Metropolitan Anthony, Man and Woman
Forum talk by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh MAN AND WOMAN
9 May, 1989
The subject of man and woman has become more and more essential in the course of the last decades, not only because a number of people have been very vocal about the situation of women both in the Church and in society, but because more and more, the Christian vision has ripened, deepened, and problems which did not exist a century ago have come to the fore – not only forced upon the Christian consciousness by circumstances, but coming from within the Christian consciousness. A variety of groups of people have taken up the subject in the secular world, and also in the Churches.
A great many things have been written and said about man, about woman, about their mutual relationship, and no complete accord has been achieved even in individual denominations, even in those denominations that were least of all prejudiced and were more than others free to take one line or another. The Orthodox Church in the last decades has spoken. It has spoken with great assurance and without any ground either for the. assurance or for the affirmation that she has made. This is why I got particularly interested in the subject and felt I wish to think – not that I expect to say anything new or anything more true, but to raise problems. We have in hand two particularly offensive documents. When I say offensive I mean from my angle. It is the book which was produced by Father Thomas Hopko in America, Women and the Priesthood, and even worse than this, the papers and conclusions of the Rhodes Conference that took place a few months ago. Both are affirmative, clear and of an audacity that I believe can be explained only by lack of thought. So I believe we must, all of us, think, study the Bible, look into the history of the Church, look into the context of the Church’s history in the secular world, try to see clearly what influences came upon the Christian community in different epochs. For the Church is at the same time a body in which God dwells and the Holy Spirit acts, but also it is a body of men and women who are deeply ingrained in the society, the history, the time in which they live and who therefore are influenced by a great many more factors than the action of the Holy Spirit or the sayings of the Holy Scriptures.
So what I wish to do is to go with you through a certain number of motions. A number of you will probably have gone far beyond them, know more about it, but I want to share what I have come to. To begin with, I would like tonight to speak simply of the beginnings of Genesis, the creation, and see how God relates to what he has called into being and how man relates to the rest of the created world, to God, and indeed to himself. I will have to use one pronoun only at the same time because it is impossible at every turn to say ‘he or she’, ‘she or he’, and to say ‘it’ would be far too artificial.
The first line of Genesis confronts us really with the act of creation: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters’. This in a way is all the story of creation. It is the primeval act of God that brings out of naught what there was not, something which did not exist at all. What is described later on in the first chapter of Genesis is a fashioning of this primeval material which God had called into existence.
When we read this passage we must then see that in the beginning, that is, at the moment when something arose out of naught, it is the beginning of time. It is the beginning of something new and the beginning of change, when God called into existence all that came into being and all that was brought out of this primeval call, and indeed all that will gradually evolve, develop and appear. The
words which are used here: ‘the earth was without form and void’ seem to be terribly static. They have been translated in a variety of ways. Among them two words attracted my attention. The one is chaos:
the moment when God called into being what was to be and develop into the world as we know it and indeed as a world which we no longer know, at that moment had no form. It was all possibility. It was all in the future, as it were – not only in the making. It was there ready to begin to take shape.
But the word ‘chaos’ may mean two things. In our habitual language, in the way in which we speak, chaos means disorder. And when we think of chaos we think of the results of destruction, the chaotic condition of society, the chaos resulting from a typhoon, an earthquake, something that was harmony first ceasing to be harmony and becoming shapeless, disorderly; it is less than it was at the beginning. But on the other hand, chaos may mean something different. It may be a mass of material or a situation in which things are still dormant, are still virtually there but have not yet begun to emerge and to become cosmos, which means beauty, shape, form. And this is the chaos of the beginning, a primeval matter that contained all the possibilities of which we are aware and all the possibilities of which we are not even capable of dreaming and which will gradually be called out by God or, gradually also, emerge by a sort of inner law of existence which is also deposited into this chaos by God. Speaking in modern terms, it is a sort of DNA that conditions the motion of all that has not yet become what it is called to be, not yet attained to the fullness of what it can become.
In other terms one could say that God had, from all eternity, a vision of the created, a vision of this primeval matter that would contain all that could be, not only the world before the fall, before sin, mortality, destruction came into it, not only the world as we know it, the world of twilight, the world of suffering, of pain, of distress, of sin, of evil and mortality, but also that world of which we can say nothing, which we can wait for, expect in hope, with a tremulous heart. That is the moment when, in the words of St Paul, God shall be all in all – a fulfilment when all things which God called into existence virtually, not yet fashioning them but taking them as a possibility, will become the glorious vesture of God, the body of God, who will remain himself unattainable, unknowable, mysterious, and yet filling all things with his presence in the way in which the fullness of divinity abided in the body of the Incarnate Son of God, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, true man and perfect man, but true man, not more, not less – man in all that was possible to achieve.
So this is the chaos of which we must think, not a disorder but a matrix of all possibilities. There is an expression which I have found in a translation of the beginnings of Genesis by Martin Buber, who, instead of using the words `without form and void’, says that it was Wirrsinn. And this word, by its sound, gives a sense that it was a whirl of motion; it was created not as a static mass of possibility; it was like a whirl of possibilities. It was dynamic, in motion, creatively moving from the first moment of its existence. I know that the use of words belongs at times more to poetry than to strict and severe thought, but there are words which are evocative, and this word Wirrsinn does it not make us think of the big bang of which one speaks now: a moment when God said ‘Come’, a moment when God said ‘Be’ – the fiat of Latin translations? And when things emerged, not in a sort of passive way in which they would sort of flow lazily out of the word of God, but in which all the thought of God, all the vision of God, all that he has dreamt and imagined about the created world, of a sudden burst into existence? And it is there, full of possibility, containing all the future already, in a way, possessed of an eschatological quality.
The word eschaton means two things. It means, on the one hand, what is final, what will happen in the end, but it means also what is decisive. The creating shout of God, this creative call of God was a decisive act of God that had all the intensity, all the fire, all the power, but also all the divine love of God that brought all things into existence. For this is also something which is so important in this primeval first act of creation. God does not force a world into existence. He does not make a world in order to dominate it, to possess it. He creates a world in order to give all he has and all he is to it, to give himself and to make this world commune with him, partake of his life – again in the words of the Apostles. And these words were spoken about man, but beyond man they belong to all creation – become partakers of the divine nature. It is an act of self-giving, of outpouring of self. If we think of the way in which at that moment God and his creation relate to man, it is an act of divine love that
gives birth, in a sudden cry of exultation, to a whole world of possibilities. All this emerging out of naught is face to face with love divine, a love so great, so free of selfness that it is prepared to pour itself into the created, give itself. One may say that the whole created world at that moment already contained all the vision which God had of it. One can say that all the divine wisdom that was at the root and is at the root of the creation is engulfed in this primeval matter. And in that sense the vision is there that Father Sergei Bulgakov had of the Divine Wisdom calling a world into existence and merging into this world as wisdom. I have used the word DNA intentionally as the power that will shape, make, bring about all things and bring them gradually to their fulfilment of perfection. That is the first moment.
But then there is a second period in the act of creation, a period in which God, from the immeasurable complexity of this chaos pregnant with all possibilities knowable and unknowable to man, begins to call out one form of existence after another. In the beginning we are told that darkness was on the face of the deep. Darkness does not mean absence of light. It means also an absence of shape. It is not yet there. And the Spirit of God broods over this darkness in the way in which one can imagine a being in the process of being born within a womb. It is in darkness and it gradually comes to be shaped, develops, and one day will come into the light – first of all into the light material and at the same time perhaps – or perhaps before – into the divine light, and the Spirit of God brooding over it.
And one day after the other allows us to see how, out of this primeval chaos, begin to emerge new and new possibilities. Now, no one is naive enough nowadays to speak of the days of creation as being days in the sense in which we speak of evening and morning. One reason would be sufficient to rule it out, that the sun and the moon were not created on the first day, and therefore one could not count the first days in the plural by the motions of the moon or the sun. But what is so interesting in this passage is that one being emerging out of, after the other, wherever a being emerges we are told: And it was evening and it was light, it was morning. What was the light of the first day, compared with the increasing shining, splendour of the next day, appears as being a twilight, a darkness. It is a motion of gradual unfolding of the creation in which each stage is perfect, and yet compared with the next one appears to be incomplete.
It is only a step forward, a movement upward, a new unfolding, in the way in which one can speak of a flower that begins to be a seed, that becomes a blade, then becomes a stem, then becomes a bud, and then opens up to the glory of things. So appeared these days. Every moment is perfect. And yet, compared with the next one, it is as yet unfulfilled, or rather it finds its fulfilment in the next motion, in the next stage, in the same way in which the seed is fulfilled in the blade, fulfilled in the stem, fulfilled in the bud and fulfilled in the flower perfectly, gloriously open. There is no moment when one can say ‘This was less’, although one can say ‘We never suspected in what we saw at first, the glory, the splendour of what it became afterwards. We will have occasion to come to this point later, because this is exactly what we find in the genealogy of Christ.
We find in two of the Gospels a description of ages of human generations that gradually, through ups and down, but only because they are all totally moving godwards, because all their longing is there – result in the end, in this incredible fulfilment which is the Mother of God. And this perfect blossoming out, this eschatological event, the final victory which is Christ, the Incarnation, God becoming man and man being united with God inseparably for ever to such a degree of perfection – and these are the words of St John Chrysostom – that when we ask ourselves: what then is man? we should not look toward the thrones of kings and princes, but look up towards the throne of God and see man seated at the right hand of power and glory – the same movement, the same gradual progression in which every stage is perfect to the extent to which it can be perfect and is fulfilled in the next one, until it finds total, ultimate fulfilment, eschatological glory, at the end – the end being a point in time and being the end in the sense of the goal.
And then a moment comes when all these beings are created. You can look at the names and the stages in the Bible. Reading them now, dwelling on them would add nothing. What is important to me, at least, is what I have said about this gradual unfolding, the, gradual movement from glory to glory and the fact that every stage is fulfilled in the next one We come to the creation of man, and we are not sufficiently puzzled by it, because we usually see it as the next stage of development. If we believe in evolution it will be the next stage in evolution. If we don’t believe in evolution but only in the creative acts of God, we can take it that way. I remember when I was seventeen I read a little booklet by an English protestant called Mr. Smith – that is all I know about him – in which he tried to show that the idea of a succession of acts of creation or evolution did not contradict one another, in the sense that things did not simply move smoothly from one into the other. There is in places an obvious Darwinian evolution. There is also a non-Darwinian evolution when things develop contrary to the way in which he expects them to be. There are also Lamarckian jumps from one condition, one situation into the other. And he said that anyone looking at one of the great modern steamers may say, ‘But that is evolution: all these steamers were born of the original little canoe which the first savage dug out of the trunk of a tree. This canoe was first empty and was paddled with the hands of the original man, then he invented paddles. Then a mast grew. And then wings grew that proved to be sails. And then things continued to change. And fire touched this canoe and it became steam. One can always imagine that the Queen Mary or the Queen Elizabeth is the result of the natural evolution of the first canoe. Yet we know perfectly well that intelligence came into it, a human mind. And so we can also imagine easily that although we can see this kind of succession of steps, God was there. The Spirit of God was still and is still brooding over his creation, making it possible for it to move onward, to develop, to enrich itself, to go deep, to become more and more capable of union with God.
But there is one exception: man. Man does not come as a fulfilment. Look at what the Bible says. It is so clear and so offensive perhaps to us. So God created man. And what did he do to create man? He took a handful of dust. He took some earth, some clay, whatever word you use. He took a piece of the primeval material out of which all the rest had already evolved. He did not take the most evolved and the most wonderful chimpanzee. He did not take a hominian that was already budding into a human being and to whom a little push would be sufficient for him to become all he was called to be. No. God leaves all this fulfilled, glorious creation of his and turns and takes a handful of dust, the primeval material of all the creation and fashions it, moulds it. Now let us dwell one moment on that, because I think it is important.
How does man then relate to the rest of creation? I am not speaking of the way in which man at that moment relates to God. How does it relate to the rest of creation? Indeed perfectly, absolutely, marvellously, because had God taken the best of all monkeys, making him just a little less monkeyish and different and made of him a human being, man would have been a total stranger both to his parental monkeys and to all the beings that preceded him.
No, man is made out of the clay of this earth, out of the very material out of which every other being was made. He belongs totally to every thing that ever was called into being or shall ever evolve into being. In that sense he is perfectly akin to every atom, to every star, to every galaxy, he is akin to light and darkness he is akin to every plant and every animal, because all of them are made of the clay of the earth, of the primeval material of creation. And he is the primeval material of creation fashioned and endowed with something more than its earthiness, because there is a second act of God. which results in the creation of man.
The second act of God is described as ‘God breathed into him life’. Now, again we can ask ourselves questions, because were not the other beings alive? All the animals were alive, all the terrestrial animals, all the animals of the air, all the animals of the waters. All the plants were alive. But they were not alive with the breath of God. They were alive by the power of life which God had put into themy by this wisdom of God at work in them, this DNA which shaped their existence and their progression and their becoming.
Man is endowed with the breath of God. And in that sense, at that moment, there is in man not only a total kinship with all the created without exception, but also with the Creator, with the Living God. Man is alive not only, as it were, by natural existence, but by a spark, a breath which is divine.
There is more to the creation also. When God creates man, he says, ‘Let us create man in our image and likeness’. He uses the word ‘us’, the plural. And already in pre-Christian times there were rabbinical commentaries that indicated that God was not simply an arithmetic unit but was a being that had complexity, that he had not only an individual existence but was one in plurality. We proclaim that we believe in God One in the Trinity, the Triune God, Three Persons, One God – not three individuals, not three beings which can be considered as separate, but who are One. And man is created in God’s image.
Writers of all times in the Christian world have asked themselves what it means. What does it mean that we are in the image of God? A variety of elements have been suggested. It was suggested that man was created of a body, a mind and a spirit. It was suggested that what characterises man in relation to God as mirroring God – no, more than mirroring, as expressing his kinship with God is creativeness. God creates. God is the only being who creates. Every other being lives, develops, evolves, makes, but does not create. God creates, and the gift of being creative, in the words of St Gregory Palamas, is one of the elements of this image of God in man.
I mentioned in the beginning the fact that all things created are shaped from the inside by God’s vision of what they are called to be, by what Father Sergei Bulgakov – in another sense, I must say – would call the created or the creative sophia, wisdom. That is one way in which we relate to him.
Here we see that God and man are akin to one another by the breath of God which makes him into a being alive, but alive with a super-natural life, a life that is not only the life of nature but a life of communion already, however incipient, however incomplete, in the same sense in which man was created in innocence, not in saintliness. He had to achieve holiness, but he was created in perfect purity.
And then we see again that he is endowed with the gift of creativeness. And here we find another feature, another element. God creates man in his image. He uses the plural. And He creates a being, the man – and I am not using the word man as a synonym of male but as one would say in Russian chelovek, in Greek anthropos -the human being not as an arithmetic unit, not as an individual, but as a complex reality: two in one. To that I will come later when we speak of the creation of Adam and the birth of Eve in more detail.
So here again man is in the image of God, because he has a suprapersonal existence. Each human being is not only himself; he is himself in relation, and not otherwise. Perhaps some of you remember a text from the Codex Bezae. which is in the library in Cambridge in which there is a passage from a manuscript of the Gospel which has not become part of our received text, in which it says Christ was asked: ‘When shall the Kingdom of God come?’ And he answers: ‘The Kingdom of God has come when two are no longer two but one.’ In that he indicates that it is the oneness of Adam and Eve which is the Kingdom of God already come with power, that is as a reality, and yet a reality that must blossom out, out of the seed become the flower.
And so we are now confronted with a world in which all these stages, all this complexity and this wonder exist. And if you think of God calling in an act of love – not in an act of power but in an act of love – ‘Come, for me to give myself to you, to give myself to you at all cost’. We can imagine every being emerging out of naught and confronted simultaneously with God, whose wisdom is active, is powerfully in motion within it or him or her or them, and seeing God and responding by adoration, by worship, by love, by exultation, to this meeting face to face, of a nascent world in which there is no stain yet, who is the God who is total, perfect, ultimate beauty and who says ‘I am what you are to be. I am what you are called to become’. And man emerges out of naught in the same way.
But then again I want to ask another question. How does God know his creation? God had a vision, an image. His wisdom shaped – if one may use such inadequate terms – in his mind the pregnant
chaos of the beginning, its intense whirling life, every being that would gradually be called, emerge, be brought out of it into a vision of its own beauty reflecting God’s own beauty. And then is it all? Does God know the created world only as an artist that creates a vessel, a potter that makes a pot, a painter that projects on canvas his vision of what he sees or imagines, or a sculptor who out of a block of stone frees the beauty of a statue that was imprisoned in it? Is it only an exterior vision? Is it that he projects himself into the creation without communing with it totally?
Father Sergei Bulgakov was confronted with the problem, and the way he solved it was to say that the divine wisdom merges itself into the naught. The result of it is that something emerges, but some of the divine wisdom remains a prisoner of this something. And the striving of all the creation godward is the striving of the created wisdom that is a prisoner and struggles to come back, to return to the freedom of the uncreated wisdom. This does not satisfy me. I cannot imagine God becoming a prisoner of His creation. I cannot imagine divine wisdom merging into naught, because naught by definition does not exist. There is nothing to merge into. And I cannot imagine that our longing for God, the love we may have for him, is nothing but the impulse of the divine wisdom within us, different from us, in a way alien to us, to be reintegrated to freedom and carry us with it, as it were in addition to achieving its own renascent fulfilment.
What strikes me is the story of the Incarnation. What happens in the Incarnation? God becomes man. God is not imprisoned in a human body and soul that would be his abode but also his prison and the instrument of his ministry of salvation. We are told that the fullness of God abided in the flesh. St. Maxim the Confessor – and I have mentioned this already – speaks of the Incarnation as the union, the fusion of fire and iron in a sword that is plunged into a furnace so that the iron is totally filled with the heat of the furnace and contains it. And yet fire remains fire, iron remains iron. And yet
again, their union is such that, in the words of St Maxim, one can now cut with fire and burn with iron. This is the intimate, total, indeed incomprehensible union of the divine and the human in the Incarnation.
But then, this year for the first time I became aware of a passage of one of the troparia on Good Friday in which we are told that God became sotvarny, participated in the createdness of what he had created, did not create through the Incarnation. He is not made a prisoner of humanity, of his own bodily and psychic humanity. He does not dwell in it as one can imagine him dwelling in the temple of his body. These are expressions which are used in the scriptures and in prayers. He identifies, he pervades all that is the created nature he has taken. He knows, as it were, from within what it means to be a created being. Unfathomable, beyond understanding, but it is just a fact. He does not observe createdness from the outside. He knows what it is to be a created being from as it were, being one. And this is again a way in which we relate to God. But beyond us the whole created world relates to God in that way, because, if we think of Christ and no longer of us who are in the making, who are imperfect, who are soaring and falling, but if we think of Christ, every created being looking at him could recognise himself, herself, itself fulfilled, perfect, see himself as what he will one day be when all things are fulfilled, when God has won his victory finally and perfectly, when God is all in all, when all shine with divinity. And this can be perceived, lived, sung, danced by every atom, by every wave, can be sung by every star, every planet, every galaxy, all the immensity of which we know nothing, which we discover from time to time with amazement as being filled with what we never knew was there. And so does every plant, every animal, every being, even the things which we call inert because we do not know how to communicate with them. But every one of them recognises itself in the body of Christ which is the primeval matter, the matter of which Adam and Eve were made, the matter of which every creature was fashioned.
What a glorious vision! What wonder! And how central then man is, each of us, because in an eschatological way, in a definitive, decisive way it has already happened in us and to us, because we are that primeval matter. We are indwelt with the breath of God. We are the kin, the brothers and sisters of the incarnate Son of God. At the same time we are one with the created world, in a way on
two levels, on the way of its primeval origins and final eschatological vocation and on the level of its misery, of its fall, of its suffering, of its distress, of its longing, of its cry. On all of these levels we are akin to all things created. And all things created, look at us with hope and despair. Paul said that the whole creation groans, waiting for the revelation of the children of God. Yes, groans, because as long as we are not the kind of human beings we are called to be, like Christ, Christ’s incarnate presence, the extension of his incarnation, the whole world is a prisoner of the curse of mortality, of sin, of death, suffering imperfection.
And this is why St Maxim the Confessor said that man stands on the threshold of two worlds, because he belongs to both. On the one hand, he belongs to the created world, to the world of the soul and of matter. And on the other hand he belongs truly already now, however incipiently, to God’s own world. And Christ is a revelation of it, a revelation of the glory of the created material world and a revelation of God at the same time.
I will end my talk at this point. Next time I will speak of the creation of man, of what happened next, the creation of Eve. And when I say ‘of man’ I do not of mean the male Adam. Then we will see by examining the fall in its various developments what happened. How could it happen that even within the human race such monstrous relationships can develop as have developed.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS I
(creation from chaos vs. dust of the earth)
How I see it, and it doesn’t mean that it’s true, is that in a first act God calls into being a subtle matter out of which all things were made or born, a sort of primeval material which is on the limit of the material and the immaterial, and out of this will be made the rest. It starts with what I called for lack of a better word, the primeval matter. I would like to give you an image. There is in one of Charles Williams’s books the description of a painting. The painting represents a most beautiful piece of brown rich wood in light that comes from somewhere but one cannot see its origin. There is no point of light; there is light. And Charles Williams describes it by saying: ‘It was as though light flowed and became colour, and colour became a beam of wood.’ I think that is how I see the act of creation: the divine thought projecting itself and becoming. And then it becomes a beam of wood which means a more concrete materiality out of which everything else will develop.
Well, this is, I think, a matter of guessing more than of certainty or if you prefer, the kind of certainty one can have within oneself but which one cannot give evidence for. We know that all things are alive – plants, animals — we know also from the Old and the New Testament that God can speak to what we call ‘inert matter’ – the waves of the sea that are stilled by God’s command and so forth, which means that they are capable of hearing God speak, that they relate to God, that they are, as it were, beyond communion with us but not beyond communion with God. And so all things have within themselves what I think we can call only (a life/a light) which relates them to God in a sentient way. There is a very beautiful poem by Gerard de Nerval in that line, I can’t quote it, but in which he says, quoting an ancient writer: Break a stone and God is within it, break a stone and trace a response to God in it. But what we find is that in the creation of man we are told that God breathe His own breath into man. And we see that of all the creatures of God man is the only one who has this kind of awareness of God, this kind of awareness of self, this kind of awareness of all that exists, which is beyond instinct, beyond memory, beyond intelligence, which is a knowledge of communion. But this is all I can say because I don’t think I have enough knowledge in terms of learning and I cannot give more evidence for it; but that is how I read this particular passage and I thought I will share it. And you know, the aim of this kind of sharing is to present you with things which you may not have thought of before or of things which I have not repeated time and again earlier so that you can start
thinking, and even if you come to the opposite conclusion it is right, it would have been a starting point.
(Relationship between the divine wisdom and the Christ incarnate)
I will answer tentatively. Wisdom is something which belongs to the whole of the Godhead, it belongs to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, it is not a quality vested uniquely in one or another of the Persons. On the other hand with regard to the created world Christ, who is the Creator by whom all things were made, is to us, as it were, the embodiment of the divine wisdom that calls into existence, that makes, that shapes, that provides, that guides, that communes, that saves, and that is a vision of the fulfilment. I think, there are icons, there is one icon of Christ, of which I am aware, of Christ called the Wisdom of God, but it is addressed to us, it does not mean that wisdom is absent in the Father or the Spirit.
I may be wrong, but I would say, yes, that is what I mean. The divine wisdom is incarnate, expressed personally in Christ, but not only in Christ (In personal aspect? – Yes) … could be expressed in the image which I gave after Charles Williams: the light which streams from nowhere or from everywhere, which at a certain point become colour, acquire concreteness and from colour results materiality, the beam. You know, at times images are easier to cope with than philosophical concepts, at least I can see what this image (I can see what Charles Williams ‘s image of light) can mean with regard to the wisdom of the Holy Trinity, its embodiment in Christ the Creator, the Provider, the Saviour, the Fulfilment.
Sophia is feminine
I think it is very dangerous to take words in their semantic value and draw theological conclusions because, say, as far as I know in Syrian the Spirit is feminine, in many languages ‘wisdom’ is the feminine but there are words which are of one of the three genders in three different languages, and then which one is theologically true, which one is heretical?
And yet again one must be careful because images are very often truer than the way in which we elaborate on them intellectually… Alright, but take another example: the Church is feminine. Say, in a vision of Hermas he sees the Church in the form of a young virgin, a maiden with white hear and he says to her: “How is it that you have the face of a maiden and the white hear of the old woman?” And she says: “I have the eternal youth of God and the wisdom of God”. So, here is the Church being feminine. At the same time the Church is the body of Christ. Is that feminine? You know, it is very difficult to push these images – each of them is right for what it has got to say. The whole creation is the Bride of Christ, yes, at the same time, the whole creation is to be Christ.
No, I wouldn’t, not before the Fall. Matter and spirit are meant to pervade one another, to be at one. To use Heine’s image, it must be a dance in which all the elements of the dance are (?) together in exaltation, joy and adoration and so on. With the fall things are different and we can see that. I would just anticipate a little what I want to say the next time. We can see that before the Fall we can’t imagine what Adam or Eve wear (?light) but what we know is that after the Fall they are covered in garment, and St. Gregory of Nissa says that it is a moment when their materiality instead of being transparent, spiritual became heavy and opaque. But we find the opposite after the Resurrection in Christ. We find Him Who is material completely in the sense that He can eat, He can drink, He can be touched, at the same time a materiality different because He can come through closed doors, He can appear and disappear, He can be recognised or not. And so matter as such is a principle of
individuation only after the Fall, individuation in the sense of making closed units of us but not by nature, not by what it is essential in it. But I can’t answer as Fr. Basil.
(Relation of soul and psyche)
You know, up to a point it is a matter of vocabulary because there are two ways in which one speaks of the human being — bipartite or tripartite. One may say, man is made of a body and a soul, the soul implying everything which is not its heavy materiality. One may say, man has a body, a soul being the psyche, and a spirit, which is his highest kinship with God. And, say, St. Paul uses this kind of this tripartite vocabulary. If you limit the meaning of the word ‘soul’ to all that is our psychic exercises, then one may say that we have experiences of God in the spirit but we become aware of them in our psyche. We are not aware intellectually of what happens on the level of the spirit. We commune in the spirit. And we become aware and can find expression of it when it reaches our awareness. And both affect our physical condition. There is nothing of which we are aware which is not within our psychological realm. Awareness is coextensive with it. But there are other ways in which we perceive things. We perceive things physically and we find expression for them in thought and then in word or in images. We commune on another level of the spirit. But we become aware of it and then we can find expression of it. So it is an intermediate function, or I would rather say, part of us because I feel of course there is no breach of continuity between the elements but a very specific part. And I remember Silouane in one of his writings saying that the grace of God reaches us first in the spirit, and when we have received it and allowed it to trickle through, it reaches our psyche, dushu, dushevnost. And when it has reached that, then it reaches our body, and the grace of God, as it were, fills us completely. That is the way in which, if I am not mistaken, because I read it a very long time ago, he explains the incorruptibility of relics, that the grace of God has come all the way and reached the body. I think it is a question for Jenny, who is a professional psychologist.
(Transfiguration – a transformation, or an effulgence?)
In the story of the Transfiguration I see several elements. The first one is that it is a moment when love flared up like a brazier. And it is a moment when Christ was speaking to Moses and Elijah about his crucifixion. It was a moment when he spoke to them about his ultimate sacrifice, which meant the perfection, the fullness, the extreme intensity of his love for mankind and for God. So that is the first thing. At that moment all that was him, his divinity, his human soul, his human flesh, which were the elements of the sacrifice, that is the self-offering, reached their plenitude of love. And the other thing that strikes me again is that when that happened it is not only Christ’s face or hands or body that shone, but his vestments themselves became as white as the light, because they all were seized and included in this mystery of saving love. This rejoins what I said before, I think, about the materiality of this world being akin potentially to God. So in the Transfiguration what I see that it is the flaming of divine love at its sacrificial moment, that transforms all that is to be made into a sacrifice, into the ‘burning bush’ if you want another image.
Is it reversal of the Fall?
…Yes, incipiently because it is achieved, it is actual through the actual death of Christ on the Cross, through the actual harrowing of hell, through the actual Resurrection and through the actual Ascention. Then something happens: in the whole created world there is one Man who can be the guide and leader of all creation into its fulfilment. At that moment he is the true Adam who has won the victory, not the true Adam only that has come to win it. The victory is won. In a way, the victory is already there, here in our midst, won and perfect in Him. And all that can be done is to participate in it.
There are two passages in this Last Supper conversation. In the one in which Christ says that He prays not for the whole world but for His disciples. That is one situation. In another place He prays for the salvation of all, that will believe through them, and then He gives His life for the salvation of mankind: “Forgive, Father, they don’t know what they are doing”. It’s different moments, different points in the conversation or different situations in these few hours in which our salvation is being worked.
(Kinship through inanimate matter, or the apes have a role?)
I don’t find it crude (?) When you look into the eyes of a chimpanzee you can see the wisdom of thousands of years which I wish I could acquire. But leaving the chimpanzee alone, I think there are two things: on the one hand, all things created can recognise their substance in the materiality of man. On the other hand, beyond this material substance of man, they can see, however dimly, however incipiently, the shining of the divine presence. And in Christ they can see both perfectly revealed, the perfection of themselves in the materiality of Christ and at the same time the union of their material substance with God brought to perfection and see themselves as they are called to be.
(I am not praying for the world. Meaning by the world materialistic sinful part of humanity that had not responded to his mission, He was not praying for them in the sense that this our prince of the world… When He speaks of Satan as the prince of the world does not he mean in that sense?)
I can’t agree, because Christ came to save what was lost. He did not come to save the righteous, He did not come to save those who’d needed no salvation, He came for those who were perishing. And for those who were His own He prayed that God should not take them out of the world, but protect them against evil. But for the others He gave His life and in giving His life He said: “Forgive, they don’t know what they are doing”.
The question of Judas is in a way insoluble because only God could answer several of the questions. The one is, He chose him, He made him one of his disciples. How, why could He have done it, knowing that He was bringing him so near the fact that there will be nothing but damnation in the end? On the other hand, we cannot lightly say: O, God is good, He will forgive Judas as He can forgive everyone. It is too cheep in that form. I remember expressing my feelings about it to Fr. Basil, and Fr. Basil with his measured theological mind said to me: “Have you never thought that when Christ descended into hell He met Judas face to face?” And what happened we don’t know, but they met. Judas did not simply go into an infinity of damnation. Something happened: they met face to face. I know nothing about what happened but it is a very different thing than imagine that simply it was the end. Say, Peter denied Christ but he met Him, Judas betrayed Christ – he never met Him. No, he did, — at least I heard it from Fr. Basil!
MAN AND WOMAN II
15 May, 1989
I would like, before I proceed further, to come back to one point which I made last time. It is that of the way in which man, that is the human being in his entirety, is at one with all the created world and with God. We read in the Bible that the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. I have already said that it is very important to realise that man was not made as the last stage of an evolution, a progression from dust to the vegetable world and then to the animal world crowning it by a more perfect beings, that on the contrary, he was formed of the basic primeval material substance of this world and that being formed of the very ground, the very dust, the very clay out of which all beings had been made, had been called out, he belonged by kinship to all the created world, as I have put it, from the smallest atom to the
greatest galaxy. He belongs to everything, and every thing in the created world can see itself in him. And when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, made him a living soul, not simply a living being but a being possessed of a life of communion with God, then in him, through him the whole world was made incipiently, germinally, akin to its Creator.
But this was imperfect in the sense that man was not yet fully what he was called to be. It was only a beginning. He was created in a state of innocency and he had to reach to saintliness, but not to a created saintliness, not to a perfection that would be the summit of what a created being can be without outgrowing its natural dimensions. Man was to be revealed later with a fullness that we can only see as beginning to bud in the original man, in the first man. And this we find in the Lord Jesus Christ, the heir of all humanity, who in his physical body is akin to all things material, who in his human soul is the kin of all mankind and who, being God by nature, whose godhead fills the flesh, is united to the flesh perfectly, inseparably without any diminution of its divine holiness and awesome quality – that in him man is revealed, but not only man, the whole world can see itself.
The fact that man was created of this primeval dust of the ground allows us to understand perhaps deeper, on another level, the meaning of the sacraments. The whole world was potentially holy: holy with the holiness of God, holy virtually as a possibility, with God’s indwelling presence. The whole world, material and other, was betrayed into the hands of the Adversary by the fall of Adam. He was the linchpin, he was the point of encounter between God himself and all created things.. And in falling away from God he deprived all the created world of this possibility of growing into perfect communion.
I have already quoted the words of St Paul that the whole creation is groaning for the revelation of the sons, the children, of God. In Jesus of Nazareth the whole creation recognised man, perfect and true, man fulfilled, the man who was to lead all creation to its own fulfilment. The whole creation is groaning under the weight of human sin, of human folly. We see this even in things so obvious as ecology, the result of human madness. But when God became man, in him and around him all things could be reintegrated into the whole and brought into a new relationship with God.
The miracles of the Old and New Testaments are acts of God by which the created is made free of the enslavement wrought upon it by the betrayal of man. And when we bring to God the material elements of this world, the waters of Baptism, the oil of Anointment, the chrism of Chrismation, the bread and wine of the Eucharist, but also words that are spoken for God in his own Name, both word, sound, and material support are made free and reintegrated into the primeval harmony that existed before the Fall. The results, the fruits of the Fall are overcome. And things in the hands of Christ, because Christ is both true and perfect man and the true God Incarnate, the things created can be filled and are indeed in communion with the divine. So it is, as it were, through this primeval, awesome, sacred material, renewed, recreated as it were, by the Incarnation and by the return of the things of God into His possession that we meet both our own primeval nature and the holiness of God conveyed to us through it.
So the sacraments are a way in which we meet ourselves in the primeval, virtual holiness that was given us and in a fulfilled holiness worked by and in Christ. I believe that this is very important for us to realize, that in Christ truly all things are made new by becoming essentially what they are and by being lifted up to the level of what they are called to be. And so the world communes to God in all the ways which I indicated last time and also in this particular way, so wonderful.
Now we have in the Bible two stories of the creation of Adam, and indeed critics have analyzed the texts and some or many have come to the conclusion that they correspond to two different versions of the same event. Yet this is not how old Israel or how the Fathers of the Church read these passages. They read them as two different stories indicating two different stages in the destiny of man. In the first place God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed in his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Earlier we saw that God created man in his image and likeness. ‘Male and female created he them.’ I understand from testimonies those who know these languages that both in
Hebrew male and female does not mean that he created a man and woman, but that he created male and female nature. And a number of ancient writers, together with a great many of ancient non- Christian religions, see in this first act of creation the emergence of the total human being, that is a human being that could still be seen in the terms of the chaos of which we spoke last time, a human being one, unique in number, containing within himself all the possibilities of what would be man and woman. I do not want to use the word androgyne because in our experience, in what we see of the world as we know it, an androgyne is a being, developed, who is simultaneously endowed with physical characteristics of the male and the female. In human terms it is a monstrosity. But what I am saying is that man appears to us in this first passage in the first chapter of Genesis in the 27th verse, as a being still undetermined, human indeed, completely human, and yet, like the primeval chaos, containing within himself all the polarities that would later develop, individualise and bring into the world one being which is the human being in two persons Adam and Eve, man and woman.
The emergence of this duality, of this dyad, is not a one-sided act of God. It is an act which is related to the gradual growth, the gradual unfolding, within this indetermined being, of characteristics – and I am not speaking only of physical characteristics, but of all the complex characteristics that make man and woman, male and female. And it is at the moment when the human being was ripe for this division into two genders that God brought all the beings he had made unto Adam to see, and to see what he would call them. ‘And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.’
You know that in the Old Testament and ancient religions in general the name is coincidental with the being itself. To know the name, the true name of a being is to know the very essence of this being. We do not know these essential names. Only God does. We know one another and we know the objects of this created world by conventional names, names of objects. And when it comes to people, it is first names, Christian names, surnames, nicknames, which are simply there to allow us in speech, and indeed in the way in which we relate to one another, to be able to speak to each other and to relate in a personal way instead of having no name for a person, for an object.
In the Book of Revelation we have, however, a passage in the second chapter in which we are told that at the end of time, when God will have won his victory, everyone who enters the Kingdom will receive a name which no one knows but God and he or she who receives it. This name is the unique name, the unrepeatable name by which God knows each creature and each creature is known to itself. It is a way of expressing the uniqueness of the relationship that exists between God and each creature, not collective hordes but unique beings, of which each is totally, perfectly, ultimately unique. Perhaps it is the word which God speaks when he calls, he loves into existence, any creature. Perhaps it is a word which is heard from all eternity or in time and brings about the very existence of a creature. Perhaps it is that vision of God that takes flesh. Perhaps it is – to use an image which I used last time – the divine light that becomes colour and colour that becomes a material reality.
And so when we read here that Adam was confronted with every creature that God had made and that he gave to each of them a name, it means that he had reached such maturity that he could see the essence of each creature and give a name that expressed this very essence. Obviously there is no human language for us to refer to. He spoke neither Hebrew nor Greek nor even English. What he said was a word which was heard at the very heart of the created being whom he named and which came from God not as an external gift of knowledge from God, but as a part, as a result of Adam’s – and I remind you, Adam means dust, earth – Adam’s communion with his Creator, God.
And having been confronted with all creatures, Adam saw for the first time that he was alone, that there was no one in the whole creation that was a partner to him, no one to whom he could say ‘thou’. He was, as it were, an I without an interlocutor of his own kind, on his own level – I am not speaking of the way in which he related to God. And at that moment when he discovered himself, from within the maturity he had reached, that he was alone, the time had come for God to fulfil his act of creation,
but again not one-sidedly but as a result of Adam’s growth into a new maturity. Oh, it was not the maturity which we find in Christ, but it was somewhere in that direction.
‘And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. And He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh. And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man made he a woman and brought her unto man. And Adam said: This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.’
Now I would like to draw your attention to a certain number of terms. First. of all, the simplest part of it is ‘he took one of his ribs’. It is not a description. The word may be ‘rib’, may be ‘side’; it may be dividing, separating two halves and not simply taking a rib and fashioning a new being. That would correspond much more to the patristic vision of the human being that contained all maleness and all femininity and which were separated from one another and stood now each in their own right.
There is another phrase which I believe we should question, although we repeat it always and most translations have it: ‘The Lord caused deep sleep to fall upon Adam.’ One of the ancient translators from the Hebrew uses the word ‘coma’ to speak of this condition that was brought upon, Adam. Coma means a state of unconsciousness, a state in which a human being has no power upon himself, has not got the day-to-day awareness which is ours. And indeed in a way it is legitimate to translate it as deep sleep. But if you turn to other translations, to the Septuagint, which is particularly interesting because it is a translation into Greek made from the Hebrew before Christ and therefore ‘is not tainted by any attempt at being pro- or anti-Christian, the word used is ‘ecstasy’. You may ask yourselves and me what really the difference is. Incidentally, the Slavonic text uses isstuplenie, which means exactly the same as ecstasy. It is a condition in which a being is beyond itself, is outside of himself or his normal, habitual condition. The difference between the deep sleep, the coma, and the ecstasy is obvious. Coma, deep sleep, is a condition of a human being who is below himself. He is a physical presence, but mentally, spiritually, psychologically, he is, as it were, below his own level. There is no consciousness, while there is only a physical, material presence. If you use the word ‘ ecstasy’, it means being beyond oneself.
Indeed here again is also a loss of awareness of self understood as self-centredness, perception of self, but it is more than self and not less than self. And the birth of Eve is an event in which Adam, who had reached the limit of what the immature complexity of the original human being was, outgrew himself, as it were, became more than he was, or rather became more fully what he was. But this cannot be contained within one unique human being, and Eve emerged into being. Elisabeth Behr- Sigel, in one article, says jokingly, because she was too shy to make of it a theological statement, that if one can say that man was the crowning of the animal world, why not say that woman was the crowning of the human world? In this form it is not quite satisfying. But what is, I think, completely satisfying is the fact that it is with the emergence of Eve, Eve’s birth out of Adam or, if you prefer, the breaking free of the two potentialities, that the human being attained its fullness, its perfection. It became what it was to be.
The English words ‘woman’ and ‘ man’ are convenient translations, to say: ‘This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man’. In the Hebrew the words are ish and isha, and you can see that the same kind of parallelism exists here. She is not a being which is totally different. She is a being which is the feminine of the masculine, while he is the masculine of the feminine. It is not a new name or a name comparable to the names which Adam gave to every other being. He became aware for the first time that he was he and that he was she, but he and she being in two persons one human reality that had outgrown the undifferentiated state of the beginning and had reached a new fullness, a new plenitude.
And here we can come back to the passage in which God says, ‘Let us create man in our image.’ Last time I underlined the fact that God speaks in the plural, and here we see this plural becoming a
visible, creative reality: the Triune God and the dyad which later would develop into humanity, into oneness in multiplicity, as d is One in Three Persons. And yet it is not two opposable individuals. It is not the creation of a being that can perceive itself as being alien, estranged, totally different from the other. It is not a first term of dividedness, of the atomisation, as it were, of mankind. It is the establishment face to face of two persons which are complete although still called to develop, to grow, to mature, to fulfil the complex destiny of mankind in the same way in which all things created developed, matured and waited for their fulfilment. Adam could now say ‘thou’, and Eve now could say ‘thou’ to a being that was both not him or herself. Looking at one another they saw themselves mirrored and revealed to one another. They did not see one another as strangers, but they did not see one another either as being a mirror reflection, an unreality. It was their own reality, with all the density, all the intensity of reality that they could contemplate in each other. And because there was this sense that to Eve Adam was herself somehow – I underline the word ‘somehow’ – and conversely, to Adam was himself somehow, that they could see one another naked and not be ashamed – because shame comes when two beings look at one another as alien to each other, as strangers, not only as being different, but being estranged.
Earlier there is a passage at verse 18 where we read ‘The Lord God said “It is not good that the
man should be alone. We will make a helpmeet for him.” And again this is a confusing phrase, because
when we hear the word ‘helpmeet’ we take it that it means simply a helper, someone who can be sent to do errands or to fulfil a function under guidance or under command. There are translations that bring out a nuance or another meaning. This other meaning is: Let us create one who will stand shoulder to shoulder, face to face with man, with Adam. Shoulder to shoulder means equality without any distinction of superiority or inferiority. It means two perfect partners. And there are translations that use the very word ‘partner’. ‘Face to face’ means that looking at one another they see their own fullness in each other. The state of ecstasy which is described in verse 21 is this vision of the one and the other, seeing one another and being in this communion of vision – and I am not speaking of ocular vision but of inner vision – being beyond themselves and one with each other. And this is why verse 24 says `Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh’- one flesh not meaning one body, but one being.
I will end my talk at this point. Next time I will speak of the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, of the Fall and of the consequences of the Fall, and I will probably weave into what I have got to say a number of things that refer to the Incarnation, to Christ. And this will be the end of these three talks, incomplete because I should like to go beyond these points into other elements of the rapport between man, woman, God, the Fall, salvation and their destiny, but this perhaps can be done on another occasion.’
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS II
Q: woman was taken out of man
Adam, if you understand Adam as being the total, undifferentiated human being, not if you understand it as being a male out of which a woman is made artificially because you cannot make one thing out of the other. (Even if they used the word?) We must ask Hebrew scholars about it but… it is not that a female is made out of the maleness of a male. You know, if I may interject something slightly impious, I remember the mother of Fr. Sergey. She was fiercely Ustav, Tipicon, the Rules and at certain moment she was really dying of heart because she had fasted in such a way that her organism could not resist. And the doctor said to me: “Could you convince her of eating something?” So I reflected and said: “I would try”. And I said to her: “Mother Alexia, you are an outstanding cook. Do
you think one can make meat out of vegetables?” So she laughed at me and said: “ Well, Fr. Anthony, how absurd of you. Of course you can’t.” I said: “Then you will eat a steak because the cow has eaten grass and could be nothing else than grass”. And I think, this kind of making out of male substance female substance would be an intrusion into God’s own creation by the Creator, it would be a denial of what He had done in the first place. So I do believe in this blossoming out and parting of two halves which do not part, which get separate, acquire their personal being and are one still as the two halves of one unique reality; as Shopenhauer puts it, one personality in two persons. Each is a complete person and yet it is one personality.
Eventually with one proviso, is that if I give afterwards a couple of talks to complete this course, I may be burned on a heap of my books, which will be no loss but which will be just a fact. Perhaps, loss of books but not of person.
Yes, I would agree with that and there is quite a lot about it in a book, I must say, in Russian by Prof. Troitsky, who was one of the great theologians on the turn of the century called “The Philosophy of Christian marriage” in which he insists on the fact that it was not a sharp surgical division between the two entities but it was a supple division in which there was enough of the one in the other and visa versa for them to be truly akin, leaving aside an additional problem, that it is very difficult to imagine what is masculinity and femininity because every one of those who have written about it has chosen certain criteria. The simplest way of solving the problem is to say that woman was created for procreation. There is a passage in St. John Chrysostom in which he says: “Isn’t that obvious, because if it was a question of tending the Garden of Eden a man would have been a great deal more useful?” I think we can’t follow that line. If you try to see differences and to try to reach essential differences, I think we can’t do it in a way. First of all because we start with the prejudices, we start with an empirical knowledge of what male and female physical shape, mentality, ways and so on are. And once we have them before our eyes, we say: that is it and that is the difference, which is not good enough. The other thing is that, you know, there is this expression in the Old Testament: the demon of noonday. Well, one of the possible ways of looking at it is that if you are in a hot country, right in the middle of the day, you can see the air trembling, you can see every object that is now has possessed a relief, an intensity of colour, of shape, of shadow and light, which it does not possess otherwise and it is so intense that you can not see anything except the externals. You cannot reach across the externals into any other depth. I am sorry to quote Charles Williams again, but there is in one of Charles Williams’s novels All Hallows Eve the story of a woman called Lester, who was killed by a fallen plane and she is discovering the world as she had not seen it because she had been all her life, that was very short, she was in her twenties, a self-centred, selfish, grasping, greedy little creature for whom nothing existed that did not relate to her directly. And so her soul, standing on Westminster Bridge looks round and sees no-one because she never related to anyone, nothing except the shape of houses and windows but nothing else, until her husband passes on the bridge, the only person to whom she related however selfishly, however greedily but she related somehow. And that is the beginning of her discovering things she had in common with her husband and therefore had noticed. And at certain moment she finds herself — and this is the point of this long discourse — she finds herself on the banks of Thames. And she had always looked at the Thames and seen in the Thames a dirty, revolting mass of water carrying all the refuse of London and of all the cities above it, and her revulsion came from the fact that being possessed of a body when she looked at these waters she responded without thinking to the fact that she would be disgusted at the thought of drinking of it or being plunged into it. But now she possesses no body and so she does not react physically to the physical reality of these waters. And because she does not react self-centredly, she can see the waters for what they are. And then what she sees is a layer of revoltingly dirty waters but lower than this layer of dirty waters, layers
of water that become less and less and less dirty because they don’t carry all this refuse; until she comes to a point where she sees a current of clear water. And at the heart of this clear water she sees a brilliant scintillating stream of waters and she recognises that these are the primeval waters which Christ gave to the Samaritan woman. And so we see things the other way round: through layers of decreasing transparency we see more and more opacity because of the way in which we react. And I think this is the way in which we relate to things.
… which we are. Having to think things out beginning with the experiential reality of things we are not in a position to speak of an essential difference between men and women. Whether it exists or not is even another question, but even if it does exist, even if there is pure femininity, distinct from pure masculinity, we cannot reach it. And I think I would draw a parallel with the theological thinking concerning God. It has taken fourteen centuries for us to reach Gregory Palamas that gave a sort of final touch to the Christian vision of the Triune God of essence and energy and so on. And we have not yet begun to ask ourselves questions because we have always assumed, we collectively, century after century, that what we see is convincing enough, that there is frailty against strength, that there is one characteristic against another, as so they were real. And in certain languages, you find it even expressed in words, say, in German. The words, derived from ‘Mut’, the ones that are soft, tender are feminine, the other ones are masculine. “Demut’, which is ‘humility’ is feminine, ‘Hochmut’, which is ‘pride, arrogance’ is masculine, and you can have a whole list of that. But this is not a vision, it is a projection and I think it is very important for us not to make that kind of projections, to take facts as we see them but to take them as what we see and ask ourselves: Is it something that goes deeper than the skin?
Commentary: Perhaps it does, why you assume that there is no deep division between man and woman?
I don’t assume it at all. What I am saying at the moment is that basically, I think personally, that there may well be an ontological difference but we cannot discover it by confronting experiential elements of how we see man and woman in their mutual interaction or in their individual activities. It is not enough, we must go deeper than this. And Orthodox theology has not yet begun to do that.
/…essentially man and woman from what we see and from the way in which we attach certain characteristics to the one and certain to the other with certainty. /
I want to answer just one point that I agree with you very much about this and I think we will have to come to this: Christ does not stand for male, He stands for the new Adam, the total human being and a lot of what is being said and done in the Church and in theology is to my mind wrong and deeply destructive, because of this confusion of the fact that, yes, Christ was man in the way, I would say, in which Adam was, the total, the sum-total of the human being. But to that I would like to come later, so I am going to expand on it.
I will go back to this next time but let me say this, that God is one in three Persons, the human being was created as a supra-individual being, a dyad that would expand with the birth of children into a unity in multiplicity. And this is one of the elements, I think, of the images, not the only one, I tried to point out other ones last time. That if God is love and if the human being is called to be an expression of the basic, essential nature of God as we can perceive it, as love, then he cannot be an arithmetic one, it must be unity in multiplicity. And in that sense the fact that Adam was created, shall we say, undifferentiated but containing both femininity and masculinity and the fact that he blossoms out into two persons and not two separate individuals, into I and thou and thou and I simultaneously, is one of the images, of the elements of this image of God.
I have no answer to this but I do not think it possible. I think the relationship there is between God and the creature is so totally unique and is so totally not only rooted but contained in the divine holiness and wisdom that it cannot be known. And the passage of the Scriptures which I quoted makes it clear that no-one knows this name except God and he who receives it, not even any other human being. In the same way, because it really means the way in which God relates to this creature and this creature relates to God is so unique that it cannot be exploded from the outside.
…because I think I will have to come to this in the next talk. Misinterpretation born of an examination of limited meanings of words and the experience of a fallen world and within this experience of the fallen world even the structures which we have evolved in the Church have all worked to create structures of oppression, structures of humiliation and so on. And one of the purposes of these talks is to go into this. I do not contend (?) that I have got answers. What I do say is that it is something of which I have been thinking, things that are very meaningful and important to me and that by presenting them to you as a group or beyond this group to others to whom you may speak, I should like people to begin to think not better but in other terms. We have got to re-think a great deal of the things, which we take for granted because ‘so it is’. The same applied at a certain époque about the slavery: it was quite natural. The same applied to colour, the same applied to race and to so many things. These things even if they subsist empirically in the behaviour of people have been reconsidered. People may behave wrongly but they can no longer with exceptions found themselves on (an) unaccepted view of things. And we must go into this subject of man, of woman, of their mutual relationship, if possible to go beyond anything I can speak about but what I want is to start at degree of thinking. About twenty years ago I had a conversation in Geneva round a tea-table with two of our Russian bishops and one theologian and someone else about the possibility or impossibility to ordain women to the priesthood. It lasted a very long time, all sorts of reasons were presented. And when after the discussion there was left nothing standing of the reasons, the answer which I got which was the final answer was: it has not happened in the past and shall therefore not happen in the future. This is a very poor way of thinking. And whatever the final conclusion, it is not on that kind of logic that one can reason things out. And so we must go into more thinking, allowing ourselves to be so open as to be ready to receive the most unexpected conclusion, to receive the most unexpected answer by thinking, reading deeply into the Scriptures, looking deeply into the personalities of saints and sinners and so on.
MAN AND WOMAN III
Forum talk 22.-5.1989
In the second chapter of Genesis in the ninth verse we find the following words: ‘God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.’ I want to say a little about these two trees. I do not mean to make any mystical lucubrations about them. What was taught here is not so much about trees as about the fact that they bring fruit and that man can eat of the fruit of this tree, and that these trees give; knowledge of good and evil or give life.
I would like to dwell a few moments on this idea of knowledge. How do we know things? We know things by receiving from them a message and absorbing the message. We know them by taking in their substance and identifying this substance with ourselves, but also, to a greater or lesser degree, identifying with the food which we receive. You remember the old saying of the German materialist philosopher Feuerbach, who said that man is what he eats. One can pursue this thought in Christian terms, which would probably have hurt him deeply, by saying, ‘Yes, this is what we believe. By eating
of the Body of Christ, drinking the cup of the Blood of Christ, we become partakers of Christ’s humanity and Christ’s divinity. We become partakers of all that Christ is, both humanly and divinely.’
So when we think of the tree of life and the tree of good and evil and of the fruits of it which were there in the presence of man, it is in these terms that we can think: knowledge that can be acquired by partaking of what they are. In a variety of ways, as far as the outer world is concerned, our knowledge of it is complex. We receive a message through our senses from all that surrounds us. This message is received, stored, unconsciously or consciously worked on, analysed, organised. And what we have learnt from this message is projected on to the surrounding world, giving it a structure, a shape, a meaning.
And again when it is done a second route is taken. New things are seen, heard, perceived by our senses, received into our consciousness, reworked both within this consciousness of ours and the unconscious life which is ours and result in an ever widening and deepening knowledge. But this widening and deepening knowledge, this way in which we receive messages, absorb them, identify them, is a very important notion in the given case, because what was at stake was this. By feeding on the tree of life, by feeding on what God communicated to man, man became, in an ever-increasing manner, with an ever-increasing depth, purity and perfection, partaker of the knowledge which God had of himself, because God was communicating himself and revealing himself in this gift of self, but also learning and discovering the meaning and the substance of man and of all the created world. God, in his wisdom ,was the only one to know to the very core and depth the essential nature of things.
As long as Adam was at one with God he could name the creatures of God within his communion with him. Our call is to commune with God in such a way, through the power of the Holy Spirit and in our union with Christ, that one day – these are St Paul’s words – we should know God as we are known of him: a mutual knowledge of communion.
This is what was offered to man, to commune with divine knowledge, to commune with the divine life, to commune wit God, in one word, in such a way that all the knowledge which God possessed and could communicate would be shared by man, transforming, transfiguring him, making him to attain to that fullness which I described a moment ago, in knowing as he is known, or, as St Peter puts it, become partaker of the divine nature when God shall be all in all.
But there is another way in which man could become aware of the created world, by immersing himself into it, by participating with the created in its createdness. This is, I think, what is meant by. this image of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, a knowledge of the created apart from the Creator, a knowledge of the created not only as creatures but as creatures that were still in becoming, still in the making, still imperfect – net in the sense that there was a flaw in them, but there was still immaturity. They were not yet what they were called to be.
You remember that the call of man, who belongs simultaneously to the divine and the material world, was, by knowing the names of all creatures, that is their essential, substantial being, to lead them into God, to make them also to participate in the mystery of God. What happened here is that man had a choice. The gift of freedom is a dread gift, because it allows man to destroy himself and to take with him into destruction all the world that was committed to his charge. But at the same time this gift of freedom and this possibility of choice is the absolute condition for a real relationship and certainly for a relationship of love.
St Maxim the Confessor said in one of his writings that God can do all things except one. He cannot force a human being to love him, because love is supreme freedom.
So man was confronted with two possibilities of knowledge: on the one hand, to immerse himself in God, commune with Him, to move ever deeper into divine mystery, into the light of God and into the tenebrae of God, and on the other hand to attempt to acquire the knowledge of the created in terms of communion, immersing himself completely into the created apart from the Creator – a choice. Of his spontaneous motion one may expect man to have unhesitatingly followed the call of God, a call of love,
moved into the divine openness, gone from light to light, from splendour to splendour, from glory to glory.
We find this expressed very strongly in one of the readings of the Old Testament concerning Christ, when we are told that a virgin will bear a son, a son that will be Emmanuel, God in our midst, and that before He can discern between good and evil he will have chosen the good. This is not the text of the Authorised Version, but this is the text of the Septuagint. Yes, the Son of God become the Son of Man, in his humanity, which from the first moment was filled with God. He had a choice, but he chose, without any hesitation or any mistake, the way of life, communion with the Father, oneness with him.
But the Adam of the first days of creation was still immature, and to attain saintliness, which is simply maturity, to outgrow his innocence into communion with the holiness of God, he had to make a choice. Otherwise he would have been drawn into holiness without his free will.
Here we see the action of an outside agent, Satan, the Adversary the Devil, represented here by the serpent. Man would not have chosen to turn away from love had he not been deceived. Satan is the Adversary, but he is the one who lies. He is the liar par excellence. He is the deceiver, and he is also the one that kills. The tragedy of lying does not reside in the fact that there is inaccuracy in our knowledge and therefore in our whole inner attitude to things. The tragedy of lie lies in the fact that a cobweb of lies creates an unreal world, a world that does not exist and in which the victim of the lie is caught and can only die, because one can live only by communion with reality and by partaking in the life of reality. The deeper we go into the unreality of the lie, the more we are in a situation in which there can be no life, only death.
But the lie, in order to operate, must give an impression of a truth. So the serpent says to Eve: ‘Yes, God told you not to eat of this tree because if you do so, you will become like him, knowing good and evil.’ God had called Adam and Eve, had called man in the sense of the total man, human being, to become partaker of his nature, to be by participation what he was. The Old Testament proclaims: ‘You are gods.’
So the suggestion of the serpent is not a suggestion that man should rebel. He suggests that they can fulfil God’s own intention by eating of this fruit of the tree of knowledge and then they will know. And instead of immersing themselves in God and saying: ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’, Adam and Eve accept the lie naively, candidly, but also wrongly. And on doing this they lose the possibility of being nothing but in God and of immersing themselves into the matter, the substance of the world, but without God – not that the matter was without God, but they enter into it God-less.
There is a phrase written many years ago, fifty-sixty years ago by the French pastor Rolland de Pury, who said ‘At that moment man turns his back on God, and at that moment he has no God any more, and he can only die.’ Yes, he turns, his back on God. He goes headlong into the matter out of which he was called, and he dies; he becomes mortal.
What happens next is important for us to understand not only from the point of view of the relationship between Adam and Eve, but from the point of view of the relationship between man and woman, from the point of view of the relationship between all humans when, as we all have, we have lost God to a greater or a lesser extent. Eve turns to Adam and draws him into the tragedy on the threshold of which she is. I say ‘on the threshold’ because if you have accepted what I said last time
that the making of Eve, the birth of Eve was the unfolding: of the total human being, the plenitude, the fulfilment of man, not in the sense of male but of human, then you will realise that one of the halves cannot perish without the other. One of the halves cannot be drawn into the depths of materiality without the other. She cannot do anything else than share what has happened to her, because they are one. And Adam can do nothing else than either accept to be at one with her, for better or worse, or, in a heroic act, to take hold of her and bring her to God and say: ‘Save us: we are perishing.’ And I am using advisedly the plural: save us – because neither of them can perish without the other – not because they are one in a mechanical sense, but because they are one being and they cannot be separated because they are united by the ecstasy of birth, by the vision of wholeness and by love.
Then the next stage occurs: God confronts them. Adam and Eve hide from the face of God, because for the first time they have turned away from him and sought knowledge, life, elsewhere, even not in themselves, in the materiality of this world, from which they had emerged so gloriously. ‘Where art thou Adam?’ And Adam says: ‘I was naked and I hid.’ To this point I will come in a moment. He hides because, in the terms of St Andrew of Crete, he is no longer clothed in the glory, the resplendence of grace. He is no longer the shining, with a shining that is covering his nakedness. He is naked. Nothing protects him from the vision of Eve. Nothing protects her from the vision of Adam. And nothing protects them now from the vision of God and of all the things created. ‘And who told you that you are naked?’
And then a process begins which is repeated in all human wrong relationships: scapegoating. He says: ‘It is the woman whom Thou hast given me who gave me to eat from the fruit.’ There is here a double accusation. He puts forward his partner in the fall as the culprit, the immediate cause. Also he accuses God himself of being the prime cause of the fall: ‘You gave me this wife. She gave me of this fruit. She has responsibility for our present condition, but You carry all the responsibility. Did You not create her? Did You not plant in the garden this accursed tree of knowledge? Who is to blame?’ And the Lord does not defend himself. He accepts the humiliation, the insult, the accusation. He turns to Eve and says: ‘Who told you?’ ‘The serpent’ again. ‘The serpent would not have existed had you not created him’ – that being which crawls on the ground, which cannot raise itself above the dust, this creature who knows nothing but the dust, “You created him and he has now brought us down to his level, the level of the creation, but the creation perceived without you.’ But how can that be? What has happened then? What has happened between Adam and Eve, between God and man?
Man had known God in vision. He had known him – to use the words of St John’s Gospel – as the light. He had known him as him who had called him into being in an act of love. He had known him as one who was giving himself to him unreservedly, joyfully. He had known him as the exultation of life, as the vision of beauty, as the key of harmony of all things created. He had in a way no name for him. He had only an experience of him. The word God in English proceeds from a Gothic root, pre- Germanic, that means One before whom one falls in adoration. It is not a name; it is an experience. One can find the same derivation also for the Greek word theos. At the same time he has another name, as it were, or he is also another experience. He is the One by whom all things are created. They exist in him, through him. Outside of him they do not exist and live and develop and grow and mature and become transfigured.
So this was what man knew about God in the beginning when he was not a prisoner of anything but had this total comprehension born of experience and encounter. And on the other, hand perhaps one could say that God was to man the only one who was the ultimate Thou. That is, someone infinitely close and at the same time ultimately different.
And this balance between perfect closeness and perfect alterity, otherness, was a perfect balance of relation. You know what happens when we want to see perfectly a statue or a piece of art, or an object, a face, a tree. We must occupy in space the ideal point, which is the point from which we can see the whole as perfectly as we can, and the detail as perfectly as possible. If we come too close we lose the ensemble, the totality. If we are too far, we lose every detail. When we come too close we see only the grain of the stone. When are too far we see only a shapeless shape. There is a point which is both the perfect closeness and the perfect distance. This is what I mean by a perception of the ultimate, perfect otherness of God and at the same time of the fact of his perfect, ultimate closeness. The same could be true of the relationship between Adam and Eve. When, in ecstasy, being beyond himself, Adam gave birth, as it were, to Eve and was confronted with her. He did not see her as an emanation of his being or a projection of self. He saw her as a complete person with a total and perfect otherness and yet so much one with him that she was, on the created level, the ‘thou’ that God was, on the divine level.
At the moment of the fall, having lost this communion with God, man finds himself in a quite new situation with regard to woman and vice versa. They no longer see one another as one in God and one
in grace. They see each other as being the other one. An ancient author says that before the fall Adam could look at Eve and say: ‘She is my alter ego, my other myself’. And Eve could say the same words. With the fall the link was broken. They looked at one another, and each of them says: ‘I am ego, I am me, I am I, and here is alter, the other one’. And this perhaps should explain to us the truly tragic words spoken by God when the fall occurred. ‘Lo, man has become like one of us.’ He is no longer in the image of the Holy Trinity a dyad, two who are one. They are two indeed but no longer one. And yet the image of God imprinted once upon man was not destroyed. The relationship between man and woman, however damaged, still remains as the imperfect love, imperfect oneness that found expression in the other tragic words of God: ‘Thy longing shall be for thy husband and he will rule over thee.’
In the same terms we can find something analogous in the Athanasian Creed, when St Athanasius, speaking of the Persons of the Trinity, says: ‘The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, yet not three Gods but One God.’ Here we have the horror of the two who remain truly human, but damaged. Nothing can erase the image of God. Nothing can even break the oneness there is between them, however cracked this oneness is. They are like a broken mirror, but they still mirror God, One in the Trinity.
And so here we are. We discover one another as being naked. Lost the glory of the divine communion. Lost also the vision of one another as persons perfect and complete. They see one another as the other. This is the beginning of tragedy, because from there the tragedy will increase, will develop. Eve was born of the ecstasy of man. Cain, their first-born child will be born after Adam knew his wife. Ecstasy meant being beyond himself. ‘Knew his wife’ meant awareness in the created realm: awareness without the ecstasy of the beginning. And the first-born after the fall is Cain.
I will end this talk at this point, and next time I would like to see the different stages of the disintegration of the relationship between man and woman and the consequences of this disintegration: the murder of Abel by Cain, the murders of his enemies by Lamech, and so forth.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS III
I will take up a question which was asked in a conversation which I refused to answer privately. I seem, I was told, to take the story of the beginning of the Genesis as fact. Isn’t it more right to say it is myth?
Now, in our current speech we use the word ‘myth’ as an untrue story. This is not the meaning of ‘myth’ when it is used technically. Fr. Sergey Bulgakov, speaking of the beginning of Genesis said that one should call that metahistory in the sense that it speaks of things that did actually happen but they belong to a world that does no longer exist and are expressed in the terms of the world in which we live. We know nothing of the world that was (?) before the Fall but we know of the events that are basically expressed in the Bible: the creation of the world, the creation of Adam, the birth of Eve, the Fall and the consequences. Our historical knowledge begins with the end of the Garden of Eden. But I take all that precede it as an expression in the terms of a fallen world of real things that happened before the Fall. We have no language to speak of that period and we have no imagery and no knowledge. On the other hand, it is quite obvious that the language used about this period could not be the language of that period. Just to give you an example: when the Lord God says: “If you eat the fruit of this tree you shall surely die”, — God could not have said that before death was there, it could not make any sense. But it is the only way in which we can speak of the event or we can understand whatever kind of warning or indication God gave. So that I think Fr. Sergey Bulgakov’s term of metahistory is a very helpful one. It is history in the sense that things spoken of did happen but it is not a description of the way in which it happened and it is not a report, a verbal report of what was said. Yet, it conveys actual happening that is all I can say about it and this is the reason why I speak of these
things realistically, not imagining that there was a garden, that there was two trees and so forth but translating it in the terms which I have been using.
We have not got in the Bible any description of the coming into existence of evil. What we believe according to the Scriptures in the words of Isaiah for instance is that God did not create evil. Evil is not alternative to good which God had made. And therefore again coming back to what I was saying before, when the Bible says ‘the Tree of good and evil’ — it is not the vocabulary that could have been used. There are different ways of explaining it. First of all, there is an assumption that God apart from creating the material world which we know and man created a world of spirits, of angels. When we use the word ‘spirits’ concerning the angels of God or indeed now also the demons, we use the same word that we use concerning God: God is Spirit. But it should not be understood in the same way. When we say that God is Spirit we mean to say that He has nothing material about Him. When we speak of the spirits, angels or demons, what we say is that they are made of a substance infinitely more delicate than ours and that compared with us they are like the wind as compared with stones. The wind is also material and yet it is in our (?) perception an immaterial reality. So that there is a remarkable passage in Edgar Poe’s short story called Magnetic Revelation in which someone is brought into a magnetic sleep. And he is asked: “What do you see?” And he says: “I see God”. “Is He pure spirit?” “No”. “Do you need to say He is material?” “No.” “What is He then?” “He is beyond both matter and spirit” And I think this is the difference between what we mean by the spirits of God being a Spirit. Now, this being said, different attempts at explaining, the way in which angels, beings created perfect, not in the sense of already having attained perfection but without a flaw at root of their being could have changed into evil beings. And the explanations which where given if I remember well, fall into different categories: the ones presuppose the fall of the angels as connected (Вера, перестань, I will stop if you won’t stop) (?) One theory presupposes that the angels of God were confronted with a vision of man, his vocations and its call to become partakers of the divine nature and of the fact that God Himself will participate in the humanity of the created beings. And they were unable to accept their vision. They felt and this (?) they felt it was a blasphemy, that God could not do that, that God was holiness, transcendence itself, He could not unite Himself to created beings and created beings could not be brought to that degree of participation into what God is. And they doubted God and rejected His will. That is one of the ways in which the Fall is described. Another one applies more directly to Christ, the vision was given them of the Son of God crucified and dying on the cross. And that was so appalling that again they rejected it with all the passion they had. In both cases one can say, the passion itself was noble but it broke down their integrity because it was not corrected, supported by unreserved faith that is trust in God and in His wisdom.
Another vision of things is the vision of the Fall of the angels after the creation of man and the discovery by them that man was to be the friend of God and the horror of feeling that they would not be the closest in spite of the refinement of their nature and their closeness to God.
Now, there are also other theories. One of them I find more convincing perhaps although I don’t think that any of them can be considered as being the truth. I cannot remember who of the ancient writers hinted in that direction and who later developed the thought, so that I will present it in my own words.
As is true about man, so it is true also about all created beings that they were created perfect in the sense that there was no flaw, no evil, imperfection in them but there were called to an ever greater perfection. And that the angels of God had to grow from glory to glory, from perfection to perfection until their communion with God would have become as perfect as a creature can (?). But in this process two things were to happen: at every stage — and this applies to us as it applies to the angels of God, — at every stage before us, before them opened the possibility of moving from splendour into greater splendour, from glory to glory, from a plenitude of communion to a greater plenitude of communion but at every stage in order to achieve this a creature has got to renounce the plenitude, the
beauty of all that is possessed heretofore. We prepare to let go of all that is so beautiful, so perfect in order to move into the unknown, to move from the relative light of today into what appears to be darkness, the unknown and that the moment came when certain of the angels had attained a degree of beauty, of harmony so great that they felt: How can I let go this, — and move into unknown? What if I loose all this supreme beauty and find myself devoid of it without acquiring anything else? And the moment they looked at themselves instead of looking away from themselves, Godwards, and moving Godwards and not stopping to look at themselves, they fell away from the fullness of communion, the degree of fullness which had been there. One can draw some sort of analogy with the beginning of St. John’s Gospel when we are told that the Word was with God and the Word was God. In the Greek text the word used, which is translated ‘the Word was with God’ was προς τον Θεον which means ‘Godwards’. It is a dynamic movement, as it were, away from self to, towards the Father. And this act of renunciation of self, forgetfulness of self and élan, motion towards the only one Who is fullness, plenitude, life, beauty is a tragic act because it means renouncing oneself, dying to oneself in order to live by and in God. So here are a few of the ways in which the Fall of the angels were explained and we find ourselves in the Bible confronted with the fact that there are angels of light, there are angels of darkness, there is the adversary. And perhaps it is worth saying that the archangel that fell was Lucifer, the angel of light, the one who had reached more perfection, more splendour that anyone else, who could look around and see no one comparable to himself but God, and who was arrested by his own beauty and, like Narcissus in the Greek mythological story, died in contemplation of self.
…if I can answer this question but all (?) beings that is men and angels have this free will and from what I understand the man was called to be the guide of those who have a longing but not the ability to make themselves into partakers of the divine nature but I can not really say more with any kind of assurance.
I think I must do some work on that rather than answer superficially because there is a very simple approach to wisdom. Say, God is wise and He created things wisely and there is an imprint of wisdom, His wisdom on all things created and (?). All creation is both supported and brought into motion by divine wisdom but also the question is much more complex if you take the Bible by the vision of wisdom which we find in the Book of Syrah or by what had developed in comment and reflection, also compared with the ancient world. I must look things up much more than I do because I have not enough knowledge about it.
Why the serpent asked Eve, why wasn’t it Adam? Would it mimic situation when woman be more open.
…I spend my time saying that I can’t answer the question, I have made notes about the questions and I will try not only to think because it is not enough but to read up and to try to understand, because it has never occurred to me to ask myself this question. I think it is easy to take the present situation as we see man and woman, draw conclusions, project them back and that is an extremely dangerous thing to do because it is really, it would really make us bring into the pre-Fall period notions and categories which are ours now. So I would like to be more careful than just answer. ….. I will try to find an answer, I mean, not to concoct one but really to find something that is an honest answer.
The answer would be but it is mine and I think it goes with what we know from the Bible: yes, it is, it is part of the Fall. If you take Genesis, of which we are speaking now: “The desire shall be to thy husband and shall rule over thee”. It comes clearly as a result of the Fall, while in the beginning the word used and which is used in certain translations. And you find it, which is interesting in the dictionary of the Bible too, that Eve was created not as a help but as a partner. And here there is a new relationship of desire and power.
At that point I think, I would not sort of cling to the text desperately and say that it was actually a serpent, that the image of the serpent is that of a being that crawls in the dust, is incapable of lifting itself beyond it, whose movement is all meandering like this, who bites unto death and it has been projected on the poor beast because he is the best possible image of it. In other passages of Scripture and in the writings of the Father and in the liturgical books one speaks not of the serpent as a viper or a rattle snake but in terms of the great dragon, the idea being that this is a destructive being that is totally ingrained into materiality.
…because I think here the serpent is an image if you want, an icon of the fallen angel. It is not possible to think that there was a being which is the same as our present day serpent that was evil but in the fallen world in which the Bible was written, the serpent was murder and destruction and therefore he was taken as a type. Remember for instance, in Exodus a story of the plague of serpents. They were in the world in which the Hebrews lived one of the dangers and those who brought death and so when they had to describe someone or something that came as a tempter and a destroyer, they took the one that they had at hand.
…one of the beasts of the field, it is an image.
I think so difficult to go beyond a certain point because we have projected on all sorts of beings our image. Look at what people will say: a hyena, well I can immediately see that it is traitorous, underhand animal, look at how it trots. In reality it is when we see a traitorous underhand human being moving about that way that we say: O, yes, and we project a traitorous human being onto the poor hyena, who simply cannot help having hind legs shorter than the forelegs. You know, there is a point at which symbols and images must stop. They indicate something, they give us a pointer and that is all we can do with them.
…is perhaps a debasement of wisdom, say, if you take Old English and not ancient English but Authorised version English or translations the words ‘canny’ does not mean what it means now, when it says that God is canny, it means that He is inventive. It does not mean that He is (?) And I think we must be careful about words in that respect.
MAN AND WOMAN IV
12 June, 1989
I shall first of all begin with an apology. The title of my talks was Man and Woman, and some of you have felt that I have not spoken sufficiently, if at all, on the subject which I indicated. The truth about it is that I have given a certain amount of indication concerning the subject of man and woman, the creation of man, the birth of Eve, their mutual discovery in ecstasy, their fall and the breaking up of their wholeness, but I felt that it was important, I still feel it is important, to place the situation of man and woman in the context of the total wholeness and the total dislocation of the created world as the result of the Fall.
So I will today again speak on a theme which is not directly under the title, and yet, which I believe is important, in order for us to be able to think out the subject of the relationship between man and woman in history after the Fall and in Christ as an eschatological event, which means a situation which is decisive in Christ and through Christ, and which yet is in progress and waits for its fulfilment.
In the first chapter of the book of Genesis we are told that on the seventh day God rested from his labours. Does it mean simply that He abandoned the world to its destiny? Quite obviously not, because on that day He committed the world to the care of man. Man was in charge of working on the Garden of Eden – and obviously the garden is not a place, it is not a physical location, it is a
relationship, it is a situation vis-a-vis God and the created world. Man was therefore placed to be a guide of the whole cosmos from materiality into spirituality.
Cardinal Konig of Vienna has written a small book which is called The Hour of Man which is on that very point, that on the seventh day God gave a commission to man to continue and to fulfil his work. And the whole of history is this particular is this particular seventh day, until the time comes when on the eighth day the Lord Jesus Christ returns to judge the quick and the dead and a new heaven and new earth are made, and a new time begins.
To guide the created world to its destination man had to be deeply immersed in God, in total communion with God, to discover in this mystery of communion the mind of God, to discern the ways of God, and to lead all things created to the fulfilment which God had intended and which, as a logos, is at the heart of each creature and the total cosmos. That meant a unity with God, an ever-increasing communion and a growth into God.
We have seen how this plan was, not defeated, but confronted by the serpent. I mentioned already last time that the image of the serpent is important in that he is one who appears to the eye as a creature who knows only the dust, who feeds on the dust, who never can raise itself beyond the dust, who meanders in it, never moves straight, and who, in the experience of man, is a murderous presence. The Fall of man was an act of the deceit of Satan, of the Adversary. You know that the word satan in Hebrew means one who is the accuser in a court of justice. But also he is thereby the adversary, the one who is the adversary of God, the adversary of man, the adversary of life, the adversary of all that is God’s plan, God’s reality. And the Greek word which the Septuagint has taken to replace the word satan – diabolos – is made of two roots: the one that means one who throws asunder, who throws apart. He is the scatterer and the divider.
In that respect, as the adversary he came into the Garden, into the harmony of the unity between God and man and the total harmony and wholeness of creation, with a lie. He did not call man to rebel against God, because the bond of love, of trust that existed between God and man would not have suffered such direct attack. He only used the very thoughts and commands of God to deceive man. Man was called to enter into an ever-increasing communion with God, in the end – to use the words of the New Testament – to become partaker of the divine nature, to become one with God, or in the terms of St Irenaeus of Lyons, in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, each singly and mankind as a total body, to become the only-begotten son of God.
This is what the serpent suggests: Why not take a short-cut? Why not use your intelligence, your inventiveness, your creativeness in order to achieve immediately, directly what God wishes you to achieve? What He wants is for you to achieve it. And He leaves you free to find the way. In that He introduces the lie. And he is indeed the liar par excellence.
We have a tendency to minimise the meaning of a lie because our life is made of approximation, of compromise. But a lie basically, in its essence, is an attempt, successful or not, complete or incomplete, an attempt at replacing reality by a mirage, reality by something which is not quite real or quite true. And ultimately the perfect lie consists in creating a non-existing, ghostly reality and drawing into it living creatures to discover that in this mirage there is no water to drink from, there is no oasis to shield from the sun, it is only a place where one can die. And this is why he is also called the murderer and the father of all lies – not because he presents us with greater and smaller lies, because teaches us not to be completely truthful – but because at the root of the lie there is this attempt at creating unreality to destroy God’s reality. All that is God’s, all that is real is undermined by the lie.
So the result of it was, as I tried to point out last time, that man, deceived by Satan, instead of growing in an act of total faith, total trust, total surrender, abandonment, joyful gift of self to God, he turned to search for the fulfilment of his vocation to what the serpent was offering, to what we might call natural means, intelligence, the study of the created world instead of entering into the mind of God Himself. And the result of it was that, having turned away from God, he found himself ever increasingly integrated in the dust from which he was called. Instead of participating in the knowledge
of God, instead of a direct knowledge from within God, he began the discovery, painful, halting, of the elements of this world, but no longer as they were. Now they were distorted, no longer dynamically orientated to their aim, but scattered, divided from one another, a dislocated world. And this destruction increased all the time throughout the first aeons or centuries.
There is a passage in the Bible which I was unable to find in which we are told: And so death gradually took hold of mankind. If you look at the generation of the sons of Adam or the generation of the sons of Seth, you can see how all their ages diminished gradually as though death acquired an ever increasing power and life grew shorter and shorter – according to our views. Shorter and shorter is a very relative notion, because the youngest of them died at the age of something like 960 years. But there is a decrease. There are two exceptions – two exceptions which are interesting because they are people who are sent out as the friends of God: people who, more than anyone else, were with Cod and in God. They were Methuselah and Enoch. The one lived a very short life and the other an extremely long life, because both were God’s friends and walked with God. But this is just in passing. But the result of this dislocation, of this breaking of experience, knowledge, affects every thing in the created and uncreated world as far as man — and when I say man in the given case I mean man and woman, the anthropos, the total human being — is concerned.
First of all, the relationship with God. Instead of an ever-increasing communion, of a life shared more and more, instead of possessing more and more the mind of God and acquiring the knowledge of the divine ways that would lead all creation to its fulfilment, God becomes an outsider to the experience of man. It is very difficult to imagine the experience. Yet I think we can try to understand, in terms of words, what happened.
In the beginning of Genesis God as the Creator is called Elohim. It is the plural of the word El, which is a generic word for God, the Godhead. And it indicates two things simultaneously: the one God who is God and the fact that this God is not an arithmetic monad but has a complexity. On the other hand, the relationship between man and God was that of ‘I and Thou’. In other words, it needed not an adjective, not a description. The I who was man was confronted with the only opposite number, the only thou. And in languages where there is a distinction between I and thou, the thou is used to indicate two things: a total, complete, ultimate otherness, and an infinite closeness – ultimate otherness in the sense that he or her whom I call thou is not me, is not a reflection of me, is not an emanation of me. This thou exists in its fullness apart from me. I am face to face with one who has got a total, complete, fulfilled existence in himself, herself. On the other hand, one uses thou only to those people who are the closest, who are, say, members of one’s family: father, mother, brother, sister. And so the two hold together this mystery of total mutual otherness and of oneness in a relationship that is total union between the two.
If we try to think of the way in which this I and thou applied to Adam and Eve, we can imagine them standing face to face with Him whose sovereign, creative word had brought them into being. They emerge out of naught, as I have pointed out in my first talk, to be faced with Him who, in an act of love, loved them into existence in order to give Himself unreservedly to them, totally to them, and received them as completely as He was giving Himself, so that they should be in Him and He in us.
But at the same time He is the one who transcends all conception, Who cannot be simply examined, analysed. He is known as One before Whom one bows down in adoration. The word god, as I have pointed out more than once, in Germanic roots means the one before whom one prostrates oneself in worship. And the same can be traced in one of the possible derivations of the Greek word theos, which can indicate either the creator or simply the one whom one adores.
Also when we think of ancient languages, which have kept perhaps a little more than our modern languages the flavour of a primeval experience, we have the Sanskrit word baga which indicates the godhead, which means the one who lacks nothing, the one who possesses and is everything. So this was probably the perception which Adam-Eve, the human being nascent or established before God, could have of Him.
But what happened then when man turned away from God, from communion with Him, which is the only way in which one can know God, and turned again to the dust from which it was taken?
The first thing was, as the French Pastor Roland de Pury puts it, having turned his back on God, he had no god and he could only die, because he had severed himself from the source of life. The second thing is that the distance between him and God was established at that moment. Whether it was great, small, infinite does not matter. It was a cleavage, it was a separation. And it was also an alienation. But this separation and this alienation, by the mercy of God – because God had included in his creatures the logos, the DNA, the spark of divine wisdom which would give it motion towards its destination and its fulfilment – had the result that alienated, distant from God, what remained as a power of cohesion between God and mankind, God and each one of His creatures, was a desperate longing for paradise lost, paradise again – not as a place from which one can be expelled, but as a relationship that had come to an end and yet was remembered in the deepest soul, in the total deepest experience of each creature and of mankind and transmitted generically from one generation to another as a cry for fulfilment, a sense of loss, a desire to meet again him who had been abandoned, betrayed, rejected but could not be forgotten.
And at that moment we find something very interesting in the vocabulary used about God. All the words used about God after the Fall are words that indicate a distance. I have already mentioned El and Elohim. This is a word which the Hebrews used for the gods of the pagan world, for the false gods. They were gods simply because they were adored, worshipped, because sacrifices were brought to them. But it was not the God Whom they longed for. They rejected those gods. They considered them as anti-gods, as satanic presences, as a beguilement away from the reality of the real and only God. And then other words came into use: the Most High. The Most High could be indicated either by a word, Anioun (?), for instance, or else by a gesture. Still in the 19th century there was a tribe in Siberia, a pagan tribe which had no word for God because they felt that one could not use a human word to speak of total holiness, of what is totally, ultimately numinous. Whenever in speech they wanted to indicate that they were speaking of God, they made a pause and lifted a hand towards the sky to speak of the Most High, the One who is beyond words, above all.
Also there was another sense that came into the relationship with God, a sense of distance that held within itself a sense of awe, of the numinous, of something too great to be faced, a fear of God. You remember the words of Isaiah: It is a dread thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. You remember the words of so many of the seers who said in the
Old Testament: Lo I have seen God: I must die. It was incompatible with continuing to live the life of the fallen world. One had to die and be with God or one had to die and be rejected and enter into the Sheol, which was the place of the ultimate and irremediable absence, separation.
And then there was more than this. There was the word which we use in the Bible: Jehovah, Yahweh, which is not a word, in the sense that it is our way of being able to read four letters, yod, hey, vaw, hey (YHVH) which in the Old Testament indicate God but which cannot be read and pronounced because there are no vowels attached and there is no way of deciphering it. A variety of ways of reading it were offered, but there is not one which is certain. Yet there is a remarkable passage in the works of a Hebrew writer Maimonides, Moses ben Maimon, in the 12th century of Spain, in which he says two things. He recalls the story of a young student who stood in the presence of his master and began to pray: `O Lord, Thou art almighty. Thou art great. Thou art holy.’ And he stopped him and said, `Stop blaspheming. Every time you add an adjective you make God smaller because you fence Him about with human concepts.’ And developing this thought, Maimonides says that the true reading of yod, hey, vaw, hey was accessible only to one person in Israel. It was the High Priest of the year. He knew how to pronounce this word. And, says Maimonides, during the great celebrations when the people stood in the temple and sang the praises of God, offered their sacrifices, brought forth their prayers, the High Priest leant over the balustrade of his balcony and whispered inaudibly the sacred Name. And, says Maimonides, this Name that held within itself the mystery of God inaccessible
any more to man, possessed only by one person – because God could not desert His creation – this Name ran like blood through the prayers of people. And these prayers which had been like dead flesh became a living body, became tremulous with life and were brought to the throne of God by the power, the life-giving power of the life-giving Name of him who is the Lord, who is the Most High, but who at the same time, in the words of a later writer, is closer to a human soul than his own soul is to itself. But this distance between God and man also created a temptation, the same temptation which is born from entering into materiality and identifying with it more and more and more: the desire to reach out to God by the same natural means which man tried to apply to discover the secret of the created world which could be found only at the heart of God, in the mind of God and not otherwise.
The story of the Tower of Babel is an image of it. Mankind wanted to reach him who was called the Most High, him who lived in heaven, him who was above all things. And they began to build a tower that would reach heaven. Whether it was a physical tower or an intellectual attempt at going higher and higher and higher into the infinity where God resides does not matter. What matters is that it was an attempt, with human, earthly, created means to reach out beyond the created to the Creator, to reach out beyond.
Then what happens to man? Again we can get something from the words which we find. In the beginning of Genesis we are told that Adam was made out of the clay of the earth, out of the dust. Later, when after the Fall the Lord spoke to him, He said, `Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.’ Adam had entered into history as Adam. His name is dust. It is not the name of his vocation. It is not the name which God pronounced to call him out of naught and launch him on an infinite journey into communion with him. It is a descriptive name of what happened to him. ‘Dust thou art’. And this
is the name of Adam in history. And then when we think of Eve in the second chapter of Genesis, we see Adam saying `She is bone
of my bone, flesh of my flesh’. She will be called woman because she is taken from man. She will be isha because she is taken from ish. She will be called she because she is taken out of he – all that is analogies of words. And she ceases to be she because she ceased to be the thou who in the created world is the opposite number of the I who is Adam, and vice versa. She receives the name indeed ; she is called Eve, but she receives this name when her firstborn son comes into the world. She is called Eve, which is derived from a Hebrew word that means life. She is the one who is the origin of life in the created world in the line of mankind.
When they were I and thou they saw one another as the alter ego, the other myself. I have quoted to you the writer of antiquity who said that after the Fall each of them perceived himself or herself as ego, I, and opposed to alter, the other one. Before that they could look at one another and see one another in the glory of perfect beauty.
There is a remarkable passage in War and Peace by Tolstoy which is not meant to be a commentary on Genesis but which is a remarkably thoughtful comment on the vision of love, in which we are told that Pierre and Helen, who have fallen in love with one another, looked at each other, and Pierre saw himself mirrored in her eyes but free of all that was wrong in him. Nothing but his beauty, harmony and wholeness was visible in her vision of him. This is the vision of the alter ego. It is not the vision which we have of one another.
And then, as far as nature is concerned, the created world is concerned, again we have read in the second chapter of Genesis that God brought all creatures to man and he gave them names. And I insisted on the fact that in ancient thought the name and the object identified by this name were coexistential. The name was the thing or the person. To know the name meant to know the secret essence of the person. Only God knows the name of each of us. Only Adam was given to look at every creature of God and name it. And here we see again the same phenomenon throughout the Bible, throughout human history. All creatures are called by names which are a description, or which are ways of distinguishing the one from the other but do not speak of the essence. In human terms we have surnames which are general. We have first names which can be anything. We have nicknames which
are perhaps more personal. But none of them speaks of the uniqueness of the person spoken of when we speak of Mr., Mrs. or use any other name. Those names are lost. There is no way of reaching out. Only in God could we discover or approximate the name of the creatures of God.
When we think of what happened, we find in all that a strange duality, a strange ambiguity. On the one hand it is dislocation, disruption, disintegration of the created world with regard to God and within itself. And when I say disintegration I mean it in almost an etymological sense. The integrity is broken up.
This we find also in nature. Nature and man no longer can commune because it is only in God that this communion is possible. God tells Adam: `Now the earth is cursed, which means falls into a state of misery because of you, and it will bring forth thistles to you. You will have to toil to get out of it your food because it will no longer give it freely as an act of love and as an act of sharing’.
And further, we find the flood. The world has lost its key of harmony which is God. It has also lost the guide which should be man. And the brokenness increases. The flood comes at a very decisive moment. We are told that at that moment before the flood came, God looked at mankind and said: `These people have become flesh.’ They had become materiality. They have engrossed themselves in such a complete way in the materiality as estranged, as separated, from God, that there is nothing left in them except a potentiality but not a reality. And at that moment the flood comes. Mankind is no longer capable of holding itself as a unit because it is no longer at one with God. And the flood breaks.
And then a further stage is reached which is so painful to read. In the ninth chapter of Genesis after the flood Noah, his family and all the animals saved from the flood are offered a new term of existence. But God says something so frightening there. He says: `All creatures are delivered unto you. They will be your food and you will be their terror.’ That is the ultimate limit of the horror which human sin has introduced into the created world through its own betrayal.
Now if we look at mankind, what do we see? We see: ( I have already spoken of Adam and Eve and I will not return to this ) Cain and Abel. Cain is the tiller of the ground. Abel is a shepherd. Isn’t it already a beginning of what we find in the parable of Christ, of those who were invited to the banquet of the king and who began to refuse to come. The first said: ‘I have bought a piece of land; I must work it.’ But the comment on it is that he thinks he possesses a piece of land, but he has become a prisoner of this piece of land. This piece of land holds him a prisoner. He is not free to abandon it, not even to go to the banquet of the King of Heaven. The second one says: ‘I have bought five pair of oxen. I must try them. I have a purpose in life. I have a function in life. I have a task. I cannot let go of it to go now prematurely to the banquet. Consider me excused.’ The third one says: ‘I have a bride. I have my own happiness. What do I care for anything else?’ It is a total imprisonment in materiality, in tasks and in one’s own happiness, in one’s own created satisfaction, gratification.
The second murderer whom we meet is Abimelech is one who says that he will avenge every offence seventy times seven on his offender. In the case of Cain there was a man who was a prisoner of the dust and therefore a hater of whoever said: ‘No, it is not the dust. I want to be free. I move before God. I am a pilgrim on earth, not a settler.’ In the case of Abimelech there is revenge, active hatred and murder. When we look at the descendents of Cain we discover that they are the inventors of all crafts and arts. They also have put deeper and ever deeper roots of sedentariness in the world.
I have already mentioned the Tower of Babel. Now this disintegration, this rift, this movement away from God, is not only an individual and personal thing. It is not only Adam, Eve, Cain, Abimelech, those who had become flesh, those who followed suit to a greater or lesser extent. There is something more.
With Abraham a covenant was established between God and man, a covenant which meant that God will be the leader the guide, the Lord of the chosen people of Israel and that in response to this, Israel will be totally obedient to Him, devote its whole existence to the service of God, the worship of God and to fulfilling His ways and His will. We find that this continues through the period which we call the age of the patriarchs. It continues with the judges. And at that moment the first catastrophe
occurs. In the time of Samuel the Israelites look at the sons of Samuel, expecting one of them to inherit the function of the judge or the guide of Israel, and they find them wanting. And instead of trusting God, who can call out of naught his messenger, who could choose from the people whomever He wanted to guide his people, they turn to Samuel and say: ‘We want to be like every other nation. We want you to give us a king. We want earthly security. We want to be sure that no accident will occur. We cannot trust God to look after us and make us secure. We want a security that is of the earth, the kind of security which we see in other nations, in other people.’ And Samuel turns to God and says : ‘They have rejected me. What shall I do?’ And the Lord says: ‘No, they have not rejected
you. They have rejected me. Give them a king, but warn them of what this king will do to them.’ And there is a whole passage in the book of Samuel in which Samuel describes to them, under God’s guidance, what it will mean to be overpowered, to be enslaved to an earthly king instead of being guided by him whose law is perfect freedom in truth and in love.
But this is not the end. Centuries pass. Judaea, Palestine is overrun by the Romans. The time comes when Jesus begins in his ministry. Then the end comes nigh. And in front of Pilate, when Pilate says: ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ the people shout: “We have no other king but Caesar.’ They renounce even the king of their blood, the king of their nation. They have refused to be guided by God alone. They refuse now to be guided by the people who still are of God’s people. They accept to be nothing but a small nation under the rule, under the guidance of a pagan king. This is the end of the theocracy, the end of God’s possessing on earth a visible, earthly nation defined as a nation. What will come now is another nation. It is the Christian body, a nation born of faith, a nation born of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit.
But this does not mean that there was nothing left outside of the covenant. You remember the words of the scripture that the lesser is blessed by the greater. After the covenant, Abraham, who has received the covenant, is met by the king of Salem, the king of the city of peace, Melchizedek, whose name means `the righteous king’ , the king who is the just one, and he receives his blessing. He is blessed by what we would call a pagan king, because righteousness, holiness is not imprisoned, only in the covenant. It is there, offered to anyone who will offer himself in total obedience to the Living God.
But between man and woman a relationship is established. I have already mentioned that, instead of being I and thou, the alter ego, there are now two entities facing one another. They discover they are naked because they are no longer one. They are two opposite, face to face with one another but not recognising their unity and themselves in each other. And then comes another element of tragedy and of victory. God says that man will overpower woman, and woman will have her longing towards man. As a first approximation it is atrocious, a monstrous situation that has prevailed throughout history, and we will have to look at it in our next talk. But on another level it is another power of cohesion without a situation of dislocation. It is the only way in which two beings who no longer can unite in perfect surrender, love and ecstasy are held together by the hunger of the one for the other, by the possessiveness expressed in different ways, of one for the other. And as we see that the names of God indicate a way of longing and relating to a God who has become distant, that the way in which Adam and Eve relate are at the same time brokenness and longing towards one another, the way in which nature, again, is alienated to the wholeness that was theirs originally, we see that all this at the same time on another level, on the level of dust, works for the cohesion – a cohesion that cannot be broken. Love that was perfect freedom, total gift of self, is no longer this, but it survives. One of the Fathers of the Church could say that marriage, the love relationship between man and woman, is a sacrament of the Old Testament, in the strongest sense of the word, that survived as a sacrament in the fallen world both in Israel and in the pagan world, because the world cannot exist without a sacramental relationship between beings and with and in God.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS IV
I don’t think it has anything to do with any injunction to women to keep silent because you can not give an injunction to anyone who does not exit. The other thing is that the Bible is quite clear about it that all creatures were brought to Adam to name and it is then that he discovered that he was alone. Every other creature were in pairs, as it were, male and female, and at that moment he became aware of something of which he had not yet been clearly aware. He had grown into a maturity that allowed the birth of Eve but he had to make a discovery that that was what was to happen. So it was not a sort of one-sided act of God Who at a certain moment said: “Well, isn’t it a time to provide Adam with a wife”. It was a moment when maturity came and the confrontation with the other creatures made him aware of it.
… see any significance for two reasons: the one is that I don’t see how one can sort of extrapolate it onto woman who did not exist then, on the other hand, the naming was done by the total man, by the ανθρωπος that contained the two poles in potentialities. One can as well say that Eve did the naming and Adam did the naming.
Hindu concept of maya, analogue to an Orthodox view of the created world.
I think there is a difference in that. ‘Maya’ is illusion, while a lie is a distorted and used in an evil way part of reality completed so as to look real while it is not. I was talking to Fr. Basil a moment ago, and I will give you the example, which we spoke about. When Christ was in the presence of Pilate, Pilate said: “Shall I free Jesus or Barrabas?” Well, for us in all modern languages it is one name against the other but in Hebrew ‘bar abas’ means the ‘son of the father’. “Am I going to free the Only- Begotten Son of God the Father or this man, who is called ‘Son of the father?’” And the lie was there: the choice was made and yet it was made on the same word, as it were. And the same applies to all the ways in which we are beguiled into evil. We are not told: this is evil, do it. We are told: This is a shortcut to the good, this is a way of achieving what you want in a way simpler, more effortless. And gradually a whole world is being built which is untrue to reality, untrue to fact, which is a mirage to very great extend and one can only die within it.
Fr. Basil: When you spoke of man’s turning to the study of this world instead of immersing himself in the mind of God and his attempt to relate to the world through natural means
When I said what I said I knew I can put my head into a (?) and I have no time really to put myself right. There are two ways of looking at the created world. You remember the passage of Scripture: “And the Heavens proclaim the glory of God”. One can look at all things created with a sense of wonder, of awe and try to discover their functioning, their being, their life. Or else one can treat the subject matter of this world as though it is was a post mortem way of cutting up a dead corpse. And I think the two attitudes are different. The action may be very similar but the approach is very different and indeed the ancient world discovered the greatness of God, discovered wisdom, discovered beauty, discovered harmony, discovered meaning and so many other things by the contemplation of all that was visible, tangible, perceptible. But in the story of Genesis the impression one gets is that Adam identifies, merges into this created world and can no longer see it because he is part and parcel of it. In order to be able to see a situation, for instance, one must on the one hand be within it, on the other hand, not be part and parcel of it. If you are part and parcel of the situation you can not look at it. And I think this is the difference. Adam immersing himself in matter could no longer see matter outside of himself, he was part of this whirlwind of possibilities but he was a prisoner of it, he could not look with any kind of contemplative vision and I think for the little I know about science that the great scientists have this ability on the one hand to examine things in detail, analyse, work on them, but also at the same time to have a contemplative sense of wonder. I discovered physics, chemistry and biology at
University at the same time as I discovered the Gospel and Dostoevsky, and I remember how the one enhanced the other and how I saw in the teaching of Maurice Curie on physics and of others an unfolding vision of the creation of God. It was not a mystical experience in the sense that I did not replace physical fact by miracle but it was a vision that grew so vast, so wide and so deep and the deeper one went, the wider the horizon, the more wonder there was and the more one could see new and new possibilities of discoveries as when one moves into an ever widening horizon. And I think this is possible only if you are not part and parcel of what you study. You can look at the raging sea from the shore but you can not look at it if you are drowning in it. And I think what happened to Adam was that he was drowning by this immersion into the dust which he was, he could not look at it from another situation in which being in God he could look at the created, knowing that he belongs to it and not being swallowed up by it.
But arrogance would not apply to poor old Adam, but it does perhaps apply to a certain number of scientists who simply have lost, I am not speaking of religion, but have lost a sense of wonder, who have ‘chosified’ to use a French expression, made of everything a thing to be analysed without any meaning, any other dimension than itself.
(reads the question) How I would describe good and evil? There is a passage in Isaiah, I think, the seventh chapter, in which speaking of the Child to be born, that is the Lord being incarnate, says: Before He can distinguish good from evil He will have chosen the good, because being totally healthy, He does not chose between two indifferent possibilities: the one is life, the other one is death, the one is light, the other one is darkness, the one is God, the other one is damnation and it is the fact that we are broken, that we are, shall we say, sinful, that we have a proclivity towards evil and a longing towards good that makes it into a choice, a wavering choice between the two. So that when from the point of view of health, we look at evil, we say: “It is darkness, it is sickness, it is death”. If we look at it from the point of view of sickness, we may find something attractive in it. But I think, your question of good and evil which you raised last time should really be looked at as a complete subject in itself.
Knowledge and knowledge in God.
You know, Ireaneus of Lyon in a passage, which I can not now trace at all but there was in its time a very interesting article in The Vestnik of the Russian Exarchate by Olivier Clement about it, says that even the Fall and the experience of evil and the working out the problem of evil, rejecting what in evil is destruction, can be a way of salvation. Evil has not got the absolute dimension or quality of good in the sense that there is no such thing as good distinct from God, while evil is of the realm of the created and the fallen created world, so that by growing into God one can begin to discern what it good, what is evil, what is darkness, what is light in the same way in which a healthy person or a morally healthy person will reject certain things while a corrupted person either physically or morally will hesitate and at times choose for what is evil.
knowledge which people got after eating the fruit.
Well, I am not a specialist on Dostoevsky but my impression of Dostoevsky is that throughout his works he describes the struggle of people but he never can describe a victory because it is the very thing he has never attained to himself. He has been throughout his life struggling and struggling between extremes and when he tries to give a picture of someone who has won the victory, it is very poor, it is edulcorate, it is not even sugar, it is saccharine. If you take Staretz Zosima, it is a very poor image of Tikhon Zadonski, who was vigorous. Here there is all sweetness, there is a lot of touching and good things but it is unreal because Dostoevsky cannot see it within himself. On the other hand, Dostoevsky has always tried to describe people as they are, not the saints who have achieved and not the sinners with one exception, perhaps, of Stavrogin, who have damned themselves. He always shows
people who are struggling between the complexities of their own soul and all the influences around them and the knowledge which we acquire and the discovery which we make, I think, one is very important is that it teaches us not to be in a hurry to call anyone black or white, to know that there is light that shines in the darkness but that the darkness neither accepts it nor can quench it. But also that cannon concentrate on the light ignoring the darkness because it will be destructive for the person whom we admire unreservedly without seeing the frailty, the weakness or the evil.
I asked Fr. Basil whether he can answer. He is unwilling. I think what Christ speaks is the situation after the End of the world that it is not simply continuation of what happen in this world and that those people say, who never were married in this world will not in eternity find a wife or a husband. I think He does not say that the relationships established during the earthly life (for) people will disintegrate but they will remain what they are and open up in a way that does not exclude the uniqueness of the relationship but also does not exclude the other one, push out anyone. I used a phrase some time ago, I found by accident as most things which I say rightly, that when two persons love one another they can accept the third one only if they are so one as to be one person accepting a second one, not two persons separately accepting a third one in combining in a trinitarian or triangular relationship but the two being one and therefore being able to meet another thou and not a he or a she in a third person.
You see, there two ways of defining a sacrament: the way in which one defines it in a catechism or in theological thinking or the way in which a number of spiritual writers spoke of them, saying that a sacrament is an act of God which occurs to save people and in the example, which you give, there is a passage in the Codex of Besa which is in one of the libraries in Cambridge that says: “Christ was asked: When shall the Kingdom of God come?” And He answered: “The Kingdom of God has already come where two are no longer two but one”. He does not say: when a service was taken in church or when it was recognised by the Registry, He speaks of the miracle of two becoming one in an act of mutual gift of self and acceptance of one another. And I remember a book by Prof. Katansky in XIX, at the turn of the century in which he speaks of the sacrament and says that under Western influence and also for reasons of practical commodity we speak of seven sacraments but one can say that every act of God that introduces a divine dimension into a situation can be considered as a sacrament. And he mentions that there was an époque when twenty two different actions were listed as sacraments. Also Prof. Ilyin number of years ago said to me that an act of God that restores wholeness or creates an eternal situation can be considered as a sacrament. He said: Any miracle of God is an irregular sacrament, that is a sacrament which is not performed according to foreseen ways and methods which is, if you want, an intrusion of God into a situation that lifts it from its earthly level onto a divine level.
What meant by ‘eternal’ and ‘eternity’?
Well as a first meaning we use the word ‘eternal’ in the sense of something that will have no end. But if we ask ourselves whether there is anything of that kind we can say that there can be no endlessness, no infinity except God and in God so that eternity is being immersed in God, being at one with God, growing into communion with God. One can speak of its time aspect, it begins now, it develops but in essence it is the way in which we commune with God and God communes with us.
It is about Eve and Adam and God’s answer to them. It seems to me that Eve is the one who is much more punished than Adam.
I will leave this question for the next time because I would like to give it a little bit more context than I can now.
/Мы — прах, и мы — любимое творение Божие/
Apart from God we are nothing but dust. All that we are apart from dust is our communion with God. We were created out of the primeval substance matter which God called into existence, fashioned, made and God imprinted in us His own image, breathed into us His own life and called us to grow to become His likes.
But that moment we were no longer dust?
Well, we are not yet what we are called to be, we still remain the material we are and even in eternity we will continue to be, shall we say, glorified dust, the earth become what it is called to be — the resplendence and the vesture of God. There is nothing wrong in being dust.
Multiplication of human being was the result of human sin.
May I first say that I have no opinion about it but I see that the Fathers and the spiritual writers divided in that respect. There is a hymn on marriage by, I think, Gregory of Nasianze and what I think most writers in antiquity spoke about was that conception as we know it now, tied together with desire, with possession, with physical hunger and lust would have had no place in paradise but nothing excludes a kind of relationship similar to the coming into being of Eve in which we are told that ecstasy came upon Adam and Eve was born. I think one could divide the writers between the two extremes: the ones who see the beauty and the meaning of marriage and those who for ascetical reasons deny it. But I don’t think it is a fair commentary on, or a sure commentary on what you find in the Old Testament or in the New one even less.
Nature of ecstasy.
I will simply try to explain what I have in mind by a comparison: if you speak in the terms of most translations that God brought a deep sleep upon Adam it means extinction of awareness, it means the dropping of all his being into a purely physical, fleshly existence. When one speaks of ecstasy one speaks of being more than one is or being above what one is. And if Eve had been born simply of the extinction of all consciousness, of all heart and mind and will in Adam, it would be have been if I may put it very crudely, a surgical operation performed by God, in which Adam would be divided into two beings and nothing more. While one could not speak of the birth of Eve as a fulfillment of Adam. It will be below the mark and not above it. And what is so remarkable is that Eve is born of at a moment when Adam is beyond his limited self. The duality which there is in him, bursts through and Eve comes into existence.
MAN AND WOMAN V
19 June, 1989
In the last talk I came to a point where I indicated that after the fall the whole of history develops no longer in the light of God but in a twilight, a twilight in which things become equivocal, ghostly, in which things may not always be recognised for what they are. And yet we know from the scriptures, from the beginning of the gospel of St John, that the light shines in the darkness and that although the darkness is incapable of receiving it, it cannot put it out. There is a Chinese saying that all the darkness of the world cannot quench the smallest candle. And so we live in a world in which darkness and light are present. And yet, to continue on this analogy, whenever there is a source of light, the darkness is pervaded by this light. We may not be able to recognise it, to perceive it with our senses, but there is one thing that is certain, that the darkness is no longer total if there is the slightest source of light. And this source of light exists. It exists on all levels.
On the one hand, God has not abandoned the world. Men may well have lost sight of him, may not be able to commune with God in the freedom of a total encounter, of a perfect surrender both of God
and man in this communion. But God remains present. He remains present and one can see it in so many ways. On the one hand we see in the scriptures which describe the time that follows the fall, that God reveals himself. He unveils his Person so that man, incapable of reaching out towards him, meets him on his own human level.
We see the Patriarchs, the prophets, we see the judges and the saints of all times possessed of knowledge of God. And this knowledge of God basically is what God declares himself: I AM HE WHO IS. This is the limit of what one can say about God otherwise than in the mystery of Communion when one knows as one is known. And this presence of God, invisible, intangible at times, is sustained by a promise on the part of God and a longing on the part of man. Having lost God, man is wounded with hunger, with thirst. He, as it were, contains within himself an emptiness so deep, so vast that nothing can fill it but God. And this creates and sustains the longing, the thirst, the hunger, at times the despair that makes one cry to God: `Come! Come, Lord! How long, O Lord? How long?’
But there is also a promise. The Lord does not abandon his creation. On more than one occasion we can perceive this presence. It can be underlined, as it were, by the words of Isaiah the prophet, in the 7th chapter, I think, of his prophecy, when in God’s own Name he promised that a child would be born and that the name of this child would be Emmanuel. Emmanuel in Hebrew means ‘God with us’, God is in our midst. But this is a promise that sustains the longing.
But there is also a real presence. How often do we see in the Old Testament a seer, a prophet, a saint who meets God face to face or touches the hem of His garment: `Lo, I have seen God ; I shall die,’ say several of the saints of the Old Testament.
We see also in certain passages this presence of God, incomprehensible, beyond understanding. You remember the story of the young men cast into the furnace by the king of Babylon. He comes to see them perish in the flames. And he exclaims, `What is it? Have I not cast three men, chained, into the furnace? How is it then, that I see four men free of fetters and one is the Son of God?’
There is also a sense of the certainty that God will come and will take his place side by side with men for man’s salvation. In the 9th chapter of the book of Job we find Job exclaiming from the depth of his torment: `Where is the man who will take his stand before my judge and me?’ And in one text it adds: `who will put his hand on his shoulder and my shoulder?’. Who is he who will take this step, come to the very heart of the conflict between God and man and who, having accepted to be between the two, at the very point where all the violence of the conflict meet, will extend his arms, put his hand on the shoulder of man, hold them together and bring them together? This was said centuries before the Incarnation, and yet it was already a vision of things to come.
So God is present. And the Spirit of God breathes, continues to breath in the Old Testament and indeed outside of it. You remember that after the covenant Abraham was met by the king Melchizedek, the righteous king, and it is from him, one who was outside of the covenant, that he received a blessing. The grace of God extends in all directions, reaches out to the confines of history, to the confines of humanity throughout the ages. So that the knowledge of God that has become an act of longing and also which is rooted in the divine promise finds expression in two things: on the one hand, faith, which means trust in God, in spite of all the tragedies of the world, in spite of all that happens, in spite of the sense of being a world orphaned, abandoned, a world that has become dark and frightening – faith, the certainty that God remains faithful and therefore that mankind, the world is sustained by his presence, his care, his providence. And on the other hand, obedience, faithfulness to God’s word, and faithfulness also to what God has deposited in the hearts and lives of men. Obedience to his word in the Old Testament, in the commandments, in all that was conveyed by the saints of God, the heroes of the spirit, to the people, but also obedience to the law of God written in the hearts of men – to use an expression of St Paul, the law of God which is written in us because it is the law of our being, the law of our existence, because it is the only power that moves us according to our own vocation. That you can see described in the 11th chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews.
So here is a relationship with God that on the one hand rests on a certainty and on the other hand remains in the twilight. It is no longer a vision. One can see only through a darkened glass, but one can see. There is knowledge, and a knowledge that is experiential, because the experience of faith is not simply credulity. There is a passage in the writings of St Macarius of Egypt in which he tries to describe the moment when experience becomes faith. He says that to begin with, we go through a personal, direct experience of the presence of God. We are face to face with him, we are confronted with him. We touch the hem of his garment. In one way or another we become certain of his existence, his closeness, his greatness, his holiness. We are filled with awe. We bow down to the ground and adore him. But then the moment passes. The experience is no longer actual, immediate, but the certainty that this experience was gone through, that this event was experienced, remains with us. This is a marvellous description, because there is no such thing as blind faith. There is faith, certainty, yes, but it is always rooted in something. This something may be an outstandingly powerful experience – that, for instance, of St Paul on the way to Damascus. It may be something gradual and delicate like the little voice of the evening breeze of which Elijah spoke. It may be that we touch the hem of his garment, but there is someone around us who knows more and discloses to us whose garment it is and what this contact may mean in our lives. And ultimately we have God’s own word, God speaking of himself and saying to us what no one can know but him. God has been seen by no one, but the Lord Jesus Christ, Who rests in the bosom of the Father, has disclosed him.
But there is also a presence of the Holy Spirit. I have mentioned the quiet, still small voice that touches our heart, that refreshes us, that gives us an absolute certainty. Isn’t it that of which the Lord spoke to Nicodemus when he said that the Spirit breathes where he listeth, where he wants? We don’t know where it comes from, where it goes to, but there is one thing which we know for certain: that we have been refreshed, renewed by the breathing of the Spirit that has reached us. And again, this experience may be a very simple, humble experience of the groaning within us, the groaning, the longing, the inner cry: `Come, come O Lord, Don’t tarry. How long?’ Or it may be – and this applies not only to the New Testament but also, for instance, to Hosea the prophet – a cry towards God perceived as our Father: One who loves, One who saves, One to whom we can turn and who will never turn away from us.
So before the Incarnation there is a sense that God is in our midst. The Incarnation makes God tangible, visible. The Incarnation gives to God a human face and a human Name, but he is mysteriously present throughout history. His image is inscribed in each of us, whether we believe or not. And it is this image which is the moving power that shapes our destiny and our becoming, whether we are believers or unbelievers, because all of us are sealed with this wonderful image of God.
But the twilight reaches out also to the relationship between man and the surrounding world. I have quoted to you already the words of God, frightening words, after the flood when Noah is told that all creatures are delivered unto them for food. `They will be your food and you will be their terror.’ And earlier did not God say to Adam that because he had turned away from him, because he could no longer commune in him and through him with the created world, that the world now falls into a state of misery and is no longer capable of offering him all that it could offer him as an act of surrender, of love, that man will have to till the ground and that the ground will produce thorns and thistles and that it is in the sweat of his brow that man will have to work? And we see that throughout history. We see the flood. We see all the dislocation, the disintegration of the world for which we are now actively responsible. We are aware of it now in a way in which we could not be aware of it a few centuries ago. We are destroying the world of God, and the world of God is turning away from us, rebels and offers us tragedy in response to our loss of God and loss of communion with it in the wisdom and the holiness of God.
And then there is the twilight of human relationships. I mentioned that already. I will just indicate one or two more things. Adam and Eve, when they met first, saw in one another a revelation of themselves, and at the same time the radical otherness that allows love to exist. After the Fall, this has
come to an end. They see one another no longer as alter ego, but as alter as opposed to ego the other one as opposed to myself. And they discover their nakedness. St Gregory of Nyssa, I believe, commenting on the passage of the Old Testament in which we read that the Lord God made coats of skins and clothed them, comments on it by saying that in the beginning man had a human physical nature comparable to that which is described in the risen Christ. Through the Fall opacity, heaviness comes, and man becomes prisoner of a limited condition both of soul and of body.
In other terms one can say that Adam and Eve at the moment of their creation, of their emergence were two persons. Now they have become two individuals. One cannot oppose the one to the other absolutely in the sense that an individual also continues to have qualities that are that of a person. They do not cease to be in the image of God. They do not cease to be what God had made them. Yet something tragic happens. What happens is that when we want to describe a person, we can only know a person through communion. When we think of the individual, we can describe an individual through characters that are common to all individuals but which are grouped in specific ways that allow us to recognise one from the other. Indeed inside this individual, opposable to the other, that we recognise by contrast, by opposition, there is the person, but it is necessary to have eyes to see through opacity into the depth.
You remember that in one of our talks, answering a question by Karin, I quoted a passage from a novel by Charles Williams in which a person free of her body looks at the Thames River and sees it first as a layer of polluted, heavy, greasy, repulsive, revolting water. But then, looking deeper and deeper she discovers clearer and clearer levels of water. And at the heart of it is pure water, and at the core of this pure water, in the words of Charles Williams, are those waters which Christ gave to the Samaritan woman. This is the kind of vision which one must possess in order to discern through the opacity of the individual the mystery of the person and be able not only to communicate but to commune. But even within a person there is disintegration, dislocation. We all know how our heart, our mind, our will, our flesh are in continuous conflict with one another. To summarise it one can quote the words of St Paul. `The evil which I hate I do; the good which I love I do not do.’ Isn’t that the result of this brokenness which is ours?
And then when we think of the relationship as defined in the words of the third chapter of Genesis, we see that a relationship is established between Adam and Eve which is that of man overpowering woman and woman longing for man. Bit when you think of the situation in which we all are, isn’t it true that there is in man an overpowering attitude, but in woman not only a longing but also an ability to conquer man and to subdue man and to submit man. And yet this relationship on both sides is a result of the Fall. Men and women were not created in order to be the one submitted and the one in command. Here is a quotation from Stuart Mill on the subjection of women: `The inequality of rights between men and women has no other source than the law of the strongest. Was there ever any domination which did not appear natural to those who possessed it?’ And the sense of the iniquity of this situation is not a modern phenomenon. It began long, long ago. There is a passage in the writings of the French writer Montaigne, who expresses this view very clearly: `I say that both male and female are cast in one and the same mould. Instruction and custom excepted, there is no difference between them.’ Plato called them indifferently to the society of all studies, exercises, charges and functions of war and peace in his commonwealth. We must remember that, that the situation in which we find ourselves in the world and, to a certain extent, indeed no, to a dreadful extent, in the Church is the result of the Fall.
There is a destructive relationship from the beginning, and this destructive relationship results from fear, resentment and the desire to overpower what one is afraid of. And this is what we find in the Christian society and outside of it. We must therefore, in order to understand the mutual relationship of man and woman in the Church, go back to the beginning of Genesis, as I have tried to do, because it is only there that we can find the real God-willed relationship.
Now with the Incarnation this relationship should be restored. And it is not restored, partly because we are part and parcel of a world of ambiguity, a world of sin, a world of twilight. But it is our duty as Christians to work for the reintegration of humanity, between man and woman and between all parts of society. We say after the apostles, after Paul, that Christ is the Second Adam. What we have read and said about Adam is quite clear, that Adam was the sum total of all humanity in whom, to begin with, until the day when Eve was born of him, when he had attained the maturity that made it possible, both femininity and masculinity were contained.
I think that we cannot refuse to accept that the same is true in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a phrase of St Athanasius the Great that what Christ has not assumed he has not saved. If he is not the total man containing all the mystery of man and woman, then only that part of humanity which he has assumed can hope for salvation. If in Christ man and woman are not summed up in one total mystery of humanity, then only a part of mankind is saved and the other one does not exist. This is something which we cannot accept in any way, especially when we think of the Mother of God and the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, because it is out of the twilight that gradually emerges that holiness, that perfect surrender that makes it possible for the Son of God to become the Son of Man. It is only out of this twilight. When we look, in St Luke’s Gospel or the Gospel of St Matthew, at the genealogy of Christ, we see clearly that among His to lead from Adam, the first Adam, to the Second Adam through the Mother of God. What we find is what I have ancestors there were saints, but there were also sinners, about whom we have no doubt that they were sinners. And yet they have something in themselves that made it possible for them not to break the line, not to make it impossible for the genealogical line mentioned before: longing for God, faith that is trusting in him, a struggle, very often inadequate and unsuccessful, to fulfil his will, a surrender to him, however imperfect, but total in intention. And even the sinners of the Old Testament that are part of this genealogy of Christ could not stop the stream that from Adam led to the Mother of God. Generation after generation prepared the flesh and the soul, the human flesh, the human soul of Christ, for the Incarnation. And step after step this refined humanity was brought nearer and nearer and one day culminated in Mary the Mother of God. In her the whole of mankind had vested its longing, its faith, its obedience, its faithfulness and its ability to surrender perfectly, to give itself to God so that God could give himself to mankind.
In one of his writings St Gregory of Palamas says that the Incarnation would have been as impossible without the assent of the Mother of God as it would have been without the positive will of the Father. It is a total, free co-operation without coercion. It was a gift of self on the part of God and a total gift of self on the part of the Mother of God. And when we think of Christ’s humanity, his humanity is that of Mary and his divinity is that of the Father. And perhaps it is too daring to say, but it is something that I feel very strongly about, that when in the Liturgy we face the consecrated gifts of bread and wine that have become the Body and Blood of Christ, it is Mary’s humanity, which is Christ’s humanity, that we are confronted with. This is why immediately after the consecration we proclaim `especially our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Mary, ever virgin and Mother of God’. We contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation, but it is her humanity which is the sum of all humanity before her, but refined, made perfect and finally surrendered and given to God.
And when we think of the genealogy perhaps we can think in the terms of the bread and wine brought for consecration. Originally it is wheat, which grows out of the earth, of an earth that the sin of man has betrayed into the power of the Adversary, has betrayed in such a way that it is no longer possessed of the exulting freedom of creatures in God. And then the faith of man takes some of this wheat and brings it as a gift to God, frees it from its enslavement, returns it to him who is the freedom of all creatures, shapes it to become that bread which is called the Lamb. And at that moment it is already like the wooden board on which an icon will be painted. Then prayers are offered, and out of this piece of bread a cube is cut out which is to represent Christ the Cornerstone, Christ the Rock, Christ the Son of Man and the Son of God. And it is slain. And at that moment it becomes truly an icon of the Incarnation of the Son of God become the Son of Man crucified and slain for the salvation
of the world. Then it is brought to the altar-and it is brought to God in a new way, offered to him with a, prayer that the Holy Spirit may transmute, transform this bread into the Body of Christ. And the Spirit of God descends upon it and what was an icon becomes reality itself, Christ’s incarnate presence. This is perhaps an image of what we can see in the genealogy of Christ, the way in which me gradually frees itself from its own treason, brings itself to God as an offering, accepts to be slain, only to be free from the enslavement, and then by the power of the Holy Spirit is transformed and becomes the Church.
Next time I want to speak from two different angles about the Church and our relationships within it, about the Church as an ideal, as what it is and also as a reality, historical, tragic, painful, very often ugly reality, and of the problem of human relationships, particularly of man and woman within the Church against the background of what we know and we profess about the Mother of God.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS V
Why is that Eve responded?
I think there is an interesting point in what you say about the rapport of the serpent in the Garden and the Annunciation, the link being this that the serpent in the Garden that is an image of Satan is called ‘the accuser’. And the Holy Spirit in more than in one translation is called ‘the advocate’. And it is a very interesting balance. It is not the only way one can express things about either of the two because the diabolos is a scatterer, he is the murderer, he is the liar but he also ‘the accuser’ and you can find the image of this role of the adversary as an accuser in the story of Job. He presents himself before God and he accuses Job of being righteous only because it is an advantageous situation for him. “Don’t You do everything for him, why shouldn’t be what he is?” On the other hand, at the other extreme, we have got the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Who is the Advocate in the sense that an advocate is one who is called into a situation of conflict and takes your defence, he is a barrister, but barrister would be really too bad as a translation. He is the one who is called to support and he is the one who in groanings unutterable cries Godwards, he is the one who teaches us to say: “Abba, Father” to God and he is the one in the translation of Moffat of the Epistles who moulds within us the knowledge and the image of Christ. So he is at the very other extreme of the scale. The first Eve speaks to the deceiver, to the liar, to the scatterer and who having done it all becomes the accuser. And at the other extreme we find the Holy Spirit Who is the one Who teaches us, Who prompts us, Who helps us to cry Godwards and Who helps us to become in the image. On the other hand, you know, the word used in the New Testament can be translated in more than one way. ‘The Comforter’ – what does it mean? The comforter is one who comforts us in other words, consoles us of the fact that we are separated from Christ, Who is or should be for Christians, our love, the One towards Whom we long, Who is our Saviour to Whom we can offer our gratitude, Who is our joy. You remember the words of St. Paul: “For me life is Christ”. He is also the one Who in the same word comforter, gives strength, the one Who makes it possible for us to fight, to remain faithful, to obey but not in a slavish way but in a creative way. And lastly, He is the Comforter in the sense that He is the one Who already now in the twilight of history gives us joy, the joy of the certainty of faith, of the incipient, germinal, imperfect knowledge of Christ and through Christ knowledge of the Father. So yes, indeed, here are the two poles and it is an admirable thing to think that the beginning and the end can be expressed in one word, practically, the one is the accuser, the other one is the advocate.
Now, Eve received the name of Eve as the Old Testament has it because she is the mother of all living and it comes from, at least it is one of the possible derivations that comes from the Hebrew verb that means ‘to live’. She is the one who is the origin of life in the sense that in the world of new creatures coming into the world she is the one who is the fertile ground who brings forth the rich harvest. And one can not reason it out by creating a parallel between the first Adam comes first, Eve comes next; in
the New Testament Eve comes first, Adam comes next. One cannot work it out simply in words but I am not going to repeat what I said about the birth of Eve, I mean the emergence of Eve out of Adam. But she is the one who brings life. The Mother of God is the one who brings eternal life into the world. Natural life was there, more than natural life because there is no such thing as ‘natural’ life as distinct from a life in which God participates. But the life according to the laws of nature had continued. Children have been born, marriages have taken place, etc. But here is the one who brings into the world eternal life incarnate. So she is Eve in that sense, She is life. That is really, I am afraid, all I can say about it. If you can think and criticise what I said do so.
How does an individual become a person? I read in the book that an individual can only enter personhood through community.
I have never thought in these terms so I will try to grow through your question. I think that there is no such thing as a pure individual and a pure person in the sense that the one excluding the other. In each individual, in each one of us, who is a limited person, opaque to the outer world, incapable of moving outward freely, otherwise than by desire, greed, hunger and so on there is the person whom God has willed. Within each of us there is the person that bears the image of God. There is the living image of God within us. Now, I am not absolutely sure that one can not get through the individual condition into personhood because we have the example of so many saints who retired into deserts and who by growing into God gradually overcame all the limitations of being an individual that is the last term of a fragmentation beyond which one cannot divide and became a person. But yet, I think, you could argue against it by saying that this is also in relational terms because when you relate to a community of people around you, when you relate to God it is within a way of relating that your person would grow and the defensiveness, the fears and the imprisonment of the individual gradually break. That is my first reaction to your question.
Now, normally in order to be able to outgrow the individual state into personhood one must be recognised as a person by someone. One is always recognised by God but it takes a saint to be aware of that. We are all loved of God, we are all recognised of God but how much are we aware of it existentially, emotionally, deeply. While we are all aware of whether we are or not acknowledged, affirmed, recognised by at least one person and that is where relationships become so important in the Old Testament, in the pagan world, in the New Testament. It is essential because it is by being recognised, affirmed and seen that one can outgrow one’s own secludedness, one’s own imprisonment in self, one can break through the walls which one builds or which have been gradually built around us by the circumstances of life that made us, force us to defend ourselves, to seek refuge in a walled garden or in an ivory tower. So that we are recognised by God and we can if we only can have the ability, the circumstances and the courage to open ourselves to God we can begin to move in that direction but there is a great deal to be said about the role of persons meeting us, looking at us and saying: “You are not deceiving me, you are not the outer person you are, I see within you something else”. I remember Fr. Evrgaf Kovalevsky in one of his sermons saying: “When God looks at us He does not see the achievements or the qualities of which we are proud and which may not exist but what He sees is His own image glorious and untouched ready to blossom out and to conquer.”
I don’t know Hebrew enough to say that I believe your word or not, I can believe it gratuitously. I don’t know but what we have in the Old Testament in the commentaries of number of saints in particular John Chrysostom, is that Adam means ‘the clay’, ‘the dust of the ground’, ‘the primeval matter’ and that God called into existence the total man containing within himself all the potentiality of femininity and masculinity of man and woman. I don’t want to use the word ‘male’ and ‘female’ because it has got nowadays a sex connotation. And it is when the total man had matured to such an extend that the two poles could not co-exist in one person that God brought as the Septuagint put sit, ‘ecstasy’ upon Adam and being beyond himself he, shall we say, gave birth to Eve.
Burden put on Eve and on Adam
I think the basic tragedy is equal in the sense that both who had known one another as being a revelation of self and of otherness suddenly discover that the one who was a vision of fulfilment has become alien, has become a non-I, a mutual alienation and a mutual rejection coupled with the longing to be together each of them expressing it differently and, yes, there is the overpowering of Adam on the one hand, but there is also another aspect. You know, I may be right or wrong but I wonder how much fear there is in man of woman because all his babyhood and early childhood the boy is in the power of woman: his mother, a nanny, or someone and gradually he grows out of it, but I am not sure that somewhere the fear of enslavement does not remain and that when he acquires strength and power he does not first defend himself and to defend himself overpowers, subjugates, oppresses a woman, that it is the result of fear born of these early years of total dependence. And on the other hand there is another aspect: we find in the Old Testament and throughout history women that were great. If you take the Old Testament — the wives of the patriarchs or Judith in the Book of Judith and so forth. But we find also an element which frightens man, the fact that by giving his heart, his allegiance to someone whom he loves he is limited and imprisoned by love. And the type, the extreme of it would be Dalila. Well, you know, the story of Dalila is presented to children in an absurd way: Samson was a man with long hair and in his long hair resided his spiritual power. Dalila cuts the hair and Samson is deprived of it. But what we do not remember or what we stupidly do not tell children is that having long hair was a sign of total dedication to God and that the fact that he allowed his hair to be cut meant that he accepted no longer to be dedicated to God entirely and to serve God within the limits of convenience and in that sense Dalila is a tragedy and number of men may well feel that one woman or another in their lives is a Dalila in the sense that because of them they can not be fully dedicated either to God — which is rare, or to the task which enthrals them, which is the desire, the hope, the passion of their life. And at that point I think, they should look at themselves very seriously because to be totally devoted to God is one thing, to reject whomever it is, Eve or Dalila, for the sake of a task is a quite different thing. Is the task important enough to reject a person, to rule out a person, to oppress and subdue a person?
Women want to be dominated
You know, the problem of love is something I wanted to touch upon and simply my timer said: “Stop, three minutes left, not enough time for it”. But love is something very much more complex, it has gradations and nuances. If you think of Adam and Eve, seeing one another as the fullness of their common being, not of one another, but their common being, love consists in a total, exhilarating gift of self to the other and visa versa at the simultaneous sharing. It is in the image of what we find in the Gospel when in the beginning of St. John’s Gospel we are told: “And the Word was with God”. The Greek text says: προς τον Θεον, which means ‘Godwads’. It was not ‘with’ God in a static way, all the élan was towards God, to be with Him, and that is the act of love.
But love in our vocabulary and in our experience is something much weaker very often. You know, we colloquially use the same word to say that ‘I love God’ and ‘I love strawberries with cream’. I love a person — and what does it mean? If you remember Screwtape letters there is an old devil writing to his nephew and saying: “I can’t understand what the Enemy (the Enemy being God) means when He says that He loves His creatures because He leaves them free. I love you which means I what to possess you, I what to devour you, I want to have you within me so that nothing of you is outside of me, that is what I call love”. That is satanic love, if you want, but it is also within limits, a way in which we love one another: we take possession of those whom we love. Love very seldom sets the beloved person free, on the contrary it is a relationship that binds. Well, in Adam and Eve there was the fullness of freedom. In all the twilight of history there are all the nuances, which I have mentioned and so many others. And we think of freedom (and I am sorry to repeat things which some of you have heard ad
nauseam) we think in terms of being able to make a choice, to abide by it whatever other people think. We think of political liberties, we think of independence, of autonomy. The word ‘freedom’ comes from a Sanskrit word which is ‘pria’ which means as a verb ‘to love’ and ‘to be loved’ and as a noun ‘my beloved’, ‘my darling’. And in the vision of Sanskrit, of this early, early time when mankind began to put into words experiences, freedom meant a relationship of love, of perfect love, which liberates the other one and doesn’t enslave.
What God did in the new relationships, when people got skins?
There is a few lines before or after these words of God: “Lo, man has become like one of Us”, and decides to expel Adam and Eve out of paradise lest they eat of the Tree of life and fix forever their brokenness because once they would have made into eternal, an eternal condition, their situation of brokenness, it would be the end, there would be no redemption, no possibility and He cloths them in clothes or skin, which as I said before, I think it is St. Gregory of Nyssa interprets, as instead having the primeval lightness, transparency of a spiritual body like the one which Christ possessed after His Resurrection, they are opaque, limited and they must struggle in separation from one another.
How is one to understand the phrase in Genesis that God regrets to have had made man?
Well, there are so many passages in which one has got to use human words to express. You remember this passage from the Gospel in which Christ speaks of a woman giving birth to a child, and He says: “She is in travail and suffers but all is forgotten the moment a child is born and she says: A new man has come into the world.” And I do not mean to say that God was in travail and suffered but what I mean to say is that God in an act of love calls into existence, loves into existence a whole creation and every creature that emerges out of nought at His call, He looks at it and rejoices in it because He gives His love to it and the creature responds to it. That is how I understand it.
Whether there was sexuality before the Fall
If we speak of man and woman, two creatures, masculine and feminine in a sense, of course there was sexuality. Whether there was sexuality in the sense of a promiscuous society, of hunger, of possession, of lust and so on, I would say, all the writers or the Fathers whom I have had occasion to read and they are not many because my knowledge is very limited, would say no. And you know, there is in the beginning of the fourth chapter: “And Adam knew Eve his wife”. I was looking at the same text translated by the Rabbis in America and instead of ‘knew’ they used the word ‘experienced’ this wife, which means a conscious act, while according to the writers, the Fathers, what should have happened is a relationship within ecstasy and not a relationship within experience in one another but that is really all I can say about it.
Eve was the one who listened to the serpent. Her seed will crush the head of a serpent. Does it have relevance in Orthodoxy? Mother of God redeeming Eve’s part in the Fall.
… believe my words without my reading it aloud. The Bible says that enmity will be established between the serpent and his seed and a woman and her seed. That is where the quotation ends. But somehow throughout Christendom and I don’t know whose creative imagination it has been, it is always fulfilled by ‘and he will bite your heal and you shall crush his head’. So that is the imagery where it comes from, but it not strictly speaking a Biblical quotation.
The Russian expression is something which is rendered habitually by ‘walk before God’. It is a Biblical phrase and I remember Theophane the Recluse in one of his writings says: we must learn individually to stand before God face to face and then when we have learned to stand before God we can begin to walk before God, that is not only to stand in contemplation learning to commune with Him, learning to relate to Him but having established a relatedness with Him we can then move, act,
not only before His eyes, which is an objective fact but in harmony with His will and His thoughts, to use St. Paul’s phrase, acquire the mind of Christ and act accordingly; and of course that is the ideal.
No, it was said for the first time when man in the sense of the human being, the ανθρωπος, Mensh was created, chelovek. And then after the Fall, they were sent, yes, to fulfil the original command.
Does the Mother of God redeem the first Eve ?
I want to come back to the question of the Mother of God in the next talk but one of the things that strikes me in the genealogy of Christ is that it is the succession of names of saints, of sinners, of men and women about whom we know nothing but once their longing, saintliness, struggle has culminated in the Mother of God, Who is the response of the whole of mankind to the love of God and Christ is born, in Him everyone is redeemed in the sense that everyone who has contributed to His humanity in this humanity is fulfilled, there is nothing left of the past, nothing left of shadows, it has become all light. And the Mother of God is on the threshold of the event.
When something important happens people seem to change their names…
I see what you mean but I don’t, I should prefer to ask Adam or the Lord about it. What I see in it is that whatever happens, what is terribly important for the whole creation, is that he is the embodiment of the primeval material of creation. He remains Adam not in the sense of dust but he is the earth with all that it has brought forth and the guide. If he changes his name, he would be as it were, cut off all other creatures, he could no longer be them, fulfilled and guiding them into fullness. But that is really pure guesswork.
MAN AND WOMAN VI
26 June, 1989
There is a French expression avoir l’esprit d’escalier, which means to have the right thoughts just as you are leaving a place instead of having them when you come or during your stay. I think that this is what happened to me when I suggested the title of these talks. What I had in mind really, but it was not quite clear to me – it has just come clearer now – is that my intention was not only to speak of the relationship between man and woman and the problems that arise from the Fall and that are resolved in Christ, but also of both the situation of man and woman in the created world, to place them in the context of the world as God willed it and made it, as man, that is the humans, made it through sin and as Christ remade it to the extent to which we allow him to do so, and within this context indeed, to look at the way in which man and woman relate to one another. So if I had done that there would probably be less bewilderment on the part of some, and my intention would have been clearer. But as I said, it wasn’t clear enough in my own mind for me to convey it with any clarity to you.
Now we have come to the last talk and I want to sum up a few of the things which we have already done and make a last move, and come to a point which will probably be sufficiently presented, but unresolved because I have no answer to the final point of my discourse. When I said, in the last talk, I think, that the world in which we live as a result of the Fall but also as a result of the fact that God has not abandoned his fallen world, is very much in a twilight, that the light shines in the darkness and although the darkness does not receive it, it is not powerful enough to destroy it – I meant to underline – and I tried to do it without, I think, being clear enough, that in spite of the fact that the devil, the scatterer, the one who breaks up and dislocates unity, the one who disintegrates things he can disintegrate – that in spite of the fact that this had happened on all levels, something had happened also that was of immense importance: the fact that God created all things in order that they should be one, in order that they should grow into an ever greater, more perfect, more glorious unity by communing
with him and growing into that unity which is the unity of the three Persons of the Trinity in the one Godhead.
And so what we see in the Fall and its results is that, whatever happens, brokenness, disintegration takes place on the one hand, and it is complemented, it is corrected, as it were, by something that results from this brokenness. For at the root, at the heart of every broken element there is the longing for oneness, the call of God, the inspiration which God gave in the beginning.
When we think of the way in which God and man relate – you remember that I spoke of the loss of communion, also of the loss of knowledge, the loss of the mutual joy, yes, but the loss of communion with God has resulted in several things. On the part of God, you remember the words: ‘Lo, man has become like one of us. Lest he touches the Tree of Life and lives forever, let him die.’ It was not a cruel joke. We cannot imagine the God of love pronouncing words with a sneer. No, what happened is that man – that is, Adam and Eve, mankind that was one perfect, harmonious unit, had been broken, and yet it had remained in its broken pieces what it was called to be. The image of God was preserved. The call was still there. The longing for an ever-increasing oneness and growth into God was still there. And so if man had been able to mend his condition of brokenness from eternity by touching, by feeding on this tree of eternal life, this brokenness would have been fixed for ever and ever without ever being corrected. Death indeed is a tragedy. Mortality is a tragedy, but mortality and death have been granted us as a gift that breaks the fault, the wrong, the sinful relationship that has been established between the spirit of man and materiality and makes both the spirit and the body of man free to respond in their own time in a new way to the call of perfection and greatness.
In this respect there is a remarkable passage in the writings of St Isaac of Syria, who says that the body of man matters as much as the soul and spirit of man, that the body of man cannot be treated as an object additional to soul and spirit. And he says that the eternal destiny of every one of us will be fixed only after the resurrection, because the spirit of man, the soul of man surviving after death has no right to force the body to a resurrection which it may not wish to accept. This is a very powerful way of putting things, of indicating that the very materiality of man matters as much to God as a spirit, that man is a unit of soul, spirit and body and that none of these parts can determine the destiny of the other otherwise than in total agreement of mutual love, mutual acceptance and togetherness.
The loss of communion with God has resulted also in a sense of desperate loneliness, a sense of being an orphaned world of human beings scattered away from one another and from the very source of their unity and the very source, the very well of life from which they drank – misery indeed, but also a misery, an aloneness, a sense of being orphaned that calls out hunger, thirst, longing. And this is a force of cohesion in the midst of the brokenness of the relationship. It is not a rejection by God that would make us so alien that there is no return. There is a broken relationship that can be restored, because God says ‘Come back’ and we answer, ‘We cannot live without you. How shall we come back?’
I have spoken also of the loss of the Name of God. Yes, the Name of God, which was the Thou in the deepest sense of a communion of life we haven’t got now in the same sense. But God revealed himself in the beginning in two ways as the Creator – this was the first discovery of any creatures that came into the world: It was called, loved, brought into existence by him who was there offering himself and all that was his, all that was him, to his creatures – and also One who precedes the existence of everything, who is the One who is — not because he was made, not because he emerged out of naught, not because of his appearance at a certain moment, because he is: he is being itself. And that is a word that has remained as the Name of God in the Old Testament: I am He Who is. I am Who I am, the HO ON of the Greek language, Sushchy in the Slavonic language. And this is the limit of what still was remembered, of what was remembered, or what still could be remembered in the Fall. But at the same time the loss of contact with God led to a sense of distance. And indeed new words were invented to indicate who he is. This distance led to call God the One who is unapproachable. The One who is holy is exactly the kadosh, is the One who is unapproachable, who is beyond.
A remarkable thing is that in the Indian Upanishad there is a word that indicates that he is beyond and in us at the same time, that indicates the tension that he is beyond, he is unapproachable, he is unattainable, he is only knowing himself and knowable within himself and yet somehow he has reached out, come to us, and we have within us something that is akin to him, and our longing for him is already a kind of knowledge of him. But at the same time in the fallen world he is the Creator, he is the unapproachable Holy One, he is the Most High, he is the Lord who has all power and all authority.
So again we are confronted with separation which results in a new cry for oneness, a new longing for return. And the very separatedness has created a situation in which what might have become conceivably a smooth growth into God without a sense of the desperate need which a creature has in him has become a sense of the absolute need, of a need that nothing can fill but the presence of God, a longing that is the longing of the total being. One can desire other things. One can long only for God in this way because, in the words of Michael Ramsay, we possess within ourselves an emptiness so vast and so deep that nothing can fill it but God. And we are aware of this emptiness, and we are aware dimly that only God can fill it.
The brokenness goes beyond it, as I have indicated, by the way in which man after the Fall relates to the created world. Yes, he has immersed himself in the created world. He was called by the serpent, by the deceiver, by the liar and the murderer par excellence, he was called to immerse himself in the created in order to know it from the inside, but the created could not be known from the inside by someone who was part and parcel of this created. The only one who could know the created from the inside as the created truly is, is God. And Christ is the only one who, being God, partakes in createdness by becoming man and knows what to be a creature means, because he can at the same time be the creature and be the God Who knows all its depth and all its mystery. And so by immersing himself in the created, man has become blind to the very mystery of what the creature is. And yet he is at one with this created world by vocation. Man was, as I tried to show in my first talk, created of the primeval matter of this world, not as a result of the evolution and a last jump from the highest animal into humanity. No, he was created out of the root material of the created world so that he is partaker of all that is made of this created primeval matter. And in that respect, immersed in it, he also belongs to all its destiny. And it is not only his own longing, it is the longing of all things for God, for the fullness, for the full blossoming of self, for becoming what it is called to be, that man perceives again a longing, a desperate longing which he perceives in a way in which the material world perhaps does not perceive.
At this point shall I perhaps say something which belongs elsewhere. When we think of the Fall of man, in the liturgical books of Orthodoxy which say that the Fall of man killed the man but did not kill God – cheloveka ybistvenn, a ne boga ybistvenn – we read in Holy Week. But there is something more frightening that has happened once in history. When Christ, God himself, that had become partaker of createdness, died upon the Cross, the whole created w>rld was confronted with the horror, with the terror that now there could be no salvation, no fulfilment, that it was the end. It was darkness unrelieved, hell for ever, because they saw in the death of. Christ upon the Cross not only the death of Jesus of Nazareth but the defeat of God in his flesh.
And the Resurrection was indeed an event that had a cosmic effect, a cosmic importance greater even than the Fall of man. The whole creation could rejoice that it is redeemed, that the flesh of Christ, that stands in an exemplary way for all things material, has come to life and God has conquered, and victory is final. Evil can no longer conquer not only God but even the world which God has created. And again we find ourselves in this situation in which God, man and the created are locked together both in a struggle and in a companionship. And the struggle appears indeed when God says to man that because he has turned away from him, because he has fallen away from his vocation, he will now have to till the ground, to fight the ground, because the ground will no longer freely, lovingly give him all he needs. He will have to force out of the ground all the food he needs. It is a struggle. The ground
no longer can recognise in man his guide, his own fulfilment and therefore resists and rejects him, turns to God, but the bridge between God and the created world is now, if not broken, at least shaky. The world cannot cross the abyss through this bridge because the bridge has become insecure. And man indeed has to fight this world, this material world that has become also miserable, orphaned, God- deprived because of him. It has become food to him after the flood, even in animals that have become food for him and for whom he has become terror. There is a struggle between them.
But every struggle implies not only confrontation but a link between the two. And if I may for one minute be flippant, it reminds me of a story which my grandmother told me of a battle in which one party is defeated by the other, and in the darkness at the end of the struggle a soldier shouts: ‘Lieutenant, lieutenant, I have made a prisoner.’ And the lieutenant says, ‘Well, bring him here.’ And the soldier says, ‘I can’t. He is holding me too fast.’
Well, this is the situation. This is a very apt image, because on the one hand, we hold one another with passion, with possessiveness, at times with hatred. Yet, thanks to it, we are inseparable where we cannot be connected with one another by a bond of mutual love and companionship. So companionship, love on the one hand, the struggle arid the mutual confrontation, all work in the same direction to keep the world together, to prevent it from disintegrating definitively, totally, irremediably. And if we speak of Adam and Eve, we have seen what happened. The two were for each other fulfilment. They were the perfection of humanity in their oneness. Eve was the crowning of this oneness for Adam, and she saw Adam as the crowning for her.
Yes, and the Fall led to what one could sum up in the word individuation. They had become two separate individuals. Instead of being for one another, as I have already said two or three times, alter ego, the other myself, they recognise themselves as ego, I, and the other as alter, the other one. But even there, a separation that could be a total severing of relationship is not allowed. A new relationship is established, a relationship of power and desire, the hunger of the one for the other, the longing of the one for the other, the overpowering and the beguilement. Whatever way the one interacts with the other, it works for the overcoming of the ultimate defeat of oneness.
In that sense here again even the wrong things that occur there are a power of cohesion. We find only one man who refuses that. It is Cain, when he says, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ when he has rejected, denied ultimately the very existing of Abel and murdered him. And yet even he cannot escape the fact that humanity remains one, that he remains part of it and that there is a tragedy in his life, but not a simple solution. The death of Abel has not freed him from Abel. Abel is there as a greater problem, now that he is killed, than he was a puzzle or an offence while he was alive.
And then, of course, there is love. I have not mentioned love because, as I said last time, love is something infinitely complex. In the perfection of love we find what we had in the beginning: God, who was free not to do it, but in an elan of love, calling into existence a whole world in order to give himself and all that was his to it in its totality and to each minute particle of this created world separately.
Now love has survived. Love has survived all the brokenness. It has become imperfect. It has acquired new qualities of desire, of greed, of lust, of power, of possessiveness, of what-not, but still it is love. It is a feeling that turns one person towards the other with a sense of wonder, a contemplative vision of beauty, a sense that one’s own fulfilment is in the other, that one is not self-contained, that it is only in the other, or in the others in the plural that fulfilment can be sought and perhaps achieved. It is not a perfect love, although we find this perfect love in some individuals of the Old Testament: perfect love for God, perfect love for one another. If you think of the perfect love for God, think of the sacrifice of Isaac brought forth by Abraham. It meant loving God with all one’s being, to be able to do this, because he was not only ready to kill his son: to kill his son meant to kill himself, to wound himself in a way in which no one, nothing could wound him.
And we find in the Old Testament example after example of people who knew how to love to the point of giving oneself totally. Think of Ruth, who said: ‘Your people will be my people.’ In spite,
therefore, of all the ugliness that has developed, what we find in the fallen world is the light that shines in the darkness, and every negative thing, every form of brokenness results in longing and in a movement towards one another in spite of what tears us away from each other. I have no time to enlarge more on this but I think it is experientially clear for each of us.
We can now see this achieved, this separatedness from God, from one another, in the lives of the saints of the Old Testament, in the saints of the New Testament, of all the heroes of the spirit.
Now there is another side of which I want to speak, and it is an important one for our subject. The fact that that all these powers of destruction cannot destroy at least the longing for unity has still also a negative side. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness does not comprehend it, and it remains darkness to a great extent. This situation of darkness can be summed up in the words power, possessiveness, and deceit, beguilement and enslavement. And this we find in the whole of history. We find it in sociological terms in societies when the slavery was accepted. And this lasted until our contemporary history in spite of Christianity. We find it in mutual human relationships. We find it all the time. The thing which I find particularly tragic is that this situation of structures of oppression are, on the one hand, the result of the Fall basically, but they have also developed into sociological norms. What was and could be recognised as nothing but undiluted sin that is to be overcome has become in human society a sociological situation accepted, normal. The hierarchical relationships in tribes, in kingdoms, in religions fixed sociologically the right of the one to overpower the other.
Here perhaps it is worth remarking that there is a difference between two notions which we confuse all the time, that of power and that of authority. Power consists in the ability one being has to force another to be something or to do something. Authority is the ability which one being — it may be God, it may be a human being– has to speak words that sound so deeply true that they cannot be rejected, that they are accepted without any hesitation. They may be not implemented without hesitation, because they may claim from us more than we are capable of doing without total sacrifice of self, but they have this power of convincingness. When Peter says to Christ: ‘You have the words of eternal life’, it isn’t that Christ made discourses about life eternal, describing it in an alluring, attractive, convincing way. He spoke words that reached the very core of human beings and brought to life eternity that has been dormant at the core of people since the Fall. And this is what authority is. And one may say – and I would say without hesitation – that God has no power, in the sense that he does not use it ever, but he has authority. He speaks words of truth. He speaks words of life. He posits actions that are life-giving, saving, transforming. He never compels, never forces, never enslaves. He leaves us free, because freedom is basically, essentially a love relationship where the one and the other give themselves to each other unreservedly in an act of trust and in an act of generosity, of perfect generosity.
So instead of authority society has created structures of power. This is bad enough in society. But what I find particularly monstrous is that it has invaded the Church. And it has invaded the Church on all levels. If we look at the Church as we know it throughout history, we will see that there are structures of power and structures of submission. We have more than authority. Authority would be liberating. Power is enslaving.
If you take the situation of women in the Church, it is a debased situation, a situation of enslavement, a situation in which woman is overpowered by a hierarchical system made and exercised by men. One of the most shocking things which I find in the Church – and I am now speaking frankly enough for me to be excommunicated as a heretic and perhaps even burnt on the complete works of Metropolitan Anthony – one speaks of the Church as being a eucharistic community, and by this most of the people imagine that they are speaking of a community which is structured as the Liturgy is structured. Well, first of all, it is a shocking misuse of the word eucharistic. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word charis, which means grace. It is a society in which grace abounds, in which the grace of God is poured and in which it is God’s grace which is active and not the strength of men, not the power of men. The second thing is that the word eucharistia – in modern Greek eucharisto means
thank you – so that the eucharist is an act of gratitude, grace given, gratitude responding. And in Old Slavonic, as also in ancient Greek, you find that the word eucharistia means simultaneously thanksgiving and perfect gift. That is the complete thing. And if we speak of the Church being a eucharistic society, yes indeed, if we understand it in this complete sense: a society in which divine grace is poured, given freely, in which human beings, in an act of wonder, amazement, marvel, open themselves as vastly, as completely as they can, to contain all they can of it and who consider that this is the greatest gift, that deserves the greatest act of gratitude. And the greatest act of gratitude is love. But what is love then? Love is what we see in the beginning of creation. And love is what we see in the teaching of Christ. Love is gift of self. No one has greater love, says Christ, than he or she who is prepared to give his life for his neighbour. That is love.
To give one’s life does not mean simply to be killed eventually. It means devote one’s life totally to the veneration, to the service, to the worship of my neighbour. And this is something very important. This is what the Church is if we want to speak of it as a eucharistic community, but certainly not the eucharistic community as we see it in a liturgical form in which, even in a debased understanding which is ours all the time, which is not that of the early Church, there is a flock of sleeping or bleating sheep, submissive, obedient, who are there to listen to their betters, and then a three-storeyed hierarchy with deacons who lead the prayer, that is: ‘In peace let us pray to the Lord’ and the sheep bleat ‘Lord have mercy’ , ‘In peace let pray to the Lord’ ‘Lord have mercy’ – the one who leads people into prayer, who commands them ‘that is the moment when you will do this’, ‘that is the moment when you will do that ‘, forgetting that the deacons were chosen for quite a different purpose by the early Church, to be the eyes, the ears and the hands of compassion, those who look after the widows, after the poor, after the sick, after the hungry and who were introduced into liturgical celebration to be in the same terms the support of the priest or the bishop, to help him to perform his action; also to be the charity, the compassion, the love of the Church for its priest or its bishop vested in one person who will care for them – but also something which is more important than that: The deacon remains a layman. The funeral of a deacon is the funeral of a layman, not the funeral of a cleric. The deacon is a layman who represents the whole congregation in the sanctuary. He is in his person the whole congregation. In him the congregation is present round the Holy Table in the sanctuary. So he is not a rung above the believers. The priest and the bishop are called the servants. Christ says ‘I am in your midst as a servant.’ The higher you are in rank, the lower you are in service.
I remember Father Sophrony telling me that we imagine far too often that the Church is a pyramid that is standing on a vast base and culminating somewhere very high, whereas in reality the Church is a pyramid upside down. All its weight is on one person called Jesus Christ; and then come the other layers of people who are less low because they are not yet able to carry one another’s burdens as perfectly as Christ, as the Apostles and as some others. This is the hierarchy of the Church. And if we think of the hierarchy of the Church as an ever increasing pyramid with a summit, if the ideal is that, then we must accept the Roman Catholic vision of the Pope, because he is then the chief bishop, the top man, or top dog if you prefer – I don’t want to insult dogs – the highest hierarch that stands at the top. And what is he standing there? He is standing there where Christ alone can stand. There is no other who is the High Priest of the Church. And so all our hierarchy is a hierarchy upside down, in which those who should be the slaves, the servants, those who give their lives for others, those who carry one another’s burdens should be at rock bottom so that others can live and breathe and grow and learn, but not learn from being taught – learn from seeing what it means to have a body of people giving their lives for them.
Man, as I told you in the beginning of my talks, was called to be the guide of all creation into all fullness, into the depth of God, into such fullness that would make the whole creation to be the glorious material and spiritual vesture of God, when God shall be all in all. I quoted to you the words of St Paul: when men will become partakers of the divine nature and share it with all other creatures. Man has fallen away. Man has lost this ability by integrating himself to the created and becoming a
prisoner of it. And this is the wonder of the incarnation: God Himself integrates Himself to the created, and the created now has a guide. He has now got a man, and more than a man, because in the Incarnation not only man is redeemed and revealed in his fullness and perfection, but all the created world can look at the physical presence of Christ and recognise its own materiality fulfilled, glorified, resplendent with Godhead, perfect. And this is why we speak of the Incarnation as an eschatological event, a final event. All that is to happen has already happened. And it must simply become reality for all, each and every thing, but it has already happened. In our world there is the Risen Christ ascended and sitting at the right hand of Glory. The materiality of this world through the body of Christ risen, is at the core of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. And with this body of Christ all the material world can look into the depth of the Trinity and see itself there. Victory is won. Glory is already there.
But another question is to be asked. We still remain priests in this creation. The role of the priest is to sanctify, to take away from the power of Satan and from the deadness of a created world deprived of God all things and bring them to God, and first of all, our own selves. To use the terminology of the Prayer Book, we are called to make of our souls and bodies a perfect sacrifice to God. And sacrifice does not mean a blood offering. It means something that we have made sacred and holy for him to indwell, for him to possess, for him to use, for him to rejoice in and for him to commune with. And in the process, because this happens to us in spirit, in soul and in body, we make all our surrounding participate in it.
One of the saints of Orthodoxy says that we can do for the created world around us what we have already achieved for our own selves. We can give it healing and wholeness to the extent to which we have achieved, by the grace and power of God, wholeness and have allowed ourselves to be healed by God. This is what we are called to be. But there is one who has already done it. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. In him it is done.
But I come now to a very important point. In the beginning underlined, I repeated with all my passion, that Adam, called into being in the beginning, was not a male out of whom a female would be dragged by an incomprehensible miracle because if there was no femininity in him, femininity could not be born out of him, that he was created as a total human being containing all that is man and all that is woman, all masculinity, all femininity, and that the birth of Eve at a moment of ecstasy when by the power of God Adam was brought to become more than he was himself in his limitations, Eve was born.
Now the new Adam is an Adam according to this image. If the new Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, is not like the first Adam, containing within himself all that is human, all that is masculinity and femininity – I am sorry for these words: I haven’t got any better ones – then the words of St Athanasius the Great come with a terrifying power, because he says: ‘What Christ has not taken upon himself he has not saved.’ If he is nothing but a male he has saved the male half of humanity and the female half is out of salvation or can be dragged into it by some sort of theological trick, but not organically, really. No, Christ contained in himself the fullness of what is man and woman. If we speak of him as the High Priest of creation, we must by the same token recognise that in him all that is the world of woman participates in this sacred function of the priesthood of all creation.
Now I know that we can be reminded of a number of quotations of St Paul which can be opposed by other quotations of St Paul. I know that one is told that the Mother of God was never a priestess, that we are told that it is a tradition of the Church and that therefore it is not to be touched.
May I first say a word about tradition. An American Roman Catholic theologian once in a paper he gave drew a distinction between tradition and traditionalism. He says tradition is the living faith of the Church since it began, alive in those who are alive now. Traditionalism is the memory of what others have done or believed and held as a dead inheritance. I am not quoting exactly but that was his idea. If we are possessed of a tradition whose origin we cannot place and whose raison d’etre and meaning we cannot give, we have no right to cling to it. It is traditionalism. It is a conditioning of the mind, it is old habits, it is not the living faith and the living life of God in our midst and within us.
Now, to speak of the Mother of God, may I say this. I may enlarge on it in the question time if need be. It is untrue that she never played the role of a priestess – but not in the sense in which we speak of priestly ministry now, celebrating the Liturgy or performing sacraments. The difference between the priesthood of all believers and the ministerial priesthood resides in the fact that all believers are called to bring themselves as a perfect offering to God, and together with them all that they touch and all that they relate to. The ministerial priesthood has another dimension. It is the priesthood of Christ and, as the theological phrase has it, the pleading of the sacrifice of Christ before God, the presenting of the work of salvation of Christ to God as a basis for the renewal of the created world.
Now if we look at the life of the Mother of God, what we see is this. She is the one who is the second Eve. She brought into the world the One who is Life Eternal and Who brings life eternal into the world. She is not only the instrument of the incarnation. She actively, by an act of perfect faith and gift of self, made it possible for Life Eternal to enter into this world. That is an act of sanctification greater than anything that can be done by human agency. And then we see her acting as truly one who brings forth a sacrifice. You remember the presentation of Christ to the Temple. It is the continuation of the commandment given in the Old Testament that every male child born in a Jewish family must be brought as an offering to God in redemption, in memory, to pay for the death of the firstborn of Egypt that had to die to instill terror into the Egyptians so that the people of Israel could be allowed to leave captivity. These children were to be brought in exchange for those children murdered by the power of God. And God had a right of life and death upon them all. In the Old Testament he allowed every child to be replaced by a turtledove or two turtledoves or a lamb, if people were too poor. Yes, but he had a right of life and death. Throughout history he never used it.
Only once did he accept the firstborn of a woman in Israel. It was the firstborn of a maiden called Mary, and this Child was the Only-begotten Son of God become the Son of Man. He accepted him and he saw that this Child died upon the Cross, died a redemptive death in the same way as the children of Israel were to die, or to be offered at least in redemption of the children of Egypt. He died a redemptive death in the sense that he died at the hands of man because he stood for God against all and everything, and he died the death of humans, normal, ordinary humans, in a terrifying moment when he could say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ – communing, sharing the tragic destiny of mankind that had lost God. He died of the loss of God of the whole humanity. And the Mother of God stood there without a word of protest. She was offering her Child at that moment as she was offering him when she brought him knowingly to the Temple of Jerusalem. She, perhaps of all humans, male or female, has been the great High Priest of our salvation together with the Lord Jesus Christ, with whom she had one will, one intention, and with whom she professed one action. And it would be very good if the Orthodox, instead of speaking without thinking, could give some more thought to the problem of the priesthood of women in the Church or the place of women and if we could destroy, reduce really to naught, once and for all, both the sociological structures of oppression and the theological structures of oppression and discrimination which I have mentioned.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS VI
…women in the best sense of the word study, study attentively all that in the Scriptures goes together with the right vision. Write, speak, not polemically, just convey the glory of the total human being fulfilled in men and women and you will see that even men are capable of seeing the beauty and the meaning of things.
I trust the tradition
What we call the tradition of the Church is something much less simple than how we see it. There is a great deal in the history of the Church that was the rule at a certain moment and has been discarded
at an other moment or has been created. Take something as basic as our church hierarchy: deacons, priests and bishops I believe, have been created under the guidance of the Holy Spirit but they did not exist at the beginning and if people wanted to refer themselves to the past they would have said: “No, Christ chose apostles, there were no deacons there, there was no clergy there”. So, that is one example. On the other hand up to comparatively late date bishops were indifferently married or single. Now the rule is absolute: there can be no married bishop. Again there are a certain number of canons that one does not even know about because they have come absolutely obsolete. There is a canon saying that a Christian should be excommunicated if goes to public bath, there is a canon to the effect that if you turn in case of illness to a Jewish doctor you should be excommunicated for a time. And there are innumerable canon that have been set aside, and new rules that have come in later times because the Church is not something that was fixed in the first century and become a fossil, it is a body that lives, moves, responses to its own experience, its own nature, in the same way in which a person is born a baby, grows and changers all the time. It does not (mean) that an adult is the negation or the contradiction of the youth. It means that something has happened and all that was the youth has developed, certain things had to die out in order for others to develop. So that I do not see that in principle the fact that certain things were the rule and were considered as absolutely of the essence of things should always be considered that way because apart from the few things I have mentioned there are plenty of others. So, I am not in favour of making changers because we like them or because they are convenient. We must give thought and ask ourselves whether the rules which we observe, the situation, which is ours now, is truly what the Gospel teaches and what Christ became man for. I am not prejudging, I am expressing quite sharply, yes, what I feel about it and you can say quite legitimately that I have neither enough knowledge nor put enough thought into it. I am aware that I must give a lot of thought in order to move anywhere from where I stand now. But all the Orthodox and Orthodoxy as a body must begin to think, to think deeply, intensely, ask itself questions, question its own self before one can say radically yes or no to a question that has never existed in our Orthodox Church before.
Now, to say a word about what Martina said, in the Church women indeed do everything which is a life of piety. The question is why isn’t there an opening for them which exists for men to become ministers of the sacraments. It is a question but it exists. And as it exists, it must be faced and it must be solved one way or another. I am not saying that the Church will say what I have said tonight or what I am prepared to say but I do say that the Church must give a great deal of thought before it makes definitive statements.
The oppression is very much subconscious. Why should men be afraid of the possibility of women playing a role? Is anybody who represents authority is an icon of Christ?
I couldn’t agree more with what you said. I think that one could put it in a less theological and lesser way by saying, when I say that a priest is an icon of Christ I underline the fact that he is not Christ, that he is an image, he stands for in a function but he is not the person who is performing the service, as it were. The only celebrant of every mystery is Christ Himself. The only power that fulfils the mystery is the Holy Spirit, the priest stands there as an icon. He makes visible the invisible, he speaks words and makes gestures, which direct us towards God is doing at that moment. In a sense, when I say that a priest is an icon of Christ, I say: “Realise that he is not more than this. He is wood, line and colour, reality is beyond it”. That is how I react to this terminology of an icon. As to the rest, I regret that you didn’t give my talk.
Preaching and counselling – are they not things that women could do without being ordained?
Certainly. Everything which is pastoral work can be done and the only argument is throughout the Churches now: can a woman be the celebrant of the Eucharist, particularly of the Eucharist because at the Last Supper Christ was, shall we say, the celebrant and that the actuality of the event was his
Crucifixion, His Resurrection, His Ascension? But as I said before, is Christ a man or is He the total man, that is, is He the total humanity or is He a male? And that is a very important difference. Because if you accept that it is because He was a male that he occupied this position and acted, then indeed there is no question of woman occupying it but if He is the new Adam containing in Himself the total of humanity, He was acting simultaneously in the name of man and woman in the full sense of the word.
non-sacramental role of women in the diocese.
Yes, certainly and we have in the lives of saints innumerable women who were spiritual guides, beginning with the stories of the desert in the IV, V, VI centuries and continuing up to our days throughout Christendom.
I can’t accepts Christ coming as a woman, the Church is a bride.
I think I would agree completely with the speaker, who is behind you in that respect but in addition to this, yes, He is a bridegroom and the Church is a bride and the Church is made not only of women but of men, so I am also a bride.
Does equality applies to women priesthood? Ordination in the past was something independent of a person’s quality (like deceit under oppression).
May I interject just one thing in corroboration of what I heard before. I remembered a Rabbinic story of a wife, saying to her husband: “I so love you, I wish for eternity to be your footstool”. And the husband saying: “Not my footstool — my crown”.
I really think that someone who has a great deal more knowledge than I have should take on the subject and take it beyond what I said or perhaps, even take a quite different line from mine. I think we must ask Fr. Basil to think of this because I do not feel competent. I have heard two contributions at the two corners of this room which are far beyond my knowledge of things.
Why do we have to start from top – priesthood? Why not start with non-sacramental services?
Let us think together.