Don’t Look Back

YOUR HOST IS ATTEMPTING To navigate between two parishes, one Latin and one Byzantine, with the latter using the Julian Calendar no less. (Most Byzantine Catholic places, in the US at least, use the Gregorian Calendar.) This year’s Gregorian and Julian Easters are one week apart. Next year they are five weeks apart! This year was kind of easy: when we reached Saturday evening in my breviary, I flipped back to the beginning of week Five of Lent. I’ll get to Palm Sunday this week and get to Holy Week next week. Then I’ll drop back into sync with the West after the week-long Sunday of the Easter Octave. ANYWAY… all this as prelude to the fact that this morning I read (again) the passage for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent. It ends with St Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews 3:19. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. They, here, is the People of Israel, and entering in is the Promised Land.

Backstory: when the people first got to the Promised Land, they sent 12 spies into the land to see what manner of land it was, what people were there, and what their prospects were. Two of the spies came back and said, “Wow. God is about to deliver on his promises, big time!” The other ten, however, were naysayers who said there were giants in the land and we (the people of Israel) were doomed if we went ahead. The vast majority of the people believed the 10, and wept for fear. God was angry and said they would all die rather than enter into his promised land.

Today, instead of hearing Hebrews 3:19 as a punishment from God, I heard it as it was written: their own unbelief kept them from entering the land. Even if there were giants there, even if the land was crawling with scorpions and aliens with laser guns… if the people had trusted God and walked in, everything would have been as he said. But their own lack of faith prevented them from taking God at his word. Their own fear became their own death. Their own failure became the judgment against them. It would not have mattered if God had tried to coax them forward. They were terrified.

So they did not enter into his rest.

Perfect love drives out all fear.

Mary becomes the mother of God by saying yes and never turning back. Lot’s wife failed because she looked back. Judas realized his mistake, threw the money back at the priests, but chickened out and hung himself. Peter realized his mistake and repented, and returned to the Lord. (Hear the Homily from Fr Michael Hurley, OP. Open your heart to the Lord and allow him to draw you close.)

Anyone who puts their hand to the plough, says Our Lord, but then looks back is not worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Don’t look back.

Something Greater.

The Readings for the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt
The Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast

OUR HOLY MOTHER MARY OF Egypt, as she is called in the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete, is perhaps my most-favorite of female saints. Her regular feast day is 1 April which is always in Lent so – like the other saints of this Church Season – she was given a Sunday so that her feast would not get obscured. However she – of all the saints in Lent – is especially Lenten. It makes sense that she should have a Sunday. 1 April being Saturday this year, this whole weekend is hers. There is nothing twee or Victorian about her. She is not a visionary or mystic. She is a sinner who returned to her God. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Her Life is read in Church on Wednesday or Thursday of this week as part of Matins. (Wednesday night is normal, but I’ve been in places where it’s read on Thursday night – may just be a scheduling issue…) This year one thing stands out.

As I mentioned, she is a sinner who repents, nothing more. But she is a very prolific sinner. I’ve appended her words to the end of this post. She did not do things out of hatred of God or love of evil. She wasn’t paid to do evil. She was simply following her bliss: things that she enjoyed.

But the thing that stands out is at the beginning of the tale, the whole point. The Elder Zosimas has been a monk since childhood until he was 53. “After that, he began to be tormented with the thought that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone, saying to himself mentally, “Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished? Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?” Thus thought the elder, when suddenly an angel appeared to him and said: “Zosima, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course. But there is no man who has attained perfection. Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished. That you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham and go to the monastery by the River Jordan.

The whole tale is predicated on this promise: to show him something greater than his own journey. To this end he meets St Mary of Egypt who has struggled alone for her 50 years in the desert of her own choice seeking God. There’s not further comment on the Angel’s promise in the text, but the implication is clear: the monk thinks he’s done it all… but this one sinner who repented is greater, living in the angelic realm even while on earth.

Beyond that, St Mary seems to have had communion only twice as an adult and never even once attended the liturgy. This is paralleled by the odd practice of the monastery to which the Elder attaches himself: at the beginning of Lent the entire community leaves the monastery, each going his own way. They only return on Pascha. This is a story about someone inside the church being sent beyond the church’s walls to meet a saint.

Can we imagine that God’s power stops at the doors of the Church? No. Can we imagine our faith has no effect in the world? No. How great is God’s mercy? Infinite. How loudly can God call us even through our sins!

Holy Mother Mary of Egypt, pray to God for us!

I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality It is more becoming to speak of this briefly, so that you may just know my passion and my lechery. for about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that. I was like a fire of public debauch. And it was not for the sake of gain — here I speak the pure truth. Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money. I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me, doing free of charge what gave me pleasure. do not think that I was rich and that was the reason why I did not take money. I lived by begging, often by spinning flax, but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth. This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life. That is how I lived. Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Lybians and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, Where are these men hurrying to?’ He replied,They are all going to Jerusalem for the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross, which takes place in a few days.’ I said to him, Will they take me with them if I wish to go?’No one will hinder you if you have money to pay for the journey and for food.’ And I said to him, `To tell you truth, I have no money, neither have I food. But I shall go with them and shall go aboard. And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not. I have a body — they shall take it instead of pay for the journey.’ I was suddenly filled with a desire to go, Abba, to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion. I told you, Abba Zosima, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace. God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words.”

Zosima, weeping, replied to her: “Speak on for God’s sake, mother, speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale.”

And, resuming her story, she went on: “That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off. While I, throwing away my spinning wheel, ran off towards the sea in the direction which everyone seemed to be taking. and, seeing some young men standing on the shore, about ten or more of them, full of vigour and alert in their movements, I decided that they would do for my purpose (it seemed that some of them were waiting for more travellers whilst others had gone ashore). Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying, `Take me with you to the place you are going to; you will not find me superfluous.’ I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter. Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat. Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once. How shall I relate to you what happened after this? Whose tongue can tell, whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage! And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will. There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher. I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness, how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive, when I had entangled in my net so many souls. But I think God was seeking my repentance. For He does not desire the death of a sinner but magnanimously awaits his return to Him.

Subtleties and Acquisitions

WHEN I FIRST Tested with Citizens Cafe Tel Aviv, they asked for my story with Hebrew and I noted that in college I had failed other languages, but passed all three semesters with an A/B average in Hebrew. The interviewer laughed and said it was usually the other way around. That said, I’m not exactly even sorta-fluent. I have some mad skills sometimes. Then I need help with getting the words out. Yet I can hear individual words now, even in native speakers on TV and Radio. It used to be that I was hearing one or two words in the middle of a sound salad. Now, even though I don’t know the words, I can identify that they are words, I can hear the breaks in there. Sometimes I can understand enough words that they convey a sense of what’s being said even if I cannot formulate a full reply.

This is probably the same for all languages but learning Hebrew is teaching me a lot about English. At NYU I learned about gerunds in English (“a form that is derived from a verb but that functions as a noun, in English ending in -ing, e.g., asking in do you mind my asking you?”) because I learned about them in Hebrew. I am only now (in the last couple of months) learning how to conjugate in the future tense, but it’s shocking how rarely we use it in normal conversation: even in English we use a lot of combinations of past and present to convey all sorts and conditions of time. We do not often speak in the future tense. Certainly there are times when we need it, but a lot of the time saying things like “I want to get up at 6 AM” is not in the future tense: it’s the present tense of want. I am going to the store later is not future. It’s about am in the present. I’m going to the store after church. Also present tense.

Another thing that keeps happening is realizing how we reuse words in English: why does “more coffee” mean “another cup of coffee” and also “fill it more-full” and also “I think I need a pound and a half more coffee this month”?

The flipside of this is how often Hebrew words (especially, but not only prepositions) get repurposed. This leads to subtleties in the language that are simply not present in English and cannot be made clear in translation. This is something that happens in other languages: going from one language to another you can usually find a 1:1 correspondence in meaning, but what do you do when a word has 5 or 10 subtly different meanings? You generally have to pick one meaning and go with it. If it were possible in English to use one word for confession (of sins) and thanksgiving (offering) would we not use that one word to describe Eucharist and Confession? It is possible to use one word for those two concepts in Hebrew! But we miss it by way of translation. We see this in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, called the Septuagint. There are meanings in the Hebrew that are not present in the Greek. And vice versa. I love this text from the Talmud: It once happened that five elders wrote the Torah for King Ptolemy in Greek, and that day was as ominous for Israel as the day on which the golden calf was made, since the Torah could not be accurately translated. It’s literally the mirror image of the Greek Orthodox claim that the Septuagint is inspired and that the Masoretic text has been “edited” to change the meanings. Unpack that all you want. (See more commentary here.) St Jerome, translating into Latin, used both the Greek and the Hebrew, but lost a bit of both coming into Latin.

By way of example for multiple, and overlapping, meanings:

To become religious – to journey from being a secular Jew to being a religious one – is described in modern Hebrew as
– הוא חזר בתשובה
hoo khazar b’tshuvah.
Literally translated that is “he returned in repentance” but tshuvah is also an answer to a question. Thus “He returned with an answer” is a valid understanding of the sentence. It gives rise, then, to this countersign. If someone goes from being religious to being secular you can say,
– הוא חזר בשאלה
hoo khazar b’sheola,
literally “he returned in a question”. When my tutor explained this to me we had an interesting discussion because becoming Christian does not leave you with “all the answers”. In fact, resting in the mystery in faith, in the cloud of unknowing, is often held as a greater virtue and so is the simple faith of a child. Mary had no idea what she was saying yes to, but she said it anyway. The same is true of anyone in RCIA (or OCIA) now. “I don’t understand why xyz is a sin… but I will accept it” is the same complaint. To take the Church’s teaching at face value is virtuous. Returning in a question is a leap of faith, but this concept is missing in English – fully present in the Hebrew, even if it is missed: returning with a question is exactly repenting: he returned. At least he returned. There’s hope.

How do you convey all these meanings in any language other than Hebrew? I don’t know.

Anyway, I continue to have more fun in Hebrew than I expected.

Misty Morning Sunrise

THE BOOK OF Ecclesiastes, named Kohelet or Qohelet in the Hebrew text (קֹהֶלֶת), is one of the Wisdom Books in the Hebrew Scriptures which can be read as meditation texts rather than literal “rules”. In fact, if you read the Wisdom Books without context, there are some serious contradictions between Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes in a literal sense. Proverbs seems to say, “If you are godly and wise, everything will go well for you.” Job would indicate that’s not always the case at all. The speaker in Ecclesiastes chimes in with an admission that he doesn’t know at all: sometimes the righteous prosper and sometimes not. Sometimes the impious prosper, sometimes not. He can’t make heads or tails of the whole thing. His only draw, from 1:2 to 12:8 is that “all is vanity”. How does your text translate that word? The differences go from futility to meaningless to even “all is pointless.”

But the word might imply that in more recent English, yet I don’t think that’s the intent in the Hebrew text. I’ve been chewing on this since the word was pointed out on the Bible Project podcast last week. They mentioned this, also, in their origional overview video on this book. Neither made this connection though…

The word rendered as vanity or futility is hevel הָ֫בֶל which means “mist” or “vapor”. This is also the name of Eve’s second son, usually translated as Abel in Genesis 4:2. But it’s the same word.

The question I’m chewing on is, Why did the Babylonian compositors of the Tanakh as we know it today leave us this word in this way? They are rounding out the Torah with the names of Eve’s Children at the same time as they are dropping Koheleth into the text. What were they thinking or expecting us to see? (I also wonder, btw, Why these same compositors put the Tetragrammaton in the mouth of Eve, long before the name was revealed to Moses. It’s there in the preceding verse, Genesis 4:1.)

I remembered this post from 2017. I was commenting on 1 John 2:17, “And the world is passing away, along with its desires. But whoever does God’s will remains forever.” We think of “passing away”. like “yes, the world will end”… The Greek word used for “passing” παράγω parago, is the same word used to describe Jesus passing by the tax collector’s station or the crowd blowing past blind Bartimaeus. This is the word that Paul would have used to describe a car passing him on the freeway into Thessaloniki.

The world, in other words, is Hevel. Everything on which we hang our hopes outside of God, is Hevel. This is why “hevel” or “mist” gets used to describe idols throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, using the plural form “the hevelim of the goyim” the passing winds of the gentiles. The vanity of wealth, the mere breath of a passing shadow that is man, every man is Abel, every man is killed by the spear over doing what is right anyway… and his family mourns him. But must move on.

Abel, forgotten. But not really. For he came up again this morning in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Office of Readings for the Solemnity of St Joseph. Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he, being dead, yet speaketh.” So, there is a way in which the righteous misty – being attested by God – is NOT just mist after all.

There is something to that at the end of Kohelet, right after he says that everything is nothing but a mist of mists.
hevel hahevelimha’col hevel הֲבֵ֧ל הֲבָלִ֛ים… הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל

Everything is mist except what points to God. For 12:13-14 wraps it up thus:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

As I noted in the post from 2017, the world is just whizzing by, is it not? Perhaps more now than ever before. And Christ on the Cross is the only still point in all of eternity.

All the things that we want today, that we didn’t even know existed yesterday, that we will have forgotten tomorrow like toys on Christmas that are forgotten by the new year, this world passes by. I’ve enjoyed, over the last three decades, watching fashion pass from the gay world into the straight world, be that shoe styles, popped collars, goatees, whatever. If it’s too gay this year, it will be all Joe the Plumber next year. But the gays will have moved on to a new thing. Tech is this way as well. What we didn’t even imagine as possible last month is all the rage now. And then tomorrow something new will come along.

The world just passes by. It is mist. It blows away when the winds change – but there is nothing but mists in that direction anyway as well.

And the cross is the center of stillness. The only solid thing in all of history is the incarnation of God. What God has done is always eternal and from conception on, History now has a solid core. There is something that makes the mist worthwhile, eternal.

We might render the verse from St John as saying, “And the world is hevel, along with all its hevelim. But whoever does God’s will remains forever.”

At funerals, the Byzantines do not sing, “rest in peace” but rather, “memory eternal.” We can be eternal too if we will cling to the only eternal real thing in all of eternity.

The Lay Faithful Essay 2

The Assignment: In less than six hundred words, what is important about using the correct terminology in referring to the ways the lay faithful collaborate with the ordained ministry?

FOR THIS QUESTION, it seemed useful to draw on liturgical theology. In the work of the late Fr Alexander Schmemann, especially his Eucharist, he discusses how the Divine Liturgy is an icon of the Church and kingdom. Although the east hasn’t a “theology of the laity” this pairs well with what the Catechism teaches about the Mass as we participate in the Son’s worship of the Father.

Words actually have meanings. Terminology helps us communicate the nature of things according to the teachings of the Church. This concept can actually be a challenge at times. In our Catholic religion, believing that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) words and their meanings are important. In a society where meaning tends to be imagined as a self-generated product, Catholics need to be counter-cultural.

Aumann draws out a definition of the Lay Faithful by distinguishing their role in the Church and the world. “The particular mission of the laity in the church – to sanctify the temporal order – is the specific difference that distinguishes the laity from the clergy and persons in the consecrated life.” (On the Front Lines p. 65) When we distinguish, we do not divide or break off, however.

Following Aumann, who quotes extensively from our readings in Lumen Gentium and Christifideles Laici, when we distinguish our particular roles in the Church it makes more evident our function in the world. Aumann goes on to say, “However, one must be careful not to place in opposition the secular character of the laity and their active participation in the church.” (ibid.) Clergy and the Lay Faithful have differing but cooperative relationships with the world and each other. If the whole of Church is intended to be merely a liturgical play that we put on on Sundays (or even daily) then it can make sense to “fight” for the “best roles” in that play. However, the Mass is our ongoing participation in the self-offering of the Son to the Father (CCC ¶1367 ff), and thus is the continual sanctification of the Faithful for the purpose of sanctifying (and evangelizing) the Temporal order.

By way of example, communion at Mass should be distributed by the Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. These are bishops, priests, and deacons, (CIC 910 ¶1). Canon Law also allows for installed Acolytes and other members of the lay faithful (CIC 910 ¶2) to assist as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. In this text, the terms “Ordinary” and “Extraordinary” help us to distinguish between these roles. The lay faithful cooperate with clergy in various actions by way of “filling in gaps” when shortages in the ordinary ministers require this supply (CL 23, also cited in Aumann on p.96) but this does not change the function of the laity in the world or in the Church.

John Paul counsels us to ensure that the Lay Faithful act in these liturgical duties in a way conforming “to their specific lay vocation”, avoiding “clericalization” (ibid). Be aware we’re filling in.

The purpose of this distinction between ordinary and extraordinary is not to keep lay people “in their place” in terms of the “best roles” in a Liturgical Play, but rather to ensure that the liturgical action of the Church shows exactly what God is doing in the Mass: re-presenting the self-offering of Son to the Father for the sanctification of the world. When an Extraordinary Minister does the work, the work gets done, but the liturgical icon of the action of Christ in the world (through his body the Church) is not presented fully.

Judicial Reform

I’m not a huge fan of Americans telling other countries how to run their politics. (We tend to call that cultural colonialism if we don’t agree with the interference, liberation if we do agree.) Understanding those other places is a different thing from trying to fix them.

I’ve been trying to understand what’s going on with the protests around judicial reform in Israel without knowing enough history. This episode of this podcast seems to me a good intro if that sort of thing interests you: The Conflict that Contains all Conflicts

The Lay Faithful Essay 1

The Assignment: In less than six hundred words, what is the secular character of the lay faithful and how is it related to the universal call to Christian holiness?

The most direct answer, in need of unpacking, is found in Lumen Gentium 31, cited in both CL (repeatedly) and in Aumann’s On the Front Lines (for ex, p. 65). 

These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.

What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature… by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. 

Lumen Gentium ¶31

The Church has, herself, an “authentic secular dimension” (Pope St Paul VI, cited in CL ¶15)  because the whole Church is “in the world but not of it” (John 15:19, John 17:14-16 cited in CL). The lay faithful manifest this dimension in a particular way since they must live and move in the world in their daily lives. This is their “secular character” mentioned in Lumen Gentium.

The Lay Faithful may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. (LG 31)

There is, within the Church, a particular way in which we are called to holiness, rooted in our baptism, this call is universal – directed to all people who are called to this communion in Christ. It is an act of evangelism to call those outside the Church to holiness. Pope St John Paul spends much of CL expanding on the idea of making the world reflect the kingdom of God in our homes, in the works of mercy, and in our professions. 

St Paul urges us, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men…you are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24 RSVCE)  The mystic, Gabriel Bossis, says to Our Lord “I’m weeding so that you may come and walk on the terrace.” (He and I, p 131)

In the Byzantine Liturgy, the Deacon moves back and forth from the altar, behind the icon screen, to the nave of the church, in front of the screen. From there he directs and gives voice to the prayers of the people, drawing their attention towards the Holy Place where God is sacramentally enthroned. The Lay Faithful are called to perform the same function in a larger liturgy, moving between the Church and the World, stitching them together, calling the world’s attention to the Gospel. The lay faithful are invited to make all situations within society direct towards this call to holiness. This illumination and ordering of all things and growing “according to Christ” is the universal call to holiness in action: it does not stop at the “edge” of the Church for this call is truly universal, both inside and outside of the Church.

A Song of Degrees

For A and C… and Texas, I guess…

You are like a child holding me by the hand
Daddy Look! Daddy Look! Daddy Look!
As if you’re as amazed as I
at Birds
or tiny purple flowers on rosemary
Of the swirls of oil
Opalescent on puddles in sunlight
You’re like a docent
Showing me from one spectacle
to the next
and sharing all that is happening
Watch how this clock turns
or hear the sound of this bell
And sometimes
You’re an artist
Humbliy waiting for me
In your studio
As I turn and see things
Watching to see if I
Will notice the art
That you’ve done
Just for this visit
Just for this visitor

And you know
Child, Docent, or Artist
The only response I have
Is thank you
and tears

Lately it feels like you’re
And older friend
A mentor
Showing me all you have for me
All that you have discovered
All that you have learned

And when you’ve lifted me
So far up in steps
The rough places are not as rough
I need to say goodbye
In love or fear
You are still there
Showing me the beauty
Showing me the sunrise and sunset
And the healing
Is just as sweet
With thank you
And tears

But up in steps
Each time it is harder
And easier
To let go
Because everything
Is in you
And nothing here
Is forever
Until it is yours
And up in steps
You make that known
Until we can fall
before you
in tears
And love

Of Incidents and Accidents.

The Readings for the Sunday of St Gregory Palamas
The Second Sunday of the Great Fast

AS THE Observance of the Great Fast evolved in the Eastern Church, each Sunday was assigned a special devotion: the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Sundays of St Gregory, of St John, of St Mary, and the Sunday of the Holy Cross. Of all of them, it’s this Sunday of St Gregory Palamas that can seem the most out of place. Or, at least it seems to me. As the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese puts it, “The feast day of Saint Gregory Palamas is November 14, however, he is commemorated on this Sunday as the condemnation of his enemies and the vindication of his teachings by the Church in the 14th century was acclaimed as a second triumph of Orthodoxy.” So, here we are as Byzantine Catholics celebrating the “second triumph of Orthodoxy”. In what way?

Although Gregory’s opponents are usually seen as “Scholastics” on a western model – and that is spun to be an anti-Catholic feast – the history is a bit more clear. Gregory taught “that ascesis and prayer are the outcome of the whole mystery of Redemption, and are the way for each person to make the grace given at Baptism blossom within himself.” That “God is love and full person”, that God allows us to participate as beings in His Being without admitting a break or division in “the unity of the divine Nature.” The fire of God is the fire of love which ignites the Christian soul and draws us all towards God.

Here, on the Second Sunday of Lent, we celebrate not a theological innovator but someone whose brilliant mind compiled the teachings of the Fathers of the preceding 14 centuries and summed it all up. St Gregory is often depicted by partisans as someone who stands against “Scholasticism” but he is as great a compiler as St Thomas Aquinas. His teaching is just a distillation of all that had gone before in the Eastern Church.

The light of Christ’s Transfiguration on Tabor shines in the soul of the Baptised and, through participation in the Holy Faith, that same light can shine out of our sous into the world around us. Deification. Theosis. This is what salvation means. This is the Glory of God, St Irenaeus teaches, “a living man” (and as was echoed in the Talmud – “The adornment [or glory] of God is man” – Derekh Eretz Zuta 10.7.) As we live in the world today, we are called to see the unity of our soul in Christ not so that each of us can – as individuals – be got into heaven, but rather so that we as the Body of Christ can bring healing to the world around us. Paul asks, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:3)