Tag Archives: orthodoxy

We need Negative theology

Thinking about the way we come to understand the contours of our relationship to God we have the work of negative theology. We inhabit a world in which human beings have faith and reason and they pursue the beauty of Truth. The truth here is not an object but a person. Christians call truth by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the second Person of the Trinity. I like Father Dumitru Staniloae’s theological work since I encountered his writing a decade ago in theology school. Father is now deceased but he was an Orthodox priest and theologian of the Romanian Orthodox Church, who, in my opinion, has relevance for Catholics today.

Negative theology is still a mental operation, the final one, mixed, however, as prayer is, with a feeling of the powerlessness to comprehend God. It is related to the comprehension of God through nature, history, Holy Scripture, art, dogma and in general through everything which is between us and God either as an external reality or as a system of concepts and symbolic images. Every reality, concept or symbolic image mirrors God as well as awakens in us the proof or unexplainable feeling that God is totally different, in comparison with them; so they compel us to negate all the positive attributes which, because of them, we ascribe to God. In other words,  all things in between open for us a perspective to God; at the same time they confront us with an infinite abyss of divine reality which we can’t grasp with our minds, and which first of all doesn’t show us anything that created realities, concepts and symbolic images do. But our mind, faced with this abyss still doesn’t give up looking at things, concepts and symbolic images, but turns its gaze from this to that and finds that they don’t give it the means to describe the abyss. It tries, we might say, to measure it with every measure in the world, in other words with every attribute or image, or with every concept based on created things. Finally, the mind realizes that not one is suitable. So it eliminates them one by one. Negative theology is therefore a mental operation because it investigates the context of various attributes and concepts and compares them with the divine abyss, which it lives somehow with feeling, and finds they are insufficient.

In a certain sense, negative theology is still a rational operation; it is still an exact weighing of each concept, whose limits only now appear to the mind in all their clarity. But the comprehension of the definite content of a concept is made at the same time as we cast our gaze over the divine abyss which reason can’t encompass, but which the mind gains by intuition, by a look or feeling of another nature; so this operation, although on the one hand mental, isn’t only rational, not only deductive, but has an intuitive element in it, the ascertaining of which is limitless and therefore can’t be described. It is a rational operation by which the mind concludes, nevertheless, that reason isn’t sufficient.

Father Dumitru Staniloae
Orthodox Spirituality, in the section titled “Negative and Positive Theology: A Dynamic Relationship”

Russian Patriarch gives interview on Orthodox presence in England

Pontifical characters are giving interviews and responding to personal questions these days: Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, the Ukrainian Major Archbishop and now the Russian Patriarch, Kirill of Moscow.

Patriarch Kirill answers questions about the Orthodoxy in Great Britain, Christian life after the Great Schism of 1054, the sainthood of Edward the Confessor, the presences of Russians in England today, and the supposed interest of Prince Charles in Orthodoxy.

Indeed, an interesting interview. The Patriarch was far more neutral than I would’ve thought, especially around history and the question of conversion to Orthodoxy. His Holiness washes over how Catholics and Protestants come into communion with Orthodox Church.

As a point of fact, the “conversion” of Catholics to Orthodoxy is unique to each Orthodox diocese; some bishops handle the situation as the early Church handled schismatics (e.g., Donatists), and others look to the way Peter Mogila handled various denominations in 16th century Russia. As friend said, generally speaking, Oriental Orthodox come in through confession, Catholics come in through a profession of faith, Trinitarian professing Protestants come in through chrismation, and everyone else comes in through baptism and Chrismation. Plus, it is noted, some liturgical books have different formulas of things people have to renounce and accept for different types of Christians converting. So, for example, a Catholic would have to renounce the authority of the Pope, but a Methodist would not.

The interview is in Russian with English subtitles. At least one era is noted: Christians don’t worship saints, they venerate (honor) them.

Watch the 18 minute video.



Russian Patriarch losing popularity at home, and in the Ukraine

One doesn’t point to the failures of others in a mean-spirited way. No one likes it done to himself, but more importantly, it isn’t Christian. Nevertheless, we need to get to the heart of certain issues.

An article by Andriy Skumin, “Mission: Impossible” published today online on the international edition of  The Ukrainian Week raises a lot of questions about how the Orthodox see themselves as they observe 1025 years since receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is facing lots of difficulties these days in places like the Ukraine, some of his own making, and some he’s been made to face from outside the Church.

Whether Skumin’s article is completely objective may be debated. But what needs to be studied are the ways by which the Christian Church’s ability to proclaim the gospel is effective today given certain cultural, political and religious factors. Also, whether the Christian Church is Orthodox or Catholic, both ecclesial communities face similar issues in their milieu; reality is crucial to acknowledge and work within. Hopefully, Patriarch Kirill will be able to service the Gospel and not his own ideology. And I would say the say for the Catholic Major Archbishop in the Ukraine.

At this time Christians are celebrating 1025 years of the reception of sacrament of Baptism of the Rus; and in particular, the Kyian Rus. I happen to think that the Russian Orthodox Church is a bit too imperialistic in their own circles but also in forcing others to follow them. They are often economical with the truth when it comes to common history.

Locally, the Catholic bishop of the Stamford Eparchy of the Ukrainians, Bishop Paul Chomnycky, had a Moleben in thanksgiving to God for the gift of baptism.

Archbishop Dmitri reposes

Abp Dmitri writing.jpgVery early this morning, Archbishop Dmitri, 87, emeritus archbishop of Dallas and the Diocese of the South, died after failing health.

The obit for His Eminence (Robert R. Royster) was published by the Orthodox Church in America. He did live a terrific life for Christ and the Church.
May his memory be eternal.

St Basil’s Cathedral at 450

google st basils cathedral.jpg

The famously beautiful Cathedral of Saint Basil’s in Moscow’s “Red Square” marks its 450th birthday. The origins of the church date back to the 14th century and is dedicated to the Trinity, but the structure really shows several churches linked together. The one currently known was built by Ivan the Terrible in 1554, the church’s domes are an icon really to the Blessed Virgin Mary and later named popularly to recall the life of a local saint, Basil.
Google commemorates this history. Rome Reports has a video story.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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