ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY One often hears allusion to the proverbial glass, and the question of whether it’s seen as half-full or half-empty. The conventional wisdom is that the better part is to see it half-full. Except in the most mundane matters, I can’t go very far with this view. I can’t go far with it because I have an underlying understanding, a conviction I can’t shake, that the cup ought to be full to the brim—it should be full and running over, and covering the world miles deep in light and goodness and concord and a sympathy uniting all beings in one intent. But we don’t have that. We have one glass. And it’s only half full. We live in a world in which people inflict tortures, great and small, on one another; a world in which a mother’s child succumbs to leukemia, or trauma, inflicted perhaps by the mother herself, or to a virus that damages his brain; a world in which wolves’ jaws clamp the throat of a deer and squeeze the life out, that the wolves might feed their young; a world in which a wasp paralyzes a cricket with its sting and drags it to her nest, and there she lays her eggs inside it, so that the larvae, when they hatch, consume the living cricket from the inside; a world in which plants crowd out and extinguish one another in a struggle for light and space and water. A thousand, a million—billions more examples, great and small, can be found, could be extracted from the days of every being that has walked or swum or slithered or sunk its roots on this damaged earth. Light and concord and a cosmos that moves synergistically in one unbroken intent seems to an innocent soul the normative, natural state of things—the premise from which a life ought to proceed. But the universe of our experience is not so: and it is this un-workingness, this malaise that permeates the universe, this aberrancy, that requires an answer—this fracture of a once-united purpose into a multiplicity of wills in blinders, each going its own way, working, as often as not, at cross-purposes or in antagonism; an alienation—a darkness—that has insinuated itself into all the fibers of the creation, commingling itself with the light. And from this predatory darkness spring suffering, malice, stupidity, death, corruption. It is to this universal condition, and to the skulking darkness, I think, that the psalmist refers, when he speaks of “the lion who lurks in secret places…and would consume much flesh.” This is Fallenness. This is the one, great overarching catastrophe, and these are the manifold bitter fruits of the Fall; this is the disease with which we—each of us individually, and the cosmos as a whole—are afflicted; for “the wages of sin is death.” A religion that does not address this condition, this horror of a million faces—a religion that does not address this, the fundamental, hypostatic, one and only human problem, is no religion at all. It may be a council of wellwishers or a social work group or a fellowship society, but, in any case, it’s a shallow pond: it’s not religion, because it does not speak to the fundamental human need. And it’s been my experience that the trend in contemporary western Christianity is to pretend that the elephant’s not in the room. And instead of addressing the fundamental horror, I hear proclaimed rainbows and butterflies and affirmations; I hear preached affirmation that everything’s okay and we’re all right just the way we are. But what, really, is being affirmed? To insist that life is whole is to insist on a lie. Even if we tell the lie to each other, and tell it over and over and over, it’s still a lie, like the emperor’s new clothes, and at some level we aren’t convinced. For the process of healing to begin, we must first see that we are ill, gravely so; and to experience the horror of our state, and desperation, and to see that we have only one glass, and it’s half-empty. It is for these reasons that I’m not interested in a false and empty optimism. The truth will serve us better, if we will use it. In the next installment, we will begin to consider the cure; i.e., how, in the Orthodox tradition, the soul is rehabilitated from the effects of sin. http://orthodoxedenton.org/ (252) 482-2006 Free Classified Ads go to atpnc.com for more! COFFEE & END TA- BLES SET-MATCH- ING GLASSTOP W/ BLACK LEAF DESIGN BASE $100 CAMDEN (727)560-2791 GLASS TOP DESK W/ METAL BASE $50 CAMDEN (727)560-2791
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