Sts. Sebastian and Mardarije Institute – Day Two

San Diego, CA – The first full day of the Institute began on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 with the celebration of Orthros followed by coffee and refreshments. The first session of the Institute followed: Virture and Knowledge in the Theology of St. Maximos the Confessor. In the first session Fr. Maximos introduced the works and the complexity of the writings of St. Maximos the “father of Byzantine theology”. The session continued after a short break with a lively discussion. After lunch and a short break two sessions followed. The first was entitled “A Failed Worldview” was held, led by Fr. Maximos and moderated by Segurd Lefsrud. Afterward Fr. Damascene moderated the session “The Fall and Its Consequence” after which Fr. Gregory Edwards moderated “Reason”. The afternoon sessions provoked much discussion.

The afternoon sessions lasted straight to the time alotted for Vespers. After the evening service everyone proceeded to the tented area behind the church hall for dinner. The keynote address took place in the hall after dinner. Entitled, “St. Maximos the Confessor: The Search for Truth”, Fr. Maximos spoke on man’s desire to seek, quoting Aristole “all men by nature desire to know”; it is the calling and impulse of man to search for the meaning of his existence. Archaeological discoveries of paintings on rock walls 40,000 years old, for example, prove that man has always had this yearing for meaning, truth, beauty. It is in man’s nature. This, however, has come under attack so that symbols are in the process of being deconstructed since there is no real meaning in them for meaning is in the mind. The idea of beauty, for instance, is in the eye of the beholder. Things that stood as markers for beauty and virtue and good are now arbitrary. Fr. Maximos continued on, pointing out that if man is looking for God it must be true that God is looking for man. Thus, those who assert that life is meaningless are correct. That is, apart from God everything is meaningless. He gave an illustrative example of a porcelain vase. Scientists can examine such a vase and tell us every detail about it based on their research and all of it would be correct. But they could never tell us that this vase was given as a wedding gift. Drawing on this example, Fr. Maximos noted, if we don’t see this world as a gift in the framework of our relationship with God then it is meaningless. This, he added, we see in the liturgy where we take the gifts from God and given them back to Him. Additionally, and in light of the liturgy, he spoke of another aspect, that is, when in the liturgy we sing, “We have seen the true light…”. Though this might be true, most of us have not made that light our own. In this search for truth man is not limited to a knowledge soley through the reading of books in which one reads of another’s experiences. Rather, it involves change, it involves practice. As St. Maximos wrote, “knowledge of fire does not warm the body”. This search for truth is not merely cognitive but must, in the first place, be practiced.

After a brief discusssion the first full day of the Institute concluded with the singing of “Dostojno Jest”.