Some thoughts from dom Gregory Dix

This was read by Professor William Tighe this morning at the St. Basil Center’s summer program. I thought it worth putting on my blog for others to read: it is wonderful. From the final chapter of dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy, a technical book on the Eucharist that often reads as a novel (and often better than almost all of them).

“THROUGHOUT ALL AGES, WORLD WITHOUT END”

“This do in remembrance of me.” Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; Continue reading

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The Ambiguous Metropolitan

This past week, the ostensibly Orthodox journal, The Wheel (whose pages and staff include defrocked priests and people who openly promote jettisoning the Tradition of the Church) ran an issue purportedly on what it means to be human, all the while bringing in as well all sorts authors to argue for (one essay) and against (multiple) Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage, chastity, and sexual mores. The Introductory essays were studied models in ambiguity and question begging offered by two well-known names, viz., Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) and Fr. Andrew Louth. While neither broke openly with the Tradition, both of them left me asking exactly how they were affirming it; more a muddying of waters than a pouring of oil them. Now, Met. Kallistos has always been a very gracious man, though I have only had a very few conversations with him. He hosted me at his digs in Oxford more than 20 years ago and patiently endured my questions. His book, The Orthodox Church, has been keenly influential in the conversion of thousands, including some of my own students, so I am not taking after him. Further, he needs our prayers, as age has caught up with him. The last few times I have been in Oxford he has always been a bit more frail, and he suffers from a number items attendant on age. All the same, this essay was not what one would hope from him.

You can read Met. Kallistos’s essay here; Fr. Louth’s here.

Rebuttals of various weight and insight have come from Pr. Edith Humphrey (here), Fr. John Cox (here), Fr. Lawrence Farley (here), and Hieromonk Herman (Majkrzak) which is here. The news of this came out via a rather distasteful essay on his Excellency’s piece, making rather imprecise, and I would say, inflammatory statements. I am not linking to it.

Now, there are other essays in The Wheel besides the two mentioned, but most of them are behind a paywall (I am not ponying up for these) but two others are not, both very good essays, the one by Fr. John Behr (here) and the other by Prof. Bradley Nassif (here). I commend both to you for your edification.

Currently, I am working on something that may take several posts on what exactly marriage is, looking at it from the Old Testament, the Gospels, the Epistles, the Early Church, and then from the perspective of marriage as a sacrament, that is, that it is an instrument of Grace, one of the means by which we are sanctified to God, along with our whole family.

One of the matters that bugs me about people who crow that homosexuals should be afforded the same outlets as heterosexuals (both labels I find problematic), that they should have the same rights to approach God in marriage to those they love, is the notion that someone, indeed anyone has a right to grace. I have no ‘right’ to marry if no woman will have me. Indeed I have no right to anything from God, it is all a gift, and were I not blessed with the gift of my wife, I cannot go out and demand someone marry me simply because I don’t like to be single. But more on that anon.

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Humility: a sine qua non of scholarship

“We are not sure we are right until we have made the best case possible for those who are wrong.” Lord Acton

Reformation debates could turn into bruising affairs. Anyone who has studied the Reformation knows this. Not only did it take quick wits, a vast memory, and a comprehension of all the implications of doctrines and the arguments attendant on them, but it took thick skin and a ready wit. The key thing, however, was never to underestimate your interlocutor. Sure, you could call him a Hussite, tell him you’d eat shit if that’s what God told you to do, imply that he had neither moral courage nor even any sense of conviction, but you could not take him for granted. A complete history of the disputations and colloquies of the sixteenth century has yet to be written, even though we have a good bit already done on a number of them (Leipzig, Marburg, Lausanne, Regensburg, Westminster, et al.). A whole study unto itself would be the rhetoric and framing of the arguments in these episodes. Johann Eck alone would warrant a lengthy chapter. One of the things that stands out, however, is that despite each side’s assurance that it held the truth whole and undefiled, none of the individuals really acted as individuals (though Eck affected this for the first part of the Leipzig disputation, especially in handling Carlstadt, but that is not how he ended). In short, scholars understood that no one could master all the facts. Continue reading

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And now a message from R. G. Collingwood

My good friend Chuck French has encouraged me to be more deliberate about my blog (this was a few weeks ago), and I hope now to be so. I found this from a friend. I don’t always agree with Collingwood, but found this so remarkably spot on, indeed prophetic in all senses, that it compelled my will to publish it here. So, without any further ado, “let him who readeth understand:”

Let us suppose a civilization whose most characteristic features had for many centuries been based upon the predominance, among those who shared it, of the belief that truth was the most important thing in the world, and that consequently scientific thinking, systematic, orderly thinking, theoretical and practical alike, pursued with all the energy at his command and with all the skill and care at his disposal, was the most valuable thing man could do. In such a civilization every feature would be marked with some peculiar characteristic derived from this prevailing habit of mind and not to be expected in a civilization differently based. Continue reading

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Iconographers, Symbols, & the Goodness of Creation

The text which follows leads the soul to a more profound philosophy of th things of the spirit. For he teaches us here that the universe is entirely consistent with itself, that there is an indestructible harmony among all intelligible things and a kind of cooperation which exists among all beings. The universe is not separated from that with which it is connected, but all things continue in existence governed by the power of being; and that which is truly being is the divine Goodness in itself–or call it by another name you may find to express its indestructible nature. And yet, how can we find a name for that which the divine voice of the Apostle tells us is beyond every name (Phil. 2:9)? The only name you could find to express that ineffable nature and power is that of the Good. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in From Glory to Glory, p. 122. Continue reading

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Nothing secular but sin

Here was this city, Renaissance from end to end, set under clear skies and a burning sun; and the religion in it was the soul dwelling in the body. It was the assertion of the reality of the human principle as embodying the divine. Even the exclusive tenets of Christianity were expressed under pagan images. Revelation spoke through forms of natural religion; God dwelt unashamed in the light of day; priests were priests, not aspiring clergymen; they sacrificed, sprinkled lustral water, went in long, rolling processions with incense and lights, and called heaven Olympus. Sacrum Divo Sebastiano, I saw inscribed on a granite altar. I sat under priest-professors who shouted, laughed, and joyously demonstrated before six nations in one lecture room. I saw the picture of the “Father of princes and kings and Lord of the world” exposed in the streets on his name-day, surrounded by flowers and oil lamps, in the manner in which, two centuries ago, other lords of the world were honoured. I went down into the Catacombs on St. Cecilia’s Day and St. Valentine’s, and smelled the box and the myrtle underfoot that did reverence to the fragrance of their memories, as centuries ago they had done reverence to victors in another kind of contest. In one sentence, I began to understand that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”; that as He took the created substance of a Virgin to fashion for Himself a natural body, so still He takes the created substance of men — their thoughts, their expressions, and their methods — to make for Himself that mystical body by which He is with us always; in short, I perceived that “there is nothing secular but sin.” Catholicism, then, is “materialistic?” Certainly; it is as materialistic as the Creation and the Incarnation, neither more nor less. Hugh Benson, Confessions of a Convert Continue reading

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Blogging My Way Through the Semester (without using any names).

Skull ChaliceTerm has begun, and at the moment I have 65 students, though I think a few may drop out of my Byzantine empire class, which at the moment has 30. I had a colleague, a modern European historian who used to ask me “How do you get so many students to take a course on the Byzantine empire?” I told him they all enjoy the stories. So, something I have thought about doing for a long time was blogging my way through term. Some will find what I write of little interest, but many of the things I write, I do so for my own sake, a catalogue of memory, and I hope at least some will find this entertaining, if not enlightening. Continue reading

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