Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Mountain of Silence: On Logismoi

"'Logismoi are much more intense than simple thoughts.  They penetrate into the very depths of a human being.  They have enormous power.  Let us say,' Fr. Maximos went on to clarify, 'that a simple thought is a weak logismos.  We need to realize, however, that certain thoughts, or logismoi, once inside a human being, can undermine every trace of a spiritual life in its very foundation.  People who live in the world don't know about the nature and power of logismoi.  That is, they don't have the experience of that reality.  But as they proceed on their spiritual struggle, particularly through systematic prayer, then are they able to understand the true meaning and power of this reality'" (118).

"'I have noticed that some people, particularly young, oversensitive souls,' Fr. Maximos said, breaking the silence, 'suffer so much from these logismoi that it often leads them into psychopathological conditions.  They reach such states partly because of their ignorance of the nature of logismoi.  Such persons who may be attacked by a perverted, or let us say a sinful logismos, are unable to realize that such a logismos does not necessarily emanate from within themselves, but is directed toward them from the outside.  They feel guilty and begin what the late Paisios used to call the 'the repetition of those whys.'  They become obsessive.  Oversensitive persons become even more sensitive and blame themselves with all kinds of questions: "Why do I have such a thought, why?"  Such people are in dire need of proper instruction on how to handle the logismoi,' Fr. Maximos pointed out.  He went on to say that the most dangerous logismoi are those sent by demonic spirits that get support and get activated by our own passions.  Logismoi coming from demons are extremely devious and duplicitous" (120).

For more on logismoi, including the stages of their development (assault, interaction, consent, captivity, and passion) and strategies for mastering them, see Chapter 9 on "Invisible Intruders" and Chapter 10 on "Strategies" in The Mountain of Silence.

Source:  Markides, Kyriacos C.  The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality.  New York, NY: Doubleday, 2001.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

St. Athanasius: Why the Son became a Human Being

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"Some may then ask, why did He not manifest Himself by means of other and nobler parts of creation, and use some nobler instrument, such as sun or moon or stars or fire or air, instead of mere man?  The answer is this.  The Lord did not come to make a display.  He came to heal and to teach suffering men.  For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholder.  But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who need Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it."  

     - St. Athanasius the Great, On the Incarnation(Crestwood, NY: SVS Press), 1998), 78.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Entrance of the Theotokos

On November 21st of every year, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos into the Temple.  The Feast commemorates the entrance of the Virgin Mary into the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years of age.  Having been dedicated to God by her aged parents, Joachim and Anna, she remained in the Temple until she reached womanhood and was betrothed to the elderly widower, Joseph, who protected the Virgin chosen to be the Mother of God.  In a beautiful sermon, St. Gregory Palamas sets forth the Virgin Mary as an example of a healthy soul who attained to the heights of the spiritual life.  Here is an excerpt from that sermon:

"With profound understanding she listened to the writings of Moses and the revelations of the other prophets when, every Saturday, all the people gathered outside, as the Law ordained.  She learnt about Adam and Eve and everything that happened to them: how they were brought out of non-being, settled in paradise and given a commandment there; about the evil one's ruinous counsel and the resulting theft; about their expulsion from paradise on that account, the loss of immortality and the change to this way of life full of pain.  In addition, she saw that as time passed, life continued under the inherited curse and grew even worse, God's creature made in His image was estranged from the Creator and became more and more closely associated with the one who had evilly schemed to crush him.  (Alas for the evil one's power over us and his insatiable rage against us!  Woe to our insensitivity and our inclination to return to the earth!)  No one was capable of putting an end to this impulse which brings destruction on all men alike, or to the uncheckable rush of our race towards hell.  When the holy Virgin Maid heard and understood this, she was filled with pity for humanity and, with the aim of finding a remedy to counteract this great affliction, she resolved at once to turn with her whole mind to God.  She took it upon herself to represent us, to constrain Him Who is above compulsion, and quickly draw Him towards us, that He might remove the curse from among us, halt the advance of the fire burning men's souls, weaken our enemies, answer our prayers, shine upon us with light that never sets and, having healed our sickness, unite His creatures with Himself."

I highly recommend that Orthodox Christians read the sermon in its entirety for their edification.

St. Gregory Palamas, "On the Entrance into the Holy of Holies II," Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, ed. by Christopher Veniamin (South Canaan, PA: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2005), 41.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

St. Athanasius on Christ the Physician

"What man that ever was, for instance, formed a body for himself from a virgin only?  Or what man ever healed so many diseases as the common Lord of all?  Who restored that which was lacking in man's nature or made one blind from birth to see?  Aesculapius was deified by the Greeks because he practiced the art of healing and discovered herbs as remedies for bodily diseases, not, of course, forming them himself out of the earth, but finding them out by the study of nature.  But what is that in comparison to what the Saviour did when, instead of just healing a wound, He both fashioned essential being and restored to health the thing that He had formed?" 

- St. Athanasius the Great, "Refutation of the Gentiles," On the Incarnation (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press), 1998), 87.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Orthodox University

The September 2011 edition of The Word, a publication of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, includes an article on Orthodox higher education by His Grace Bishop THOMAS of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic.  Both the establishment of Orthodox schools and the establishment of Orthodox medical facilities involve forming a truly Orthodox institution that exists within the Mystery of the Church and that operates according the Orthodox ethos as an oasis in a secular culture.  I highly recommend the article, "An Orthodox University: Higher Education for Orthodox Christians," which begins on page 26 of the magazine.