30 June 2009

'I Have Always Imagined That Heaven Will Be a Kind of Library'

It is time for a new book update, particularly since a long-desired volume arrived yesterday which sealed the deal: Alexandros Papadiamandis, The Boundless Garden: Selected Short Stories, Vol. I (Limni, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2007). As my professor has published numerous things on Papadiamandis, including a book hopefully soon to be published in English by my friend Herman Middleton (Anestis Keselopoulos, Greece’s Dostoyvesky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamantis, trans. H. Middleton [Thessaloniki: Protecting Veil, forthcoming]; read about it here), I deemed it politic to familiarise myself with him a bit. Also, from what I’ve read, Papadiamandis just sounds wonderful. See, for example, Felix Culpa’s posts on this book here and here, the latter featuring a link to an online text of one of the stories. But one can also read a review in the TLS, or the posts at biblicalia, The Ochlophobist, or This Side of Glory. Actually, I may be the last Orthodox blogger to acquire and read this book. My tremendous gratitude is due to Fr Luke Hartung for graciously sending this copy, which has muscled its way to the top of my reading list. Order your own from him here (if that doesn’t work, try ordering it directly from the publisher here).

But there is more, dear readers, and indeed, I hardly know where to start! Perhaps with another complimentary review copy: Dionysios Farasiotis, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, trans. and adapt. Hieromonk Alexis (Trader), ed. Philip Navarro (Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2008). Guru is another book that I have acquired shockingly belatedly. In 2004 I actually met the author himself, who was sent to me after everyone else I knew declined to work on editing the original translation. Of course, I was not able to accept the job either, and in the end Farasiotis was persuaded to have it re-translated. This was done by my friend, Fr Alexis, an American monk at Karakallou on the Holy Mountain and the translator of Fr Romanides’s Patristic Theology. The editing of Fr Alexis’s translation was then undertaken by my very good friend, Philip Navarro. I read a good chunk of the original, nearly unreadable translation, and have also looked into the Greek edition a bit (an unattractive book rather hidden at the bottom of one of my less visible bookcases). Furthermore, I contributed directly to the ‘Suggestions for Further Reading’ at the end. But I did not yet have a copy of the completed book until a couple of weeks ago, when Abbot Gerasim of the St Herman of Alaska Monastery (who tells me he must ‘keep on eye on his Logismoi’!), graciously sent me a review copy. Anyway, for those who don’t know, Guru is the story of a young man who was drawn into ‘Eastern’ religions, even travelling to India to become the disciple of several gurus. After many fascinating and terrifying experiences, he was finally brought back to the Orthodox Faith through the prayers and witness of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, one of the great elders of the twentieth century.

Next, there are a few books I’ve discovered at local used bookshops for ridiculously low prices in the field of biblical studies. As a frequent reader of biblicalia and the Voice of Stefan, I find myself constantly wishing I had more biblical studies works, and so when I see them, I have a difficult time resisting. First, there is Amos N. Wilder, Early Christian Rhetoric: The Language of the Gospel (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), constituting Wilder’s Haskell Lectures for 1961-1962 at Oberlin College. Yes, it’s a bit old, but it only cost a few dollars and the topic is certainly one that fascinates me.

Second, I finally acquired a much-needed book on the parables of our Lord (important to my thesis)—Klyne R. Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008). Esteban tells me that if one is only going to buy one book on the parables, this is the one to buy. The list price is $50 and you can buy it on Amazon for $31.50, but I got mine at Aladdin for less than $25 (thanks, Dad!). One of the most interesting things to me is the inclusion with each parable of ‘Helpful Primary Source Material’, including parallels in early Jewish and Greco-Roman writings.

Next, as my posts on the Prophet Job had me newly interested in that book, I eagerly bought The Voice Out of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job, Materials for Analysis, ed. Ralph E. Hone (SF: Chandler, 1960) for $2.95. Although it would probably be dated as a work of critical scholarship, the book remains valuable since it is primarily an anthology of essays on Job by various literary figures, including Kierkegaard, Bacon, Blake, Goethe, and Frost, but also theologians like Calvin and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Lastly, a friend gave me an old copy of William Hersey Davis, Beginner’s Grammar of the Greek New Testament (NY: Harper, 1923). I already had a copy of H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (NY: Macmillan, 1963), but I figured, one can always use more grammars!

Next, I finally got a copy (for $3.95) of Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, rev. ed. (NY: Touchstone, 1972), as part of my efforts to acquire more books on education in anticipation of my daughter beginning her formal studies at a Trivium school this Fall.

Then for $6 I found one of the books that caught my attention in Martin Jaffe’s footnotes—Steven T. Katz, ed., Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (NY: Oxford U, 1978). According to Jaffe, it is an ‘excellent resource for reviewing the state of “mysticism” in academic discourse’, and he continues, ‘I have been deeply influenced by the arguments of several contributors to this volume about the error of defining “mysticism” by its alleged “experiential component” rather than by publicly available information derived from social institutions and texts’ (Inner-Worldly Monasticism: Towards a Model of Rabbinic-Halakhic Spirituality [Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2006], p. 12, n. 1). On Jaffe’s book, see this post.

When I bought Adler’s book, I also got a cheap copy of the third volume in Fr Alexander’s St Symeon the New Theologian series, On the Mystical Life—The Ethical Discourses, Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, written, trans., and ed. Hieromonk Alexander (Golitzin) (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1997). While the first two volumes contain Fr Alexander’s translations of St Symeon, the third consists of a study of—you guessed it—St Symeon’s life, times, and theology. I read most of it in one sitting and was quite taken with it. Among other interesting points, Fr Alexander discusses the tension between the charismatic authority of elders and the institutional authority of the clergy. I continue to hang on Fr Alexander’s every word.

At the same shop that I found many of these others—OKC’s brand-new Half-Price Books—a copy turned up of Fr John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends & Doctrinal Themes (NY: Fordham U, 1979). Better yet, it is a (now) crème-coloured edition, rather than the new purple one I used to see (and refrain from buying) at Borders. It almost looks like it belongs next to my Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies books!

Finally, I have saved the very best for last. Prompted in no small part by Kevin Edgecomb’s breathtaking description of it here, featuring a complete list of the ‘Hypotheses’, I used the money I was recently paid for a proof-reading job by Bishop Maxim to purchase the paperbacks of The Evergetinos: A Complete Text, 4 vols., trans. Archbishop Chrysostomos, et al. (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008). Read Kevin’s post if you want a good reason to order your own. I will just confine myself to one point. Archimandrite Justin (Popović) of blessed memory has written (‘Introduction to the Lives of the Saints’, trans. M.J., Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, trans. Fr Asterios Gerostergios, et al. [Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, 1994], p. 47):

And what else are the Lives of the Saints but the only Orthodox pedagogical science. For in them in a countless number of evangelical ways, which are completely worked out by the experience of many centuries, it is shown how the perfect human personality, the completely ideal man, is built up and fashioned, and how with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues in the Church of Christ he grows into ‘a perfect man, according to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). . . .

If you wish, the Lives of the Saints are a sort of Orthodox Encyclopedia.

While this is a striking truth, demonstrated and illumined by long and frequent reading of the Saints’ Lives themselves, it can be difficult to see at first. One must read carefully and attentively, sifting through the countless stories to discern precisely what the lesson to be learned is. The Evergetinos makes this much, much easier. Carefully chosen and arranged according to the schema of ‘Hypotheses’ by the Blessed Paul of the Evergetis Monastery, this book is nothing less than a literal textbook of Orthodox ‘moral philosophy’, to use St Nicodemus’s expression (‘Prologue’, Evergetinos, Book I, p. xxxiii). Really, all English-speaking Orthodox Christians should get a copy of this amazing spiritual classic, published in an outstanding, beautiful edition by the CTOS.

29 June 2009

'Augustine, and the Rest Who Sit Successively Beneath'

In the aftermath of the initial St Augustine post, I had planned to do a big post on the controversies over his theology (which I’ve touched on briefly here, and slightly more here). But I have changed my mind about this. For one thing, it hardly seems fitting to discuss the errors of a Saint and Father of the Church on the occasion of his feast. Better, is it not, to concentrate on celebrating his memory? Besides, my position on the matter should be clear, both from the posts above, as well as from my frequent reference to Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) in connection with St Augustine but also in general. Suffice to say that I agree with Archimandrite Placide (Deseille) when he says, Ὁ Αὐγουστίνος κάθε ἄλλο παρὰ αἱρεσιάρχης ἦταν, ‘Augustine was anything but a heresiarch’ (‘Ἀποκλίσεις καὶ συγκλίσεις ἀνάμεσα στὴν ὀρθόδοξη καὶ τὴν δυτικὴ παράδοση’, Ἀνατολικὴ καὶ Δυτικὴ Χριστιανοσύνη [Athens: Armos, 2001], p. 24). I also concur with Gilson that 'the history of Augustinianism is by no means the history of the thought of St Augustine' ('The Future of Augustinian Metaphysics', A Gilson Reader: Selections from the Writings of Etienne Gilson, ed. Anton C. Pegis [Garden City, NY: Image], p. 84), and with Olivier Clément that 'it is important today to reinsert his voice into the patristic symphony from which his work was isolated by the barbarian invasions' (The Roots of Christian Mysticism: Text and commentary, trans. Theodore Berkeley, OCSO, rev. Jeremy Hummerstone [London: New City, 1005], p. 312). I will say no more for now!

But I did have at least one more thing that I wanted to post about St Augustine: the question of his relationship to the Divine Comedy. It may seem an odd question at first. The only mentions of the Bishop of Hippo’s name in the whole poem are 1) in Parad. x.120, in which Paulus Orosius is called ‘That pleader for the Christian age, whose learning / Provided lore from which Augustine learned’ (The Comedy of Dante Alighieri the Florentine: Cantica III—Paradise (Il Paradiso), trans. Dorothy L. Sayers and Barbara Reynolds [London: Penguin, 1962], p. 138), and 2) in Parad. xxxii.35, where we read:

The rose in its two sections severeth
With Francis, Benedict, Augustine, and
The rest who sit successively beneath. (p. 335)

Thus, as Peter Hawkins points out, ‘He neither speaks nor is spoken about. It is almost as if, despite his choice seating in paradise, he had been judged to be some minor citizen of the City of God rather than the theologian who described it at such imposing length’ (Dante’s Testaments: Essays in Scriptural Imagination [Stanford, CA: Stanford U, 1999], p. 197). Although, ironically, he doesn’t seem to pick up on the absence from the poem of St Augustine the man as much as John Freccero, of whom he is almost entirely critical, I feel quite certain of how Harold Bloom would explain this. Certainly, since he himself does ‘not hear the voice of God in Augustine’, it is not much surprising that he seems to think Dante doesn’t either (The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages [NY: Riverhead, 1995], p. 79). For Bloom, St Augustine’s absence would be neatly explained by the overriding fact of Dante’s daring triumph over his ‘anxiety of influence’. If, as Bloom believes, Dante’s purpose in writing was first and foremost to assert his own massive ego and impose ‘his vision on Eternity’ (p. 78), since his is a ‘poem that prefers itself to the Bible’, then it is not the least bit surprising that it also ‘prefer[s] itself to Augustine’ (p. 79).

But while it is true that one is hard-pressed—Charles Williams’s valuable approach in The Figure of Beatrice notwithstanding, for even he has difficulties with St Augustine—to see Beatrice, Dante’s ‘own conversionary personage’, as ‘a very Augustinian personage’, Freccero has made an observation right at the start of his study of conversion in Dante (Dante: The Poetics of Conversion [Cambridge, MA: Harvard U, 1986]) that I find to be fraught with significance. In Purgat. xxx.61-3, we read (The Comedy of Dante Alighieri the Florentine: Cantica II—Purgatory (Il Purgatorio), trans. Dorothy L. Sayers [London: Penguin, 1955], p. 308):

So, at the car’s left rail, when thitherward
At sound of my own name I turned to look
(Name that at this point I must needs [di necessità] record),

It is the moment when Dante’s self-assertion is most evident, for he is in direct ‘defiance of medieval convention’, as Freccero himself notes (p. 2). Yet the latter goes on to show that it is precisely here that we find a direct connection to St Augustine’s Confessions, for ‘It happens that in the Convivio Dante had discussed the circumstances under which it might be considered necessary to speak of oneself’ (p. 2). Here is the passage as Freccero gives it:

Speaking of oneself is allowed, when it is necessary [per necessarie], and among other necessary occasions two are most obvious: One is when it is impossible to silence great infamy and danger without doing so . . . The other is when, by speaking of himself, the greatest advantage follows for others by way of instruction; and this reason moved Augustine to speak of himself in his confessions, so that in the progress of his life, which was from bad to good, and from good to better [di buono in migliore], and from better to best, he furnished example [essemplo] and teaching which could not have been obtained from any other equally truthful testimony. (qtd. in Freccero, p. 2-3)

Freccero then drives the point home. He writes, ‘Furthermore, the three stages of Augustine’s progress are described in the Convivio in terms that are partially echoed in the Paradiso’ (p. 3):

’Tis she, Beatrice, she that wafteth so
From good to better [di bene in meglio], with a flight so keen,
The act is done ere time has time to flow.
(Parad. x.37-9; Sayers, p. 136)

I shall quote Freccero’s conclusion about the significance of this passage in full:

The phrase ‘di bene in meglio’, for all of its apparent banality, has technical force, describing the second stage of the pilgrim’s progress. Beatrice is virtually defined here as the guide for the second stage of spiritual progress in terms that the Convivio had used for the second stage of Augustine’s conversion from sinner to saint: ‘di buono in migliore’. It seems likely that in the Convivio Dante perceived in Augustine’s life the same pattern of conversion that he was later to read retrospectively in his own experience. (p. 3)

I find this extremely persuasive. It seems to me that, despite valuable insights, Bloom fails to take into account two closely related things. First, while the desire to aid in the enjoyment of the Comedy by any relatively educated reader is admirable, we should not be at all surprised to find Dante, a mediæval author, ‘so abstrusely learned and so amazingly pious that he can be fully appreciated only by . . . professors’ or their equivalent (Bloom, p. 75). He is in the first place merely a typical example of what C.S. Lewis calls ‘the overwhelmingly bookish or clerkly character of medieval culture’ (The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature [Cambridge: Canto, 2002], p. 5). In the second, isn’t it Dante’s mediæval piety that modern readers have so much trouble ‘mustering enthusiasm’ for and feeling ‘at ease’ with (Mark Doty, ‘Rooting for the Damned’, The Poets’ Dante: Twentieth-Century Responses, ed. Peter S. Hawkins and Rachel Jacoff [NY: Farrar, 2001], p. 375)?

Second, it seems to me that this refusal to believe in Dante’s learning and piety (whether or not they are fairly characterised as ‘abstruse’ and ‘amazing’ respectively) is closely related to a mistake Bloom makes about tradition. He claims, ‘No one can deny that Dante is a supernaturalist, a Christian, and a theologian, or at least a theological allegorist’ (p. 74), but then he points out ‘that originality is not in itself a Christian virtue, and that Dante matters because of his originality’ (p. 85). Surely if Dante is a Christian in any sense, then it is going too far to say that he displays nothing of the Christian humility before tradition, or what Lewis calls the mediæval difficulty in believing ‘that anything an old auctour has said is simply untrue’ (p. 11)? Indeed, Lewis elsewhere concludes that ‘a man whose mind was at one with the mind of the New Testament’ would likely affirm ‘the maxim that an author should never conceive himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of eternal Beauty and Wisdom’ (‘Christianity and Literature’, The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis [NY: Inspirational, 1996], pp. 176, 177).

Unlike Bloom, however, Freccero has taken precisely this into account. Immediately after his remarks about the echo of the Convivio in Parad. x.37-9, he writes:

Dante speaks of Augustine’s life as giving an ‘essemplo’ [see the passage qtd. above from Convivio], implying the transformation of personal experience into intelligible, perhaps even symbolic, form. We may observe in passing that it is the exemplary quality of the Confessions that distinguishes it from its modern descendants. Augustine’s purpose is not to establish his own uniqueness . . . , but rather to demonstrate how the apparently unique experience was, from the perspective of eternity, a manifestation of Providence’s design for all men. . . . The point is that in the ‘then’ of experience, grace came in intensely personal form, whereas in the ‘now’ of witness, the paricular event is read retrospectively as a repetition in one’s own history of the entire history of the Redemption. For both Dante and Augustine the exegetical language seems to structure experience, identifying it as part of the redemptive process, while the irreducibly personal elements lend to the exemplum the force of personal witness. Together, exemplum and experience, allegory and biography, form a confession of faith for other men. (pp. 4-5)

Thus, in my view, Dante need not be read as a proto-Nietzschean prophet to be considered ‘great’, and certainly not to be considered ‘interesting’. One can affirm, with Freccero, ‘There is good evidence, . . . for considering Dante’s poem as a spiritual testament in the manner of Augustine’ (p. 2), and still grant a remarkable originality in the wood as well as the trees of his achievement.

P.S. I'm afraid I must apologise to anyone that was waiting for me to reference Umberto Eco here. I had meant to dig through him for a minute or two to look for anything promising, but didn't get around to it. Perhaps he would have disappointed me anyway!

28 June 2009

'Ignorance of Scripture Is Ignorance of Christ'—St Jerome of Stridonium

Apart from St Augustine, Vidovdan (meaning not only the Martyr Vitus, but St Lazar of Serbia and the Battle of Kosovo), and (in ROCOR) the Saints of North America, today is also the feastday of St Jerome of Stridonium (347-420), the translator of the Latin Vulgate which became the Bible of the West for centuries. Fr John McGuckin calls St Jerome (his full name was Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus) ‘perhaps the most important biblical scholar of the early Western church’ (The SCM A-Z of Patristic Theology [London: SCM, 2005], p. 187). St John Cassian, in his treatise Against Nestorius, calls him ‘Jerome, the Teacher of the Catholics, whose writings shine like divine lamps throughout the whole world’ (Against Nestorius, 7.26). Here is the brief account of St Jerome’s life in Bulgakov’s Handbook:

He was born in 330 in the city of Strido within the territory of Dalmatia and Pannonia of pious and wealthy parents. Seeking an education, he visited Rome (having studied classical wisdom here), Gaul and other place. Having experienced the shallowness of secular life, he went to the east in 373 and in Antioch he accepted the vocation of a priest and began the labor of translation and explanation of Holy Scripture, while leading herewith the strict life of a hermit. During a visit to Constantinople, he heard St Gregory the Theologian and translated the Commentaries of Origen on the books of the Prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Having returned to Rome in 382, through his labors and asceticism he acquired a group of admirers and through his teaching contributed much to the correction of the morals of effeminate Rome. Having again settled in Palestine in 385, in a nearby cave in Bethlehem, he completed his translation of Holy Scripture into Latin and wrote his commentary on the New Testament, having studied the Hebrew and Chaldean [Aramaic] languages for this purpose. He died on September 30, 420. In 642 his relics were transferred from Bethlehem to Rome and placed in the Santa Maria Maggiore Church. It is not known where these relics are now. His honorable hand is in the church of his name in Rome.

It is interesting to me to note the enormous popularity of St Jerome among Renaissance and Counter-Reformation artists (for evidence, do a Google image search for ‘Saint Jerome’, check out this small gallery, or see the many images accompanying the Wikipedia article ‘Jerome’). Two items of note are, first, the anachronism of the cardinal’s hat and robes, and second, the presence of the lion, which, as Derwas Chitty points out, Jerome ‘was to filch from [St Gerasimus] through the ignorance of Latin pilgrims many centuries after they were both dead’ (The Desert a City [Crestwood, NY: SVS, p. 90; see my post on St Gerasimus where I discuss this here). It’s also true generally, that, as Megan Hale Williams points out, ‘No more can we imagine Jerome at work by thinking of a medieval author-portrait, the frontispiece of a Gospel for example, than we can by calling to mind an Attic funerary stele or a fresco from Pompeii advertising the culture of its wealthy subject. Jerome’s literary monasticism was a thoroughly late antique phenomenon’ (The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship [Chicago: U of Chicago, 2006], p. 169). But keeping all this in mind, I can’t help but rather enjoy many of these portraits of the ascetic-scholar in a study or cave, producing those works and translations for which he is so justly renowned.

One particular masterpiece is Albrecht Dürer’s engraving, St Jerome (right), which Dame Frances Yates has argued should be read as the third in his ‘Melencolia’ series, representing the third grade in Cornelius Agrippa’s ‘inspired melancholy’ (The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age [London: Routledge, 2001], pp. 68-9). Erwin Panofsky describes St Jerome’s cell as a ‘place of enchanted beatitude’ where the space is ‘impeccably correct from a mathematical point of view’ (qtd. in Yates, p. 68). In this cell, to borrow Agrippa's words about melancholy, St Jerome ‘learns the secrets of divine matters’ (qtd. in Yates, p. 69).

As an obvious fan of secular literature (try looking up the literature category of this blog!), it is important for me to note that St Jerome is one witness for the higher path of devoting oneself to the study of the Scriptures. He tells quite the harrowing tale in his 22nd Letter, ‘To Eustochium’ (here):

30. Many years ago, when for the kingdom of heaven’s sake I had cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and—harder still—from the dainty food to which I had been accustomed; and when I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome with great care and toil. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast only that I might afterwards read Cicero. After many nights spent in vigil, after floods of tears called from my inmost heart, after the recollection of my past sins, I would once more take up Plautus. And when at times I returned to my right mind, and began to read the prophets, their style seemed rude and repellent. I failed to see the light with my blinded eyes; but I attributed the fault not to them, but to the sun. While the old serpent was thus making me his plaything, about the middle of Lent a deep-seated fever fell upon my weakened body, and while it destroyed my rest completely—the story seems hardly credible—it so wasted my unhappy frame that scarcely anything was left of me but skin and bone. Meantime preparations for my funeral went on; my body grew gradually colder, and the warmth of life lingered only in my throbbing breast. Suddenly I was caught up in the spirit and dragged before the judgment seat of the Judge; and here the light was so bright, and those who stood around were so radiant, that I cast myself upon the ground and did not dare to look up. Asked who and what I was I replied: I am a Christian. But He who presided said: Thou liest, you are a follower of Cicero and not of Christ. For ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Matt. 6:21). Instantly I became dumb, and amid the strokes of the lash—for He had ordered me to be scourged—I was tortured more severely still by the fire of conscience, considering with myself that verse, In the grave who shall give you thanks? Yet for all that I began to cry and to bewail myself, saying: Have mercy upon me, O Lord: have mercy upon me. Amid the sound of the scourges this cry still made itself heard. At last the bystanders, falling down before the knees of Him who presided, prayed that He would have pity on my youth, and that He would give me space to repent of my error. He might still, they urged, inflict torture on me, should I ever again read the works of the Gentiles. Under the stress of that awful moment I should have been ready to make even still larger promises than these. Accordingly I made oath and called upon His name, saying: Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books, or if ever again I read such, I have denied You. Dismissed, then, on taking this oath, I returned to the upper world, and, to the surprise of all, I opened upon them eyes so drenched with tears that my distress served to convince even the incredulous. And that this was no sleep nor idle dream, such as those by which we are often mocked, I call to witness the tribunal before which I lay, and the terrible judgment which I feared. May it never, hereafter, be my lot to fall under such an inquisition! I profess that my shoulders were black and blue, that I felt the bruises long after I awoke from my sleep, and that thenceforth I read the books of God with a zeal greater than I had previously given to the books of men.

I find here an important lesson which I feel we must not explain away, gloss over, or, worse yet, dismiss. Although I think it is possible to read Cicero without being his follower, it strikes me that 1) this can be very difficult, as proved by St Jerome’s example, and 2) even if we can so read him, we do better to avoid such distractions. As St Jerome himself famously wrote in the preface to his commentary on Isaiah (I found it here), ‘Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.’ Not so, ignorance of Shakespeare. While there can be good reasons to read, and many potential benefits to reading secular literature, we must be careful that we are not simply justifying our own whims and pleasures, particularly if we are indeed neglecting ‘the better part’.

I will pass on one more lesson from St Jerome, equally uncompromising, this from his Life of St Paul of Thebes (Carolinne White, trans., Early Christian Lives [London: Penguin, ], pp. 83-4):

17 At the end of this little work I would like to ask those who own so much land that they do not know it all, those who cover their homes in marble, those who thread the wealth of whole estates on one string, ‘What did this old man [St Paul of Thebes] ever lack, naked as he was? You drink from jewelled cups but he was satisfied with the cupped hands that nature had given him. You weave gold into your tunics but he did not even have the shabbiest garment belonging to your slave. But then, paradise lies open to him, poor as he was, while hell will welcome you in your golden clothes. He was clothed with Christ despite his nakedness: you who are dressed in silks have lost the garment of Christ. Paul who lies covered in the vilest dust will rise again in glory: heavy stone tombs press down upon you, you who will burn together with your wealth. Have a care, I ask you, for yourselves, have a care at least for the riches you love. Why do you wrap your dead in cloths of gold? Why does your ostentation not cease amidst the grief and tears? Or are the corpses of the rich unable to rot except in clothes of silk?’

18 I beg you, whoever you are who reads this, to remember the sinner Jerome: should the Lord grant him his wish, he would far rather choose Paul’s tunic, together with his rewards, than the purple robes of kings, together with their punishments.

For more on St Jerome, see this post, and this one. There is a nice appreciation of St Jerome’s letters, particularly ‘To Eustochium’, here, and Felix Culpa has posted some lovely and revealing comments of St Jerome on Galatians 5:22-23 here. I also recommend this post at The Summa Mamas for the nice colouring of Dürer’s engraving as well as the cute poem dealing with some of the oft-noted foibles of the Saint. Finally, I would be remiss not to point out Kevin Edgecomb’s no doubt inspired translations of St Jerome’s own Prologues to the various books of the Vulgate, here.

Although I have no reason to believe he would ever condescend to read this blog, today is the nameday of His Grace, Bishop Jerome of Manhattan (ROCOR's own scholarly polyglot!), and I would like to wish ‘Many years!’ to His Grace.

'Namesake of Virtue or Rule of Repentance'—Blessed Augustine of Hippo

Today, 15 June on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the memory of Blessed Augustine of Hippo (354-430). As Fr Seraphim (Rose) has demonstrated so clearly, St Augustine has been regarded as a Father of the Church by the East and the West almost since his own lifetime (The Place of Bl Augustine in the Orthodox Church [Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1996], pp. 51-81). His disciple and biographer, Possidius, tells how he renounced his possessions and lived ‘with those who had also consecrated themselves to God, in fastings and prayers and good works, meditating day and night in the Law of the Lord.’ Possidius concludes, ‘And the things which God revealed to him through prayer and meditation, he taught both those present and absent in his sermons and books.’ St Faustus of Riez (c. 405-c. 495), an opponent of some of St Augustine’s teaching, calls the Bishop of Hippo beatissimus pontifex Augustinus, and even wrote a homily for his feast day (Fr Seraphim, p. 56). In the same century, the historian Gennadius Scholasticus wrote in his De Viris Illustribus 39 (here):

Augustine, of Africa, bishop of Hipporegensis, a man renowned throughout the world for learning both sacred and secular, unblemished in the faith, pure in life, wrote works so many that they cannot all be gathered. For who is there that can boast himself of having all his works, or who reads with such diligence as to read all he has written?

Although little known in the East for centuries, Fr Seraphim has pointed out that the Fifth Œcumenical Council (Constantinople, 553) refers to him as ‘Augustine, of most religious memory, who shone forth resplendent among the African bishops’ (p. 62). More recently, the great Kollyvades Father and editor of the Philokalia, St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, approvingly cites τά τοῦ μακαρίου Αὐγουστίνου . . . λόγια (Συμβουλευτικὸν Ἐγχειρίδιον [Athens: Panagopoulos, 2001], p. 287), saying that his words ‘can stir the heart to such love’ (A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, trans. Fr Peter Chamberas [NY: Paulist, 1989], p. 223).

St Augustine is of course most lauded, East and West, for his Confessions. Fr Seraphim has written quite insightfully on the importance of this work:

And Bl Augustine has something indeed to teach our ‘precise’ and ‘correct’—but cold and unfeeling—generation of Orthodox Christians. The exalted teaching of the Philokalia is now ‘in fashion’; but how many who read this book have first gone through the ‘ABC’s’ of profound repentance, warmth of heart, and genuine Orthodox piety that shine through every page of the justly-renowned Confessions of Augustine? This book, the history of Bl Augustine’s own conversion, has by no means lost its significance today; fervent converts will find in it much of their own path through sin and error to the Orthodox Church, and an antidote against some of the ‘convert temptations’ of our own times. Without the fire of authentic zeal and piety which the Confessions reveal, our Orthodox spirituality is a sham and a mockery, and partakes of the spirit of the coming Antichrist as surely as the doctrinal apostasy that surrounds us on all sides. (pp. 88-9)

The Confessions have also received much attention in secular scholarship, but unfortunately, while Fr Seraphim praises them for the profound repentance that is their central focus, it is primarily the psychology of the author that has become of interest recently. In his essay, ‘Augustine and Athanasius’ (The Image of the City and Other Essays, ed. Anne Ridler [London: Oxford U, 1970], pp. 89-91), Charles Williams observes—

Nowadays we read Shakespeare to discover that he suffered from insomnia; we read the Cloud of Unknowing to discover that its author was ‘a lovable man’; we remark with appreciative sympathy Augustine praying: ‘Give me chastity, but not yet.’ We are not, however, nearly so appreciative of the chastity which he undoubtedly got. . . . But the climax of the book—the mere literary climax as a book—is only by accident in the personal Augustine at all, even the chaste Augustine. It was certainly not by accident that he made his story end with the tenth book of the Confessions and that the last three books deal with the account of the creation of the world, in Genesis. This was the full and great conclusion. Augustine was issuing into a true and significant world of which Genesis gave a mystical account. That is the whole point, and not to feel it so is to be a bad literary critic. (p. 90)

While the Confessions is justly famous, and I believe, rightly regarded as St Augustine’s most important work (Fr Seraphim points out that Archbishop Philaret of Chernigov also highly regarded ‘his Soliloquies; his treatises, letters and sermons on monastic struggle and the virtues, on care for the dead, on prayer to the saints, on the veneration of relics’, p. 80), it is important to note that St Augustine’s complete corpus is intimidating in its enormity. Fr John McGuckin observes that his writings ‘became, of course, his own form of ascetical exercise. The great extent of his work made him function as an encyclopaedic theological authority for the next millennium in the West’ (The SCM Press A-Z of Patristic Theology [London: SCM, 2005], p. 41). For example, George Mantzarides points out the importance of St Augustine’s theory of time, in which he is not truly succeeded until Leibnitz in the 17th and 18th centuries (Time and Man, trans. Julian Vulliamy [South Canaan, PA: STS, 1996], pp. 10-12), and even Bertrand Russell writes of St Augustine's reference to time, ‘It contains a better and clearer statement than Kant’s of the subjective theory of time—a theory which, since Kant, has been widely accepted among philosophers’ (qtd. here).

Sadly, the great Church of North Africa which St Augustine served so faithfully as a bishop is no more. Newman has described its waste in moving prose, but he finds the note of hope in this appealing Saint (John Henry Newman, The Church of the Fathers [London: J.G.F. & J. Rivington, 1840], p. 224):

The desolation which, at that era, swept over the face of Africa [after the Vandal invasion], was completed by the subsequent invasion of the Saracens. Its five hundred churches are no more. The voyager gazes on the sullen rocks which line its coasts, and discovers no token of Christianity to cheer the gloom. Hippo has ceased to be an episcopal city; but its great teacher, though dead, yet speaks; his voice is gone out into all lands, and his words unto the ends of the world. He needs no dwelling-place, whose home is the Catholic Church; he fears no barbarian or heretical desolation, whose creed is to last unto the end.

It is difficult to decide what to quote here from the works of a man whose corpus is so vast (I have already posted one of my favourite passages of the Confessions here). One that I have decided upon however is a passage cited by St Nicodemus (Fr Chamberas gives the citation as ‘Quaestionibus 35’ [p. 227, n. 77], but I can’t find it there), which I shall give as Fr Chamberas has translated it from the Greek:

O true light, marvelous light, light beyond praise, light that illumines the eyes of the angels! Behold, I see! I thank you! Behold, I see the light of heaven. A ray from the light of your face illumines from above the eyes of my understanding and makes my whole being rejoice. Increase this light, I pray, O Provider of Light. Increase the light shining in me: Make this light broader; make it more abundant, I pray. What is this fire that is burning in my heart? What is this that I am feeling? What is this light that is illumining my heart? O light ever burning and unwaning, illumine me! It is an advantage to be lit by you! O holy light, how do you burn with sweetness? How do you shine inexplicably? How do you create the desire in us to be enflamed? Alas, for those who are not lit by you! (St Nicodemus, Handbook, p. 223)

Second, I’d like to cite an interesting passage (complete with a little poetry!) from what Peter Brown has called the ‘astonishing Book of Ten’ of The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods (NY: Modern Library, 1950). Here is De Civitate Dei 10.21:

The power delegated to the demons at certain appointed and well-adjusted seasons, that they may give expression to their hostility to the city of God by stirring up against it the men who are under their influence, and may not only receive sacrifice from those who willingly offer it, but may also extort it from the unwilling by violent persecution;—this power is found to be not merely harmless, but even useful to the Church, completing as it does the number of martyrs, whom the city of God esteems as all the more illustrious and honoured citizens, because they have striven even to blood against the sin of impiety. If the ordinary language of the Church allowed it, we might more elegantly call these men our heroes. For this name is said to be derived from Juno, who in Greek is called Hêrê, and hence, according to the Greek myths, one of her sons was called Heros. And these fables mystically signified that Juno was mistress of the air, which they suppose to be inhabited by the demons and the heroes, understanding by heroes the souls of the well-deserving dead. But for a quite opposite reason would we call our martyrs heroes—supposing, as I said, that the ussage of ecclesiastical language would admit of it—not because they lived along with the demons in the air, but because they conquered these demons or powers of the air, and among them Juno herself, be she what she may, not unsuitably represented, as she commonly is by the poets, as hostile to virtue, and jealous of men of mark aspiring to the heavens. Virgil, however, unhappily gives way, and yields to her; for, though he represents her as saying, ‘I am conquered by Æneas’ (Æneid, vii. 310), Helenus gives Æneas himself this religious advice:

Pay vows to Juno: overbear
Her queenly soul with gift and prayer.
(Æneid, iii. 438, 439)

In conformity with this opinion, Porphyry—expressing, however, not so much his own views as other people’s—says that a good god or genius cannot come to a man unless the evil genius has been first of all propitiated, implying that the evil deities had greater power than the good; for, until they have been appeased and give place, the good can give no assistance; and if the evil deities oppose, the good can give no help; whereas the evil can do injury without the good being able to prevent them. This is not the way of the true and truly holy religion; not thus do our martyrs conquer Juno, that is to say, the powers of the air, who envy the virtues of the pious. Our heroes, if we could so call them, overcome Hêrê, not by suppliant gifts, but by divine virtues. As Scipio, who conquered Africa by his valour, is more suitably styled Africanus than if he had appeased his enemies by gifts, and so won their mercy. (pp. 325-6)

In conclusion, I would point out the wonderful Akolouthia for St Augustine ‘compiled’ by Archimandrite Ambrose (Pogodin) ‘upon the request of’ St John (Maximovich) the Wonderworker (see Fr Seraphim, p. 138). Here is one of the stichera in Tone 4 at the Lauds of Matins:

What shall we now call thee, O Augustine? Great Hierarch or glory of monastics; excellent shepherd or boast of fasters; powerful exposer of heresies or true instructor of meeknesss; namesake of virtue or rule of repentance; zealot of philosophy or glory of hermits; good lover of the poor or one who hath finally abandoned the world? Beauty of monastics, foundation of hierarchs, instructor of the love of wisdom; pray that our souls be saved. (Fr Seraphim, p. 137)

27 June 2009

'The Shame of Cassova'?

As an addendum to the posts about St Lazar and the Battle of Kosovo, I return to one of my favourite novels. There is an interesting, passing reference to Kosovo in Dracula, where Stoker (or perhaps the Count?) and Leonard Wolf in his note on the passage seem to me to misinterpret the significance of Kosovo among the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. In the course of his rousing late-night history lesson, the Count says to Jonathan Harker (Bram Stoker, The Annotated Dracula, ed. Leonard Wolf, illust. Sätty [NY: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975], p. 31):

Who more gladly than we throughout the Four Nations received the ‘bloody sword’, or at its warlike call flocked quicker to the standard of the King? When was redeemed that great shame of my nation, the shame of Cassova, when the flags of the Wallach and the Magyar went down beneath the Crescent, who was it but one of my own race [John Hunyadi, Wolf suggests—p. 32, n. 19] who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed!

It strikes me that it is rather idiosyncratic of Dracula to call Kosovo ‘that great shame of my nation’, when the Serbs themselves held it to be either glorious—‘Everything was holy and honorable, and acceptable to gracious God’ say the poets (qtd. in Fr Justin [Popović], ‘Life of the Holy and Great Martyr Tsar Lazar of Serbia’, The Mystery and Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo, trans. Fr Todor Mika & Fr Stevan Scott [Grayslake, IL: New Gračanica, 1989], p. 39)—or at least in keeping with the tragic nature of things (per Simic). Unfortunately, the problem is compounded by Wolf’s note, where he quotes William Stearns Davis to the effect that ‘the battle of Kossova had proved that it was beyond the power of the Balkan people to turn the intruders come out of Asia’ (qtd. in Stoker, p. 32, n. 17). Clearly this was not the Serbs’ understanding of the battle.

The Mystery & Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo

It is unfortunate that the traditional understanding of the Battle of Kosovo among the Serbs and the whole cult of St Lazar (expressed in the Kosovo poem quoted in my earlier post) has today come under attack in the irreligious, liberal West. It is commonly described as a sort of ‘national myth’ supposedly used to somehow justify militant nationalism and even genocide (of which the Serbs are supposed to be inveterate perpetrators). Of course, there is no denying that Romantic nationalism—which was to have its ugliest flower in Nazism—has more or less effected all of the European nations, and has thus come to play a rôle in many Serbs’ memory of their nation’s past. But it is surely obvious that such nationalism is in direct contradiction to the lessons of Kosovo itself! In his ‘Life of the Holy and Great Martyr Tsar Lazar of Serbia’ (The Mystery and Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo: Selected Writings of Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich and Archimandrite Justin Popovich, trans. Fr Todor Mika and Fr Stevan Scott, Vol. 3 in A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality [Grayslake, IL: Free Serbian Orthodox Diocese of the USA and Canada, 1989], pp. 1-44), Fr Justin (Popović) of Chelje writes:

Saint Sava’s ideal and plan for his whole nation was: ‘Give up everything for Christ, but Christ for nothing.’ No one has ever realized this ideal and plan to such a full extent as the holy and great martyr, Tsar Lazar. He brought it about for his whole nation when he decided in favor of the Heavenly Kingdom and offered up himself as a sacrifice on the field of Kosovo, together with the whole Serbian people. He did this from the purely evangelic reasons recorded in our folk epic: ‘The earthly kingdom lasts only for a brief time, / But the heavenly kingdom always and forever.’ (p. 2)

Although he interprets the poems’ view of things in terms of a rather pagan tragedy as opposed to the ‘Evangel’, Charles Simic perceptively observes in his Preface to the Kosovo Cycle, ‘In the eyes of the universe, the poems tell us, the most cherished tribal ambitions are nothing. Even the idea of statehood is tragic.’ Furthermore, for all of the problems with the lessons she draws from the Battle of Kosovo, Dame Rebecca West staunchly defends the simple ‘nationalism’ of the Serb peasants in a moving passage of her classic travelogue, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia (NY: Viking, 1943). When two little boys speak to her of ‘the glorious ancient Serbian Empire, of its shameful destruction by the Turks at Kossovo, of the agonizing captivity that lasted five centuries, of the liberation offered through courage by the Serbian people, and the founding of Yugoslavia, that should be as glorious as ancient Serbia’, and begin to sing a song about Vidovdan, she writes:

The little boys looked noble and devout as they recited. Here was the nationalism which the intellectuals of my age agreed to consider a vice and the origin of the world’s misfortunes. I cannot imagine why. . . . There is not the smallest reason for confounding nationalism, which is the desire of a people to be itself, with imperialism, which is the desire of a people to prevent other peoples from being themselves. (p. 842-3)

But even if one holds, as I do, that the Romantic movement in a sense ‘contaminated’ the natural, traditional ‘nationalisms’ of Europe, how can one possibly find such a contamination in the Kosovo Cycle itself? The kingdoms of this world fall and pass away, but the Heavenly Kingdom is eternal (a point Fr Milovan Katanić has touched on in a recent post). What could be less ‘nationalistic’ than that?

HT to Fr Milovan for this awesome icon!

'How Beautiful Is Your Purchase'—Holy Greatmartyr Tsar Lazar of Serbia

Tomorrow, 15 June on the Church’s calendar, is the feastday of the Holy and Great Martyr Tsar Lazar of Serbia (1329-1389), whom we at my parish are celebrating today so as not to interfere with the ROCOR celebration of All Saints of North America on Sunday. St Nicholas (Velimirović) calls St Lazar ‘one of the greatest men of Serbia who ruled the kingdom after King Dušan’ (The Prologue from Ochrid, Part II: April, May, June, trans. Mother Maria [Birmingham: Lazarica, 1986], p. 317). Patriarch Danilo III, whose Слово о Кнезу Лазару (1392/1393) is an important contemporary source on St Lazar and the Battle of Kosovo, writes (Fr Mateja Matejić and Dragan Milivojević, trans., An Anthology of Medieval Serbian Literature in English [Columbus: Slavica, 1978], p. 123):

He spent his life in pursuing different acts of virtue, modesty, and good deeds. He was very modest, mild, generous fair, like few other men. He was not like a rule, but like a father with his children, instructing and directing them. Archbishops, priests, and monks were paid homage; old men were respected according to the Epistles; noblemen were met; the young were instructed and were given love. He defended those who were victims of injustice. His eyes showed compassion, and his hand was outstretched and ready to give. Those who did not have any clothes were warmly clad; strangers were housed; the weak were comforted; and the faraway monasteries were provided with necessities. He was all things to all people, desiring in his heart from youth to acquire the Holy Spirit itself. Cities and churches were built and renovated, and others were erected and consecrated to the glory, praise, and honor of our Lord and salvation, Jesus Christ, thereby strengthening the might of his fatherland and his Christian nation.

But of course it is chiefly for his death that St Lazar is remembered. The Great Prince’s beheading at the hands of the Muslim Turks, and the Battle of Kosovo which preceded it, are the subject of the greatest poems of the Serbian language, known as the ‘Kosovo Cycle’ (see a translation by John Matthias and Vladeta Vuckovic with a moving Preface by Charles Simic here). Here is the central passage of the Serbs’ traditional account of their defeat, a spiritual interpretation of an historical event that has shaped their national psyche to this day:

Yes, and from Jerusalem, O from that holy place,
A great gray bird, a taloned falcon flew!
And in his beak he held a gentle swallow.
But wait! it's not a falcon, this gray bird,
It is a saint, Holy Saint Eliyah:
And he bears with him no gentle swallow
But a letter from the Blessed Mother.
He brings it to the Tsar at Kosovo
And places it upon his trembling knees.
And thus the letter itself speaks to the Tsar:
‘Lazar! Lazar! Tsar of noble family,
Which kingdom is it that you long for most?
Will you choose a heavenly crown today?
Or will you choose an earthly crown?
If you choose the earth then saddle horses,
Tighten girths—have your knights put on
Their swords and make a dawn attack against
The Turks: your enemy will be destroyed.
But if you choose the skies then build a church—
O, not of stone but out of silk and velvet—
Gather up your forces take the bread and wine,
For all shall perish, perish utterly,
And you, O Tsar, shall perish with them.’
And when the Tsar has heard those holy words
He meditates, thinks every kind of thought:
‘O, Dearest God, what shall I do, and how?
Shall I choose the earth? Shall I choose
The skies? And if I choose the kingdom,
If I choose an earthly kingdom now,
Earthly kingdoms are such passing things—
A heavenly kingdom, raging in the dark, endures eternally.’
And Lazarus chose heaven, not the earth,
And tailored there a church at Kosovo—
O not of stone but out of silk and velvet—
And he summoned there the Patriarch of Serbia,
Summoned there the lordly twelve high bishops:
And he gathered up his forces, had them
Take with him the saving bread and wine.
As soon as Lazarus has given out
His orders, then across the level plain
Of Kosovo pour all the Turks.

St Lazar’s son, Tsar Stefan Lazarević, had a memorial column inscribed at the site of the battle with a description of the events that took place there. Addressing any man ‘who enters the Serbian land’, the son calls his father ‘the soundest tower of devoutness who possessed the widest expanse of good sense and depth of wisdom’, and then of the battle:

What Christ wanted, he loved; and to that cause, by his own will, he sacrificed himself and all of his men under his command: brave heroes, courageous heroes, real heroes, in word and deed. They glittered like bright stars in the sky as the earth glimmers with motley flowers, dressed in gold and adorned with precious stones. There were many chosen heroes whose saddles were in gold, and they had the most magnificent and graceful riders. Like a good shepherd and leader of the most noble and glorious, he wisely led his lambs, endowed with reason, to die in Christ and to accept the crown of suffering and participate in heavenly glory. So together, the multitude of warriors with the good and great master, with courageous souls and with the soundest faith, rushed at the enemy as they would into a splendid hall with a many-flavored feast. They trampled underfoot the living snake and they killed the wild beast and the great enemy, the infernal and insatiable glutton Amurar [the Sultan Murad] and his son: the offspring of the elder and the reptile, the lion’s puppy and that of Vasilisk, and with them killed many others. Oh wonders, what a judgment of God! The courageous fighters were seized by criminal Agaren (Turkish) hands, and he accepted well the end of his suffering, thus becoming Christ’s martyr, the great prince Lazar. For he was cut down by none else, oh my loved ones, but by the very hand of that murderer, Amurat’s son [Bayezid I]. All this mentioned above happened in the year 1389, in the twelfth period of fifteen years, on the fifteenth day of the month of June, on Tuesday at six or seven o’clock, I do not know (exactly—God only knows). (Fr Matejić and Milivojević, pp. 132-3)

Concerning the death of Murad, while there is some uncertainty among historians about the details of his slaying in the Kosovo Cycle, John V.A. Fine, Jr. concludes, ‘We do not know whether there had actually been any accusations [of treachery] in the Serbian camp before the battle, but it is a fact that a Serb named Milo Obilić (or Kobilić) did desert and murder the sultan [with a knife hidden in his garments, according to the poems]’ (The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest [Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 1994], p. 410). Fine also comments on the traditional understanding of Kosovo as a crushing defeat, that the ‘wild battle’ which followed Murad’s murder (concealed from the Turkish troops to preserve their morale) ‘resulted in the bulk of both armies being wiped out’ (italics mine—Fine, p. 410). It was a decisive defeat for the Serbs, however, because they ‘had brought to Kosovo close to the total of their fighting strength’, while the Turks, despite losing ‘a vast number of troops . . . , had many more troops in the east’, and ‘were able to continue their successful push into the Balkans’ after withdrawing for a time (Fine, p. 410).

St Lazar’s holy relics were ‘solemnly translated’ into the Ravanica Monastery, which he himself had founded, where they remained until 1690 (Fr Justin [Popović], ‘The Life of the Holy and Great Martyr Tsar Lazar of Serbia’, The Mystery and Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo: Selected Writings of Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich and Archimandrite Justin Popovich, trans. Fr Todor Mika and Fr Stevan Scott, Vol. 3 in A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality [Grayslake, IL: Free Serbian Orthodox Diocese of the USA and Canada, 1989], p. 31). At that time, they were taken by the Serbs in a mass migration to Szentendre, Hungary, before being returned to Serbia, remaining at the New Ravanica Monastery in the Fruška Gora until WWII, when they were translated to the cathedral in Belgrade (Fr Justin, p. 32). Finally, on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1989, the precious relics were again translated to Ravanica, where they remain today.

In conclusion, I shall quote several stanzas of the ‘Canon to Prince Martyr Lazar’ by an anonymous monk of Ravanica, translated by Fr Matejić and Milivojević, pp. 112-19:

Even though we, your commemorators,
may not be able to praise you fittingly;
nevertheless, according to our ability,
we are weaving a new hymn
honoring your glorious memory,
telling of your life and martyrdom.
Being a loving father,
accept this praise,
disregarding its weakness. (p. 112)

Of the God-pleasing life of Job of Uz,
your virtuous life reminds us;
you excelled in knowledge and wisdom.
Adorned with modesty
and shining with the nobility of your life,
you later received,
O Lazarus,
even more precious gifts. (p. 114)

O holy one,
how beautiful is your purchase,
how wonderful your trade:
with transitory and insignificant glory
you have purchased the eternal one.
Enjoying it now,
pray for us.

Really, Lazarus,
who would not admire your life:
As a wise bee, you have collected
a multitude of flower-like virtues;
and, adorned with them,
you bestow a pleasant aroma upon us. (p. 115)

Rather early,
even before your martyrdom,
you, the wise one,
were endowed with wisdom
and a virtuous life.
After your wonderful sacrifice,
you became even more beautiful.
We, therefore, honor you
as one of God’s favorites,
and we proclaim:
‘Blessed is the God of our fathers!’ (p. 116)

Immersed in and adorned with a radiance
similar to the light of the sun,
O Lazarus,
vested in the royal purple
which was colored
by the redness of your blood,
holding the cross in your hands,
you stand in front of Christ,
Who has glorified you.
We, therefore, supplicate you:
entreat Him that we may receive eternal life
on account of your martyrdom. (p. 117)

26 June 2009

St Jerome's Library

Looking for materials about St Jerome on Google Books, I came across the following sobering factoid in Megan Hale Williams’s The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship (Chicago: U of Chicago, 2006):

The scale of expenditure involved in the creation of Jerome’s library can be readily appreciated when we consider a single example of a book that he must have possessed: the Hexapla. The writing alone would have cost approximately 75,000 denarii. Unfortunately, the passage of the Price Edict regulating the price of papyrus has not survived, but the parchment needed for a copy written on that relatively luxurious material would have cost an additional 75,000 denarii. Even in Palestine, copying the Hebrew column would presumably have required hiring an additional scribe, or else a more skilled one, capable of writing a good bookhand in both languages. Either would add to the expense. Furthermore, the Hexapla’s complex layout would surely have increased the price of a copy. The minimum cost of a complete copy of the Hexapla, therefore, would have been about 155,000 denarii, sixty times the price of the kind of a manuscript typical of a scholar’s working library and equivalent to at least two years’ earnings for a successful grammarian. (p. 175)

I figured that it would be hard to translate the first comparison—60 times the cost of a typical scholarly book—into a modern equivalent because of the overall reduction in cost of books. But as for the second, I would think the equivalent might be a $100,000 book. I eagerly read these figures to my wife just in case she felt I was spending too much on books.

Concerning St Jerome, though, it is interesting that despite such an apparent extravagance, he had little patience for those who valued externally fancy or luxurious books. Williams quotes the preface to his translation of Job:

Let those who want them have antique volumes, or books written on purple parchment in gold and silver ink, or in what the vulgar call 'inch-high' [uncialibus] letters, so that they are burdens rather than books, so long as they let me and mine have our wretched pamphlets and our copies not so much beautified, as corrected. (qtd. in Williams, p. 181)

Williams concludes, 'Jerome's scorn for those who prefer luxury Bibles allows him to represent his own mode of literary culture, characterized by books 'not so much beautified as corrected', as properly ascetic' (p. 181). His insistence in this regard reminds me of St Paisius (Velichkovsky), who laments to Archimandrite Theodosius of the St Sophronius Hermitage that the Slavonic translations of the patristic books 'have remained in the ancient translation, not having been corrected even up to now from the Greek sources—and through unskilled copyists they have acquired innumerable mistakes, and it is absolutely essential that these books should be corrected from the sources' (Schema-monk Metrophanes, Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia, trans. Hieromonk Seraphim [Rose] [Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1994], p. 184). Now if only modern Orthodox would recover such zeal for correction!

5 Books That Have Influenced My Reading of the Bible

Last Friday, Kevin Edgecomb posted his fulfillment of a meme in which he was tagged: ‘list at least five books that have influenced your reading of the Bible’, whether scholarly, patristic, devotional, or otherwise. The courteous Edgecomb noted—after giving his own fascinating answers—that he cannot bring himself to pass memes on, but he added:

So, the meme stops here unless you, O reader, find yourself, perhaps, on an off chance, as the case may be, meme-amenable, so that you might then take it upon yourself to contribute to this meme which could very well force you to jog down memory lane, and also, I hope, enjoy a dig through dusty bookshelves as well.

Well, it sounded like a good idea to me, so I have gone and done likewise. Furthermore, like my wise blogger friend, I will ‘tag’ no one, although I can think of one or two bloggers whose response I would enjoy seeing. One of these is, of course, Esteban Vázquez (I only hope he doesn’t use up all five on the purportedly ‘infallible’ Moisés Silva), who tells me is planning to write such a post and to tag me in it. I grew rather tired, however, of waiting for the promised post and the subsequent tagging, so I have decided simply to anticipate it. For your enjoyment, the hermeneutical influences of a semi-scholarly non-biblical scholar:

1) The Jesus Style, by Gayle Erwin (Cathedral City, CA: Yahshua Publishing, 1983). Gayle Erwin was a former pastor of my parents and an old family friend, whom I grew up thinking of as a warm, playful uncle. I vividly recall my father discussing and recommending this book to various people when I was a child, and I also remember Erwin himself giving talks based on it, although I was so young I didn’t pay much attention! Well, I finally read the book when I was about 13, and it had a profound effect. It is very simply written, not at all scholarly, and does nothing more than elucidate Christ’s example of humble service to others. Previously I suppose I had had some vague moralistic idea about how we Christians were supposed to be ‘good’ or something, but I had almost no understanding of the radical nature and implications of what it meant to be a ‘servant of all’, to love others ‘as oneself’, etc. It was my first glimpse of the kenotic Christ, and I would never forget it. It certainly remained something to which I was highly atuned in the Scriptures.

I should add that Erwin is an Evangelical of the non-denominational variety, though I believe he grew up in the Assemblies of God. Although it’s been years since I last read Jesus Style, I can’t recall anything I would call un-Orthodox. There is a casual tone and frequent humour throughout that may be a bit jarring to many Orthodox, but I think the ideas are pretty solid. Unfortunately, that’s not to say that Erwin is at all friendly to Orthodoxy. To date, he is the only friend or relative to have vigourously denounced my father for converting. I believe he thinks even less of me at this point.

2) An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds, 3rd ed., by Christian E. Hauer and William A. Young (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994). I don’t suppose there is anything particularly special about this textbook, but it was my own first textbook on the Bible, which I read in my Introduction to Biblical Literature class as a freshman at Oklahoma City University. Today, 14 years later, I can say nothing specific about its merits or lack thereof, but the effect that it had of causing me to look at the Bible as not only a sacred and divinely inspired text, which I certainly hold it to be, but an historical and literary artifact, was helpful. I’m afraid the typical Christian’s view of the Bible begins to appear somewhat Monophysite or Docetic after a book like this.

3) Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View, by Fr Georges Florovsky, Vol. 1 in The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky (Vaduz: Büchervertriebsanstalt, 1987). This classic was one of the first books I read about Orthodoxy (along with Coming Home, a collection of—I know—conversion stories edited by—I know!—Fr Gilquist, and God’s Revelation to the Human Heart, the transcript of a talk given at UC Santa Cruz by Fr Seraphim [Rose]). I can’t say I followed all of it—it seemed like an awful lot of Latin and Greek for a college freshman with just a couple semesters in high school of the former under his belt—but it certainly deepened my understanding of the relationship between the three things named in the title. It also served to immunise me against any claims that Orthodox theology was somehow ‘unscriptural’!

I would add to this an essay of Fr Florovsky’s that is not included in this volume but which I seem to recall reading fairly early on and the influence of which was certainly not lesser—‘The Ascetic Ideal in the New Testament’, which can be found in Byzantine Ascetic and Spiritual Fathers, trans. Raymond Miller, et al., Vol. 10 in The Collected Works (Vaduz: Büchervertriebsanstalt, 1987), pp. 17-59, or read online with Scriptural citations in English only here, or with Greek text as well (but unfortunately without diacritical marks) here. In this essay, Fr Florovsky carefully and incredibly demonstrates—contra, in particular, Anders Nygren and the Lutheran tradition—the degree to which the New Testament is permeated with ascetic teaching. For one who had been immersed growing up in the sola fide interpretation of the NT, and St Paul in particular, this was a real eye-opener that completely transformed the way I read the NT. Among others, I’ll never forget Fr Florovsky’s citation of I Cor. 9:24-27 on pp. 35-6.

4) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, 4 vols., comp. St Macarius of Corinth & St Nicodemus of the Holy Mounatian, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, et al. (London: Faber, 19-1995). After the profound awakening to the kenotic Christ effected by Erwin’s Jesus Style, the greatest influence on my personal reading of the Bible at the hermeneutical level is the Philokalia. From roughly 1998 to 2003 or 2004, I read through all four volumes of the still incomplete English translation, and in the course of various papers written for postgraduate courses in Greece I had occasion to delve to a great extent into the Greek text. For some time I read almost nothing in the way of biblical scholarship or even patristic commentary proper, and yet the use of Scripture in the Philokalia did more I think to make my reading of it as Orthodox as it is than verse-by-verse commentary (not to mention such a thing as an ‘Orthodox Study Bible’) ever could have done. Certainly I never again saw passages such as Ps. 75:9 (LXX) or II Cor. 3:18 except in light of the hesychastic, Philokalic tradition.

5) The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism, by Douglas Burton-Christie (NY: Oxford U, 1993). The most recent of these five, it cannot but have had a somewhat lesser influence on my reading of the Bible than the others. But it certainly helped me to understand at a more conscious level some of the things I had begun to grasp more intuitively through reading things like the Philokalia, the Gerontikon (the text Burton-Christie chooses to focus on), or the Lives of Saints. I also found Burton-Christie’s discussion of the more oral rôle of Scripture in the Egyptian desert quite enlightening, informing my own perception of Scripture at a deep level. Of course, there is more to this book than its effect on a boy’s reading of the Scriptures, as important as such a thing is, and I strongly recommend it to readers of Logismoi for many reasons.

25 June 2009

'The Works of the Desert'—The Holy Abba Onuphrius the Great

Today, 12 June on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the memory of our Holy Father Onuphrius the Great (†400). The sole source for St Onuphrius’s life is a St Paphnutius, believed to be the ‘Paphnutius Cephalas’ described by St Palladius in the 47th chapter of the Lausiac History (see the translation at Roger Pearse’s site, here). St Paphnutius tells how he went into the ‘further desert’ to see ‘the servants of God’ who live there (Histories of the Monks of Upper Egypt & the Life of Onnophrius, trans. Tim Vivian [Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1993], pp. 145, 147). He writes:

Now suddenly I looked and I saw a man in the distance; he was very terrifying because his hair was spread out over his body like a leopard’s. Indeed, he was naked, and leaves covered his male member. When he came up close to me I was afraid and I climbed up on a ledge of the mountain, thinking that perhaps it was a wild ass. . . . He raised his eyes to the mountain ledge; he saw me and called, ‘Come down to me, holy man. I too am a man of the desert, like yourself. I live in this desert on account of my sins.’ He said to me, ‘You too are a friend of God’. So I sat down in front of him and I asked him to tell me his name. (p. 151)

After giving his name (sometimes Anglicised as ‘Humphrey’, the name is believed to derive from the Wnn-nfr meaning ‘he-who-is-continuingly-good’, in Arabic he is called Abü Nufar, which also means ‘herbivore’), St Onuphrius explains that sixty years ago he was a monk at a monastery ‘on the mountain of Shmoun in the Thebaid’ called ‘Eretē’. According to St Onuphrius:

We were all of one mind and lived in accord with one another, and peace dwelled in our midst. We lived together a life of quiet contemplation, glorifying God. Now I would spend the night in vigil with them, and I learned from them the rules of God. The great ones were perfect as the angels of the Lord are perfect. (p. 152)

When he hears the elders speaking about the desert-dwelling of the Prophet Elijah, or St John the Forerunner, St Onuphrius asks whether such desert-dwellers have not outdone the cœnobitic monks, due to the greater ascesis of their way of life (poluteia). The reply he receives is that indeed, such anchorites receive greater rewards and consolations from the Lord because of the greater difficulties and temptations they endure, for, ‘God gives to each person according to what he has suffered. Blessed is he who will do the will of God on earth! I say to you that the angels will serve him from the moment of his birth and they will continue to comfort him at all times in his need’ (p. 153).

St Onuphrius says that he heard the words of the elders ‘like honey sweet to my soul and I was filled within with complete understanding: I became like those whose minds travel to another world’ (p. 154). He got up ‘immediately’, took enough bread for four days, and left for the desert. He saw a light before him, which turned out to be an angel who said, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the angel who has dwelled with you and walked with you since you were a child. You will carry through to its completion this stewardship which the Lord has appointed for you’ (p. 154).

St Onuphrius tells how, after a walk of six or seven miles, he saw a ‘great saint of God . . . handsome in appearance because his face shone with a great grace’ coming out of a cave to greet him (p. 154). He stayed with the hermit a few days and ‘learned from him about God and . . . how to do the works of the desert’, until they walked for four days to ‘a desolate place’—‘the place which the Lord has appointed for you to live in’ (p. 155). There the hermit stayed with St Onuphrius another month ‘until I knew how to do the good work which it was right for me to do. Afterwards he let me and we did not see each other for a year until he laid down his body and I buried him where he had lived’ (p. 155).

At this point, St Paphnutius asks how much St Onuphrius had suffered from the elements. The great hermit explains his experience in terms that seem the very fulfillment of what he had heard from the elders’ lips at Eretē. At first he suffered a great deal. But then he says:

Now when God saw that I patiently endured in the good fight of fasting and that I devoted myself completely to ascetic practices, he had his holy angels serve me with my daily food; he gave it to me at night and strengthened my body. And the palm tree produced for me twelve bunches of dates each year, and I would eat one bunch each month [St Paul of Thebes was similarly aided by a palm tree]. And he also made the plants that grow in the desert sweet as honey in my mouth. For it is written, ‘A person shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God shall a person live’ (Mt 4:4; Lk 4:4). (pp. 155-6)

St Paphnutius then inquires as to how St Onuphrius managed to receive the Mysteries. St Onuphrius replies:

My holy father, an angel of God comes and give me the eucharist on the Sabbath and the Lord’s day; and to everyone in the desert who lives there on account of God and sees no human being, the angel comes and gives the eucharist and comforts them. What’s more, if they desire to see anyone, they are taken up into the heavenly places where they see all the saints and greet them, and their hearts are filled with light; they rejoice and are glad with God in these good things. Now when they are seen they are comforted and they completely forget that they have suffered. Afterwards, they return to their bodies and they continue to feel comforted for a long time. If they travel to another world through the joy which they have seen, they do not even remember that this world exists. (p. 156)

St Paphnutius is comforted and envigourated by St Onuphrius’s tale, and responds, ‘Blessed am I that I have been worthy to see your holy face and hear your sweet words’ (p. 157). The two monks then walk a few more miles to a hut, where they sit and eat together, before spending ‘the whole night praying to God until morning’ (p. 157). Then St Paphnutius writes:

Now when morning came I saw that his face had changed and been transformed as though he had become a different person: it had turned completely into fire and his appearance greatly frightened me. But he said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, my brother in God, for the Lord has sent you to care for my body and bury it. Indeed, this very day I shall complete my stewardship and go to the place of everlasting rest.’ (pp. 157-8)

St Onuphrius promises his intercessions to anyone that will offer some incense on his behalf, but St Paphnutius points out that not all can afford incense on account of their poverty, beseeching him to ‘let your grace rest upon us all’ (p. 158). St Onuphrius says, ‘Let him stand and say his prayers three times to God in my name and the Lord Jesus will bring him to the thousand years and he will receive an inheritance with all the saints’ (p. 158). He then blesses St Paphnutius and bids him return to Egypt ‘to comfort the holy brothers who live in the desert, to proclaim their sweet fragrance among the brethren who worship God as a benefit to those who listen to you’ (p. 159). St Paphnutius concludes his account of the great anchorite:

When he had finished saying these things, he rose and prayed to God with sighs and many tears. Afterwards he lay down on the ground and completed his stewardship of God, and he gave up his spirit into the hands of God on the sixteenth of Paone. And I heard the voices of angels singing hymns before the blessed Abba Onnophrius and there was great gladness when he came to meet God. (p. 159)

St Paphnutius buried the elder himself in a cleft in the rock, using part of his cloak as a shroud. He adds, ‘I said my prayer over him and I rolled several stones over him. I stood up and prayed a second time and immediately the palm tree fell down’ (p. 160).

Tim Vivian’s translation of the Life of St Onuphrius, published along with St Paphnutius’s Histories of the Monks of Upper Egypt, includes a fascinating introduction (featuring, among other points, a memorable analysis of the words politeia and the Coptic toou, with its two senses of oros and erēmos). Sometime I would like to post a bit about some of his observations there.

My only complaint about the book is the dedication and, perhaps more, Jeffery Burton Russell’s comment about the dedication. The first reads:


May the memory of Father M. Louis,
who is worthy of praise,
remain with us forever.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, Russell observes in his Foreword, ‘Fittingly, he dedicates his book to the truest modern son of the monastic desert, Thomas Merton’ (p. 9). I have mentioned my feelings about Merton previously. All I will say now is, off the top of my head I can easily think of any number of truer modern sons of the monastic desert.

There is an Orthodox monastery (with a seminary) in Poland dedicated to St Onuphrius (see here, under 'Monastery', for an article in Polish). Also, I discovered that St Onuphrius at one time enjoyed a certain fame in the West, where it appears artists often conflated him with the legendary ‘wild man’ or ‘woodwose’ (whence ‘Wodehouse’!). Furthermore, the famous Swiss humanist, Sebastian Brant (1457-1521), wrote a number of poems about St Onuphrius and named his son after the legendary anchorite. According to this review, in a 2001 book (in German), Roland Stieglecker—

suggests that with this panegyric Brant expressed in a humanist mode his admiration for the eremitic life and advocated a rejection of materialism to his non-eremitic readers. This poetry, offering as it did a sincere, hopeful response to the moral decadence Brant saw around him, thus complements his famous satire The Ship of Fools (1494); and so Stieglecker concludes that the poetry is no less ‘humanist’ for its hagiographical subject, no less ‘Christian’ for its classicizing forms and pagan imagery.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to discover an English translation of any of this poetry. But for those who don’t recall, Brant’s satire, Das Narrenschiff, describes nearly every imaginable kind of fool. According to Nicholas Basbanes, however, ‘First to address the reader is the Book-Fool:

I am the first foole of all the hole nauy,
To kepe the pompe, the helme and eke the sayle
For this is my mynde, this one pleasoure haue I
Of bokes to haue grete plentie and aparayle
I take no wysdome by them. . . .

(A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books [NY: Owl, 1999], pp. 46-7)

24 June 2009

'With Songs We Hymn Thy Divine Memory'—Apostle Barnabas

This morning, 11 June, we celebrated the memory of the Apostle Barnabas († 61 AD). I don’t have much material to draw on about St Barnabas, aside from the Acts of the Apostles (I shall quote the KJV) and the Prologue (St Nicholas [Velimirović], The Prologue from Ochrid, Part Two: April, May, June, trans. Mother Maria [Birmingham: Lazarica, 1986]; see the Sebastian Press translation of today’s Prologue here). But there are one or two interesting things I’d like to mention, and besides, St Barnabas is the patron Saint of my reposed friend, Hieromonk Barnabas of Karakallou. As a small tribute to Fr Barnabas, I offer this brief post.

We first meet St Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37, where we read:

36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Concerning the interpretation of his name, the Prologue says he was called this ‘because he had a rare gift for comforting men’s souls’ (p. 299). According to tradition, St Barnabas was a fellow student of Torah with St Paul ‘at the feet of Gamaliel’ (Acts 22:3). (Rabbi Gamaliel I, or ‘the Elder’, was a famous 1st-century Pharisee and Jewish sage traditionally believed to have converted to Christianity.) St Nicholas gives us a touching account of their relationship:

The two young men, Barnabas and Paul, were friends and went together to Gamaliel’s school. When Barnabas became a Christian, he persistently and with tears prayed to God that he would enlighten Paul’s understanding and turn his heart, that he too might become a Christian. Barnabas often spoke to Paul about Christ the Lord, but Paul mocked him and thought him misguided. But the gracious Lord did not leave Barnabas’s prayer unfruitful. He appeared to Paul, turned him from the false way and set him on the way of truth. The converted Paul fell at the feet of his friend and cried: ‘O Barnabas, teacher of the truth, now I am convinced of the truth of what you said to me about Christ!’ Barnabas wept for joy and embraced his friend. The friend saved his friend’s soul by his fervent prayers. If Barnabas had succeeded in making Paul Emperor of Rome, he would have done less than he in fact did by bringing him to the truth by his prayers. (p. 300)

Thus, when St Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, it was St Barnabas who introduced him to the other Apostles (Acts 9:27). He was sent by the Church of Jerusalem to Antioch, where he ‘exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord’ (Acts 11:23-24). Thus, in Acts 13:1, St Barnabas is listed among the early ‘prophets and teachers’ of the Church of Antioch, where St Paul laboured with him for a year, and in the next verse we read, ‘As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them’ (Acts 13:2).

Thus Ss Barnabas and Paul set out on an extensive missionary journey through Cyprus and Asia Minor, where they brought many to Christ (see, for example, Acts 13:43). The two Apostles participated together in the Council of Jerusalem, and they were sent back to Antioch with a letter calling them ‘our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 15:25-26). Sadly, however, when St Paul asked St Barnabas to accompany him on another journey and the latter wanted to bring along his cousin, St Mark the Evangelist, there was a bitter dispute, and they went their separate ways, St Barnabas taking St Mark with him to Cyprus, and St Paul accompanied by St Silas (Acts 15:37-41).

St Barnabas is not mentioned again in the Acts of the Apostles, however, tradition has passed down to us the story of his fate, both before and after his death. According to the Prologue:

All accounts agree that he was the first to preach in Rome and in Milan. He suffered at the hands of the Jews on the island of Cyprus and was buried by Mark at the western gate of the city of Salamis, holding a copy of the Gospel of Matthew which he had transcribed with his own hand. His grave remained unknown for several centuries, but when many people had been healed of sickness in that place, it became known as ‘the place of healing’. In the time of the Emperor Zeno, the Apostle appeared three times, on three successive nights, to Archbishop Anthemius of Cyprus, and revealed the whereabout of his grave. This revelation by the Apostle took place just at the time when Peter, the power-hungry Patriarch of Antioch, was seeking to bring the Cypriot Church under his jurisdiction. After the revealing and finding of the miraculous relics of the holy Apostle Barnabas, it was established that the Cypriot Church, as an apostolic foundation, should be independent, and thus the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus was finally confirmed. (p. 299)

For more details of the martyrdom and finding of St Barnabas’s relics on Cyprus, see this highly informative post by John Sanidopoulos, at Mystagogy. Sanidopoulos also includes the story of a modern miracle worked by the Apostle at his Mausoleum in Famagusta, North Cyprus:

Marios Stylianos, forty years old, from the Turkish occupied Ammochosto and who currently lives in Lefkosia, was left a parapalegic after surgery on his neck, for which he traveled abroad. He related himself that he had seen in a dream the Apostle Barnabas, who told him to write a book about his life and as soon as it was finished, to go to his tomb and he would walk. Marios, following his dream, went to the tomb of the Apostle Barnabas in the occupied Monastery of the same name near Ammochosto, and after the Liturgy was finished at the tomb, said that he saw the Apostle Barnabas approach him holding the Gospel and extending him his right hand. Then he made a cry and felt something like an electric current flowing through him, and he continued to get up from his wheelchair and walked, though supported.
Here is the Kontakion for the Apostle Barnabas in Tone 2:
Thou wast a most true servant of the Lord, and, as the foremost of the seven­ty apostles, didst shine forth in thy preaching with Paul, proclaiming Christ the Savior unto all; wherefore, with songs we hymn thy divine memory, O Barnabas.

Holy Apostle Barnabas, pray for us and for the repose of the servant of God, Hieromonk Barnabas!