Theosis and Eucharist  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

A very provocative website is JN1034 (, maintained by a gay Greek Orthodox priest who remains anonymous for obvious reasons. However, his commitment to traditional spirituality and theology proves that being lgbt does not automatically make one an adherent of the Jesus Seminar. His post "The Theandric (God-Man) Flesh and Blood of the Holy Trinity", appearing in today's edition of his blog, speaks of the connection between the Eucharist and theosis--the process of becoming united with God by becoming God-like. Note the contrast between fear and awe.

In the Eastern...Churches, this is the priest's call for people to advance to the Mystical Supper and receive the Holy Eucharist: "With the awe of God, faith, and love, come near..." However, most English translations use the word "fear" rather than "awe"...

Established Patristic usage of the Greek word phobos (fear) also meant respect, honor, and reverence....The word fear contradicts not only the original meaning of the compulsory directive to come forth to the Holy Chalice with amazement and reverence, but also of Holy Scripture: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1Jn 4;18).

The Theandric Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ are not punishments whatsoever, but are the awe-inspiring, therapeutic, god-making holy gifts of recompense for all--all, not one foresaken, none passed over by the Paschal Lamb (double-entendre, yes).

"Take, eat, this is my Body...Drink it, all of you, this is my Blood".

Again, this is an obligatory command, not an elective, not an option, not multiple choice. To become a god via the Holy Eucharist is nonnegotiable. Its mystery of deification is unconditional. The mind need not comprehend this Holy Sacrament (it cannot, nevertheless); the heart must be receptive (love is the attracting force of nature between God and humanity); and the flesh must simply consume God.

Yes, swallow God. You are what you eat, yes? Please note Jesus is quoted as saying "This is..." He does not say "This is similar to..." or "This is an analogy of...", or "This is kind of like..."His words are clear. Is means is. Obvious, to the point, and not ambiguous. Hence, it is the most awesome Mystery of Life: God and God's gods in communion, as God promises: "I said, you are gods"(Jn 10:34).

Polkinghorne on Creationism  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Rev Dr Sir John Polkinghorne, OBE, Anglican priest and retired physics professor at Cambridge, is one of the leading figures in the sometimes acrimonious dialogue between religion and science (his website is available here). He has an interesting opinion piece on creationism, which has recently caused a stir in Britain, in the Times of London. It's well worth a read, especially for Americans. Here's a quote:

As a Christian believer I am, of course, a creationist in the proper sense of the term, for I believe that the mind and purpose of a divine Creator lie behind the fruitful history and remarkable order of the universe which science explores. But I am certainly not a creationist in that curious North American sense, which implies interpreting Genesis 1 in a flat-footed literal way and supposing that evolution is wrong.

"Curious North American sense", indeed.

Hildegard on the Trinity  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Hildegard (1098-1179), abbess of the monastery of St Rupertsberg in the Rhineland town of Bingen, was a mystic as well as a polymath--she had expertise in theology, pholosophy, natural history, medicine, and, especially, music. The tenth child of a minor noble family, she was given as a child to the Benedictine monastery of St Disibode. This was a so-called "double monastery" (monks and nuns shared the premises, though in separate living quarters), and she was taken under the wing of Jutta, an anchoress. As a child, Hildegard manifested what could be considered psychic abilities; in her 43rd year she had a series of vivid, detailed visions that are described in her illuminated book Scivias. The onset and nature of the visions are consistent with what modern medicine knows of migraine, and she has been described as "the most distinguished migraine sufferer". The actual content of the visions, by contrast, is unique.

On today's feast, I leave you with the collect for the day taken from Lesser Feasts and Fasts, followed by an excerpt (complete with illumination appearing at the top of the post) from Vision Two ("The Trinity") of the Scivias (Paulist Press, 1990, pp 161-162). There is also a very well-done video on Hildegard produced by Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street.


God of all times and seasons: Give us grace that we, after the example of your servant Hildegard, may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of your creation, and show forth your glory not only with our lips but in our lives; Through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Vision Two

Then I saw a bright light, and in this light the figure of a man the color of a sapphire, which was all blazing with a gentle glowing fire. And that bright light bathed the whole of the glowing fire, and the glowing fire bathed the bright light; and the bright light and the glowing fire poured over the whole human figure, so that the three were one light in one power of potential. And again I heard the living Light, saying to me: ....
Therefore you see a bright light, which without any flaw of illusion, deficiency, or deception designates the Father; and in this light the figure of a man the color of a sapphire, which without any flaw of obstinacy, envy, or iniquity designates the Son, Who was begotten of the Father in Divinity before time began, and then within time was incarnate in the world in Humanity; which is all blazing with a gentle glowing fire, which fire without any flaw of aridity, mortality, or darkness designates the Holy spirit, by Whom the Only-Begotten of God was conceived in the flesh and born of the Virgin within time and poured the true light into the world. And that bright light bathes the the whole of the glowing fire, and the glowing fire bathes the bright light; and the bright light and the glowing fire pour over the whole human figure, so that the three are one light in one power of potential. And this means that the Father, Who is Justice, is not without the Son or the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit, Who kindles the hearts of the faithful, is not without the Father or the Son; and the Son, Who is the plenitude of fruition, is not without the Father or the Holy Spirit. They are inseparable in Divine Majesty, for the Father is not without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, nor the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit, nor the Holy Spirit without Them. Thus these three Persons are one God in the one and perfect divinity of majesty, and the unity of Their divinity is unbreakable; the Divinity cannot be rent asunder, for it remains inviolable without change. But the Father is declared through the Son, the Son through Creation, and the Holy Spirit through the Son incarnate. How? It is the Father Who begot the Son before the ages; the Son through Whom all things were made by the Father when creatures were created; and the Holy Spirit Who, in the likeness of a dove, appeared at the baptism of the Son of God before the end of time.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross  

Posted by Joe Rawls

This is a very ancient feast, celebrated by Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Armenians, and even a few Lutherans. It is also the titular feast of the Anglican Order of the Holy Cross, of which I am an associate. It dates from 326, when Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. While there, she oversaw excavations for a basilica built on the site of Golgotha. Pieces of wood were uncovered which were accepted as parts of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. A few centuries later, invading Persians carried off the sacred relics. They were recovered by the emperor Heraclius and returned to Jerusalem in 629, just in time for the conquest of that city by the new Islamic movement.

I include prayers of the feast from the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican traditions.

Kontakion 4th Tone

Lifted up on the cross by your free will, Christ God, grant mercies to the new commonwealth that bears your name. Gladden our faithful rulers by your power, giving them victories over their adversaries. May your alliance be for them a weapon for peace, and invincible standard.

Roman Catholic

God our Father, in obedience to you, your only son accepted death on the cross for the salvation of mankind. We acknowledge the mystery of the cross on earth. May we receive the gift of redemption in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have the grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Dueling Worldviews  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Derek Olsen of Haligweorc has written a very cogent, very helpful post on the relationship between various worldviews, especially the worldviews underpinning traditional Christianity on the one hand and science (or secular rationalism or whatever your favorite buzzword might be) on the other. I've selected some bits that really spoke to me; do read the whole thing if you get a chance.

Specifically speaking as an American pragmatist, I go with the worldview that works. when I'm in "installing computer components" mode, I'm all Newtonian physics. when I'm in "playing cards" mode, I'm all about quantum physics and probability mechanics....when I wonder about my salvation, I go pre-scientific all the way.

How does this make me neither schizophrenic nor intellectually inconsistent? Because I'm not hegemonic about any of my worldviews. I think that they are all models that serve to describe certain aspects of reality from certain perspectives....I don't think that any of these worldviews offer all the answers to any apprehension of reality and that gives me the freedom to switch between them when I need to.

....In living between worldviews I have found a certain amount of power in a scientific worldview, the kind of power that confirms its truth....But the same is also true of the religious, pre-scientific worldview; I have experienced the power of the resurrection in my life, of the communion of the saints, and God as creator in ways that verify their truth. While the scientific worldview has power in its realm, it cannot touch the spiritual side of my life in the way that the creedal truths do....

As a result when in the field of personal belief I experience a conflict between the creedal worldview and the scientific worldview, I go with the creeds....One of the reasons I allow the creeds to trump science is because of hope. I hope that there is more to life and existence than empirical materialism. Faith in the creeds allows a belief in the mundus plenior, a world where reality cannot be bounded only by what can be weighed and measured. There are wonders in the world that our science does not explain....

In short, I'm proposing an active cognitive dissonance. Not an unthinking one that does not recognize the conflict between worldviews, but one that both notes it and appreciates that all of our worldviews are reductionistic models of a reality that we can never completely quantify or wrap our heads around. Call it a creative contradiction.