Wednesday, August 31, 2005

(Friar?!) Seraphim Rose

Andrei Rublev, Part 2

An interesting, somehow anti-climactic ending. Did Rublev really kill a soldier? It seems as though it *must* be true, as it seems to have been the chief impetus for his vow of silence and severe repentance. I was befuddled by the bell-making sequence...but I suppose it was significant because the young bell-maker followed him to help him paint the church of the Holy Trinity? I wonder if his story is sufficiently well-known in Russia that Tarkovsky didn't feel like he needed to fill in the details? Can anyone offer insight into this? Hello? Is anybody listening? If a blog entry is written in the virtual wilderness and nobody reads it, does it really exist? It's late and I'm beginning to ramble aimlessly...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Andrei Rublev

I just came from watching the first half of Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev. It's over three hours long, so we're going to take it in two parts. It's quite a remarkable film, though somewhat confusing at times. It's more like a series of biographical vignettes than a cohesive whole. It seems that Tarkovsky was attempting to paint a broad spiritual picture of Rublev, rather than providing a precise historical account. The vignettes often don't seem to hold together and a great deal of the story must be picked up after the fact through dialogue.
Tarkovsky, it seems, has a great grasp on the spiritual struggle. His characters are genuine: they allow themselves to drift into areas of grey, then repent and struggle to remain in areas of white. At the same time, they are very aware of and strongly drawn to virtue...and struggle to embrace it, to preserve it, and yet remain humble in it.
Rublev refuses to paint the Last Judgment...he doesn't want to scare people...he doesn't pretend that it's not part of the tradition, he just can't bring himself to paint it. He struggles for two months over it, while his painting crew waits for him to decide what to do. Is this historically accurate? It is a remarkable story, but is it true? This is one of the great problems with impressionistic hagiography. Fictitious accounts of the lives of normal historical figures are considered dishonest, but at the same time they don't (ultimately) matter. Strangely, fictitious accounts of the lives of holy people seem to be more widely accepted (to draw out the "spiritual" meaning of their lives) and yet they are (ultimately) very problematic, especially as we as Orthodox give such weight to hagiography (for both educational and dogmatic purposes).

Sunday, August 28, 2005


PS: Thanks, again, for all those that have signed up to be contributors! I know that it's summer and that many of you are scattered across the globe, which may have a bearing on the lack of posts. Just in case, though, there is any issue with posting (getting familiar with the Blogger Dashboard, or whatever), I wanted to mention that I would be happy to post anything on your behalf...just send it to me as an e-mail. Please let me know, though, if you want me to say who it is that is posting (otherwise I'll put it in as an "Anonymous Post").

Gotta Keep the Boat from Sinkin'...

Yep...I notice that there is actually traffic, albeit slow, so people are comin' out to see if there are new posts...which means I've got to write something. But what?
I had a nice chat with a couple at church this morning...a very nice couple, trying to live vibrant Orthodoxy in their little neck of the woods. She has a real green thumb and enjoys watching things grow, noticing the effect of weather on plants, the interaction between critters and the plant world, and so on. We spoke about Wendell Berry, trying to live in a responsible way as regards the material world, the relationship between generations and what we have lost. She mentioned one thing that I found particularly interesting. I suppose it's logical and goes without saying (though I haven't heard it said before!) She mentioned how knowledge is lost when it is forgotten for three consecutive generations. That is, although her parents aren't gardeners, her grandfather was a farmer and taught her about the natural world, about planting, caring for the land, so the knowledge was passed on. Of course, if she hadn't learned it from her grandfather it's almost impossible that her children would have learned it from him (as there is too great a difference in age). Alas, nothing too profound...and yet...profound in its own way. That said, it is never too late, of course, to get reconnected to the stream of folk knowledge passed down for generations since the dawn of man...if one wants to.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I guess I'll just do my thing...

and hope that other folks post...I *was* glad to see that so many of my good friends have signed on as contributors...we look your contributions! Please remember, random comments are fine...thoughts...profound or not. For those of you still in Greece, I can probably speak for all of those who have returned: we'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences, frustrations (it would make it less painful, perhaps, to not be there!), and so on. This is a place for the profound AND the mundane (at least at present...if it gets *too* mundane we might have to look at a new approach!) Has the cost of tomatoes risen exponentially? Have the taxis gone on strike again? Is there a new theology conference to look forward to? (and an anti-conference, of course!)? Have the anarchists organized another coup of the Theology School? What's the latest Ph. D. dissertation that the professors are shouting at each other about? I don't want this to deteriorate into a gossip blog...but a little bit of news from our favorite European city would be a wonderful thing...and perhaps it would inspire some dialogue. As regards deeper things...what are you reading at present? What classes are you taking and what are you learning (besides patience, of course...;-) What have you learned/are you learning from your experiences in the Church's services? Have you been blessed with a particularly kataniktiko all-night vigil at some little kelli or skete on the Holy Mountain or in a parish in the city? When did it begin? What was the weather like? What kerasmata were there? Who did you see there? Have you spoken with an elder/eldress recently? What did you learn from him/her that might be soul-profiting to those of us scattered in the desert? For those of us back on this side of the Atlantic...what have you learned/are you learning now that you've returned from Greece? What was the transition back to the States like? What do you miss most? least? What was the most important lesson you took away with you? I look forward to a fruitful, encouraging, and God-pleasing dialogue!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The much anticipated provocative post...

Well...perhaps not...but at least I could begin with what I consider to be the most fundamental question of life: What is man for? As an Orthodox Christian, I have a venerable tradition to draw from, which provides context and content to life...but many of the answers that one can find (in patristic writings, liturgical texts, hagiography, and so on) offer answers that require a certain amount of interpretation. Of course, one could answer that man is made to be united to God...and this is, of course, ultimately true.
But how does this work? Most specifically, what does this mean for me as a Christian living in the world? Am I to attend solely to myself (as if this were even possible) and not worry about others? Of course, one might answer, yes, in fact, this is exactly what we are called to...look at how most of the Saints separated themselves for years, so as to acquire the grace of God and thereby be able to provide other people with a vision of a life transfigured...a life truly "in Christ." And in one respect, this is true.
At the same time, for better or for worse, I spend most of my life doing other things...mostly neutral perhaps, sometimes more virtuous, sometimes less so. Although the virtuous and the sinful things I do have the greatest effect on me spiritually (or so one would think), they tend to take up the least amount of time...sadly, I have not yet been granted unceasing prayer. Most of my time is spent with the neutral aspects of my life: sleeping, eating, working, recreation, and so on. Certainly all of these neutral things may be done to the glory of God, but are they? And how to make sure that they continue to be glorifying?
Finally (for now, this post has rambled on long enough), what is the hierarchy of values that inform one's life (and thereby provide some kind of criteria for evaluating the answer to the original question regarding the purpose of man's life on earth)? Certainly, belief in and a life dedicated to Christ and His Church inform all other things. What is second, though? My guess is that for one called to monastic life, it is his/her monastic vocation...and for one called to marriage, it is his/her vocation as a husband/wife/father/mother. Third? This is probably where most of the dialogue my own salvation third in the hierarchy of values? Is the salvation of my brother/sister completely tied to my own salvation? Would this place his/her salvation on the same level as my own as regards my personal responsibility and the hierarchy of values? Christ's words and the patristic tradition would seem to support this..."My brother is my life" as Saint Silouan says. If this is the case, what does this mean for me? for how I order my life? for the decisions I make? for the way I spend my time?

2nd Post... I'm back...I thought that I should provide some more content in case one of the few people that knows this blog exists comes back to see what I've posted (what a responsibility!) But honestly, I *don't* want this to be a monologue...I've got to figure out a way to get some of my friends, scattered around the globe, involved...What I need is a provocative post that everyone will want to sink their teeth into. Hmmm...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

First Post!

Greetings, and welcome to the Protecting Veil blogspot!
This is mostly an experiment, just to see how blogger software works. Thus far it is a real success! I'm going to try to rope in a few friends to share their comments and we'll see where it goes from there...

PS: If, by some miracle of the Internet, you have found yourself on this page, please post a brief comment to let me know that you found me!