Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Age of the Earth According to the Fathers and the Decay in the Speed of Light

There is a fascinating convergence going on between the teaching of the Fathers of the Church and the observations of a cutting edge astro physicist Barry Setterfield.  Setterfield has pioneered studies that show that the speed of light is slowing down, contrary to the assumptions of Einstein a Century ago, and that about eight thousand years ago it was infinitely fast, allowing light from the most distant reaches of the Universe to propagate instantly throughout.  It means that the cosmic ages of billions of years took place within about eight thousand solar years as observed from the earth.  
The precise age Setterfield came up with corresponds
 most closely, he also noted, with the age of the earth calculated, not from the Masoretic text of the Old Testament (Torah), but from the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the ancient Hebrew Vorlage), according to the Fathers, who noted that the Creation began about 5700 BC, give or take fifty years or so.  

Reference on Setterfield's Studies.

Reference on the age of the earth according to the Fathers:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fulfillment of Prophecy of Daniel and Revelation

  • The 1290 Days of Daniel 12:11 was fulfilled in 688 AD by the construction of the  Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
  • The  42 months of Revelation 11:12 was fulfilled in 1967 AD by the freeing of Jerusalem from Gentile control.  
  • The 1260 days of Revelation 11:3 was fulfilled in 1948 Ad by the Jewish people returning to their homeland
  • The 1260 days of Revelation 12:5 was fulfilled in 1948 AD by the establishment of the new nation of Israel.
  • The Time, Times and Half Time of Daniel 7:25 was fulfilled in 1948 AD by the new nation of Israel
  • The Time, Times and Half Time of Daniel 12:7 was fulfilled in 1967 AD by the freeing of Jerusalem
  • The Season and Time of Daniel 7:12 was fulfilled in 1948 AD when the Gentiles lost control of the Holy Land.  
  • The closing of the Time of the Gentiles puts us in the Time of the End.
  • reference for this material:
  • St. Sophronius who was present when it was announced that the Dome of the Rock was to be built  on the Temple Mount and St. Sophronius said that this was the Abmonination of Desolation spoken of by the Prophet Daniel. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Incarnation and the Doctrine of the Church

It matters where we begin with our theologizing.  Calvin began with the sovereignty of God and produced a powerful and formidible structure but missed the mark  when it comes to correspondence of his thought with that of the Fathers.  Scripture gives us a better place, as far as Economic thought about the Truth is concerned. (The Greek Fathers of the Fourth Century made a clear distinction between theologia and economia, which were based on two different aspects of church life. On the one hand was the direct experience of the Trinity, with no references to the activities of God in the world. On the other hand was the philosophically developed teaching on the incarnation, salvation, the incarnation, the church and its mysteries, the second coming of Christ and so forth. The Fathers called this latter teaching  economia.  Scripture tells us that the foundational confession is that of the Incarnation. We glean this from I John 4:1.   That this is so is because the Truth is Jesus Christ who is fully human and fully Divine, united in one Person, and who in Himself unites all Truth both of creation and of the Uncreated.  
The Economia of Christian thought wherever it proceeds must of necessity, confess the Incarnation and its implications to be thoroughly Christian, so that men have minds remade and transformed by the light of Christ (Romans 12:1,2).  
Ecclesiology, the study of the Church, falls under the domain of economia, and because the Church is the body of Christ, manifesting His Life in the visible world, it is also a subset of Christology.  The Church is the on-going ministry of Jesus Christ in the world, according to Grace and the Energies of God.  Consequently, the things that pertain to the Incarnation  in the Union of Two Essences in the One Person, pertain also according to the Church  in the Union of Two Energies, in the One Person of Jesus Christ.  (definition:  The Energies of God are the presence of God outside of His Essence.  The Energies are knowable; the Essence is Unknowable; the Energies are expressed in His Immanence; the Essence in His Transendence (see The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware).  Thus, the Church of necessity is both fully human, having as the body of Christ a many-membered incorporation with all the human implications thereof,  and also fully Divine, having as Its head, the fully Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose Energies fully animate the Church.  Any ecclesiology, then of necessity, must have both components, to fully confess the Incarnation.  
In the 11th Century, the Bishop of Rome asserted as his right to rule over the other Bishops of the Church, including the right to alter the Creed which had been agreed upon in Council of all the Bishops including the Bishop of Rome.  He was the first protestant in this sense, asserting the right of an individual over the universal claim of the Church in fulness to be the Foundation of the Church. In the 16th Century, the consequences of the unilateral assertion of authority led to a deep distrust of the same by Western Christians and produced the Reformation.  The leaders of the Reformation for the most part held to a doctrine of the Church consistent with the Fathers in that they held to a doctrine of the Visible Church, but in consequence of the lamentable disunity of doctrine and practice and administration that emerged immediately upon the heels of the Reformation, the idea of an Invisible Church came to be broadly and popularly held amongst the children of the Reformation.  In the contemporary Protestant world, so much has the notion taken hold that now it is considered hubris and the height of arrogance and unenlightenment to assert, in any fashion, a doctrine of a Visible Church.  
How does that square however with the Incarnation?  An Invisible Church, though it is described in different ways, asserts that the Church is only known unto God, and that it consists of all true believers. The visible expressions of Christian life on earth are given a lesser status. For the Anglicans, at least in their Classical variant, speak of the branches of the Church.  Others speak of a distinction between the Church which is visible and the institutional Church which is not. Others also speak of the Church which is invisible and the clubs of Christians which are visible and that have particular rules that they embrace that give them visible historicity in distinction to the invisible Church.  
However, the invisible church doctrine is expressed, it devolves to one uncomfortable fact, that the Church, since it is invisible is not fully human in the totality of that word.  It does not have a historical footprint; it does not have institution which is the means for propagating and maintaining a historical presence; it doest not have a visible human authority for making decisions on earth that are binding on heaven, nor does it carry out in the visible world those things that Christ did in the world as the visible and Incarnate Lord, most chiefly, the forgiveness of sins.  Forgiveness of sins, in the invisible Church is not done at all on earth but only in the Divine and has no human component, being only the acts of the Divine and invisible and spiritual savior.  
The invisible Church then posits less than the full humanity of the Church, in favor of its 
Divinity.  In the Great Councils of the Undivided Church, this same expression of belief with respect to Christology was called monophysitism and to hold it was to hold the monophysite heresy, which was rejected by the 4th Council of the Church.  The Invisible Church doctrine is Christologically monophysite and is an inadequate expression of Christology in the doctrine of the Church.  
One may ask does it make any difference and I would suggest that it leads immediately to a form of sin, the sin of schism, or at least tends to it; for it makes any attempt to practice the visible unity of the Church wrong-headed, and any recognition of Insitutional authority suspect, leading to all sorts of anarchies and the flourishing of a multitude of heresies in thought and practice to the inordinate expression of the individual , in the place of the manifestation of Jesus Christ, in His Fullness, in His Body the Church.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Silence Must Win Out

A dear friend, a priest of the Orthodox Church, an anchorite, who has been shut up to prayer for 19 years with Psoriatic Arthritis in 41 joints of his body, said to me concerning prayer, "The silence must win out."  He was repeating to me what has been said concerning prayer since the beginning of the Church and before.  "Be still and know that I am God."  St. Ignatius the God-bearer said, "those who have acquired the word of Jesus, must go on to know His Stillness so as to be perfect."
Yet for many Chrstian life begins with a great burst of emotion.  When one is awakened to a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, has experienced the forgiveness of sins, has begun to feel the Energies of God vivifying his soul and body,  in the Protestant and evangelical West, one feels very drawn into not silence but great emotional excitement and celebration and all that goes with it these days-  praise choruses, guitar Liturgies,  emotional filled preaching, dancing in the aisles and so forth.  This is the common response.  Yet as reinforcing as these things are to early Christian life, there is an inherent roadblock in them as well, if the great Saints of the ages are to believed, yes, and even if Scripture is to be believed as well.  
The early experience of Christian life is often loaded with feeling, and the structures that support those stages of Christian life support that and institutionalize that.  The experience of the Energies of God in the early stages are but a preparation for a deepening of ones inner life- and that is the Stillness that is in the heart.  
Early Christian life is usually characterized by a real sense of the forgiveness of sins and of  the experience of the voice of the Lord in the leadings of the Holy Spirit.  Yet the eye of the understanding (Eph 1:18), called the 'nous' in the classical prayer literature of the Church, is still not yet at the place where it needs to be. 
The nous, which is the subtle attention of our souls is still an exile from the heart, and yet needs to find its way back to the heart.  The very songs and styles of worship that often accompany the early stages of Christian growth, send the nous in the wrong direction- they send the nous out into the feelings, or if the person is intellectually inclined, out into the thoughts, neither of which is the place that the nous needs to recover.  The nous needs to find its way back into the heart, in the place where the Revelation of the Father may take place. The Spirit is sent into the world to reveal to us Jesus. Jesus who is the Word of God, in turns shows us the Father, in whose Presence we find the great Stillness, which , rather than being any abyss of nothingness,  comes to be experienced as the Home that we had always been exiled from.  
The Stillness must win out.  Sufferings and the process of repentance and the process of learning unceasing prayer will enable the young believer, in time to differentiate his heart and with perserverence allow his nous to return to the heart.  However, such a process will inevitably lead him out of the forms of worship where he at one time felt comfortable.  He will find himself gradually estranged from them, as he finds himself being progressively called into degrees of stillness.  The pursuit of the Stillness of the heart begins with bodily stillness, putting away the myriad of sensory distractions and activities that draw the nous away from its pursuit of God.  
The outer Stillness may be confused for the deeper Stillness of the heart, for it is an image of it, and an anticipation of it and preparatory for it. 
I remember in 2006 when I had begun to pray an abridged form of the Hours of Prayer. I talked to a monk and told him of my struggles in keeping the Hours.  He said to me 'you are not there yet.' I am certain he meant that I had not yet found the descent of the nous into the heart and the Stillness. I thought perhaps I had.  I had a similitude of stillness but it was not the stillness of having the descent of the nous into the heart. It was the preparatory forms of outward bodily stillness I had found.  He also talked about experiencing the services on a 'different level', and of praying the Jesus prayer while the Services were going on.    I thought perhaps I knew what he was talking about. I know now that I did not.  At that time I had found my nous, and the process was going on where it was being withdrawn from the senses and the emotions and the thoughts; my nous knew the word of Jesus, His Voice, but had not yet found its way back to the Father.  The Silence had not yet won out.  
Orthodox worship is configured so as to assist the descent of the nous into the heart and to call it away from the distractions both of intellectualism and emotionalism.  Orthodox worship forms are configured to help us so that the Silence wins out.  
During the years I was a charismatic Christian there was great blessing in the exhuberant and emotion packed and romantic songs of praise and worship that we sang. But it was also my observation that there was an invisible ceiling in those assemblies that prevented Christian growth.  Everyone seemed to be locked in a spiritual adolescence.  There is great vigor in adolescence; however, its immaturity fails to come up to the high standard of revealing who God is in Christ.  
The forms of our worship therefore are not a matter simply of taste, but actually conform us to something, or block our being conformed to something else.  The forms of our worship matter, and that means that Church matters, for It, Church, is given to us as the pillar and ground of our growth in Christ.  It was Church that both wrote the Bible and decided which books would be in it and those that would not.  It is within Church that we either experience the icons of the Father in the hierarchy of the Church, and so learn both submission and obedience, and the fruits of that which are blessing and growth.  There is no growth apart from relationship to fathers, to the Father.  Thus, it is not only the worship forms that help to foster or hinder growth in Christ, but also the forms of authority that we have as well.  
In the heavenlies, the Father is the Source, from which the Son is eternally begotten, and the Spirit eternally proceeds.  In His humanity the Son of God always submitted His will to the Divine will of the Father.  In the Church, it is in the icons of the Christ, the pastors and the Bishops that we find the locus to submit in Christ to the will of the Father, so fostering our growth. It is not, therefore, a matter of personal taste what sort of Church government we have, but the government must be an icon, an image of the heavenly government, for us to grow. Fathers foster growth.  
Out of this also flows an attitude towards the past and those who went before  us.  As we must honor the Fathers in our midst in order to grow, we must also honor the Fathers before us in order to avoid error and to grow as well.  It is the adolescent who stands proudly aloof from the fathers, in his exalted sense of self-worth, judging those who went before him, not having within him the humility that comes from seeing his own imperfections, nor having the experience that causes him to treat all men subject to the human condition to the greatest of benefits of the doubt.  
Church matters.  If we would grow and the Stillness win out, we must find ourselves in that which Christ prepared for us to take us on to God.  The Church is the ground and pillar of the Truth.   

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Overlapping Fossilized Dinosaur and Human Footprints

On my living room wall is a picture of fossil footprints of a human being overlapping that of a dinosaur.  This picture used to be hung in one of my examination rooms of my erstwhile podiatry practice.  This picture is significant because the fossil footprints are in limestone, and had to be made within twelve hours of each other because that is the time it takes for the sediment that becomes limestone to harden into rock.  
false color rendition of -3b with javascript rollovers
The picture is from an archaelogical site at the Paluxy River in Texas. This fossil footprint (-3B) is in the bed of the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas. It is one of a 14 track sequence called the Taylor Trail. The tracks are consistently 11.5" in length with consistently alternating rights and lefts. They are among and, in this case, within dinosaur tracks.
Since the limestone hardens in 12 hours, it is clear that the human and dinosaur lived at the same time.  Go to   to see enhancements so that you can see the footprints better. 

Opposing Torture With All The Intolerance of Holy Love

I never, never, never thought that in my Country I would be forced to defend the opposition to torture.  I am very much out of the loop when it comes to political activity.  I pray for the government.  I pray for the Unborn.  I look for the Second Coming of Christ- that is my politics.
However, the slide in American opinion concerning torture is deeply troubling.  I have read that 54 percent of Church-going Americans think that torture is sometimes justified.  This is intolerable. I will not
 tolerate such an opinion.  I will not tolerate it by opposing it.  All opinions are not equal.  To sanction Torture is to Sanction Terrorism. Torture is simply the use of terrorism by one entity against another.  I will oppose it with the pen. I will oppose it with prayer.  I will oppose it with all the intolerance of holy love that I can evoke and call forth out of my very imperfect soul.  

This Nation has a Tradition of the defense of the helpless. A prisoner is in a position of helplessness, and no matter how heinous his alleged activity, he must be according the respect due to the helpless as a human being.  Human beings are made in the image of God, and to eschew torture is to affirm the Image of God that is within him.  It is perhaps symptomatic of our equivocation on the defense of the Unborn that has allowed our thinking on the issue of torture to become depraved.  Our discernment has been degraded because our moral sense has been coarsened.  
We have watched way too much television and movies with endless succession of violent acts.  Lord, have mercy.  In the days of Noah, prior to the Judgment of God on the whole earth by water,  violence filled the earth.  And in these days, is violence again filling the earth; is this a harbinger of the final Judgment of the Earth by Fire?  Lord, have mercy.  
American opinion has deteriorated. Consider what Ronald Reagan articulated as official Policy of our Government just a generation ago.  
 1988, transmitting the Convention Against Torture to the Senate for ratification:The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention.  It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction." Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.  
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. . . Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law.
Right on Brother Reagan.  God grant rest to your soul.  Christian  Institutions calling good, evil and evil, good.  For example, Notre Dame and its willingness to honor our current President, who has no moral qualms about the Institutionalized usage of abortion, that is to say- the murder, of unborn life, even to the extremes of  partial birth abortion- that is to say, scissors in the brains of babies as they are being born. Right on, Alan Keyes and Randall Terry as you lament, and decry, and don sackcloth and bewail the magnitude and folly of this offense, in the name of our Lady, the Theotokoswhose womb, received both God and the Image of God from the moment of conception, through her, 'so be it unto me according to thy word."  For the angel Gabriel had said unto her espoused, 'that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."   Lord, have mercy, we have become coarsened, and our thinking depraved by minds Informed by ideology rather than a purified nous, heart.  I applaud our President in his opposition to torture,  and his reversal of some of the instruments of torture put in place by our previous Administration, but I decry the inconsistency of thought that is expressed in his consistent advocacy of abortion. This also extends to the  willingness to use human embryos in research.  This is, in a sense,a failure of thought, secondary to a failure of faith, and faith, like hope and love, are theological virtues.  As we fail to perceive the God who is in everything, and more specifically the God who made man in His Image, so also do we tend to fail to perceive the Image in the MEN whom He made.  An embryo is a tiny thing, and lowers the threshold, as it were, to the forces of unbelief that would make us less than human.  Men, having forgotten God, are now forgetting man.  

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn noted a generation ago  at Harvard, the sickness of the modern West is that we have forgotten God.  We have 

forgotten man, in the image of God, in the unborn; we have forgotten  man, in the image of God, in the embryo.  We have forgotten man, in the image of God, in the helpless prisoner. 

Lord, have mercy on our souls, bring repentance to this Land, and save, O Lord, the People.   Lord,  have mercy on our Government and all civil authorities. Bring peace to the world, peace to the womb, peace to the prisons. Renew our minds by renewing our Faith in Thee.  Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.  Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the Ages of Ages, Amen.  

 The UN  Convention Against Torture

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Richard Foster on Spiritual Formation

In a Mere Christianity sort of way he points us in a good way towards Christian formation.
His newest book, Longing for God, has an appendix noting the Eastern Orthodox contribution. 
But we are not saved by the spiritual Jesus alone. We are saved by the Incarnate Jesus, who is one person, Human and Divine, Created and Uncreated.  We are saved by the whole Jesus. We have a spiritual communion with Him inwardly and must also be incorporated by the Spirit into His Body to be saved.  We are saved by inward relationship to Jesus and outward incorpration into His Body.  We are saved by the whole Jesus.  
Therefore, Church is not irrelevant to our being saved, wholly and fully, to our being spiritually formed, wholly and fully.  One aspect of the Body of Christ, is that it is not Divided. The apostle Paul tells us in Scripture (go to you online Bible program and look it up!) To be properly related to the body of Christ that saves us we must be incorporated into His Body that is not divided.  Incorporation into any Christian body that is divided or admits to being divided or is obvious that it is divided or adheres to a doctrine that there is division in the body of Christ is a serious problem.  
Why?  Because Jesus, that is to say the revelation of who Jesus is, comes through the Breaking of Bread, that is to say, through Communion with His Body.  Who Jesus is is revealed by the means of His Body. The unique and only son of God was revealed to Peter in just that way. The undivided Christ, the Incarnate Logos, in solitary Body was shown by revelation to that One, through and in His Indivisible Body.  Did the Incarnate one begin with a program that revealed Himself in a solitary Body, then continue with a Church that was divided, that is to say, His Body, divided? No. His Church he promised would persist , manifesting His unique and solitary relationship to the Father, by being One Body on earth.  Spiritual formation that comes by the revelation of Jesus is inseparable from and comes in fullness only through the Church, indivisible, which is His Body.  The Hypostatic Union assures us that the fullness of  invisible, divine, and mystical revelation is united to and manifested through incorporation into Christ's visible and and fully human Body, the Church.  
For this reason, the laudable goals of those in spiritual formation movement will never be fully realized by attempting to take the ministry of spiritual formation that is one fabric with the Church, and grafting it onto assemblies that not only do not manifest the Oneness of Christ's body on earth, but deny it through a doctrine of the Invisible Church.  Christ did not promise us that he was send us 'spiritual formation'; he promised that he would build His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  
There is no promise that spiritual formation excised from the ancient and undivided Church will be any more successful than any other spirit movement, pietistic, or charismatic, in bringing sons into Fullness.  Only the whole Christ can do that.  Only the whole Christ, Divine and Human, can do that. Only the whole Christ, whose Indivisibile Body alone can fully reveal the One God , who is the Father Almighty.  
So Jesus Christ the Lord, human and Divine, whose ongoing life is revealed through His Body the Church, can only give us the full Revelation of the Father. It is the revelation of the Holy Trinity and the worship thereof that transforms us.  It is not primarily stillness, or ascetism, nor lectio divina, or centering prayers.  It is the Revelation of the Holy Trinity and the worship thereof that transforms.  We beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are transformed from glory to glory.  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Purgation, Illumination and Theosis and Evangelical Christian Distinctives

The Classical Christian Map of Christian Growth has three stages.  In the West it is usually listed as Purgation, Illumination and Union. In the East, Purgation, Illumination, Theosis.  The East and the West both point to the same general stages of Christian growth in grace.  The Orthodox East has
 kept intact its teaching and commitment to this three-fold process, and the West has preserved it here in there in various schools of thought and monastic orders.  

On the other hand the Evangelical Protestant West makes much about various crisis experiences that they urge others to have for themselves.  They talk about being 'born again', about being 'saved',  about being 'filled' or 'baptized' in the Holy Spirit, or about being 'entirely sanctified'; about having 'assurance of salvation' and so forth.  I have often wondered about those
 experiences and how
 they fit in to the classical processes 
of the Orthodox East because I came into Orthodoxy from the evangelic
al protestant movement a dramatic transformation in the way that one lives
 life.  Not so with the Orthodox East. Baptism is spoken of as the New Birth following Jesus' identification of baptism
 with the same in his conversation with Nicodemus when he said in,   John 3:5  ' Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' or as St. Paul spoke when he wrote  of "Tit 3:5 the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" and again, 1Pe 3:21  "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now
 save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:"

I am not trying to do an exhaustive Scriptural statement that baptism is the new birth but showing Scriptures upon which the Orthodox East leans.  Where does baptism in the Orthodox 
view fall on the continuum?  
It depends.  In the case of St. Paul, who was converted on the road to Damascus, the Orthodox view of his conversion at that point also involved his experience of glorification, in part, because he saw the Uncreated Light of God.  The apostle Paul had progressed along the course of purgation as an Old Testament Jew, and was catapulted, as it were into crises of illumination and glorification at one time.  One expects that his witness of St. Stephen's death was also an illumination, one that he resisted, as he is said by the Lord  to have been 'kicking against the pricks", Acts 9:5.  Beholding the uncreated
 light is a crisis experience of glorification, not in most instances the full glorification that takes place at the Resurrection in the coming Kingdom, but an anticipation of it.  St. Paul went on to be baptized, having his sins washed away in baptism , Acts 22:16, having
 advanced in illumination and even experienced glorification, albeit at the cost of
 physical blindness for which he was afterwards, healed.  Baptism, however, is the beginning of full
 Christian life, though it is a beginning, which leads to experience, only as folks begin to respond to the grace that comes in at that time, like a present, needing to be unwrapped.  Infants bap
tized for an example, often need the sufferings of growing up to bring them to the place where the package is unwrapped; hence, the need of many for adult conversions.  Baptism is also called an
 'illumination', in the Liturgy of Baptism. 
So, it is hard to say really where it falls in the continuum.  It is even recommended that one obtain the prayers of a newly baptized person because at that time, there is for them perfect Communion with the Holy Trinity.  

What then in classical terms is the experience of evangelicals that they call being 'born again', since in classical terms, the new birth is the same as baptism?  The experience that evangelicals
 have falls more or less within the stage of illumination, although one cannot rule out it having
 some aspects of purgation.  Purgation in classical terms is the putting away from oneself sinful habits.  Purgation in a way is preparatory to illumination; however, most authors say that it really continues throughout the Christian life.  Most believers who grew up in Christian churches have the experience of being in an outward relationship to God; reading the Bible, saying prayers, trying to be good, all without an interior sense of communion with God, or inward graces from God to strengthen, or consolations of the Spirit inwardly.  If they go on with God, there is an inward revelation, of the presence of the Lord within the heart and an inward communion with Him.  This transition for those who have grown up as Christians, many evangelicals call the 'new birth',  and in a way it makes sense for it is an often dramatic transition
 into a new dimension of living.  However, it is in classical terms, an outworking of the grace of baptism- it is a sort of unfolding of baptismal grace.  From this perspective, the Christian life before this inward illumination was not wasted, but was preparatory. It was not mere 'churchianity' but a relationship to God before the person was inwardly prepared and ready for it.  It was not a stage of Christian life to debunk, therefore, but a part of purgation, a part of the stage of Christian life that leads, one hopes to illumination, and to illuminations.  The period of time leading up to the illumination that many evangelicals call 'being born again', corresponds to the relationship that the apostles had to Christ, before they had been inwardly illumined by the Spirit to the fact that the One to whom they were relate, was none other than the son of God.  Peter's 'illumination' -
 flesh and blood hath not revealed this to you'  -  corresponds to the experiences that many evangelicals call being born again, when the terminology is applied to baptized believers, who
 have a later awakening of personal relationship inwardly to Jesus Christ.  Peter knew Jesus
 Christ, in his humanity, but had a deeper realization of Him, after the revelation of the Godhead
 of the son of God to Peter's heart.  Likewise, many Christians begin Christian life, knowing the humanity of Christ, the body of Christ, that is to say the Church, before they know Him inwardly, mystically, and by the Divine Energies that flow in through inward Communion.  In the amazement of inner experience of knowing Christ, many have an adolescent sort of reaction and reject their former status as being unworthy of the name Christian. However, it is just that- an adolescent reaction, and one that can and will cause problems down the road, and one must go beyond it.  The Incarnation rescues us at this point. We as Christians are 'saved' by the Incarnate Lord.  We are saved by a God who is  both fully human in the full sense of the word, as well as full Divine.  The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His Glory the Glory of the Only Begotten, full of Grace and Truth.  And that same Word, after His resurrection and ascension, continued to manifest His Glory in Humanity, in the fullest sense of the word- in the humanity of His Church, so that now, we are saved not only by the inward Word of Christ within the heart, the inward communion with a Personal, Mystically
 perceived, saviour in the heart, but also by the Christ who is Incarnated in the Humanity of the Church, which is His Body
.  We are saved, then, by the whole Christ, human and divine, mystical and incorporate, and not just by a personal relationship to Him in our heart.
Many of us, as did the apostles, get to know Him in His humanity, before His mystical word
 comes to our heart and we know Him inwardly.  Both are necessary, just as the Incarnation was essential to our salvation. We need our personal relationship to Christ the head, and incorporation into His Body.  
In fact, theologically,  Incorporation into His Body, is the ordinary precursor to  the experience of 'gift's of the Spirit, as we learn in I Corinthians 12.  For by one Spirit are we baptized into one Body, we are told.  In baptism the Spirit is operating to incorporate us into the Body of Christ.  In
 another way, in baptism the Church is acting with the Spirit to remit sins.  Christ gave the Church authority to remit sins  on earth, prior to His ascension. Shortly after that, at the day of Pentecost, the Church begins to remit sins on earth by baptizing.  "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."  Peter says in Acts 2:38.  The Church is announcing the forgiveness of sins and administering the 'Mystery', that is to say, Baptism, whereby sins are remitted.  In baptism the logic of the Incarnation is continued.  In Christ, the Incarnate One, matter became redemptive, and the death of a very human and material Body purchase Eternal life. In baptism, matter continues to be redemptive, material water conveys the remission of sins, the efficacy of Christ's blood shed for us, the effective intercessions of Christ who offered His blood for us at the mercy seat in heaven.  The redemption, not only of souls, but of all the Cosmos, is unfolded, as matter again begins to be the conduit of Etneral Life.  
The streams of Paradise, once blocked by Adam's sin, begin to flow again into the Baptismal Font
.  The tree of life, Christ's cross, opens the way thereof, and the Fruit of that Tree His Body and Blood again begin to Feed us who have recovered Paradise.  The first fruits of the Redemption,
 not only of souls, but of the entire Cosmos begins in the Church, anticipating the full redemption for which all Creation cries in suffering until now, awaiting the revelation of the Sons of God.  
Worship in the Old Testament was worship in Type and Symbol.  The Temple and Tabernacle were types of the heavenly which was the Anti-type.  The Old Testament Prophets are types of Christ who is the anti-type.  In the New Testament, we have been delivered of worship in types and symbols.  We have entered into a new reality in which the
 material things we do on earth, properly done, are participations in heavenly realities and not mere types, shadows, symbols. Scripture speaks specifically to this issue with respect to baptism.  Baptism is not a type or a symbol of a heavenly reality, but is itself an anti-type. It is a reality, not a symbol or a type.  
We are told that in I Peter 3:21.  Baptism is the anti-type to the flood of Noah which was the type.  Baptism is grace, for it present to us the cleansing blood of Christ. It is a "Mystery"- a paricipation in His death.  It is an anamnesis, as is Holy Communion- a bringing forward into the present the 'once and for all' passion of Christ.  Of course, we are saved by Faith, 
but faith operates according to Grace which Baptism is.  We are not saved by Faith alone, apart from grace; we are not saved by faith alone, apart from the Body of Christ.  Any reversion to worship by type and symbol, of which the doctrine of baptism as symbol is, is a reversion to Judaism, a Judaizing of the Faith, as much as insistence on 7th Sabbath as worship observance is.

So the 'new birth' when the term is applied to Christians who have more or less grown up as Christians is an experience in the Process of Illumination.  We have mentioned the gifts of the Holy Spirit as well.  Scripture states that the general order for the reception of gifts, is first baptism, incorporation into the Body of Christ, then the reception of gifts.  The giving of gifts is
 linked in Scripture to the asension of Christ,  when he had ascended on high He gave gifts to men.
The gifts of the Spirit are graces given for ministry within the Church.  All believers are given gifts; they are given by the sovereign dispostion of God. This does not exclude the seeking of gifts- for we are told to covet the best gifts, in Scripture and we are even told in Scripture that
 the desire for the gift of the Bishopric is good.  The experience of the reception of gifts or their manifestation are experiences as well of illumination.   
In a similar way, the experiences called baptism in the Spirit, and being filled with the Spirit,
 when they happen to folks who are already baptized believers are experiences in the process of illumination, as is the Methodist 'entire sanctification'.   Folks who are called 'born again' by evangelicals who are coming to faith in Christ for the first time, are more classically called
 'converts', who need subsequent instruction and baptism.  Such an experience may be the beginning of purgation, or may contain experiences that fall along the spectrum of illumination.  
Many people who have an awakening to the saving work of Christ and see it in a forensic manner, have begun purgation.  
So, we see any number of experiences that point to purgation and illumination. 
This begs the question- what of glorification?  In glorification, in Scripture, people see visions of Christ, or see the Uncreated Light, or in some rare instances experience the Divine Darkness as in the case of Moses.  The selected apostles, for example, saw the Uncreated Light at the time of the Trasnfiguration. 
 My reading of evangelical literature has left me the conclusion that the experience of Theosis, or of Union, and the experiences of glorification involved therein, is pretty much uncharted territory for evangelicals.    There is
 a reason for this that I know of (and probably many that I do not).  The experiences of Purgation and Illumination have a direct connection to Scripture, on the one hand, and to the Voice of Christ, on the other.  The Energies, or graces of God comes to us through Scripture to bring us into the process of purgation. 
 The voice of Christ revealed to us brings us into the process of Illumination.  But is entry into the Stillness and the Silence of the Father that leads us progressively into Theosis or Union.  What do we mean by Theosis or Union-  the early Fathers stated it succintly  to become , by Grace, everything that Christ is by Nature'.  'God became a man so that man could become God', they say.  
Athanasius said The Word ``was made man so that we might be made God'' (De Inc 54.3; Robertson 65).  In Alexandria, Clement wrote, ``the Logos of God had become man so that you might learn from a man how a man may become God'' (Prot 1.8.4; Pelikan 1:155). Irenaeus mentioned the concept several times, with only brief explanation (evidence that he assumed that his readers would be familiar with the term). He noted that Chris
tians could be called God: ``There is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and th
e Son, and those who possess the adoption'' (Against Heresies, book IV, preface, section 4; AnteNicene Fathers 1:463). We are human in the beginning, but ``at length gods'' (IV 38.4; ANF 1:522). We are raised up ``to the life of God'' (V 9.2; ANF 1:535)

This stage of Christian growth, of Theosis or Union, takes place when the Word who is ever sent forth by the Father, takes us back to the Silence of the Father, and it is the the Silence of the Father that the process of Theosis or Union incubates, as it were, and the experience of the
 Word.  Since it is the Silence of the Father that incubates Theosis, evangelicals with their strong Scripture only stance and fear of anything mystical that is without the Word, find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to Theosis or Union.  For them to experience it, they must run a
foul some seriously held positions on Scripture, and ignore some pretty serious fears that they inherit from the 5 century old reaction to Medieval Catholicism.  For example, when one
 embraces that Revelation is Propositional as was argued by the late Francis Schaeffer, then anything that takes place in Silence, in fact the very notion of entering the Silence of the Father, becomes suspect.  
Revelation, in Orthodox thinking, is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and that is the revelation of a Person, a very speical person, and is beyond words and concepts.  Scripture in this sense is not
 revelation but a pointer to the experience of revelation.  And Scripture is not revelation recorded but the words of men who attempted to put in concepts they had of Revelation which was beyond concepts.  
Another way of stating it is that there are two tiers of revelation.  There is Revelation with a capital 'R',  which is the revelation of Jesus Christ to the heart, classically termed the 'nous', on the one hand; on the other is revelation with a little 'r' which are the thoughts and words of Scripture primarily, and then the writings of the Fathers of the Church through the ages.  One needs a more subtle concept of Revelation if one is to proceed with the possibility of ent
ering deeply into Theosis.  Otherwise one's teaching does not shape one's mind to the possibility of such experiences which are its operative conditions.  
But Jesus said it Himself, "You search the Scriptures, thinking that in them you will find life, and it is they that speak of Me."  The Scriptures  propositionally as revelation point to Christ who is the Revelation.  Human created concepts point us to Divine uncreated Word.  
So, the stage of Christian growth known as Theosis in the Orthodox east tends to be neglected or
 suspected in the evangelical literature that I've read, and some ministries amongst evangelicals sound alarms against any tendencies in this direction. For example, the spiritual formation movement of which Dallas Willard (whose book, Hearing God, is the best I've ever read on hearing the voice of God and on Divine Guidance) and Richard Foster  (whose book, Celebration
 of Discipline is a Protestant classic) are noted leaders, is opposed by them as being a descent into eastern and demonized mysticism.  Many of the accusations are based upon guilt by association, but there is the general muddiness in the West as to the pursuit of Thesosis that may contribute to the problem. Both the Catholic and Protestant West passed through  scholasticsm that has left its mark upon the expressions of the Faith.
Most notable was the loss of touch with the mystical Tradition of the ancient divided Church that
 took place in a number of ways, requiring whole libraries to explicate.  We have already touched upon the change in the doctrine of revelation amongst protestants. This took place as the Reformers uniformly embraced philosophical nominalism as a theological tool, out of which flowed the necessary notion of propositional revelation.  
In scholastic Roman Catholic Thomism, the chief organ of revelation was the intelligence or the reasoning brain, and contemplation turned in to mere thought.  In the process, the organ of spiritual attention, called in the East, the 'nous', was lost to Christian thought. This was a tragedy anthropologically because the nous is the organ that is receptive to  Revelation in a capitol 'T'  that is beyond thought and reason.  Without an idea of the nous, Christian experience was reduced to thought, and the high revelations of God that progressively transform the believer were not conceptualized for the seekers. 
 Theology was no longer the province of the man who prayed, as was said by Evagrius
 Ponticus, but was the work of the man who thought and philosophized.  
Modern Christians, cut off from the Mystical Tradition of the East, have, nevertheless
, out of sheer hunger partially overcome the dirth of experiential faith, throug
h prayer, and have de facto redisovered the nous to some extent, simply calling it the spirit.  Others call it their 'knower.' 
Another great doctrinal deficit is the distinction between the Energies and the Essence of God, a distinction that begins to appear at the time of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa, and
 fully articulated in an apophatic way against the scholastic Augustinianism and Thomism of his protagonist Barlaam. When men begin to talk of becoming God or being united to God there is a problem, for if such is taking place, then those men are God and are worthy of worship that is due to God.  But if union with God is not possible, how is it that we may speak of it at all or seek it?  That is the problem encountered in the theological attempts of such thinkers as Norman Grubb, it seems to me, as he explored the idea of union and even had for a time a magazine with such a name.  This was never a problem in the Orthodox East were the Energies and Essence of God were carefully distinguished.  The Essence of God is God who is Unknowable.  The Energies is God existing outside of his Essence and is knowable.  The Energies of God are truly God yet outside of His Essence.  Our Union, if it is achieved, is with the Energies
 of God and not His Essence.  
The Energies of God are also the one and same as the Grace of God- with grace being the
 enabling powers of God and not a forensic state where sins are not imputed in some way.  Grace doesn't let us off the hook, it enables us to get on the hook, as it were.  In Scripture, unfortunately the greek words rooted in the idea of energy were generally lost to the West with the translation of the Septuagint, Greek Bible, into the Latin Vulgate by St. Jerome, and continued to be lost through the successive translations that were informed by that tradition of translation.  Thus, the strong Biblical stance that mentions the energies of God was lost to the West and that also
 contributed doctrinally to decline as far as being able to talk about Theosis was concerned.  
So, the West has been in a pickle as far as Theosis is concerned. It had not a doctrine of the nous, it had ceased to understand revelation in a deeper sense,  it failed to distinguish the Energies of God from His Essence, and it lost the Scriptural pointers to the Energies.  
Fortunately, in this melting pot which is the United States of America, and also to some extent the intellectual melting pot which is the Internet,  we have been given great treasure houses to explore that didn't exist for most of humanity in the Past.  And the Orthopraxy of Theosis, chiefly preserved by the monks of Eastern Orthodoxy is available for exploration and for mining.  
The Mystical Tradition of Theosis in the Orthodox East can be viewed as a stand alone entity, but it is really one fabric with the totality of Orthodox Christian life, many argue.  Theosis is set in the tradition of unceasing prayer, at whose heart is the Jesus Prayer.  The Jesus Prayer
is set within the tradition of Repentance as a way of life.  Repentance as a way of life is set in the tradition of the Mystery of Confession, whereby consciences are cleansed.  The Mystery of Confession leads
 inexorably to the Mystery of Holy Eucharist, the heart of all Christian worship.  Eucharist is set in the Tradition of the Church, with its prayers all drawing us towards Eucharistic adoration of Christ.  Eucharist is set within the Hierarchical Ministry of the Church with its Bishops, Priests and Deacons.  They Hierarchical Ministry is set within the Foundational Doctrine of the Laying on of Hands, the chief expression of which is Apostolic Succession.  Apostolic Succession brings us home to Christ who promised to build His Church, and to enable it to stand until He returned
 again, and that it would prevail against the Gates of Hell.  And the Church of C
hrist brings us back to our essential Confession, that Jesus Christ is Come in the Flesh, that is to say, the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, brought about by the 'so be it unto me according to thy word', spoken by our lady, the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary.  
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent His son into the world not to condemn the world
 but that the world through Him might be saved."

Glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Son, together is worshipped and glorified, One God, now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Scripture, Youth, and Orthopraxy of the Desert Fathers

When I was a student attending an on-campus class with the St. Stephen's School of Studies in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, I was struck with a study that noted that of the three groups of Orthodox youth- those who attended services infrequently, those who attended services frequently but did not read Scripture, and those who attended services frequently but had a regular habit of reading Scripture- it was the latter group that showed genuine evidence of living lives separate from the world.  We Orthodox for the most part are not known for our deep familiarity with Scripture. Yet, familiarity with Scripture is a very significant part of Orthodox Tradition. I have never known of a great Saint who was not also a great lover of Scripture. The Desert Fathers perhaps more than any other class of Orthodox saints, best manifested the high view of Scripture. The Desert Fathers of Pachomius, first of all, memorized the entire New Testament and also the Psalms as a sort of baseline for Scriptural meditation and prayer.
Bishop Kallistos Ware in his book The Orthodox Way  quotes St. Anthony in this manner, ' "When St. Anthony of Egypt was asked "What rules shall I keep so as to please God?", he replied: "wherever you go , have God always before your eyes; in whatever you do or say, have an example from the Holy Scriptures; and whatever the place in which you dwell, do not be quick to move elsewhere. Keep these three things, and you will live."'  It was the practice of the desert Father to reference every deed and word to the Scriptures that they knew. From the reference previously cited (Lectio Divina as school of prayer among the Fathers of the Desert, by Armand Veilleux) one reads, " In the desert, Scripture is constantly being interpreted. This interpretation is not expressed in the form of commentaries and homilies, but in actions and gestures, in a life of holiness transformed by the constant dialogue of the monk with the Scriptures. "St. Peter of Damaskos said, "...we...who do no more than listen to the Scriptures, should devote ourselves to them and meditate on them so constantly that through our persistence a longing for God is impressed upon our hearts...For this is what the holy fathers did before they acquired direct spiritual knowledge."   This is the Orthodox Tradition.
When one thinks of the saints, almost all of them had a great love for the reading of Scripture. My favorite Patron saint, Gr. Gavrilia, 
carried with her only the Bible and read the Gospels exclusively. In the modern Christian world the spirit of the desert Fathers, the Orthopraxis of respect for Scripture, is most clearly seen in the evangelical wing of the Protestant movement. There is the Tradition of Scripture memory advanced by para-church ministries, such as the Navigators. It is common for such folks to be seen carrying Bibles with them, and for those who are serious-minded about faith in Christ, obedience to Scripture is paramount, and courses of action will be couched in phrases derived, often from the memory of the Scriptures themselves. It seems like Orthodox young people bear significant testimony to that for those who stick near to Scripture, better than any of the others, stick next to Christ.  Yet none of us comes close to the high standard of memorization of the desert Fathers except perhaps for Jack van Impe, the prophetic evangelist who has memorized the entirety of Scripture. My hat is off to him.  We must give honor to whom honor is due.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Christians of China

At the time of the triumph of the Maoists in China in 1949, there were approximately 100,000 Protestant Christians,  100,000 Roman Catholics, and 10,000 Orthodox.  Now there are 100,000,000 Protestant Christians meeting primarily in underground assemblies, 12,000,000 Roman Catholics, and 13,000 Orthodox.  
What do these demographics suggest?  These figures ought to suggest something to Orthodox faithful, and their Hierarchs about the sort of life in Christ that the Church ought to have in times of persecution, for it is evident that the Orthodox were not equipped as believers to cope with the adversity, whereas the Protestants especially thrived in the persecutions, and the Catholics with their similar Hierarchical structure were able to grow in an admirable way.  
Some lessons ought to be drawn for this, for it is not inconceivable that Orthodox Christians in lands that are now free might in the near future face persecutions not too dissimilar to those of China.  
Did the Church in China fail to perceive the call to go Underground? Were the laymen equipped with life in the Spirit enough to nurture themselves spiritually in the absence of a priest, to recognize charismatically leadership that the Spirit would raise in the absence of visible hierarchical leadership?  Did they have Scriptures hid in their heart to guide them from day to day?  Did they have Bibles?  Did they know how to read their Bibles for personal nurture and guidance?  Did they know how to pray for themselves for wisdom and guidance and to hear from God in those regards?  
When one studies the astounding successes of the underground Protestant Church one is impressed that they had learned life in the Spirit.  One such testimony is the astonishing book 

The Heavenly Man   , the remarkable true story of the Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway.  His ministry in China overlaps the period of tremendous growth of the underground church.  The triumph of faith in the midst of intense persecutions, coupled with the miracle working power of the Holy Spirit; miracles and escapes from prison out-doing the book of Acts.  They had to learn to listen to the voice of the Lord- for there were times of danger when giving heed to the Voice saved them from imprisonment, torture and death.  Implicit within this was idea that each believer could know the voice of the Lord.  "My sheep know my voice," says the Scriptures.  
One might cry out with St. Simeon the New Theologian, who in an earlier age said,  "Do not say it is impossible to recieve the Holy Spirit", with a new refrain "Do not say that it is impossible to hear the voice of the Lord."  How is it that we can live by faith, if we cannot hear the voice of the Lord?" For faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  Our confidence that we can learn the voice of the Lord, stems not from hubris, but from confidence that we have an Intercessor who has ascended into the heavens, and ever lives to make intercession for us, granting us boldness to the Throne of Heaven, and access for help in time of need.  And what is our greatest need? that for which we pray many times daily? To receive the voice of the Lord, that 'supersubtantial bread' that we are told to seek daily in the Lord's Prayer.  His sheep hear His Voice ( the Gospel of St. John the 10th chapter)

What to Do With Our Feelings

I remember from the seventies when I was a young single Christian, trying to learn the ropes of the Christian life, a question that was before our group was the question of what to do with our feelings, especially the negative ones such as anger, and the ones that harbored unbelief or resentment and that sort of thing.  The group I ran with had a number of kids in a Christian Counseling Program that was run jointly with a State University.  
Feelings may not be evil in themselves but may have within them temptations to sin, to veer away from the will and presence of God.  What is it that a Christian is to do with his feelings?
An answer that has come to me, and it is by no means the exhaustive treatment of this subject, is to pray the Psalms of David.
The Psalms were given to the Church to articulate its worship and prayer.   And the Psalms are full of every concievable emotion, and even when expressing negative emotions, most of the time the Psalms come to the point of faith and trust in God.  I suggest that the Psalms, properly prayed, serve as wonderful and God-given means of processing the feelings that we have as Christians still living as sinners in a broken world, groping forward to save our souls, to find peace, and faith, and hope and love.  Here is what St. Basil the Great said about it, "It heals the
 old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul. Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates profligacy."  (from   )It has all been said before, much better than I could.  

In our Orthodox Services the Psalms are sung intentionally without injecting a lot of personal interpretation and feeling into them. They are often chanted in plain chant or read simply.  Each word is to be spoken with compunction and the Fathers all oppose rushing the Psalms in the Services.  I understand this is to allow the Holy Spirit to apply the Psalms to each individual as it is proper for him to experience it.  However, I would suggest that there may be a different approach to the Psalms in some aspects of personal devotion.  I would suggest, at least part of the time,  the Psalms ought to be prayed purposefully allowing the believers emotions to be brought forth as the Psalm is read or chanted.  Then as the words are all siad with compunction, one allows the Spirit to guide the emotions along with the Psalm.  If done correctly this can have a marvelous redemptive effect on the emotions and the soul praying the Psalms.  I have found that praying the Psalms this way, when faced with emotional burdens, clears the decks so to speak, so that the prayers of the heart with the descent of the nous into the heart can then take place, with the Psalms in this instance prayed quietly, and perhaps even silently.  
Of course, the Psalms must be prayed in a Christian context with the mind of the Church.  That is to say, the Psalms must be sung through the interpretive grid of the Christian faith, especially keeping in mind the Incarnation, passion, resurrection and ascension of the Lord, and the deepening and intensification of the ethical sense that came as a result.  The Psalms are best prayed in the context of the prayers of the Church that give them the proper Christological and Trinintarian setting, such as the Trisagion Prayers, the Our Father,  the Magnificat, and so forth. It is my experience that the Psalms prayed in this way do marvels in processing our feelings, and in shepherding our potentially negative emotions into redemptive channels, neither blocking them nor exalting them beyond measure.  
I have found that the Psalms prayed for Orthodox Orthros (Morning Prayer, Matins), are especially salutary in this regard.  These Psalms are 3, 37 [38], 62 [63], 87 [88], 102 [103], and 142 [143), with the Masoretic numberings in the brackets. (The full text of Matins is availableat These Psalms, incidentally, are the ones that will be prayed on the Day of Judgment, according to the Tradition of the Church. It makes sense to get ready for that great and terrible Day.    In addition is Psalm 50, (51).  I suggest memorizing them as well. There is in my experience a more ready access to the heart and to the Lord when the prayers are hidden away in the memory for recall whenever they are needed.  
There it is.  This is not only a personal, pious opinion but taught, I am told by the Fathers of the Church.  See, for example,   .    The author states, "When reading prayers, we should try to feel the words of prayer as if they were our own. This way we assimilate the prayerful spirit of the prayer's authors."   
But praying the Psalms- to pray the Psalms is to pray with mind of Christ, for the Spirit of Christ inspired them.  To pray the Psalms is to pray the prayer of agreement with the church, for all Christians of all ages have prayed and are praying the Psalm.  The promises pertaining to prayers of agreement apply to the praying of the Psalms.  
What happens if we do not pray our prayers with feeling? Then our feelings become blocked and pent up and are primed to pop out destructively.  
Praying the Psalms should be done neither too slow nor too fast.    
1) done in a disposition of attentiveness, inner wakefulness, with a fear of God, devoutness, contrition, and humility. 
2) Laziness is to be avoided as well as forced and unduly loud chanting (75th canon of Trullo). 
3) The proper tempo should be maintained, neither too fast or too slow. 
4) Clarity- every verse, phrase and word must be sung in such a way that the meaning of the text is not obscured or altered.
1) done in a disposition of attentiveness, inner wakefulness, with a fear of God, devoutness, contrition, and humility. 
2) Laziness is to be avoided as well as forced and unduly loud chanting (75th canon of Trullo). 
3) The proper tempo should be maintained, neither too fast or too slow. 
4) Clarity- every verse, phrase and word must be sung in such a way that the meaning of the text is not obscured or altered.