The Island and the Gifts of the Spirit

August 4, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Theology | 5 Comments

A thought struck me today as I listened to Dr. Simon Chan‘s discussion on the liturgical roots of the charismatic.  Upon recommendation from the Icon New Media folks, we watched OCTPOB, or “The Island“.  It is a Russian movie about an old, crotchety monk who spends his whole life shoveling coal to heat a small monastery.  Anatoli is dirty, gruff, and somewhat uneducated, yet people seek him out for miracles and spiritual guidance.

It occurred to me that this unkempt monk was the epitome of the charismatic Christian.  He speaks “words of knowledge“, he has the gift of healing, and he even casts out demons.  But, how did he get this way?  He spends all his days in sincere repentance, ascesis, tears, and the Jesus Prayer.  He doesn’t attend seminars, read books, or prance to praise music.  He doesn’t set up shop for large audiences, nor does he walk around with a pietistic expression on his face.  But, he manages to annoy people anyway.

Yes, “The Island” is just a movie, but it is based upon a real spirituality.  The character of Anatoli represents the many men and women who have become true charismatics the hard way — through prayer and self-denial.  Let them serve as reminders to us that there are no short cuts.



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  1. Interesting analogy, it sounds similar to Babette’s Feast. A movie I really enjoyed.

    Just curious as to how you found our podcast from Simon Chan. Thanks for linking to us.

    best regards,
    ICCEC Communications Director

  2. Oh boy….

  3. I am a former CEC’er from St. Michael’s San Clemente who has converted to Orthodoxy. I have to say that this movie is something that answered many question I had about the “gifts” as they are expressed in Orthodoxy. There are many miracles that take place in the Orthodox Church but they are not put on display.

    I used to think that when Jesus told those whom he healed not to tell anyone, that it was a type of reverse psychology to get more people to talk about it. Now I see that Jesus wasn’t practicing false humility but he actually meant want he said… he didn’t want it broadcast…. amazing.

    People from the CEC tend to equate charismatic with a style of worship or using certain vocabulary. I have always thought that Pentecostal churches like the CEC overemphasize the gifts of prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues because it’s often too hard to work on love, patience, gentleness, etc…… I know it was this way for me. It was much easier to give a word than it was to do the hard work of love and coming to terms with my issues…. anyways got to go to Orthros…
    Matt Cuthbertson

  4. Hi, Matt!

    I think you are right about the lack of patience in American Christianity. We are so used to getting everything right away that when we find ourselves waiting on God, we instead try to put God in a situation where he is forced to act.

    I remember getting into some emotional disagreements with some folks who insisted that God had the answer we needed, we just had to wrestle harder with Him to get it. That was one of my first inklings that I was headed in the wrong direction.

    Thanks for chiming in!

  5. This movie became my instant favorite when I watched it. It was so well done that I couldn’t wait to share it with my teenage son, who also felt it was a great movie (even if it wasn’t about cartoon characters blowin’ stuff up), and the video quickly circulated through our parish and became a hot topic of discussion.

    To me, the character of Anatol appeared to be more of a “Fool for Christ.” Even though he was repenting for something he may have done in the world, he came across as an individual who was not of the world. I have very little experience or exposure to charasmatics, so I may simply be echoing what you’re saying.

    It was good to see another’s take on this film. Thanks for this post!

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