Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What Is a Southerner?

C. S. Lewis once said of the pagans that they were ‘pre-Christians’ (http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/biblesnarrative/the_temple_as_myth); that is, peoples who had been made ready to receive the Gospel.

What may one say, then, of Southerners, with their unique mix of evangelical Protestant Christianity, pre-modern tilth-mindedness (agrarianism), hierarchy, love of classical Greek and Roman literature, etc.?

A Southerner is ‘pre-Orthodox’.

For there are many points of agreement between Orthodox teaching and the Southern way of life.  He needs only to step into the Holy Orthodox Church to experience the fulness of what he has known but in part (and he has done well to know that much in this age of confusion).

Below we will see two other ensamples of their agreeing, with respect to the view of the natural world as being full of God’s presence and with respect to the need to purify one’s passions before he may see this presence of God in His creation.

We will begin by quoting a Father of the Church named Nikitas Stithatos, a disciple of St Symeon the New Theologian:

7. Those who 'cleave to the Spirit' (Gal. 5:25) and are totally committed to the spiritual life live in accordance with God's will, dedicated to Him as were the Nazirites (cf. Num. 6:2-8; Judg. 13:5). At all times they labor to purify their soul and to keep the Lord's commandments, expending their blood in their love for Him. They purify the flesh through fasts and vigils; they refine the heart's dross with tears; they mortify their materialistic tendencies through ascetic hardship; they fill the intellect with light through prayer and meditation, making it translucid; and by renouncing their own wills they sunder themselves from passionate attachment to the body and adhere solely to the Spirit. As a result everyone recognizes them as spiritual, and rightly refers to them as such. As they approach the state of dispassion and love, they ascend to the contemplation of the inner essences of created things; and from this they acquire the knowledge of created being that is bestowed by the hidden wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:7) and given only to those who have risen above the body's low estate. Thus it is that when they have passed beyond all sensory experience of this world and have entered with an illumined mind into the realms that are above senseperception, their intelligence is enlightened and they utter righteous words from a pure heart in the midst of the Church of God and the great congregation of the faithful (cf. Ps. 40 : 9-10). For other people they are salt and light, as the Lord says of them: 'You are the light of the world and the salt of (he earth' (cf. Matt. 5:13-14).

 . . .

87. 'Open my eyes and I will perceive the wonders of Thy law' (Ps. 119:18). So he who is still bedarkened by his earth-bound will cries out to God. For the ignorance of the worldly mind, all murk and obscurity, blots out the soul's vision, so that it cannot grasp things either divine or human; it cannot perceive the rays of divine light or enjoy the blessings that 'the eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard, and man's heart has not grasped' (1 Cor. 2:9). But when through repentance its vision has been restored, it sees these things clearly, hears them with understanding and intuits them intellectually. Not only this, but it also assimilates more exalted things which, prompted by these intellections, arise in its heart; and, having tasted their sweetness, its knowledge grows more lurid. It can then, in the light of God's wisdom, explain to all the nature of the divine blessings 'that God has prepared for those who love Him' (1 Cor. 2:9); and it exhorts all to follow the path of struggle and tears in order to share in them.

Source:  ‘On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect [i.e., the ‘nous’, the faculty of the soul that allows a man to have direct, unmediated understanding of divine things as distinguished from the rational mind and its use of categories, concepts, and language--W.G.]: One Hundred Texts’, The Philokalia: Vol. IV, http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Philokalia.pdf, Faber and Faber, 1995, pgs. 109 & 132

And we shall end with part of a lay by the Southern poet from Georgia, Paul Hamilton Hayne, that mirrors the ghost of these words very closely:

 . . .

Glaucus, a young Thessalian, while the dawn
Of a fresh spring-tide brightened copse and lawn,
Sauntered, with lingering steps and dreamy mood,
Adown the fragrant pathway of a wood
Which skirted his small homestead pleasantly,--
And there he saw a tall, majestic tree,
An oak of untold summers, whose broad crown,
Quivering as if in some slow agony,
And trembling inch by inch forlornly down,
Threatened, for want of a kind propping care,
To leave its breezy realm of golden air,
And from its leafy heights, with shriek and groan,
Like some proud forest empire overthrown,
Measure its vast bulk on the greensward lone.

Glaucus beheld and pitied it. He saw
The approaching ruin with a touch of awe,
No less than genial sympathy,-- for men,
In those old times, pierced with a wiser ken
To the deep soul of Nature, and from thence
Drew a serene and mystic influence,
Which thrilled all life to music. Therefore he
Called on his slaves, and bade them prop the tree.
Musing he passed to a still lonelier place
In the dim forest, by this act of grace,
Lightened and cheered, when, from the copse-wood nigh,
There dawned upon his vision suddenly
A shape more fair and lustrous than the star
Which rides o'er Cloudland on her sapphire car
When vesper winds are fluting solemnly.
"Glaucus," she said, in tones whose liquid flow,
Mellow, harmonious, passionately low,
Stole o'er his spirit with a strange, wild thrill,
"I am the Nymph of that fair tree thy will
Hath saved from ruin; but for thee my breath
Had vanished mistlike,--my glad eyes in death
Been sealed for evermore. Yes! but for thee
I must have lost that half-divinity
Whose secret essence, spiritually fine,
Hath warmed my veins like Hebe's heavenly wine.
No more, no more amid my rippling hair
Could I have felt soft fingers of the air
Dallying at dawn or twilight,--on my cheek
Have felt the sun rest with a rosy streak,
Pulsing in languor; nor with pleasant pain
Drooped in the cool arms of the loving Rain,
That wept its soul out on my bosom fair.
But now, in long, calm, blissful days to be,
This life of mine shall lapse deliciously
Through all the seasons of the bounteous year;
Beneath my shade mortals shall sit, and hear
Benignant whispers in the shimmering leaves;
And sometimes, upon warm and odorous eves,
Lovers shall bring me offerings of sweet things,--
Honey and fruit,--and dream they mark the wings
Of Cupids fluttering through the oak-boughs hoar.
All this I owe thee, Glaucus,--all, and more!
Ask what thou wilt!--thou shalt not ask in vain!"

Then Glaucus, gazing in her glorious eyes,
And rallying from his first unmanned surprise,
Emboldened, too, by her soft looks, which drew
A spell about his heart like fire and dew
Mingled and melting in a love-charm bland,--
And by the twinkling of her moon-white hand,
That seemed to beckon coyly to her side,
And by her maiden sweetness deified,
And something that he deemed a dear unrest
Heaving the unveiled billows of her breast--
(As if her preternatural part, as free
And wild as any nursling of the lea,
Yearned wholly downward to humanity)--
Emboldened thus, I say, Glaucus replied:
"O fairest vision! be my love,--my bride!"

Over her face there passed an airy flush,
The roseate shade, the twilight of a blush,
Ere the low-whispering answer pensively
Stirred the dim silence in its trancèd hush.
"Thy suit is granted, Glaucus! though, perchance
A peril broods o'er this, thy bright romance,
Like alone cloudlet o'er a lake that's fair.
When the high noon, flaunting so hotly now
Fades into evening, thou may'st meet me here,
Just in the cool of this rill-shadowing bough;
My favorite bee, my fairy of the flowers,
Shall bid thee come to that pure tryst of ours."

Who now so proud is Glaucus? "I have won,"
Lightly he said, "the marvellous benison
Of love from her in whose soft-folding arms
Gods might forget Elysium! O! her charms
Are perfect,--perfect heaven and perfect earth,
Blest and commingled in one exquisite birth
Of beauty,--and for me! I know not why,
But rosy Eros ever seems to fly
Gayly before me, armed for victory,
In every pleasant love-strife!" On this theme
Deeply he dwelt, till a vain self-esteem
Obscured his worthier spirit. Thus he went
Out from the haunted wood, his nature toned
Down to the common daylight, disenzoned
Of all its rare, ethereal ravishment.

Still in this mood, he sought the neighboring town,
Met with some gay young comrades, and sat down
To dice and wassail. All that morn he played,
And quaffed, and sang, and feasted, till the shade,
Of evening o'er earth's forehead cast a gloom;
And still he played, when on his ear the boom
Of a swift, shining yellow-breasted bee
Rung out its small alarum. Teasingly
The insect hummed about him, went and came,
And like a tiny hell of circling flame
And discord seemed to Glaucus, who at last
Struck at the wingèd torment testily.
The bee--poor go-between--in either thigh
Cruelly maimed, with feeble flutterings, passed
Back to its home amid the foliaged bloom.

At length, in two most fortunate throws, the game
Was won by Glaucus! With triumphant smile
He seized and pocketed a glittering pile
Of new sestertii. "Ay! 'tis e'er the same,"
He muttered; "dice or women, I must win!
But hold!--by Venus! 'twere a burning sin,
And false to my fond wild flower of the wood
Longer to dally here. O Fortune! good,
Kind mistress, speed me still! Would that each heel
Were plumed like happy Hermes'!" His late zeal
Spurred the youth onward to the place of tryst,--
One final burst of sunset--amethyst,
Ruby, and topaz--blazed among the boughs,
Whence a sad voice,--"Breaker of solemn vows,
What dost thou here? Thine hour has past for aye!"
Glaucus, with startled eyes, peered through the sway
Of moistened fern and thicket, but his view
Rested alone on vacancy, or caught,
Swift as the shifting glamour of a thought,
Only the golden and vanishing ray,
Which, softened by cool sparkles of the dew,
Flashed through the half-closed lids of weary Day.

"Here am I," said the voice, so sadly sweet,
The listener thrilled even to his pausing feet,--
"Here, right before thee, Glaucus!" Yet again
The youth with straining eyeballs and hot brain,
Searched the dense thickets, it was all in vain.
"Alas! alas!" (and now a tremulous moan
Sobbed through the voice, like a faint minor tone
In mournful human music)--"thou canst see
My face no more, for sternly, drearily,
A wildering cloud of sense, that shall not rise,
Hath come between me and thy darkening eyes.
O shallow-hearted! nevermore on thee
Shall visions of that finer world above
Dawn from the chaste auroras of their love;
But common things, seen in a funeral haze
Of earthiness, and sorrow, and mistrust,
Weigh the soul down, and soil its hopes with dust;
A hand like Fate's with cruel force shall press
Thy spirit backward into heaviness.
And the base realm of that forlorn abyss
Wherein the serpent Passions writhe and hiss
In savage desolation! Blind, blind, blind
Art thou henceforth in heart, and hope, and mind!
For he to whom my messenger of joy
And soothing promise only brought annoy
And sharp disquiet in his low-born lust,--
What, what to him Ideal Beauty's kiss,
The charm of lofty converse in the dells,
Of divine meetings, musical farewells,
And glimpses through the flickering leaves at night
Of such fair mysteries in awe-hushing light
That even I, who in these forests dwell
Purely with innocent creatures, unto whom
All Nature opes her innermost heart of bloom
And blessedness, by some majestic spell
Uplifted unto realms ineffable,
Faint almost in the splendor large and clear?
The winds have ceased their murmurings,--on my ear
The rill-songs melt to threads of delicate tune,
And every small mote dancing in the moon
Expands, and brightens to a spiritual eye,
Luring me up to Immortality.
O! then my earthly nature, loosening slips
Down like a garment, and invisible lips
Whisper the secrets of their happier sphere!
This bliss, O youth! my soul had shared with one
Worthy the gift! Alas! thou art not he!"

The voice died off toward the waning sun!
Glaucus looked up,--the gaunt, gray forest trees
Seemed to close o'er him like a vault of stone.
"Just Gods!" he sighed, "I am indeed alone!"

Source:  ‘The Story of Glaucus the Thessalian’, Poems of Paul Hamilton Hayne: Electronic Edition, http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/hayne/hayne.html, 1999, accessed 23 Feb. 2016, pgs. 139-42.  © This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Very Southern Work

Bringing Christianity to Africans, that is.  For this had become quite a large part of Southern slavery by the time of the War (if ‘slavery’ is even the right word for it; Henry Hughes’s ‘warrenteeism’, or perhaps ‘paternalism’, might be better words, for Southern slavery differed greatly from the crushing, grinding slavery of the ancient heathen empires and of the modern sweatshops in places like Vietnam).

So a Southron’s heart ought to cheer to read reports like this one from the Orthodox Mission Fraternity about the work being done in Malawi.  It begins,

It is true that we often hear about the difficulties, obstacles, problems that concern the local missionary divisions. Many times, however, theory differs from reality.

Going to Malawi, you experience this reality, from the way you are treated by the natives, from various third-world diseases and more generally from the adversities of everyday life. Amid this difficult situation though, abounds the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. How? Not through reasonable explanations, neither through mathematical operations, nor through inductive reasoning but through the miracle of faith and prayer.

A basic principle for the person in charge of the Mission is prayer. That is why every time he asks us for it. The Salutations, the Compline and every kind of service accompany us on our missionary trips. The cross, the prayer, the rosary are all irresistible weapons against hostile machinations.

Admirable effort is made regarding the translation of the sacred texts. A painstaking, costly and deeply spiritual work, which, as it appears, will constitute a huge legacy for the people of Malawi one day. As regards the sacrament of baptism, it is performed with all due solemnity and only if preceded by at least one year of catechesis.

 . . .

Source:  Emmanouil Karakoutsis, ‘Malawi: The Fertile Field of Christ’, http://orthodoxmission.org.gr/2016/02/malawi-fertile-field-christ/, accessed 19 Feb. 2016

Þrough (Through) our prayers, almsgiving, and other actions, let us in Dixie and any other good-hearted folks help the Fraternity in Malawi and everywhere else they are active, as best we can.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Alchemical Dimension of Written Constitutions

Something more is going on with written constitutions in the [u]nited States and elsewhere in the West than simply a means to a better behaved government.  Wheðer the public recognizes it or not, they and the political systems that grow out of them have become vehicles for the alchemical refining of mankind, a process for mankind to achieve Godlikeness without God, to become what He is by nature or Essence and not by participation in His Grace, His outgoing Energies.

The European Union is being quite open about this in the symbols shown on their flag and coins.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the decision by EU leaders to adopt the flag as an EU emblem, the 19 euro area countries are issuing a special commemorative coin.  . . . It [the design of the coin--W.G.] comprises 12 stars that morph into human figures embracing the birth of a new Europe.

The symbol of the circle and its connection to rebirth is a well-known part of occult/alchemical lore.  Its proper name is the ouroboros. 

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouroboros, accessed 16 Feb. 2016

It is hiding in plain sight on the E.U. flag:

Carl Jung said of the connection between man and the ouroboros

The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This 'feed-back' process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which [...] unquestionably stems from man's unconscious.

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouroboros, accessed 16 Feb. 2016

Whether in the E.U. or the [u]nited States or any other Western nation, then, it should be quite clear what is happening.  The written constitutions pit opposing forces against one another:  liberal and conservative, left and right, Republican and Democrat, Tory and Labour, rich and poor, man and woman, black and white, legislature and executive, elected and unelected officials, outsiders and incumbents, etc. ad infinitum.  And from this ‘clash of opposites’ mankind in these lands is refined to prima materia:  that is, it becomes more and more Godlike without the help of Christ the God-man and His Church, the fulfilment of the Devil’s promise made to Adam and Eve in the Garden.

One need only look at something like the Preamble of the [u]nited States Constitution to confirm this.  For what is it but a statement that ‘the people’ will make themselves virtuous through the structures set up in their charter, and not through fellow-working with God the Holy Ghost?

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Source:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/preamble, accessed 16 Feb. 2016

Beware, Southron.  Beware, Westerner, wherever you are.  Understand what elections and constitutional government really mean for you.  Distance yourself from them as seems prudent, and think of how we may return to a Christian way of conducting politics.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Super Bowl Sunday

While many across the American Empire (and too many Southerners, we fear) were debauching themselves for the sake of a football game last Sunday, a very different celebration was being observed in Russia:  the commemoration of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia who suffered under the Communist yoke.

When we in the West can bring ourselves to stop vilifying the Russians and begin learning from them and imitating their ensample; when we can join them in celebrating the holiness and bravery and the other virtues of their wonderful martyrs and precious confessors; when we can celebrate in a fitting way the martyrs and confessors of our own forebears of Orthodox Western Europe and Africa before schism and heresy set in; when holy men like Archimandrite John Krestiankin of Russia or St Eugenius of Carthage and Albi are more honored than Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, then things will begin to go better for us.

Here are some works that will hopefully help us on towards that end:

Sermon read by Archbishop Mark of Berlin on the feast day of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in 2001

The Divine meaning of suffering can be understood only through the help of grace. For this, the Lord consoles His sorrowful disciples and all of us, sending us “the Comforter… even the Spirit of truth” Who “will guide you into all truth” (John 15:26, 16:13).

The Holy New Martyrs of Russian are close to us in time and in spirit, the spirit in which we were raised, which we have assimilated to the best of our abilities. Today, the iconostasis of our church contains relics of the Holy Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara, who are particularly close to us. Holy Grand Duchess Elizabeth was a princess of Darmstadt, who left her homeland and found a new one, both spiritual and physical. In the terrible years of persecution, her cell-attendant, the Russian novice Barbara, joined her, and they proceeded towards martyrdom together.  

Martyrdom is the same thing as Christianity. These two words have the same meaning. Hatred against Christ and His followers should not surprise us. It is natural, it was foretold by the Lord Himself, Who said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

What sort of disciples would we then be, if we did not follow the footsteps of our Teacher? The Lord forewarned us that we should not be tempted if we are to suffer for Him. And we suffer, every one of us, in our own measure, it was not only the New Martyrs, to whom our church is dedicated, and the martyrs of all times, who suffered, but even we, for only then are we truly Christians.

 . . .

Source:  ‘The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia’, http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/44707.htm, accessed 7 Feb. 2016

On February 5, 2006, the elder known throughout Russia, Archimandrite John (Krestiankin), reposed in the Lord. That day in 2006 also happened to be the eve of the celebration of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia, and many saw the blessed elder’s repose as the culmination of an era of confessors for the Orthodox Faith in the much-suffering Russian land. Father John had been imprisoned and tortured for his steadfast confession of the faith, and even after his release lived a life under constant watch by the Soviet authorities. It was not a simple time, and great wisdom and spirituality were required to guide his spiritual children through this life. Fr. John goes down in people’s memory as having those gifts in abundance.

The following is from the recollection of one of his spiritual sons, Igumen Savvaty (Rudakov). Fr. Savvaty is also the builder and father confessor of a monastery for women, which was established with Fr. John’s blessing.

Fr. Savvaty was raised in a pious Orthodox family, and answered the call to become a priest. But his heart’s desire was to find a spiritual father, even though everyone would say that there are no elders like the ancients, who could lead a person through life. Fr. Savvaty prayed and hoped, and finally God led him to Fr. John in the Pskov Caves Monastery.

Writer Olga Rozhneva talks with Fr. Savvaty about his beloved spiritual father, Archimandrite John (Krestiankin).

 . . .

The priest’s whole life turned around after meeting the elder. Fr. Savvatty came up to him and felt that he had no words, nothing to ask. He wanted just to stand next to him and feel the love radiating from this man. It was like a heavenly force coming from his soul. Fr. John poured out this heavenly love over everyone around him, and at first he couldn’t understand: How could Fr. John love everyone? Here is an evil man, there is a man with impure hands, while yet another is ashamed of himself for all the sins upon his soul. But the elder loved them all like a mother loves her sick children. This was Christ-like love.

 . . .

The elder appointed a time to meet with Fr. Savatty. The young priest prepared himself a long time for this meeting. He prepared himself to ask important—in his opinion—and complicated questions. But when the discussion began he felt he was a spiritual infant. Fr. John did not answer the questions Fr. Savvatty asked, as if he didn’t even hear them. He began with simple words, but these simple words were somehow extraordinary. A spiritual depth revealed itself with each word, and one could think and ponder over each one.

Igumen Savatty smiles, “I ask him about Harry and he tells me about Larry. Do you understand, he was a spiritual doctor. A spiritual professor. You complain to him about a spiritual illness like a pimple that popped up on your nose. But he has already penetrated your heart like an x-ray and seen the main reason for your spiritual illnesses. And your weaknesses. And your passions. As a doctor who sees what the patient doesn’t see. Fr. John spoke God’s truth, but he spoke it very softly, carefully. Like a loving mother feeds her children porridge—she blows on it, cools it down so that the infant does not get burned, that is how the elder fed his spiritual infants. Some shoot straight from the hip. But God’s truth is not always easy for an infant to digest… He never let his spiritual children go without treating them to some candy, some chocolates, and he loved us like children. He would often say, ‘My good ones!’

“But if Fr. John would see a deeply rooted vice or a destructive passion he would as if perform a spiritual operation—and pray for that person. You would return home feeling a slight pain—the elder was healing you, and opened a spiritual wound. So the incision hurts as it’s healing. He cauterized your spiritual ailment, but he did it so subtly and gently that you didn’t notice how the operation even took place.

“When I returned home from seeing the elder I felt I was a lucky man. I had found a spiritual father. And I was happy simply because he exists in the world. I felt his love and prayers from a distance, because he received me as one of his spiritual children and immediately began praying. He knew and remembered thousands of people by name.

“Fr. John was a window into the Kingdom of Heaven. I saw the Lord through him, because he reflected God in himself. Our soul is Adam, who has lost God. And it searches for Him and will not settle for anything else. Not power, nor riches, nor any kind of earthly delights can quench this longing for God or give peace to the soul. This was when I understood what the apostles must have felt when they were near to Christ! Or how they could exclaim only, “It is good for us to be here!” There were no other words, only happiness.

 . . .

Source:  ‘“I Have Seen a Holy Man.”  On the Repose Day of Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)’, http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/77068.htm, accessed 9 Feb. 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

‘Make America Great Again’

Most by now have heard Donald Trump’s campaign slogan (‘Make America Great Again’), but what would this mean if it were really accomplished?  Would it be a good thing?  For 'America' (by which people usually mean simply the culture of New England-Yankeedom that has come to dominate in so many regions of the [u]nited States) has truly been great at only a few things:  stirring up a lust for money and material things, starting unnecessary wars, and spawning heresies (from Unitarianism to Scientology).

No, if the South or any other State or region in thrall to the American Empire wants to be great in the Christian sense of the word (i.e., in acquiring humility and all the other virtues), they will need more than Donald Trump’s materialism, Ted Cruz’s shallow sermons, Marco Rubio’s militarism, and Bernie Sanders’s communism.  What they will need is an Orthodox Christian king.  We may take the life of St Davit the Builder (or sometimes, the Restorer), King of Georgia (+1125), as a sterling ensample of what we may gain by having Christian kings in our national lives again.  Some material has been left out below for the sake of shortness; the reader is encouraged to read these parts as well, for they too are edifying and instructive.

      At the end of the 11th century the Georgian Church underwent a trial of physically and spiritually catastrophic proportions.
      The Seljuk sultan, Jalal al-Dawlah Malik Shah (1073–1092), captured the village of Samshvilde, imprisoned its leader, Ioane Orbeliani, son of Liparit, ravaged Kvemo (Lower) Kartli, and finally captured all of Georgia, despite the isolated victories of King Giorgi II (1072–1089). The fearful Georgians fled their homes to hide in the mountains and forests.
      Tempted and deeply distressed by the difficult times, the nation that had once vowed its unconditional love for Christ began to fall into sin and corruption. People of all ages and temperaments sinned against God and turned to the path of perdition. God manifested His wrath toward the Georgian people by sending a terrible earthquake that devastated their Paschal celebrations.
      In the year 1089, during this period of devastation and despair, King Giorgi II abdicated, designating his sixteen-year-old only son, Davit (later known as “the Restorer”), heir to the throne. It is written that the Heavenly Father said: I have found David My servant, with My holy oil have I annointed him (Ps. 88:19).
      The newly crowned King Davit took upon himself enormous responsibility for the welfare of the Church. He supported the efforts of the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi to restore and reinforce the authority of the Georgian Church and suppress the conceited feudal lords and unworthy clergymen. During King Davit’s reign, the government’s most significant activities were carried out for the benefit of the Church. At the same time, the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi reasserted the vital role of the Orthodox Faith in rescuing the Georgian people from the godless mire into which they had sunk.
      Foremost among King Davit’s goals at the beginning of his reign was the repatriation of those who had fled Georgia during the Turkish rule. The king summoned his noblemen and began to reunify the nation. The king’s efforts to reunify Georgia began in the eastern region of Kakheti-Hereti, but the Turks and traitorous feudal lords were unwilling to surrender the power they had gained in the area. Nevertheless, King Davit’s army was in God’s hands, and the Georgians fought valiantly against the massive Turkish army. King Davit himself fought like any other soldier: three of his horses were killed, but he mounted a fourth to finish the fight with a fantastic victory. The Turkish presence was eliminated from his country.

 . . .

      The king’s enormous army finally uprooted the Turkish presence in and around Georgia permanently. The defeated Turks returned in shame to their sultan in Baghdad, draped in black as a sign of grief and defeat. Nevertheless, the unyielding sultan Mahmud II (1118–1131) rallied a coalition of Muslim countries to attack Georgia. The sultan summoned the Arab leader Durbays bin Sadaka, commanded his own son Malik (1152–1153) to serve him, gathered an army of six hundred thousand men, and marched once more towards Georgia.
      It was August of 1121. Before heading off to battle, King Davit inspired his army with these words: “Soldiers of Christ! If we fight bravely for our Faith, we will defeat not only the devil’s servants, but the devil himself. We will gain the greatest weapon of spiritual warfare when we make a covenant with the Almighty God and vow that we would rather die for His love than escape from the enemy. And if any one of us should wish to retreat, let us take branches and block the entrance to the gorge to prevent this. When the enemy approaches, let us attack fiercely!”
      None of the soldiers thought of retreating. The king’s stunning battle tactics and the miracles of God terrified the enemy. As it is written, “The hand of God empowered him, and the Great-martyr George visibly led him in battle. The king annihilated the godless enemy with his powerful right hand.”
      The battle at Didgori enfeebled the enemy for many years. The following year, in 1122, King Davit recaptured the capital city of Tbilisi, which had borne the yoke of slavery for four hundred years. The king returned the city to its mother country. In 1123 King Davit declared the village of Dmanisi a Georgian possession, and thus, at last, unification of the country was complete.
      One victory followed another, as the Lord defended the king who glorified his Creator.
      In 1106 King Davit had begun construction of Gelati Monastery in western Georgia, and throughout his life this sacred complex was the focus of his efforts on behalf of the revival of the Georgian Church. Gelati Monastery was the most glorious of all the existing temples to God. To beautify the building, King Davit offered many of the great treasures he had acquired as spoils of war. Then he gathered all the wise, upright, generous, and pious people from among his kinsmen and from abroad and established the Gelati Theological Academy. King Davit helped many people in Georgian churches both inside and outside his kingdom. The benevolent king constructed a primitive ambulance for the sick and provided everything necessary for their recovery. He visited the infirm, encouraging them and caring for them like a father. The king always took with him a small pouch in which he carried alms for the poor.
      The intelligent and well-lettered king spent his free time reading the Holy Scriptures and studying the sciences. He even carried his books with him to war, soliciting the help of donkeys and camels to transport his library. When he tired of reading, King Davit had others read to him, while he listened attentively. One of the king’s biographers recalls, “Each time Davit finished reading the Epistles, he put a mark on the last page. At the end of one year, we counted that he had read them twenty-four times.”
      King Davit was also an exemplary writer. His “Hymns of Repentance” are equal in merit to the works of the greatest writers of the Church.
      This most valiant, powerful, and righteous Georgian king left his heirs with a brilliant confession when he died. It recalled all the sins he had committed with profound lamentation and beseeched the Almighty God for forgiveness.
King Davit completed his will in 1125, and in the same year he abdicated and designated his son Demetre to be his successor. He entrusted his son with a sword, blessed his future, and wished him many years in good health and service to the Lord. The king reposed peacefully at the age of fifty-three.
      St. Davit the Restorer was buried at the entrance to Gelati Monastery. His final wish was carved in the stone of his grave: This is My rest for ever and ever; here I will dwell, for I have chosen her (Ps. 131:15).

© 2006 St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

Source:  ‘St. Davit IV the Builder, King of Georgia and Abkhazeti’, http://www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/los/January/26-07.htm, accessed 6 Feb. 2016

 Holy King Davit, pray for us sinners!

Gelati Monastery, built by St Davit (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gelati_1661.jpg)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Apotheosis of the Written Constitution

A troublesome thought has taken deep root in the South:  that the fate of Christian civilization is tied to the fate of written constitutions.  The Southern poet Paul Hamilton Hayne spoke of it this way during the War years:

 . . .

"Our course is righteous, and our aims are just!
Behold, we seek
Not merely to preserve for noble wives
The virtuous pride of unpolluted lives,
To shield our daughters from the servile hand,
And leave our sons their heirloom of command,
In generous perpetuity of trust;
Not only to defend those ancient laws,
Which Saxon sturdiness and Norman fire
Welded forevermore with freedom's cause,
And handed scathless down from sire to sire--
Nor yet our grand religion, and our Christ,
Unsoiled by secular hates, or sordid harms,
(Though these had sure sufficed
To urge the feeblest Sybarite to arms)--
But more than all, because embracing all,
Ensuring all, self-government, the boon
Our patriot statesmen strove to win and keep,
From prescient Pinckney and the wise Calhoun
To him, that gallant knight,
The youngest champion in the Senate hall,
Who, led and guarded by a luminous fate,
His armor, Courage, and his war-horse, Right,
Dared through the lists of eloquence to sweep
Against the proud Bois Guilbert of debate!

 . . .

Source:  ‘My Mother-Land’, Poems of Paul Hamilton Hayne: Electronic Edition, http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/hayne/hayne.html#hayne65, 2004, p. 66, accessed 29 Jan. 2016; © This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.)

This idea persists strongly today among Southerners.  See, e.g., Prof Marshall DeRosa’s talk ‘The Confederate Rule of Law’ from 2015 (http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/media/the-confederate-rule-of-law/).  But the truth is quite different from this.  To understand why, we must look back through Western European history.

In the pagan Roman Empire, the emperor was the supreme authority in both political and religious matters (Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome, A. Nevill, trans., New York, Ny.: Routledge, 2001, pgs. 134-5).  There was truly little to hinder the outworking of his will.  But with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine and the Roman Empire along with him, this changed.  The Christian Roman Emperor remained the highest political power, but his religious power he yielded to the Orthodox Church’s bishops, though as a dutiful child of the Church he nevertheless used his temporal power to aid her: calling Ecumenical Councils to settle theological controversies, passing laws to strengthen Christian morals in his realm, protecting the Church from physical attacks, using his own personal resources to build churches, monasteries, hospitals, and the like.   

The conversion of the Roman Empire had further effects on how the emperor wielded his political power.  Even in this sphere, he was no longer a power unto himself.  He was now a steward, ruling at the behest of Christ the King of all, to Whom he would have to give an account of his reign (Ryan Hunter, ‘In This Great Service’, http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/81926.htm, posted 9 Sept. 2015, accessed same day).   Thus, he was not only subject to his own conscience in a deeper way than before, but also to the leaders of the Church, for he also was a sheep of Christ’s flock in need of salvation.  A story from the life of the Emperor Theodosius the Great is illustrative of this point: 

Once he [Emperor Theodosius--W.G.] was about to enact bloody punishment of the people of Antioch for a rebellion, but relented when St Placilla (September 14) and Patriarch Flavian enjoined him to be merciful.

Source:  John Brady, ‘Pious Emperor Theodosius the Great (395)’, http://www.abbamoses.com/months/january.html, entry for 17 January, accessed 1 Jan. 2016

Once the people of Antioch rioted and tore down a pair of statues of the Emperor Theodosius and his wife. Two generals came from Constantinople, planning to inflict a bloody punishment on the people. Saint Macedonian, learning of this, came to the city and sought out the generals, asking them to take a message to the Emperor: that he, being human and subject to weakness like all men, should not be immoderately angry with other men; and that he should not, in return for the destruction of lifeless images, destroy those who are the very image of God.

Source:  John Brady, ‘Our Holy Father Macedonian (ca. 430)’, http://www.abbamoses.com/months/january.html, entry for 24 January, accessed 1 Jan. 2016

This, then, is the normative political experience of Christian peoples in both East and West, from Spain to Ethiopia to Russia, since the time of St Constantine:  A Christian king - whether the High King over all the Christian Empire or the lesser kings who rule over the nations that are part of the Empire - who is the highest political power in his realm, but whose power is nonetheless limited by his love for God and for his people, by his yearning for their salvation and for his, and by his desire also for their earthly wellbeing.  Because of these new circumstances introduced by Orthodox Christianity, many kings and queens placed the ultimate check on their own power, renouncing their thrones willingly to become monks (e.g., St Symeon the Myrrh Gusher of Serbia, Sts Ceolwulf of Northumbria and Sebbe of Essex, St Balthild of France, or St Peter of Bulgaria) or to become passion-bearers like Sts Boris and Gleb of Russia, for the sake of a better resurrection or for the welfare of their people (and sometimes both).

And these failing, there was the rebuke of the Church when needed, whether from bishops, monks, fools-for-Christ’s-sake, etc.

But in Western Europe, after the moving of the Imperial capitol to Constantinople, as conditions began to worsen because of the waves of barbarian invaders, and with the rise to prominence of St Augustine’s theological thought, a new order began to develop, or, rather, a return to the old order of pagan Rome.  The bishops of Rome begat within their hearts the desire to be the sole religious and political authority of the Roman Empire, after the manner of the pagan Roman emperors.  From about the ninth century on (Door to Paradise: Jesus Christ in Ancient Orthodoxy, Platina, Ca.: Saint Herman Press, p. 12), this lust grew, until in 1054 the final break with the Holy Orthodox Church came to pass (the Great Schism).

From this point forward, because of its new theology based on the absent Christ and His present vicar (i.e., the Pope of Rome), absolute divine simplicity, the double procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, the penal atonement theory of salvation, etc., the Roman Catholic Church (and later the Protestant churches, for they did not repent of enough of these theological innovations and in some cases worsened them) became a merely earthly institution, and thus a competitor with the other earthly kingdoms of the world for political dominion, rather than remaining the Holy, Divine-human Body of Christ, which works to unite all the earthly creation with God so it can be filled with His Light and life.

With this revolution in Christianity in the West, the churches were no longer able to sanctify and temper political power as in the days before the Great Schism, and became instead greedy to wield it themselves, and the exercise of power by the rulers, whether in church or state, became more and more harsh and brutal in nature.  Finally sickening of the wars between the Roman Catholic and Protestant rulers, Papal armies, the Inquisition, and the like, Western Europeans turned away from the disfigured Christianity they had come to know and began devising heavily secular systems and schemes to reign in their out-of-control rulers and to bring peace and wellbeing to all the people.  Thus was born the Enlightenment idea of the written constitution based mostly on human reason as the proper way to organize a government which would rule the people justly by preventing evil actions from being carried out by those in the government through the dispersion of powers and checks and balances among different office-holders, branches, and departments, lists of rights, and so forth. 

The adoration of these paper constructs has reached absurd heights in the West, where ‘constitutional values and rights’ have become more important than the teachings of the churches in shaping morals and in forming political policies.  The humanistic, secular constitution has become master of both state and church.

The South, not yet seeing this reality, still considers them a guardian of Christianity, but as we have seen (and as the news reports continue to affirm in the involuntary American and European Unions), they are nothing less than a replacement of the Orthodox Church’s check on the actions of the government (and society at large) either with a demon-like clashing of factions within the government or with the very unreliable restraint of ‘the will of the people’ (who are guided mostly by disordered passions and appetites, http://jaysanalysis.com/2016/01/20/half-jaysanalysis-republic-bk-8-the-pythagorean-city/), both of which bear bitter fruit for the nation-family.

Dixie was on much more solid footing when she was defending the ‘unconstitutional’ authority of her gentlemen-planters before the War, whose heavy labors of self-sacrifice on behalf of the spiritual and temporal good of their families, servants, slaves, and neighbors, guided by their pastors, bishops, and priests and the Holy Scriptures, was much akin to the pattern of Orthodox Christian kings in East and West before-mentioned.

Written constitutions can be helpful in clarifying the powers and duties of government officials and such like, but they are not the highest development in the art of politics.  That place probably belongs to the Orthodox Christian king, whose powers are bound by his devotion to God, to the Church, and to his people (who are his extended family).  For the Grace of God, whether partaken of during prayer or received through the holy oil used to anoint the king, the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ eaten and drunk during the Divine Liturgy, and the other sacraments of the Orthodox Church, is stronger than even the mightiest chain forged in the fires of the constitutional furnace to forhold the evil designs of men. 

The South and all of Western Europe have been beguiled long enough:  It is the symphony of Church and state, bishop and king, that will bring about good government and a better future for the nations, not the abstractions of the fallen and worldly rational mind that fill so much of written constitutions.