On Contemplation

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2014 by citydesert

”Contemplation begins οnly after the completion of ascetical exercises (praxis), the aim of which is the achievement of interior freedom (apatheia), that is to say, the possibility of loving. Contemplation consists of two stages: direct communion with God is the aim, of course, but first we must come to ‘knowledge of creatures’ or ‘cοntemplation of nature’ (physike theoria), that is, the contemplation ‘of the secrets of the glory of God hidden in his creatures’.

‘Faith is the doorway to the mysteries. What the eyes of the body are for physical objects, faith is for the hidden eyes of the soul. Just as we have two bodily eyes, so we have two spiritual eyes, and each has its οwn way of seeing. With one we see the glory of God hidden in creatures: with the other we contemplate the glory of God’s holy nature when he deigns to give us access to the mysteries.’ Ιsaac οf Nineveh ‘Ascetic Treatises’, 72 (p. 281)
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People who know nothing of God – and there are plenty of them in our time -none the less have an inkling of him through the things he has created, when they look at them, apart from their practical uses, in their sheer beauty and their strange gratuitousness. Then they are filled with wonder…

The contemplative, like the illiterate person, does without books. Creatures and things in their delicacy and infinite subtlety continually speak to him of God. ‘All are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s’ (Ι Corinthians 3.22). This could be put the other way round: ‘God is Christ’s; and Christ is yours; and yοu belong to all things.’

‘One of the wise men of that time went to find the holy man Anthony and asked him, ‘Father, how can yοu be happy when yοu are deprived of the consolation that books can give?’ Anthony replied, ‘Μy philosopher friend, my book is the nature of creatures; and this book is always in front of me when Ι want to read the words of God.’’ Evagrius of Pontus ‘Practicus or The Μοnk’ (SC 171, p. 694)

The world is the gift of God. We must know how to perceive the giver through the gift. More precisely, since the time of the incarnation, the Passion and Easter, we can see the earth as an immense memorial, the tomb/womb in which Christ was buried and tο which he gave resurrected power through the power of his οwn resurrection. And the tree of the cross, which has become the tree of life, secretly identifies the earth with paradise and gives proof once again of the sacramental nature of things.

‘Ι cannot show yοu my God, but Ι can show yοu his works. ‘Everything was made by him’ (John 1.3). He created the world in its newness, he who has nο beginning. He who is eternal created time. He who is unmoved made movement. Look at his works and praise their maker’. Augustine οf Hippο Sermon 261, 2 (PL 38, 1203)

‘The Most High has wounded me with his Spirit,
filled me with his love,
and his wounding has become my salvation …
All the earth is like a memorial to thee,
a presence of thy works …
Glory to thee, Ο God,
thou who art for ever the delight of Paradise.
Alleluia!’
Odes of Sοlοmοn, II (Harris-Mingana, ΙΙ, p. 266)

Thus the person of prayer, the person for whom knowledge stands for life and life for immortality, becomes capable of ‘feeling everything in God’. He can feel οn every object, in every object, the blessing of God. Thereby he is able to bless everything and tο see in everything a miracle of God. Βy so seeing he is able, without seeking to do so, to work the miracle of materiality restored to health, weightless, splendid, belonging to the new Jerusalem.

What is knowledge? – The feeling of eternal life.
And what is eternal life? – Feeling everything in God.

For love comes from meeting him. Knowledge united to God fulfils every desire. And for the heart that receives it, it is altogether sweetness overflowing οn tο the earth. For there is nothing like the sweetness of God.’ Ιsaac of Nineveh ‘Ascetic Treatises’, 38 (p. tb4)’

An extract from “The Glory of God Hidden in His Creatures” in Olivier Clément “The Roots of Christian Mysticism” [first published in English 1993 by New City; translated by Thedore Berkeley O.C.S.O.] at http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/clement_1.html
Roots of Christian Mysticism 1
Olivier Clément “Roots of Christian Mysticism: Texts from Patristic Era with Commentary” [New City Press, 1996]
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“Olivier Clément was a French theologian and convert to Orthodox Christianity who taught at St. Sergius Institute in Paris. Olivier Clément was born in 1921 in the south of France. In his youth he was a non-believer. As he grew to maturity, he became influenced by a number of Orthodox theologians in France, notably Vladimir Lossky, Nicholas Berdiaev and Paul Evdokimov, eventually receiving baptism at the hands of Fr Evgraph Kovalesvky, later Bishop Jean-Nectaire of Saint-Denis. He became a member of the faculty of St. Sergius Institute in Paris. In addition to an extensive collection of writings, he edited the theological journal ‘’Contacts’‘.
Clément also enjoyed friendship and entered into dialogues on major spiritual themes with a number of imminent personalities including Patriarch Athenagoras, Pope John Paul II, the priest and theologian Dumitru Staniloae, and the brother Roger of Taizé.
Olivier Clément reposed on January 15, 2009 at the age of 87. Funeral Services took place on January 20, 2009 in Paris, France.” http://orthodoxwiki.org/Olivier_Clement
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“Offering personal proof that it was possible to become Orthodox without going East, he foresaw a Christian future which did not require the Western Church to become Eastern, or vice versa. He worked tirelessly for a mutual respect, which would make possible a recovery of the fullness of truth which would make the Churches one.
This made him unpopular with some in his own Church, particularly after he attacked the nationalistic drift of Orthodox clergy following the break-up of the Soviet Empire and Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He insisted that the drive for authentic Christian unity should come from within and not be imposed either by ecclesiastical authority or power politics…
He encountered the Christian East among the Russian émigré community in Paris, particularly through the theologian Vladimir Lossky, and later said that he was attracted to the Orthodox union of “a sense of mystery and a sense of liberty”.
After being baptised as an Orthodox in 1951, he made his mark at the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris, where he started to lecture in moral theology.
He attracted a wide audience inside and outside the Orthodox community, many people finding a freshness and simplicity in his perception of Christian truth.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/4642262/Olivier-Clment.html
Books in English
The Spirit of Solzhenitsyn (Barnes & Noble Books, 1976)
Monasticism and the Holy Spirit (Community of the Servants of the Will of God)
The Roots of Christian Mysticism (New City Press, 1996)
Conversations with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997)
On Human Being: Spiritual Anthropology (New City Press, 2000)
Three Prayers: The Lord’s Prayer, O Heavenly King, Prayer of Saint Ephrem (SVS Press, 2000)
You are Peter: An Orthodox Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy (New City Press, 2003)

Navigating the Interior Life

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2014 by citydesert

The need for spiritual guidance on the “Path of the Desert” has long been recognized by the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, no less than by those who followed or follow them. An excellent introduction to spiritual guidance (or, as it is more commonly but less attractively called, spiritual direction) in the Roman Catholic tradition is: Dan Burke “Navigating the Interior Life. A Guide to Spiritual Direction and Growth in the Interior Life” [Emmaus Road Publishing, 2012]
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See also: http://navigatingtheinteriorlife.com/
http://spiritualdirection.com/
http://catholicexchange.com/called-spiritual-director

“Just as serious athletes would be foolish for not seeking coaches and trainers to help them learn from the experience of others how best to develop their natural skills, so for the Christian pursuing holiness it is foolhardy not to seek the counsel and direction of wise mentors in the spiritual life. Dan Burke’s “A Guide to Spiritual Direction and Growth in the Interior Life” is an immensely practical book to help a serious Catholic take advantage of the wealth of experience and knowledge of those who have trod the path to sanctity for the past 2,000 years.
run with faith
Just as well-intentioned athletes can waste time, injure themselves, and hurt their team by embarking on an ill-conceived training program, so Christian history is strewn with examples of well-meaning individuals who went astray harming themselves and others by following a misguided, imbalanced and imprudent spiritual path.
Unfortunately, complicating the matter even more not everyone, who claims the mantle of a spiritual director, is actually competent to lead others to holiness. Dan Burke gives very practical advice not only on how to find a good spiritual director, but also how best to access the wealth of resources in our Catholic tradition that can assist in developing our friendship with Jesus and growing in virtue.”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

“Navigating the Interior Life” is a comprehensive guide to spiritual direction, which answers all the questions one might have on the topic in a concise manner. In a clear, candid, comprehensible style, using the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Scriptures, and the wisdom of the saints, Burke leads us on the path to holiness by explaining exactly what spiritual direction is, how to find a spiritual director, and how to get the most out of spiritual direction. Sharing from his own experiences, as well as the teachings of the spiritual masters, Father Garrigou-Lagrange and St. Louis de Montfort, Burke emphasizes the necessity of Marian devotion and consecration in developing sanctity. Through self-evaluation charts, he helps us identify our predominant faults and root sins. Sharing the teachings of some of the Doctors of the Church, including St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Catherine of Siena, and others, he defines and demonstrates the three ways of the spiritual life: the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way. He also enables us to determine where we are in our spiritual journey and then makes practical suggestions on how to progress from one level to the next. He even helps us develop a rule of life – a daily spiritual schedule – to keep us on the path to sanctity.
http://catholicfire.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/book-review-navigating-interior-life.html
“Doctors of the soul have long understood that authentic spiritual progress can be predictable even though each person follows his own unique ascent up Mount Carmel into the heart of God. From St Catherine of Siena to St John of the Cross, every spiritual doctor of the Church has identified some continuum of growth that illustrates the progress of the soul toward union with God. Whether they be the degrees of love revealed so eloquently by St Bernard of Clairvaux, or the mansions of “The Interior Castle” of St Teresa of Avila, each has discovered that the same essential path of salvation (or the “narrow way” as Jesus called it) is trod by all who heed to call of Christ. Historically, the most widely used description of that path is known as the Three Ways.
Interior Castle
The three ways represent three distinct phases of spiritual development. While several terms are used for the ways, the most common designations for them are: purgative, illuminative and unitive (Sts John of the Cross, Thomas Aquinas and others used the terms beginner, proficient and perfect respectively). The easiest way to understand the three ways is to compare them with our common experience regarding the normative path of human development.
The parallels illustrated by this comparison can be insightful, revealing that — as with psychological and physical development — there is predictability in the phases of spiritual progress, as well. For instance, in normal human development, it is reasonable to expect that a toddler will fill their diaper. It certainly is not normal for a teen to wear a diaper, or to fill it…
The understanding of this development helps parents to know if their children are making reasonable progress or if they need special assistance. The same is true with our spiritual maturation.
The parallels are simple and obvious but the depth of understanding gained can enable very sophisticated insights into the progress of the soul. On the simplest level we can see that, birth in the physical sense parallels our baptism in the spiritual life. In the purgative way as with childhood, we are simply learning to cope with who we are on a fundamental level. We are learning the basics of what it means to be human and the basics of walking with God.
Even so, a few dissimilarities are also notable and helpful to point out. In the physical realm, there comes a time of natural decline in health eventually leading to death. In the spiritual life, growth is always possible. The two lifecycles are also dissimilar when we consider the fact that in the spiritual life, physical age can have little bearing on spiritual growth. For example, it is possible for someone who is very young — like St Therese of Lisieux — to be very mature spiritually. In contrast, someone who is physically old can be very immature spiritually.
In spite of these shortcomings, the power of this approach is that we can come to understand the “You Are Here” of our own spiritual progress. Knowing where we are, it is then easier to understand, explore, and map out the next steps in our growth to deeper union with the Lord.
The central challenge in digging deeper into the wisdom of the three ways is that the most popular texts are significant in size and complexity. This complexity, of course, reflects the challenging nature of describing how the soul progresses deeper into the interior castle.”
An extract from Dan Burke “Longing for the Face of God – Navigating the Interior Life”, “National Catholic Register”, August 10, 2014 at http://www.ncregister.com/blog/dan-burke/longing-for-the-face-of-god-navigating-the-interior-life-part-i-of-iv#ixzz3B4F2NOrK
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Dan Burke is an award winning author, speaker, regular voice on Register Radio, the Executive Director of the “National Catholic Register” and founder of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation.

Republic of Noise

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2014 by citydesert

“In “Republic of Noise”, Diana Senechal confronts a culture that has come to depend on instant updates and communication at the expense of solitude. Where once it was common wisdom that the chatter of the present, about the present, could not always grasp the present, today we treat “real time” as though it were the only real time. Schools emphasize rapid group work and fragmented activity, not the thoughtful study of complex subjects. The Internet offers contact with others throughout the day and night; we lose the ability to be apart, even in our minds. Yet solitude does not vanish; it is part of every life. It plays an essential role in literature, education, democracy, relationships, and matters of conscience. Throughout its analyses and argument, the book calls not for drastic changes but for a subtle shift: an attitude that honors solitude without descending into dogma. Outspoken, lyrical, and unassuming, Senechal’s book dismantles the “groupthink” that pervades our lives.” http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12601461-republic-of-noise
republicofnoise
Diana Senechal “Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture” [R&L Education, 2012]

“In this remarkable book, Senechal weaves together her experiences as a public school teacher in New York City, a masterful review of the policies and politics of so-called reform in curriculum over the past several decades, a diagnosis of the condition of frantic distraction in society at large, and a detailed evocation of Western traditions of the contemplative life and productive solitude. In the din of contemporary books decrying our hopped-up, hyped-up, wired, Attention-Deficit-Disordered culture, Senechal’s book stands out for its erudition and quiet wisdom. It’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve read all year.”
—Rosanna Warren, poet and professor at the University of Chicago. The full review appears in Literary Matters, Spring 2013 (ALSCW)

“Diana Senechal’s “Republic of Noise” is an unusual book. It asks the reader to step back from the tumult of electronic gadgets, the online websites that tell us what to like, the buzz of activity that surrounds us at every moment and to do something extraordinary: think, reflect, ponder. She raises profound questions about our inability to discern our own thoughts, to know ourselves. This is an unsettling book and a very important book.”
—Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education; author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System”
Noise 1
“”Republic of Noise” is a searching exploration of the loss of solitude in contemporary society. As such, it takes its place within a distinguished American tradition of spiritual independence, the tradition of Emerson and Thoreau, suspicious of the buzz of the crowd and listening always for the small, still voice within. Senechal’s best argument for the value of solitude is her own style of thought: patient, careful, compassionate, humane, and rooted in her experience not only as a teacher but as a self—or as she defiantly puts it, a soul. She thinks things through for herself, and from the ground up. Unlike just about everyone else who writes on education, she grounds her arguments in literary and philosophical sources, not studies and statistics, itself an act of courage and a vindication of the solitary mind. Her book can help us return solitude to a central place in the education of children and the conduct of life.”
—William Deresiewicz, author of “Solitude and Leadership” and A Jane Austen Education

“Combining erudition with first-hand observation, Diana Senechal offers invaluable insights from the front lines of education—the classroom—about the ways in which both learning and teaching are obstructed by America’s culture of distraction. Her most crucial point is that the quality of learning in America has eroded through overreliance on everything from the digital technology of interruption to fad-driven teaching methods that discourage the sustained individual concentration required to foster both creativity and logical thinking. This book will and should disturb everyone who understands that our educational system will remain broken unless and until we take on the task of repairing our attention spans—as individuals and as a culture.”
—Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason” and “Never Say Die”
Noise 2
“Diana Senechal’s “Republic of Noise” is a rare find. A fine thinker whose own well-schooled intellect allows her to work nimbly through examples from literature, poetry, philosophy, mathematics, science, theology, technology and music—practicing ‘solitude’ before our very eyes—Senechal, while sometimes lyrical in tone, never compromises the authority of her insight. Most people write about education as if it were conducted in a vacuum, with only cursory statistics alluding to social trends. Senechal puts education—both the idea and the daily practice—in the larger context of the culture out of which it is born and which it influences immeasurably. The use of ‘solitude’ as her enduring image opens up the souls of both schools and the culture at large.”
—Claudia Allums, director of the Cowan Center for Education at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture
green sound waves oscillating on black background
“”Republic of Noise” is a meditation on solitude. What happens when constant communication replaces thoughtful reflection? How can deep learning take place in beehive-like environments? Why are we so afraid of being alone? Diana Senechal offers answers to these and other questions that aren’t asked often enough in our plugged-in world. She warns that as our lives become ‘noisier and more fragmented’ we seem to be losing the ability to look inward, to think for ourselves, and—heaven forbid—to be alone. Though it may sound paradoxical, Senechal posits that solitude can actually improve collaboration. ‘In order to do anything of substance, we need a place that is relatively still, not giddy with updates, not caught up in what others think. This place varies from person to person and from situation to situation, but it needs tending, as do the things in it.’ Both erudite and eminently readable, “Republic of Noise” offers nourishing food for thought for teachers, parents, and policy-makers. Best consumed in solitude.”
—Carol Jago, past president, National Council of Teachers of English; author of “With Rigor for All: Teaching the Classics to Contemporary Students”
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For Diana Senechal, see: http://www.dianasenechal.com/

Seeking in Solitude

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2014 by citydesert

Bernadette McNary-Zak “Seeking in Solitude: A Study of Select Forms of Eremitic Life and Practice’ (Princeton Theological Monograph 210, 2014, Pickwick Publications).
Seeking in solitude
“Seeking in Solitude” examines select forms of contemporary Roman Catholic eremitic life and practice in the United States. Given the sustained presence of, and increased interest in, the eremitic life and practice, this book responds to the question of the place of the hermit in American Catholicism in a way that neither mystifies nor mythologizes it, but rather attempts to understand it.

Chapters
Camaldolis
1. The Threefold Good: The Camaldolese Congregation.
Carthursians
2. Remembering in Silence: The American Carthusians.
Cistercians
3. Contemplation in Solitude: The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Bethlehem Hermits
4. The Listening Presence: The Hermits of Bethlehem in the Heart of Jesus.
hermit2
5. Framing a Worldview in Solitude.

“In this informative and inspirational new book, Bernadette McNary-Zak maps and analyzes the growing religious phenomenon of eremitic life and practice in American Catholicism. She eloquently illustrates how, contrary to some popular perceptions, the eremitic option is neither selfish nor self-serving, but rather is one of solidarity through the Eucharist, prayer, and prophetic witness. This timely publication is a valuable contribution to the increased public interest in the eremitic way of life.”
—Bernadette Flanagan, All Hallows College, Dublin City University, Drumcondra, Dublin

“As a part-time hermit myself, still mixed with teaching and ministry, I sincerely wish I had this wonderful resource when I was discerning my later Franciscan vocation. There is a common guilt and fear of selfishness that must be faced, and this fine study helps you see that you are a part of a long and solid tradition that was anything but selfish.”
—Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, NM

“In her study of the places and spaces in which the eremitic life is lived in the United States, McNary-Zak has done us a tremendous service. Meticulously researched, “Seeking in Solitude” shows us the ways in which Christian communities, both ancient and modern, adapt creatively to support those called to this path. Above all, she shows that the eremitical life is not a way of being by oneself so much as an intimate call to be in solidarity with all humanity.”
—Martin Laird, Villanova University, Villanova, PA.

Bernadette McNary-Zak is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She received her B.A. in Religious and Classical Studies, with a minor in Philosophy, from the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY). She received her M.A. in Religion and Culture from the Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.). Her Ph.D. is from the University of Toronto, Centre for the Study of Religion, where her area of concentration was Early Christianity with a focus on Christian ascetic and monastic behavior in the later Roman Empire. While at Rhodes, she has taught courses in Interdisciplinary Humanities, the Apostolic Fathers, early Christian literature, and Christianity in Late Antiquity. Her research interests include study of ascetic literature, in particular, the evidence of literary correspondence among monks in fourth-century Egypt, as well as pedagogical issues related to teaching Religious Studies. http://www.rhodes.edu/religion/22337_22345.asp
She is also the author of
Useful servanthood
“Useful Servanthood: A Study of Spiritual Formation in the Writings of Abba Ammonas” (with Nada Conic and Lawrence Morey) (2010): “Useful Servanthood” introduces English-speaking readers to Abba Ammonas, disciple and successor of Saint Antony of the Desert and a prominent figure of fourth-century Egyptian monasticism. As a director of souls, Ammonas’s approach to spiritual formation was a creative example of the spiritual gift of discernment. By examining Ammonas’s writings and his ecclesial and political milieus, Dr. McNary-Zak shows how discernment functioned both in the abba-disciple relationship of the desert monks and in the life of the wider Christian community. Thus, Ammonas serves as a model for spiritual directors of the twenty-first century. The second part of the book makes available for the first time in English the entire Greek corpus of Abba Ammonas’s writings.; and
letters-asceticism
“Letters and Asceticism in Fourth-Century Egypt” (2000): In “Letters and Asceticism in Fourth-Century Egypt”, Bernadette McNary-Zak analyzes collections of ascetic letters written by prominent fourth-century Egyptian bishops, ascetics, and monks arguing that this neglected body of evidence deserves primary source recognition alongside hagiographic sources. Focusing principally on the works of Ammonas, Antony, Athanasius, Horsisios, Pachomius, Serapion of Thmuis, and Theodore, Letters and Asceticism begins with the analysis of the current state of scholarship on ascetic letters. McNary-Zak then moves into a discussion of the Antonian and Pachomian movements and assesses the authorship of the Life of Antony. She concludes with a succinct summation of the value of the ascetic letters in relation to the traditional, contemporary, hagiographic desert ascetic sources. A powerful argument for the use of ascetic letters, this book will be a boon to professors of theology and history as well as students interested in research of Egyptian asceticism.

The Paradise of the Desert Fathers

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2014 by citydesert

The “Paradise of the Desert Fathers” is a collection of sayings and narratives written about the Desert Fathers of the Egyptian desert. The collection is widely known in the Coptic Church as “Bustan Al-Rohbaan” (transliterated Arabic) or “The Monks’ Garden”.
Paradise 2
The Paradise of the Fathers is the classic compilation of the lives and teachings of the early monastic saints. It has been said that for a monastic to achieve perfection there are only two books needed: the Bible and the Paradise of the Fathers. This volume is translated from a Syriac manuscript discovered in 1888 by Dr. Ernest A. Wallis Budge. This is a revised and edited edition. Volume I of “The Paradise or Gardens of the Holy Fathers” includes the histories of the anchorites, recluses, monks, coenobites and ascetic fathers of the deserts of Egypt between A.D. 250 and A.D. 400 compiled by Athanasius Archbishop of Alexandria, Palladius Bishop of Helenopolis, Jerome and others. Volume II contains the sayings of the Fathers and questions and answers about the monastic life.
Paradise 1
The text is available on-line at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/paradise1 and http://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/paradise2
Paradise Budge
Budge’s 1907 edition, “The Paradise, or Garden of the Holy Fathers: Being Histories of the Anchorites, Recluses, Monks, Coenobites, and Ascetic Fathers of the Deserts of Egypt between A.D. CCL and A.D. CCCC circiter”,
is available on-line at: https://archive.org/details/paradiseorgarde00budggoog and https://archive.org/details/paradiseorgarden01ann
Paradise St Shenouda
A modern two-volume reprint has been published by St Shenouda Monastery (December 15, 2009) and is available from Amazon.

The Evergetinos

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2014 by citydesert

“One of the classic collections of Orthodox spiritual writings, the “Evergetinos” is a source of inspiration, spiritual guidance, and insight into the lives of men and women who, during the first few centuries of Christianity, attained to the highest ideals of the spiritual life.
Evergentinos 3
In the spiritual laboratory of the Egyptian deserts, these seekers after salvation, enlightenment, and union with Christ brought into sharp focus the teachings of the Apostles and the message of Holy Writ in their daily lives and activities. The stern, the loving, “fools for Christ”—all of the exemplars of Christian Sainthood, the many inhabitants of the many mansions above, are to be found in the rich and profitable lives portrayed in this collection. Also to be found are perfect models for every modern Christian who wishes sincerely to imitate those who have walked the path towards moral and spiritual perfection. This is the first English translation of this wonderful treasury of spiritual wisdom.
Evergentinos 4
The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies is pleased to announce that, with the publication, on July 1, 2008, of the fourteenth and last volume—the third volume of Book Four—of the first complete text in the English language of “The Evergetinos”, we will now issue this classical Orthodox collection of the sayings and aphorisms of the Desert Fathers (as well as other Hesychastic writings) in a four-book library set, corresponding to the original Greek publication. These four volumes will be available in an attractive paperbound and a hardbound edition, in two color printing (red and black), with Byzantine-style line drawings, and replete with the original Prologue of St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, an historical introduction by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, a Preface by Hieromonk Dr. Gorazd, Director of the Institute of Eastern Christianity at the Charles University in Prague, and footnotes and indices. Each volume will be approximately 400 pages in length.
evergentinos
This monumental Patristic translation, twenty years in preparation, is the most important publication yet undertaken by the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies. “The Evergetinos”, compiled by St. Makarios of Corinth and first published by St. Nicodemos in 1783, is a companion volume of “The Philokalia”—indeed a precursor, of sorts, to that work—, and together with it an essential and classical spiritual guide for Orthodox Christians seeking the inner life of spiritual transformation. The project, a collaborative effort, was initiated by Archbishop Chrysostomos while he was a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University in 1988 and continued to completion under his direction and editorship, and that of Hieromonk Patapios, with the collaboration of Bishop Ambrose of Methone, Bishop Auxentios of Photike, Monk Chrysostomos, Dr. Constantine Kokenes, Nun Lydia, Professor John V. Petropoulos, the late Professor John V. Rexine, and Reverend Gregory Telepneff.”
http://www.ctosonline.org/monastic/EvCT.html
Evergentinos 5
““The Evergetinos[…]is a practical guide not only to monastic life, but also to the cleansing of the mind, the cure of the passions and proclivities towards sin, and the inner spiritual transformation that are prerequisites for the attainment of the goal of the Hesychast (in fact, the goal of all Christian life, or salvation as the Orthodox Church defines it): The acquirement of virtue, enlightenment, mystical union with the Mind of Christ, and the restoration of the image of God within the fallen human being, to the end, in a person’s ultimate ascent to Divine Love, of the attainment of ‘likeness unto God.’ In this process of divinization, or θέωσις (theosis), one comes into union, through ascetic struggle, with the Divine Energies (though without violating in any manner God’s transcendent unknowability). The spiritual aspirant thereby achieves the fullness of human potential here in this life and, though not immune to them, is turned away from and disinclined towards sin and imperfection. It is this goal which “The Evergetinos” envisions and which its edifying aphorisms, instructions, and exemplars of human deification by Grace illustrate.””
http://www.easternchristiansupply.biz/-#books/c14/c21393/a55076
abba_moses
“The strength of those who wish to acquire the virtues is as follows: if they fall, let them not lose their courage, but let them be sure to make a new beginning at their endeavor. Insofar, then, as we put all our energy into practicing the virtues, let us await the Lord, showing Him a generous resolve and calling on His aid, and without fail He will strengthen us with His mercy and bestow His Grace on us in abundance, in which case we will accomplish every good easily and without exertion.” Abba Moses in “The Evergetinos”, Book I, Vol. III

The Ancient Fathers of the Desert

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2014 by citydesert

A valuable resource on the Desert Fathers is available on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: “The Ancient Fathers of the Desert: Introduction and Commentary” translated by the Very Rev. Dr. Chrysostomos: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8134

As Eastern Orthodoxy grows among English-speaking peoples, Western Christians are becoming increasingly familiar with Christianity’s oldest tradition, with the Church which claims to bring to modernity the very spirit and essence of the Apostolic Church. Yet this familiarity, as flattering as it might be to a venerable faith which has seen the ancient witness of millions upon millions of its children fade into social and historical obscurity in the West, is fraught with danger. For, paradoxically, the growth of Eastern Orthodoxy is occurring at a time when Orthodox spirituality is at a particular low. A vast majority of the Church struggles in Eastern Europe under the yoke of political persecution. In many places the simple discussion of Orthodoxy is perilous. Monasticism, often characterized by Eastern Fathers as the barometer by which Orthodox spiritual health is measured, is engaged in what appears to be a losing battle with contemporary social ideals and morality. Some of the most popular Orthodox theologians are tainted in their teachings by Western thought and by a non-Orthodox mentality. And with overwhelming sadness, we have seen, in the last several decades, the passing of many of the spiritual giants (Elder Philotheos Zervakos of Greece and Archimandrite Justin Popovich of Serbia, among others) who have been our living links to Orthodoxy’s healthier spiritual past…
Philotheos
If the living Fathers of the Church are disappearing and their availability to some Orthodox is ever so slight, they have none the less left us, as one spiritual man has assured me, “elders bound in leather and gold.” They have left to us their words and their written instructions. We can add, therefore, to the bare essentials of Orthodoxy present in the West, the thunderingly silent printed patristic witness. We can begin slowly to see the essence and substance of the unique truth that Orthodoxy is, not in catechisms or statements of belief, but in actual practice. For, ultimately Orthodoxy is not expressed only in correct beliefs, doctrines, or dogmas. It is lived and felt and experienced. Beliefs, doctrines, and dogmas reflect a “theology of facts,” as one great Church Father expressed it, and the locus of these facts is personal spiritual experience and practice. Until we know what we believe as it is expressed in lives lived and transformed by real individuals, rather than from logical dicta rising out of rigorous philosophical systems, we cannot adequately express to the Westerner the truth of the Orthodox Faith. And to know these real individuals, these incarnate pillars of philosophical truth, we must turn to the largely unknown spiritual treasures of Orthodoxy, the ascetic parables and writings of those who struggled with the passions for perfection in Christ.
There are two outstanding and indispensable compilations of the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church which are most important for Orthodox in the West: the Philokalia and the Evergetinos.
Philokalia
The Philokalia, a collection of writings by Fathers living approximately between 300 and 1400 A.D., contains exalted theological writings by some thirty Fathers. These writings are essentially instructions to monks and spiritual aspirants in methods by which, to quote the full title of the collection, “the mind is purified, illumined, and made perfect through practical and contemplative moral philosophy.” It contains very advanced teachings ranging from advice on the proper control of the breath during prayerful contemplation to detailed instructions for the attainment of freedom from the passions. Though it has appeared in part in English, it is relatively unknown in its entirety to many Orthodox. Even in its Greek, Slavonic, and Russian editions, it is not widely read in modern times. The transition from an Orthodoxy lacking spiritual maturity and beset by formidable external foes to the perfection of the theoretical philosophy of the Philokalia is not an easy one and, even in translation, this collection is not a first solution to the spiritual naivete of contemporary Orthodox.
evergentinos
The Evergetinos is probably the beginning point for Orthodox in the West who wish to capture something of the essence of their faith. If the Philokalia teaches pure prayer and the path to deification and union with God, the Evergetinos provides us with anecdotal evidence that the practice of Christian virtues, such as humility, chastity, love for our neighbor, and submission to the will of God, can bring us to the brink of the ultimate encounter with the divine by which we are elevated to the philosophical and higher struggle for perfection. If from the Philokalia we are instructed in the philosophical way to perfection, in the Evergetinos we are guided to the pragmatic life of humility and self-control (composure), the indispensable requisites for the more advanced endeavor of the former. In the Evergetinos we see the virtuous lives of the desert monks who, during the first few centuries of Christianity, fled to the barren deserts around the Mediterranean and lived the most extreme and awe-inspiring lives of asceticism in a search for God.”
st_ephraim_the_syrian
“”My brother, if your soul were pure and upright before the Lord, you would be able to profit from all things of this life. If you were to see a wandering peddler, you would say to yourself: ‘my soul, from the desire to earn fleeting, earthly goods, the peddler toils a great deal and endures much, concentrating on things which will not ultimately remain under his domain. Why, then, do you not look after those things which are eternal and incorruptible?’ Once again, if you were to see those who dispute in court over financial matters, you would say: ‘My soul, these people, often having not a single need, show such ardor and quarrel with such shouting between themselves. You, who owe to God a myriad of talents, why do you not implore God, bowing down as one should, to obtain cancellation of that debt?’
“If you were to see a builder making houses, you would again say: ‘my soul, these same, even if they build houses from mud, show such great zeal to finish the work they have laid out. You, why are you indifferent to eternal structures and why do you not struggle to erect the abode of God within the soul, forming and joining the virtues by the will?’
“Now, in order not to be prolix in citing various circumstances one by one, let us say that we must take care to transform our worldly thoughts and observations, which are born of our material perspective on things of the present life, to spiritual ones. Thereby, we shall profit from all things with the help and assistance of Divine Grace” (Saint Ephraim).”

Checking Out of The Game

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2014 by citydesert

“Medieval society, in the west, comparable to Hindu society, allowed people to check out of the game – it revered and encouraged hermits, monks, nuns of various types of discipline….
Now I want to make an observation here about checking out of the game. This is not encouraged in contemporary society, because the Catholic Church and the, say, the Episcopalian Church are very powerful minorities, they can still support monasteries and even hermits. But you can’t be one on your own without great difficulty. Firstly, because you’re a poor consumer. See around here we have a number of hermits: there’s a guy out there building that boat and he’s essentially a nonjoinder, a poor consumer, and the community – they live a lot a along here, and they’re mostly…they’re not working-class people, they are people who dropped out of college because they saw it was stupid – and they’re that sort of people; we could call them perhaps beatniks. But you see, the city doesn’t like it because they aren’t owning the right sort of cars and therefore the local car salesman isn’t doing business through them; they don’t have lawns and so nobody can sell them lawn mowers; they hardly use dishwashers, appliances of that kind – they don’t need them. And also they wear blue jeans and things like that, and so the local dress shops feel a bit put out having these people around, and they live very simply. Well…you mustn’t do that. You’ve got to live in a complicated way. You got to have the kind of car, you know, that identifies you as a person of substance and status and all that. So there’s a great problem here in our society. Now why is there this problem? There’s always a very inconsiderable minority of these nonjoinders or people who check-out of the game, but you will find that insecure societies are the most intolerant of those who are nonjoinders. They are so unsure of the validity of their game rules that they say everyone must play. Now that’s a double-bind; you can’t say to a person, “you must play,” because what you’re saying is: you are required to do something which will be acceptable only if you do it voluntarily, you see?…
alan watts 2
Now a free and easy society loves outsiders, in fact it’s a little bad for the outsiders integrity because he becomes a holy man, see, and people make salaams and give him food and all that; they really take care of the outsider, because they know that man is doing for us what we haven’t got the guts to do. That outsider who lives up there in the mountain is at the highest peak of human evolution; his consciousness is one with the divine. And great, just there is someone like that around! It makes you feel a little better; he has realized, he knows what it’s all about. And so we need a number of those people. Even though they don’t join our game, they tell us, you see: “What you’re doing’s only a game. It’s okay, I’m not going to condemn you, but it is only a game, and we up on that mountaintop are watching you, we love you, we have compassion for you, but excuse us please we aren’t going to join.” So that gives the community great strength, because it tells the government, in no uncertain terms, that there’s something more than government. That’s why wise kings kept not only priests, but court fools. The court fool is much more effective than the priest, to remind the king that after all he’s human, and…you know, how in “Richard the Second”, where the fool is called the antic, the king says: “Within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples of the king keeps Death his watch, and there the antic sits, scoffing at his state and griming at his pomp, allowing him a little time to monarchize be fear’d and kill with looks, and then at last comes death, and with a pin bores through his castle wall, and farewell king…”
alan_watts_quote-135596
http://www.dividedcore.com/humanity/2014/8/15/alan-watts-a-place-for-the-hermit.html
Out of your mind
An extract from l Alan Watts lecture titled, “A Place for the Hermit”. The talk is part of the “Out of Your Mind” lecture series (click here to listen): http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/Out-of-Your-Mind/428.pd
Available on You Tube: at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMheNLq97D4
alan watts
Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest but left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies. He was the author of numerous books. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts and http://alanwatts.com/

The Prayer Rope

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2014 by citydesert

“Let us pause for a moment just to look at a little prayer rope, like this one made of black wool on Mountain Athos. It is a blessing from a holy place. Like so much that we have in the Church, it is a blessing prepared and given to us by a brother or father in Christ, a living witness to living tradition. It is black, the color of mourning and sorrow, and this reminds us to be sober and serious in our lives. We are taught that repentant prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer, can bring us what the Holy Fathers call joy-creating sorrow—in Greek “Harmolipi”.
Prayer rope 1
We are sorry for our sins and our weakness and failings before God, our fellow men and ourselves; but in Christ, Who pours out His mercy and forgiveness on all who call upon His Name, this sorrow becomes a source of joy and comfort. This prayer rope is knotted from wool, that is, it has been sheared from a sheep, a reminder that we are rational sheep of the Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord, and also a reminder of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (see: John 1:29). And the cross likewise speaks to us of the sacrifice and victory of life over death, of humility over pride, of self-sacrifice over selfishness, of light over darkness. And the tassel? Well, you can use it to wipe the tears away from your eyes, or, if you have no tears, to remind you to weep because you cannot weep. Besides, from the Old Testament times, little tassels have been a decoration for sacred vestments, a reminder of the sacred tradition in which we participate when we use the prayer rope.
Prayer ropes are made in keeping with a tradition whose origin is lost in antiquity. Perhaps one of the earliest forms was simply gathering small pebbles or seeds and moving them from one spot or container to another as one said his prayer rule or did his rule of bows or prostrations. The story is told of a monk who decided to make knots in a rope, which he could use in carrying out his daily rule of prayer. But the devil kept untying the knots he made in the rope, frustrating the poor monk’s efforts. Then an angel appeared and taught the monk a special kind of knot that consists of ties of interlocked crosses, and these knots the devil was unable to unravel.
Prayer ropes come in a great variety of forms and sizes. Most prayer ropes have a cross woven into them or attached to mark the “end”, and also have some kind of marker after each 10, 25, or 50 knots or beads. There are many forms of prayer ropes, some knotted of wool or silk, or other more elegant or simpler materials. Others are made of beads or the dried flower of a plant called “Tears of the Mother of God”.
Prayer rope 3
The prayer rope is one of the items given to an Orthodox Christian monk at the time of tonsure: it is given to him as his spiritual sword with which he, as a soldier of Christ, must make war against our spiritual enemy, the devil. This sword is wielded by calling on the name of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in a plea for mercy on me a sinner.
This prayer can be said in a shorter form, such as: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”; or in a longer form, as: “By the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and all the Saints, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”.
Other short prayers: the prayer of the publican: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (see: Luke 18:13), the prayer to the Mother of God: “Most Holy Theotokos save us”, or other short prayers to the Guardian Angel, to individual saints or to all the saints can also be offered with the assistance of the prayer rope…
When monks carry the prayer rope in their hands, it serves as a reminder of their obligation to pray unceasingly in keeping with the commandment of the Holy Apostle Paul to “pray without ceasing”. Anyone can keep a prayer rope in a pocket or some other discreet place where it can be easily used unnoticed when in situations where it is better to pray or remember prayer in secret, without attracting the attention of others. The prayer rope can also be placed over the head of our bed, in an automobile, with a small cross or icon, or in other appropriate places as a reminder of prayer and a kind of blessing and a holy and godly presence in our lives.
But now, let us discuss briefly the primary use for which this prayer rope was made. The whole purpose of the prayer rope is to assist us in offering our prayers before God and His Saints. In addition to serving as an external reminder and a blessing present with us, how can this little rope help us to pray? We can pray without a prayer rope, of course, and there are times when using the prayer rope may become a distraction for us in our attempts to concentrate in prayer. With that in mind, let us consider some ways in which the prayer rope can be of assistance.
There are times when our prayer is fervent and it is easy for us to pray. There are times when our thoughts are so distracted that we find it virtually impossible to concentrate on prayer. This is especially true when we try to keep a rule of prayer each day.
Prayer rope 4
Some days it goes very well, but other times—if not most of the time?—our efforts seem almost to be in vain. But because we are “creatures of habit”, as the saying goes, it is very profitable for us to set apart a special and regular time (or times) during the day for prayer.
The time in the evening before going to bed is a good time, as it is important to end the day with prayer. The morning, upon awakening from sleep, is also good, so as to begin the new day with prayer. Or a person may find other times during the day when he is able to be quiet and concentrate. We are trying to establish a rule of prayer in our lives, not an exception, so we want to find a time when each day we can find some quiet in order to concentrate and turn the eyes of our soul towards God.
We may want to read some prayers form a prayer book as part of this rule, or offer prayers and find quiet for our souls in other ways, such as reading religious literature, reflecting over the events of the past day—”Anaskopisis” – and so on.
Prayer rope 5
But one of the most effective ways to find benefit from a rule of prayer is to say a set number of the Jesus Prayer regularly each day. This does not have to be a large number, and it may take only fifteen minutes or so, but that will be the portion of our day that belongs to God, the little grains of salt that will add savor to our Christian life…
With the prayer rope, you can offer a set number of prayers and concentrate on the words of the prayer as you offer them. After collecting your thoughts, take the cross on the prayer rope in your left hand, holding it lightly between the thumb and the index finger.
Then, making the sign of the cross over yourself quietly, whisper the Jesus Prayer. As your thoughts become more concentrated, you may not need to continue crossing yourself or saying the prayer audibly. Other times, when concentration is difficult, use the sign of the cross and whispering as means to help keep your mind on prayer.
It is good to stand, with head bowed, in a humble position; some people like to raise their hands from time to time in their petitions for mercy. But others find it more helpful to sit or kneel, with head bowed, in order to concentrate. A lot depends on the individual and also on his health and upbringing. The important thing is to be able to keep still and concentrate on the words of the prayer as you repeat it. Of course, a person has to fight off the temptation to “rush”…
Prayer rope 6
We are constantly occupied by all kinds of thoughts that appear in our heads, and it seems we no sooner start to pray than we catch ourselves thinking about something else.
Here again, the physical presence of the prayer rope in our fingers can help us catch ourselves and return to our task of prayer more quickly. Or, meeting up with one of the markers or with the cross on the prayer rope as we move it through our fingers remind us that we have been robbed of the prayers we intended to offer. And immediately we can offer our prayers anew without getting further entangled in our thoughts about how easily we get distracted from prayer to God…
The prayer rope does not pray by itself, although some of them are so magnificent they may give that impression. Here is an important, traditional aid in offering prayers, and especially for a daily rule of prayer. But the important thing is to concentrate on words of the prayer, to offer heart-felt prayers to Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. If this little prayer rope helps you to say a prayer or reminds you to pray or helps you in some way to become more prayerful, it will have fulfilled its purpose, it will have tied you more closely and more intimately with Christ our God, and also brought you closer to the Kingdom of God, for “the Kingdom of God is within you.” (See: Luke 17:21)”
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From “The Prayer Rope – Meditations of a Monk of the Holy Mountain Athos”, originally published in “Agioritiki Martiria,” a magazine issued by the Xiropotamos Monastery (Mount Athos) and translated into English and published in full at http://tokandylaki.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/the-prayer-rope-meditations-of-monk-of.html

The World of Silence

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2014 by citydesert

“’Where silence is, man is observed by silence. Silence looks at man more than man looks at silence. Man does not put silence to the test; silence puts man to the test.

Silence is the only phenomenon today that is “useless”. It does not fit into the world of profit and utility; it simply is. It seems to have no other purpose; it cannot be ex¬ploited… It gives things something of its own holy uselessness, for that is what silence itself is: holy uselessness.
The basic phenomena take us, as it were, back to the beginning of things; we have left behind us what Goethe called “the merely derived phenomena” with which we normally live. It is like a death, for we are left on our own, faced with a new beginning—and so we are afraid.

Still like some old, forgotten animal from the beginning of time, silence towers above all the puny world of noise; but as a living animal, not an extinct species, it lies in wait, and we can still see its broad back sinking ever deeper among the briers and bushes of the world of noise. It is as though this prehistoric creature were gradually sinking into the depths of its own silence. And yet sometimes all the noise of the world today seems like the mere buzzing of insects on the broad back of silence.’
Max Picard, “The World of Silence”
Wolrd of silence 1
Reflection – This is an obscure book by an obscure author that a couple of us at Madonna House have discovered recently, and that I am enjoying very much. The author writes with poetic, almost mystical conviction on what I think is an important subject, perhaps one of the most important subjects there is, in fact.

Our world today flees from silence. There was a study at the University of Virginia recently that was much reported in the media, where a large percentage of people, when asked to simply sit in silence without any distractions for a mere fifteen minutes, preferred to administer mild electric shocks to themselves rather than do that.

‘Silence puts man to the test’. And so we flee from it. We surround ourselves with distractions—electronic devices on which we can play games, listen to music, watch movies, chatter away or follow the twittering chatter of others. It is not that all these devices are evil and must be rejected (it would be rather hypocritical for me to suggest that), but rather they must be put away regularly, turned off frequently, silenced daily.

It is a very deep matter, this necessity of silence for the human person. It is this whole business of uselessness, of a non-utilitarian mode of being. Our world today, insofar as it cluttered by noise and chatter and ceaseless activity, is a world of utilitarian values. What use is it? That is the only question. If something is not delivering some value to us–diverting us, feeding us, informing us—then it is useless and to be thrown aside.

But as with things, so it is with people, right? We cannot adopt a utilitarian attitude towards life without extending that towards the people in our life too. And of course then we have the phenomenon of people being thrown away, or at best (and what a sad and pathetic best it is) judged and valued by how ‘useful’ they are. An insecure and terrible way of being.

And so we have the need for this holy uselessness of silence. Picard is right—silence is the one thing that cannot be exploited economically. It is available to us, free, at the simple price of turning off all the sources of noise in our life. And it is a very deep matter—Picard is a very deep writer indeed on this subject.

Silence as ‘death’, as returning us to the immediate experience of reality, underived, uninterpreted, raw and naked, like Adam at his creation, silence as this vast towering reality that surrounds us and threatens to engulf us, silence as a constant presence encompassing the world of noise—these are serious things to consider. We flee from silence; really, in this we are fleeing from reality, from ourselves and from God. Ought we?”

Fr. Denis Lemieux, a Priest of the Madonna House community based in Combermere, Ontario, Canada.
http://frdenis.blogspot.com.au/
World of Silence 2
“This classic work is so filled with aphoristic passages that it is easy to lose sight of the larger premise. That premise, that silence is not the absence of noise, the absence of something, but is a phenomenon in itself, was startlingly clear only when this work first appeared in 1948.

As a German Swiss Catholic theologian, Picard is strongly influenced by the Catholic phenomenologist Gabriel Marcel, who wrote the preface to this edition, but also by related philosophers such as Heidegger, and by the whole thrust of lyric German poets like Rilke and Holderlin. Equally strong, however, is the influence of the post-war atmosphere of cautious post-modern conservatism, at home in, say, Gilson, Maritain, and Thibaud – reconstructionists and rehabilitators of a broken world.

To Picard the theologian, then, silence is to be contrasted with language, the gift of consciousness that distinguishes the rational being from the universe, capable of silence and noise. Silence is the context of consciousness, language is the expression of creation. Picard sees language not as the product of the evolution of consciousness but as the gift of God, a divine jump-start for consciousness.

Through the many short chapters of his work, Picard offers impressions of the role of silence in balancing human effort and conserving virtue. But Picard’s insistence on the supremacy of language versus the noise of modern technology (from construction noise to the radio) is a weak protest against time and change.

While Picard is to be commended for rescuing silence from its philosophical enemies, several resources for breaking the paradox that he proposes may be found elsewhere. For example, Ricouer’s transcendence of modernity as a path, or the Zen limnology that breaks the absolutized boundary of language with silence. There are other channels into which we can navigate without depending upon language or our present “reality.”

We can see Picard’s hesitancy in a passage in the chapter “Nature and Silence”:
‘The silence of nature is a conflicting silence from the human point of view. It is a blessed silence because it gives man an intuitive feeling of the great silence that was before the world and out of which everything arose. And it is oppressive at the same time because it puts man back into the state in which the word might be taken away from him again into that original silence.’

But isn’t this exactly what death is, this “taken away from” and return to “original silence”? This state must be explored not because it can be posited but because it suggests the natural restful state of the universe, wherein lies the consciousness we enjoy, wherein is found God. But Picard’s orthodoxy makes him wary of approximating his discovery of silence, pushing it metaphysically or theologically to reveal itself. This is the ultimate irresolution of an otherwise breakthrough work.

This work is invaluable in inoculating us against the fear of silence, in seeing silence as a natural state, in preparing us for a life of silence if we choose, the beginning of a mysticism of silence and solitude, and a death which is, after all, silence.”
http://www.hermitary.com/bookreviews/picard.html
picard_max
“Something like a hymn, a prayer, a work of devotion rather than philosophical analysis. A book that could be read (perhaps should be read) contemplatively rather than discursively, so that each sentence and word is allowed to work its way through the frantic motions of our brains into the quieter notions of our hearts, shaping a whole new and wonderful vision of the world. For it is all of creation, both visible and invisible, that Picard senses as emerging from the fertile womb of silence, about which adjectives like divine and holy and life-giving might properly be applied: ‘it is a positive, a complete world unto itself.’ Whether Picard is speaking of God or man, language or music, the world of nature or of human artifice, silence is the lingua franca which he develops in images both aural and (even more strikingly) visual: ‘the branches of the trees are like dark lines that have followed the movements of the silence; the leaves thickly cover the branches as if the silence wanted to conceal itself. . .The forest is like a great reservoir of silence out of which the silence trickles in a thin, slow stream and fills the air with its brightness.’ Picard’s great prose poem, like the silence it depicts, ‘does not fit into the world of profit and utility; it simply is. It seems to have no other purpose; it cannot be exploited.’ Perhaps herein also lies our highest praise for this remarkable book.”
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/710528.The_World_of_Silence
Picard 2
Max Picard (June 5, 1888 in Schopfheim – October 3, 1965 in Sorengo, Switzerland) was a Swiss writer, important as one of the few thinkers writing from a deeply Platonic sensibility in the 20th century.

See further:
http://archive.thetablet.co.uk/article/7th-january-1956/11/the-mind-of-max-picard