Ah, finally I am at the last section of chapter 2 and it deals with saints, monks and emperors.
Amber had to go and remind me that these are people we are dealing with so it's understandable that they didn't always treat people and each other as Jesus would have. So very true. :)
On the negative side - which the author is honest in stating (and I like that about him!) - "Cyril of Alexandria, for example, in his struggle against Nestorius, bribed the Court heavily and terrorized the city of Ephesus with a private army of monks." (pg. 36) He notes that the Orthodox Church "recognizes that the councils were attended by imperfect humans, but it believes that these imperfect humans were guided by the Holy Spirit."
And on the positive side - The Byzantine bishop was not simply a distant father figure, but "in many cases a true father to his people, a friend and protector to whom people confidently turned when in trouble." Social obligations and charitable work were "principal functions" of the Church in the Byzantine Empire.
I love that!
The next part discussed monasticism of which entering it has been noted as the "best way to penetrate Orthodox spirituality." Too often we are tempted to try building God's kingdom on earth such as even the Byzantines were apt to do. Byzantium was an "image and symbol, not the reality." The life of monks "reminded Christians that the kingdom of God is not of this world."
There are three chief forms of monasticism
hermits -- think solitary living in huts, caves, branches of trees, even tombs
community life -- monks dwelling together; whereas western monasticism gave more emphasis to works (caring for the sick and poor, maintaining hospitals and orphanages), eastern monks' primary service and purpose was prayer
semi-eremitic life -- a "middle way"
Monastic life has always been seen as a vocation for men as well as women.
The chief center of Orthodox monastic life is Athos in northern Greece.
Unlike Roman Catholicism, there are no "Orders" in Orthodox monasticism.
A "characteristic figure in Orthodox monasticism is the 'elder' or 'old man'... a monk of spiritual discernment and wisdom, whom others...adopt as their guide and spiritual director." These "spiritual mothers" and "spiritual fathers" see "in a concrete and practical way what the will of God is in relation to each person who comes to consult him; this is the elder's special gift of charisma." (pg. 39)
While rewarding, I actually think a monk's life is difficult. Or maybe it just requires a discipline that I don't have. I read where a monk must go through a "long and rigorous preparation in solitude" in order to learn the truth about himself and God and gain the gifts of discernment so he can help others.
Re: the role of the Emperor ...
We've already discussed the Church and State connection which was normal for those times, however, I enjoyed this bit about the bishops being the ones who "gathered in council to decide what the true faith was" while the Emperor was in charge of protecting the faith. (pg. 41) (This reminds me of the balance of power within the US system where the Legislature is in charge of deciding the laws and the Executive branch is in charge of carrying them out.) Ideally the two should keep their powers separate in order to keep the right balance.
The Byzantines believed Christ "had redeemed every aspect of human existence" and thus their great vision was "to establish here on earth a living image of God's government in heaven." (pg. 42)