I have on my bookshelves at home a multi-volume work which I purchased many years ago, the Opus de Theologicis Dogmatibus of Dionysius Petavius, S.J. (Denis Pétau, 1583-1652). This monumental work has been described as “the first systematic attempt ever made to treat the development of Christian doctrine from the historical point of view.” It is the size of moderately large encyclopedia, and, indeed, if one takes the word “encyclopedia” in its root sense to mean a complete course of studies, that is exactly what it is, a complete course of studies in dogmatic theology. Unlike the medieval summae, however, this is not a work of speculation; Petavius’s main concern is to make clear what was the authoritative teaching of the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin. Because it is such a huge work, and because it is written in fairly elaborate Latin, it is not easy to read; so far as I know, it has never been translated into English. But it occurred to me today that it can be found these days on Google Books, and that it might be useful to provide links to it. So that is what I am doing here; it would have been possible to go into even greater detail, linking to the various chapters of the work, but that would have been a much larger labor; for the present, I think it sufficient to link to the six tomes and the various books into which those tomes are divided. These links, I know, will help me to navigate this work, and allow me to consult it when I am not at home; perhaps they may be of use also to others.

Tomus Primus: In quo de Deo Deique proprietatibus agitur

  • Prolegomena: In quibus de theologia ipsa eiusque principiis atque natura disputatur.
  • Liber Primus: In quo de Dei essentia eiusque proprietatibus generatim agitur.
  • Liber Secundus: In quo de attributis quae negativa dicuntur singillatim agi incipit ac nominatim de iis quae ad ipsam Dei substantiam pertinent.
  • Liber Tertius: Qui proprietates Dei negantes explicare pergit.
  • Liber Quartus: In quo de divinis proprietatibus agitur quae affirmantes vocantur et ad Dei scientiam spectant.
  • Liber Quintus: In quo de voluntate Dei, potentia et operatione agitur.
  • Liber Sextus: In quo de Dei bonitate, deque summo bono agitur : necnon de malo : tum de Dei impeccabilitate: deque eius perfectione ac pulchritudine.
  • Liber Septimus: In quo de Dei visione agitur.
  • Liber Octavus: In quo de providentia et Dei nominibus agitur.

Tomus Secundus: In quo, primum de praedestinatione, post[ea] de Trinitate agitur

  • Liber Nonus: Qui est primus de praedestinatione ac reprobatione.
  • Liber Decimus: Qui est de praedestinatione secundus.
  • In tomum secundum operis Theologicorum dogmatum Praefatio.
  • Liber Primus: In quo mysterii illius, hoc est opinionem de eo τὰ ἱστορούμενα traduntur.
  • Liber Secundus. [Haereticorum argumenta … et catholicorum ad ea responsa….]
  • Liber Tertius.
  • Liber Quartus: In quo communes personis tribus notiones propriatetesque declarantur.
  • Index.

Tomus Tertius: In quo primum de Trinitate, postea de angelis agitur

Tomus Quartus: In quo rursum de angelis, de sex priorum mundi dierum opificio, de Pelagianorum Semipelagianorumque haeresi et quibusdam aliis agitur

  • Liber Secundus: In quo de ordinibus, et officiis bonorum angelorum agitur.
  • Liber Tertius: Qui est de diabolo, et angelis eius.
  • Liber Primus de sex primorum mundi dierum opificio.
  • Prooemium.
  • Liber Secundus: Qui est de hominis opificio.
  • Liber Tertius: In quo de libero arbitrio agitur.
  • Liber Quartus: In quo ex Augustini sententia liberi arbitrii natura constituitur.
  • Liber Quintus: In quo libertatis vera ratio ex latinis Augustino posterioribus expenditur.
  • Appendix ad Librum II de opificio sex dierum, seu R. P. Antonii Casini e Societate Jesu controversia de statu purae naturae.
  • Liber Unus de Pelagianorum et Semipelagianorum dogmatum historia.
  • Liber Unus de Tridentini Concilii interpretatione, et S. Augustini doctrina.
  • Index.

Tomus Quintus: In quo rursum de lege et gratia, postea de incarnatione agitur

  • Liber Primus de lege et gratia.
  • Liber Secundus de lege et gratia.
  • Elenchus Theriacae Vincentii Lenis.
  • De Incarnatione Praefatio.
  • Liber Primus: In quo haeresum omnium, quae catholicae de incarnatione fidei adversatae sunt, historia describitur.
  • Liber Secundus: Qui est de causis incarnati Verbi, maxime de ea quam finalem vocant.
  • Liber Tertius: In quo de naturarum duarum conjunctione, sive unitione agitur.
  • Liber Quartus: In quo de generalibus naturarum in Christo duarum affectionibus agitur, quae ex unitione consequuntur.
  • Liber Quintus: In quo de naturis Christi duabus separatim agitur.
  • Index.

Tomus Sextus: In quo rursum de incarnatione Verbi agitur

  • Liber Sextus: In quo ab haeretici nuperi calumniis, Cyrilli, et Ephesinae synodi integritas fidei, et auctoritas defenditur; ac Nestorius, quem ille catholicum fuisse dicit, recte pro haeretico damnatus ostenditur.
  • Liber Septimus: In quo de eo genere dignitatis, et ornamenti agitur, quod absolutum, et οὐσιῶδες id est substantivum, in humanam Christi naturam fluxit et divinae conjunctione.
  • Liber Octavus: In quo de ἐνεργείᾳ, id est operatione Christi, agitur.
  • Liber Nonus: In quo de voluntate Christi disseritur.
  • Liber Decimus: In quo humanae in Christo naturae proprietates explicantur, quas ἐπιγεννηματικὰς Graeci, Latini accidentes, et consectarias vocant : et imprimis eae quae ad corpus propius attinent.
  • Liber Undecimus: Qui est de animi Christi propriis ornamentis.
  • Liber Duodecimus: In quo de eo genere accidentium proprietatum dissertitur, quae morales appellantur.
  • Liber Decimus Tertius: In quo de officio Christi mediatoris, sive salvatoris erga homines potissimum agitur: hoc est quatenus ad omnes vis illius benefica pertineat.
  • Index.

The following is a translation of one of the chapters of John Bekkos’s treatise On the Procession of the Holy Spirit. Bekkos here treats of an important text from Book Two of St. Basil’s early work Against Eunomius (Adv. Eun. II.34); the text is in fact the first patristic text cited by Bekkos in his treatise On the Union and Peace of the Churches of Old and New Rome, at least in its original form (he later made a revision of this work, and the Basil citation was moved to a different place in the narrative). The prominent place given to the citation is no doubt a reflection of the importance, for Bekkos, of the theological principle Basil therein spells out: that any causality ascribed to the Son is referred back to the Father, in such a way that there is no “polyarchy” in God, no division of the ultimate divine source or “monarchy.” For Bekkos, that principle applies both to the economy (God’s dealings with the creation) and to theology in the strict sense, that is, to an understanding of eternal trinitarian relationships. In both cases, Bekkos argues, the Father is able to exercise his causality through the Son, without there being any division of the principle of divine monarchy, rooted in the person of the Father. Bekkos thinks that Basil, in the passage cited, supports this claim.

To be sure, others argued in Bekkos’s own day, and have argued subsequently, that St. Basil is not saying this. They maintain that Basil, in the passage in question, takes Eunomius’s own supposition that the Holy Spirit is a creature of the Son’s as a basis for his refutation of Eunomius’s position, and that his argument cannot be extended back into trinitarian theology properly speaking. Most of Bekkos’s concern, in the chapter translated below, is to refute that counter-claim.

The treatise On the Procession of the Holy Spirit (De processione Spiritus sancti, PG 141, 157B – 276A) was initially conceived by Bekkos as a series of eleven self-contained essays dealing with disputed questions surrounding the interpretation of particular patristic texts; to this series a twelfth chapter was later added, that originally had stood independently. The work dates to the period of Bekkos’s patriarchate (1275-1282); beyond that, it is impossible to specify more precisely the date and occasion of its composition.

Whatever else may be said about the text translated below, I think it shows clearly, as I have argued elsewhere, that Bekkos was no mere “anthologist,” clumsily stringing patristic texts together without any insight into their meaning or regard for their context. Bekkos is a serious reader of the fathers, and he gives below a close reading of Basil’s text, relating the citation in question to what came before and after it, and expounding Basil’s intention in a pretty convincing manner. He points out the obvious, that, if Basil’s aim were specifically to defeat Eunomius’s view that the Holy Spirit is a creature of the Son’s, he could have done so most simply and effectively by telling Eunomius that the Holy Spirit is not from the Son at all. The fact that he doesn’t take this approach, Bekkos says, is a sign that Basil does not feel that that option is open to him; it is not in respect of holding that the Holy Spirit is, in some sense, from the Son that Basil and Eunomius differ. (Both of them, I would claim, are intellectually the great-grandchildren of Origen, and their quarrel is largely framed within the terms of that theological inheritance.) Instead, Basil focuses on Eunomius’s claim that the Holy Spirit is from the Son alone. Towards the end of the chapter, Bekkos makes an astute comment, noting that Basil saw, in Eunomius’s claim about the Spirit being the creature of the Son, an attempt to demean the Son in relation to the Father, to deny to the Son any equality of rank; by contrast, Basil’s connecting of whatever is from the Son back to the Father, the first cause, shows that Father and Son share the same divine nature and rank. Arguably, Bekkos’s exposition illuminates, not only his own thought about the Trinity, but St. Basil’s thought as well. His claim that Adversus Eunomium II.34 shows that Basil saw the Spirit as, in some sense, from the Son is founded on a serious reading of the text, and is not easily dismissed.

John Bekkos, De processione Spiritus Sancti, ch. 4 (PG 141, 200C – 208C).

Against those who raise doubts as to whether the expression “to be through the Son” carries a reference to the Father 

1. But again, those who are disputatious raise doubts and attempt to contradict the statements of the saints which show that the Spirit is from and out of the Son, and say, “And in what way shall we be able to learn that the phrase ‘from the Son’ carries a reference to the Father?” In reply to this, since we have nothing that better serves to demonstrate the things whereof they demand an explanation than those things which Basil the Great said towards the end of Book Two of his Against Eunomius, we shall here set them forth; they go like this:

But to whom [200D] of all people is it not apparent, that no activity of the Son is separated from the Father, nor does there exist anything among the things in the Son that is alien from the Father? For, he says, ‘all that are mine are thine, and thine are mine’ (John 17:10). Why then does Eunomius ascribe the cause of the Spirit to the Son alone, and take the making of him as a reproach against his nature? If then, in saying these things, he sets two causes in opposition to each other, he will be the comrade of Mani and Marcion; but if the statement that ‘all things came to be through’ the Son connects existing things to a single cause, it implies a reference back to the first cause. So that, even though we believe that all things were brought into being through the Word of God, nevertheless [201A] we do not deprive the God of the universe of being the cause of all things.”
Basil of Caesarea, Adv. Eunomium, II.34; PG 29b, 652 A-B. 

The reason why we present this passage here in our treatise is to make it clear that “the cause of the Spirit” refers back to the Father, even if the Spirit is said to be “from the Son.” 

2. But again they hound us with objections, and say: “But, so far as can be gathered from the words quoted, Basil the Great did not say these things in a theological sense about the Spirit’s Godhead, so that the text should provide a resolution of the matter in question. But since Eunomius was blaspheming the Spirit, calling him a creature of the Son’s, and saying that he was a creature of the Son’s alone so as to separate him from the Father, for this reason the saint first sets forth the premise that ‘No activity of the Son’s is separated from the Father, nor is there anything, among [201B] those things which exist in the Son, that is foreign to the Father’; then, on this basis, he infers that Eunomius wickedly and clumsily ascribes the cause of the Spirit to the Only-begotten alone, and takes his creation as a reproach against his nature.” When they give such a reply to our teaching, we in turn say: And what do you suppose, gentlemen? Was it really for this reason that the most wicked Eunomius seemed to our father Basil to be saying that the Spirit is from the Son alone, because he said that the Spirit is a creature of the Son’s? And so, for this reason, according to you, the unstated, unambiguous consequence would follow that, if Eunomius had said that the Spirit is from the Son alone while he took him to be, not a creature, but God, then our father Basil would not have [201C] criticized him. For either, according to Eunomius, the Spirit is a creature, and it is on that point that the blasphemy turns, or else, in line with the truth of theology, the Spirit is not a creature; and if it is on account of his doctrine of the Spirit’s creaturehood that Eunomius is to be condemned when he says that the Spirit is from the Son alone, then, manifestly, someone who thinks that the Spirit is God is not to be condemned if he says that he is from the Son alone. And take care lest, in running from the smoke, you fall into the fire. For while you contend that the Spirit is from the Father alone (as though you forget that he is not the Spirit of the Father alone), observe how you oppose Basil in his refutation of Eunomius when, [on your reading,] he affirms the Spirit to be from the Son alone according to his divine substance.

3. For I say once again that if, according to your reading, it was because [201D] Eunomius took the view that the Spirit is a creature that his statement that the Spirit is from the Son alone was denounced, then plainly he would not have been criticized for saying that the Spirit is from the Son alone if he had thought that the Spirit is God; and it fails to occur to those who maintain that the Spirit is from the Father alone that, when their interpretation of this text is extended to its unspoken implications, they end up affirming that the Spirit is from the Son alone. But if the absurdity and contradiction thereby revealed shows plainly that, when Basil the Great takes the heretic Eunomius to task for saying that the Spirit is from the Son alone, it was not because of Eunomius’s opinion about the Spirit’s creaturehood, but, rather, specifically for his claim that the Spirit was from one and from one alone — whether as a creature, as blasphemously alleged by Eunomius, or else [204A] as God (since, in line with true theology, the Holy Spirit is God) — then there remains no pretext of ambiguity: as you can see, the saint appears to be virtually saying to Eunomius that, though in fact the Holy Spirit is, in his divine nature, not from the Son alone, separated from the Father, nevertheless even supposing that the Spirit were a creature of the Son’s, in accordance with your view, Eunomius, you should not even in that case have ascribed the cause of him to the Only-begotten alone and separated him from the Father, on account of the fact that “everything which is made by the Son carries a reference to the Father, the first cause.” And as it has been unambiguously shown that it was not for his view of the Spirit’s creaturehood that Eunomius was taken to task by Basil the Great for saying that the Spirit is from the Son alone, but solely for his claim that the Spirit is from [204B] the Son alone and from no one else, this likewise clearly refutes those who raise doubts as to whether the expression “to be from the Son” carries a reference to the Father. 

4. But if this refutation does not seem sufficiently clear to you, nevertheless, by carefully examining the things which the saint goes on to say following the above-cited passage, you will still be able to comprehend what the argument has already plainly shown you through many cited texts. For after refuting Eunomius, and virtually saying to him that, even if the Spirit were a creature of the Son’s, in accordance with your view, Eunomius, all the same you should not have ascribed the cause of him to the Son alone, on account of the fact that everything created through the Son has reference back to the Father, the first cause, [204C] the saint interjects some remarks concerning the divinity of the Spirit and, desiring to show that, according to his divinity, the Spirit exists from the Father and the Son, as proceeding ineffably from the Father through the Son, he says the following things: 

“And why is it not manifestly dangerous to separate the Spirit from God? since the Apostle has passed this thing down to us in a connected way, at one time calling him ‘of Christ,’ at another time ‘of God,’ where he writes, ‘If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his’ (Rom 8:9), and again, ‘But ye have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God’ (1 Cor 2:12). Again, the Lord calls him the ‘Spirit of Truth’ (Jn 15:26), since he himself is the Truth (Jn 14:6), and he proceeds from the Father (Jn 15:26).”
Basil of Caesarea, Adv. Eunomium, II.34; PG 29b, 652 B-C. 

That is what the saint says, word for word. But [204D] note the phrase, “Why is it not manifestly dangerous to separate the Spirit from God?” For the saint did not say, “Why is it not manifestly dangerous to connect the Spirit to the Son, when he exists neither through him nor from him, but from the Father alone?” But he said, “Why is it not manifestly dangerous to separate the Spirit from God?” such that his entire concern was how he might show the Spirit to be connected to the Father when, according to Eunomius, he was separated from him. And this is clear from the testimonies which he then subjoins from both the Apostle and the Gospels, from which he shows the Spirit to be likewise “of the Son” and “of the Father,” and that it is not the case that, because he is “of the Son,” he is therefore not also “of the Father,” nor that, because he is from the Father, he is therefore not [205A] through the Son or from the Son. For the saint exhibits the gospel statements, both the one which says “the Spirit of Truth” and the one which says “he proceeds from the Father,” as a testimony to the connection about which he has just been speaking, knowing as he does very definitely that, just as the term ἐκπορεύεται (proceeds) is able to shed light upon the natural relationship and affinity of the Spirit with the Father, so also the phrase “Spirit of Truth” is able to shed light upon the natural relationship and affinity of the Spirit with the Son. 

And if anyone may still be doubtful about the equivalence of these expressions, which Basil the Great has presented as a testimony in order to show that the Spirit is jointly of the Son and of the Father, let such a person seek out those passages in Basil the Great’s [205B] writings, in which he is observed to say, “I acknowledge his affinity with the Father, since he ‘proceeds from the Father,’ and likewise with the Son, since I hear, ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.’” And this defense of ours to those who raise doubts as to whether the statement that he is “from the Son” carries a reference back to the Father has now, I trust, been sufficiently given. 

But it is necessary to add those things which are still to be said, as a kind of corollary to those things which have been said already. For since the saint was devoting all his care to demonstrating that the Spirit is not a creature of the Son’s, if in fact he had demonstrated that he is not from the Son at all, he would at the same time have been able to demonstrate that he is also not the Son’s creature. For in the case of that which in no way at all exists from some other thing, what reason could there be for saying that it is its creature? For [205C] Eunomius had no other pretext for saying that the Spirit is the Son’s creature apart from the fact that it was affirmed by the theologians of that time that the Spirit is from the Father through the Son and, for that reason, also from the Son. For it is not as from a first cause and principle that the Spirit is from the Son, but as existing from the Father through the Son.

And if the saint had been able to demonstrate that the Spirit is not from the Son, his argument would not have carried this force alone, that it should be possible to draw the inference that the Spirit is not a creature of the Son’s. But it would also have been possible for some other, deeper inference to be observed there by those who study things closely. For when Eunomius says that the Spirit is a creature of the Son’s and less than the Only-begotten, taking the belittling of the Holy Spirit as something already granted, he uses this as grounds for [205D] demonstrating the lesser nature of the Son, as Basil the Great testifies in a passage occurring a little before the one we earlier examined, where he says the following things:

“Now the Lord says concerning the Paraclete, ‘He shall glorify me’ (Jn 16:14), but the accusatory tongue asserts this to be an obstacle against the Son’s being compared with the Father. For since, he says, the Son is the Spirit’s creator (have mercy on us, Lord, for uttering such a thing), and the latter is of such a kind as to add no dignity to his creator, for this reason neither is the Son worthy of being compared with the Father, on account of the [relative] worthlessness of those things which he has created, and has been deprived of equality of rank.”
Basil of Caesarea, Adv. Eunomium, II.33; PG 29b, 649C.

[208A] This is what the saint says, word for word; and, after parading and presenting Eunomius’s blasphemy — that Eunomius intends, from the Spirit’s being created by the Son, to destroy, on that account, the Son’s equality with the Father — he thereupon adds the oft-cited passage, saying: “But to whom of all people is it not apparent, that no activity of the Son is separated from the Father?” and so on. Since therefore the saint understands that, if Eunomius says that the Spirit has been created by the Son, it is for the purpose of lessening the glory of the Only-begotten, and to obstruct his co-equal honor with the Father, if in fact he were able to prove from the Scriptures that the Spirit does not exist from the Son, what other refutation of Eunomius’s blasphemies would be have found necessary [208B], aside from demonstrating that in no way at all does the Spirit exist from the Son? For had it been demonstrated that the Spirit in no way exists from the Son, such a demonstration would have stopped Eunomius’s accusatory mouth when he says that the [relative] worthlessness of the Spirit, created by the Son, does not allow the Son to be of equal honor with the Father. So useful, then, would it have been for the saint to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit in no way at all exists from the Son, in order to defeat Eunomius’s blasphemies; but since the saint was unable to demonstrate this, he does not dispute Eunomius when the latter says that the Spirit is from the Son, since Basil himself makes this same point clear countless times in his own writings; instead, he disputes this most wicked and ungodly man only on one sole point, that Eunomius claims that the Spirit is from the Son alone. [208C] But given that it is not against the claim that the Holy Spirit is from the Son, but against the claim that the Holy Spirit is from the Son alone that the saint directs his argument, how is it not manifest that he confirms the claim that he is from both? For surely no one will say that, in saying that the Spirit is not from the Son alone, the saint proves that he is from the Father alone; nor ought one to reason that, if the Spirit is not from the Son alone, it therefore follows that he is from the Father alone; but one should understand that he who says that the Spirit is not from the Son alone clearly confirms the claim that he is from both. But if someone wants to demonstrate that the Spirit is from the Father alone, he will have no ready means for such a demonstration if he will not undertake to overthrow entirely the claim that the Spirit is from the Son. For this, and nothing but this, will be able to confirm the claim that the Spirit is from the Father alone.

I was asked today by my church’s youth director to give a talk on Zoom to some youth. Not knowing what to say, I put together some thoughts. Here are the thoughts that occurred to me.

In your lives, if you are like most people, you will sometimes fall, and perhaps you may even fall so hard that it will feel difficult to get up again. You may not remember this, but you did the same thing when you were very small. Most of the time your parents were watching you, yet they did not always hold you up; they allowed you sometimes to fall. Why did they do this? Because they wanted you to learn how to walk. It is the same thing with us now: God, our heavenly Father, is watching us all the time, he loves us, and yet he allows us to fall. He does this, not out of anger, not to destroy us, but to keep us from destroying ourselves; sometimes it is only by experiencing the pain of falling that we realize how foolish we are, how bad the way is we are going, and that we still need to learn how to walk in the Spirit, in the way of God’s commandments.

Indeed, God wants us eventually to learn, not only to walk, but to run. We call the people who run in the way of God’s commandments, and who win a heavenly crown, saints; these are the people who are most successful in the race of life, even if most people consider them failures. These are the people of whom it can be truly said that they are happy; and God wants us, in fact, to be happy. Yet it should be remembered, even when we are not happy, even when we fall and feel miserable and are far from being saints, that God loves us. We should remember the story of the Prodigal, a son who not only did not run in the way of his father’s commandments, but ran away from his father and rejected him; yet, when he came to himself, when he turned back to ask his father’s forgiveness, his father not only did not reject him, but ran to him, fell on his neck and kissed him, and put on him a precious robe to cover his nakedness. Jesus gives us this story of the Prodigal because it tells us what God is like, and what we, often, are like: sometimes we are like the son who runs away and acts self-destructively, and sometimes we are like the other son, who does not run away, who stays at home and serves his father, but who does so coldly, and who has no real love, either for his long-lost brother or for his father himself; it is all, to him, a matter of self-interest and cold calculation, and at the end of the story we are left not knowing whether the older brother ever comes indoors and celebrates his brother’s return or, instead, stays outside, hardening his heart against the possibility of love. We need to be aware that both of these sons are examples for us of the kinds of mistakes we can easily fall into. And in both cases, the father is patient, and waits for us to return to our senses.

So that is what, God willing, we are doing during this time of Lent which is given to us as a way of preparing for the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s great triumph over sin and death. We are given an opportunity to return to our senses; we are given a course of preparation, of spring training, to encourage us to run again after our many falls and stumblings. We have a Physician on hand who is ready to bind up our wounds; but we also need to recognize our need to bind up the wounds of others; so we start this spring training by asking others forgiveness for the times we have wounded them. Jesus is on hand: not only as our coach, not only as our example, not even only as our Physician, but as someone who will be with us and run with us every step of the way. He wants us to learn how to run, and we only need to trust in him in order to start doing it. We may think of ourselves as complete failures in the race of life; that is not how Jesus thinks of us. He only wants us to get up again, and start running.

Lewis Ayres teaches at Durham University, and is one of the most accomplished patristic scholars currently writing in English. The lecture, linked to below, was delivered at the University of Edinburgh on November 10, 2020; I think it deserves a wide hearing, therefore I am sharing it.

The Haircut

September 22, 2020

The following is a story I wrote last month for a class on American Literature that I am teaching this year at The Lyceum. The moral of the story at the end is taken from Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Once upon a time there was a man named Bob, who lived on the east side of a large, post-industrial American city which, for convenience’ sake, we may call Cleveland. Because a mysterious, deadly virus was then ravaging the world and causing mass hysteria, Bob had not been outside the doors of his house for many months; but one day, when the sun was shining and the sky was uncommonly blue, Bob decided to go outside. And, as he felt the warm sunlight upon his face and breathed in the fresh air and heard the birds singing and saw the chipmunks filling their eager faces with nuts, it occurred to Bob that he needed a haircut. So, putting a government-approved face mask over his mouth and nose, he walked down the road until he came to a barbershop; it was owned by a man known to all the townspeople as Uncle Luigi. Uncle Luigi had been working at the barbershop every day faithfully except Sundays and holidays for at least the past 75 years; no one really knew how old Uncle Luigi was, but he was of a very advanced age, and whether he could see or not was open to question; some said he could, but others were of the opinion that, after so many years in the business, he no longer had any need to; he was able to cut hair now by sheer intuition and habit, repeating mechanically the same actions, just as he would repeat to all the same jokes he had been telling since the Great Depression. When Bob entered the barbershop, since there were no other customers present, he was immediately ushered into the blue, swiveling barber’s chair, an apron was tied about his neck, and, after some perfunctory pleasantries and instructions from Bob about how he wanted his hair to be cut, Uncle Luigi set to work, chopping, combing, snipping, clipping, lathering, shaving, moving with a speed astonishing in a man of his age. Because Bob had not had a haircut for nearly six months, his hair had grown to about a foot in length, and, as his blond tresses now fell about him, drifting upon his apron and onto the floor, they reminded him of sheaves of wheat, seen from afar in a country field on a late summer’s day. But, as Bob was pleasantly contemplating this, remembering people he had known and places he had seen, he suddenly felt a sharp pain on the left side of his head. “Ouch!” said Bob, wincing; then, looking down at his apron, he saw there, horrified, a familiar object in an unfamiliar place. “My ear!” he exclaimed. “That’ll be 20 dollars,” said Uncle Luigi. Reluctantly, Bob paid Uncle Luigi the 20 dollars, without tipping him, wrapped his ear in a napkin, and silently walked out the door, vowing to himself never again to patronize this barbershop.

As he stepped out into the sunlight, he began wondering what to do about his ear. It still hurt; in fact, the pain was more noticeable now, a kind of dull throbbing accompanied by a steady effusion of blood. As he looked about, fortunately he saw that, next door to the barbershop, a new doctor’s office had opened. Stencilled on the window was the name “Theodosius Neanis, M.D., General Practitioner.” Bob entered the office. There was an air-conditioned waiting room, with padded chairs, potted artificial plants, nondescript geometrical paintings on the walls, and racks filled with copies of People magazine. The receptionist’s desk was entirely glass enclosed. Behind the desk a young doctor, who could not have been much older than 20, was busily engaged in a conversation with his secretary. Bob stood patiently at the window for a few minutes, then finally, to get the secretary’s attention, he tapped on the glass. Eventually she swiveled about in her chair, and opened the little hatch at the base of the window. “Yes,” she said, “can I help you?” Bob explained that he had just been at the barbershop next door, where the old barber Luigi had accidentally cut off his ear; it was bleeding pretty profusely, and he thought it needed to be attended to. The secretary turned about in her chair and looked at the doctor; he whispered something to her, then turned and walked back into his office. She turned again to Bob. “Are you already a patient of Dr. Neanis’s?” “No,” Bob replied, “this is my first visit here.” “And what insurance do you have?” Bob had to explain, with some embarrassment, that he did not have insurance, as such, but he was enrolled in a health costshare cooperative, which meant, essentially, that he would pay up front, and hope eventually to be reimbursed. As he was explaining this, he felt weaker and weaker. “Are you already registered in the Cleveland Clinic system? … Have you been tested yet for COVID-19?” The secretary’s words confused Bob, and seemed to be coming from a place farther and farther away; he tried to reply, but was unable to; the waiting room itself seemed to be both revolving and fading into unreality; eventually it disappeared entirely, and all Bob could see were green, pleasant fields with sheaves of wheat, glowing in the late summer’s sun.

Moral: Beware of the young doctor and the old barber. (Franklin, no. 86.)

I was reading 1 Samuel ch. 15 this morning; it is the chapter in which Saul, called upon by God to annihilate the Amalekites, does not fully carry out God’s order, whereupon, in consequence, Samuel is sent to Saul to tell him that the Almighty has rejected him from being king. The chapter raises, most prominently, two theological questions: the question of the morality of the order Saul is given to exterminate a whole people, and the question of God’s repentance, that is, his apparent change of mind. The latter question, in particular, leaps out of the text itself, since the chapter both speaks, twice, of God repenting of having made Saul king (vv. 11, 35), and, once, states that God does not repent (v. 29). A. F. Kirkpatrick has some excellent notes, especially upon this second question.

“God’s repentance is the change of His dispensation.” In the language of the O.T. God is said to repent when a change in the character and conduct of those with whom He is dealing leads to a corresponding change in His plans and purposes towards them. Thus (a) upon man’s penitence God repents and withdraws a threatened punishment (Ex. xxxii. 14; 2 Sam. xxiv. 16): (b) upon man’s faithlessness and disobedience He cancels a promise or revokes a blessing which He had given. The opposite is also true, “God is not a man that he should repent” (v. 29). His repentance is not to be understood as though He who foreknows all things regretted His action, nor is it a sign of mutability. A change in the attitude of man to God necessarily involves a corresponding change in the attitude of God to man.

A. F. Kirkpatrick, The First Book of Samuel (Cambridge, 1880), pp. 142-143.

On the former of these two questions, the question of genocide, Kirkpatrick has an extended note on pp. 240-241, which can be read here.

I learned the other day that Mike Pompeo
has some icons in his home
in a corner of his living room
next to the television set,
icons of Christ, of the archangels Michael and Gabriel,
of St. Nicholas, and of the holy Virgin,

and I said to myself,
Well, perhaps I should pray for this man
whose policies I so detest,
perhaps God may open his eyes
and he may turn from his offenses.

But yesterday, the United States announced
it was sending warships to Venezuela
on the utterly bogus charge
that President Maduro is a drug dealer
and we must remove him by force.

That is to say
we are using the occasion of a
global pandemic
to bully other nations
into subservience.

St. Paul says that
we should pray for those in government
and seats of authority
so that we may live a peaceful and sober life
in all godliness and piety
or something like that

and, surely, the thugs who governed
the Roman Empire in his day
were no better than Mike Pompeo
in fact, they bear to him
a distinct resemblance
both morally and physiognomically

And what about the Democrats?
The child-molesting rapist Joe Biden
the school-marmish Mrs. Pelosi
the vulturous Mrs. Clinton peering from a distance
ever ready to swoop down upon fresh carrion

the seven moral dwarves approved by the DNC
whose names I shall not bother to mention —
do any of these approved leaders
offer a word of protest?
When the US sends in warships

and imposes sanctions
cutting off food and medicine
in a time of plague
then the US itself has become a plague
a plague upon itself, and upon others

and no amount of China-bashing, or
Russophobia, or even
will remove this curse from us.

May God have mercy on us
every single one of us
including Joe Biden, and Donald Trump,
Mike Pompeo, Hillary Clinton,
and Nancy Pelosi

may he have mercy on
the Venezuelans, and on the Iranians
on China, and Russia, and all those nations
we seek to overthrow

may he have mercy on the British
as their country falls apart
may God save the Queen
and her dysfunctional, tawdry family

may he have mercy on Julian Assange
sitting in a high-security prison
for the crime of journalism

may he have mercy on the Palestinians, and on the Israelis
on ISIS, and the American Osiris,

on Bashar al-Assad, his beautiful wife Asma,
and all their long-suffering people

on Jeremy Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders,
Vladimir Putin, Poroshenko and Zelensky,
Nicolas Maduro, and the usurper Guaido,

may he have mercy upon the dying
and those tending to the dying
those who have no respirators
and those who have no toilet paper

may he send the rain of his compassion
upon the just and the unjust
may he cause the sun of his justice
to shine upon us all
and bring us to repentance

I posted to Facebook yesterday a link to an article by Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian political blogger who enjoys a deservedly large and devoted following; her article bears the title, This Assange “Trial” is a Self-Contradictory Kafkaesque Nightmare. Yesterday, a friend of mine posted the following questions:

why, peter? with whom does the buck stop?

This afternoon, I replied to these questions as follows:

Why: Because Assange, through his organization WikiLeaks, exposed the crimes of empire, and empires commonly act viciously against those who expose their illegal actions and attempt to crush them by all means at their disposal.

With whom does the buck stop? If by this you mean, who bears final responsibility, we all, in some sense, bear a responsibility since, theoretically at least, we live under a government of laws that is supposed to be answerable to the governed; if the governed, through sloth, ignorance, apathy, and cowardice, don’t hold their governments to account, they bear a share of the guilt for what their governments do. But, more specifically, both the Obama and the Trump administrations have pursued Assange with a vengeance; many past and present members of the US government have publicly expressed a wish to see Julian Assange dead, and the UK government seems to be doing everything it can to oblige them; the Australian government bears a great share of the blame for doing nothing to secure the legal rights of its citizen; the Swedish government bears a share of the blame for having (doubtless in obedience to directives from Washington) set up the false rape charges that provided the initial legal pretext for Assange’s arrest; the current President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, is culpable for having rescinded Assange’s political asylum that had been granted under Ecuador’s previous administration; and the media, and in particular the UK paper The Guardian, which published and profited from Wikileaks’ exposures of crime, is grossly culpable; it is journalism that is supposed to keep citizens informed of what their governments are doing so that society can function freely; Assange admirably fulfilled that function of a true journalist, and the media in general, having been shown up by Assange to be largely a tribe of shills and lackeys, are now quite happy to throw Assange to the wolves, even if it means that investigative journalism is henceforth to be legally proscribed: you can now be sent to a gulag for life for exposing crimes committed by the American or British governments, and, clearly, the brutal treatment accorded to Assange by the British prison system and by Judge Vanessa Baraitser is intended to send a message to any prospective whistleblower: any publication of government secrets will henceforth be treated as a crime against the State. That is what this Assange case is all about; it is the most important legal case on freedom of the press in our lifetimes.

If most of my friends, many of whom cherish a devotion to liberal causes, take no personal interest in this case, and some of them regard the government’s position as justified, I must assume that it is due to their acceptance of the claim that Assange was somehow acting as a tool of the Russian government, or of Donald Trump, when in the summer of 2016 he published an internal e-mail trove of the Democratic National Committee. These e-mails made it clear that the party had essentially rigged the nomination process in favor of Mrs. Clinton from the outset. So far as I know, no one disputes the authenticity of the e-mails; rather, to distract from their content, critics, starting with Mrs. Clinton herself, began to claim that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC’s servers and provided this information to Assange, to throw the American election into disarray. This claim, that the e-mails published by Assange were illegally obtained from the Russian government, which hacked the DNC’s servers, became the source of a massive controversy that commonly goes by the name of “Russiagate” and has obsessed the political classes of America for much of the past three and a half years; yet, despite the publication of an Intelligence Assessment in 2017 and the Mueller Report a year ago, no tangible proof of Russian hacking has ever been presented to the public, and the only substantive finding of Mueller’s investigation is that a Russian troll farm spent about $100,000 during the 2016 election, publishing memes in favor of various candidates, including Mrs. Clinton; given the billions spent these days on American political campaigns, that amount is negligible, and the idea that it had a significant effect upon the election is absurd. As for the claim that Russia “hacked” the DNC, many knowledgeable Americans in the field of intelligence dispute it; one of them is William Binney, who wrote for the NSA much of its software; in late 2016 and early 2017, he and others calling themselves “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity” argued publicly that the electronic signatures on the DNC e-mail trove were inconsistent with its having been hacked from halfway across the world in Russia, and indicated instead that the information was downloaded by someone locally onto a storage device: probably, a pen drive. In other words, they maintain that, in all probability, the information was leaked from someone within the DNC, not hacked from Russia.

Assange has always denied having received the e-mails from the Russians, although, in keeping with WikiLeaks’ protocols, he has refused positively to identify the leaker; an associate of his, Craig Murray (a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan), has categorically stated that he in fact knows that it was a leak, because, on a summer’s evening in 2016, he personally received the DNC e-mail cache on Assange’s behalf from someone working for the DNC in a Washington, DC park; then, having stored the transportable device in his luggage, he flew back to Britain and delivered it to WikiLeaks. It should also be pointed out that, after a DNC worker named Seth Rich was murdered on a DC street corner in late July 2016, shortly after the e-mail leak, Mr. Assange issued a $10,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest; many people have inferred from this that Rich, who favored the Sanders campaign, was in fact the leaker of the e-mails, and, for my part, I still think that that is the likeliest explanation, although the merest suggestion that Seth Rich was killed for leaking the DNC e-mails tends to set some people into a frenzy of righteous indignation.

Anyway, I hope that this answers your questions. I think that, if Julian Assange were not dangerous to those in power, the governments of the Western world would not be focusing so much coordinated effort on having him locked away for life. Information is power, and governments want to keep information about their own doings secret. Given the furiousness of their response, there must be some exceedingly ugly skeletons in some government closets. Assange has tried to restore some of the balance to popular government, by encouraging greater governmental transparency. I expect that Assange’s extradition to the United States is, sadly, a foregone conclusion. And when Assange is locked away in some high-security prison and, as far as the media is concerned, forgotten, we will know that our political freedoms have also been locked away and forgotten, and Assange’s critics can have the pleasure of knowing that they themselves are partly responsible.

Jeffrey Epstein died today
in a Manhattan cell
and whether it was suicide
or murder, we can’t tell.
He’s on that lonesome road to meet
his Lord and God and Maker
and given some employment to
the city undertaker.

Perhaps Ghislane is weeping now
with tears of sad remorse
and Bill and Hill will cast a rose
upon his stiffened corse,
and maybe our dear president
will come down from his tower
to pay respects to one with whom
he spent so many an hour.

But, if they sigh, I must suspect
they do not sigh from grief,
but most of Epstein’s erstwhile friends
are sighing from relief
because his death has set them free
from fear of prosecution
for acting as accomplices
to child prostitution.

We hold that there’s a justice
that controls the course of things
and out of earth’s dark hidden wells
the truth forever springs
and, in that faith, I’ll pray a prayer
that this man’s death may not
hide with him those for whom he worked
but that they too may rot.

Ὁ Φιλοπρωτεύων

September 17, 2018

Last week, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, sent two exarchs into Ukraine for the purpose of setting up an independent patriarchate there, in what the Church of Moscow regards as, historically and canonically, its own territory, and where a third of its parishes are found. This action was taken by the Ecumenical Patriarch without consultation with the Orthodox Church at large, and in spite of clear statements from the Moscow Patriarchate that it considered such an action uncanonical, and that it would respond by breaking off communion. On Friday, the Holy Synod in Moscow declared that it was removing Bartholomew’s name from the diptychs, and would no longer commemorate him in hierarchical liturgies or participate in joint liturgical services with hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople; it further declared that it would “break off the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Episcopal Assemblies and in the theological dialogues, multilateral commissions and any other structures chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.” Any further moves by the Patriarch of Constantinople to establish a separate patriarchate in Ukraine, its communiqué stated, would result in a complete break in communion, i.e., the faithful under the Patriarch of Constantinople would not be allowed to receive the sacraments in churches under the Patriarch of Moscow, and the faithful under the Patriarch of Moscow would be directed not to receive sacraments at churches affiliated with Constantinople. Since there are many Russians resident in Turkey, this might mean the creation of a separate ecclesiastical organization upon Constantinople’s immediate territory (although, since the Turks do not allow Christians to build new churches, it may be that, within Turkey itself, such an organization would be strictly limited in its activities).

These are dismal, soul-destroying events, and I would agree with the Moscow Patriarchate that, behind them, there stands a new theory being asserted by the Patriarch of Constantinople about his own authority. As an example of what I mean by this, I would note a recent paper by the Metropolitan of Bursa, Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, which, in place of the usual Orthodox description of the authority of the primus as “first among equals,” pointedly characterizes the Patriarch of Constantinople as “first without equals,” primus sine paribus.

In response to these events, yesterday I composed a troparion, which I herewith present to readers of my blog, along with a translation and a recording. For the reference to “Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first,” see 3 John 9.

Ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων Βαρθολομαῖος εἰς τὴν Οὐκραϊνὴν δύο ἐξάρχους ἔστειλεν,
ὁ καὶ νέος Διοτρεφὴς αἰτία νέου σχίσματος ἐγένετο.
Νῦν κλαίουσι πάντες ἰδόντες τὴν Ὀρθοδοξίαν σπαραττομένην ὑπὸ τοῦ κοσμικοῦ κράτους,
νῦν στενάζουσιν, διότι τὸν μέγαν καὶ φιλόχριστον λαὸν τῆς Ῥωσσίας ἠτίμασεν.
Ὦ φιλάνθρωπε Χριστέ, δώρησαι τῷ κόσμῳ τὸ μέγα σου ἔλεος.
Bartholomew, who likes to put himself first, has sent two exarchs to Ukraine,
and the new Diotrephes has become the cause of a new schism.
Now all weep when they see Orthodoxy torn apart by the worldly power;
now they groan, because he has dishonored the great and Christloving people of Russia.
O Christ, lover of mankind, grant the world your great mercy.