Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Through a glass clearly. A Benedictine oblate blog

I found the Byzantine Anglo-Catholic Blog recently.

The subheading of the Byzantine Anglo-Catholic Blog is “The interplay between Benedictine spirituality, high-church Anglicanism, and the hesychast tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy.”1

The author of the BAC blog listed the following parts Eastern Christian spirituality that have affected him the most, and he adds, at least up until now:

“— Theosis--theosis is the process of achieving union with God. It is a slow and gradual process and continues after death. It is done through prayer, reception of the sacraments, and participation in the life of the church. It is what Christianity is basically all about.

— The Jesus prayer--this is the underpinning of the Eastern Christian contemplative tradition, also referred to as hesychasm.1

— Icons--icons are not just pretty or inspiring pictures, but ways of connecting with God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints.

— Bells and smells--It's ok for the liturgy to be something of great aesthetic beauty, even if the aesthetic is very traditional. Arguably, worship of this sort is more conducive to contemplative prayer than even a well-done folk mass.

— Eschatology--God created the universe out of love, and he eventually wants to unite with it--but in a non-pantheistic way, let me stress. In the world to come, we will not only have resurrected physical bodies, but we will also live in a resurrected physical cosmos. This has obvious implications for how we treat each other, animals, and the environment in this life.”

I think I should know more about Eastern Orthodoxy, in part due to my interest in church unity, but mainly because of the East's contribution to monasticism in the West. I want to fully grasp the deep spirituality of the Catholic church. A place to begin looking through the glass clearly.

[See footnote 2 regarding the picture at the beginning of this blog.]



1. “The Greek word "hesychia" signifies peace, repose. The hesychast monks, besides various other spiritual exercises, uninterruptedly practiced the Jesus Prayer, that is, they continually repeated the words: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Such praying not infrequently was accompanied by special bodily techniques, for example, by prostrations, by a bent over posture of the body while sitting, by rhythmical breathing.”

“Monks who had long practiced such prayer attained a lofty state of spirit, perceived the manifest grace-filled presence of God in their hearts and in a radical manner eliminated from their consciousness not only sinful, but all involuntary notions and feelings; they were wholly absorbed in contemplating God. The hesychast monks who were successful in this prayer not infrequently received gifts of prophetical clairvoyance, and they promoted the enlightenment of the people surrounding them and of those who resorted to their spiritual help. In a word, the influence of these monks, who lived mainly on Athos, [the spiritual center of Eastern Orthodoxy] was very powerful during the epoch of Gregory Palamas.”

Footnote 1 source

2. “The Wonderworking KURSK ROOT ICON of Our Mother of God of "The SIGN"

The picture at the first of this blog is from the Korennaya (Kursk Root) Hermitage in Kurst, Russia.

“In the 13th century, during the dreadful period of the Tartar invasion of Russia, the devastated province of Kursk was emptied of people and its principal city, Kursk, became a wilderness. Now, the residents of the city of Rylsk, which had been preserved from invasion, often journeyed to the site of Kursk to hunt wild beasts. One of the hunters, going along the bank of the river Skal, which-was not very far from ruined Kursk, noticed an icon lying face down on the ground next to the root of a tree. The hunter picked it up and found that it was an icon of the Sign, such as was enshrined and venerated in the city of Novgorod. At this time, the icon's first miracle was worked, for no sooner had the hunter picked up the sacred image than there immediately gushed forth with great force an abundant spring of pure water. This took place on September 8th in the year 1295.”

.... skipping ahead in the long long of the Kursk area and the Hermitage ...

“At the Battle of Kursk in 1943, Korennaya was an important head quarters of the Russian Army. There is a large WWII Memorial Museum located next to the Kursk Root Hermitage on land that used to be part of the monastery. It was used for the Generals underground bunkers. The Battle of Kursk is history's largest tank battle. The German army was defeated and their strategic initiative was lost forever. Shortly thereafter, the German South Army Group surrendered at Stalingrad. These defeats resulted in an eventual German retreat from Russia which was then closely pursued by the Red Army. The Red Army moved into Germany and captured Berlin on May 9, 1945. The Russian Military suffered an estimated 13,600,000 deaths in expelling the German invaders. ...

“Most all of the Hermitage buildings were neglected for 70+ years during the communist regime. Many repairs still need to be completed. A large building located straight across from the Main Monastery court yard is a solid building but is waiting for funds. During the soviet control of the Korennaya Hermitage, they tried to cover the Kursk Root Spring by filling the whole area with a cement cap but the Holy Spring Water would always find a way to escape and continue it's Holy Tradition since 1295. The communists also put guard dogs by the Holy Spring to keep all the people from using any of the Holy Spring Water and any of the monastery.”

Footnote 2 source


  1. John: thanks for the opportunity to contribute to your blog. Also thanks for the great story about the icon. I'd heard of it in passing and I certainly knew about the big tank battle but I never realized that they were interconnected.

  2. Joe, thank you for your Byzantine Anglo-Catholic Blog. I have been thinking about your points I quoted. I am using your list of items as an initial guide for thinking about Eastern Orthodoxy. It is all amazing.

    The Russian Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that the best, short description of the 20th century is that “Men have forgotten God.” It always makes me smile when I learn, for example, that this month some monks will be walking in a procession with an icon near the site of a big tank battle during WWII or that the Russian communist government could not stop the flow of pure water from the spring associated with the icon.