Asceticism and the Replacement Talk

As several of you know from my previous post, I was at Acton University a couple of weeks ago. His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America gave the keynote address on Thursday evening, June 16. A couple of days after the end of the conference, Acton announced that “We’ve posted the text of Metropolitan Jonah’s AU talk” and linked to the full talk, titled “Asceticism and the Consumer Society,” elsewhere at

There’s only one problem: that’s not the talk Metropolitan Jonah gave. When I read the posted text, I couldn’t help but think that it sounded rather different from what I remembered that Thursday. I certainly didn’t remember the extensive quotations from Schmemann, and the talk, as I recalled, was at least twice as long as the posted text.

The mention of creation “shimmering” with God’s presence was a striking image from the talk, but it was nowhere to be found in the Talk-of-Record. Acton recorded all talks at the conference and has made a number of them available for purchase, but not Metropolitan Jonah’s. Thus, there was no way to review.

Even more puzzling is that the Koinonia blog, hosted by Orthodox priest Fr. Gregory Jensen (a fellow attendee), also made reference to the Talk-of-Record as the real deal:

The Christian ascetical life, that is the life of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the works of mercy and obedience, is the application and the appropriation of the Cross to my life. It is the means by which I both enter into a life of communion with God and become myself a sacrament of that communion for others. This is possible because at its most basic level, asceticism “is the struggle of the person against rebellious nature, against the nature which seeks to achieve on its own what it could bring about only in personal unity and communion with God.” Our “restoration” to a life of personal communion with God and so our personal “resistance” to the powers of sin and death, “presuppose a struggle” within each human heart that is often lacking in contemporary society and even our churches.

Those points are, without exception, found in the Talk-of-Record, but were not in the original talk given at Acton.

In the end, I finally located a fellow Acton attendee who had recorded the talk on a small recorder at the table. I have transcribed the real talk below, as best I can, from the audio. Bracketed text indicates either alternative readings where it was hard to make the exact words, or a question mark if I couldn’t fully tell. The address gave the impression of being given largely off-the-cuff, with a good number of pauses, verbal tics, and minor repetitions not preserved in the transcript. You can try getting the audio here (choose the Free Download option toward the bottom).

Having said all of this, my question is why was the Talk-of-Record put forth as what was actually given? If anyone has light to shed on this, my mailbox is open. See the contact form at the right.

[UPDATE 7/6/2011: See my additional comments.]

Metropolitan Jonah’s Address at Acton University 2011

I have to say I am tremendously impressed with the work of the Acton Institute and Acton University and, just probably, the two lectures I had the opportunity to participate in this afternoon. This is an institution that I think has a tremendous, tremendous potential to affect the future of this country. May God bless it. May God bless all of the work that goes into it.

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