Archive for January, 2016

Not Just Harps and Nightgowns

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Yes, it’s true—I say this based on my own personal, though very limited, experience, as well as (much more importantly!) the consistent teaching of the Orthodox Church—that our prayers and other spiritual work can have a healing impact on others, including those who are no longer in this world but nonetheless alive in and to God. And this would doubtless be especially true for husbands and wives, who were made “one flesh” for eternity by their marriage.

And yes again: those who’ve died—precisely because they are alive in and to God—can help us as well. This is why we speak of a “communion of the saints”, and it’s the reason Orthodox pray for the dead as well as request the intercessory prayers of the saints. Orthodoxy doesn’t believe in “soul sleep”: the idea, promoted in certain Christian quarters, that when we die we pass into a state of suspended animation, only to awaken at the Second Coming of Christ. According to Orthodox belief, we’re still entirely conscious, and we remain aware in some sense of our past life in this world and of the continuing lives of those who remain.

Let’s add this too: Orthodox teach that salvation is a continuing, ever-deepening process, which doesn’t stop when we pass beyond the limits of this world at death. St Gregory of Nyssa used the term epektasis, a Greek word meaning to “stretch out” or “reach forward”. Perfection or deification, he said, consists in an unending epektasis, a continual reaching toward an ever-increasing perfection, as we dive deeper and deeper into the abyss of an infinite God. The Orthodox Christian needn’t fear ever becoming “bored” with a Heaven that’s only harps and nightgowns!

Perpendicular to Time

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Is “the present moment” perpendicular to the line of time? Interesting question. It seems to me a good answer depends on which sort of “present” you mean.

I have in mind the medieval distinction, going back at least as far as Boethius, between two distinct forms of the “now”: the nunc fluens (the “flowing now”) and the nunc stans (the “standing now”). According to Boethius, nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatem; that is, “the flowing now [or the now that passes] generates time, while the standing now [or the now that remains] generates eternity.”

It’s useful to pause and ponder the Latin facit (“generates”) in this context.

By “flowing now” Boethius means the present insofar as it is caught up in the flux of associative mentation, the now that is simply an effect of the previous moment and a cause of the next; whereas the “standing now” is a “stop”, the cessation—however brief—of associationism and automatism … a “stop between thoughts”, to allude to a passage I was just reading the other day in Jeanne de Salzmann’s Reality of Being. The mind, she says, must “remain motionless in the stop between two thoughts until it becomes more sensitive and perceptive, more alive than what is seen, what is under its look”.

In the midst of this motionlessness, it seems to me the answer is yes: we are indeed on a line that is “perpendicular” to time.