It has been a couple of weeks since my long-awaited [used] copy of Taliessin Through Logres – The Region Of the Summer Stars – Arthurian Torso arrived from the used bookstore in Michigan  from which I ordered it.  It was a surprisingly good copy, well worth what I paid for it.  The edition is, I believe, pretty well known; Eerdman’s published it in 1974 and I could have picked it up for $7.95 at that time.  It’s odd, but I remember seeing it in a Christian bookstore forty years ago, and shuffling through t408832he pages.  I was familiar with CS Lewis and I had heard that Charles Williams was a friend of his.  Having puzzled my way through Many Mansions, I had already had a taste of Williams and wanted more.  The dense and deeply self-referential poetry of Williams’ Arthuriad completely defeated my casual perusal and I put the book back on the shelf.

Not too many copies of the Eerdman’s volume were published.  Maybe my recently acquired  book was the same one I held in my hands forty years ago.  Stranger things have been known to happen.

My eye was caught by a phrase that began an essay “The Coming Of The King” in the explanatory work by Charles Williams, The Figure of Arthur, which was included in the volume I purchased:

 By the twelfth century the outline of the new metaphysical civilization in Europe was taking shape

and I knew that my reading of Williams was going to be different from that of a Western Christian.  For me, the twelfth century marks an ending, not a beginning.  The “new metaphysical civilization” that arose after the sundering of Latin Christendom is for me already  a seminal apostasy, a long fading rather than a new quickening. The ruthless imposition of continental feudalism over the conciliar Anglo-Saxon polity, the suppression of the variegated local liturgies in favor of the Roman rite, to choose only two examples, speak to me more of

Union is breached; the imams stand in Sophia
Good Is God, the muzzein
calls, but lost is the light on the hills of Caucasia
glory of the Emperor, glory of substantial Being.

 As I begin to attempt to dovetail Williams’ mythology of Camelot-as-the City with my own dreams of the pre-schism eucharistic Commonwealth [however vaguely or however imprecisely that Commonwealth may have existed or not in history], I find three great burning ideas stand out to me.

  1. The Arthurian corpus, I believe, is Charles Williams’ great clearinghouse for all of his literary and theological output.  The themes that Williams touches upon in all of his writings; The Web of Exchange, Co-inherence, The Vision of the City, the Way of the Affirmation of Images and the Way of the Denial of Images, are all present here and elevated from concept to archetype, or at least as far as William201007_SFenech_taliesins’ poetic abilities are able to carry them.
  2. Charles Williams was not a Roman Catholic but an Anglican.  This is important.  Forged in Tudor politics during an uncertain time, Anglicanism as a faith has had a more elliptical orbit than other Christian bodies.  There have been times during its career when Anglicanism has wobbled close enough to Orthodoxy for the broad majority to thrive within something of a celestial “temperate zone”. I don’t want to go to far into this, but it appears to me that Charles Williams’ and CS Lewis’ time was just about optimal.
  3. Williams had the keen intuition to use the pre-Schism figure of Arthur [and the barely-historical figure of Taliessin] to anchor his romance of Christendom.  The period of time between Theodosius and Alfred the Great is an interesting time.  I always thought of pre-literate man as somewhat childlike, and high Roman culture was always more unstable in Britain than anywhere else in the Western Empire.  The fall, when it finally came, was almost total, and there was enough “wiggle room” for the collective mythopoetic imagination to begin to accrete material around a minor Brythonic warlord with a shallow gloss of Romanitas, much as an oyster around a grain of sand, until the pearl of legend emerged.

Charles Williams’ Englishness is, among other things, something I would like to discuss before I tackle the daunting task of exegeting his Arthurian poetry.  Like many Americans, I have something of a fantasy England tucked away somewhere in my heart.  It is composed of bits and pieces of English high and popJohn_Constable_The_Hay_Wainular culture that I have ingested over the years; a bit of Tolkien’s Shire, a bit of Lewis’ Oxford, landscapes from Gainsborough and Constable, screaming teenaged girls from A Hard Day’s Night, plenty of Downton AbbeyChariots Of Fire, and Brideshead Revisted, both the Waugh novel and the Granada TV adaptation.

I was surprised at how well my American fantasy England weathered my exposure to the real article in the early 80s when I spent four months in the UK, visiting all four “nations” [Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England] in succession.  What I experienced during my visit was more of a confirmation of my fantasy England, and an amplification and broadening of it, than it was a repudiation of it.

An English friend suggested to me that what I was experiencing was what the English themselves called “Deep England”.  “Deep England” is part nostalgia for a simpler life more attuned to the natural rhythms of the English countryside, part fable about a vanishing face-to-face village life, part family oral history, and a large dollop of national self-deception.  Nevertheless, it has a powerful pull on the national sentiment.  “Deep England” could be classist, different things for different people.  A retired slate miner would wax sentimental about the days  when the mines were humming and one’s mates had plenty of energy for sport and plenty of money to spend in the pubs.  An Anglican parish priest would sigh and remember a “time when the Church had more influence in people’s lives.”  “Deep England” seemed to be something which you were always perpetually losing, something that was always just slipping away.  For me, an outsider, the musical expressions of this “Deep England” will always be the austerely beautiful “Pastoral” Symphony #3 of Ralph Vaughan Williams, or a church choir performing that unsurpassably mad hymn by William Blake, “Jerusalem”.

As an American, it is hard to know what to make of this Englishness.  Whatever it is, we don’t have it, although we speak a common language.  Eight generations of republican life now separate us from the  fountains of “Deep England”, and all that remains is the notion of an Anglo-Saxon Protestant as a kind of gold standard for white people.  In a way, it is kind of a collective unconscious mythopoeia, a mythopoeia built up scrap by scrap from the raw material of language, climate, and a long tenancy on the land.  From this mythopoeia, all of the particular myths forged by Englishmen down through the long years have their provenience.

Already I am thinking about what Williams’ Arthur poetry is most like.  If it is idiosyncratic and difficult, it is idiosyncratic and difficult in a particularly English way.  Like William Langland’s Piers Plowman,  the prophetic work of William Blake, or the contemporary Gnosticism of David Lindsey’s A Voyage To Arcturus.


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All of my life, and it has not been a short one, I have been interested in what is called by students of literature the matter of Britain, and its best known segment, the stories and legends of King Arthur.  I cannot remember my first exposure to the stories of the Round Table, but it was either by means of Andrew Lang’s Tales of King Arthur with the wonderful Art Nouveau illustrations by H.J. Ford,  or the Walt Disney animated movie  The Sword In The Stone.  I am leaning to the first, because The Sword In The Stone came out in 1963, when I was trembling on the brink of adolescence, and I already knew that Merlin was a darker and more powerful figure than Disney’s avuncular buffoon.  The movie version of Camelot came out about this time as well.

In the years that followed, I devoured T.H. White’s  The Once and Future King, puzzled my way through Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Mort D’Arthur,  and discovered that even John Steinbeck had set his pick into the Arthurian trench.  The result was his last work of fiction; The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.  Since the 1970s, there have been several other works of Arthurian fiction that I have enjoyed as well; Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave and the sequels, Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle, Nikolai Tolstoi’s The Coming Of The King.

What attracts me to the stories of Arthur and his knights is the matter of the Grail.  The Grail lifts the whole Matter of Britain out of the realm of Story and into the realm of myth and metaphysics.  It is interesting to me that Malory devoted most of Le Mort D’Arthur to the achievement of the Grail.  The adulterous love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot doesn’t appear to have much occupied him, although since Tennyson and the Victorians, the love story has been center stage, and the Grail forgotten.   The Grail stories, though, are where the real mythopoetic power of the Arthurian material resides.

Charles Williams dealt with the stories of Arthur in two volumes of poetry, possession which I have just recently come into  after an extended search. He deals almost exclusively with the Grail, and with the mystical aspects of the Arthurian stories.  I would like to do a read-through of his poetry, although it is famously difficult.  I am not a Williams scholar.  I can’t go to the Kilby collection and dig up old letters of his, and there is a lot of introductory material to get out of the way first.

But I have been promising myself that I would do this, and it’s high time I started to do something worthwhile with this moribund blog anyway.


Ray pitched the job to Kenny and I in the depths of a Michigan January early in Richard Nixon’s second administration.  Ray’s older brother Otis was going through a nasty divorce, and he needed someone to drive his Mercedes 280SL from Oxnard, California to Tillamook, Oregon.  Ray wanted some company, but most of all, he wanted somebody to drive his Opel Kadette while he drove the Mercedes.  Ray, Kenny, and I were an oddly assorted trio.   Ray was a clean-cut, buttoned-down sort, studying finance at a state university way before finance was cool.  He kept his hair short and his face clean-shaven.  Kenny was a transplant from eastern Kentucky, a long-haired “hillbilly” with a gentle, dreamy side, and a very talented guitar player.  I was a hippie’s hippie, and I worked with both of them in a chemical dye factory that was on strike.

We drove out to Oxnard, California in Ray’s Opel, where we picked up the court papers that let us take possession of Otis’ Mercedes convertible.  Under the suspicious eye of Otis’ soon-to-be ex-wife, we headed north to Oregon.  It took us more than a week, since we were in no hurry to return to Michigan only to hang around waiting for the strike to end.  There were the usual intoxicancfiles7808ts involved, but in retrospect that isn’t what I remember most about the trip.  We decided to take California Highway 1 up the coast, camping along the way.  The scenery was spectacular, The weather remained flawless even as we moved north of San Francisco into the Redwood country and up into Oregon.

Most of all, I remember the people we encountered on the way.  We picked up hitch-hikers.  Our unusual cars and Kenny’s guitar opened a lot of doors for us that ordinarily would have remained closed even in those freewheeling days.  If I had kept a notebook, I would have had enough to populate a Dickens novel with picaresque characters.   There was Selene, the Indian hooker we picked up in Ventura and whose Gujarati pimp, who turned out to be a really capital fellow, showed up to collect her in San Luis Obispo.  There was Mike the reluctant Mafia guy, who said he really wanted to run a car lot like his father in Lompoc.  There was Jack, the hitch-hiking preacher, who delivered a hair-raising exegesis of the book of Revelation around the campfire the one night he spent with us, and who was impressed with all the old-timey gospel songs Kenny knew on his guitar.

There was the dark-haired, dark-eyed, guitar-bodied Maria Altagracia Mendoza, as beautiful and as emotionally fragile as Lucia di Lammermoor and nearly as self-destructive, along with her Brillo-haired handler/lover/therapist Rosemary.  Maria e837324a75b8b7f184fa70b936ca79c0Altagracia claimed to be a direct descendant of a Spanish count who had been given land grants in the area, and she demanded to be called “Countess”.  Rosemary never claimed to be anything except a San Francisco Giants fan, but it was amazing how well she kept the “Countess” on an even keel.

There was Davie, and Pete his Native American “blood brother”, who we picked up between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.  Davie was hitchhiking in to buy a carton of cigarettes and ended up going with us all the way up to Redding.   We hung around Coos Bay for a weekend while Kenny tried to convince Rachel to come with us.  We were just outside of Newport when we found out Rachel wasn’t 19 as she claimed, but 14.  It was a chance for Ray to find out what his brother’s Mercedes was capable of as he drove the 100 miles back to Rachel’s house and still pulled into his brother’s driveway only a half an hour after we did.

I decided to fly back to Michigan from Portland, and Ray and Kenny drove back in the Kadette.  It was a sad feeling, as all of us knew we would never probably be together again, and certainly not as happy as we had been.  It was true.  Three months later, I had a come-to-Jesus moment and ended up in a Central Florida Bible college.  Ray finished his degree in finance, married, and I lost track of him.  I ran into Kenny late in the decade at his older sister’s wedding.  He had had a “come-to-Jesus” moment of his own, and it made mine seem mundane by comparison.

“I was on the beach in Maine, walking my sister’s dog’, he explained.  ‘It was January, just like when we went to California with Ray, remember?  Something happened though.  I had been reading Pascal’s Pensées, and thinking about what he meant about the Fire, when suddenly the heavens opened.  My sister’s dog escaped from the leash and went running down the beach as fast as he could.”  Kenny curved his hand for emphasis.  “The curve of the dog’s back was like, perfection, you know?  And I saw the fire, Pascal’s fire, coming down from heaven, except that it was inside everything; me, the dog, the waves, the clouds, the other people on the beach, everything.”

higginsHe continued explaining his vision.  “I knew then that God loved us all, in Christ, in a way that I could never put into words.  There was a warmth in my chest that made me sweat, even though the wind was cold.  I couldn’t stop crying, or smiling.  One man walked up to me and said he had never seen anybody who looked as happy as I did, but i couldn’t put into words what I wanted to say to him.  ‘I love you’ I finally told him, and I think it kind of freaked him out.”

“It was like when you and Ray and me went out to California to help his brother with his divorce.  That was a really happy time for me, man, for all of us.  I know we didn’t know the Lord then, but it was a real special time we had together.   This was like all that, but melted down and pressed together into a single afternoon, into a single point.  Here’s the thing, Mule, the whole Universe is like that.”

I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit I was jealous of Kenny and his mystical experience, although I’m glad he shared it with me as far as he could.  Kenny has dropped completely out off the map.  He doesn’t have a social media presence, and his sister says he was accepted into an arts and design school in the late 90s, but never showed up for classes.


It is Holy Week.  Lent is over.  Any self-deception I still harbor about self-improvement through asceticism and renunciation is over.  “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”.  Jeremiah 8.20.

OB-TT305_071312_J_20120713122619Today in my church a young family brought their children for baptism, and the parents were chrismated into the Church.  It was a joyous occasion.  They brought a lot of family and friends with them, most of whom had never entered an Orthodox church before.  The effort expended resembled a small military campaign.  The family’s oldest child was old enough to require the “moonshiners’ baptistry”, so the lesser clergy had to trundle it out from the storage shed, rinse it out, and set it up in the center of the sanctuary.  Then it needed to be filled with water, and not cold water either.  The Orthodox Church does not make provision for the flesh, but it is also not needlessly cruel to small children.  A warming coil was found, and the water was tepid when the time came for the baptisms.

The children being baptized were an active lot, even more so than most small children.  My wife and I had babysat these particular children before, so we were expecting a spectacle.  We were not disappointed.  The difficulty was getting all the children in the same spot.  They were excited about the number of aunts, uncles, and cousins in attendance, so one or another of them would slip away while Father was herding the others towards the font.  By the time the prodigal was corralled and brought into the fold, another would have escaped.  This continued until it was no longer cute, then the relatives intervened and the service was allowed to continue.

The baptismal service in the Orthodox Church resembles a great deal the services for Great and Holy Theophany.  I can see now why Orthodoxy is so much “all of one piece”, so that you can’t change one part without doing damage to the whole tapestry, and also why you need to pay attention to what is going on in the services.  Orthodoxy is not an ideology extracted from a text, it is wet, or sweet like incense, or sharp,like the pain in your knees after too many prostrations, and it takes time to make the connections.

One by one, the children were guided up the stairs by Father.  The look on the oldest child’s face was priceless.  She was old enough (about six) to realize that something very important was happening.  Of course, the children all enjoyed being the center of attention, but the eldest, a girl, was perceptive enough to realize it wasn’t all about her.  Her eyes darted back and forth between the icon of Christ and the water, and maybe I am reading something into a six year old girl’s actions, but it appeared to me as if she understood the connection.

The third child, also a girl, was the wiggliest and complained the loudest.  I don’t think she was quite three.  Father dunked her three times in rapid succession, and she let out a yowl that rattled the rafters.  The last child was much easier.  God has had mercy on these particular parents, and has blessed them with a relatively tranquil child after the other three little dynamos.  Then came the chrismations, the presenting of crosses and icons, and the procession of the boys behind the iconostasis for their churching.

I tried not to think of the countless people for whom that would be an offense and an outrage, that the  boys should be paraded behind the iconostasis and their sisters excluded.

After the baptism service came the Divine Liturgy for Lazarus Saturday. On the day before Palm Sunday, the Orthdox Church celebrates the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  As Father explained it, it is first of all a glimmer of hope to start us on a very difficult road; the road past the Cross to the Tomb during Holy Week.  Lazarus was a particular man.  He had a family; two sisters who loved him deeply and mourned him bitterly.  His resurrection is an earnest of our own, even though he had to die again eventually.

I didn’t know that he became a bishop in Cyprus later.


Since it has been three months since I have posted here, I need to make a decision about what I want to do here and what direction I want to go in.  It astounds me that this blog still gets about 30 hits a day from all kinds of different places and that some of my oldest posts are the most popular.

Discussions of gender and sexuality I would like to retreat from.  My views on humanity expressed in maleness and femaleness are not only objectionable to the vast majority of my fellow Christians, but lo and behold, they may not even be as Orthodox as I thought they were.  Exposure to some of St. Maximus the Confessor’s thinking on man as male and female dislodged me from my dogmatic slumber.

The problem with binary solutions to everything – prickly Malacandrian Blog And Mabloggery over and against gooey Perelandran Sexual Existentialism – is that they foster that continual us-vs-them low-grade conflict that militates against our salvation.  As Father Philotheos Faros points out in Functional And Dysfunctional Christianity, individuals define themselves over against, and in competition with, other individuals.  Odio ergo sum.  On the other hand, persons can only come into the fullness of their personhood in communion with other persons, who will supply what is lacking.

That’s a hard word for me.  I am deeply invested in being right.  I need to adopt the attitude of Matushka Elizabeth, the beloved virgin-wife of St. John of Kronstadt: “I am content to let God reveal who is right and who is wrong.”


After resisting the temptation for almost twenty years, I finally started reading Robert Jordan’s series The Wheel Of Time.  I had heard a lot of things that were not good about this series; that it is over-written, that Jordan reuses the same female character over and over again, that it suffers from a lack of focus.  Although it is hard to judge from reading the first volume of the series, The Eye Of The World, I can see justification for all of those criticisms.

One thing that annoys me is how often his characters chuckle.  I have had to learn to un-notice this lest it distract me from the 69ce7060db8f84725b405b10dd982607other virtues of Jordan’s storytelling.  It is true that Jordan (actually pulp writer James Oliver Rigney, Jr) is wordy.  If Joe Abercrombie had written this series, there would have been three or four sharply written battles by now.  If George R.R. Martin had written it, half of the characters in whom I had invested my emotional capital would already have been killed off in unexpected ways.  If JRR Tolkien had written it, I would already have been exposed to a half-dozen invented languages.  Jordan has just moved me about two hundred miles down the road from the protagonists’ home turf, and nothing much has happened yet.

Oh well.

Jordan/Rigney is American, and rumor has reached me that a lot of the sturm und drang of postwar American life finds a reflection in The Wheel of Time.  Having slogged through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and having unexpectedly enjoyed the experience, I am willing to give Jordan/Rigney the benefit of the doubt.  I have also heard that his female characters get better and more full-orbed, although I don’t expect them to rise to level of Martin’s.


Anyone who expects the Orthodox observance of Lent to make them a better person or a better Christian is laboring under a severe delusion.  We’re about halfway through now, and never have I felt more like human refuse than I feel right now.  I have to admit my cowardice, my love of comfort and convenience, my propensity for judging others harshly and demanding special consideration for myself, my snippiness and shortness with my wife, my family and my fellow parishioners.  What makes it worse is that I have to admit that even repentance and confession is not likely to make me any better.  Maybe if I undertook some severe spiritual chemotherapy á la St. Mary of Egypt it might make some dent in my habitual solipsism…

When the fast ends, I will return to my normal self-indulgent lifestyle with a sigh of relief.  The additional calories will be put to use not in service to God and others, but towards my ongoing project of self-delusion and self-justification, which project must necessarily end some day.

I need the mercies of God and the forgiveness and forbearance of others as much now, maybe even more, than I did when I began this Christian project.


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In my last post, I see that I was toying with the idea of separate spiritualities for men and women.  I am certain now that this does not obtain.  The existence of men and women saints bears this out, as does the means of their sanctification, which is identical for men and women.  I am also certain that there is a place before God where men and women are identical, this is a place spoken of by Paul when he wrote in Galatians that in Christ the distinctions between humans disappear.  Nevertheless, I don’t think this place is accessible to most of us most of the time.  It is a very holy place, and I don’t think modern Egalitarian Christians are coming from this place when they scold Traditionalist Christians for “oppressing women”.

19cp684v8ebxgjpgProtestants don’t as a rule pursue a personal relationship with the Mother of God, and I think this is a big problem for them.   It kind of neuters them.   It forces relationships between the sexes into an abstract realm of “personhood” rather than manhood and womanhood.  Following Fr. Stephen Freeman, if we look to Christ to see perfect humanity revealed, then we look to His mother to see perfect femininity revealed, to see the woman qua woman brought to perfection.   It is interesting that the primordial man-woman relationship in Christianity is the mother-son relationship; that between Our Lord and His mother, rather than God allowing Ærself/Ærselves to incarnate as a pair of Divine Siblings like Apollo and Artemis, or as a pair of divine spouses such as Rama and Sita/Osiris and Isis.  The power dynamics between a mother and a son are subtle, and I think they are closer to what Paul hints at when he enjoins “mutual submission” than anything attainable by spouses or siblings.

Since this is my own blog, I’ll say what I please.  I don’t care for “persons”, and androgynes make me uneasy.  There is a full frontal assault in anything that reminds us of our contingency and interrupts our project of self-creation and self-definition.  I remember reading on a Christian feminist site that feminism was necessary because without it women would be “dependent on men”, as if that were a bad thing.  My life is dependent on a legion of people who have been proxied away from me and hidden from sight; the immigrant women who package my poultry, the man at the wastewater plant who separates me from my excrement, the priest who serves me the Mysteries.   The assault on sexual essentialism is to me an assault on the givenness of sex and sexual differences.

I think there is a quote attributed to Margaret Atwood that says “Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them.”  Now, that is a pretty big difference.  I remember the first time I wandered into a site dedicated to Christian feminism and began to “share” my views.  The women invoked violent abuse almost immediately.  Some of the women had to excuse themselves, saying that my opinions were “triggering” memories of abuse.  Now, I was raised Old School, and was forbidden to raise a hand against a woman in anger.   I was taught that it was unmanly, and I still believe that to be true.

A lot of the feminist rhetoric I read centers on the propensity of men towards violence.  Like Tommy in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, masculine violence is excoriated until it is necessary.  In the emerging monocultural managerial globalist Utopia, violence is outsourced.  It is the monopoly of the managing class.  Now, soap and antibiotics may have produced a world where most of us survive childhood, and fertilizer may have made it possible for most of us to eat without eliminating our neighbors, but none of us can be certain how long these conditions will obtain.  It may not be advisable to breed out or propagandize out male violence just yet.  If there is a Biblical character that I think of as being a masculine man, it is the Blessed Forerunner and Baptist John, of whom it is said that there is none greater “born of woman”.  I do not think it is a coincidence that he appears at the left hand of the icon of Christ in every Orthodox church on the planet, with Our Lord’s mother on the right hand.  In the Forerunner I see male violence redeemed, deified.  The Kingdom of Heaven continues to suffer violence and the violent, like John, take it by force.


Part One

227777Just on a whim, this morning I entered the phrase “male spirituality” into Google.   The quotation marks are explicit, so that Google would search for the phrase rather than the two words.  What came back was an interesting potpourri of links that I had only the time to skim the very surface of, much like a water-skeeter dances across the surface of a pond without breaking the surface tension.  If she stops (I believe water-skeeters, like bees, are female), she drowns.  There is almost no subject in the contemporary universe of discourse where there is as much danger of drowning is as in discussing sex, gender, and the relationship between the sexes.  So I’m going to try to keep things as light as possible, to avoid breaking surface tension, to avoid drowning.  For this reason, I start with a question, and it is not rhetorical.  I am open to wherever the investigation leads.

About a year ago, someone asked me point blank in an email if I believed that men and women were equal.   Because I didn’t really want to engage with this person and because the probability of mutual respect and civil discourse was minimal, I responded ‘Of course.  What’s your point? ‘  It was cowardly on my part, I guess, because I don’t even believe men and men or women and women are equal, or that the same man or woman is equal diachronically.  It got me thinking about our concept of equality.  What does it mean for a man to be equal to a woman?  What does it mean for a man to be equal to another man?  It obviously isn’t the same as identity, or being the same, which is the schoolyard equivalent.   Sameness is more of a function of manufactured things, things made by machine, on purpose, to be as identical as possible.  Variety, diversity is more of a function of nature.   But we live in a time where manufactured equality is crucial.  Among other things, it makes it much easier and much less expensive to repair our cars, build a house, or track a household’s consumption of peanut butter.  Also, we grow from the playground into the courtroom, but we carry our playground concepts with us when we go, and they grow along with us.

Equality, then, has to be something of an abstraction.  We have to consciously disregard differences if we are going to treat two things as equal.  I am a Trinitarian Christian, and therefore I can be neither a holist nor a reductionist.  Neither the similarities nor the differences between men and women are absolute.  The prevailing sentiment is that the differences between men and women should be minimized, that they are culturally defined, and these differences should never enter into consideration when a man or a woman is considering a course of action.  Biology will have her tribute, though.  Barring a technology that I can only imagine as infernal, men will never give birth, and a trained female mixed martial arts fighter would be suicidal to enter the Thunderdome against her male counterpart.   These are differences of the body, of the human being considered as a physical object with all of its quiddity and measurability.  A toaster and a grandmother dropped from Galileo’s tower will both strike the pavement simultaneously, but no one on this side of madness would consider them equal because of that.

But what happens when we leave the body, as we suppose, behind?  What happens when we move into the realm of the spirit, of that indefinable something that differentiates the grandmother from the toaster, indeed, even from a birch tree, sea snail, or a Shetland pony ?  Surely we leave the distinctions of the body behind.  Now, I am not a trained theologian, but I can follow theologians when they talk, and that is a useful skill.   What I want to do is examine evidence both for and against the idea of gender-specific spirituality and leave aside the urgency of coming to a conclusion.  Especially, I don’t want to be railroaded towards a conclusion.  I may as well mention the Manosphere, especially its Christian “branch”, whose meticulously ground and deeply resentful axes will find plenty of timber upon which to assay purchase.

soefiI lean by temperament and upbringing to believe that men and women will respond to God differently.  I am not alone in thinking so.  Very soon after becoming a conscious disciple of Christ I was assailed by a group of married Christian women who wanted me to ‘evangelize’ their husbands.  It was thought that, being a man, it would be easier for me to encourage them to participate in churchly activities.  I was a dismal failure at this.  I am a transplanted Yankee.   Their husbands were Southern good ol’ boys.   Church was, for them, something that it was fitting for women and children to be involved in, and Yankees, who don’t much care for NASCAR and whose football loyalties were tied to Big Ten teams with highly suspect ground games.  “Men are too proud for church.  Their masculine pride won’t allow them to accept any help, even from the Lord”, one wife complained to me in the presence of our pastor.  This pastor  had been on the ground at Guadalcanal.   I don’t think anybody could accuse him of a lack of masculinity.  Yet the fact remained, men were scarce in our church.   They were scarce in the Pentecostal Church, in the Baptist Church, in the Methodist Church.  They were less scarce in the PCA Presbyterian church, but they tended to be bookish and intellectual.  If they were aggressive, it was usually with a lawyerly kind of aggression.

The Orthodox church doesn’t have this problem.  If anything, it has too many men.  It is said that Orthodoxy attracts and retains men because it is “challenging”.    The rules are more stringent in Orthodoxy than they are in other precincts of Christendom.  The fasting rules are strict.  The Orthodox faithful are vegan some 40% of the year, and often at inconvenient times.  Services are long and you are expected to stand for most them.  Prayers are interminable, and no quarter is given to the flesh.  It remains that many people believe that Orthodoxy has a “heroic ethos” that “attracts men”.  The less charitable accuse us of being the last bastion of the He-Man Woman Haters Club that used to be coterminous with Christendom and has been reduced in these enlightened times to a diminishing circle of Slavic waggons, and THAT is what attracts men, and you are welcome to them.

A thousand words in, and I haven’t even quoted a Bible verse.  I’ll do that next time.  Actually I think the venerable Auld Booke is more egalitarian than I am, but that for next time.


For the Monday after Pentecost, commonly known as The Day of the Holy Spirit in the Calendar of the Eastern Church

 

fireplace, fireO Heavenly  King, the Most Gracious Comforter and Spirit of Truth, even before the ages do You proceed from the Father and rest forever in the Son!  O inexhaustible source; of the endowments of Godliness Who divides them unto whom-so-ever You will; for thereby have we unworthy ones also been sanctified, as they were signed upon us on the day of our baptism! Take regard then for the prayer of Your servants, come to us, dwell among us, and cleanse our souls; that we may be made ready as dwelling-places of the Most Holy Trinity!

Yes, O Most Gracious One! Be not reviled at our impurities and wounds of sin, but cleanse them with the total healing of Your chrismation. Enlighten our minds that we can comprehend both the vanity of the world, and of those which are in the world; vitalize our consciousness, that in never being silent it will advise us to work at eliminating those things which demote us; direct and renew our heart, that it will no longer be a source of evil thoughts and unfit desires; and, extinguish the flames of our passions with Your dew-bearing breath, that the blessed image of the Divine will not be darkened within us.

Drive away from us the spirit of boastfulness, of melancholy, of ambition and of vain talk; endow us with a spirit of love and patience, a spirit of meekness and of humble wisdom, a spirit of purity and of righteousness; that then, our feeble hearts having been set aright, we may progress along the path of Your holy commandments without laziness:

cozyfireSo then, having toppled every sin and worked in total righteousness, we may be accounted an end that is peaceful and without shame; to enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, and  to worship You together with the Father and the Son, as the Trinity That is One in Essence and Indivisible, unto the ages of ages.

Amen

Translated by Subdeacon David Fritz of Wilkes-Barre, PA.  May his memory be eternal.

CURRENTLY READING

Lords Of The North by Bernard Cornwell

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