- Orthodox Social Thought: A Primer
Two Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Reince Priebus and George Gigicos, are in high ranking positions in the Trump administration, meaning that Orthodox Social Thought (OST) is as relevant now as it has ever been. I offer here a brief look at OST with special attention to issues relevant to American political discourse.
The most authoritative contemporary conciliar source for OST is the Mission document from the 2016 council in Crete. This document was crafted by the 14 autocephalous churches prior to the council, and though not all were present to approve its final form, none of the non-attending churches critiqued the substance of the document. The second source is the Basis of the Social Concept (BSC), which is less authoritative, and has only been adopted by the Russian Church. I will also reference Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s views where possible. Continue Reading…
- Learning to Love: St. Maximus on the Virtues
When we try to be virtuous, what are we trying to do? People have different ideas about what the virtues are, and some virtues even seem to contradict each other. Some people consider justice to be a virtue, but, as St Isaac the Syrian points out in his Homily 51, isn’t mercy also a virtue, and how can you be merciful while trying to dispense justice? How do we decide which virtues we ought to live by and how they ought to be interpreted?
St Maximus the Confessor (580-662AD) answers a similar question put to him by a monk, in his Ascetic Life. The monk asks “And who, Father, can do all the commandments? There are so many.” Maximus responds:
This is the sign of our love for God, as the Lord Himself shows in the Gospels: He that loves me, He says, will keep my commandments. And what this commandment is, which if we keep we love Him, hear Him tell: This is my commandment, that you love one another. Do you see that this love for one another makes firm the love for God? (The Ascetic Life, 107; PG90 917A.)
This passage tells us something interesting. It tells us that all the ethical directives we’ve got, be they the commandments, the virtues, or any other parts of Scripture, all conform to love. They are all a kind of love. We are not being asked to do a hundred different things, we are being asked to do one thing, which is to love. (more…)