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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

An Apology to My Orthodox Readers

Osculetur me osculo oris sui....

Origen begins his homilies on the Song of Songs commenting on the first verse, "Let him kiss me with a kiss from his mouth". The mouth and the kiss, of course, is the Incarnate Word of God, uttered by the lips.

Thinking about lots of things the other night, I thought that this is the reality of Christianity. One of the most influential books that I have read is the biography that Archimandrite Sophrony wrote of St. Silouan of Mount Athos. In that biography, the simple peasant monk is confronted at one point by a priest missionary monk who was a true firebrand. When the latter began to rail against the heretics, St. Silouan reminded him that it might perhaps be better if the good father told his auditors what they were doing right rather than what they were doing wrong. In that sense, their hearts would then be open to what he would have to say.

(My favorite saying by St. Silouan is: "Our brother is our life.")

You Orthodox are resilient, your liturgies are beautiful, and you have always treated me in a welcoming and kind manner. I have learned so much from the Orthodox Church, and it has only been my time amongst the Orthodox and Anglicans that has made me realize what I was truly looking for as a Christian: to be a full human being. Christ only has the satisfaction for this desire, and I see now that God writes straight with very crooked lines. You are my brothers, and I pray for you and with you. The fact that we cannot share the fruits of the Eucharistic table does not distress me. At least you give me some of the crumbs, but you do it so lovingly that I think of it as the sweetest delicacy.

I don't do theology because I don't understand theology. I'll rant sometimes, and sometimes I'll writes things that look theological. But in the end, anything I do that is close to theology is what I do in church, and that's pray. You don't see that, but I would hope that it would show a little bit in what I write here. And I hope you will continue to welcome me into your churches, so I can venerate the icons, light a candle, and prostrate myself before the cross. It is only in this intimacy, in this coming together, that God nourishes my heart.

Brothers and sisters, forgive.

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don't try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.
Like this. Like this. (Rumi)


At 10:37 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Yeah, it might have been a little excessive, but I think the point was a sound one: be careful how hard you are on "heretics," because you might have some 'splaining to do to the guy next to you in Heaven. See, e.g., Greatmartyr St. Nicetas the Goth. "You were an Arian priest? Really? Yes, I did say that I couldn't share communion with someone having 'important doctrinal difference.' Well, this is a bit awkward...."

And by the way, on behalf of myself and other Aggie science majors from Louisiana, I have just one word to say regarding your good fortune in love:


At 10:57 AM, Blogger AG said...


Thanks, and BTHO Memphis!! WHOOP!!!!

(Sorry A.V., go back to your regularly scheduled non-college sports programming)

At 12:37 PM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Thanks for this, Arturo. I'm Orthodox and I was not in the least offended (not that I'm a very representative Orthodox). I'm not sure that you really needed to apologize, however.

Orthodox bloggers can unload on Rome and the Western Church and no one bats an eyelash. Rome is heretical or a schismatical pseudo-church, etc. Orthodox can say this stuff, and I guess, that's somehow fine or to be expected ...

But I don't see why anyone should be surprised or offended if an RC blogger follows suit - and not at all concerning issues at the heart of the Orthodox Faith, but having to do mainly with certain American convert attitudes.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Noblesse oblige

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Mack Ramer said...


I'm reading the biography of St. Silouan right now actually, and I am struck by what a wonderful and rich book it is. I have actually never read anything so wonderful from within the Roman Catholic tradition, but I'm sure this is due to my ignorance more than anything else (I am not a well-read person). The only thing that comes close to this book in my experience is a biography of Padre Pio I once read by C.M. Carty, though it was not particularly well-written; it did not contain the richness of spiritual insight that this book contains, and focused rather heavily on the miracles in Padre Pio's life.

You seem like a well-read person; could you (or anyone else) recommend a book from within the RC tradition that is similar to the biography of St. Silouan?

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Fr. Gregory Jensen said...


Thank you for your apology and let us now leave past harshness (on either side) in the past.

I would however like to reiterate that your criticism of the Orthodox Church (and Eastern Christianity in general) did have some merit. It is too easy for us to retreat into a ghetto mentality--whether that is an 'ethnic' or 'convert' ghetto.

Out of curiosity, how do you think we might get out of this mindset? What concerns me is that at least in my experience Eastern Christians (Orthodox or Catholic) tend to prefer thinking of ourselves as a subculture rather than as a catholic Church. As you said, we tend to be a bit of "boutique" in our self-understanding/presentation.

So I ask again (and this is for anyone by the by) what do you think we might try to get out of ourselves a bit more?

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...


Far be it from me to tell a priest what to do! But I would say that one step in the right direction is to put converts through a period of discernment as to if they are joining the Orthodox Church for the right reasons. Another would be extreme reluctance to accept Roman Catholics into the Orthodox Church.

A good post on this topic can be read here about one of the holiest people I have ever known, Archimandrite Anastassy.

God bless,


At 3:28 PM, Blogger Ochlophobist said...

I am the sort of person who would rather have my friend slap me in the face and cuss me out or praise me with song, verse or extravagent prose than I would have a friend who thinks lukewarm thoughts of good or ill towards me, shaking my hand either way. I have always tried to live my life this way. Of those who know me, almost all of them either love me as a brother or disdain me as the pompous ass that I am. I love your writing and I took your post to be that of a brother who was tired and had had enough with his sibling, which was fair even if people wish to nitpick your points. I am of late probably one of those Orthodox who has irritated you, as I sometimes spend too much time in vain discussions. Anyway, I forgive and God forgives. Forgive me a sinner.

There really is no such thing as theology, if we are honest. Poverty and silence are the natural abode of truth, as Georges Rouault once wrote.

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it is only in poverty and silence that one can actually understand that one is not god.

I liked the post even though I posted a silly comment.


At 8:24 PM, Blogger 123 said...

I loved the post and thought it well worth stating and discussing and disagreeing about. Thanks for your thoughts and I look forward to more on all sort of topics.

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arturo writes:

"Another would be extreme reluctance to accept Roman Catholics into the Orthodox Church."

Well, Arturo, do you think that this "reluctance" should also apply to the Papal Church(es) accepting converts from the Orthodox Churches?

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Visibilium said...

This Orthodox believer wasn't offended. I think that God is happy when we call the shots the way we see them. He gave us reason, not omniscience. March on!

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