October 27, Friday Evening:
Vespers at 6 pm
First Session 7 – 8:30 pm
Coffee and Dessert
Title of First Session: A Feeling for Beauty: The Aesthetic Ground of Orthodox Ethics
The dividing line between Western and Eastern monastic spirituality has been described as the question of whether it is the intellectual or rather the sensual sins that must first be addressed in the spiritual life. Starting from this puzzling diagnosis of the difference between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, we will unravel how a little-known account of the world’s creation helps us to explain the distinctive flavor of Orthodox Christian spiritual life.
October 28, Saturday Morning:
Continental Breakfast at 8:30 am
Matins at 9 am
Second Session 10 am – 12 pm (with time for questions)
Title of Session: Eros, Agape, and the Mystery of the Twofold Anointing
For St. Paul, the first call of the Christian life is to faith, or to a self-renouncing eros for Christ that is at once both chaste and ardent. Because this eros is for the Crucified One, however, it naturally unfolds into the imitation of Christ’s life-giving self-sacrifice for the life of the world. Therefore, the call to faith is also a call to repentance, both because faith involves the conquering of self-love through the activation of a divine eros, and because faith bids us to extend that defeat of self-love into a self-sacrificial agape for our fellow man.
Such divine eros is not merely a human achievement. It is the visitation by the Holy Spirit, who at once makes us kings and sacrificial lambs, victors and victims, in a twofold anointing whose presence we describe as the joyful sorrow, or bright sadness, or the stavroanastasimo ethos of the Orthodox faith.
October 28, Saturday Afternoon:
Lunch from 12 – 1 pm
Third Session 1 – 3 pm
Title of Session: Shame and Sacrifice: The Practical Goals of Orthodox Soul Therapy
The first aim of the Christian spiritual life is not truth, but beauty. This is not to say that Christ is not “the way, the truth, and the life,” nor that we are ever to reject the truth. Rather, it is to acknowledge that “the very good that I would do, that I do not do” (Romans 7:19), and that therefore we are commanded by God to seek a truth clothed in the life-giving and transformative grace of the Holy Spirit.
Socrates founded Western civilization upon a pursuit of self-knowledge and knowledge about the world that was divorced from reliance upon God. By contrast, Scripture warns us that to consume “the knowledge of Good and Evil” apart from God is the original temptation and the cause of man’s tragic fall.
I have a strong hesitancy about contemporary psychotherapy; namely that in the argument between St. Paul and Socrates as to whether knowledge of the Good is indeed sufficient for salvation, therapy takes the side not of the Apostle, but of the philosopher.
Rather than analyzing and exposing false beliefs about the self, others, or the world, the Orthodox Christian therapeutic approach is based upon the cultivation of something our culture today can barely understand: a healthy and even perfect shame before God and others.
The loss of this healthy shame traps us in a life where we alternate violently between godlike and subhuman behavior. The cultivation of perfect shame, by contrast, makes us fully human and yet at the same unites us so closely to God, that we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”