Phronema III: Is Conscience the Cornerstone?

Phronema is a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer to mindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia — Praxis being defined as the overall lifestyle of members of the Orthodox Church.)  Attaining phronema is regarded as the first step toward theosis, the state of glorification which is (at least as far as possible in this world) a recovery of the original nature of man made in the image and likeness of God.

Phronema refers to “the completely self-sacrificial trust and faith in religious and ethical truths… from the voice of God…. an unshakeable certainty about the truth of Faith… undiminished and vibrant throughout life, a continually verified daily experience,” “a growing feeling for and understanding of God’s and the practice of Orthodox piety—Orthodox Worship and behavior.”  The phronema is vested in tradition “against all heresies and schisms of all times”. The “mind of the Fathers” is also termed phronema as is the “mind of the Church” and “the mind of Christ.”      (adapted from OrthodoxWiki.org)

Firstly, we must clarify what ‘phronema’ is, being of course the most central presupposition that defines the position and behavior of the theologian in his particular time. The term ‘phronema’ is of pre-Christian origin, and can be found in a broad range of Greek literature. Continue reading

Advertisements

On Ephesians Chapter 5, Verses 25-27

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,  that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word,  that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish. ”

A commentary from St. John Chrysostom:

“And not simply has He [Christ] adorned her [the Church], but has made her glorious, ‘without spot or wrinkle or any such things.’ Let us too seek that sort of beauty, and grace will make us able to refract it.”

The Protection of the Theototos and Ever-virgin, Mary

The words of Demetrios, Archbishop of America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:

In theological terms, the Theotokos is our Protectress since she is the Motheof God. We know in our human experience that the pleadings between a mother and son can carry great weight. The very special and unique relationship that the Virgin Mary held with Jesus as her Son, our Lord, makes her a truly powerful intercessor for our salvation. Therefore, whenever we pray to God and ask the Theotokos to intercede for our salvation, we are invoking intercessions which carry a distinctively high degree of influence.

This powerful role of the Theotokos as a Divine Protectress is recognized historically and liturgically. In as much as Christians throughout history have sought the intercessions of the Theotokos for spiritual salvation, they have also asked for her intercessions for physical protection itself. For example, historical accounts of entire masses of people praying for the intercessions ofthe Theotokos to protect them from physical danger have been documented throughout the history of Constantinople during the numerous times overthe centuries when the city was under siege, until its eventual fall in 1453. Indeed, the role of the Theotokos as a Protectress is connected with the liberation of the modern Greek state from Ottoman oppression in 1821.     -from the website http://www.goarch.org/news/2007-03-14-archpastoralreflection

 

The prayer of a servant:

REJOICE, O Theotokos, O Virgin, for the Lord is with you. You have found favor with God and His grace is full upon you. Blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus and blessed are you among women, for you have borne the Savior of our souls. Mother Mary, we ask you to  intercede for us before your Son as you did for the bride and groom at Cana. Add your prayers to oursv_mary_christ: pray for the unity of the faith and the reconciliation of our Churches,  pray for our families, pray for the salvation of us sinners, pray for each of us that we may not be brought to trial.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Reflections on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

For most Eastern Christians, this past Sunday was celebrated as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Parishioners processed through the Church carrying an icon, an act of living history from the First Thousand Years. The Orthodox remembered the day in 843 A.D. when the heretical suppression and bloodshed mounted against the proper veneration of icons and the Christology behind them was finally laid to rest within the Apostolic Churches.

Throughout the century and a half of this persecution, the Roman church of the West had steadfastly rejected the arguments and methods of the iconoclasts (those who rejected icons) within the Eastern church and the Byzantine royal courts. In doing so, the unity with Rome anchored the faith and helped prevent the Eastern church from being consumed by false teaching and blinded by too close an alignment with political power.

However, the episode also sowed seeds of schism as Rome began the development of its own base of political power in the West, crystallizing in the crowning of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor. As the Roman church began to align itself more and more with the royal courts and dynastic families over the next few centuries, the now official break between the Eastern and Western churches meant that the church of the West had lost an anchoring strength from the East. Rome itself fell into dubious practices and troublesome attitudes that eventually crystallized in the Reformation, from which point the splintering of the Christian witness in the West has accelerated through present day.

The faith that we received from the Apostles was preserved through the First Thousand Years precisely because the Church was united. The house was not divided against itself. As we move forward in this age, threatened as we are by secularism, false teachers, and the atomization of faith, we must push the Catholic and Orthodox churches from the bottom up to work earnestly for the recovery of our united strength.

Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, abide with us and heal us of every stain. Strengten us in every good work and raise in us a spirit of love and forgiveness. Icon of the Sunday of OrthodoxyAmen

The Four “Marks” of the Church

As we struggle to follow Christ as love, then we must do what he asks. Our sin divides us, one from another, and Church from Church. Our toleration of that division will be evidence against us at our Judgement. These are not my words; a clear-headed reading of the New Testament in toto makes it plain.

Metropolitan Jonah, newly-installed hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, puts the personal standard before us:

The Church’s four characteristic “marks” – unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity – are at once the Church’s content and identity, constituting both her vocation and mission. They are our goal; it is our challenge to actualize them in our lives, both personally and corporately, in order for us to be the Church.

Before anything else, these characteristics are marks of Christ Himself. Jesus Christ is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit; He is the focal point of our unity, and the very context of our relationship with God and one another as His Body. Jesus is the ultimate criterion of holiness: the man transparent to God, revealing God, incarnating God, and imparting that holiness which is participation in God’s very life, which lifts us up from the world of sin and corruption. Christ is the essence of catholicity or wholeness, in that “all things were created through Him and for Him… and in Him all things hold together” [Colossians 1:16-17]. He is also the source of universality because He embraces all things and permeates all things, and all things exist in Him. And He is the foundation of apostleship, the apostle and high priest from God [Hebrews 3:1], Whose obedience reveals Him as transparent to God, speaking only the words of Him Who sent Him [John 3:34], and doing whatever He sees the Father do [John 5:19], transforming and redeeming the world.

Our vision as Orthodox Christians is always first and foremost Jesus Christ. His message is our message: the coming of the Kingdom. His life is our life. His mission is our mission: the salvation of all mankind and its union with the Father in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Our task in the midst of this is constantly to repent, to have this vision renewed in us, and to purge our lives of everything contrary to the vision and incarnation of Christ in our lives. These are the marks of Christ; and if we share His life, we also share these marks.*

May God grant such a sharing within our lives, beginning with me, the first among sinners. Amen

 * from the Winter 2009 edition of the Orthodox Church Newspaper, available on-line at http://www.oca.org/DOC-PUB-TOC.asp?SearchYear=2009&SID=34