He who sings prays twice.
Saint Augustine

«— BibleHub on eleos

Four Types of Disagreement

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My friend, Peter Gardner, identified four types of disagreement about action. These principles can be applied to other types of disagreement, but he thinks disagreements about what to do in any given situation — disagreements about action — are the clearest to identify. These categories can be applied to political problems and their solutions, but they also apply to any disagreement about action — at work, home, etc.

Type I Disagreement
You agree on what the situation is, and you agree on the basic goals, but prioritize the goals differently.
Type I(b) Disagreement
you agree on the goals, and generally agree on the priority, but disagree on the optimal course of action to achieve these goals.
Type II Disagreement
You assess the situation more or less the same, but disagree about the goals. There is no point in arguing about how to prioritize goals if you can’t even agree on what they are.
Type III Disagreement
You have fundamentally different assessments of the relevant portions of reality. There is no point in discussing goals, much less prioritization, if you don’t agree about reality.
Type IV Disagreement
You are arguing about different things entirely, and aren’t paying attention to what the other person is saying at all. There is no point in continuing the argument until you figure out what you’re actually arguing about in the first place.

Peter originally posted these categories on Facebook. (You may not be able to see that post if you and he are not connected on Facebook.) I present them here in a slightly less ephemeral medium. The above essentially quotes him directly, lightly edited to be in the form of a list of terms with definitions.


Filed under: — Basil @ 8:02 am

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BibleHub on eleos

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eleos at BibleHub.com


Filed under: — Basil @ 2:54 pm

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Former Launch Officer on Trump’s Potential for Nuclear First Strike

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John Noonan is a defense analyst and former United States Air Force officer who performed duties as a Minuteman III launch officer. In a nuclear war, he would have been one of the people turning the keys to end civilization as we know it. As a result, his series of tweets analyzing Donald Trump’s potential attitude toward using nuclear weapons carry a certain moral weight not available to most discussions on the matter.

Noonan writes in response to anonymous allegations reported by Joe Scarborough that Trump asked a foreign policy expert “three times,” “if we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?” The Trump campaign has denied Scarborough’s statement, saying, “There is no truth to this [story].”

Enter Noonan’s series of tweets, which analyze the consequences of such a shift in nuclear weapons use philosophy, if true.

Noonan tells those who are just tuning in (like myself) that he has significant experience with nuclear weapons.

Read the rest of “Former Launch Officer on Trump’s Potential for Nuclear First Strike”


Filed under: — Basil @ 11:58 am

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You Won’t Believe How Ted Cruz Treats Syrian Christians

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Senator Ted Cruz wants the US to accept only Christian refugees from Syria and other ISIL-ravaged countries in the Middle East, reports Amy Davidson in the New Yorker. This is curious, because his past actions tell a different story than his recent words.
Read the rest of “You Won’t Believe How Ted Cruz Treats Syrian Christians”


Filed under: — Basil @ 4:38 pm

«— The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part III
—» You Won’t Believe How Ted Cruz Treats Syrian Christians

Who Has “Found the True Faith”?

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“We have seen the true light…![1] We have found the true faith…!” These words appear in a hymn that Byzantine rite Christians sing after communion in the Divine Liturgy. They are a source of pride for many, a source of embarrassment for others. Many Orthodox interpret “the true faith” to mean the entirety of the Eastern Orthodox faith in all of its peculiarity, and converts in particular often take pride having found this “true faith” and abandoned their “former error.”[2] But it may be worthwhile to ask: Is that what the hymn itself says? We do not always sing this hymn after communion: We do not sing it from Pascha to Pentecost.[3] This fact hints that perhaps the hymn’s meaning lies deeper than the surface reading.

Read the rest of “Who Has “Found the True Faith”?”

  1. This incipit is Εἴδομεν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν/Eidomen to phos to alethinon.
  2. This phrase, also translated as “former delusion,” appears in various euchologies in rites for receiving non-Orthodox Christians into the Orthodox Church.
  3. Archimandrite Robert Taft, sj, cites A. A. Dmitrievski and L. D. Huculak that this hymn is also replaced by the festal apolytikion on dominical feasts. [A History of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, vol. VI: The Communion, Thanksgiving, and Concluding Rites. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 281. (Rome: Pontificio Instituto Orientale, 2008) 472.] I am not familiar with this variant custom, which is not prescribed in the standard English-language source on East Slavic liturgical practice, The Order of Divine Services by Peter Fekula and Matthew Williams [(Liberty, TN: St John of Kronstadt Press, 2007.)].

Filed under: — Basil @ 9:33 pm

«— The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part II
—» Who Has “Found the True Faith”?

The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part III

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Icon of Ss Mary of Egypt and ZosimusIn Part I, I examined the context in which Saint Sophronius wrote “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt.” He draws on a long tradition of monastic literature in which there are several similar stories which he amplifies in his tale. In Part II, I briefly summarized the tale as Sophronius tells it, and I examined the character of Saint Zosimus. Sophronius describes Zosimus as a nearly perfect monk, the “monk’s monk,” so to speak, who begins to be tormented by thoughts that he is perfect and there is no one on earth who could teach him anything further. He enters the desert as a temporary hermit, according to the custom of his monastery for Lent, “hoping to find a holy father dwelling there, who could help him to find what he longed for,” someone to teach him some new ascetic discipline, so that he can attain even greater heights of ascetic perfection.

When first we encounter Mary, Zosimus wonders if she might be a demonic phantasm, evoking Christ’s temptation in the wilderness,[1] but from the beginning she is shown to be an ascetic who charismatically earns the authority to be a spiritual guide. She is characterized as a thaumaturge—a wonder-worker—who unselfconsciously commands the created order: by clairvoyance and by levitating a cubit (a foot and a half) above the ground. So before she begins narrating her life, the story within the story, we already know she’s a living saint[2] (whereas we may have wondered about Zosimus’ sanctity, since he is described as being precipitously close to succumbing to pride).

Once she begins telling her story, however, she reveals herself to have been a harlot among harlots—the “sinner’s sinner,” as it were. Read the rest of “The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part III”

  1. Lynda L. Coon, Sacred Fictions: Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997) 86.
  2. The ability to work miracles is a common way to indicate sanctity in the lives of the saints.

Filed under: — Basil @ 3:37 pm

«— Teaser for the Next Installment
—» The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part III

The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part II

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Icon of Ss Mary of Egypt and ZosimusIn the previous installment, we examined the context for the story as told by Saint Sophronius and saw that Saint Mary’s story becomes progressively more magnified. In Sophronius’ version, both the monk who finds Mary and Mary herself become magnified to almost unbelievable proportions.

Sophronius begins by introducing Zosimus, who we are told has been in the monastery since being weaned.[1] After many years of obeying the rule of his monastery, ceaselessly singing psalms and studying the scripture, and acting as spiritual father or guide to many monks far and wide, he begins to be “disturbed, as he said, by certain thoughts, namely, that he had become perfect in all practices and did not need anyone else’s teaching at all.” Zosimus moves to a monastery by the river Jordan which has a custom whereby all the monks leave the monastery during Lent and live as anchorites or hermits in the desert. Zosimus journeys into “the innermost part of the desert,” a key ideal for monasticism, and a key phrase for our story, “hoping to find a holy father dwelling there, who could help him to find what he longed for,” which is a father either to instruct him in some new discipline or to confirm that he has reached perfection.

Read the rest of “The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part II”

  1. In the summary that follows, quotes are from the translation by Maria Kouli unless other wise noted. Sophronius of Jerusalem, “The Life of Mary of Egypt, the Former Harlot, Who in Blessed Manner Became an Ascetic in the Desert of the <River> Jordan.” Translated by Maria Kouli, in Holy Women of Byzantium: Ten Saints’ Lives in Translation, edited by Alice-Mary Talbot. Byzantine Saints’ Lives in Translation.(&C: Dumbarton Oaks, 1996). I have omitted the brackets with which Kouli notes her interpolations. Greek text of Sophronius is found in Patrologia Graeca (PG) 87:3697–3726.

Filed under: — Basil @ 10:28 pm

«— The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part I
—» The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part II

Teaser for the Next Installment

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I said yesterday that I would begin analyzing the role of Saint Zosimus in Saint Sophronius’ “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt.” I greatly underestimated the toll that assisting my parish in hosting Lenten vespers this evening would take, or how late I would be arriving back at my dormitory. I must beg your forgiveness—I will not be fulfilling that stated goal. Even so, as not to leave you entirely empty of hand, I offer some questions as teasers. 

What clue does Saint Sophronius give us early in his story that foreshadows the advent of Saint Mary? He paints a very rosy picture of Zosimus’ life as a monk. Are there any problems? What is Zosimus looking for in the desert?

Tune in tomorrow. 


Filed under: — Basil @ 8:21 pm

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—» Teaser for the Next Installment

The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part I

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Icon of Ss Mary of Egypt and Zosimus“The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt” by Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem comes to us in a form that is, to put it bluntly, very inefficient. When I was first investigating the Orthodox Church, I tried to download a copy of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt.” This was the late 1990s, and finding information on the internet was often feast or famine. What I got was not right at all. It started out talking about some guy named (Saint) Zosimus, and it kept going on and on about him. Obviously not the life of Mary. So I deleted it and tried again. Finally, I realized that Saint Mary’s story does not start until somewhere between one third and one half of the way into what is ostensibly her Life!

Who cares about Zosimus? Sure, he’s the monk who finds St Mary out in the desert,[1] but does that mean a third to one-half of the Life of Mary needs to be taken up with his story? I thought for a very long time that “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt” needed an editor. More Mary—no Zosimus. On closer inspection, though, the whole point of this story lies in the contrast between Zosimus and Mary, and it’s a surprise ending.

Read the rest of “The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part I”

  1. That is, according to the version of the story told by Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem.

Filed under: — Basil @ 2:29 pm

«— PO;DR—Pop-over; Didn’t Read.
—» The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part I

The Cross is a Time Machine (and It’s Bigger on the Inside)

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Good evening.[1] I have been asked to speak to you today about the Eucharist as sacrifice—something of a daunting prospect for an Orthodox speaker in front of a hall of mostly Roman Catholic and Lutheran Christians. So instead, I am going to talk about the Doctor.

Earls Court Police Box.jpg
Earls Court Police Box” by User:Canley – Photographer: User:Canley. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

My patristics professor, Fr John Behr, told students in our first year at seminary that we have to learn to think about time in ways that seem more like science fiction than what we are used to.[2] So allow me to begin with this quote from Doctor Who: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint—it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… timey wimey… stuff.”[3]

We tend to think of time as a linear progression. There’s no rewind or fast-forward. I have no access to the Battle of Okinawa, because 70 years intervene between it and my present existence. When I lived on the island as a teenager, I could visit various monuments to those momentous events, but I had no access to the battle itself. Moreover, even though I lived on Okinawa as a youth, I longer have any access to Okinawa except as a memory. From our limited perspective within the system of time and space, subject to its constraints, as participants in it, we can only call to mind past events and imagine future possibilities.

Understandably, we bring this limited perspective to salvation history. The perspective of an observer outside this system (of which we know only one) would see things quite a bit differently. Classical theism and classical Judaeo-Christian faith both hold that God exists outside of the time-space system. With no frame of reference except that of our existence within time, so we tend to think of God’s eternity as merely extension in time—time, only longer. In fact, this is the quality of everlastingness, not eternity. Eternity is to be outside of time, unbound by it, time-less.

This insight has several implications for our theology. The most important for us this evening is that God’s acts or operations within creation will appear to us as discrete moments in time and will seem like separate acts or events, but in fact they are a single divine action. The cross stands at the center of the Big Bang.

This brings me to one more quote, which will require a bit of explaining: “The TARDIS is …burning. It’s exploding at every moment in history”[4] The TARDIS is the Doctor’s almost sentient time machine/spaceship, famously “larger on the inside than the outside,” an almost infinite amount of space and time crammed into the space of a 1960s London police box via the dimensional magic of television science fiction. As a space-time machine, its destruction in one episode occurs “at every moment in history.” A complete synopsis of the story is too complex to undertake tonight, but I think you can imagine what I’m driving at.

The execution of God on a cross does not simply occur on a hillside outside the walls of Jerusalem in first century Palestine. It is the eternal Word of God voluntarily sacrificing himself on the cross; the crucifixion exists eternally in the life of God. The cross stands at the center of all time and space. The Lamb of God is slain for the life of the world and its salvation “at every moment in history.”

Notice that this is not about repeating the Lamb’s sacrifice. The Apostle makes this clear in his letter to the Hebrews: “Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9.24–26 ESV). The sacrifice is not repeated; it is the single divine self-sacrifice that stands at the center of creation. The cross creates the world.

Now, finally, we can look at the Lord’s Supper in a new light. When we speak of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, it is not a new sacrifice or a repeated sacrifice. Martin Luther correctly opposed the idea that Christ was crucified again in the Mass, as did the Council of Trent. His sensitivity to scripture as a unique source of authority made such an interpretation of the “perpetual sacrifice” abhorrent, and he said so in very colorful language. To understand how the Lord’s Supper can be a perpetual sacrifice without “they are crucifying once again the Son of God to [our] own harm and holding him up to contempt,” we must understand the biblical concept of memorial.

The Israelites were instructed to keep the memorial of the Passover yearly. In this ritual (which continues to be remembered among Jews in the seder meal), the exodus from Egypt is not merely recalled. Let me read you a passage from Kevin Irwin’s Models of the Eucharist:

For the Jews the Passover is considered as much more than a past event that occurred once and for all. The Passover is also an event that is a present, effective reality. And in being commemorated (literally remembered together) in the present, it also necessarily leads to its fulfillment in the future. In biblical phraseology, saving events like the Passover and the death and resurrection of Christ [that is, the Christian Passover] are events that occurred “once for all (time)” (from the Greek term ephapax in Hebrews 7:27). The Passover of Israel and the paschal mystery of Christ are both events that occurred once and for all and yet they are also events that by their very nature occur still, here and now, in the unique moment of liturgical commemoration.[5]

So, the Doctor Who version of time and space actually takes on biblical proportions.

Thus, in the Lord’s Supper, it is the Lamb of God who offers and is offered on the altar, and the offering is the same offering he makes on the cross. The priest acts under the authority of Christ, making Christ present by his action—or rather, revealing the sacramental presence of Christ by his submission to Christ’s command, summed up in the Latin phrase in persona Christi. The Lord offers himself, a human being, through the action of offering the gifts of bread and wine and the gifts of the people which are his body and are made to be his body by the eucharistic action. Indeed, the priest acts on behalf of the people who corporately act in persona Christi to offer themselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12.1).[6]

  1. In this post, I give you my answer for a take-home exam. The question asked the student to address an inter-faith gathering of Catholic and Lutheran Christians, speaking about the idea of sacrifice in the Eucharist—a notion notoriously hated by Martin Luther.
  2. He alludes to some of this in his book The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death. (Crestwood, NY: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004).Behr talked much more extensively about this approach to time in class.
  3. “Blink,”Doctor Who, series 3, episode 10.
  4. “The Big Bang,”Doctor Who, series 5, episode 13.
  5. Kevin Irwin, Models of the Eucharist. (New York: Paulist Press, 2004), Kindle Locations 1590-1594.
  6. Ibid., Kindle Locations 2912–2937.

Filed under: — Basil @ 8:14 pm

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PO;DR—Pop-over; Didn’t Read.

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PO;DRPop-overs. Those annoying advertisements, requests for information, and alerts that appear over a web page, obscuring its content. Developers call them modal windows. I call them “the reason that I immediately close that tab or window.” The only way that this annoying virus will stop is if the organizations that are doing it realize that it is killing their bottom line.

If you are as infuriated as I am, join me in closing that tab or window without any further action. Then tell the people in charge via email, Twitter, Facebook, body tattoo, or whatever floats your boat: “PO;DR”—pop-over; didn’t read.


Filed under: — Basil @ 1:16 pm

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—» PO;DR—Pop-over; Didn’t Read.

Beautiful Websites Will Save the World

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A dear classmate of mine wrote me today to ask for examples of good parish website design—the “best to examine for style, layout, information and the most welcoming to the non-Orthodox.” My reply was short on examples, but long on some fundamental design principles. I wondered if maybe I had not really answered the question my friend asked. In concluding, I realized why I think these principles are so important: I have seen too many bad parish websites. Getting a parish website right is not optional. It is a pastoral and evangelical necessity. Here is my reply to my friend (edited for style and content):

Read the rest of “Beautiful Websites Will Save the World”


Filed under: — Basil @ 6:05 pm

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—» Beautiful Websites Will Save the World

Hatteras-style Clam Chowder

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You have heard, no doubt, of New England-style clam chowder. You may have heard of Manhattan-style clam chowder. I had not heard, until yesterday, of Hatteras-style clam chowder.

Hatteras-style chowder uses a clear broth, salt and pepper to taste for seasoning, and typically flour to thicken it. I made some today using some canned ingredients. You could just as easily use fresh ingredients, and it would work fine.

2 cans minced clams (not drained)
1 8 oz bottle clam juice
1 can diced potatoes
1 can kernel corn
1 can mixed vegetables (or diced carrots)
2 tbsp coconut oil (or some other vegetable oil)
1–2 cups potato flakes (ie, dry mashed potato mix)
salt and pepper to taste
dried minced onion, to taste

Most recipes I’ve seen online include chopped bacon. I did not include this for obvious reasons.[1] If you want to include it, cook it beforehand and add it with the other ingredients at the end, before simmering.

Combine clam juice, coconut oil and juice from one or both cans of clams in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Add potato flakes to desired thickness (it should be thicker at this point than desired finished product). Combine remaining contents. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or so.

The corn is my own take: I really like for my chowder to have corn. If you have dietary issues with corn, just omit it. Also, you’ll notice I used pototo flakes instead of flour to thicken it.

  1. I’m an Orthodox Christian. For fasting days — like Lent — we are allowed shellfish, but virtually any other animal product is, technically, supposed to be avoided, technically. Flesh meats like beef, poultry or pork (bacon) are forbidden. “Obvious,” because most of my readers know this part.

Filed under: — Basil @ 3:01 pm

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—» Hatteras-style Clam Chowder

When in Rome, Do What St Ambrose Does

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“When in Rome,” so the famous proverb goes, “do what the Romans do.” That is a significantly shortened reference to the following guidance of Saint Ambrose to follow the local traditions of a place, which Saint Augustine passes on to his disciple, Bishop Januarius:

I think you may have heard me relate before, what I will nevertheless now mention. When my mother followed me to Milan, she found the Church there not fasting on Saturday. She began to be troubled, and to hesitate as to what she should do; upon which I, though not taking a personal interest then in such things, applied on her behalf to Ambrose, of most blessed memory, for his advice. He answered that he could not teach me anything but what he himself practised, because if he knew any better rule, he would observe it himself. When I supposed that he intended, on the ground of his authority alone, and without supporting it by any argument, to recommend us to give up fasting on Saturday, he followed me, and said: “When I visit Rome, I fast on Saturday; when I am here, I do not fast. On the same principle, do you observe the custom prevailing in whatever Church you come to, if you desire neither to give offence by your conduct, nor to find cause of offence in another’s.” When I reported this to my mother, she accepted it gladly; and for myself, after frequently reconsidering his decision, I have always esteemed it as if I had received it by an oracle from heaven. For often have I perceived, with extreme sorrow, many disquietudes caused to weak brethren by the contentious pertinacity or superstitious vacillation of some who, in matters of this kind, which do not admit of final decision by the authority of Holy Scripture, or by the tradition of the universal Church or by their manifest good influence on manners raise questions, it may be, from some crotchet of their own, or from attachment to the custom followed in one’s own country, or from preference for that which one has seen abroad, supposing that wisdom is increased in proportion to the distance to which men travel from home, and agitate these questions with such keenness, that they think all is wrong except what they do themselves.

Augustine, Letter 54 (Book 1: Replies to Questions of Januarius), 2.3.


Filed under: — Basil @ 5:34 pm

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Punching the Heretic: You’re Doing It Wrong

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Icon of St Nicholas with our Lord, Jesus Christ, and his Mother, the Virgin Mary. This icon is available for purchase from Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

Have you heard the story of St Nicholas punching the heretic Arius in the face? Do you know what happened next? In a Google image search for icons of St Nicholas icons, about a third of the icons show this very tale, but almost none of them have Arius or a punch. How is this possible? If you have only heard about the punch, you have been done a grave disservice. If you know the rest of the story, but you only tell people about the punch, you fail them. And if you have never heard the story at all, I have a tale to tell!

Let me put this story in some perspective. Let us suppose, for a moment, that there is an impeachment trial underway in the U.S. Senate. Suddenly, while the defendant pleads his case with the assembly, one Senator jumps up, rushes to the speaker’s desk and punches him in the face! Not only does this sound highly unlikely on its face (though Senators have scuffled on the Senate floor), you are probably asking several questions right now: Would the Senator even be able to get to the speaker without anyone stopping him? Even if he were to get a punch in, what would happen next? Surely Secret Service would be on him like flies on honey. He would be arrested; perhaps his own impeachment would be imminent.

The context in the previous paragraph mirrors closely (almost exactly) the setting of the Nicene Council in which our story begins, wherein St Nicholas punches the heretic Arius. That disbelief and those questions are the point of the saintly punch: Set up the narrative tension. The punch is not the end of the story; it is only the beginning!

So, for those who have not heard the story: Arius was a priest who preached a particularly insidious opinion that turned out to be completely contrary to the orthodox and catholic faith of the church. What the heresy is turns out to be quite irrelevant to the story. Arius is the archetypal villain of church theology; this is all that matters to our tale.[1] His teachings rocked the church so badly, it was almost split in two. The Roman emperor, Constantine, thought this reflected fairly badly on his newly found faith, so he convened a council of all the church’s bishops to figure this whole thing out. While Arius was explaining his teachings, a little known bishop from Asia Minor (that’s Turkey today) suddenly jumped up and ran to the dais and punched Arius in the face.

Imperial Roman soldiers descended quickly on the unruly bishop and detained him. The emperor was furious! “I am the emperor of the whole world!” he cried. “How dare you interrupt this council I am presiding over? What is your name?” The bishop replied, “Nicholas, my lord. I apologize, but I could not bear to hear this man say such things about our savior.”

The emperor did not know the story of Nicholas who provided money to save young women from slavery. The other bishops did not know the story of Nicholas who stood between a Roman soldier’s sword and an unjustly accused man. They only knew that this bishop did not know his place. The council immediately deposed Nicholas and removed from him the gospel book and bishop’s stole — the symbols of his authority. Then, the emperor flung him into prison.

That night, Nicholas could not sleep. No longer a bishop, chained to the wall in a dungeon, he knew how enemies of the emperor usually fared. If he was not killed in a few days, he would be left to rot there forever! “O Lord,” he cried, tears streaming down his face, “I stood up for you! Is that not what a bishop does? Mother of God, help me!” Finally, he fell into a fitful sleep.

In his dreams, he was visited by our Lord, Jesus Christ, and his mother, the Virgin Mary. The Mother of God placed on his neck the stole of a bishop, and our Lord placed in his hands the book of the gospels. “Fear not,” the Lord said. “You are still a bishop in my book.” When he awoke, he still held in his hand the gospels, and the stole still hung around his neck. The guards were shocked. They took Nicholas before the emperor and the council to explain himself. Nicholas told them about the dream, and how he awoke finding the gospel book in his hands and the stole around his neck.

This council was in chaos! The bishops quickly realized their mistake: God himself had overruled their deposition! Nicholas was truly a bishop. The council moved to depose Arius, who died soon afterwards in a very rude fashion. But that is a tale for another day, because the story today is not about the heretic.

This tale does not appear in the acts of the Nicene Council, at which the Arius known to historians was convicted of heresy and deposed. What does this tell us? It tells us we need to look deeper into the story and see that it is not, as I said, really about Arius but about St Nicholas.

The hymn that Orthodox Christians sing to Nicholas, the troparion, a song which establishes the theme for his feast day, says, “You are a model of kindness and rule of faith.” This hymn, in fact, is the model for most bishop saints, just like Nicholas is. This tale of St Nicholas receiving his episcopal authority directly from our Lord and his Mother shows bishops that they must imitate St Nicholas. He gives them a model to follow — the quintessential bishop: The bishop who protects his people from injustice, who intervenes on behalf of the poor, who stands up to heresy. St Nicholas is all of these and an icon of what a true bishop really is and an icon for us all.

  1. It’s Arianism, of course. – However, Arius becomes the archetype and quintessential heretic. Later heretics often get associated with Arius so they can be clearly perceived as heretics, even if their teachings are almost completely unrelated.

Filed under: — Basil @ 12:40 pm