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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Just when I thought I'd have some spare time


We had thought we had given me enough time to mend before our newest son would arrive (scheduled C-section on August 20th). However, the little one had his own plans as was evidenced when Sue awoke me at 3:30am this morning to announce that her water had broken. At 10:50am my fourth child and second son was born...and we struggle not to allow chaos to have reign .

At the naming prayers we will give him the name Joseph since today is the feast day of St. Joseph of Arimathea.

Mother and babe are doing well.



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:54 PM [+]
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Monday, July 29, 2002

Lost and Found

First off, I am found. My absence, perhaps noted by a few of you, has been corrected (I am feeling much better after a brief period of backsliding - to coin a pop evangelical term).

I have been reading, from a lot of sources both online and off about all the wonderful things that the 16th reformers had "re-discovered", "re-established", "returned to", "restored", and "revived." I found it most interesting that such terminology is used and furthermore that like a great circle every generation seems to do it all over again with a whole new set of things that they have "re'ed."

RE-formers abound. And the Bible makes it clear to each and every one of them that they may in essence proclaim: They are missing it, and I have found it.

But, have any of those who have chosen to use the "re'ed" words stopped to ask: when were these things lost?
Or more importantly: Were they ever there to begin with?






...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:02 PM [+]
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Tuesday, July 23, 2002

More Bishop Ware on Salvation...

Yes, I still am absorbing from this little booklet.

You'll often hear Orthodox say (generally in contrast to Augustine's popularization in the West) that we do not share in the "original guilt" of "original sin", but rather share the consequences (death, inclination toward sin). I believe I mentioned before that Bishop Ware makes note of the progressive nature of humanity's sin in that we can now say that Adam and Eve have got no sin compared to what I manage to accomplish from day to day. Anyway, we share in the consequences of the Fall because we share in the nature of Adam and Eve. Bishop Ware says: "Adam lives in us..." And as such we DO have a "natural" responsibility to repent, whether we personally sin or not - good luck. He calls it "vicarious repentence" and quotes St. Mark the Monk:

The Saints are required to offer repentence not only on their own behalf
but also on behalf of their neighbor, for without active love they cannot be made
perfect...in this way the whole universe is held together in unity,
and through God's providence we are each of us assisted by one another.


Further Bishop Ware cautions us against thinking of such "vicarious repentence" as being needed because of guilt or ANY judicial paradigm. He points instead to the mystical and organic unity of humankind - one body. And finally, at this point, he quotes Dostoievsky:

Everything, like the ocean flows and enters into contact with everything else. Touch one place,
and you set up a movement at the other end of the world...you have only one means of Salvation:
take hold of yourself and make yourself responsible for the sins of all humanity.






...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:13 AM [+]
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Monday, July 22, 2002

"See how they love one another..."

Forgive me for having neither the energy or the time to get exact reference, but I was struck with the memory of an ancient pagan writer lamenting over the apparent success of Christianity and I recall him writing the exact quote above. Rather a prophetic fullfillment of our Lord's words when He told us how people would identify His disciples, no? I was reminded of these things as I put down the receiver of the phone, ending about the 50th phone call from a concerned parishoner wanting to see how I was doing and what they could do to help. They have offered so much and I am so grateful to be apart of this family.

Christ is indeed in our Midst!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:48 PM [+]
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Sunday, July 21, 2002

Feastday of St. Mary Magdalene
Tomorrow is the feastday of St. Mary Magdalene: Equal to the Apostles. I have changed our Icon accordingly. Anyone care to relate the story behind the red egg in her hand? We Orthodox typically have red eggs distributed at the end of our Paschal services because of the story....

With others standing before the Savior's Cross,
weeping and suffering with the Mother of God,
glorious Mary Magdalene offered praises saying:
What is this strange wonder?
He chooses to suffer Who upholds the whole creation!
Glory to Thy Power!


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:27 PM [+]
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My Absence...
On Thursday I went to the hospital for abdominal surgery and am now in the process of recovering.On the night prior to this Susan and I attended Vespers and Fr. Thomas offered prayers for healing and then annointed me with Holy Oil taken from the tomb of St. John (Maximovitch) The Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco. My wife encouraged me to get a new book for my stay in the hospital, and choose Being as Communion by John D. Zizioulas. I am told it is an excellent venture into personhood, the Church, and salvation. I am anxious to delve into it deeper as I recover further.

I was further blessed to have Fr. Thomas visit me on Friday and again pray for and annoint me, coincidently he happens to be a PA in the ER of the hosptial I was staying in! A number of hosptial staff noticed him (with cassock and stole) and the icons/prayer rope at my bedside which I had brought and initiated discussions with me regarding Orthodoxy. One guy asked me if I was Russian and I smiled saying "No, I'm a convert to Orthodoxy." Apparently he'd never met someone like me before. I won't be the last I warned him...Orthodoxy is growing and america is just beginning to discover the treasures she holds. One of my nurses really opened up to me and we talked at length about how she lost her faith and had become an agnostic. But, she said that things had been happening in her life that really seemed to be leading her toward Christ again. We agreed to stay in touch.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:23 PM [+]
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Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them

Psalm 127:3-5

My Full Quiver....soon to receive another arrow...

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:23 AM [+]
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Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Sick of it

Another abducted child and I am just about flat out pissed and a little scared. These stories really get to me and I don't know if it is because I notice them more, being a father, or if such horrible things are really happening more often. What kind of evil can drive a person to abduct, molest, and kill a 5 year old???? Oh what a world we live in...help me Lord to remember the sinful role I often play in it.

Take note, my neighbors, who might think I am over protective of my 5 year old, who cries sometimes because other kids her age are allowed to play out front alone.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:41 PM [+]
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Huw and the Orthodox View of Marriage

Susan and I have been reading Preserve Them O Lord, a book written for married or to-be married couples from an Orthodox perspective. It is quite good and I had intended on bringing some of what I have learned here, but the newly illumined Huw (grin) has written something that really pours the foundation of what I would have to say (and learn) about marriage. He writes:

What cinched this for me was Pomazansky's "Orthodox Dogmatic Theology" and Yannaras' "Freedom of Morality." Both of them offered me a view of the Mystery of Matrimony not as a way the church blesses a relationship and "allows" them to have sex, but rather as a way of redeeming human relationships - as creating a church in the home. Within this blessing sex is no longer "the thing we do because we, as human animals, have this internal thing that makes us want to do it..." Rather it becomes the furthering of the unity of the Husband and Wife in the icon that they are for us of the unity of the Church: their salvation together in marriage shows us how to be saved together in the Church. It is not permission to have sex: it is redemption of sex - human love bringing forth new life sealing in one flesh the unity.

SALVIFIC!


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:37 PM [+]
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Monday, July 15, 2002

Orthopraxis....

Wayne Olson said the following:

"Theory incarnate in practice": What a phrase. There seems to be no better way to articulate the proper expression of love and obedience to God, the life that is the true calling of every human being who comes into the world. Theory only finds its proper expression in good deeds, and knowledge of theological propositions is by itself far less important than some would like to contend. Far better is he who is simple-minded but who maintains a life of good deeds because of his love for Christ, than he who is imbued with theological knowledge yet fails to instantiate that knowledge with a faith working through love.

Outstanding stuff....Read the rest on his Blog linked above.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:14 PM [+]
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More from Bishop Ware and the Orthodox view of Salvation

As I believe I have said before the Orthodox do not give much stage time to the judicial view of sin and salvation. Accordingly, the Fall and Original Sin are not seen as communicating guilt to the progeny of Adam and Eve. (that's me and you, folks). None-the-less we do suffer the effects of the Fall so that we find ourselves in what Bishop Ware calls "an all-embracing state of sinfulness." It is also interesting that in the same sense that salvation is a process, so also is the Fall.

He cites the great work of Saint Athanasios of Alexandria On the Incarnation of the Word (highly recommended) saying that "humans 'moved forward little by little' into an ever-increasing ignorance and corruption...'the rational human being created in the image was being obliterated, and the work created by God was being destroyed.'" And Bishop Ware has us note St. Athanasios' use of the imperfect tense.

"The Fall," says Bishop Ware, "was cumulative."

He then goes on to list a number of the effects of the fall and one of them hit me square on the nose: "It renders us subject to boredom."

nuff said.





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:41 PM [+]
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Sunday, July 14, 2002

New Icon and Comments Added

Today is the SUNDAY OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL COUNCILS, and our newest Icon celebrates accordingly.

Glorious art Thou, O Christ our God
Who hast established our holy fathers as stars on earth.
Through them Thou dost guide us to the True Faith.
O Most Merciful One, glory to Thee.


Many thanks to Jason for directing me to a good source for a commenting script. After working out a few bugs I seem to have it functioning properly. In so doing I fear I lost some comments from Wayne, but I expect he'll forgive me :) Right, Wayne?

Had a wonderful weekend! An old friend of mine from Southern California came up to visit. He has decided to become Orthodox and he and his fiance' joined us for Liturgy today. I warned them not to go near the Church Bookstore, but they didn't listen and walked away with an armfull. (hehehe) They hope to have an Orthodox wedding and I plan on attending. Now, Chance....get a blog started!

On a personal note, I need to be a better leader and example for our family church. Too often I neglect our family time at our Icon corner...excuses abound, none of them worthy. Pray for me.



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:40 PM [+]
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Saturday, July 13, 2002

A Common Boo-Boo
I see a lot of Churches utilizing the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as their statement of faith. I think it is great to see new groups looking to the past, but I also see a common mistake. (One, which I won't mention in detail, is to actually change the Creed in order to better fit their particular theological flavor - I mean, really now, why use it at all? Just make up your own) The mistake I will mention is demonstrated by this:

We believe in one holy catholic* and apostolic church

* “ catholic” should be read “universal” or “world-wide”.

The Greek roots of the term "Catholic" mean "according to (kata-) the whole (holos)," and has less to do with geography and more to do with fullness or wholeness of faith...lacking nothing. Remember, the Bishops present at the councils of Nicea and Constantinople believed in ONE visible and united Church.




...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:17 AM [+]
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Friday, July 12, 2002

Being saved from what?

The first few chapters of Bishop Kallistos' book How are we saved? deals with how an Orthodox Christian would respond to that all too frequent question: "Are you saved?" In essence, the question doesn't fit with Orthodox soteriology and so if one were to ask a cradle Orthodox Christian they might get a blank stare. Which, in the evangelical construct, is a default "no."
The best response (besides the blank stare) would be, according to Bishop Ware, the present continuous tense: "I am being saved." And the reasoning for this is that we do not view salvation as something that takes place once after "signing on the dotted line." Rather it is a process which requires our participation in the victory won by Christ.

Though I personally find proof-texts to be naturally problematic, here are a few none-the-less which seem to imply that salvation is a process: Phil 2:12, Phil 3:12, 1 Cor 9:27, 2 Tim 4:7, 2 Tim 2:12.

Of course sin is what we are saved from, and I think we probably all know the standard definition of the greek word for sin amartia "missing the mark." Taking it abit further, it is "going astray" or the "failure to achieve the purpose for which one is created."

Bishop Ware reminds us that sin is not "just disobeying rules, but also, and more profoundly, what the Greek Fathers term planh 'wandering', 'error', 'illusion.' Sin, that is to say, is to be viewed not primarily in juridical terms, as the transgression of a moral code, but rather in an existential perspective, as the failure to be one's own real self. Sin is the lack of true humanness."

Illusion....O to be Illumined! Christ have mercy....

more from Bishop Ware later...

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:02 PM [+]
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Thursday, July 11, 2002

The End is the Beginning

Bishop Seraphim quotes the Gospel of Thomas:

"The disciples said to Jesus, 'tell us in
which way our end will occur.' Jesus said 'Have
you found the beginning that you search for
the end? In the place where the beginning is, there
the end will be. Blessed is he who will stand at
the beginning, and he will know the end, and
will not taste death.'"

I am haunted by this for some reason. Now, I know, I know...this is a gnostic gospel...but none-the-less I am intrigued by this passage and it makes me think about Theosis and Irenaios' theology of recapitulation. Redemption, deification and re-creation are all the same?
We are new creatures in Christ...behold all things become new... a new heaven, a new earth..is there not a patristic vein of thought that perceives the work of Christ as nothing less than the creation of the universe anew? Or at least the restoration of the universe to a state of newness?

pondering....

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:55 PM [+]
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A Defensive Stance
(Not for the theologically light of heart)


I guess it was a mistake of mine to listen to the Bible Answer Man on the radio yesterday afternoon. Though typically when they are stepping on people's toes who I myself don't mind stepping on, I enjoy them. But just as I tuned the dial Hank was slamming the "Greek" Orthodox Church. Fortunately I did not hear the entire tirade, but I did catch the ending in which he said (my paraphrase): "the Greek Orthodox Church denies the historic Christian doctrine of Sola Fide (Faith Alone)." Huh?

Martin Luther invented the term "Sola Fide" in the 16th century and added the word "alone" to his translation of Romans 3:28 because he said he felt it better expressed St. Paul's meaning. Furthermore, Luther very much disliked my patron's Epsitle and said the following about it:

"I maintain that some Jew wrote it [the Book of James] who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any."

"We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school [the University of Wittenberg].... "

"Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. 'Faith justifies' and 'faith does not justify' contradict each other flatly. If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor's hood and let him call me a fool."

And Martin Luther is most well known for referring to the book of St. James as an "epsitle of straw." I'm also told but a Lutheran friend from Germany that you can still find some Lutheran Bibles that lack the epsitle of St. James as well as Hebrews! Now I note all this, not to slam Martin Luther, but rather to point out that Luther admitted the apparent dichotomy between what St. Paul wrote and what St. James wrote. (Actually Luther denied that St. James wrote the epistle). So...if Hank was saying we Orthodox reject the 16th century doctrine of Sola Fide, then he is absolutely right. But if he was attempting to imply that the Orthodox teach that men can be saved by works, then he is DEAD wrong.

I think the problem is once again we westerners have a genetic predisposition (or something like it) to deconstruct, the reduce things to their lowest common denomiators, to tear apart and categorize. In so doing we rip faith and works away from their natural unity and decide that never again the two shall meet. The Orthodox have not done this....faith and works are one and the same, perhaps not unlike a yin/yan concept. The faith/works "dichotomy" is seen as one of the great paradoxes of the Church which follow the mystery of the incarnation: Christ is FULLY God and yet FULLY human. Any attempt to deconstruct, reduce, or categorize THAT "dichotomy" will always lead to heresey.

Basically, along with St. James, the Orthodox teach that Faith without works is dead. Plain and simple.

On the CRI webpage there is a truly miserable critique of Orthodoxy. In response, an aquaintence of mine Joel Kalvesmaki wrote an excellent reply.

To my non-Eastern Orthodox readers: if you seriously want to get an "impartial" view of Orthodoxy (and don't trust those of us on the inside {grin}), beware! I have seen a great deal of misinformation out there. Might I suggest a couple of sources?

First, Christian History a magazine which is a division of Christianity Today offered an issue devoted entirely to Eastern Orthodoxy which I highly recommend. Furthermore a Protestant by the name of Daniel Clendenin wrote a very fair critique of Orthodoxy which I think is quite good.

Okay, well I'll let the defensive walls down now...no more Bible Answer Man for me.



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:23 AM [+]
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Tuesday, July 09, 2002

A New Icon
The New Icon is very well known in Orthodox circles. The original is found at the ancient Monastery of Saint Katherine at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Icon is very rare because it dates from about the 6th century and very few ancient Icons were able to survive the Iconoclastic controversy of the 8-9th centuries.

In the Icon, Christ raises His hand in blessing while with the other He holds the Gospels. But there is another very interesting aspect of this Icon: try looking at the icon while covering one half of Christ's face with your thumb and then switch to covering the other.

Indeed, Christ is our righteous judge as well as our Savior - the Lover of mankind.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:17 PM [+]
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Monday, July 08, 2002

The Illumined Heart

A review from the New York Post says: "The ancient Christian wisdom contained in this beautifully plain-spoken book is breathtakingly countercultural, and worth more to the honest seeker than shelves of what passes for practical spirituality these days."

I was thinking about why the reviewer wrote this, when Frederica Mathewes-Green, the author, answered the question for me.The answer she somewhat unintentionally offers is that basically she isn't really the author - at least not in the creative sense. This book is not the latest christian bookstore fad, nor is it "the Frederica way" to Christian victory. Frederica writes: "I hope not to say anything original. If I do, ignore it."

What this little "pocket" book is, is a compilation of nearly 2000 years of wisdom in regards to how we "live a Transfigured Life in Christ."

In chapter three, she asks the question that I get asked alot: why should we in the 21st century care how the ancient church lived, prayed, and understood the Scriptures? After all, times change...if we don't adapt, we die. But the ancient way is NOT dead, and this is the point. Frederica's answer is introduced with:

"It's because times change that we should especially take notice of that which stands the test of time."

Am I trying to sell a book here? Sure, you bet, I think this one would greatly benefit any Christian - Orthodox or not.



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:25 PM [+]
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Sunday, July 07, 2002

The Newly Illumined Huw

My brother in Christ, Huw (Raphael) was received into the Orthodox Church this morning by Holy Chrismation. We met a while back on the Orthodox Convert Group and just today I learned via Bishop Seraphim's Live Journal that Huw also keeps an active Live Journal! Huw has a fascinating religious history and has much of interest to share. Many Years Huw!

And the Icon Corner looks wonderful!



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:03 PM [+]
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Saturday, July 06, 2002

Youth of the Apocalypse

I finished the book, which actually arrived back on the 3rd, and I was a bit disappointed. It's first section is reminiscent of some of the pessimistic protestant propaganda writings I have read in the past. The authors here paint a very bleak and sometimes unbelievable picture of youth culture. Don't get me wrong, I think our society and culture is utterly sick unto death, but I think this sickness is revealed more subtly and very often not at all to those caught in the great illusion of this passing life. I suspect that the authors had a very specific audience in mind, which like themselves are/were hardcore street kids who have experienced the sickness of our society in sometimes horrific ways. And more than that, it is written for such people who are awakening to the reality of the sickness and are asking questions.

But this book doesn't leave us with a quick fix: Jesus is the Answer - accept Him as your Lord and Savior and all we be well. Rather the young Monks spell out what they consider to be The Last True Rebellion, which is basically the living of an ascetic life within the Orthodox Tradition (paradosis). They don't candy-coat their Christianity and instead make it quite clear that the Christian life is STRUGGLE. This is the last half of the book and it is where I believe the overall work is redeemed. They share with us the stories of the lives of a number of saints and martyrs and then dig in deeper to discuss some of the principles of the Orthodox ascetic life where we definitely see the teachings of the Fathers come alive.

How are we Saved?
Written like notes from a lecture, this book(let) - under 100 pages - is a treasure. As time permits I will share here some of the insights that Bishop KALLISTOS offers. Overall it is a concise and easy to read answer to the question proposed in the title and does so from a distinctly Orthodox perspective. To those of us westerners who are unfamiliar with the Orthodox understanding of sin, salvation, and redemption, this book will be like a breath of fresh, clean air.

Still Waiting for The Ilumined Heart to arrive..





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:31 PM [+]
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Thursday, July 04, 2002

Bishop Seraphim's Live Journal
I just discovered Bishop Seraphim Sigrist (OCA) maintains a very active Live Journal. Bishop Seraphim spent 20 years as a missionary in Japan and is currently in "semi-retirement" as he puts it. He is also the author of the book Theology of Wonder, which I understand to be quite good. Had I met him sooner, I would have ordered it with my recent gift certificate! Oh well....here it goes: "Honey can I order a book...."



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:40 PM [+]
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Wednesday, July 03, 2002

SALVIFIC

A dear friend of mine, Jason Evans had the following on his blog:

Marvin is a cool old cat! Very wise and discerning. At the workshop, his wife said something that really struck me. So much I had to write it down:
"Marvin and I got married at a very young age. My mother was mad at me when I told her we was goin' to get married. Mother said, 'Why are you gonna marry that boy?' And I told her [as she starts getting choked up and tears start to stream down her cheeks], "Because this man is gonna help me get to heaven!'"


I have never seen more passion and certainty in someone's face. They've been married for many decades now... I want to help Brooke get to heaven.

This is so intense, and if I might say, very Eastern. Wanting to help someone get to heaven who we assume has already said the "sinner's prayer" just doesn't fit well within the typical evangelical paradigm...does it? One amongst many great things I notice about the post-mod Christian movement is an honest rejection of the fast-food reductionist mentality in our protestant theology. Is salvation really as simple as uttering a few words?

"No" you say, "you have to really believe it!"

Whatever.

I mean, come on folks, this gets to the core of the matter: What does it mean to be saved? How are we saved? (One of the new books I ordered - hehehehe).

Anyway...the Orthodox often use a term I had never heard before: Salvific. Though I am not sure I could properly offer a webster-esque definition, I will say simply that it refers to that which moves us along our path of Salvation. Just the other day my wife and I were discussing how hard it can be to be a parent and she reminded me that God has given us our children as an integral part of our journey. Our relationship with the kids is meant to be Salvific for both the them and us. And indeed, as Jason said above: our marriages are also intended to be Salvific as well.

Let us commit ourselves and one another, and our whole lives to Christ our God.
-from the Divine Liturgy



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:14 PM [+]
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Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Toothaches and Books
Despite suffering from a particularly nasty toothache, which is currently being tempered by the wonders of Vicodin, I will attempt a post. I had a very nice birthday weekend and was lavished with numerous gifts which in all honesty I did not need, but am trying to be sinfully oblivious to this fact. My sister gave me a gift certificate to Amazon and I picked out three books I had been flirting with for quite sometime. I have added them to my links, but I might note one of particular interest here:





Who can resist a cover and title like this???? Actually this is a book, written by a pair of young Orthodox monks in California, which looks into the apparent nilhilism that pervades youth culture today. To me this is fascinating because I often find myself wondering how we, as a society, got where we are today and where we will go in the future. How much of a stretch is it for us to imagine a soon-to-come legally sanctioned militant pluralism?

Also, I continue to work on my Orthodox Web Page and hope to have it completed before the end of summer.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:44 PM [+]
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