Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Response to Dr.Carson--Thoughts on the Orthodox Catholic Faith-- Part I

Part I(of III)

Special thanks to Photios Jones of Energetic Procession for looking over this article upon my request

by Sophocles Frangakis

Dr. Scott Carson on his blog An Examined Life just recently wrote the article "Real Catholics" in response to My Random Thoughts about Jay Dyer's decision to officially leave the Orthodox Catholic Church and remain in the Roman Catholic Church.

I would like to echo Scott's warm and high regard for me and my opinions and to also let the good doctor know it is deeply appreciated and returned back to him. When I first began to blog it was on Dr. Mike Liccione's blog Sacramentum Vitae and I cannot remember what post of Mike's I responded on but Dr. Carson spoke to me with grace and as I was very nervous writing, this act of kindness on his part has never been forgotten. (Goes to show how our seemingly insignificant acts of kindness are so important-we just never know who may need them).

One result of Scott's kindness is that I will refrain from speaking of his person as "Carson"( that was funny, thanks for the good laugh!) If the reader doesn't know what I'm talking about, read his article. Scott, apart from his kindness is also extremely smart and often funny(I have had several good laughs over there).

A quick note on how I prefer to write, at least on this article. I may use first person rather than third but it is not meant to be ad hominem in the sense that I am attempting to one-up Scott or anyone or denigrate their character or person but that I attempt to carefully express myself with what is consonant with the mind of the Church.

If I may quickly use the last part of the second sentence above to point out an example of what I perceive to be a manifestation of one of the main differences in our spiritualities. That being, that I stated I want to be consonant with the mind of the Church(placing the "mind of the Church" as on a laboratory table to be examined, discussed, analyzed and having done that, then attempting to mold my mind and belief according to whatever that analysis yields, as that mind being distinct from my own as in "not joined").

Rather, Orthodox Catholic spirituality, if I may grant personhood to Orthodox Catholic spirituality for the sake of my point, would have me speak from within the Church out to you as an organic member of the mind of the Church of which member I am only one but in the living of the Orthodox Catholic Faith I live Christ's Life which, and as such, this participation is my becoming god in what is commonly called theosis.

As well, when I live His Life, Him, I commune with all those within the Church who live their lives in Him as well and we become one; not in the sense of losing my (or their) distinct person, me, but:

"till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13)

I attaining to this fullness and those in His Body, the Church, also attaining, but together, each as distinct *person* but as one because we find ourselves in Him.

Returning to my desire to use the first person, I do so as a means to speak "through" Scott to the greater "You", the audience, who may read this.

When an iconographer makes an icon, he follows the "rules" of the Church to do so. He does not, however have the foreknowledge of who exactly will experience the icon yet in the following of the rules in making the icon, the viewer, through the icon, may enter into the realm of Light within which the Lord and the Saints dwell.

So my duty in this article is to speak in the Church out to "You" by having the Mind of the Church, Christ, and the medium in this particular case happens to be Scott.

I may alternate between the third person and the first person as I feel the situation warrants.

Now to more directly address Scott.

Through my own fault to put more emphasis why I used the example in my essay about the moving about of "Orthodoxy" from the Sees, I believe you misinterpreted my intention of using this to exemplify the historical and real fact of there being such a Faith that was able to be had or lost and that in that time I cited by way of example,(only one example I might add) the people involved in these upheavals were able to really ascertain when the hierarchs had that Faith or had lost it. Once again, "Faith" and "Place".

I re-quote myself:

"Jay, it would seem, like many, confuse "The Place" with "The Faith". Though the two may converge and subsist together in place, substance and time, they do not necessarily do so at all times as witnessed by the East's rejection of Orthodoxy and Rome's keeping of it especially in the life of our Holy Father in the Faith Maximos, who left "the Greeks" in the East because they had abandoned the Orthodox Catholic Faith and fled to the West because there that Holy Faith was intact and held by Pope Saint Martin and those with him.
So Constantinople, "the Place" exchanged "The Faith" for a heresy and that Faith it once held, though similar in appearance was not "The Faith" but something else."

I have in mind here the struggle of Saint Maximos in dealing with the monthelite heresy. I use it especially because the See in question for this example in heresy was Constantinople and he, Greek speaking, fled West to be among those who were Orthodox, not accepting of the monothelite heresy accepted by the Roman Emperor in Constantinople.

The choice I chose in controversy should be obvious: to unshackle our understanding from the necessity of always tying "The Faith" to the "The Place" so that the modern man, encountering these debates about Apostolic Sees and seats and thrones and other minutiae in which he so easily gets lost in often settles unwittingly and naturally in the connection between "The Faith" and "The Place" being inherent and inseperable though as I stated above,

"Though the two may converge and subsist together in place, substance and
time, they do not necessarily do so at all times

So there was a Faith that he knew to be of that which was "Orthodox" and he left his home in Constantinople to be among those who also were Orthodox in their confession and at this time in history that place was Rome, exemplary for her Orthodoxy, confessing and holding that Faith of Peter in a manner that when disputes would arise concerning the Faith, Rome could be looked on for giving proper judgement because She held the standard, she was the bar against which Constantinople's fall into heresy was measured against. She was Orthodox.

This takes our present discussion out of the realm of "my own personal opinion" and "those like me" into something else.

Scott, in reading my response to Jay, states that:

"Sophocles makes an interesting sort of argument in his reply to Jay."

and casts my entire response in the form of one, first of all "making an argument" in the sense, if I interpret Scott's sense correctly, as one holding an opinion and attempting to over and against others' opinions, to present my argument in such a way as to promote my opinion and in this I prevail only as so far as one may in the presenting of an opinion; for after all my opinion is no better or worse than anyone else's opinion if truth be measured only in the realm of "Opinion" and there be not a Realm where Truth supercedes and transcends Opinion.

I would like to flatly declare now, publicly, that I am not expressing an opinion but pray to the Lord God that Truth only would be found in my mouth, in my very being and that I may become a more comely and lowly servant of the Master that I may more fully shine for Him but because I am a..sinner, I fall so far short and where I would like to explicate the Holy Orthodox Catholic Faith crystal clear, my own sin and ego mar the image of the Beautiful Unbegotten One in me and I am left as a confessor of words, (blah, blah, blah) empty of His Divine fragrance.

The Orthodox, those like Saint Maximos, those "like me" see the Faith as sealed and settled and as something along the lines of this.

The salvation that became manifest in the Person of our Lord taking flesh was effected to restore Fallen Man who no longer communed with the TriUne God. Man was broken, un-integrated in his powers and faculties and his power was dispersed in the passions wedding him to this fallen world given over to lust. The lust of being god without God.

Man had become self centered and all was made(as he conceived of reality) to gravitate around his being and he had lost the way to have his being revolve around and in the Being of God and no longer "knew" this to be his proper estate but through sin had unlearned this holy knowledge.

He was earthbound. He died. He was not meant to die and this existential knowledge, this dying each moment he lived crushed him and this burden spread across the entire race of Man and this death reverberated into the Cosmos and Death entered the Creation fashioned for Man and it was subjected to futility and Man toiled within the Creation which fights him rather than yields its abundance to him as it was meant to when the energies of Man were harmonious with the energies of the Creation.

Into this our Lord entered as Man. Into this He who could not be contained contained Himself within the womb of the Virgin. He whose eyes were unhindered seeing all things that are to be seen hindered them by cloaking them with flesh. He Who fashioned the body and knew it as its Creator now "knew" it as its wearer. He fasted the body. He worked the body. He felt the body's needs and desires and overcame them without sin. His body energized by His divinity yet not that divinity and the two natures subsisted in His Person unmingled and distinct yet within His one Person.

And when He was raised from the dead and ascended to His Father he completed the act of the healing of the broken human nature and took it to His Father and that human nature is seated at the right hand of the Father. The value of Man to God now forever a fact with a price paid to show forth Man's value.

This human condition has not changed in 2000 years. This same healing is needed by each and every person born into this world. The Church is the portal, if you will, which guards and bears witness to the fact of the Resurrection and its living experience not as a thing, but as He Himself, Person, not concept.

Into this eternal Person the broken and lost man may enter each across the ages and find the same healing and restoration in communion with Him Who is in communion with His Father and the Holy Spirit. In the contemplation and the experiencing of the divine energies Man, broken, centered upon himself becomes god by grace, basking in the energies emanating from the divine essence between the three divine Persons and Man is invited to this banquet of Love to partake, to feed, to love and more importantly for self centered Man, to be loved.

His human nature, set within bounds that curse him to draw sustenance and meaning only from this realm, is exceeded and overflows with the energies of the Trinity and speaks as an angel, a messenger, from within this "knowledge" which is not of the intellect(solely nor alone) yet the intellect is not discarded but illumined, set ablaze by the energies of the Trinity. And he beckons me and you to also desire to "know" God in this way, not as a fact to be learned or a theory to be set upon a laboratory table to be dissected, but to possess this union, to be in this union yet distinct as a person, and to let us know that it is possible.

This being found in Him is salvation.

This "portal" remains and always will remain regardless of whose church does what. Let Patriarch Bartholomew I and Pope Benedict XVI commune one with another and also have every Christian partake with them. The "portal" does not depend on them, on me or on any created being to exist. Let all creation cease and the portal would suffer no change. He exists, He is, whether they do or not, whether they propagate any heresy they wish.

This is the "knowledge of the holy" told to you by one who is unholy and whose bodily vibrations, because he has no inner abiding peace, causes him to not tell the story as he should because he vibrates off center yet he attempts to tell you anyway.

Saint Maximos and the other Saints knew God this way and knew that to know Him this way a path needs be maintained and lived and this path is why it is called "Orthodox"(Correct Teaching, Correct Glory):

Believing the right things

In the right way

For the right reasons

To know Him as He is

Not as I would fashion Him

They knew and tell us, by their testimony and their lives, that there is a such thing as a real Faith and a fake faith. And the blessed apostles warned us with tears to always hold fast to the Faith, that those who did not would come forth and bite at the flock and tear them from the Master.

There is a sense that to preserve this Faith intact, this "portal" so that all may find Him as He is is, is literally a matter of life and death. The lives of the Saints tell us this much at least.

I wonder if the kind folks you cite, Scott, over at Eirinikon or De unione ecclesiarum, and other ecumenically minded Roman Catholics and Orthodox have any such view of the Orthodox Catholic Faith. I must confess I have not read much of either blog so I cannot speak with knowledge.

Forgive me and "Orthodox like me" if we come across as "We ain't playing". I think that oftentimes we may wish to convey so much to those who don't see this Reality but because of the very limited way we are able to express this Faith perhaps even humbles us; and because we are not advanced in the spiritual life we give ourselves over to the passions of anger and frustration at those who don't see things our way so in that sense there is a psychology that dominates "Orthodox like me" but not primarily out of malice but out of weakness.

Forgive me for not more fully showing forth Christ in me that I more more fully explain what I am trying to explain.

In my response to Jay I failed to make mention of his concern with the Orthodox variance on many points. He's right.

The spiritual life is very complex and multi layered and all of us are on different "steps" in it and depending on the step our vantage point is different; and throw into this mix the personal make- up of the one making the observation of the vantage point(male/female, white/black, tall/short, brown hair/blond hair, brown eyes/blue eyes, born in Africa/born in North America, sick/ well, religious parents/atheistic parents, siblings/no siblings,etc., etc. ad infinitum), a very different rendition of the same story may be told depending on our vantage point and all the infinite and unknowable factors thrown in.

And the one on a higher step often, for the sake of the one on a lower step, refrains from telling the one lower what he sees out of compassion and wisdom as the lower one just won't understand and is not ready to know and see what is seen and known by the one on the higher step.

The Roman Catholic Church offers a centralized telling of the story in the Magesterium. Jay sought this in the Orthodox Catholic Church but found it not in the legal categories he felt were important to be defined. I believe this needing to have these categories or needing any categories at all in the strict sense to be a profound misunderstanding of the spiritual life.

Much of what is not stated by the Orthodox Catholic Church is for the reason that She emanates from the Being of Christ Who finds His Being in Himself as "He is Very God of Very God,"but in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The ever present I AM, inhabiting Eternity, without limit, outside of time, engages me who am earthbound and encased in limit and in time and what happens in my fallen condition is that my entire person reels from this encounter. It shuts down the encounter and frames it into a picture, a concept.

I crystallize one aspect of the encounter, one tiny little glimpse of the Glory of God, thinking this to be the totality of the encounter because the limited-ness of my nature cannot all at once contain the Unlimited One.

As a gazing on the sun forces my eyes to avert their stare lest they burn out even though I should desire with my will to see the sun in like manner the gazing upon God, even though pursued with the entire will, because of the limited and small faculty of the soul's mind making the attempt cannot do so; not from lack of desire but from lack of its own inherent creaturely power.

It needs union with Christ to effect its continuous gaze and abiding in God, that it may be transcended and go beyond itself, leaving itself behind so to speak, walking on the water as did Peter, defying the normal limits of his humanity but in communion with Christ. As Christ bade Peter "Come, walk", in like manner He bids the one in union with Him to continue to abide in Him, Him pouring Himself and flowing into that one and that one in response pouring himself and flowing into Him.

This necessity of the constant everflowing Prescence to effect union with Christ to gaze upon God, though it sounds bad and is a roadblock, is good.

Good only, however, because I am fallen and without this constant dependence I leave my de-pendence and once again assert in-dependence and shut Him out and I die and fall into my fallen nature, trapped within my own limited-ness.

And having left Presence, I am left with the memory of Presence and not Presence Himself.

So it is good to be ever flowing; constant Him into me and I into Him, flowing one to another and returning because in this I live because He lives as He is Life and Life is constant and everflowing and exisiting as the Existent One.

Why I think it dangerous to form cataphatic pronouncements about God as it is the habit, practice and duty of the Magesterium to do so is for the reason of the inherent danger of the crystyllization of thoughts and concepts about Him (Said thoughts are "captured" and defined. And said thoughts are of course only such a small number of the totality of thoughts, concepts, imaginations and the emanations possible from the infinite and eternal Divine Being that in the choosing of the one fragment out of the unlimited possible to "capture" and define, by necessity the unlimited "uncaptured and unknown" are excluded and an incomplete and deformed representation or icon is left to those beholding the findings) and hence the ceasing from the living experience of Him; and this ceasing from the Living Experience necessitates the forming of idols to represent the Living Experience and the idols are much easier to control and form into a likeness well suited to Fallen Man but yet can only and are only afforded the power to produce that which is of their, the idols' likeness, death.

I should state here that I am not saying that all cataphatic statements are bad nor unnecessary.

On the contrary they are good and necessary but in their proper context. They are not rules and ends in themselves. They are the boundaries within which Man may roam but they are meant as safeguards and "training wheels" of a sort that Man should use to exceed and leap into and penetrate into God Himself.

Romans Chapter 7

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."

8 But sin, taking oppurtunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.

9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.

11 For sin, taking occassion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.

12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Cataphatic statements also have other limitatitons and show forth their weakness and danger if not used correctly and I can only illustrate my point here by way of asking you Scott to describe to me why a sunrise is beautiful. Why do you love your wife and kids? Why do you feel awe at Great Deep?

Even if I am the most gifted poet, having use of every known word and phrase; how to combine them and frame them to most adequately answer such questions I would quickly succumb to the failure of the ability to do so and with this failure, if I am honest, I would also know that the attempt to capture the essence of these answers in my words would limit the experience of the "presence" of experiencing the sunrise, of being with my wife and kids whom I love and who love me, of simply being in the presence of the Great Deep which awes me.

Because the words can only make out strands of the Great Mosaic of these experiences which are not limited to text alone(smells, touches, impressions, thoughts that are ever shifting while experiencing the smells, touches and impressions, fears inherent in these things, hopes inherent in these things) and you can quickly see how I will exhaust myself and yourself if I continue along these lines and in the identifying of *these* lines excludes the infinite *other*lines possible to continue along on.





Anonymous said...


I think your argument (account of the faith) is well formed. I think it is interesting in these discussions that sometimes it sounds like there are two bishops in the world (Rome and Constantinople) or five (the Patriarchs of antiquity) but fail to realize and carry into consideration the fact of how many bishops there were in antiquity, maintaining the faith, as is true today. This fact fits well in your presentation. The faith is maintained by every bishop (Orthodox) who, together with his priests and people is the whole Catholic Church (Zizioulas and Ignatius of Antioch). We are lately restating this in many places within the OCA, for instance.

Sophocles said...

Father bless,

Thank you.

And that is very heartening news about the OCA.

I will be attending the OCA All American Council this November in Pittsburg. It will be my first time. Do you know if such things are discussed there?