Hidden Holiness

When you review a book, you are supposed to summarize it, say what you liked about it, then offer some critical commentary. By those standards, this is about to be a terrible review. I have read Fr. Michael Plekon’s Hidden Holiness, and I am utterly, hopelessly in love! I wish I could stick to the formula and offer a level-headed response, but I am just too giddy.

Icon of All Saints
Icon of All Saints (via Wikimedia Commons)

Fr. Plekon is a priest and scholar, with an expertise the “Paris School” – a renaissance in Orthodox theology occurring in and among the emigres who were expelled from Russia after the triumph of the Bolsheviks. Plekon is especially interested in new criteria for saintliness for the modern world (see my summary of his presentation at the 2012 Sophia Institute Conference). For instance, he was a major advocate for the canonization of St. Maria (Skobtsova) of Paris, a woman who ministered the poor, saved Jewish children from the Nazis, and was herself a martyr of the concentration camps. But she was also a controversial figure. She lived in the world and was an outspoken critic of pious religiosity, who could regularly be seen sharing a drink and a cigarette with her poet friends in Paris’ bars. Continue reading Hidden Holiness

Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 3): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense

Photo by Ikiwaner

An icon takes something material and makes it transcendent by pointing away from itself. I think the economy should work like an icon. That means the meaning of market activities cannot be found in a market. This is something we forget a lot of times. Part of what it means to be in a market society is that we work ourselves to death and never bother to ask, “Why?” Maybe I am nuts or maybe I am naive, but I don’t think this is what life is supposed to be like.

Continue reading Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 3): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense

Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 1): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense

The Virgin of Simon Mall
(Photo courtesy of Dill Hero)
 
 
Part one of a three part series where I explore the relationship between an Orthodox view of matter and political economy.

Being an Orthodox Christian means kissing a lot of icons.

Many Christians shun icons as some kind of “idol worship.” This is an old argument, going back to the eighth century when some Byzantine emperors decided to do away with images of Christ and the saints. Over about 150 years of debate, the church decided that to do away with icons was to deny the incarnation of Christ. As St. John Damascene wrote, to oppose icons is to be Manichaeans. Thus Jaroslav Pelikan said that the council that reinstated icons was, in a way, reaffirming the two natures of Christ. Matter could be venerated because Christ made matter good again. (Find a more “artistic” perspective on icons and a bit more history here.) Continue reading Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 1): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense