Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The New Aristocracy of the South: From Plantations to Monasteries, Part 1st

Speaking about Orthodox culture in Greece, Fr Georgios Metallinos said,

We have a culture that creates saints, holy people. Our people's ideal is not to create wisemen. Nor was this the ideal of ancient Hellenic culture and civilization. Hellenic anthropocentric (human-centered) Humanism is transformed into Theanthropism (God-humanism) and its ideal is now the creation of Saints, Holy people who have reached the state of theosis (deification).

Source:  ‘Orthodox and European Culture’, http://www.romanity.org/mir/me04en.htm, accessed 12 Aug. 2016

If the South is to have a culture which has the creation of saints as its end (which is the only end worthy of the people of a country), then we must learn from those peoples who really have brought forth many holy men and women what is needed to bring about this state of theosis/deification/salvation (i.e., seeing the Glory of God).  One of these necessities is a strong monastic life in the land, for as St John of the Ladder says in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, ‘Christ, the light of the Angels; Angels, the light of monastics; the monastic way of life, the light of all men’ (quoted in Metropolitan Cyprian, The Monastic Life, 2nd ed., trans. Archbishop Chrysostomos and Bishop Auxentios, Etna, Cal.: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2001, p. 18).  But before we detail why monasticism is more akin to Dixie’s traditional way of life than one might at first imagine, we must take a look at why it has faltered in Protestant lands in general.

The answer seems to lie in the Protestant doctrine of salvation.  Protestants say man has no part to play in salvation; it is a work of God alone.  Protestants thus are left with the idea of the instantaneous sainthood/perfection of believers when they become Christians.  Any thought of going off into the wilderness alone or to a monastery to strive for holiness, for an increase of the Grace of God in the heart, through various acts of self-denial are seen as unnecessary, if not heretical (being salvation by works, and not by ‘faith alone’). 

As an aside, this sort of mindset also explains why there are no saints (healers, prophets, spiritual mothers and fathers, etc.) in the Protestant churches; thinking they are already perfect, no one strives very hard for perfection, for union with the Holy Ghost.

Fr George Florovsky has a good summary just below of these things, and after that are a few quotes from the Head Reformer, Martin Luther himself, from an article by Fr George that flesh out the reasons why Protestants have swept away monasticism.  All of the quotes are from this page for those wishing to read further:

Fr George’s summary:

Without Luther there would not have been a Calvin, as Calvin himself acknowledges. Both share the doctrine of justification by faith "alone." Both share the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, as specifically defined by them — that God alone operates a system of salvation that is mono-energism, not synergism. Both firmly believe that man in himself has no value to God. Any value of man is "imputed" to man by God by a type of divine fiction whereby God looks at man through Jesus Christ and, instead of seeing the real human person, sees Jesus Christ, whom that man has acknowledged as his vehicle of salvation by faith, by believing in Christ. The "new understanding" of Luther, transmitted to Calvin and other Reformers, was one which in the deepest theological sense created a fiction of the entire redemptive process.

From its theological presuppositions ascetical and monastic forms of spirituality simply had to be rejected. They did not fit into their understanding of an authentic synergistic process of redemption, a process that is New Testamental, a process upheld by the Church from the beginning.

Luther Quote No. 1

He writes further: “But this most excellent righteousness, of faith I mean (which God through Christ, without works, imputes to us)... consists not in our works, but is clean contrary: that is to say, a mere passive righteousness. For in this we work nothing, we render nothing unto God, but only we receive and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God. Therefore it seems good to me to call this righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, passive righteousness... For there is no comfort of conscience so firm and so sure, as this passive righteousness is... Why, do we then nothing? Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer: Nothing at all. For the nature of this righteousness is to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing whatsoever of the law or of works.”

Luther Quote No. 2

Luther immediately immersed himself in the study of Scripture specifically to study the question of whether a monk or nun could break a vow and marry. His response came with the publication of his On Monastic Vows. His conclusion was that there was no Scriptural support for a monastic vow. The very notion created a distinction among Christians, a distinction which Luther considered to be thoroughly opposed to Scripture. There were no “higher orders” of Christians in the Scripture. The vow was therefore invalid. Luther commented that he now understood why God had allowed him to become a monk — so that he could testify against monasticism from his very own experience. The monasteries in Wittenberg now began to empty.

Luther Quote No. 3

But now in the light of the Gospel we plainly see who they are whom Christ and his Apostles call saints: not they which live a single life, or [straitly observe days, meats, apparel, and such other things], or in outward appearance do other great and monstrous works (as we read of many in the Lives of the Fathers); but they which being called by the sound of the Gospel and baptized, do believe that they be sanctified and cleansed by the death and blood of Christ... Whoever then believes in Christ, whether they be men or women, bond or free, are all saints: not by their own works, but by the works of God, which they receive by faith... To conclude, they are saints through a passive, not an active holiness.”

If, however, putting the Protestant view aside and remembering the Orthodox view (the view of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church), that salvation is an ongoing act of co-operation (‘synergy’) between God and man, the view of monasticism changes.  It becomes an arena wherein man acquires Grace upon Grace through purifying his heart by prayer and other ascetic labors done out of love for God.  It again becomes the ideal of the Christian life - renunciation of the world for the sake of union with God - lived in all its fulness (St Matt. 19:21) and takes its proper place once more in the hierarchy of the Christian life:

‘Christ, the light of the Angels; Angels, the light of monastics; the monastic way of life, the light of all men.’

With God’s help, we will go on from here to say something about the SouĂ° and monasticism soon.

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