Thursday, October 17, 2013

Get out of your mind!

Dog walking for me is usually accompanied by a bit of listening to the Psalms (in a calming British accent) followed by either an audiobook or a podcast. Tonight I listened to Fr. Stephen Freeman's Glory to God podcast and found the below selection compelling. Do give the podcast in its entirety a listen.

(AFR) - "I sometimes hear modern detractors (iconoclasts) say that the images and ritual are distractions from spiritual things. Oddly, my experience is that almost all distractions are in my head, not in the room around me! Noisy children should be no more distracting that the blue of the sky – for both are entirely normal and natural. It is my dark internal musings, fears, anxieties and never-ending obsessions that distract. I would to God that I could get out of my mind!

And this lies at the very heart of traditional worship and devotional practice. God gave man a mind and He meant for him to use it. But “using” our mind and being caught up in an endless series of mental connections are not the same thing.

There is nothing inherently spiritual about the mind.

There is nothing that makes the mind at all superior to the body.

Making the sign of the Cross is just as spiritual as thinking about the Cross and perhaps far more effective ...

The physicality of the Church and all that is in it (including the physical presence and noise of the people gathered there) are truly sacramental – they are not there to make us think – they are there to love, to cherish, to honor, to make God present, to be “the least of these.” Allowing ourselves to understand this will allow us to come to our senses and get out of our minds."


  1. I find that it's easiest for me to think in a church service environment which, unfortunately, means that I tend to think about anything and everything else.

  2. I listened to that podcast two days ago and found it quite compelling. In fact, on my first visit to an Orthodox church, I was struck by the absence of the internal distractions I have to fight off in church. I don't know if that "wears off" once you attend regularly, but for me it's powerful evidence in favor of engaging all of the senses in worship.

  3. Don't really agree with Fr Freeman here. But then again, perhaps he is referring to logismoi, which is a malevolent insinuation that "frames" a percept. Perceptions of reality, whatever and wherever they are, should be discerned as symbols that articulate glory. And that discernment requires thought, intellectual thought.

  4. Father, I failed to cite the entire transcription. Here it is:

  5. Slightly off topic, but I'd be interested to know what Psalms you listen to, and whether they're available elsewhere. (Not which specific Psalms, but which version, recording, where to find them etc). I've been thinking recently that it would be good to find a good recording of the Psalms...

    1. I use For me it was largely a decision made by who I could listen to every day. I'm sure there are some fine Septuagint-friendly choices as well. That might be worth an open comment post to see what people enjoy.

    2. The Hermitage of the Holy Cross monastery in WV made an excellent recording of the Psalter and offer it both in digital and CD formats. Should be able to find it on their website.

    3. Thanks for the suggestions. Will look them up.

  6. "There is nothing that makes the mind at all superior to the body."

    I think in Fr. Stephen's (good) impulse to reject the exclusively mental worship of the Protestants, he forgets that the entire Christian Tradition affirms the mind's superiority to the body. This is because the Will, and most importantly the Consciousness (wherein lies subjectivity), are contained in the mind.

    I mean, think about it. You can have purely mental worship (angels are disembodied minds) but not purely bodily worship (no robots or zombies censing icons or crossing themselves at liturgy).

    The whole reason for Christ's incarnation was to elevate the body to a holy, an iconic status. The mind (containing the imago et similitudo Dei) already had that status. God was already a mind.