Insight – Christian Orthodox Faith: the Saker from The Saker
|C.S. Lewis, in his preface to St Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, urges us to study the classics. He lamented how today (his “today,” but equally if not more importantly our own) people are more interested to read about the great figures of the past rather than the works themselves. He emphasized the need to return to the classic texts of the past, both to expose our own all-too-often hidden presuppositions and to open ourselves to ways of thinking other than our own. This cannot be done, he points out, by reading the works of our contemporaries, for they too share our assumptions. “The only palliative,” Lewis wrote, “is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can only be done by reading old books.”…When approached in this way, he concludes, we will find On the Incarnation to be a “masterpiece” and be astonished that “a master mind could, in the fourth century, have written deeply on such a subject with such classical simplicity.”|
|From the forward, written by Archpriest John Behr, D. Phil., to The Orthodox Way by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware.|
I recall a saying of the twentieth century that neither religion nor politics are to be discussed in polite company. Catholic himself, Lew Rockwell posted a link in his Political Theater blog on his website to an article about the Pope’s proposed revision of The Lord’s Prayer to change “And lead us not into temptation,” which spurred me to email correspondence with The Saker that was the genesis of this piece.
As followers of my writings know, although I am myself no authority, I’ve written about Russia and her relationship with Washington and the West. My interest in the Orthodox Faith was piqued by listening to a recording of sacred songs by Dimitri Hvorostovsky, The Bells of Dawn, discussed in my article “Zhuravli”, and learning from the liner notes of the album that in Russian sacred music, instruments are not allowed, just the human voice. In addition, a website, Russian Faith, posts several articles on the gradual resurgence of Christianity in formerly Communist Russia. (Please note that as The Saker explained to me, there is no “Russian Faith,” for there is only the Orthodox Faith.) One of the greatest conductors of the Twentieth Century, Yevgeny Mravinsky, was a “secret Christian” in the time of the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union.
Perhaps best known for his writings as a (former) military analyst and historian, now posted to his website at TheSaker.is and as a frequent contributor to the Unz Review, The Saker has also written frequently and with in-depth knowledge about the Orthodox Christian Way. In addition, he has founded this website, Project HOP, History of the Orthodox Peoples, which has texts and information available on line, especially for those on a budget who cannot afford the referenced books.
In what has frequently been described, and rightly so I believe, as “post-Christian” America, Christians are under attack. In this extremely hostile environment, one would think despite differences in interpretation of scripture and ritual, Christians would try to learn more about one another and become mutually supportive, no matter their background. (Although I’ve never communicated with a “Christian Zionist” (which might be discussed here in the Orthodox Wiki as Dispensationalism) as in the mold of Mike Pompeo or vice-president Pence and suspect any such interaction would be for naught, yet if individuals reading my words have such beliefs, I want them to know I respect their exercise of free will but I am concerned that their misinterpretation of Scripture and trying to bring about “End Times” will lead to disaster, recently detailed by investigative journalist Whitney Webb to the point Mike Pompeo scared the CIA!
Again, in the spirit of reaching understanding and just for the joy of learning (How many Christians have studied or learned about Buddhism, for example?), I present my interview with the Saker. He has also kindly informed me about Orthodox religious texts, which will be cited below. (Please note these hyperlinks to Amazon.com to those books, and also the pictorial “widgets” to Amazon.com, might not display if the reader uses ad blocking software. I disable UBlock origin using the Brave Browser. I will also include below the title of what I believe are the best books for those who choose not to patronize Amazon and wish to support a local or more amenable retailer or check their local library for availability.
The single most important book, in my opinion, that The Saker introduced me to about Orthodox Theology is Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Fr. Michael Pomazansky (Author), Fr. Seraphim Rose (Translator) published by St. Herman Press. The second I recommend contains a new translation of the Septuagint and commentary, The Orthodox Study Bible, Hardcover: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today’s World by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, published by Thomas Nelson. Internet resources include Orthodox Wiki and less accurate translations of the Septuagint, including the Brenton Translation and E.C. Marsh’s translation.
Yvonne Lorenzo: Saker, let me ask about your background first, if you don’t mind discussing it. How did you come by your in-depth knowledge of Orthodox Christianity?
The Saker: I have written about myself here. My knowledge of the original Christianity came from the fact that my spiritual father was a Russian Orthodox Archbishop whom I considered as my real father from age seven to age twenty-seven when he passed away. Furthermore, since Geneva had a superb Orthodox cathedral with plenty of good experts I learned how to read Church Slavonic, I often sang and read the Psalter in church during services. Finally, in 2016 I finally completed by Licentiate in Orthodox Theological Studies (a graduate degree in Patristics, really) from the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies at the Saint Gregory Palamas Monastery in Etna, CA. The truth is that whether formally or informally, I have been studying Orthodox Christianity pretty much most of my life.
This being said, I am just a rank-and-file sinful layman whose sincerity should not be confused with any authority to speak on these matters. I will share only my private opinions and understanding of these matters.
Yvonne Lorenzo: Let me provide a little of my own background, not out of a desire of obtaining dopamine inducing narcissism from using Social Media like Twitter or Facebook, but to explain my exposure to Christian teachings. I’d rather not get in depth into the details of my experience in Church as a child; suffice it to say that the particular priest (now long deceased) in religious classes had a fondness for describing in graphic detail the horrors of the torture the Apostles and Saint endured (being skinned alive was certainly memorable, if not factual), and he was a most unpleasant, cruel man in my dealings with him; he certainly didn’t believe “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” and I wouldn’t mind so much if I was his target, but it was my ill mother, while my father’s family were the ones with money and influence in the church, which I believe was the reason for his conduct.