25 February 2015

Biophilia and Lent

After applying the use of "necrophilia" to theologies (see my previous post), the Feminist writers of the last century co-opted the word "biophilia" from science and applied it, as well, to religion.  A "Biophilic" spirituality (naturally, it would be "spiritual but not religious") was one that was life affirming, not life denying, one that affirmed life in all its divinely awesome splendor and worked with the ecological ballance of the planet to do no harm, and, of course, let us have all the sex we wanted, in life-affirming and fun ways, even having children if we wanted, but not so many as to overrun the planet or keep women busy with motherhood.

I thought of this right after I converted to Orthodoxy, sitting in the parish hall of Holy Trinity Cathedral, one Lenten Wednesday.  Father Victor (may his memory be eternal!) was talking to a member about an interview he had given to some journalist: the annual "Orthodox Easter is at a different time, let's do a story" interview.  I'm not sure what preceded the comment. But suddenly Father slammed his hand on the table and said, loudly, "No! I love my wife. I drink vodka! I eat meat!"

Biophilic Orthodoxy in a nutshell.

The entire purpose of Orthodoxy is to connect man to Life as it is offered to us by the very Source of Life: Jesus says, "I cam that you might have Life and that more abundantly."  In fact, Life is such an important thing in the New Testament that there are two words for it, which might be translated from the Greek as "Breathing" and "Living".

Everything breathes.  My cat is breathing next to the keyboard just now. We're watching breathing birds outside the window together as I write: you never know, they might fly in here and we'd have something tasty to eat.  The Biblical writers even projected this "breathing" into things like rocks (which will cry out in God's praise) and stars and plants.  "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" is not just shorthand for "things that use oxygen to live".  When people try to differentiate the Jewish and Christian tradition from one of "pagan animism" they have to ignore this part.  "Let everything that has breath" means, basically, everything.

This is Bio.  Breathing. Breathing stops. We try to restart it and sometimes that even works. Breathing.

The New Testament, however, introduces another concept: Zoe.  Life, but not just simply breathing: Life connected to the Source of Life, really, letting life live you.  At this point it can almost start to sound like an Oprah Sermon.  And I'm going to stop until another post, letting your wonder about that.

But there it is. Properly done, Orthodoxy is Biophilic: in fact, it is the ultimate biophilic path.   Letting life live you: I love my wife! I drink vodka! I eat meat!

21 February 2015

Necrophilia and Lent

That ought to do wonders to my search results.

The late Mary Daly's Webster's First Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language contained a number of interesting articles redefining words in common usage and inventing a few of her own.  She was known for this since words with the definitions were all creations of the Patriarchy and designed to enslave women.  Necrophilia, she thought, was any religion that focused on death - the death of a man, the death of a god, the death of sex, the death of life in general.  Thus, Christianity with its God-Man dying and sex-denying women-defying views was Necrophilia in the extreme. Although her views were extreme, they echo a good many folks in the world today talking about the Church and her faith, her teachings on sex and the sexes.  These thoughts come back to be as we get near Lent, and so I thought I might say, forgive me, but: theological subtly aside I understand what she's saying.

The world is a beautiful place and it is filled with beautiful things. Food, wine, conversation, intellectual intercourse, sexual intercourse, political debate, fine clothing, electronic gadgetry, Starbucks, cannabis, LSD, and whatever else you might name: are fun.  Laughter and tears, arguing and cuddling, arts and crafts, dancing and even drunken carousing are all rather awesome things.  I freaking love science.  I enjoy dressing up for a party.  And the affirmation of my friends and even strangers is all valuable to me.  Even things that some folks find horrible are, themselves, terribly beauties: war, patriotism, demolition derbies, mobs. The Works of Man amaze me: skyscrapers, the computer on which I write, the internet over which I post and you read, the cellphone on which I can do all of the above and more, the interstate highway system, the Panama Canal, the State of Israel, the Fall of Communism, the Defeat of Axis Powers, and the Moon Landing (if you believe in such things), these are glorious achievements worthy of praise and honor forever.

Except they will end sooner or later.

And winter comes for all things.

And death.

Christianity does insist on right use of all those things and, like drugs and wine, so also with sex and food and technology and people: there are right uses and wrong ones and there is overuse and abuse and even addiction.  You may, if you wish, disagree with me and the Church on the location of those boundaries, but, I think, perhaps: we can all agree that there is are boundaries somewhere and they are needed for the sake of health and growth.

And so, Lent.

In Lent we fast from all this and more.  Meat, sexual intercourse, alcohol - these are all blessings from God from which we abstain for a time.  Not because to partake would be a sin, per se, or an impurity, but rather to see them for what they are. Turning away from those things, refocusing for a time, for a season, on what those things are, what their uses are, what their purpose is in the grand scheme of things, is the purpose of Lent.  It's not life-denying anymore than a good nap on a warm and beautiful afternoon, after  fun cookout with family and friends is "Awake-denying".  But it might be needed before the drive home.

In the Byzantine Rite we begin Lent not in the middle of the week but in the very middle of Vespers on Sunday Night. The priest steps into the Altar and changes into Purple robes, the hangings in the church are changed and the very key of the chanting changes from major to minor.  Suddenly it is Lent.

There are prostrations as we ask God to bless us.  And we say for the first time the Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian.

O Lord and Master of My Life
A spirit of sloth, despair, and lust for power
do not give me.

But give rather 
a Spirit of chastity, humility patience and love
to Your servant.

O my Lord and King
Grant me to see my own faults
and not condemn my brothers and sisters.

You are blessed unto ages of ages.

And then we will begin the Rite of Forgiveness: walking around the church we will each prostrate before everyone, one at a time, face to face, and ask forgiveness and forgiving each other and embracing. It is the entire reason we go to confess, the whole purpose of communion, the very reason for the Church's existence: this mutual forgiveness and love. Far from "necrophilia" it is, to use Mary Daly's own neologism, "Biophilia."  Christ is the life: in loving each other we are loving him. In serving each other we are serving him. We are making life manifest.

My brothers and sisters, Lent is upon us. 

Forgive me my sins.  As God forgives I forgive.

Pray for this sinner, your servant, Raphael.