son; Him Who spoke through the Prophets.
In one Holy, Universal [or, “Catholic”] and
I confess one baptism for the remission of sins.
I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
 The Nicene is a personal and not a corporate confession of faith: we confess our faith individually as responsible persons standing before and in the presence of God; we do not confess our faith as members of a faceless crowd, as members of a mob, as members of a religious ideology. It is true that we recite the confession together in Church, but there is no sense that the Church is a mass movement: to enter the Orthodox Church we must on the one hand confess the Nicene Creed as individuals; we must on the other hand make a conscious decision as responsible persons to accept the Creed. Note that the role of the sponsor in child baptism is to fulfil the requirement in baptism of a conscious, mature confession of faith. It is the sponsor who recites the Nicene Creed on behalf of the child being baptized. (These footnotes are not meant to exhaust the content or meaning of the Creed. If anyone thinks that we have made a mistake in the interpretation of the Creed please let us know. If anyone has any questions, please let us know.) However, see the comment below and the discussion of the number of the verb ‘I believe’ in the Creed in the post Neophyte Monk.
 In the Orthodox Church, in contradistinction to the Roman Catholic Church, and as shown by the structure of the Nicene Creed (written in the East first in a suburb of Constantinople and then in Constantinople), the principle of the Godhead, the principle of the unity of the Godhead, is the Father from whom the Son is begotten and from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds. The Roman Catholic formulation which begins from the substance of the Godhead was unknown in the East and has never been received in the Orthodox Church.
 ‘Lord’ is a title reserved for God. To confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ—something that
 In contradistinction with Hinduism, there is in Christianity recognized only one Son of God, Jesus Christ, only one ‘avatar’ of God come down from Heaven.
 Before the existence of time and space and the ‘ensemble of cosmic duration’, outside of time and space, the Word of God is begotten of the Father, by a relation of begetting which is iconically described by the human relationship of a father begetting a son.
 This of course is against the Arians, who taught that the Word of God was created by the Father.
 This again is against the Arians. It should be noted that although the formulation does not explicitly deal with the notion of ‘subordinationism’—the notion that although the Word of God was God, the Word was in some sense inferior to or lower than the Father—the formulation actually does exclude ‘subordinationism’ by its emphasis on the equality of substance of the Son with the Father.
 This last phrase is a little confusing. What it is referring to is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. The phrase is not referring to the Father. Recall the prologue of John’s Gospel as it refers to the Word—‘and all things came to be through him’. What the phrase means is that the Father is the ‘Maker of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible’, but in every case through the Word, who was incarnated into human flesh as Jesus Christ.
 We have followed the syntax of the original Greek quite closely although the construction is awkward in modern English.
 We have preferred to use a literal rendition of the word translated ‘put on man’s nature’, based on Liddell-Scott. There is no suggestion on our part that this putting on was anything other than what was understood in
 The Passion did not occur somewhere in a mythical time and place, in a mythical frame of reference, in a mythical world. There was a fellow who ruled
 In the original, there is no word ‘died’. The idea seems to be subsumed in ‘suffered’. There is no sense, however, that the crucifixion was a charade and that Christ was alive in the tomb. We once heard of an Indian yogi who spent three days in a tomb to show that Christ was alive when buried. The only thing we can remark is: well first get yourself crucified after flagellation, then have someone pierce your side with a lance so that blood and water come out—then have yourself put in a tomb for three days and we’ll see how well you’ve done.
 ‘In accordance with the Scriptures’. What this means is ‘in fulfilment of the Old Testament’. In other words, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion was not a ‘big accident’, a big mistake. What it was the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Scriptures—the fulfilment of the prophecies of what we Christians call the Old Testament. This is a very important point which the Early Fathers greatly emphasize: the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are in fulfilment of the promises of the Old Testament.
 Since the Divine Nature of Jesus Christ is always in Heaven united to the Father, this refers to the human nature of Jesus Christ. But recall that there is only one person: it is the person Jesus Christ, whose personhood is the Word of God but who took on human nature, who after the resurrection has ascended to the Heavens where he sits at the right hand of the Father. This is another way of saying that there is no other name under Heaven by which we can be saved.
 Note that the Nicene Creed rebuts anyone who interprets Scripture to the effect that the
 The Holy Spirit is He Who makes alive, Who vivifies, Who quickens. This has not only a spiritual sense, but seems to refer even to the common phenomena of life.
 As is well-known, the Orthodox Church has never accepted the Roman Catholic addition to the Nicene Creed, due to St Augustine of Hippo’s Trinitarian theology, which would make the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and from the Son. All attempts, for example at the Councils of Lyons and
 It is a very important element of our faith that the Prophets of the Old Testament—these are the ‘Prophets’ that are being referred to here—spoke inspired by the same Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus in his Baptism, the same Holy Spirit that descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, the same Holy Spirit that we receive in our own baptism, the same Holy Spirit whose presence in us is necessary for us to confess—believe, admit truthfully—that Jesus is Lord.
 The Greek word means ‘universal’.
 The Church has never taught reincarnation. Question 607 of St Barsanuphios discusses the resurrection and many of the issues in this part of the Nicene Creed.