Lights from Light

Lent 2014: Readings from Augustine

All the saints are lights, because by believing they are enlightened by him, to separate from whom will be to become dark. The light by which they are enlightened cannot become separated from itself because it is utterly unchangeable. So we believe an enlightened light, a prophet, say, or an apostle, but we believe them in such a way that we do not believe in the one who is enlightened but rather with him we believe in the light by which he is enlightened so that we too are enlightened, not by him, but, with him, by the same light as he. (In Ioannem Tr. 54, 4; PL 35, 1782)

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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These posts are great.  I know it would require a bit more work but a litting framing/context/intro for each would be greatly appreciated, at least by me who can be a bit dim-witted at times

This is just a historical question. Did the Eastern Churches which are now called the "Othodox" ones know the writings of St. Augustine? He didn't write in Greek, but did their scholars read the Latin ones? And did any of the Latin Fathers read the Greek ones? (i would imagine that St. Jerome, fo instance, knew both.

It seems strange to me that the two traditions were not more alike, given that they shared the same "light".

What brought this to mind is the light metaphor. It sounds something like the Greeks' notion of God's "energies".

Thanks, Claire. Interesting how some of the Orthodox scholars forgive Augustine his mistakes because he was so holy, and interesting how little they value consistency. It's almost as if reason was for them an enemy at times, though it's not for St. Photius. Not for the first time I think that the West's appreciation of reason is one of the biggest obstacles to unification of the Eastern and Western Churches. For the West reason itself can illuminate dogma. But for the East mystery seems to have value •as• mystery.

A Andreassi, for me the main difficulty is syntactic. This first sentence, for example, is like a challenge thrown at automatic sentence diagrammers. It is amusing, a bit like Sudoku: all the information is there, but we have to use the grammatical clues to decode it. In fact for me it's easier to first guess what is meant and then reconstruct the grammar to verify the guess rather than the other way around. Then it's a pleasure to see that the words fit just right.

As to the text itself, it reminds me of the light being spread in the church at Easter vigil as each person in turn uses their candle to light their neighbor's candle. Of course then the people are mere carriers of light, not lights themselves, so it's easier to understand what is going on. But here Augustine also insists that saints "are" lights themselves, which makes it a bit of a paradox. He's creating a difficulty where there was none.

Ann, the author of the website I referenced above has an interesting quote on the home page, explaining why he created that site:

"...But exactly what was it that attracted Russians to the Church? The dogmas, the Orthodox doctrine? Yes, said the Metropolitan, so it was in the past, and especially in Byzantium among the Greeks, but not in Russia. There was a time when even lay people were deeply interested in questions of faith. But Russians, the Metropolitan contended, with the exception of the few educated theologians, have not yet reached the point at which they would be concerned with the problems of abstract theological thought, and in fact they are not interested in them at all. It may be, the Metropolitan conceded, that the Church has failed to develop an interest in theology among believers. But, in his opinion, the true reason for this lack of interest among the Russians was that they neither cherish, nor understand the theoretical aspect of the realization or embodiment of the Church’s ideals in the lives of men. Above all, they cherish the ritual aspect of religion, the beauty of services, ikons, melodies, and the like. The Metropolitan proceeded to explain the emotional and educational value of the rites. He added, however, that all this ritual may be little understood, and that people do not really know what truth is witnessed or symbolized in the rites. Yet, he contended, rites themselves are so touching and moving, exalting and inspiring, regardless of their meaning....

It is really embarrassing that there is so little concern for “dogmatic systems,” as well as for the Doctrine of the Church, in various circles and quarters of the Orthodox society of our day, and that “devotion” is so often forcefully divorced from “faith.” There is too much concern with “the vessels” and too little concern with the Treasure, which alone makes the vessel precious. Symbols and rites are vehicles of the truth, and if they fail to convey the truth, they simply cease to function...."

Claire --

Thank for the site.  Very interesting.  Lots to read there!  Makes me realize that I know more about Buddha than a bout St.Symeon the New Theologican (love that name).  I thought that the Vatican was super-conservative, but the Orthodox whom this author quotes are seem even more rigid.  (Not that non-rigidity is a virtue in itself.)  That seems so strange to me because they also don't seem to mind inconsistencies  -- as Latins reaized, falsity leads to anything and eveything, so you'd think they'd be more careful to avoid them.  Consider the quote below-- I think it is plainly contradictory.  First he says that the Russians were attractedt to doctrine, but then he say that they're not concerned at all with problems of abstract theology.  Or maybe he is assuming that they just ignore the problems?  That would follow, I suppose, for someon who doesn' mind contradictions. Or do the Greeks call them contradicitons "paradoxes" (a Greek word), and let them go at that, the way some contemporary Catholic thelogians seem to do?

"...But exactly what was it that attracted Russians to the Church? The dogmas, the Orthodox doctrine? Yes, said the Metropolitan, so it was in the past, and especially in Byzantium among the Greeks, but not in Russia. There was a time when even lay people were deeply interested in questions of faith. But Russians, the Metropolitan contended, with the exception of the few educated theologians, have not yet reached the point at which they would be concerned with the problems of abstract theological thought, and in fact they are not interested in them at all."

JAK --

Sorry to go so far off topic but this is a fascinating subject to me. Thank you for all the posts.  

 

Claire --

P.S.  I couldn't find the home page of that site.   How did you get to it?

I clicked on the "About" link on the top right of the page.

http://orthodoxinfo.com/about.aspx

I found his name there, looked for information about him and found this http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/39883.Patrick_Barnes - basically, this is a single individual's perspective and we do not know anything about possible biases in his choice of citations. But isn't it interesting anyway?

Thanks, Claire.  Mr. Barnes is certainly sure of himself, isn't he.  But the Orthodox generally seem to be mightily sure.  I've taken to checking out Rod Dreher's blog at (gasp!) The American Conservative.  But there's not all that much politics there -- more religion and ethics and general cultural stuff.   He actually has all sorts of people commenting, and he doesn't allow name-calling, so i like that.  So it's a good bird's eye view of what's going on in the world.  He's also a committed member of the Orthodox Church (for the moment) -- he used to be RC and before that Protestant.  He talks a lot about the Orthodox Church, and I've gotten interested in it because of their emphasis on their mystics -- and also becausee they -- or he -- sounds so heretical at times I doubt that East and West will ever be united again.  Soooo different.

Anyway, sometimes his blog is quite interesting, sometimes not at all.

file://localhost/Users/annolivier/Desktop/Rod%20Dreher%20-%20The%20American%20Conservative%202.webloc

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