Orthodox Survivial Course Lecture 2
THE MIDDLE AGES
Now begins a series of lectures on the intellectual history of the modern age, that is, from the time of the Schism of Rome. This will not actually be a history of the intellectual currents. It will be a noting of the tendencies and movements which are of historical significance, which are symptomatic of the spirit of the age and point to future developments. We will try to distinguish the essential points from incidental ones, that is, the features which are characteristic of the underlying philosophy of the times which endure from age to age, from other views which simply depend on passing events. For example, we are not interested that some of the Franciscan spirituals thought that Frederick II was Antichrist or the world would end in 1260, or that in the nineteenth century William Miller thought the end of the world would occur on a certain day in 1844; but the chiliastic views which underlie these very foolish views are what we will be discussing and talking about, because these are the views which help to determine our outlook today.
I will repeat something I said in the introductory lecture that the reason we are doing this is not just to have a view of what is true and what is false, and throw out everything which is false and keep everything which is true, because everything I’m going to be talking about is false. But it will be extremely important for us to understand why it is false and how it went away from the truth. If we understand that, we have some idea of what goes on in the world today, and what is the intellectual structure against which we must fight.
Although, while saying that everything I’m going to talk about is false, I mean it’s false from the strictly Orthodox point of view. There, the whole, of course, is relative compared with what happens in the world today. All of these movements we talk about – Thomas Aquinas to Medieval art, to European Renaissance art and so forth – they all are very much more valuable than anything that has been happening in the world today. Nonetheless, there is a whole underlying world-view which produced these things, and we can see how it was departing from Orthodoxy.
The history of the West from the Schism of Rome is a logical and coherent whole, and the views which govern mankind today are a direct result of the views held in the thirteenth century. And now that the Western philosophy dominates the entire world, there is no other philosophy except the Orthodox Christian philosophy which has any strength to it, because all civilizations have been overwhelmed by the West, this means that what happened in the West in these last nine hundred years is the key to understanding what is happening in the whole world today.
The very term “Middle Ages” is an interesting one because it exists only in the West. All other civilizations, whether Christian, such as Byzantium or Russian, or non-Christian, such as the Chinese or Indian, can be divided into two periods, that is, the ancient period when these civilizations were governed by their own native philosophy, world-view, tradition, and the modern period when they became overwhelmed by the West. And there’s no noticeable shading from one to the other. It’s merely a matter of one being overwhelmed by the other.
But in the West, something special happened in the period called the Middle Ages, which is the transition between antiquity, that is, Christian antiquity, and the modern age. And the study of what happened when these changes were occurring, especially around the twelfth to thirteenth centuries, gives the key to what is happening in the present time. And we will try to see now how the modern world-view developed out of Orthodoxy, out of Christianity.
The root of the whole of modern history lies, as we have said, in the Schism of the Church of Rome, about which Ivan Kireyevsky speaks very nicely because, having himself been a son of the West and gone to Germany to study with the most advanced philosophers, Hegel and Schelling, he was thoroughly penetrated with the Western spirit, and then became thoroughly converted to Orthodoxy, and therefore saw that these two things cannot be put together. And he wanted to find out why they are different and what is the answer in one’s soul, what one has to choose.1
So he says, first of all, that of course Rome was once a part of the universal Church of Christ, and throughout the early centuries there’s no doubt the Roman Patriarchate is a perfectly legitimate Orthodox patriarchate, and even has a primacy of honor which is the same as the Patriarch of Constantinople had until recent times, and would have today if he were still Orthodox, which does not mean that he is some kind of Pope, but only that he is the chief among equals; that is, he presides over meetings of bishops and so forth.
But, as Kireyevsky says, now I quote: “Each patriarchate, each tribe, each country in the Christian world has not ceased to preserve its own characteristic features while at the same time participating in the common unity of the whole Church. Each people, as a result of local, tribal or historical circumstances, has developed in itself some one aspect of mental activity, so that it is quite natural that in its spiritual life and in the writings of its theologians it should hold to this same special characteristic, however enlightened by a higher consciousness.” that is, the world-view of Orthodoxy. “Thus the theological writers of the Syrian lands turn their attention chiefly it seems to the inward contemplative life detached from this world. The Roman theologians, on the other hand, were especially occupied with aspects of practical activity and the logical connection of concepts. But the spiritual writers of enlightened Byzantium, more than the others, were interested in the relationship of Christianity to the separate sciences which flourished around it, and at first made war against it, but then submitted to it.”2
And now he speaks in particular of the West: “It seems that the distinguishing feature of the Roman mind is precisely a conviction that outward rationalism outweighs the inward essence of things. Among all the features of the Roman man and all of the windings of his activities of intellect and soul, we see a single common feature, that the outward order of his logical concepts was for him more real than reality itself, and that the inward balance of his existence was known by him only in the balance of his rational conceptions or outward formal activity.”
Then he speaks in particular of Blessed Augustine: “No single ancient or modern Father of the Church showed such love for the logical chain of truths as Blessed Augustine… Certain of his works are, as it were, a single iron chain of syllogisms, inseparably joined link to link. Perhaps because of this he is sometimes carried too far away, not noticing the inward one- sidedness of this thinking because of its outward order; so much so that, in the last years of his life, he himself had to write refutations of some of his earlier statements.”
And we know, of course, that Augustine did go off on the question of free will because he himself felt so strongly the action of grace in his conversion that he did not fully appreciate the Orthodox Fathers’ patristic teaching on free will which John Cassian in the West did appreciate and taught.
Again Kireyevsky says: “Since the Roman mind’s special attachment to the outward chain of concepts was not without danger to the Roman theologians, even when the Roman Church was still a living part of the Ecumenical Church, when the common consciousness of the whole Orthodox world restrained each special characteristic in a lawful balance, it is understandable that after Rome separated from the Orthodox Church, this particular trait became decisive and dominant in the quality of the teachings of Roman theologians. It may even be that this attachment to rationality, this excessive inclination towards the outward thinking of concepts, was one of the chief reasons for the very falling away of Rome. In any case, the pretext for the falling away is not subject to doubt. The Latin Church added a dogma to the original symbol of faith, the Creed: an addition which was contrary to ancient tradition in the common consciousness of the Church and was justified solely by the logical deductions of Western theologians.”
And again he says, “It is quite clear to us why Western theologians with all of their logical scrupulousness could not see the unity of the Church in any other way but through the outward unity of the episcopate.” End of the quote from him. Now again, he talks about another point: “And this also explains why they could assign an essential worthiness to the outward works of a man; why, when a soul was inwardly prepared but had an insufficiency of outward works, they could conceive of no other means of his salvation than a definite period of purgatory; why, finally, they could assign to certain men even an excess of worthy outward deeds and give this worthiness to those who had insufficient outward deeds.” This means the whole Latin system of indulgences and the supererogatory works of the saints of which there is a whole treasury of good deeds, which are added up like in a bank, and when they have too many for their salvation, they spill them out and the Pope distributes to other people, in a very legalistic way.
“When Rome separated from the Ecumenical Church, the Christianity of the West received into itself the embryo of that principle which was the common feature of the whole of Grecopagan development: the principle of rationalism. The Roman Church separated from the Eastern Church by changing certain dogmas which had existed in the tradition of all of Christianity, for other dogmas which were the result of mere logical deductions.”
The result is the Middle Ages, that is, Scholasticism. And about this Kireyevsky says, “Such an endless wearying play of conceptions for the duration of seven hundred years. This useless kaleidoscope of abstract categories which ceaselessly whirled before the mental gaze inevitably had to produce a general blindness towards those living convictions which lie above the sphere of reason and logic. For a man ascends to convictions not by the path of syllogisms; but, on the contrary, when he strives to found his convictions upon syllogistic deductions, he only distorts their truth if he does not annihilate them altogether. And thus, the Western Church, even in the ninth century sowed within itself the inevitable seed of the Reformation which placed this same Church before the judgment of this same logical reason which the Roman Church had itself exalted. Even a thinking man could already see Luther behind Pope Nicholas I,” the Pope who was excommunicating St. Photius, and pretending to be the head of the Church in the later sense of the Popes. “Just as in the words of Roman Catholics, a thinking man of the sixteenth century could foresee behind Luther the Protestant rationalists of the nineteenth century.”
“The Roman Church fell away from the truth only because it wished to introduce into the faith new dogmas unknown to Church tradition and begotten by the accidental conclusions of Western logic. From this there developed Scholastic philosophy within the framework of faith, then a reformation in the faith, and finally philosophy outside the faith. The first rationalists were the Scholastics; one might say the ninth and the last rationalists are the Hegelians of his day, one might say that nineteenth century Europe finished the cycle of its development which had begun in the ninth.”
That gives a very precise view which is a very plausible explanation of the mechanism by which Rome left the Church and developed the whole of the modern world-view which is so anti-Orthodox.
It’s very difficult to go deeper than that, to find any sort of deeper reasons because those things are hidden to us. The devil is constantly working. It may well be that the devil was trying time after time and when he found the Egyptians ready to go into the Monophysite Schism, perhaps he had plans to make them into the instrument he would use to form the apostasy, or maybe the Armenian mentality, and so forth; but it happened that it was the Roman mentality which worked, because once having taken it away from Orthodoxy, free to develop according to its own principles, it became a source of a whole new philosophy which had a power to overwhelm the world, which it did finally in our time.
So with the Schism which became final about, we say, with 1054, the excommunications of Rome and Constantinople, Roman logicalness is placed above the unity of the Church, above the consciousness of the Church, so that the Holy Spirit no longer guides it, as in the Orthodox Church, but now there is an outward authority, the Pope. And the Western historians themselves make it quite clear that at this time something new entered into the Church, into the West. Before this there were temporary estrangements between East and West, [which] we see the time of St. Photius and Pope Nicholas I; there were even excommunications, but then a restoration of communion. Charlemagne himself, in making a rival empire in the West, also was the cause of friction; but it wasn’t until this eleventh century that the estrangement became now a separation.
And at that same time, there entered into the West this new principle which is described in the book by a Dominican ecumenist, Yves Congar, After Nine Hundred Years, talking about the possibilities of uniting with the East. He mentions precisely this as one of the things which will have to be overcome before there can be union. He says: “A Christian of the Fourth or Fifth Century would have felt less bewildered by the forms of piety current in the Eleventh Century than would his counterpart of the Eleventh Century in the forms of the Twelfth,” that is, in the West.3 There was such a change already in this one century, the eleventh century, the century of the Schism and the twelfth, the height of the Middle Ages. “The great break occurred in the transition period from the one to the other century. This change took place only in the West, whereas sometime between the end of the Eleventh and the end of the Twelfth Century, everything was somehow transformed. This profound alteration of view did not take place in the East where, in some respects, Christian matters are still today what they were then – and what they were in the West before the end of the Eleventh Century.”
And here he thinks we have come to the very core of our subject. “In the period between the end of the Eleventh Century and the end of the Twelfth, a decisive turning point was reached in the West. It was a time characterized by several transitions. There was first, the transition from a predominantly essential and exemplarist outlook to a naturalistic one, an interest in existence. This is a transition from a universe of exemplary causality, in which the expressions of thought or of act receive their truth from the transcendent model which material things imitate, to a universe of efficient causality in which the mind seeks for the truth in things and in their empirical formulations. Secondly, there was the transition ‘from symbol to dialectic,’ or, as one might say with a greater precision, from a synthetic perception to an inclination for analysis and ‘questions.’ Here we have the beginning of Scholasticism… The difference between the two worlds is the difference between the attitude of synthetic perception in quest of the relation of the parts to the whole, and an analytical attitude,” that is, which takes things apart and analyses them. “Basically,” he says, “was it not against this analytical attitude of Catholics that the Slavophile religious philosophy aimed its criticism of Catholicism in the Nineteenth Century?” And here he means precisely Khomiakov and Kireyevsky.3
Another transition was that from a culture where tradition reigned and the habit of synthesis became ingrained, to an academic milieu where continual questioning and research was the norm, and analysis the normal result of study. The East followed the road of tradition, and we have shown how one of the principle differences among the various peoples of the Orthodox faith is in fact that they are not trained, as are the Latins, by the schools. The Latin theologians, inured to Scholasticism, have often been baffled at seeing the Greeks refuse to yield to their compelling arguments from reason, but instead taking refuge in the realm of Patristic texts and conciliar canons…" which was the way all Christians reasoned before the Schism. “But this remained foreign to the East which knew no Scholasticism of its own and was to experience neither the Reformation or the 16th-18th-century rationalism. In other words, the East remained foreign to the three influences that shaped modern Catholicism.” And that’s scholasticism, reformation and rationalism.
In the first half of the Thirteenth Century, a new kind of theological teaching and study appeared and established itself in the West. Until this time, the dominant type of teaching or study had been of a contemplative or monastic nature, linked with the liturgical life of the abbeys or cathedrals. Now, there was added a new type of teaching and study, of an academic and rational nature which was soon to take the place of the former… In the East, on the other hand, the teaching and studying of theology, and even of philosophy, kept its religious status."
Now we will now try to examine now some examples of what he means. He speaks about a new spirit: a new spirit of interest in the world, of wanting to analyze, a whole new technique of study, dependence upon human reason, which the East never had. So we will examine now first of all the question of Scholasticism.
And poor Thomas Aquinas has been so much beaten by us Orthodox that we should really read him to see what he has to say in particular, because just reading a little bit of him reveals quite clearly the underlying world-view he has, what kind of questions he asks, how he answers them, and the way he reasons. He, of course, has a tremendous big book, of which I think the whole thing now is in English, in twenty volumes or something: the Summa Theologica, in which everything is supposed to be put: about God, about man, about the devil, the world, the end of the world, the beginning of the world, everything about which man has to know. And he has it all divided up into different questions, in categories.
And here is an example of how he reasons. For example, he asks the question: “Whether the devil is directly the cause of man’s sinning?“9 We know that the devil acts on us and a man goes into sin, and he’s asking all kinds of questions about how this happens. And therefore he asks the specific question whether the devil is directly the cause of man’s sinning. Of course, an Orthodox writer would say, of course, we have to fight; the devil tries to tempt us, but we can’t be tempted against our power. We have many texts which can show that: Holy Fathers, the Scriptures and so forth. We know we are going to have now a systematic approach to this question.
First of all, in the Scholastic method you have to have objections, just like in canonizing saints, you have to have a devil’s advocate, who gets all the dirty, the news he can get about the saint, makes up things and tries to overwhelm the evidence. And that way supposedly by having both the positive and negative, you’ll be objective and come finally to the truth.
So we have “Objection One. It would seem that the devil is directly the cause of man’s sinning.” We have this objection because that’s exactly the opposite of the answer he wants to give. “For sin consists directly in an act of the appetite, but Augustine says that the devil inspires his friends with evil desires; and Bede, commenting on that, says that the devil draws the mind to evil desires. And Isidore says that the devil fills men’s hearts with secret lusts. Therefore, the devil is directly the cause of sin.”
Of course, this evidence can get thrown out because he’s quoting these people who said it didn’teven intend to mean what this objector wants to say. So already you see that you have to twist yourself and make a one-sided reasoning. And he allows it; he puts that in there as an argument, in order to refute it.
Then we have another objection: “Objection Two: Further Jerome says that as God is the Perfecter of good, so is the devil the perfecter of evil. But God is directly the cause of our good; therefore the devil is directly the cause of our sins.” It’s very logical: you have God on one hand; but, of course, we do good of our own besides having the help of God. So this is ridiculous.
But we’ll go on to a third objection: “Further, the philosopher says,” philosopher is the great authority, Aristotle, “in a chapter of The Ethics: ‘There must needs be some extrinsic principle of human counsel.’ Now human counsel is not only about good things, but also about evil things. Therefore, as God moves man to take good counsel and so directly is the cause of good, so the devil moves him to take evil counsel and consequently is directly the cause of sin.”
And now he is going to sweep everything aside and show what the truth is. So he says, “On the contrary, Augustine proves that nothing else than his own will makes man’s mind a slave of his desire. Now man does not become a slave to his desire except through sin; therefore, the cause of sin cannot be the devil, but man’s own will alone.”
And then he gives his answer: “I answer that sin is an action and so a thing can be directly the cause of sin in the same way that anyone is directly the cause of an action, and this can happen only by moving that action’s proper principle to act. Now the proper principle of a sinful action is the will, since every sin is voluntary. Consequently, nothing can be directly the cause of sin except that which can move the will to act.”
All this is not, there’s no sort of Holy Father; this is his logical proving to you on ABC, syllogistic reasoning. “Now the will, as we have stated above, can be moved by two things: first, by its object in as much as the apprehended appetible is said to move the appetite; second, by that agent which moves the will inwardly to will, and this is not other than either the will itself or God, as we’ve shown above. Now God cannot be the cause of sin as was stated above. Therefore, it follows that in this respect, a man’s will alone is directly the cause of his sin,” and so forth.
He goes on and then answers objections, all showing that he’s tried to split apart this question which is a very simple one about how sin acts in us. And the Holy Fathers will give you not, they won’t chop it up like that; they will tell you in general the question of how a man sins, and you will not have to divide it up like that because it’s a whole question; it’s avery existential question. We have to know about how sin acts, and whether, how the devil works on us. But when you chop it up, then you sit back very content that you’vw reasoned things through: and it’s quite different from the Orthodox Patristic approach. You’ve already asked questions which begin to split hairs quite a bit.
For example, there’s a question: “Whether if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would have contracted original sin?“6 You know, if Eve had sinned and then Adam had not followed her, would we have fallen? Would we have original sin? Would man be immortal? It’s very sort of, well, an abstract question which who would ever think about? And we have the objection: “It would seem that if Eve and not Adam had sinned, then children would have contracted original sin anyway. For we contract original sin from our parents, in so far as we were once in them according to the word of the Apostle when he says, ‘in whom all have sinned.’ Now a man pre-exists in his mother as well as in his father, therefore a man would have contracted original sin from his mother’s sin as well as from his father’s.”
Again, second objection, “If Eve and not Adam had sinned, their children would have been born liable to suffering and death, since it is the mother that provides the matter in generation as the Philosopher states,” Aristotle. “And death and liability to suffering are the necessary results of matter. Now liability to suffering and the necessity of dying are punishments of original sin. Therefore, if Eve and not Adam had sinned, their children would contract original sin.
“Objection Three: Further, Damascene,” St. John Damascene, “says that the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin, of whom Christ was to be born without original sin, purifying her. But this purification would not have been necessary if the infection of original sin were not contracted from the mother. Therefore, the infection of original sin was contracted from the mother, so that if Eve had sinned, her children would have contracted original sin even if Adam had not sinned.”
Thomas Aquinas is going to teach the contrary, so he says, “On the contrary, the Apostle says, ‘By one man sin entered into this world.’ Now if woman would have transmitted original sin to her children, he would have said that it entered by two, since both of them sinned, or rather that it entered by a woman, since she sinned first. Therefore, original sin is transmitted to the children not by the mother, but by the father. I answer that the solution of this question is made clear by what has been said, for it has been stated that original sin is transmitted by the first parent insofar as he is the mover in the begetting of his children, and so it has been said that if anyone were begotten only materially of human flesh, they would not contract original sin. Now, it is evident that in the opinion of philosophers, the active principle of generation is from the father, while the mother provides the matter. Therefore, original sin is contracted not from the mother but from the father, so that if Eve and not Adam had sinned, their children would not contract original sin. Whereas, if Adam and not Eve had sinned, they would contract it.”
And then he answers the objections in a question which is obviously beyond our say, because God made it that way, that’s the way it is; it is not for us to speculate on these questions which are not for our salvation, which only show that you have time to sit in your university chairs and discuss idle questions. It’s a totally useless question, and he solves it and thinks he has the answer. In the way he reasons you can see that obviously this is very, very different from the spirit of Holy Fathers who do not go from one logical chain of reasoning. It’s all logic, and he comes sometimes to ridiculous conclusions simply by following logic.
So we can see that here � and he’s the pinnacle of Scholasticism – this is a systematization of Christian teaching, and actually subordinates Christian teaching to logic. But logic itself, of course, depends on the starting point. And they thought they were starting with basic Christian revelation. We’ll see soon that there are all kinds of other things entering in, which affect reason. In this Scholastic system logicalness becomes the first test of truth, and the living source of faith is placed in a secondary place. And that’s why later people hated it so much because they felt it to be a completely dead framework in which there’s no life left, idly discussing questions which no one is concerned about, and when you do discuss true questions, you flatten them out and deaden them. And a Western man, under this influence, begins to lose his living relation to the Truth. And thus Christianity is reduced to a system, to the human level. And this is one of the chief roots of the later errors in the West, which can actually be summed up as the attempt to make by human efforts something better than Christianity.
Dostoyevsky has a little story about this in the legend of the Grand Inquisitor, Brothers Karamazov, in which he very acutely describes what the Popes did, that is, the whole Western Church making something better than Orthodoxy, by their own powers.
You can see this, for example, in the celebrated “Proof of the Existence of God” in Anselm, who invented the new proof of the existence of God, which, as you can see, is extremely clever and doesn’t prove a thing.4 He says, “What is God? God must be that than which nothing greater can be conceived. And even an atheist will say, “Well, if there is a God, yes, He must be that greater than which nothing exists or can be conceived, because there’s nothing greater than God, according to those who believe in Him.” So, aha! you take the first point.
Secondly, existence is certainly a positive characteristic and something which must be possessed by something which is greater than anything else that can be conceived, isn’t it? And you think, well, of course, if a thing is really greater than anything else, it must have existence because that is a positive thing, and something which is non-existent will not be greater than something which is existent. Then he says, therefore , since that than which nothing greater can be conceived must have as one of these characteristics which make it greater than anything which can be conceived, existence. Therefore, it must exist. So God exists. And as you see, you are being fooled by this man. If you already believe, you can say, aha! that’s very nice. You can prove it by the laws of the mind. But if you don’t believe in it, you feel you’ve been fooled by this so-called proof because you’re not willing to concede in the first place that this thing is anything more than an imagination; and we see in this already the seeds of the later subjectivism in the West.
This is really the very same thing that Descartes tried to do when he tried to prove his own existence by saying, “I think, therefore I am”; and is also something which later on Metoxis Makrakis was to do when he said that he was the first man in the history of Orthodoxy to prove the existence of the Trinity, as though before this time all the Fathers had been wasting their time, and he was the first one to have enough intelligence and understanding of philosophy to prove what the Holy Fathers couldn’t prove.
Makrakis has exactly that same mentality of, “By my own efforts, I will give you simple people who believed in sort of whatever you were told, I will give you the real explanation of things.” And this is exactly what people like Anselm are trying to do. This is again the spirit of trying to improve on Christianity, trying to accept not as Holy Fathers accepted in simple faith, but proving by means of - actually he’s under the influence of all these new currents coming in, and especially of course Aristotle who was very influential in those times, because he seemed to have sort of the universal philosophy – except Christianity; his view of nature was considered to be absolutely the truth.
So, this is the first point: Scholasticism, human reason, becomes the measure instead of Tradition, and that is exactly where Rome went off. But this is only part of the whole picture of what happened in the Middle Ages.
Something else happened. And that is that Orthodox tradition is not only rationalized, it also becomes mixed with romance. The element of pagan legends entering into Orthodox Lives of Saints in this time made it so that there are some Lives of Saints which we have in our Orthodox sources, if you read the same Life of a Saint in a medieval Latin source, you will be completely astonished. We’ll take one example, the life of St. Christopher, which is known – not too much is known actually about him, but his Life is known: he was a soldier and he was martyred, put to tortures. And there are a number of miracles in the Life; he has a staff that sprouts: this was in the tradition of Orthodox Lives of Saints.
But there is a book written in the thirteenth century, the very thing which exists in English, The Golden Legend, which is a synthesis or a compilation of lives of saints, like we have daily readings of Dimitry of Rostov, Lives of Saints which is the same thing. Every day there is Life of a Saint. The Golden Legend make something into being fairy tales or something, not just accounts of something. In the thirteenth century, the height of Middle Ages, before the Renaissance or anything, (when Joachim was doing all the changing?) and here he gives the life of St. Christopher, which is such a one that you won’t know what he’s talking about.
So it seems that according to this “life”, St. Christopher was some kind of barbarian who decided he wanted to go in search of the most powerful king in the world in order to serve him. And he finds some kind of powerful king, who’s big, as always happens, and he serves him and is very happy because he can then be manful and valiant and fight for him. And then there comes a minstrel to this court, you’ve probably seen these people going around, troubadours and so forth, and a minstrel comes to his court and begins to sing. And he sings about the devil, he mentions the devil, and every time he mentions the devil, the king makes the sign of the Cross; he seems to be some Christian. And St. Christopher is astonished. “Why did you make the sign of the Cross.” And he asked him, “Why did you make the sign of the Cross whenever he mentioned the devil?”
“Because I’m a Christian, I’m afraid of the devil.”
“Afraid of the devil! That means the devil must be a more powerful king than you are: I’m going to go and serve the devil.” So he goes off in search of the devil to serve the devil because he’s a more powerful king. And he finally finds somebody on the road who says, “Who are you?”
“I’m the devil.”
“Good I want to serve you. You’re the most powerful king in the world.” So he undertakes the service of the devil, and he goes with him on his adventures to various places. And they come to a cross, and the devil all of a sudden falls back, hesitates and runs away. And Christopher says, “Why did you run away? I thought you were the most powerful king in the world.”
“No, I cannot stand the Cross.”
“I won’t tell you.”
He said, “No, if you don’t tell me I’ll go and search for some other powerful king, because you’re not so powerful.” And he explained that there was someone who died on the Cross, Whom he’s afraid of, and his name is Christ.
So he says, “Aha, that means there’s a more powerful king yet I will go and serve Christ.” And so he goes off in search of Christ. He comes to some kind of holy man, a monk or something. And he says, “Where can I find Christ?” he says. Well, he tells him about Christ. He says, “Oh, I want to serve him. How do I serve him?”
“Well, start fasting.”
He says, “Oh, I can’t fast.” “Can’t fast? Well, then, start praying.”
“Oh, I can’t pray.
“Well, you can’t pray. Well, in that case, go to a certain river and build a hut and sit in the river and wait for people to come and take them across the river, and that way you will serve Christ.” So he goes to the river, and builds his place and sits in there, and one night, stormy night he hears a small voice, “Christoper, Christopher!” Three times he goes out and sees no one, and the third time he goes out and sees a small child, very small child standing on the shore and saying, “Christopher, take me across the river.” So he puts him on his shoulders, goes across the river, and meanwhile the river rises up higher and higher and higher, and the child becomes heavier and heaver and heavier. He finally tells the child, “I feel as though I am carrying the whole world on my shoulders.”
And he says, “You’re carrying not only the whole world, you’re carrying the Creator of the world.”
And so then he goes off and is martyred and so forth. And you can see obviously this is absolute fairy tale introduced into a life of a saint, for whatever reasons we don’t know, maybe there’s pagan influences, the result of very good imagination. Well, anyway, this element of romance enters into even such a thing as the Life of a Saint, becomes a total made-up fairy tale. And that’s why you see Catholic and even some Orthodox people paint icons of St. Christopher with the Christ Child on his shoulder, because the word “Christophoros” means “Christbearer,” therefore they make a literal kind of interpretation and make up a story to suit it.
And many other cases we see that in the Roman Catholic sources even from the height of the Middle Ages in the thirteenth century, there are very many of these romantic elements enter in.
We cannot trust those sources. And this was the reason that later scholars came to distrust the sources. Also, there, of course, are such things as the legends of the Grail, which come up from Celtic legends, pagan legends, The Golden Legend…
New Concept of Sanctity
So we’ve seen in the Middle Ages the rationalism, logicalness, replacing faith or taking over and shaping now faith, becoming the criteria, romantic elements entering in. And now we come to a very important one which is maybe even more important than Scholasticism, because in the end this will do more to bring about Antichrist than Scholasticism. This is the concept of sanctity which becomes now different from the Orthodox concept of sanctity. And the best example of this is the life of Francis of Assisi.
The fact that this man became so popular, in fact, tremendously popular wherever he went, people went around, acted like Christ Himself coming to them; and they sang and accompanied him. He aroused great enthusiasm, which shows that he was very much in the spirit of his times.8 But if we look at his life, we see that it is so strange from the Orthodox point of view; and we can say that it’s not at all an Orthodox Life of a Saint.
For one thing, he founded a new manner of life. He invented the rule of poverty because in church one day the Gospel was being preached about poverty, about the Apostles not taking anything with them when they preached, although later on, of course, the Apostles did take with them money and so forth. The first time they went out they went by two’s to the cities preaching to the Jews and took nothing with them. And he heard this in church and became inspired to invent a new rule, a new way of life, a rule of poverty based on the Gospel, as though there was no monastic tradition before him, which there was. And there were many great Saints at this time.
Of course, he could look around, perhaps the monasteries were corrupt and so forth, and he wanted something different. But there’s something already suspicious to think he’s going to do something new, a whole new rule of life, based not on Holy Fathers. And if he didn’t like the recent Latin Fathers, he could have gone back to St. John Cassian, the Egyptian Fathers and so forth, but he didn’t. He went instead to the Gospel, like the Protestants. He went and invented himself a rule of poverty. Nothing special, of course – monks are poor– but he made something special out of it, just as later we’ll see that the Catholics are making something special about the Mother of God as though she’s some kind of unearthly being and so forth.
And he gave it and himself and his followers new names. They were not now to be called just monks, they were the “Penitents of Assisi,” or the ‘Lord’s Minstrels,’ they called themselves, going about singing. So already we see that they think they’re not like previous monks and ascetics, but something new, a new spirit which is very much in accord with the spirit of the times.
There was a time, on Christmas in the year 1223, he decided to celebrate the Nativity in a new manner. And so he reproduced in the church were he was in Italy the stable of Bethlehem. And thus began the so-called devotion to the crib in the Latin Church and around this he had some kind of a play which is beginning of the mystery plays in Italy – and helping thus the rise of the drama. And the drama of course is something which, although it arose from this very same thing, we’re not going to talk about that. The mystery play, which comes from the Liturgy actually, was centered around the Mass and religious themes, and are an adaptation to the new spirit of the times to make religion more interesting, more in accordance with everyday life, more close to the believers, as though Orthodoxy is not enough.
Another aspect of his so-called “sanctity.” One historian of him says, “His very asceticism was often clothed in the guise of romance.“9 So he woos the Lady Poverty, thinks about her as though she’s a real person, and keeps wooing her, as the bridegroom, and of course about Sister Death and all of these personifications.
And a very typical example of something new which is not at all Orthodox is what happened once when he was sick. He ate meat. And an Orthodox person who isn’t a monk maybe might eat meat during sickness or something. If he did he would feel repentant about it, ask God’s forgiveness, and feel that “I’m no good anyway,” and ask that if He would, God forgive him. But not Francis of Assisi. Instead, he went out to preach to the people. There was a large crowd, thousands of people as usual, and he said, “Stop. Everyone stay here until I come back.” And he went to the church nearby, and he forced two of his disciples to do whatever he told them out of obedience. One of them poured over his head ashes, a bucket full of ashes; the second put a rope around his neck and led him out before the people who were all waiting to see what’sg oing to happen. And here comes Francis of Assisi led by a rope with ashes on his black head, and he looks at them and says, “You consider me a saint, but I ate meat when I was sick.”5
By this, he’s making a public display that “I am really supposed to be very holy, and if I made a mistake I got to make up for it so they’ll still think I’m holy.” So we see that he’s already playing the role of a holy man who must appear before the people as pure, whereas a genuine holy man would repent, and it’s all the better if people think he’s bad or evil.[^11]
Fr. H: Well, here’s a good example: the general fools for Christ’s sake, they do exactly the opposite. They act crazy in order to be put down…
Fr. S: And of course, the people who are already having new ideas about sanctity say, “Oh, how humble this man is!” And actually there is fake humility; this is not humility. And in fact the key to his sanctity is pride. He is conscious of himself as being a holy man. He said, “I do not see in myself any sin which I have not expiated by confession and repentance. For the Lord in His mercy has presented me the gift of clearly recognizing at prayer that in which I have been pleasing to Him and that in which I have not been pleasing,” that is, spiritual self-satisfaction.12 “I’m holy; I’ve sinned but I’ve made up for them by a certain number of penances, and making myself, dragging myself before the people, and now I know that I am pure.”
And we can contrast this with any number of Lives of Orthodox Saints, for example, St. Sisoes, who was preparing to die and then lived for a short time longer because, when his disciples asked him, “Why are you coming back?” He said, “An angel told me I was not ready; I must repent even more.” He’s supposed to have lived a holy life, and he said, “I have tried all my life to please God, and now at the end I do not know whether I have pleased Him or not.” And Francis knows that he pleased God. This is the spirit already of the Pharisee.
At his death-bed Francis says, “Behold, God calls me, and I forgive all my brothers both present and absent their offenses and errors, and I remit their sins in so far as this is in my power.” He was not a priest, so even in that indirect sense, he had no power; that is, he had some kind of recognizing in himself the power of sanctity by which he can remit the sins of people, which is totally un-Orthodox. And his last words were, “I have done what I had to do. I return to God. May He have mercy on you.” That is, “I’m perfect; I’ve done it, I’m finished, I’m perfectly justified.” Again, typical of this kind of sanctity is an incident in his life when Christ supposedly appeared to him at prayer and offered him whatever favor he might desire. Already this is romance and all fairy tales – three wishes and so forth. But this kind of familiarity of a saint with God is typical of prelest, spiritual deception. And Francis asked, since he was very much burdened with his love for men, that a plenary indulgence be granted to all who confess and visit his chapel, at the center of his Order.13 And Christ agreed, but said the Pope must ratify it. The Pope did this. And from that day to this on August Second you can get a plenary indulgence by going to his chapel, receiving confession, which means that you will not have to suffer the temporary or temporal consequences for your sins. A whole new system of indulgences of course is exact already in this thirteenth century; it’s already there.
Fr. H: In Metropolia magazine for children, they have a life of St. Francis, Metropolia magazine for children, called Young Life. And Orthodox children receiving this together with St. Seraphim and something else. Can we unite with them?
Fr. S: But there’s one thing more, which is the most striking characteristic of this so-called “sanctiry”; in fact, the most striking characteristic of his deception, that is, he imitated Christ in an outward manner. When he had his first, I believe, seven disciples or perhaps twelve – probably twelve and starts with seven. He took them together, and he sent them by two-and-two to go preach the Gospel: one, two, he went himself to France, supposedly to France, two to someplace else, England, Italy, and so forth. And he used the very words of the Gospel: I am sending you by two-and-two to go and preach the forgiveness of sins. First of all he sent them to Christian countries and only later he sent to non-Christian countries, as if he is teaching a new Gospel, as if this had not already been done, as if he is a new Christ, sending out his own people who are preaching his gospel; because these countries already have their bishops or their priests, the whole system, and he’s sending them into these same countries which already have their Christian government to preach his gospel. Indeed they go and they found the Franciscan Order.
Again, just before he died, he had bread brought to him. He blessed the bread, he had it broken, and it was given to his disciples, and the life of St. Francis says he remembered the sacred meal which the Lord celebrated with His disciples for the last time; consciously giving them a “last supper.”
Again, there is a very interesting thing which happened to him when he received the stigmata, which is the marks of the wounds of Christ, five marks in the hands, in the side, the feet. Before receiving this, which in the Catholic Church is accepted as a real sign of a saint, he prayed that he might suffer what Christ suffered in soul and body and, quote, “that I might as much as possible feel with all my being that limitless love with which Thou didst burn, O Son of God, and which caused Thee to endure so many torments for us sinners.”
This is a brazenness which is unheard of in true Saints: that they want to have God’s love itself, and they want to suffer what He suffered feeling the flesh. This is not spiritual striving. This is a search for bodily sensations and the great pride he felt at wishing to feel the very feelings of God.
And you can contrast this with any – Christ does appear to saints. He appeared to St. Seraphim as he was serving as a deacon in church, and St. Seraphim did not pray, “manifest yourself to me,” or “make me feel what You felt.” He was praying in church; Christ appeared to him. And he did not even want to speak about it.
And then when he [Francis] received the stigmata there was a vision of a seraphim with Christ crucified superimposed on it, which came to him and which we’ll show you in one of their icons of this, shoots out rays, sun rays and gives him the stigmata. And at this time, according to his Life, Francis felt himself totally transformed into Jesus, which is blasphemy. That is the root of the whole of Catholic spirituality: this sweetness that Jesus is approaching, “I am all one with Him and He’s with me” – all this is prelest.
And later, sure enough, his disciples call him the “new Christ.” In one life, it even says, which Ignatius Brianchaninov likes to quote, that when Francis died and was lifted to heaven, God beholding him did not know who was greater, Francis or His own Son.[^14]
This kind of sanctity, spirituality is already much worse than the rationalism of Scholasticism, because this means that – you can have rationalists teaching in your seminaries and still be a holy person, still cling to the source of the spirituality – but when the standard of spirituality itself becomes this deceived, presumptuous thing full of pride, then the root is complete closed off. And so it is, obviously, that this kind of spirituality – and this is already 1200, the end of the eleventh, into the twelfth, even the thirteenth century, a hundred years after the Schism, 150 years later – the concept of spirituality is so different from the East, [that there is] no more contact possible. This is what we call a deceived person. This would be a classical example of a person who is living in prelest.
Well, it’s obvious that this was simply bound up with his, he had a very apparently strong power of imagination. And this we don’t even know the laws of all these kinds of things, but it’s on the side of the corrupt properties. It’s maybe not black magic itself, but it’s very bound up with all that darker realm of the psychic, in which tombs can appear and all kinds of things.
But there’s worse to come. The followers of Francis are very interesting because in them there comes out the logical conclusions of this new kind of spirituality, this new kind of sanctity. They see that there’s some kind of new, even calls him a “new Christ,” some kind of a new spirit enters into the world, new spirituality. And so, it is to one of his disciples, Joachim of Flores,15 that there appears this, actually for the first time, the concept of the Coming of the “Third Age of the Holy Spirit” which is the foundation of all modern philosophies of progress, chiliasm and the New Age. He himself obtained this revelation about this – it was not by thinking it through – it was in a vision. This very interesting book on Meaning in History gives a philosophy of history, of various people from the Middle Ages to modern times. And he says the following about this:
“It was a decisive moment in the history of the Christian church when an Italian abbot, a renowned prophet and saint and man trained in the most austere discipline of the Cisterican Order, after arduous study and meditations in the wilderness of his Calabrian mountains received an inspiration at Pentecost (between 1190 and 1195).” Actually he wasn’t a true disciple of Francis; he was at the same time “revealing to him the signs of the times in the light of St. John’s Revelation.” He says, “When I awoke at dawn, I took to the Revelation of St. John. There, suddenly, the eyes of my spirit were struck with the lucidity of insight, and it was revealed to me the fulfillment of this book and the concordance of the Old and New Testaments.” And he therefore has a whole new interpretation of what is the meaning of the Old and New Testaments.
“The general scheme of Joachim’s discriminating interpretation is based on the Trinitarian doctrine. Three different dispensations come to pass in three different epochs in which the three persons of the Trinity are successively manifested. The first is the dispensation of the Father, the second that of the Son, the third that of the Holy Spirit. [The latter is just beginning now, i.e., toward the end of the twelfth century] and is progressing toward complete ‘freedom’ of the ‘spirit.’ The Jews were slaves under the law of the Father. “The Christians of the second epoch were, though incompletely, spiritual and free, namely, in comparison with the moral legality of the first dispensation. In the third epoch, St. Paul’s prophetic words will come true, that we know and prophesy now only in part, ‘but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.’ (I Cor. 13:9-10)”
And he says, Joachim, “Already he can apprehend the unveiling of the final liberation of the spirit in its plentitude.’ The first epoch was inaugurated by Adam in fear and under the sign of the law; since Abraham, it has borne fruit to become fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The second [was inaugurated by Uzziah in faith and humility under the sign of the gospel;] since Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, it had borne fruit to become fulfilled in future times. The third was inaugurated by St. Benedict” – because he was very monastically oriented – “in love and joy under the sign of the Spirit; it will come to pass with the reappearance of Elijah at the end of the world…” The ages overlap.
Joachim of Floris
3 Ages: the foundation of all modern philosophies of progress and “new age,” chiliasm.[^16]
“The first dispensation is historically an order of the married,” Old Testament” dependent on the Father; the second an order of clerics dependent on the Son; the third an order of monks dependent upon the Spirit of Truth. The first age is ruled by labor and work, the second by learning and discipline, the third by contemplation and praise… The times which have passed before the law, and under grace were as necessary as the coming epoch which will fulfill those preparatory stages; for the fundamental law of the history of salvation is the continuous progress from the time of the Old and New Testament ’letter’ to that of the ‘spirit’ in analogy to the miraculous transformation of water into wine.
“Thus the coming times of the Holy Spirit are successively prefigured in the first and second epochs of the Father and Son, which are strictly concordant, for each figure and event of the Old Testament, if understood spiritually, is a promise and signification of a corresponding figure and event of the New Testament. This correspondence is one of meaning as well as of succession, i.e., certain events and figures of the Old Testament are spiritually contemporary with certain events and figures of the New Testament by having a concordant historical position and significance. Thus, for example, John’s baptism by water reappears intensified in Elijah’s baptism by the fire of the Holy Spirit, which swallows everything carnal and merely of the letter. This whole process of a progressive consummatio is, at the same time, a continuous process of designatio, invalidating the preceding promises and significations. The periods of each dispensation have to be reckoned, however, not by homogenous years but by generations which are concordant not by their length but by their numbers, each of them extending about thirty years. The number 30 has no natural, but a spiritual foundation. It refers to the perfection of the Trinity of the one Godhead and to Jesus who was thirty years of age when he gained his first filii spirituales. According to Joachim’s calculations, (chiefly based on Rev. 11:3 and 12:6; Matt. 1:17) his own generation is the fortieth, and the assumption of his followers was that, after a period of two further generations, that is, in 1260, the climax would be reached, revealing Frederick II as the Antichrist and the Franciscan Spirituals as the providential leaders of the new and last dispensation, which would end with hiatory’s definite consummation by last judgment and resurrection. Within historical time, the goal and meaning of the history of salvation is the uncompromising realization of the evangelical precepts and exhortations, in particular the Sermon on the Mount.
“What is new and revolutionary in Joachim’s conception of the history of salvation is due to his prophetic-historical method of allegorical interpretation. In so far as it is allegorical and typological, it is not new but only a coherent application of the traditional patristic exegesis. But this exegesis served Joachim’s amazingly fertile imagination not for static – i.e., moral and dogmatic – purposes but for a dynamic understanding of revelation through an essential correlation between Scripture and history and between their respective interpretations. The one must explain the other if history, on the one hand, is really sacred and full of religious meaning and if, on the other hand, the gospel is the rotulus in rota or the central axis of the world’s happenings. Granted that history is a history of salvation and that the history of the church is its pattern, then the only fitting key to its religious understanding must be the Sacred Scriptures, the concordance of which proves to Joachim not an absolute doctrine but the meaningful structure of a historical process. On the basis of the simple belief in the inspired character of the Scripture, Joachim could extract from it a strictly religious understanding of history and, on the one hand, discover in actual history the hidden presence of purely religious categories. This attempt to explain history religiously and the Revelation of St. John historically is no more and no less than an intricate elaboration of the Christian presupposition that the church is the body of Christ and that therefore her history is intrinsically religious and not merely a department of the history of the world. And, since the history after
Christ is still on its way and yet revealed as having an end, the fullness of time is not to be conceived traditionally as a unique event of the past but as something to be worked out in future, in the perspective of which the church, from Christ until now, is not an everlasting foundation but an imperfect prefiguration. The interpretation of history thus necessarily becomes prophecy, and the right understanding of the past depends on the proper perspective for the future, in which the preceding significations come to their end. This consummation does not occur beyond historical time, at the end of the world, but in a last historical epoch. Joachim’s eschatological scheme consists neither in a simple millennium nor in the mere expectation of the end of the world but in a twofold eschaton: an ultimate historical phase of the history of salvation, preceding the transcendent eschaton of the new aeon, ushered in by the second coming of Christ. The Kingdom of the Spirit is the last revelation of God’s purpose on earth and in time. Consequently, the institution of the papacy and clerical hierarchy is limited to the second epoch. This implies a radical revision of the Catholic doctrine of succession from St. Peter to the end of the world. The existing church, though founded on Christ, will have to yield to the coming church of the Spirit, when the history of salvation has reached its plenitude. This ultimate transition also implies the liquidation of preaching and sacraments, the mediating power of which becomes obsolete when the spiritual order is realized which possesses knowledge of God by direct vision and contemplation. The real signification of the sacraments is not, as with Augustine, the signification of a transcendent reality but the indication of a potentiality which becomes realized within the framework of history.”
3rd age is the last: chiliasm.[^17]
“Belonging himself to the second epoch, Joachim did not draw any revolutionary conclusions from the implications of his historico-eschatological visions. He did not criticize the contemporary church, nor did his interpretation of the angel of the Apocalypse (Rev. 7:2) and the novus dux [new leader], entitled to ‘renovate the Christian religion,’ mean that he intended a revolutionary reorganization of the existing institutions and sacraments. To him it only meant that a messianic leader was to appear, ‘whosoever it will be,’ bringing about a spiritual renovation for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ, revealing but not abolishing what hitherto has been veiled in significant figures and sacraments. The revolutionary conclusions were drawn later by men of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, by the Franciscan Spirituals, who recognized in Joachim the new John the Baptist, heralding St. Francis at the novus dux of the last dispensation, even as the ’new Christ.’ To them the clerical church was indeed at its end. Rejecting the alleviating distinction between strict precepts and flexible counsels, they made a radical attempt to live a Christian life in unconditional poverty and humility and to transform the church into a community of the Holy Spirit, without pope, clerical hierarchy, sacraments, Holy Scripture, and theology. The rule of St. Francis was to them the quintessence of the gospel. The driving impulse of their movement was, as with Joachim, the intensity of their eschatological expectancy with regard to the present epoch as a state of corruption. The criterion by which they judged the corruption of their times and the alienation from the gospel was the life of St. Francis. And, since Joachim had already expected that within two generations the final battle would be fought between the spiritual order and the powers of evil, his followers could even more definitely interpret the emperor as the Antichrist – eventually, however, as the providential instrument for the punishment of an anti-Christian church which obstructed its own renovation by persecuting the real followers of Christ.”
…people, these people are on the very high level, they’re really crucifying themselves and struggling very hard. Francis didn’t talk much about that.
Then why is there this idea of a Third Age? It is obviously because with the coming of Christ, there is something new in the world. That is, the whole of world history is divided into two epochs, before Christ and after Christ; the preparation of Christ and the consummation. But once one loses the Christian understanding of the spirit of Christ – Christianity as the
preparation for the kingdom of heaven – then this newness leaves one free to speculate.
We see that the Scholastics are reasoning, whatever their logic tells them they come up with. And once you speculate on the idea of newness, you begin to say, “Why can’t we have something new now? Because Christianity itself becomes stale. Our monks have become corrupt.” That’s what Francis was rebelling against. He wanted to have himself a purer poverty. And therefore from the very idea of Christianity, once the idea of Christian tradition is removed, you logically have the idea of a “new” Christianity, some new flowering of wisdom, spirituality, and actually a new revelation. This, again, is the “Grand Inquisitor” of Dostoyevsky, the making of a new Christianity better than Christianity was.
And of course all that time released Protestantism and all the sects of today. And the source for this is no longer the Orthodox tradition, which is lost; the source is either reason or visions. At this time of course we have all these new things arising in the Catholic Church, the new orders: Dominicans, Franciscans, and all the rest, the very idea that this is the normal way. And so these two, Francis and Joachim, will be very influential in later times. People keep coming back to their ideas because they are in the seed period of the modern age.
There are a few other points which are less important but still reveal a very symptomatic outlook of the Middle Ages.
I forgot, about Joachim, he emphasized the fact that this Kingdom of the Spirit is the last revelation, that is, this is the millennium, or chiliasm, the chiliastic expectation. And he used even a phrase, “the Church of the Spirit which was coming.”
We can look at art and see something very interesting, because although iconography, iconographic style never was completely developed in the West, in Italy it was. There was iconographic tradition; and they had many churches in Ravenna and so forth which are in iconographic style. But at this time whatever they had in Italy began to be transformed.
We see already in one who’s considered to be still very much in the Byzantium tradition, supposed to have a little bit of tradition left – there’s a painter called Duccio who lived at the very time of, no, a hundred years after Francis, end of the thirteenth century. We can see from this painting that Christ looks very nice – very serene and calm; it’s obviously Byzantium influence. And already there the faces are beginning to be introducing a little bit of human interest. They are very psychologically drawn nicely.
But it was very pleasing compared with later, you know, bloody crucifixions and so forth; it’s very serene and calm, looks almost Byzantium. that’s Duccio who comes before this great change. And there’s another one of his, two more of his, Crucifixion and a Mother of God with Child. And you see already, look at these faces in the angels, they are people, you look at angels, not cherubs, havent’s got decadent yet, but they’re people who have very definite psychological characteristics, maybe somebody posed for the painting. And you see all kinds of human interest. You know. People are looking various, sad and looking around. And already the model, the type of iconography is being lost. There’s something, kind of new principle coming in. But when you come to the next painter we’ll talk about, the one who was contemporary with, well, actually the same time, because he was preserving more the older sort of style. But there’s a painter who’s most typical of this time called Giotto, who was very closely bound up with Francis because he was commissioned to paint his life in the basilica of Assisi. But in him, one historian says: “Painting was no longer an echo of tradition, but rose at once to the dignity of invention… Art no longer worked on conventional models, abstract and ideal; its models were to be the realities of nature… Representation of real life was to become the object of all painting.”[^18] And therefore it’s called an artistic revolution, and it’s quite fitting that the new saint, new kind of saint has already a new kind of icon, which is no longer an icon but a religious painting. False iconography; false saint gives rise to a false iconography.
He adds many elements from everyday life. This is the beginning of this thing which you see later in the Renaissance painting where all kinds of quaint scenes from everyday life. You even see a Crucifixion of Christ in the heart of Bologna or something like that; this is to show that we’re, combination of upto-dateness and so forth. But you can see from these paintings of Giotto how far away he is even from Duccio. Here is one called the “Mourning of Christ;” if you look at the close-up especially you see that the faces are very…
Fr. H: Vicious.
Fr. S: Sort of vicious and very weird looking. It’s still a religious painting, recognizable, doesn’t have all the (sils?) later on, but already looks very strange, not at all iconographic style. And Francis receiving the stigmata, already it’s (a sort of prelest?); here’s the vision which he got directly from himself…
Fr. H: It’s demonic.
Fr. S: Christ on the seraphim, this weird thing, it’s this demonic thing, it’s an icon of Francis. And this is somewhat at the same time. You see already all these different kinds of faces. He’s obviously trying to capture psychological…
Fr. H: Earthly, earthly.
Fr. S: …earthly aspects of these people. Christ is a still recognizable Christ, but it’s gets all the other people with these passions, these…
Fr. H: That’s not icons. Student: There’s, there’s still a remnant here because you notice the three stars on the Mother of God, still a remnant hanging around.
Fr. S: But we’ll show in a later lecture how, what happened in the Renaissance when art completely went wild. You can see already here the principal of why it, how it starts to lose. The picturesque quaint elements begin to enter in, and the whole idea of an icon being the Saint as he is in heaven is lost. Instead, it’s the Saint as he is on earth, an earthly figure. He even begins to throw all kinds of earthly things in. And in Renaissance we’ll see that even religious art now becomes a vehicle for a different religion entirely.
And a final aspect is, we should touch on very briefly, is the political sphere. The idea of a Byzantium empire was lost. What is the empire? The empire is not some kind of mystical institution; it is rather that political institution which providentially allowed the spreading of Christianity. And once the empire was baptized, became Christian, the emperor was to protect religion for his people and to give the first example of religious life, so that the institutions became Christianized.
In this world, of course, there can never be any perfect Christianization of society, and there was no sort of the romantic idea of making things, you know, perfect society on earth; but, rather that there was an ideal, a heavenly ideal which everything on earth was to imitate. But this ideal was totally lost in the West; of course, there were the political imitations.
First of all, in the 800’s there was the rival empire of Charlemagne that was consciously set up as a rival. The Pope indeed chose Charlemagne over Irene the Easterner who was for the icons, and Charlemagne was against the icons, and also favored the Filioque. Already we see that this is very shaky. And this empire gave rise to what was called the Holy Roman Empire in the West.
And Kireyevsky notes, “We have a Holy Russia because there are holy men in it, called because of holy men, but the holy Roman Empire was holy in itself, because it was not holy men, holy emperors or holy men in it. It was called ‘holy’ because the institution itself was conceived as beinh holy.” And this is an attempt, which will come out very strongly later, at sanctifying the world, in which an earthly institution becomes conceived as something holy.
The Crusades at this time, were, although ostensibly undertaken to drive out the infidels from the East, in their practical effect, the function of them was to subdue the Byzantium Empire and make it in union with the Pope.
But the deepest political idea of all in the Middle Ages was that of the papacy. In fact, the universal monarchy of the Pope. As if from the period just before the Schism somewhere in the eighth to tenth century, there is this false document, “The Donation of Constantine,” at which Constantine supposedly gave the temporal authority to the Pope. And as a result of this, the popes, probably the document aroused, was made as a result of seeing that the Pope was already becoming a political figure. But the result of it was that the Pope himself becomes perceived as a temporal authority, and as a kind of emperor in the West, because the empire in the West was always very weak. And in the chief political authority is actually the Pope. And we even have the theories of medieval thinkers that all the land in the world belongs to the Pope. He only gives it to people, like in the feudal system. Actually, theoretically he owns the world, the land, not just the spiritual part.
The climax of this kind of a point of view is in the jubilee year of 1300. They’re having a jubilee year now  also in Rome. In 1300 there was a jubilee year with the Pope Bonifice VIII who seated himself on the throne of Constantine, arrayed himself with sword, crown, and scepter, and shouted aloud, “I am Caesar. I am Emperor.”[^19] This is not an accident, because this is an indication of something extremely deep in the whole of modern thought, which is the search for a universal monarch, which is Antichrist.
As a conclusion we can say that this spirit we looked at in the painting, politics, theology, philosophy, and spirituality is a spirit of this world, of deception, prelest; of the beginning of all those things which we find so strange in the Western saints, the postschism so-called “saints.” This idle fantasies, sweetnesses, and all kind of sweet, you know, feelings, imaginations…
Fr. H: Earthly.
Fr. S: …which belong to the earth, in which the religious imagination embroiders upon earthly interests. And these make the separation between, or the estrangement between East and West beginning already in the time of Photius and Charlemagne, as we come now to the final separation. And we simply cannot go back and unite with that church unless that church is going to desperately clean itself up. And how can it clean itself up when these things become very deep in their very mentality and the idea of what is a Saint?
At this dawn of modern history, the thirteenth century, all the seeds of modern mentality are present. And modern history follows logically from these seeds. Essentially, it is one thing – the search for a new Christianity which is better than Orthodoxy, better than the Christianity of the Holy Fathers, which Christ gave to us.
Later on, this will take forms which go through atheism and all kinds of wild beliefs, but essentially the search remains the same, and in the end the world will be Christian, because it’s Antichrist who gives them a new religion, which is not something foreign to Christianity. It will not be some kind of paganism. It will be something which everyone will accept as Christianity, but will be anti-christian. A substitute for Christianity which denies the very essence of Christianity.
And that is why the main history of the rebellion against Christ is no less than the apostasy which St. Paul talks about. It is[^13] not by means of persecution as it was in the beginning, but by means of taking Christianity and changing it so that it will no longer be Christian. And this is what we can call the “unfolding of the Mystery of Iniquity” in preparation for Antichrist.
Later we will see some of these main, central themes of the whole of modern history, some of which don’t appear too evident in some epochs. One is this striving for world monarchy, world ruler, bound up with the idea of papacy. Another one is the idea of the sanctification of the world, divinization of the world. That’s the idea of chiliasm, that this world achieves an importance which is spiritual. Holy Roman Empire, Francis with his feeling of being divine.
And the third one and most obvious one is that man replaces God as the criterion of truth. His feeling, his logic. Man replaces God as the criterion for Truth. Later on we will see how, to what extreme limit this goes in the Renaissance and later a whole religion of man; but already in these early ages, man puts himself above tradition, above the divine. And Francis places himself even right together with Christ; he becomes transformed into Christ.
All of this is the preparation for the next lecture which we’ll define, we’ll examine what happened in the Renaissance and Reformation when, as opposed to this thirteenth century, which is considered by the Catholic humanists of today as the peak, really the height of Christianity in the West, and the Renaissance anReformation as getting away from that. We see the Renaissance and Reformation as only proceeding logically the same apostasy which was started by all this new spirituality of the thirteenth century.
Footnotes - Lecture 2
OW #52, Sept.-Oct. 1973, p. 205. Review of European and Moscovite: Ivan Kireyevsky and the Origin of Slavophilism, by Abbott Gleason, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1972. “The mature Orthodox philosophy of Kireyevsky is contained chiefly in his three major essays: ‘In Reply to A.S. Khomiakov’ (1838), ‘On the Character of the Enlightenment of Europe and Its Relation to the Enlightenment of Russia’ (1852), and ‘On the Necessity and Possibility of New Principles for Philosophy.’ (1856.” ↩︎
Kireyevsky, I.V. “On the Character of European Civilization,” in Complete Works of I.V. Kireyevsky, Moscow, 1911, in Russian, vol. 1, pp. 188-189; quoted in The Orthodox Word, No. 79, Mar.-Apr. 1978, p. 69. ↩︎
Ibid., pp. 39-41. ↩︎
Anselm’s Proslogion II-IV, transl. M. J. Charlesworth, Clarendon Press, 1965, Oxford, p. 119-121. ↩︎
Cf. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VI, p. 228: “‘Dearly beloved,’ he once began a sermon following a severe illness, ‘I have to confess to God and you that during Lent I have eaten cakes made with lard.’” [^11]: Cf. Armstrong, April Oursler, St. Francis of Assisi, American R.D.M. Corporation, 1966, p. 54: “By chance, Francis was about to eat meat for dinner. Stephen showed him the new constitution that forbade Friars Minor to eat meat this particular day. Francis, laughing, asked Peter (the jurist)’s legal advice, Peter reminded him that he alone had the right to command the friars. “Then,” shrugged Francis, “let’s eat meat, as benefits the freedom the gospel allows us.” ↩︎