οἶκος & λόγος: a gloss

Welcome!

This blog reflects on οἶκος and λόγος, the Greek terms “oikos” and “logos,” meaning respectively in English “home” or “household,” and, in the multiple meanings of logos in English, “story,” “word,” “harmony,” “purpose,” “reason,” “bond,” “intermediary,” “unifying principle.” These reflections stem from Russian Orthodox Christian tradition, as unworthily practiced by your writing servant in Northern Appalachia. The header photo for the blog is of Tall Timbers, a local nature preserve with old-growth hemlock woods, a destination for hikes and picnics with our family, friends, students, and local Orthodox Christian communities. The border of Tall Timbers was also home in the past to the American natural foods writer Euell Gibbons.

Together, οἶκος and λόγος form the modern English word ecology, definable as the “story of home,” an etymology promising insight into life as meaning. Most importantly to Christians, the Logos is the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. The logoi of the Logos, the words of the Word, both constitute and redeem Creation, as a living, embodied text. Considering those roots oikos and logos together provides a traditionally grounded “pansemiotic” and incarnationally Christian take on the postmodern idea that there is “nothing outside of the text.” This Christian sense of ecology opens an ancient but continuing sense of iconographic and cosmic rhetoric, applicable to 21st-century concerns with faith, environment, sustainability, and community.

Related terms include “ecosemiotics, arising from studies of the Tartu-Moscow-Copenhagen school of semiotics: oikos + semiosis,” a making of meaning in the context of home, drawing on the modern term semiosis coined by the American Anglican Christian philosopher Charles Peirce. Then there is “ecopoetics,” which stems from oikos + poiesis, or “the shaping of home” — the highlighting of meaning in Creation, as is done in Orthodox apologetic theology, as highlighted by Prof. I.M. Andreyev and in the Orthodox philosophy of S.L. Frank. Hence the areas of reflection for this blog:

1. oikos + logos: Exploring how ecology, based in a Christian apophatic theological sense, can focus on our interaction with God’s energies, rather than on essentialism or objectification.

2. oikos + semiosis: Considering “ecosemiotics” as the study of meaningful life in the context of home. In a Christian context, this involves exploring from the saints of the Church how the Orthodox Christian hesychastic tradition (far beyond any abilities of your unworthy blogger) finds meaning about our home in Paradise through quietude–as in the experience of iconographic metonymy of sacred words and images.

3. oikos + poiesis:  Indicating oikophilia, or love of home–“strange love” as discussed by the Orthodox philosopher S.L. Frank, given our ultimate natural home being in Paradise and the new heaven and earth to come with our Lord. This reflects the Orthodox doctine of theosis– inner conciliarity in mystical hierarchy with God’s uncreated energies (seen in the logoi)– and the Orthodox term sobornost–our external conciliarity in mystical hierarchy with one another in the Church and in the oikumene or inhabited world.

4. “Apologetic theology and reading the ‘signs of the times’“: Unworthily seeking with prayer and the words of the Church Fathers to help articulate in current situations the incarnational, embodied Christian theology of ascetic, liturgical, cosmological, and anthropological relationship to God and to His Creation. Looking for sources in the Holy Saints and Elders of the Church, Scripture, Orthodox liturgical tradition, asceticism, and the Ecumenical Councils (with special attention to the Fifth, Eighth and Ninth Councils, as defined in Orthodox Tradition), also in the “Social Concept” (2000) and “Human Dignity” (2008) documents of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted in the early twenty-first century. Asking how best to “read,” in their light, current cultural and social trends, and communicate about them in terms of apologetic theology.

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