Friday, January 17, 2014

Tradition and Self-Denial

Why is tradition nearly dead in the Western World?  Because asceticism is nearly dead there.  But one must deny himself in order to preserve and to pass on to others what one has received as an inheritance - fighting against his passions which squander and guarding against innovations which destroy.  In response to a question on these subjects, Father Matthew Raphael Johnson sent some very thought-provoking answers.  With his permission, they are presented unedited below.  (If you would like to contact Fr Matthew, his contact information is on this web page:

The question (14 Jan. 2014):


Is there an element of asceticism involved in preserving tradition?

. . .

His response (15 Jan. 2014):

Oh yes. There are many:

1. The very act of doing this means that you will be marginalized. You will lose friends. If the world is rewarding you, you're doing something wrong.

2. You are dedicating yourself to the very opposite of what the mass man considers "good." You, in most cases, will be alone.

3. Generally speaking, one preserving the tradition cannot participate in the state, social life, media or economic life. Now, this is impractical, so each of us has to figure a way to minimize involvement without becoming Grizzly Adams. Though there may be a time when we do build cabins in the woods.

4. Remember that asceticism, among other things, is a form of social protest. It was always considered as such. The two are linked intrinsically.

5. "Thinking for oneself" is a stupid slogan. Part of the reason is that true independent thought (not based on mass opinion) takes a huge amount of work. The fact that so many words have become vulgarized (e.g. hypocrite, irony, paranoid, schizo, symbol, "the state" and many others) means that we have to cleanse the very way we speak. Freedom is not given to us. We are born totally dependent. Freedom is the result of a lifetime of struggle.

The mass is dependent and determined. The very status of their souls is such that I cannot believe it survives their earthly life. At a maximum, their souls go to Sheol/Hades, the place of the dead in the Old Testament; a place of semi-consciousness that is neither Heaven nor Hell. Since many cannot be blamed for their enforced ignorance, damning them to Hell seems outrageous. Heaven is out of the question. But, given this, St. Gregory the Theologians speaks of "Limbo," which is just Hades in Latin, meaning "on the edge of." In our case, it is "on the edge" of Hell without being such.  
Come to think of it, "limbo" is another vulgarized word, as is "death."


Because of the rejection of the ascetic principle by most among the Catholic and Protestant churches many years back, we once again invite any and all to explore the Orthodox Christian Faith. 

Without the firmness and humility Orthodoxy offers, there isn’t much hope for a restoration of the good traditions of the South or of any other country.

As well as we are able, then, let us deny ourselves, rejecting the anti-culture of the ‘mass man’.  Through the grace of God, let us hold to the Southern way of life, which is the manifestation of Christianity in the Southern context, and pass it on intact to future generations, not being daunted by the reproach of others - whether fellow Southerners of the ‘New South’ persuasion or unfriendly outsiders.

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