Fasting and Ecological Awareness

by Chris Durante

During Lent, lay, clergy and monastic alike partake in fasting, and unlike other fasting periods, such as the nativity fast prior to Christmas, many modern Orthodox Christian laity do still partake in the Lenten fast, at least to some degree and for some extent of time. As the laity partake in this tradition, they ought to consider that for monks and nuns who engage in the practice of fasting throughout the year, fasting is not simply a matter of abstaining from food but is a spiritual exercise that is part and parcel of the quest to be Good and become more Divine-like. Despite the fact that not all persons are suited to monastic life, there are indeed lessons that laity can learn from the deeply psychological and moral dimensions of the monastic understanding of fasting as a spiritual practice.

Some of the most theologically developed discussions of fasting are to be found within the Philokalia, meaning “Lover of Goodness.” Within the four volumes of the Philokalia, we find a robust philosophy of fasting in which the psyche as well as the body must be involved in the spiritual pursuit of the good. Within these classic texts of Orthodox Christian spirituality, the idea that cultivating a state of psycho-spiritual  “watchfulness,” “wakefulness,” or “mindfulness” (called nepsis) is foundational for the cultivation of arete, or virtue. Within the Philokalia, nepsis is described as vigilantly guarding one’s heart and mind from evil, or vicious, thoughts such as: anger, jealousy, rage, despair, gluttony, greed, egoism and lust. It is the practice of nepsis that helps enable one to transform these pathoi, or pathological thoughts, into more reasonable desires and place them in the service of attaining the higher-order desire for the good. Continue reading

Coptic Nashville

by Lydia Yousief

I sat down with one of the older priests of Nashville after waiting for him to finish with one of his congregant members who was leading the renovation of a section of the church. The church, the oldest in Nashville, Saint Mina, sits in leisurely expand on a campus that holds many apartments (for newcomers from Egypt), a private school named after Saint Clement of Alexandria, and a gym. Every time I visit something is being remodeled, built, or expanded; children run around the playground, despite the heat, and the sounds of a close basketball game come from the gym. The church is never empty in the afternoons, particularly summers.

In Nashville, the Copts estimate themselves to be 10,000-20,000 strong; there has been no official census whether by the Diocese or the Nashville churches, nor by the state or federal powers. Instead, these estimates come from the priests themselves who calculate based on their own services: today, Nashville has ten churches, each roughly ten minutes within each other, and Sunday attendance boasting over a thousand attendants between two liturgies in some churches. Continue reading

Schismophrenia: A Reflection on Ukrainian Autocephaly

by Fr. Bohdan Hladio

“No earthly joy exists unmingled with sorrow” —St. John of Damascus

We are all no doubt aware of the controversy surrounding the recent proclamation of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. As a Ukrainian Orthodox priest, I cannot help but see how St. John’s words are an apt description of the situation of the Orthodox Church in general and myself personally.

I recently traveled to Ukraine, visited friends in previously “non-canonical” churches and monasteries, and was able to serve the Liturgy with them. This brought much joy to us all. For most Orthodox Ukrainians the recognition of the Church in Ukraine as worthy of autocephaly is the correction of an historical injustice, the righting of an ecclesial wrong.

Yet I have friends within various Orthodox churches here in North America who see this proclamation of autocephaly as a source of sorrow. And I have trouble understanding why. Continue reading

Apostates and Romantics: Further Thoughts on Modern Traditionalism

by Kyle M. Nicholas

In a recent post, Aristotle Papanikolaou argues that the terms “traditionalism,” “traditionalist,” and “Orthodox morality” are unhelpful identifiers. For Papanikolaou, these terms construct a false traditional/non-traditional dichotomy that conceals the fact that everybody belongs to some tradition. The real question is what the presuppositions of one’s tradition are, and consequently “the implications of presuppositions or beliefs held in common by those who adhere to [that] tradition.” The logic of purity that underlies attempts to constrict “tradition” to narrowly-defined doctrinal and moral positions animates much of Papanikolaou’s essay. I want to extend Papanikolaou’s argument further by introducing two spiritual temptations of those who claim “tradition” for their own side as part of the culture wars, especially in the US.

The philosopher Max Scheler once called those who hold their deepest beliefs from a place of “intrinsic meaning and worth” the “resurrected.” Particularly apt examples of the “resurrected” are the saints, who love God for God’s own sake. Yet, in addition to this “resurrected” type, there are today a considerable amount of what Scheler calls the “apostate” and “romantic” types. For Scheler, to be either an apostate or a romantic is a particular form of spiritual resentment. Continue reading