The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Monday, December 26, 2005

Spiritual Meadow

A monk consecrates the bread for Mass while merely walking to church with the loaf in his hand...

A maiden threatens to commit suicide if a monk defiles her......

A negligent dead monk gets to stand on the head of a bishop in the infernal lake of fire through the prayers of his elder.....

These and other bizarre incidents are recounted in John Moschos' Spiritual Meadow (seventh century), a book that can give theologians an infinite amount of headaches about what the early Church actually believed. If you really want to challenge what you think the Church is really like, you need to read this book.

A very good friend of mine once said that the three major forms of Christianity have three radically different fundamentalisms: with the Protestants, it is of course Biblical. With the Orthodox, it is liturgical (just try taking out some stichera at Vespers and watch the sparks fly.) With Roman Catholics, however, it is historical: the Catholic Church is true because history proves it (St. Peter died in Rome, no Pope in history was a heretic, etc., etc.). But history has a way of jumping up and biting you on the nose; people did things in the past that we interpret differently according to our own agenda. This is what happened with Dom Gueranger and liturgy: a romanticist and unrealistic portayal of historical reality.

John Moschos throws a wrench in this system. All our conventions, prejudices, and shibboleths are put to the test in his little book of monastic episodes. Indeed, all monastic literature of this period can be characterized by this raw sense of reality, without the need to define and dogmatize about many of the things we are obsessed with.

Roman Catholics in particular (and yes, I am Catholic) need to stop reading into history as if everything says: "we're #1" or "we're always right". The world is much broader than the Baltimore Catechism, or even the much beloved Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Where you can get Moschos' book:


At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read Dalrymple's travel book based on Moscos' Spirtual Meadow? From the Holy Mountain is the title -- a must read!!!!

At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism is the best way to learn the Faith.

The Universal Catechism of the Church does hold the Truth in written form although there are certainly other cultures, histories, art etc and the Truth cannot just be read or intellecutalize but experienced both by human action and by prayer


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