An apology

June 21, 2011

I would like to apologize to readers of this blog for my recent neglect of it; I have not posted anything to it for some time, nor answered any of the comments. Some explanation for this is called for.

Briefly, and simply, I am tired. I have spent four years writing it, and have not yet accomplished what I set out to do at the beginning, which is to finish and publish my work on John Bekkos. At the present time, my attentions are mostly focused upon the necessity of making a living somehow in the very straitened economic environment in which we live. To that end, I have taken up various teaching positions over the past year, and, in the fall, will be taking up another one. For various reasons, I have been asked not yet to make public the details regarding this new position; but it will entail my moving from New Jersey, after which my father intends to sell the house where I currently live, in which I grew up.

This blog was started in September 2007. At that time, I was unemployed, living by myself at the end of Long Island in a house where, for many days on end, I had little contact with anyone except crows, ants, oak trees, and, of course, John Bekkos, whom I was translating. Writing a blog initially provided me a means of connecting and communicating with the rest of the world; this was both a pleasant diversion and helpful for maintaining my sanity. Without doubt, this blog has seen its ups and downs; there have been times when I have been deeply engaged in it, and there have been times, like the present, when it has suffered neglect. But, on the whole, it has served to make John Bekkos better known to the public, and has allowed me to say various things that I thought needed saying. Whether I shall be able to continue writing it much longer appears doubtful; my expectation is that the responsibility of teaching new and difficult subjects, in a new and strange environment, is going to reduce the amount of time I can spend on this blog to zero.

All writing that is worth anything has something of the nature of a conversation. But not all conversations can be maintained indefinitely, or should be. The things about which conversations on this blog have tended to revolve — the Filioque, the essence/energies distinction, the schism — are not the only things in life worth knowing or thinking about. As a Christian, I believe and understand that the God who gave himself for our salvation in Jesus Christ is supremely worth knowing and thinking about; theology is a legitimate and worthy occupation of the mind, since God is the highest object of knowing. But I also believe and understand that thought about God properly issues in worship and praise of him, and in a godly life; if it does not, if it becomes a sort of end in itself and nervous habit, there is something wrong with it. To my thinking, the schism is one long, bad conversation, revolving endlessly upon itself. And it pains me to think that my blog has sometimes facilitated, and perhaps sometimes exemplified, that bad vortex, which moves nowhere but sucks in everything around it.

The latest Orientale Lumen conference opened yesterday in Washington, D.C.; I am not going to it. Partly, this is because I am too busy preparing to move, and, partly, because I did not feel like shelling out $300 for the conference and accommodations; but it is also because I have attended a few such conferences before, and have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware will treat the audience to an eloquent, informative lecture, constructed around three main points and punctuated with witty anecdotes, but, in the end, he will tell people there why nothing more can be done, and why no real movement towards a resolution of the separation between Orthodoxy and Rome can be expected in the foreseeable future. Metropolitan Jonah will perhaps explain to those present where he has been for the past few months, and what considerations have led him to place the governance of the O.C.A. temporarily into the hands of his synod of bishops — but, more likely, he will not explain this, and will, like Metropolitan Kallistos, give an apologia for maintaining the status quo indefinitely and until the eschaton. Others will say ecumenically pleasant things; DVDs will be sold; an excursion will be made to a nearby church or to a bookstore; people will leave at the end, carrying with them the pleasant feeling that they have accomplished something.

This past Sunday, my bishop (Bishop Michael of New York) presided at liturgy at my church here in New Jersey. Afterwards, at the luncheon held in his honor, he fielded questions from members of the parish. Someone asked him how long it would be before there was Orthodox unity, that is, a single, unified Orthodox Church, in America. His answer: “Not in my lifetime.” He went on to explain how the influx of people from Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union had complicated matters, and how the general expectation is very different now than it was in 1970 when the autocephaly of the O.C.A. was first proclaimed, and how some jurisdictions, e.g., the Antiochians, are more cooperative than others (presumably, the Greeks). It made me think of how, growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church in the 1960’s, one occasionally heard rumors about plans for a “Great, Upcoming Ecumenical Council” of the Orthodox Church which should resolve all problems, in particular, the problem of the ecclesiastical status of the “Diaspora” and the problem of conflicting claims of authority between Constantinople and Moscow. The reason why such a Great, Upcoming Ecumenical Council could not now take place, one was told in those days, was that so much of the Orthodox world lay under Communist rule. At this point, two decades after Communist rule in Eastern Europe collapsed, one hears no more about a Great, Upcoming Ecumenical Council which should resolve all problems. My guess is that, in a country like Greece, reeling under the effects of its own unwise borrowing and the predatory lending practices of companies like Goldman Sachs, a country where the privatization even of national assets like the Parthenon is now being seriously discussed, the calling of a Great, Ecumenical Council is probably the furthest thing from people’s minds.

Christian unity is not the answer to all questions; it does not magically supply a solution to global warming, poverty, unemployment, war, and the high price of gasoline; it does not even furnish an answer, directly, to some strictly theological questions of real importance, e.g., how to read the Book of Genesis in the light of earth science, genetics, and palaeontology. But it is a kind of prerequisite to any united, effective action by Christians in the world. Most importantly, it is Christ’s will. I confess that, when I hear a bishop answer “Not in my lifetime” to a question about unity, I must infer that something is deeply wrong, and that someone is not doing his job. If not in your lifetime, then in whose? To quote Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when?”

8 Responses to “An apology”

  1. Mary Says:

    Oh…Peter…You need not apologize. It doesn’t matter how often you write. Just as long as you write now and then. I would miss you terribly if you went off to some high powered university position and joined the club and forgot about all these genuinely essential scribblings for the duration.

    If not now, when…indeed!!

    Fondly, yer sister in Christ, Jesus

    Mary

  2. bekkos Says:

    Mary,

    Just to reassure you: a high powered university position, it ain’t.

    Peter

  3. Nick Says:

    I greatly appreciated the work you have done on this blog, so let me request that even if you no longer feel called to write – PLEASE leave your blog up so people can read old posts and discussions. Some people think that to be done with a blog entails also deleting it, but that’s not fair to those who would like to read up on important discussions.

    For example, you were my first introduction to John Bekkos, and this is where I direct people who want to know more. Without this blog, I wouldn’t know what resource to find on him.

  4. T. Chan Says:

    Professor Gilbert, in case you are interested, Ancient Faith Radio is making audio files of some of the speeches at Orientale Lumen available: http://ancientfaith.com/specials/orientale_lumen_xv_conference.

  5. LMJ cambridgeshire Says:

    Whatever you decide I wished to express again appreciation for all of the work that you have contributed here. Many of the peices that you have organized here are very valuable. And you are one of the only ones with so much insight into these issues important with the East and Western Church schism and union. I would think that it would be better if you remained with the site and perhaps posted something only very infrequently. Recently I recommended an Orthodox priest to look at this site and have recommended others intrested in the correspondence of Orthodox Byzantine and Latin Catholic theology. Hopefully you will leave the most relevant writings still on line. It could be used as a basis for divine providence
    in consideration of what you will be doing in the future whether in work teaching or publishing or otherwise. benedictions

  6. bekkos Says:

    Nick and LMJ,

    I have no intention of taking the site off line. As long as the people at WordPress.com are willing to host it, I’m content to leave it up. And perhaps you are right, that there may be occasions in the future when the impulse to keep writing it will again make itself felt. I did, however, want to let readers of the blog know why it has suffered some neglect recently, and why it is likely to suffer even greater neglect in the months to come, when I shall be very preoccupied with the responsibilities of teaching at a school.

    * * *

    Ted,

    Thanks for the link! I listened to some of the lectures this morning; perhaps I should have gone, after all. In any case, I probably should not assume to know what people are going to say before I hear them actually say it. (It is a little depressing that Ancient Faith Radio feels obliged to inform its listeners, “while Ancient Faith Radio is extremely pleased to make these recordings available …, we do not necessarily endorse all of the conference speakers and/or their talks.”)

    Peter

  7. Vito Says:

    Dear Peter,
    I believe your writing voice is a blessing to us even if it is infrequent. I hope you continue and keep us informed of what you are doing.
    Pace e bene, Vito

  8. T. Chan Says:

    Dr. Gilbert, you are welcome! I have yet to listen to the files, but I’ve read that the lecture by Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin was quite good. I too hope to read more of your writing in the future, whether here or on paper. May our Lord be with you in your future endeavors!


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