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Archive for June, 2008

There are still openings for my fifth annual iconography workshop, to be held at St George Romanian Catholic Cathedral in Canton, Ohio, August 3-10. This is an intensive class in icon painting/writing for beginners. I teach, step by step, the process for creating a hand-painted icon, and supply all materials.

It is a great time; part retreat, part art class, and part summer camp.

The cost is $250, with $50 due with registration.

If you are interested, give me a call: 330 837 0534.

Daniel Nichols

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Guilty Non-Pleasures

Maclin Horton

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Dual Communion?

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has suggested that Eastern Catholics can return to union with the Orthodox without relinquishing their union with Rome. While both Melkite and Ukrainian Catholic hierarchs have suggested this in the past (and it apparently has occurred to some degree with the Melkites and the Antiochian Orthodox) this is the first time that it has been proposed at such a high level.

It should be noted that whatever authority the Ecumenical Patriarch has is moral rather than juridical; he is not the “Orthodox pope”. Still, if he leads by example, it is hard to imagine that some Orthodox jurisdictions would not follow him.

This seems very hopeful and something to pray about. From a purely practical point of view, it sure would be nice to walk to the Greek church down the street rather than drive half an hour to the Byzantine Catholic church we attend.

The story is discussed, with links, on the Eirenikon site: http://eirenikon.wordpress.com/ [direct link here--mh]

If you scroll down, there is also a discussion, with links, of the variance of marriage discipline in east and west, which we have talked about at some length here. I was unaware that the Council of Florence, where the approach to reunion was more or less “We are right and you are wrong, sign here”, which required among other things acceptance of the filioque, did not demand a change in eastern marital discipline… [direct link here--at least i think that's the right one--mh]

Daniel Nichols

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Ostrov

The first dialogue in the 2006 Russian film Ostrov (“The Island”) is the repeated intonation of the Jesus prayer. The setting is a remote monastery on a thin spit of land on the shore of the White Sea, in Russia’s far north. Monks are shown at prayer, alone and together, in more than one scene. The protagonist, Father Anatoly- he is not a priest but a lay monk; all monks are called “Father” in the Christian east- is a saint, a holy fool, and he is shown not only praying but exercising clairvoyance, healing the lame, foretelling the future, and casting out devils. In one scene he vehemently calls abortion “murder” and threatens a young woman considering one with hellfire.

On the basis of this description, you are no doubt skeptical about Ostrov. Despite my love of Russian spirituality- which is here served straight up, no chaser- I myself have generally been of the sneaky, Walker Percy school when it comes to depicting religious experience. Direct portrayals of holiness nearly all fail; think of the disastrous and self-conscious film Therese a couple of years back..

It is true that there are exceptions to the rule that direct portrayal of religious experience makes bad film, like the Israeli movie Ushpizin, which we discussed here some time ago, but that was about a good man, not a miracle-working saint.

But Ostrov works, and works beautifully, and apparently not just for a Russophile like me. While I cannot read the Russian on the DVD box, there are three of the little olive branch symbols that indicate the film has won awards at festivals.

Ostrov succeeds where others fail for two reasons. The first, quite simply, is the subject matter. The holy fool is a spiritual type that is by nature rich and colorful and funny. He is surely a better subject than say, a parish priest or a teaching sister. And Father Anatoly’s earthy humanity would, I think, engage all but the hardest of hearts.

The second reason this film works is the pure eye of the filmmaker, Pavil Lungin. Aside from a jerky frenetic flashback to World War II, thirty years earlier, where the man who is to become Father Anatoly is shown committing a cowardly and vicious sin, a sin for which he will spend the rest of his life in repentance, the film is meditative, almost still. The camera lingers over the ebb and flow of the waters, the wind and snow and clouds. Ostrov unfolds like a prayer. The score, which evokes Slavonic sacred music when it is not quoting it, weaves an undulating atmosphere into the story, which is one of the redemption of often reluctant souls.

Ostrov is a wonder, a gem of a film.

I had to order it online, as neither the interlibrary loan system nor local video stores could find it. But then, as it is one of the handful of films to which I will return again and again, that seems a sound investment indeed.

Find this film and watch it; it is unlike anything you have ever seen.

Daniel Nichols

NOTE from Maclin: if you comment on this post and have seen the movie, please don’t reveal important plot elements. Thanks.

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Standing In Line at the Sinners’ Hospital

Maclin Horton

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To Know and To Love

Maclin Horton

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Love. Love. Love.

Maclin Horton

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