The Lord’s Hands

The Israelites’, and mine … , Utter Despair and Bondage

The week before Holy Week I experienced, at the deepest core of my being, the Israelites’ impasse, their despair, helplessness and fear. My pilgrimage had come at a dead end!

The Israelites’, and mine …,  Miraculous Release from Captivity

Bright Week, that is the week immediately after Resurrection Sunday, was sealed with the Israelites’ (and mine) ineffable joy, relief, jubilation at their freedom, miraculous release from captivity and awe at God’s Works! What a reversal of fortune! What a most true Orthodox ‘Easter’, a most literal Pascha! If anybody had told me that I would live to see this, I would have told him “Impossible”! But nothing is impossible for God! Nothing! Glory to God for all things!

Prefiguration of Orthodox Easter, Pascha, the Israelites crossing the Red Sea

The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him—
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him!

… “Your right hand, O Lord,
    is glorious in power.
Your right hand, O Lord,
    smashes the enemy.

Prefiguration of Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Crossing of the Red Sea Bernardino Luini, c. 1481-1532

Crossing of the Red Sea
Bernardino Luini, c. 1481-1532

“Who is like you among the gods, O Lord
    glorious in holiness,
awesome in splendor,
    performing great wonders?
12 You raised your right hand,
    and the earth swallowed our enemies.

Prefiguration of Orthodox Easter, Pascha, the Israelites crossing the Red Sea

Crossing of the Red Sea
Bernardino Luini, c. 1481-1532

… The power of your arm
    makes them lifeless as stone
until your people pass by, O Lord,
    until the people you purchased pass by.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain—
    the place, O Lord, reserved for your own dwelling,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established. (Exodus 15, A Song of Deliverance)

Prefiguration of Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Icon of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea

God’s Hands

These two weeks I have also come to pay attention to God’s Hands!

Have a close look at the Resurrection icon and Christ’s hands! Notice how Christ is pulling Adam from the tomb by the wrist, and not the hand. Why is that so? Have you ever observed this ‘detail’? And if so, has it ever occurred to you that this ‘detail’ might be revealing?

 

Christ's resurrection, Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Christ's resurrection, Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Resurrection icon

I have to confess that this Pascha was the first time in my life that I noticed how dramatically Christ is shown in the icon pulling Adam, the first man, from the tomb. Probably because I had never felt that badly the need of Someone pulling me along, forcefully, even if roughly.

Christ's resurrection, Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Resurrection icon

In the Icon, Jesus Christ stands victoriously in the centre. Robed in Heavenly white, He is surrounded by a mandorla of star-studded light, representing the Glory of God.  Eve is to Christ’s left, hands held out in supplication, also waiting for Jesus to act. This humble surrender to Jesus is all Adam and Eve need to do, and all they are able to do. Christ does the rest, which is why He is pulling Adam from the tomb by the wrist, and not the hand.

 

Christ's resurrection, Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Resurrection icon

In all Resurrection icons I have seen since, even where Jesus is pulling both Adam and Eve from the tomb, he is always pulling them by the wrist, and never the hand.

Christ's resurrection, Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Resurrection icon

Christ's resurrection, Orthodox Easter, Pascha, Resurrection icon

 

Praised be His name, the Lord pitied me, and indeed he dragged me, hurling me across my Red Sea! Now my home will be Great Britain. Which desert is awaiting for me, what revelations, what Mount Sinai? How are the next ’40 years’ of my wanderings going to unfold? Will I ever reach the Promised Land?

So, I am moving to UK, with my spiritual father’s blessing, trying to follow the Holy Spirit there. Indeed, I try to “dwell in my own country, but simply as sojourner. As citizen, I share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigner. Every foreign land is to me as my native country, and every land of my birth as a land of strangers. …” (cf. The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus)

My Lifestyle of course will NOT change– Suitcases 😃 Lover of the Theotokos, Pilgrim, Traveller, Hermit! 
Ah! The Raptures of Living! 
Advertisements

Memory Made Clear and Serene

time13

An Orthodox Theology of Time – V / V -Conclusion

Time as Renewal: Growth unto Goodness in Christ. The concept of the liturgical Eighth Day. If time is the change inherent in being created then can we experience our life as other than a growth unto death? Can we experience life as perhaps, a growth unto goodness in Christ in His Church?

 

Therefore, let not a person be grieved by the fact that his nature is mutable; rather, by always being changed to what is better and by being transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3.18), let him so be changed: by daily growth he always becomes better and is always being perfected yet never attains perfection’s goal. For perfection truly consists in never stopping our increase towards the better nor to limit perfection with any boundary (Gregory of Nyssa, On Perfection, p.379)

Decay unto death can be renewed as a growth unto life in Jesus Christ. … Our everlasting God has come down into the broken temporality of time and renewed our memory in the saving event of Jesus Christ, God as Man and Man for God.

Memory needs to be healed not destroyed. Often the greatest difficulties in our lives are the result of being plagued by evil memories, which wound and lacerate us as persons. Indeed, we pray at Great Vespers that God will protect us “from vain thoughts and from evil memories.”An image exists for this ‘weight of memory’ at the end of the Purgatorio when Dante, after confessing to Beatrice, first drinks of the river of Lethe forgetting all the evil and sin of his past life then drinking of the river of Eunöe (‘good remembrance’ or ‘good mind’) and remembering everything but from the perspective of the grace and love of God.

Forgiveness, then, is a process of progressive confession and absolution where we gradually let go of the past (are freed from its chains) by confronting the past and then giving it up in forgiveness (forgetting it without repression) so that we can regain it back from Jesus Christ through His remembrance in love. This healed or forgiven memory is paradise regained, that is, “radical innocence” as Yeats termed the state of learned childlikeness after our dreaming innocence has gone through the fire of experience.

We are given this renewal of our memory, this reality of memory shining forth with the light of the new age of the coming Kingdom of God fulfilled once for all time on the cross (‘It is finished!’/’Behold I make all things new’), in the perpetual rebirth—perpetual Pentecost—of the Church in its praise of God. In praising God, the Church is given the gift of the eternal Memory of the Spirit whereby we remember the life of Christ as our very own thus redeeming all memory under the sign of His cross. Such ‘eternal remembrance’ renews the face of the earth and makes of it, as Schmemann put it, a “liturgical paradise.”

 

“Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us” or “This is the day of resurrection”or yet again “On Mount Tabor, O Lord, Thou hast shown today the glory of Thy divine form unto Thy chosen disciples”.

SONY DSC

In Christ, as the Lord of Time, is realized the ingathering of all moments in One Moment of what we might call an ‘eternal temporality’ and which Schmemann calls temps immobile, that is, the co-inherence or co-presence of each part of time to each other in the present, in Jesus Christ.

Christ is Himself the Lord of Chronos or time proper because He is the Kyrios Kairou, Lord of the appointed time of our salvation. In Him, our broken mode of temporality, chronos, is renewed and sanctified, ascending with Him to the Father and becoming a spiritual mode of time through its marriage with creaturely eternity (aeon).

But when He returns to us in His Body and Blood in the liturgy, which is both our ascent to God and His descent to us, we see that our new mode of time, eternal temporality, is something radically new to creation, sensible and spiritual at once, as it has partaken of the very mode of God Himself as everlasting Trinity (aidiotes), God before the ages.

Therefore, the central locus of this ingathering of time is our Lord’s anamnesis or His recollection of His own saving actions in the liturgy in which His living memory becomes life everlasting by renewing all time in the new age of His Kingdom. This Kingdom of Jesus Christ is the very same life we will receive at the resurrection on the last day. It has been variously described as the ‘eighth day’ or ‘liturgy without end’ and it is granted as a gracious foretaste to us. It is a sort of liturgical in-breaking of the life to come in our crooked and wounded time.

time19

Harrowing of Hades, fresco in the parecclesion of the Chora Church, Istanbul, c. 1315, raising Adam and Eve is depicted as part of the Resurrection icon

It should be noted that when, in Scripture, Christ remembers His own Body and Blood broken and shed for the life of the world, it is prior to the actual sacrifice. In other words, in Christ’s remembrance, memory is not merely retrospective, in that it looks back at a life of sacrifice, but it is also simultaneously prospective in actuating prophetically the sacrifice of the cross before it happens. 

Likewise, our Lord as our Great High Priest remembers us and all time before the Father in heaven when at the Anaphora on the Lord’s Day the priest says both retrospectively and prospectively at once: “Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting down at the right hand, and the second and glorious Coming.”

Christ’s memory is eschatological, a remembering of the future life to come. Thus the Christian life is one of memory eternal where we live in the liturgical ingathering of all moments by remembering, with Christ, the saving acts that have accomplished our salvation now and to come. In the Christian life lived as anamnesis, past and future converge in one another in the present moment of our loving memory where we taste of the new age given in our midst.

Eternal memory is not the destruction of the past as past and the future as future but their clarification and illumination in encountering each other in our present consciousness of Jesus Christ who gives us eternal life. To borrow a phrase from Berdyaev, “Immortality is memory made clear and serene.”

Christ, then, as our renewed memory effecting salvation has, as Schmemann put it, “power over time” because He makes time His own as its Lord and does not destroy it but burns away, with healing fire, its wounds, making it itself through contact with Himself insofar as “Eternity is not the negation of time, but time’s absolute wholeness, gathering and restoration.”

Source: Excerpts from http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2668945.html

A Spectral Array of Blues

blue4

TROIS COULEURS: BLEU (1993) is a stunning film from one of the world’s preeminent directors, a rich, dark film with all the Kieslowski marks: death, silence, depression, and inner torment of the protagonist. Bleu is an impressive, inspired and inspiring anatomy of Loss, Death & Mourning with certain Christian overtones.

Desson Howe notes that “in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Blue,” the rehabilitation of a human spirit after painful tragedy is given stunning, aesthetic dimension. A story about a woman (Juliette Binoche) who loses her family (her composer-husband and 5-year-old daughter) in a car crash, this Polish-French production is also a spectral array of blues — cold, heart-chilling and beautiful.

blue5

For the trauma of loss and persistence of memory, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osu3j7N1fGU

Emotionally, “Blue” is a grim ordeal, as Binoche (still in the hospital recovering from the accident) attempts suicide, then retreats into deep-freeze mourning. But Kieslowski, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, set designer Claude Lenoir and composer Zbigniew Preisner infuse the harrowing atmosphere with stylistic rhapsody.” (Washington Post, March 04, 1994 )

blue5

More importantly, unlike Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, certain Christian themes throughout the movie offer the hope of redemption. Throughout Kieslowski implies a form of divine intervention or destiny at work, forcing Julie to come to terms with her past, others, and herself and serving as an agent of epiphanic inspiration.

There is also specifically love and forgiveness: Julie for example discovers that her late husband was having an affair. She tracks down Sandrine, Patrice’s mistress, and finds out that she is carrying his child; Julie arranges for her to have her husband’s house and recognition of his paternity for the child. What a ray of hope and redemption for such a “bleak” film, focusing on death and mourning, to end with the ultrasound of a baby, waiting to be born! Life conquers Death because Love is Life, and nothing, nobody can defeat Love, not even Death, the ultimate enemy.

blue3

Then, there is humility, self-effacement and sacrifice. After the crash, in an attempt to blot out the trauma of loss, Julie destroys the score for her late husband’s last commissioned, though unfinished, work—a piece celebrating European unity, following the end of the Cold War. It is strongly suggested that she wrote, or at least co-wrote, her husband’s last work. Throughout there is an implication that she has hidden her own work behind the public face of her husband. In the final sequence she rewrites and completes the score and the Unity of Europe piece is played, while images are seen of all the people Julie has profoundly affected by her actions.

Significantly, this climactic piece which features chorus and a solo soprano is Saint Paul‘s 1 Corinthians 13 epistle in Greek, the hymn of love.

For a profound rendition of the Christian Hymn of Love (1 Cor, 13) , watch Trois Couleurs: ‘Bleu’ finale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmQ88PWzvR0

bleu1

13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 

13 And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

love1

So, although there are some scenes, themes and plot developments in Bleu which conflict in my opinion with a Christian outlook, such as the typical French twist with Julie and her husband’s friend becoming lovers, still I find this film so much more comforting, uplifting and inspiring than The Sad Book* and its like, so plenty in modern art!

*See https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/09/17/heartbreaking-anatomies-of-loss-death-mourning-iexemption/

love2

I’m Sad, not Bad

sad1

This is me being sad.

Maybe you think I’m happy in this picture.

Really I’m sad but pretending I’m happy.

I’m doing this because I think people won’t like me if I look sad.

Sad Book by Michael Rosen: darkness in literature

Sometimes sad is very big.

It’s everywhere. All over me.

sad3

Then I look like this.

And there’s nothing I can do about it.

What makes me most sad is when I think about my son Eddie. I loved him very, very much but he died anyway.

sad12

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book: A Beautiful Anatomy of Loss, Illustrated by Quentin Blake

“Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be,” Joan Didion wrote after losing the love of her life. “The people we most love do become a physical part of us,” Meghan O’Rourke observed in her magnificent memoir of loss, “ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created.” Those wildly unexpected dimensions of grief and the synaptic traces of love are what celebrated British children’s book writer and poet Michael Rosen confronted when his eighteen-year-old son Eddie died suddenly of meningitis. Never-ending though the process of mourning may be, Rosen set out to exorcise its hardest edges and subtlest shapes five years later in Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (public library) — an immensely moving addition to the finest children’s books about loss, illustrated by none other than the great Quentin Blake.

sad2

With extraordinary emotional elegance, Rosen welcomes the layers of grief, each unmasking a different shade of sadness — sadness that sneaks up on you mid-stride in the street; sadness that lurks as a backdrop to the happiest of moments; sadness that wraps around you like a shawl you don’t take off even in the shower.

sad16

Blake, who has previously illustrated Sylvia Plath’s little-known children’s book and many of Roald Dahl’s stories, brings his unmistakably expressive sensibility to the book, here and there concretizing Rosen’s abstract words into visual vignettes that make you wonder what losses of his own he is holding in the mind’s eye as he draws.

sad11

What emerges is a breathtaking bow before the central paradox of the human experience — the awareness that the heart’s enormous capacity for love is matched with an equal capacity for pain, and yet we love anyway and somehow find fragments of that love even amid the ruins of loss.

sad10

With exquisite nuance, Rosen captures the contradictory feelings undergirding mourning — affection and anger, self-conscious introspection and longing for communion — and the way loss lodges itself in the psyche so that the vestiges of a particular loss always awaken the sadness of the all loss, that perennial heartbreak of beholding the absurdity of our longing for permanence in a universe of constant change.

sad19                sad22

But what makes the story most singular and rewarding is that it refuses to indulge the cultural cliché of cushioning tragedy with the promise of a silver lining. It is redemptive not in manufacturing redemption but in being true to the human experience — intensely, beautifully, tragically true.”

Where is sad?

Sad is everywhere.

It comes along and finds you.

sad23

When is sad?

Sad is anytime.

It comes along and finds you.

sad24

Who is sad?

Sad is anyone.

It comes along and finds you.

 

sad25

By Maria Popova

Source: http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/08/25/michael-rosens-sad-book-quentin-blake/

http://www.michaelrosen.co.uk

*

Be sure not to miss Michael Rosen’s absolutely breath-stopping telling of his story and reading of his book at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-SQE_bDWFY

*

 sad13

Still, I would really like to disagree very strongly with both Maria Popova’s and Michael Rosen’s conclusions as a Christian. Yes, it is all this, but there is so much more to it. What do you think? I have never experienced such profound loss myself, so maybe I don’t know what I am really talking about, but there must be more to it than all this pain and mourning.  But more about this on my next post …