Aesthetic and Vision
Ambrose's motivation, inspiration, and vision behind the project
The deeper I entered academia, the more I saw how disconnected it was from the average parishioner, and on multiple levels. The ivory tower critique is real, and I wanted to investigate the reasons why this could be, and I found some of them:
1. Technical language - Using advanced terms for people who do not know them may be precise, but in practice it is a lack of clarity. Therefore, I wanted to make an effort to provide content that makes an effort to define terms when used.
2. Scholarly isolation - Academics seem to struggle to make themselves known to the rest of the world, sometimes because they don't know how, and sometimes because it is natural to surround yourself with people who are already on the same page. I wanted to make an effort to bring academic thought to the mainstream in a way that is actually digestible.
3. Aesthetic - It may sound insignificant, but reading 50-page Word documents in 12-point Times New Roman is incredibly boring for most people. Therefore, I knew I needed to make a site that was aesthetically pleasing, to make the experience more enjoyable.
Most people do not have time to read through volumes and volumes of texts, but want ancient insight about various topics. However, over the years I have found another need as well, and that is honest engagement with the patristic corpus, rather than what my good friend Alvin Rapien called "an uncritical Sola Patristica." That is, a fundamentalist approach to Christian praxis that actively prevents new church fathers from being recognized and formed. My vision is to not merely parrot the fathers of the past, but to advance the worthiness of their thought and establish fertile soil for the church fathers of the future.
The Black Lion logo consists of multiple symbols, each adding up to the overall inspiration and approach to theology. It is meant to be mysterious to the uninitiated, to draw them in to inquire. One could say the logo appears "black" to the uninitiated, but "white" to the initiated (if this is curious phraseology to you, then you will find how to interpret the meaning of black and white below).
I will explain each section:
The black lion is the central theme of the site, and here represents the act of Christ-centered mystical exegesis in symbolic form. The lion is a well-known biblical symbol for Christ: namely, His strength, authority, dominion, kingship, etc. As Scripture says, the lion is the strongest of the beasts (cf. Pro 30:30), and it is Christ who is the “Lion of Judah” (cf. Rev. 5:5), whose heart is as the heart of a lion (cf. 2 Sa 17:10).
The lion is "black" because this color symbolically represents transcendence and the hidden truths of the Lord, which is the particular emphasis of this project.
The black crow is an appropriated reference alluding to St. Jerome’s derogatory label for St. Ambrose of Milan, calling him not merely a crow, but a "black" crow: rhetorically emphasizing a kind of bland unoriginality hiding within the colorful eloquence of more gifted theologians. I rebranded this image to represent all they who desire to color their own bland souls with the beauty of God through the vivid theological brush strokes of mystical thinkers, that we may imitate them and apply their methods for modern day. To be a black crow is to be a lover of the transcendental. I asked myself, "If St. Ambrose designed a website, what would it be like?" This site is my attempt at creating just that.
The Bible represents the fact that all points of theological exploration will be intentionally tethered to the text of Scripture, as well as a return to reading Scripture not merely as history (as is commonplace today in many interpretations of historical-critical method), but as scripture. That is, interpreting the text precisely in its sacramental form, in order to encounter Christ within us, as He pierces our hearts with the flaming sword of His mouth, causing it to burn within us. I believe this to be most vividly and profoundly articulated in the person of Origen of Alexandria, who I believe both set and surpassed the standard for all after him.
The mystic eye represents the reality that we are fundamentally blind, and the scriptures must be opened to us, as Luke records, saying, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luk. 24:45). In other words, Christ must open our eyes that we may see the text for what it truly is, and not merely for what it appears to be. This refers to those who "judge not according to appearance" (Jhn. 7:24), but read the scriptures with the spiritual eyes of the heart to be enlightened by Christ and His Light (cf. Eph. 1:18, 2 Cor. 4:6). The eye represents the exegetical need to look beyond the literal sense of the text into the realm of the mystical. That is, what Origen referred to as the "dark sayings" and the “backside” of Scripture (cf. Rev. 5:1).
The eclipse and the overarching black and white duality itself is meant to convey the act of transcendence incarnating and becoming imminent. This is both related to the person of Christ, who is the Word of God made flesh, as well as the Scriptures, which contain both what is plainly seen and what is hidden (revealed only through advanced inquiry). The black and white color scheme is therefore symbolic in intention, and reflects the nature of the vision.
The shape is a shield, which alludes to the scriptures, saying, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). And again Scripture says, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him" (Psa. 28:7). And yet again it says, "his truth shall be thy shield and buckler" (Psa. 91:4). And elsewhere it says, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him" (Pro. 30:5).
Those who offer their time and expertise
Alvin is an Orthodox scholar and theologian whose main interest is the interpretation of Scripture throughout history, with an emphasis on Patristic and Postmodern approaches.
Ambrose is an Orthodox mystic in the Origenian exegetical tradition who writes biblical commentary, as well as philosophical and theological meditations.
Daniel holds a BA in philosophy and biblical studies from Eastern University and teaches English at a public high school in central Texas. He serves as a reader in the Diocese of the South of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)
David is an MA in Religious Studies from Missouri State University with an emphasis in biblical studies, and a MA in Classics from Washington University in St. Louis
Joe Chen is a Catholic musician and an avid reader of Jesuit and Franciscan theology, and he frequently engages the intersection of Christianity and Chinese philosophy.
John A. Monaco is a doctoral student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.