The Triads of St. Paul the Apostle

“There are three sorts of men: The man of God, who renders good for evil; the man of men, who renders good for good and evil for evil; and the man of the devil, who renders evil for good.

Three kinds of men are the delights of God: the meek; the lovers of peace; the lovers of mercy.

There are three marks of the children of God: gentle deportment; a pure conscious; patient suffering of injuries.

There are three chief duties demanded by God: justice to every man; love; humility.

In three places will be found the most of God: where He is mostly sought; where He is mostly loved; where there is least of self.

There are three things following faith in God: a conscious at peace; union with heaven; what is necessary for life.

Three ways a Christian punishes an enemy: by forgiving him; by not divulging his wickedness; by doing him all the good in his power.

The three chief considerations of a Christian: lest he should displease God; lest he should be a stumblingblock to man; lest his love to all that is good should wax cold.

The three luxuries of a Christian feast: what God has prepared; what can be obtained with justice to all; what love to all may venture to use.

Three person have the claims and privileges of brothers and sisters: the widow; the orphan; the stranger.”

(Catherine McCaffery in A Cloud of Witnesses: Woman’s Struggle for Sanctity, pg. 39.   My note: “The Triads of Paul the Apostle” were first made public in 1871 and originally were claimed to be a first century document proving St. Paul had been in England.  Many modern scholars think it a fraud.  The text is offered here for its content, not because of any claims of coming from antiquity. )

Constantine, Heretics and Schismatics (2)

This is the 8th blog in this series which began with Two Versions of Constantine the Great.   The previous blog is Constantine, Heretics and Schismatics (1).   This blog series is considering Constantine the Great as presented in two books:  Paul Stephenson’s  CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR  and Peter Leithart’s DEFENDING CONSTANTINE.

Constantine was a politician, and a rather successful one at that.  Both Leithart and Stephenson note his default tendency in dealing with internal Christian disagreements was at first to appeal to unity and to push the parties toward submitting themselves to the will of the church as expressed through decisions rendered by bishops in council.

“When Constantine first learned of the dispute (Arian), his first instinct, as usual, was to urge concord.  ‘Do ye both exhibit an equal degree of forbearance,’ he wrote to Arius and Alexander. …  For himself, the emperor considered it ‘wrong in the first instance to propose such questions as these, or to reply to them when propounded,’ since ‘those points of discussion which are enjoined by the authority of no law, but rather suggested by the contentious spirit which is fostered by misused leisure, even though they may be intended merely as an intellectual exercise, ought certainly to be confined to the region of our own thoughts, and not hastily produced in the popular assemblies, nor unadvisedly entrusted to the general ear.’   …  Both the one who asked ‘unguarded questions’ and the one who offered an ‘inconsiderate answer’ should seek ‘mutual forgiveness.’”  (Leithart, DEFENDING CONSTANTINE, p   167)

Thus Leithart sees Constantine as attempting to follow a path of wisdom in which he recognizes human causes for the divisions which occur in the church – some who cause disturbance by asking questions merely for curiosity or sport and those who quickly take offense at such questions.  Constantine’s solution is to lower the rhetoric and tension and to encourage both sides in a dispute to ask for mutual forgiveness.  Here we see Constantine advocating for Christian morality, rather than relying purely on the force of power that he would have as emperor in settling any dispute which threatened the concord of the empire.  Obviously a Christian vision for the church influenced his thinking on how to deal with conflict within the church.

However when Constantine saw that appeals to reason, to peace, and to Christian unity did not end some of the disputes and that the warring factions continued to appeal to his authority, he was willing to exercise the power he had as emperor to intervene.  Even so, Constantine appeals to theology in the actions he takes; his concern is that the disputing factions are bringing disrespect to the “greatest god” and this is not acceptable as it threatens the entire empire with losing God’s favor.

Constantine wrote: “Those who incite and do things so that the greatest god is not worshipped with the requisite devotion, I shall destroy and scatter.  … those whom I find to be opposed to right and religion itself, and apprehend in violation of the due form of worship, then those without doubt I shall cause to suffer the due penalties of their madness and their reckless obstinacy.”  (Stephenson, CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, p  263)

To the Donatists Constantine said: “Those same persons who now stir up the people in such a war as to bring it about that the supreme God is not worshipped with the veneration that is His due, I shall destroy and dash to pieces.”  (Leithart, DEFENDING CONSTANTINE, p   84)

Constantine had some sense that there is a correct way to worship God, and he came to see the disputing factions in Christianity as dividing not only the Church but in their opposition to one another calling into question which form of worship was the correct way to approach God.  By causing divisions in the church, the Christians were not able to worship God in a consistent and proper manner but instead were divided into different sects each worshipping God in its own manner.  Constantine interpreted this as a threat to the empire.

Constantine saw in his duty to protect the empire from not only external enemies but also from those within the empire who might offend the one God who had brought him into power and who had bestowed peace and unity on the empire.  Constantine wrote to heretics and schismatics:

“…it is no longer possible to tolerate the pernicious effect of your destructiveness, by this decree we publicly command that none of you henceforth shall dare to assemble.  Therefore, we have also given order that all your buildings are to be confiscated … to prohibit the gathering of assemblies of your superstitious folly.”      …..  Constantine’s professed policy of toleration for all faiths, for which he had fought his last great war against Licinius, foundered on the diversity of Christian doctrine and practice.  In the name of unity he persecuted those whose beliefs were now far closer to his own than those held by worshippers of Sol Invictus, and still more than those of devotees of Dionysius or Asclepius.”   (Stephenson, CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, pp 270-271)

Though Constantine pursued efforts to maintain unity and concord within the Church, he became incensed at the stubbornness of certain Christian leaders to resist Church unity/conformity.  In his lifetime his efforts to attain peace and unity are obvious in his wavering of which side in various disputes to support.   Especially when one faction did not back down even in the face of imperial threat, Constantine did switch sides and try to bring the more stubborn party into unity by joining them.  This did earn him the rebuke which we noted from St. Athanasius.

As Stephenson notes, sadly for Constantine, his support of Christianity which led him to decree a toleration of religion bringing an end to Christian persecution, revealed the unexpected divisions in the Christian Church of schismatics and heretics.  Now Constantine’s ideas of toleration and his default tendency toward concord proved ineffective in dealing with divisions within the Church.  His call of the first Ecumenical Council brought together his desire for Christian concord, with his trust that the bishops had the authority to decide on internal church disputes, and with his willingness to put imperial force behind the decisions of the bishops.  Yet all of this did not bring a quick and sure end to disputes.  For imperial authority was not recognized as the final say in church matters, and a spiritual wisdom was valued more than mere force in dealing with theological disputes.  Thus the charge that a Constantinian change took place in the church in which the state simply took control of church life cannot be sustained by the evidence.  Constantine himself was not able to enforce Constantinianism.   The Arian crisis continued despite Constantine’s efforts to end it.

Next:  Constantine, the Church and War (1)

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Last week I had a short period of time to visit the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and despite the oppressive heat and humidity, I did stroll through the Zoo for about an hour.  I can at least invite you along for a short walk to enjoy God’s creation.  The Zoo is just a nice place for a walk, the camera gives me an excuse for walking and taking time to smell the flowers (you can smell the animals too, but that is less desirable though equally memorable) as well as photographing them.

The Southern Magnolia has beautiful large flowers in the spring, which produces a beautifully photogenic fruit.

The patterns and colors of theTropicana Canna are magnificent.  The variations of plant leaves in color, size, texture, and pattern even within one species of plants give us a sense of the creativeness of the Creator.

The Lowland Gorilla is relatively speaking a close genetic match to humans, though the differences are pronounced.  The structure of the Gorilla’s hands and arms are still such that they can function like a foot and leg.

The wide-eyed Lemur makes it appear to be very alert.  Another distant relative of humans in the genetic tree of life.

The Montane had a showman’s personality and seemed to like the attention of the camera.  Many of the Lorikeets seem to have facial expressions, or at least it is easy to anthropomorphize and project onto them personalities.

These three Golden Conures seemed to be up to something by their expressions.

The Parrots colors and markings were so eye catching.  God made a beautiful creation which we can simply enjoy if we take the time and aren’t totally consumed by utilitarian thinking.

The bee on the Rattlesnake Master flower was itself being buzzed by a tinier bee or wasp.  I have often noticed that each flower is often a microcosmic ecosystem with its unique inter-dependency between flora and fauna.  You often see specific insects only on specific plants.  They survive and thrive only with each other.

The Pica Bella Coneflower’s petals are delicate rays of a purple sunburst.   “O Lord, how manifold are Your works!  In wisdom You made them all.” (Psalm 104:24)

You can see a slideshow of the entire set of  my photos from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens on my Flickr page.

Representing Public Opinion or the Public?

Rutgers University Professor David Greenberg wrote an article about President Teddy Roosevelt, “Beyond the Bully Pulpit”, in the Summer 2011 issue of THE WILSON QUARTERLY.  Greenberg credits (or blames!) TR with being the president who made “spin” “a fundamental part of the American presidency.”   The article is a worthy read.

In our current political crisis of dealing with the US budget deficit and the growing national debt and the need to raise the debt ceiling, we can watch our politicians spinning the events every which way as part of the blame game.   They more often seem to have their eyes on the next election and what is good for their political party (what appeals to their party’s base) rather than on what is needed for America.  Greenberg writes about President T Roosevelt:

“Unlike most of his predecessors, Roosevelt saw himself as an instrument not of the party that elected him or of the coalition of blocs, but of the will of the people at large.  Deriving his power from the general public, however, did not mean slavishly following mass sentiment; TR, like Wilson after him, wanted to discern with his own judgment which policies would truly serve the electorate as a whole.  ‘I do not represent public opinion,’ he wrote to the journalist Ray Stannard Baker.  ‘I represent the public.  There is a wide difference between the two, between the real interests of the public and the public’s opinion of these interests.’  He spoke of the common good as if such a unitary thing were not hard to identify, at least for him.

Modern politicians are finely tuned to public opinion.   This certainly makes it seem that they place their own re-elections and the interests of their political parties ahead of what is needed and good and right for the country as a whole.  They too narrowly focus on things that have an immediate impact because that can help (or hurt) in the upcoming election, whereas long term solutions may be of no immediate help to their immediate re-election needs nor to their party’s gaining power now.  No doubt that is why we have the national debt problems we have – short term popular decisions are made with no regard to their long term consequences to the nation.

Our current debt crisis demands long term solutions, some of which may not benefit either major political party now and in fact might be so unpopular as to hurt both or either party now.  Voters want as many entitlements as they can get (and this includes wealthier voters who get all kinds of tax break entitlements and other benefits) and want all kinds of government benefits without having to pay for them or to bear the burden of the cost of them.  (Founding Father James Madison, for example, argued that the cost of all wars should be born by the generation that called for the war and these costs should not be postponed and then laid on future generations).   As a result of these wishes, public opinion often demands more from the government while simultaneously expecting less taxes.  The end result is politicians finely attuned to public opinion who find it easy to approve more government programs while simultaneously reducing the tax burden (This certainly was the formula followed by GW Bush and continued to this present day).

I’m still hoping to see our elected officials do the hard thing – adopt a 4 trillion dollar budget, deficit and debt reducing plan that has long term implications rather than a short term “fix”.  

To our congressman I say:  Serve the public interest not the fickleness of public opinion.  Be willing to sacrifice your re-election by making the hard decisions that must be made today for the US to have a stronger financial tomorrow.

Constantine, Heretics and Schismatics (1)

This is the 7th blog in this series which began with Two Versions of Constantine the Great.   The previous blog is Constantine and the Christian Bishops (2).   This blog series is considering Constantine the Great as presented in two books:  Paul Stephenson’s  CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR  and Peter Leithart’s DEFENDING CONSTANTINE.

Constantine elevated the status of the Christian bishops in society making them recognizable authorities, capable of dealing with some legal disputes between people.  He also declared that the public in general should come to respect the decisions of bishops since their decisions on issues were thought to represent the ideas of God.  Constantine soon came to realize there were warring factions within the church, and the granting of religious tolerance gave the Christians a legal status in the empire  which led to the Christians making legal appeals to the state to help settle property disputes.   This quickly became a means to ask the state to intervene in disputes in which there were disputing candidates each claiming to be the legitimate bishop in a city; thus the state was being asked to legitimize the bishop rather than it be purely a church decision .  Both Stephenson and Leithart see Constantine’s default attitude in these disputes to be one of trying to find reconciliation in order to maintain church unity.

“Letters written soon after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge demonstrate the emperor’s desire to end factionalism within the Christian community, lest this bring down divine wrath upon the emperor.  The sentiment is as authentic as the letters, for it reflects Constantine’s  conception of the summus deus  as a grantor of victory, which might be rescinded as surely as it was given.  Constantine’s concern for Christians was founded in a practical desire to ensure divine favour for his own enterprises, and this facilitated the emperor’s conversion from veneration of a summus deus  that he portrayed in the traditional iconography of Sun worshippers, to his public recognition of the god of the Christians as the true ‘greatest god.’”  (Stephenson, CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, p  169)

Stephenson as is consistent with his presentation of Constantine sees his actions as being self-serving:  Constantine wants to please the God who brought him to power and interprets church divisions not as efforts to seek the truth but as threats to the empire’s receiving divine favor from the God who had brought him to power.  Constantine is the pragmatist and Christianity serves his utilitarian motivation.  However, Stephenson does acknowledge that Constantine’s concern is still authentic – there was no separation of church and state in the 4th Century Roman Empire; thus, part of Constantine’s role in defending the interests of the state is to assure that the gods or THE God is appeased through right worship.

Leithart  like Stephenson acknowledges Constantine’s political interests and motivations, yet Leithart sees Constantine being more inclined to support religious truth in his political decisions.  Constantine is a believer in the power of God, and understands that right worship and doctrine are essential for serving this one true God, and for securing God’s favor for the empire.  To this extent, Constantine is a believer in the Christian God and desires to serve this God who has blessed him.

“Constantine was a very skilled politician, and he had definite preferences, strategies, goals.  … his understanding of Christianity was inherently political, structurally similar to Diocletian’s Tetrarchic political theology: right worship of the Christian God would ensure the prosperity and peace of Rome, and right worship demanded the unity of the church.”  (Leithart, DEFENDING CONSTANTINE, p 152)

Constantine never loses sight of his role as emperor even though he is coming to better understand Christianity and its implication for all aspects of life in the Empire.  Constantine embraces the monotheism of Christianity as it serves his purpose well for uniting the empire under one emperor, namely himself.  Constantine’s vision includes: one empire, one emperor, one God, one religion for everyone in the Empire.   The appeal of the Gospel to unity and oneness is appealing to Constantine’s own vision of the Roman Empire.  Polytheism could not unite all the diverse elements of the empire, but Christianity welcomed women, men, slaves, rulers, Latins, Greeks, Arabs, Africans and all humans to serve the one God of the universe.   Thus the Church does serve his political agenda, and yet the evidence also indicates that Constantine embraced the goals and agenda of the Church to bring the Gospel to all, and to help make things “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Constantine believes the one supreme God has desired the unity of his empire, and comes to understand his god-given role as to help bring about this unity.

Next:  Constantine, Heretics and Schismatics (2)

Constantine and the Christian Bishops (2)

This is the 6th blog in this series which began with Two Versions of Constantine the Great.   The previous blog is Constantine and the Christian Bishops (1).   This blog series is considering Constantine the Great as presented in two books:  Paul Stephenson’s  CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR  and Peter Leithart’s DEFENDING CONSTANTINE.

As noted in the previous blog, Stephenson and Leithart evaluate quite differently the relationship between Constantine and the Christian bishops.  Leithart, as his book title suggests, defends Constantine’s relationship to and affect on the church as more positive.  Stephenson offers not an entirely negative assessment, but is more critical of the relationship.   The fact is of course that Constantine brought about an immense change in the relationship of church and state in the Roman Empire – a complete reversal of policy.  Because the change was so total and unprecedented, one would expect that there would be unanticipated problems for both church and state.

“Constantine knew that he too enjoyed spiritual authority, a divine gift, and that his acts of war were his askesis, from which his pragmatic authority derived.  He also knew that in all categories his authority surpassed that of any single bishop or indeed of them all combined.  If bishops were successors to the apostles, and by virtue of their ordination received the same Holy Spirit as had the apostles from Christ, Constantine came to consider himself a second Christ.”  (Stephenson, CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, p  257)

Stephenson raises several crucial issues in the above passage.  First, there is the issue of Christianity’s relationship to the military interests of the empire, and the emperor as a Christian leading military warfare.  These issues will be addressed further in future blogs.  Second, Constantine’s ideas about the emperor’s relationship to all other citizens was shaped in the world of his holding absolute power and of the emperor being considered a god.  There was no easy way to demote him to mere mortal status, but Constantine moves in that direction by considering “himself a second Christ.”  While this offends modern sensibilities, within the context of the Fourth Century Roman Empire and the sometimes and somewhat subordinationist views of some Christians, Constantine’s self analysis might be more understandable: he sees himself as a son of God rather than as a god himself, however he may have understood that difference.  Additionally, while Constantine casts the new church-state relationship in terms of Christ (Constantine) and the apostles (the bishops), he elevates the decisions and teachings of the bishops to a higher (divine!) level.

“As Constantine had reminded his bishops after Arles, ‘the judgement of the priests should be regarded as if God himself were in the judge’s seat, but when it was not, then he, Constantine, took that seat.  The final right of appeal was to him alone, for the Holy Spirit had entered him as it did a bishop at ordination, and worked through him as it did a bishop when he administered the sacraments.”  (Stephenson, CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, p  275)

Constantine maintains his absolute authority in the empire, even while accepting Christianity.  He is however elevating the role of the Christian leaders in the empire.  Their decisions are to be respected as if coming directly from God.  The elevation of the status of the bishops led to them being more incorporated into leadership status within the society.  Stephenson sees this as somewhat negative because the bishops are being co-opted by the values of the Roman government.

The bishops were now “afforded titles as splendid as those attached to senators, ‘the most glorious (gloriosissimus) or illustrious (illustris).’”  (Stephenson, CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, p  278)

Both Letihart and Stephenson note that Constantine’s immediate efforts in dealing with problems and divisions within the Christian community was to push the feuding factions toward reconciliation and for all parties to pursue peace in accordance with the teachings of Christ (we will look more closely at Constantine’s relationship to the Church in terms of internal Christian problems and divisions).  In this aspect, Constantine is influenced by the Gospel teachings on brotherly love, concord and unity.

Constantine “participated in the discussion, often urging the bishops to practice moderation and pursue peace.  Eusebius thought this all to his credit, but Eustathius later complained that the pleas for peace had the effect of shutting down debate and silencing the most effective speakers.”   (Leithart, DEFENDING CONSTANTINE, p  169 )

In the end however, while Stephenson sees a negative Constantinian affect on the church, curtailing and co-opting church authority, Leithart points to several examples of Christian bishops openly confronting emperors and showing no recognition of imperial authority over the church.  St. Athanasius who appeals his own case to Constantine also confronts Constantine’s son, Constantius when he became emperor.

St. Athanasius “in a remarkable rebuke” to the Emperor Constantius “demanded to know ‘what concern the emperor had’ with a judgment ‘passed by bishops.’  ‘When,’ he protested, ‘did a judgment of the church receive its validity from the emperor or rather when was his decree ever recognized by the church?’  One is tempted to say, ‘In 325, don’t you remember?’  Perhaps the bishop had forgotten Nicea … Or, perhaps, these questions expressed his own understanding of what was actually happening in 325.  Even in 325, he did not think of the emperor as the leader of Christ’s church.”   (Leithart, DEFENDING CONSTANTINE, p   184)

Leithart sees St. Athanasius comments to Constantius to mean that Athanasius never understood Constantine as having any real power or authority in the Church.  Athanasius is a contemporary of Constantine and certainly had some sense of how the Church viewed Constantine’s embrace of Christianity.  It appears that embrace included humbly learning his place within the Church.

Next:  Constantine, Heretics and Schismatics (1)

2011 Dayton Air Show

I don’t go to the Dayton Airshow every year, and I am neither an airplane or military buff.   I still enjoyed the show.

Samuel Morse in 1844 when opening the telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington keyed in the phrase “What has God wrought”.    What would he have said about today’s technology?

The precision flying at speeds Morse could not even have imagined leaves one admiring both the machines humans make and the humans who pilot them.

You do witness people doing things they probably shouldn’t do: “Look, Mom, no hands!”

You also see some things that not so long ago people would have said you couldn’t do:  yes, he’s flying that helicopter up-side-down.

You have to admire what things can be imagined, engineered, built and made to work.  An air show is full of education for those who like to do the math, or the science, or the engineering, or the aerodynamics.  It probably inspires more than a few to look into these kinds of careers.  The military does a lot of recruiting at the show as well.  Dare devils get their inspiration here too!

There is also artistry and choreography…

… and not a little pyrotechnics.

There is a lot of history presented throughout the show, military and American.  This year’s show featured, “Tora, Tora, Tora”, a re-enactment of the 7 December 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base which brought America into WWII.

And there is a fair amount of patriotism and pride in being American.  History, as they say, is written by the victors.

You can see my collection of photos from the 2011 Dayton Air Show at   Click on any one of the thumbnail photos and they will take you to different sets of photos where you can then enjoy a slideshow of all the photos in the set.

My favorite photos are at just click on the “slideshow” button above the thumbnail photos to see the full sized photos.

Constantine and the Christian Bishops (1)

This is the 5th blog in this series which began with Two Versions of Constantine the Great.   The previous blog is Constantine’s Triumph Over Imperial Rivals.   This blog series is considering Constantine the Great as presented in two books:  Paul Stephenson’s  CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR  and Peter Leithart’s DEFENDING CONSTANTINE.

Part of the issue of evaluating Constantine’s own commitment to Christianity is that though he submitted his life to baptism just before his death, prior to that dying with Christ, Constantine was an active and ambitious emperor who carried out with full force and intention his will as a monarch.  Though he oversaw some changes in civil ritual which moved the empire away from pagan animal sacrifice to the bloodless worship of Christians, Constantine kept firm reign on his personal imperial power over the empire.  So did he recognize a new authority in his life to whom he answered- the Church?     Leithart and Stephenson evaluate Constantine quite differently on his relationship to Church authority as represented by the bishops of the Church.

 “Constantine considered the bishops another group of subordinates, whose spiritual and pragmatic authority was not qualitatively different to his own, just less abundant.  As a general, not a bishop, Constantine understood that loyalty to the commander-in-chief was achieved not through consultation but through the chain of command.  His generals and their subordinate officers, so long as they were loyal, guaranteed the efficacy of the fighting force and its devotion to the emperor and his goals.  So it would be with the Christian Church and its generals, the bishops, who were his imperial subjects.  Thus, ‘like a universal bishop appointed by God he convoked councils of the ministers of God…”  (Stephenson, CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, pp 258-259)

Stephenson accepts a notion that with Constantine begins that Constantinian effect on the church of the church becoming subservient to the emperor.  The bishops like subordinate officers in the military are to be loyal to their commander in chief.  However Leithart quoting J. Liebeschuetz strongly objects:

  “The Church could never be simply the religious department of the republica, as the old religion had been.  The Church had its own officers, the clergy, who were absolutely distinct from the officers of the state.  It accepted the authority of sacred writings and of traditions which were not part of the Graeco-Roman civilization. . . . The weekly services, sermons, the discipline of penance, and religious instruction offered the clergy means of indoctrination which had no precedent. . . . The incorporation of the Church involved a fundamental transformation of Roman institutions, with consequences that were bound to be very great indeed.”  (Leithart, DEFENDING CONSTANTINE, p  153)

So the two modern historians looking at the same historical documentation reach two different conclusions.  Stephenson has Constantine bringing the bishops in line with his will as commander-in-chief.  Leithart does not believe this happened seeing that the church had a parallel hierarchy and structure to the state and it never submitted itself to state ritual or control.  The church had its own teachings and sense of obedience to God.   This was part of what had led to the persecution of the church by the state to begin with.  Leithart does not see the church as meekly submitting to the state, but rather as triumphing over the state and then working out a new relationship with its former enemy now won over by the love of Christ. As mentioned in a previous blog, Leithart has Eusebius declaring victory for the church over the empire.

“For many Christians, such as Eusebius, the task of the hour was not to integrate the church into the empire.  The empire had lost the battle with the church, and it was the empire that should make concessions.  The church was not incorporated but victorious; the martyrs’ faith had been vindicated, and the task was now to integrate the emperor into the church.”   (Leithart, DEFENDING CONSTANTINE, p   183)

Next:  Constantine and the Bishops (2)

The Martyrdom of Boris and Gleb

Sts. Boris and Gleb

St. Vladimir Prince of the Rus is noted of course for his choosing to become a Christian in 988AD and thus bringing the Christian Faith to the people of Rus (both Ukrainians and Russians claim this is how Orthodox Christianity came to them).  His decision to embrace Christianity proved fateful to his own children as well.  When Vladimir died, there was a question as to which of his sons would succeed him to the throne.  One of his sons, Svyatopolk, was determined to use lethal force to attain the throne.  Two of St. Vladimir’s sons however, influenced by their new Christian faith decided that it would not be right to take up arms against their brothers to gain the throne.  They were not only filial brothers, they were now through baptism brothers in Christ.  Svyatopolk however lusted for power and sent his men to kill Boris first.  Fr. Sergei Hackel tells the story this way:

Martyr Boris

“The murderers arrived when it was still dark: but Boris, as they could hear, was already up and at prayer. “O Lord Jesus Christ, who in this form didst come down to us on earth” (he was praying before an icon) ‘and who of thine own free will didst deign to be nailed upon the cross and endure suffering for our sins: vouchsafe me also to end suffering.’”

Boris decides to imitate Christ and accept martyrdom rather than even defend himself from those sent to murder him.  Gleb the other brother also decides not to retaliate or defend himself, but accepting his role as a martyr for Christ, lays down his life rather than kill another.  Fr. Hackel concludes the account of these martyred saints of the Orthodox Church:

We see them facing death. Are not we, with them, awaiting death? How do they face it? At first, alone and — like us — afraid. There is no one at hand to help them. They are not immediately willing to submit. There is no cheap victory when it comes. The agony of Gethsemane precedes the submission of Gethsemane.

Martyr Gleb

Yet no sooner have they submitted than they find they are no longer alone in their agony, they are under Christ’s yoke, he is lifting the weight off their shoulders. He is their partner under the yoke; they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and they fear no evil: His rod and His staff comfort them.  …   But Svyatopolk is evil, says the world. Oppose him; you have the force, use it, your cause is just. You will live and rule your people wisely. Even the justice of their cause does not provoke them: was not the most just of causes defended by Peter in Gethsemane, and was he not rebuked? Could not the Son of God have called down more than twelve legions of angels to His defense? Yet He submitted.

Boris and Gleb, in these last moments, link their lives with Christ’s, and, with Thomas the Apostle, they are able to say: “Let us also go with Him, that we may die with Him”

St. Paul’s Backyard (July 2011)

I haven’t posted for a while photos from around our church, so I thought I would offer a few views today as the heat of summer broils us.

The hibiscus have been in full bloom, despite the heat.

Above is a view from the back acreage, across the creek, looking toward the church (which is not visible in the photo).  This was before a windstorm blew through downing a number of trees.  Our parish gardener, Les, continues his labor of love in creating a beautiful landscape in the church’s backyard.

The flowers bloom and thanksgiving is offered to God our Creator.    We are grateful also for Les’ hard work in creating a peaceful garden.   If you can’t get there to walk through it, enjoy this photo-journey.

A pink poppy in late bloom part of the wildflowers Les has established ‘across the creek.’

Above: also in the wildflowers, a purple coneflower.

Of course the flowers as beautiful as they are serve a purpose – to attract pollinating insects so the continuation of the flower’s species is guaranteed.  Creation’s biodiversity is needed for the survival of each species, as all species, including humans are interdependent on this diversity of life, the bio-systems which make up planet earth.  So far as we know, ours is the only planet with the uniqueness of life.  Some scientists keeping searching the universe for other signs of life and for planet capable of sustaining this life.

Beauty and diversity speak to me about a Creator.

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for You, O God.”  (Psalm 42:1)

You can view all of my photos of St. Paul Back Yard starting from January, 2011 at

There click on the “slideshow” button above the thumbnail photos to watch a slideshow.