Macrina On Universal Salvation  

Posted by Joe Rawls


The Episcopal Church today remembers Macrina (330-379), one of the few women to appear in the Patristic writers.  She came from an amazing family; three of her brothers were bishops--Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter of Sebaste--and she persuaded her widowed mother to turn the family estate into a monastery.  A family monastery, as things turned out. 

Macrina is surnamed "the Teacher" because of her prominence as a spiritual leader.  She wrote nothing that has survived, but her brother Gregory frequently quotes her in two of his own works, the Life of Macrina and On the Soul and the Resurrection.  The latter contains her thoughts on universal restoration, a frequent topic in Eastern Christian thought.  It is quoted below in a post found on the Tentmaker site. 

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He probably gives us her exact sentiments in his own language on universal restoration, in which she rises into a grand description of the purifying effects of all future punishment, and the separation thereby of the evil from the good in man, and the entire destruction of all evil. Her words tell us their mutual views. On the "all in all" of Paul she says:
"The Word seems to me to lay down the doctrine of the perfect obliteration of wickedness, for if God shall be in all things that are, obviously wickedness shall not be in them."
"For it is necessary that at some time evil should be removed utterly and entirely from the realm of being. For since by its very nature evil cannot exist apart from free choice, when all free choice becomes in the power of God, shall not evil advance to utter annihilation so that no receptacle for it at all shall be left?"
In this conversation in which the sister sustains by far the leading part, the resurrection (anastasis) and the restoration (apokatastasis) are regarded as synonymous, as when Macrina declares that "the resurrection is only the restoration of human nature to its pristine condition."
On Phil. 2:10, Macrina declares. "When the evil has been exterminated in the long cycles of the ├Žons nothing shall be left outside the boundaries of good, but even from them shall be unanimously uttered the confession of the Lordship of Christ."
She said: "The process of healing shall be proportioned to the measure of evil in each of us, and when the evil is purged and blotted out, there shall come in each place to each immortality and life and honor."

David Steindl-Rast on Contemplation and Action  

Posted by Joe Rawls

David Steindl-Rast (b 1926) is a native of Austria.  After receiving a doctorate in psychology from the University of Vienna, he migrated to the United States and, after a few years, became a Benedictine monk of Mt Saviour Abbey in upstate New York.  Beginning in the 1960's, he gained  a reputation as a noted spiritual teacher and writer.  He is especially eminent in the area of Christian-(Zen) Buddhist dialog.  In a wide-ranging interview that originally appeared in the journal Parabola he addresses the supposed opposition between contemplation and social action.  The excerpt below is taken from The Inner Journey:  Views From the Christian Tradition, Lorraine Kisly, ed, Morning Light Press, 2006, p 74.

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You can't really be a contemplative, unless you want to change the world.  You want to change yourself, and that's where the struggle comes in.  By changing yourself, you're beginning to change the world.  In fact, you're changing the world much more by changing yourself than if you're running around blindly, involved in one cause after another.  But the difference between what we call the apostolic and the contemplative orders, or vocations, is that the apostolic approach says, "We live in this world, we're responsible for it, and we have to do something to change the world for the better."  The monastic answer is, "We are not strong enough to change the world in general.  Let's change that little spot where we are.  And let's put a wall around it and say this is as far as we go, as far as our strength reaches.  And now within that narrow confine, let's change the world, make it more what it's supposed to be."  That approach has its drawbacks, too, because it can become ingrown, its own private little affair.  And the apostolic approach has its limitations, because it can become so watered down that nothing spiritual remains.  So we need the two; they are the poles of one continuum.  People who are now engaged in apostolically changing the world need to come back periodically to a monastic environment where what they are trying to achieve everywhere is to a certain extent achieved already.  And if the world could gradually become what a good monastery or Zen center is, that would be fine.  The monastic communities can provide the strength, the encouragement to realize that true order can be achieved.