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.
Long time readers will recall my beloved atheist. Recently we had another lengthy theological discussion and the issue of sinning in ignorance came up. The beloved Atheist just could not fathom how I could say you could enter into sin while being totally ignorant of the fact that what you were doing was a sin. Our conversation ended prematurely and what follows is an email I sent recently...
I wanted to offer a few quick words to further explain the concept of sin, which I feel we did not fully engage in while you were here. It is not surprising that any of us tend to view sin and salvation in legal terms (e.g. sin is the breaking of laws set up by God and salvation is accomplished by God’s Son willingly taking upon Himself the punishment for our sins). This, in our Eastern Orthodox opinion, is really only a sort of analogy of what is truly happening.
Sin, as I noted is more accurately understood as sickness which leads eventually to death itself. A good specific disease analogy might be lung cancer as caused by smoking. God is Life. His very nature (who and what He is) is summed up by the term Holy. In sticking with our disease analogy we might translate Holy as healthy. In God, are we to find health, the health, which we were intended to have from the beginning…much like a newborn baby does not have lung cancer.
Taking this analogy, I hope you can see how we can “sin” in ignorance. Much like how a smoker can smoke – not having the slightest idea that he may get lung cancer – and then get lung cancer. The “laws” that we see handed down are simply health guidelines. They teach us how to return to that pristine state of complete health – holiness.
But our condition is terminal…we have all passed the stage of gaining any help from chemotherapy. We will all taste the “wages of sin”, which is death. The real and most critical work of God’s Son was not to suffer under God’s wrath for our sake (how terrible…who could love such a God???) but to first become one of us. As any quality doctor must do, He steps out of His sterile room and enters into the infectious and disease-ridden room of the patient. By this act, He shows compassion and love and prescribes a process of treatment (such as living the beatitudes). But this, He knows, cannot be perfectly administered or followed by us diseased patients. And so the doctor initiates the second real and critical work on our behalf: He takes upon himself the very disease that we are dying from and He Himself dies.
The essence of Life dies? Impossible, and thus we have that wonderful third day in which the doctor overcomes the disease and death. He is perfectly immune. He returns to us patients – who are still suffering and dying – and offers to us the fruit of his labor. Anti-bodies (to keep our analogy alive) which when coupled with His previously prescribed treatment will heal us completely from the disease.
He Himself is the means by which a vaccine (or anti-serum) is generated. We receive this medicine through many means: Faith, the Sacraments, Prayer, Fasting, etc. Basically any way in which we join our life to His – like a blood transfusion – we participate in His healing work.
Anyway, this – like all analogies may not be perfect – but I hope it helps you to understand why I say that we can sin in ignorance.
Well I got bored with that old one and my Dad sent me this new one from our fishing trip. You can click on it to see a really big version...if you dare to look upon my ugly mug in virtual life size. Outside of the personal company (my Dad) the trip was generally miserable. It rained alot and the river was muddied up which made for some rough fishing. None-the-less, the venerable RFD Paradosis landed us fish and remains undefeated.
Really Fishing and boating connect a great deal with Paradosis. The importance of Tradition is terribly neglected in our culture. The old saying: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime comes to mind. What has been passed down to me about fishing will be passed down to my children. If they think I'm full of crap then they can of course figure it all out on their own. And herein lies the tragedy of Christianity today...we're all running about trying to do it on our own. Standing upon individualistic pedestals and looking down upon all others, fully confident in our ability to properly and personally discern REAL Chrsitianity from false.
Yes we could use our simple rational logic and string a huge net accross the river and catch more then enough salmon. And then in a few years we will tremble at the sight of an empty river and wonder what went wrong? On to the next river. Utilitarianism...what works best for me.
I believe it was Lao Tzu who lamented about his society's abadoning the wisdom of the ancients. If memory serves, and it so often doesn't) he described each new generation as growing up in isolation and trying to reinvent society anew. Lost without a compass as it were.
Christianity though is more than paying heed (at our own logical and lofty discretion) to the ancients. We Orthodox affirm a Living Tradition...the living memory of the Church. It's more than recreation (funny - or sad - how this term is now associated with amusement), it is sustenance.
Alana offers such. In essence she wonders about the merits of converting to Orthodoxy as a sort of protest against protestantism - no doubt this happens. I couldn't get her commenting to work and so I thought I'd post my thought here.
I think the real issue is thus:
Has our journey into Orthodoxy been fueled by what we leave behind, or by what lies ahead?
In other words...is our conversion simply a recoil OR an embracing.
For me it began as recoil and ended in embracing. No doubt I was troubled by much of protestant theology and its seemingly being cut-off from history. Furthermore my own denomination, which I felt at least had some inkling toward historicty, was none-the-less treading swiftly down the road toward complete relativism (as a side note...it continues along this road today). I knew I could not stay.
Imagine, if you will, a seeker walking down the street, looking for a church to call home. Reading, listening, and exploring - he'd looked into the past....ahh yes that ever popular quest for an historic pristine Church. He is disgruntled and has many knee-jerks to wrestle with. Yet, he began the journey with the firm commitment to bring no presuppositions of his protestant past to the table. Fully willing to rethink what he'd been taught Christianity was all about. In reference to that elusive pristine church, he would say to himself, "I will make their God, my God and their beliefs, my beliefs."
Quite a suprise to discover "their" beliefs in regards to the Church. He didn't like them and yet how could he argue with them? Why accept so much else of what they believed and not this? Could he comfortably sit in judgement of those who came some two thousand years before him?
Anyway, the seeker walking down the street sees the Orthodox Temple. He is still disgruntled and somewhat angry...certainly in a mode of reaction to what he is walking away from. He'd heard and read about their theology and their rich heritage and he was interested. But, his recoil was no doubt fueling his entrance through those doors.
Now picture this seeker laying prostrate on the floor...flabbergasted and overwhelmed. The fuel of anger, resentment, and disgruntledness will no longer burn. None of that matters anymore. Where he felt as if he was dying of thirst, now he felt as though he were drowning. Suddenly he realized that he was no longer running away from something, but running toward something.
All of this to say, no matter how we start the journey, it should end with an embrace.
As I continue to read through Scripture in Tradition I was struck by a thought. While I was attending a protestant Bible college I took a class entitled Protestant New Testament Hermenuetics, in fact I believe I still have the small green/blue hardback book - I shall have to go and look for it. Anyway, it occured to me that the interpretive method we were taught really was grounded in a sort of historical literary science and it made me think: Gee, even an atheist could properly interpret the scritpures if he or she simply employed this technical methodology we are being taught. I don't believe this is the case.
from Fr. Breck's book...
A further element of Orthodox biblical interpretation...concerns an inner conviction that roots the exegesis firmly within the life of the ecclesial community. This is the conviction, shared universally by patristic tradition, that one cannot interpret the Scriptures faithfully or accurately unless one lives in accordance with them... Their proper - that is, their true or "orthodox" - interpretation requires on the part of the interpreter a life of personal repentance, ascetic struggle and worship...this is the key to understanding Jesus' enigmatic statement in Mark 4:11, "To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables."
I bet the gnostics loved that verse. Fr. Breck goes on to clarify how this is NOT gnostic in that it is a gift offered freely to all (to the extent that we participate - kinda like saving faith) such that we are able to transform "...the work of exegesis from rational analysis into genuine theology: a living witness to the life-giving God."
This is really why we can see in the Orthodox Faith (as described by Kyriacos Markides' in his book Mountain of Silence) men with PhD's being taught by old monks who never surpassed grade school. Really, now, what good is education without wisdom?
I'm really beginning to feel the "stress" of lonliness...I say "stress" because I really cannot think of any other way to phrase it. For those of you who may not know, my wife and kids are on a long vacation in Minnesota (I'll actually be joining them for four days beginning this friday - THANK GOD). Anyway, the house remains eerily quiet...dead really. Not much laughter, running, screaming, or crying - you'd think you wouldn't miss the regularly scheduled noise and chaos of the Ferrenberg house, but you do. Community life is noisy.
Now many good friends from Church and my local family have been very much present with me, but frankly it is those "private" family times such as going to bed, awakening in the morning, coming home from work - all of which now take place in a house utterly devoid of life (my dog and snake don't count!) It feels so unnatural...and indeed it is.
And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone;" Genesis 2:17
Well not that the LORD God needs any sort of consensus, but the Mental Health professionals agree, here's an interesting article.
And This one was particularly intriguing to me because it is a list of some of the effects that lonliness has on people. You'll notice that ALL of them in someway connect to what I would consider to be sin. Pardon me while I ramble now.
I think we'd all admit to being generally selfish...and such selfishness often (if not always) interferes with our relationships with other people. Yet we NEED these relationships! We are selfish and yet we cannot survive without the community of others. It is paradoxical. The effects of lonliness tends to only multiply the lonliness by driving others away from us because they seem to inspire more selfish behavior. It is like a powerful whirlpool that spirals us down into deeper introversion and self-pleasuring - or self-destruction as the case may be. Absence of community breeds sin in our lives. Apparently, lonliness can even have very serious ill effects on our physical health. Hmmm...now this has me thinking.
Heart Disease and high blood pressure are listed, among others, as ailments which can be connected to lonliness! Wow...perhaps we ought to quit looking at the foods that other cultures eat and ponder how their sense of community might be more "healthy" than our western inbred glorification of the individual? Just a thought.
It also makes me think of hell. The Orthodox understanding of hell is rather different than in the west (I'll not go into that now), but I wonder if hell is not a sort of culmination or fullfillment of a life lived in isolation - a life of perfect selfishness it would seem to me would bear the ultimate and final fruit of lonliness. Again...just a thought.
Anyway...my thoughts turn to the Church. Community. The Saints are right behind me on the wall...and I feel connected, plugged in (if you will). There is a good deal of solace to found in that "great cloud of witnesses" - not to mention encouragment to avoid the sins that so easy tempt the lonely.
None-the-less, the quiet is deafening and a crying baby would be most welcome right about now.
It goes by very slowly when you are ill and alone. I cannot sleep as my headache has returned this evening to pester me. Oddly enough, in such situations I tend to think ALOT about the "big picture" in life. That grand and intricate tapestry, whose beauty cannot be discerned from inside here...all we hear inside are tales and legends. Hmmm...perhaps this is the medicine typing?
Who has not had the question posed to them: "What would you do if you had only a day to love?" Really now, it is an infantile question wouldn't you say? With noticeably more gray in my beard this winter I feel qualified to say that an adult question might better be phrased: "What would you do if you had an eternity to live?"
Bringing it home now: If I truly believed and lived in eternity...oh how my life would be different! Oh how the quality of life would be broadened if we would only come to understand a miniscule fraction of what eternity really means and what it really is. But eternity to us must transcend the head and find it's home in our hearts and in our hands (This, I believe is part of what I mean to say to truly understand and live eternity). What the hell good does it do for me to believe it, but not feel it or not live it! Isn't this sorta what my Patron wrote about in regards to that false dichotomy of works and faith?
Of course in days of yore I would say: "Real and true belief inspires real and true works." Nonesense. I believe and know eating that piece of cake is bad for my health, but I'll do it anyway. I believe and know smoking that pipe is horrible for my teeth and gums, but I'll do it anyway.
When I wake in the morning, it will be the first day for the rest of eternity. My life MUST be changed. It MUST be Transfigured. I cannot go on like this for an eternity.
12"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
This is an intriguing verse, which I was reminded of by a book which I have just begun reading entitled Scripture in Tradtion by Fr. John Breck.
The Orthodox understanding of the dynamics between Scripture and Tradition are really the inspiration of the works title: Scripture IN Tradition, as opposed to Scripture and Tradition. Community is the key, and I think this verse from St. John's gospel flushes that mindset out some. Revelation is something delivered to the community, the scriptures are a record of that revelation - NOT the revelation itself.
I quickly browsed a few protestant commentaries in regards to this passage and it seems that they all made much ado about the latter part implying that the Holy Spirit would not teach anything new, which I suppose they mean to say that Jesus had taught them all they needed and that the Holy Spirit's job was to simply call these things into remembrance for the purpose of writing the New Testament. At least that is the impression I get from the commentaries.
It seems to be a stretch to me, but I guess it would depend on how they mean "new." When St. Peter was granted the vision of the "unclean" food, was that a NEW doctrine? I dunno...it may have meshed with the spirit of what Jesus taught but obviously St. Peter didn't recognize it and needed to be "lead into all truth." Thinking back to how I might have interpretted this verse say 10 years ago I probably would have viewed as pointing toward the eventual writing of Scripture.
Now though, I'm not convinced....there is something bigger, something grander, something more wonderful going on. Place this verse into the context of Orthodox ecclesiology (her self-understanding) and her upholding of Scripture IN Tradition and it makes all the sense in the world.
Alana's morning brew from yesterday has got me thinking about my boys. Particularly Nicholas, if for no other reason than because he so often sleeps with me and his absence has been very noticable in the mornings. (Usually my waking routine includes having to carefully peel him off of my arm - which he prefers to cling to over any sort of "security blanket").
I must reluctantly admit that I have special feelings for him, which I cannot fully explain. Perhaps it is simply because he is my first son and/or because he has an amazingly sweet disposition. Anyway, I was reminded of a song performed by the Dixie Chicks, but written by a father for his son, from whom he was for some reason seprated from. If you have kids or a good memory the references in the song will no doubt make you smile. Right now they are making me cry.
A father's love for his children is a powerful thing. But such love is merely lukewarm when compared to the white heat love of Him who is the very embodiment of love.
Anyway, here is the song...it is a lullaby.
Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)
Dragon tales and the 'Water Is Wide'
Pirates sail and lost boys fly
Fish bite moonbeams every night
And I love you
Godspeed, little man
Sweet dreams, little man
Oh, my love will fly to you
Each night on angel's wings
The rocket racer's all tuckered out
Superman's in pajamas on the couch
Goodnight moon, we'll find the mouse
And I love you
Godspeed, little man
Sweet dreams, little man
Oh, my love will fly to you
Each night on angel's wings
God bless Mommy and Matchbox cars
God bless Dad and thanks for the stars
God hears 'Amen' wherever you are
And I love you
Godspeed, little man
Sweet dreams, little man
Oh, my love will fly to you
Each night on angel's wings
Today is my nameday. Saint James, the Adelphotheos, the Brother of God. I really like this title - in similar fashion to our Lady's title (Theotokos), it brings, almost confrontationally to our mind, the Incarnation. Since the Church does not affirm, and never has affirmed that St. James was a blood relation to Jesus, the title is more a testimony than a representation of literal fact. Anyway, you can read more about St. James here.
Why not take sometime today and read his epistle. The Church in her wisdom included it in the canon...numerous reformers would not have. The Apostle's emphasis on works is still today a stumbling block to "faith alone" theology and thus inspires some very laudable interpretive song and dance numbers.
You embraced the Gospel as a Disciple of the Lord;
As a martyr you did not betray it, O Righteous One!
As God's brother you have boldness before Him;
As a faithful Bishop it is yours to intercede for us.
Beseech Christ God that our souls may be saved.
The Logic of Life (warning, there are cuss words in this post, please forgive me, but you should have heard me in my car when I heard this story!)
I listen to NPR alot. generally I enjoy listening, but sometimes they take such a one sided approach that it is simply inexcusable and cannot be considered a fari reporting of the news. Case and point, last night on All Things Considered the story of Terri Schiavo regaining the right to be fed was covered...or at least one side of the story was.
I could not find the entire section of the program which I heard - in particular the short interview which followed Jon Hamilton's audio report. In this interview we are forced to listen to a Yale doctor telling us all about the situation and the ethics involved. At one point he laughed...okay maybe not a full laugh, but certainly a condescending hint of a snicker at the notion of Terri's parents holding out hope that some therapies might help their daughter's condition. Oh yes, that is very funny, isn't it? Asshole.
Like in Jon Hamilton's report we are told that Terri is not reposnding to her parents and is not in anyway communicating with them...despite appearances. You see they can tell this by having their stupid scientific faces glued to brain monitors and then from such data dictate with certainty what is happening in the REAL world. Can I ask: given the amazing complexities of the human mind (of course completely ignoring the issue of a soul), how the hell does anyone know what sort of consciousness Terri has right now? It's bullshit, I don't buy that crap for a second.
The Yale doctor further bestows his wisdom to us and says (just like Jon Hamilton's doctor tell us in his story does) that Terri cannot experience any pain or suffering in her state. I assume this is intended to make us feel better about starving and or dehydrating her to death? But then, to my utter amazement, this doctor (so educated in the realm of ethics) goes on to judge the intentions of the poor ignorant parents of Terri, saying in essence that we should feel sorry for them because their love for their daughter is actually selfish - causing suffering for Terri by keeping her alive in this condition. Now beyond the profound moral judgement this guy is making, didn't he JUST GET DONE SAYING that Terri is unable to suffer or feel anything???? Where is the logic?
Hey NPR! Where was the clergyman in this story to broaden the realm of "ethics"? Where was a represenative for the parents? Where was a similar asshole ethicist who might question the "selfish" motives of the husband? How about anything that might possibly show the arguments for life? Anything, anyone, anywhere? No? Ok.
You know what folks, it's gonna get ugly around here fast...believe me. When science is the sole fuel of our ethics engine, we are going to drive off a cliff.
Wayne has gotten himself engrossed in a discussion of Calvinism when a Calvinist posed this question to his youth group.
In the comments of Wayne's most recent post (linked above), someone asks:
Is there dogmatic positions within Orthodoxy that makes the "Five Points of Calvinism" incompatible?
Now, friends, I've never been a Calvinist and I'm certainly NOT an Orthodox Theologian (though I play one on the internet) but the I think the quickest answer to the question is a resounding YES!
But specifically I would say a couple of things in regards to the question. First, beyond the Creed and the council decisions, where can one find the dogmatic positions of the Orthodox Church? Well, really I'm not sure that there is a definitive detailed collections of our beliefs...at least not that I am aware of? Certainly there is nothing "official" with every Patriarchs stamp of approval or anything. So, in that sense the question is rathered skewed somewhat...though the questioner would certainly not know this. However, this is not to say that Orthodoxy and Calvinism are compatible...far from it.
In reading through the Five Points, much of it and the detailed explanations therein just don't seem to connect with me and what I have learned from the Orthodox Church. It almost seems like the Five Points are answers to questions that we have never and generally do not ask. They are outside the box of our understanding of salvation. I suspect that the only one that I would categorically outright deny is Total Depravity The other four just seem weird to me now. As a former protestant follower of Arminius I would be inclined to try and argue point for point, but now I just feel liek saying: Huh, I don't get it?
Thank you Huw-Raphael for your comment on the previous post which has inspired my brain to consider this new one.
The picutre of the Russian Spacefarer being blessed by a Priest is actually the second one I've seen, thus I assume it is a regularly occurring event. Now, let me think, what public religious ceremony takes place for our American astronauts here in America? Ummm...I don't seem to recall any. Apparently they have to be in Russia to participate in such an event.
And American Evangelicals think they need to send missionaries to Russia!
...of seeing examples of the Orthodox Church being free in Eastern Europe. Scenes like this cannot be appreciated enough. Cosmonauts being blessed by Russian priests...hallelujah! Wonder what the Spainard and American thought.
O Lord, save Your people!
And bless Your inheritance
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their enemies
and guard Your habitation through Your Cross!
There's an untold story...someone needs to tell it.
Well, I stumbled - almost literally - upon this this evening.
Ummm...why can't some Christians just play a game without it having to be "Christian"? I mean really...can't my kids play a friggin' game of UNO without it having to have scripture verses on the cards? And then why do we feel the need to invent some absurd fiction in order to make a cool customizable card game just like the "bad guys" have? (Angels, Apostles, Demons, Sinners all battling it out...between me and my best friend in the comfort of my living room!)
I can see it now: "Hahaha I trump your puny little apostle card with my trusty flogging card! And I top it off with a dose of my demonic inspired lust card!"
(go check the site, yes - they have flogging cards.)
Do you suppose it might be possible for this nonsense to backfire and lead our kids into perceiving our religion in the context of a game? If our religion is so reliant upon invisible things happening in the head that we cannot SHOW our children the faith in our everyday lives and feel the need to utilize something like a game...might there be a problem?
Why play a game of spiritual warfare when the REAL battle is raging at this very moment! I guess not quite as exciting without real swords and shields.
This is only my third night alone and already I feel like a character from a Dostoevsky novel: about to explore firsthand the outer boundaries of sanity. Many a saint has sung the praises of silence and solitude and though I cannot pretend that I have thus far capitalized spiritually on this respite from fatherhood and husbandry, I certainly sense the quietness driving me inward.
The icon corner calls to me at this very moment...the Chalice awaits me in the morning, hadn't I better do some self-examination? The kids are not just quiet and in bed, they are quiet and in bed 3,000 miles away. The only sound in the house is the constant running of the aquarium pump and my tapping at these keys. The prayer book is there waiting for me...I see it and the pre-communion prayers are waiting to actualize and redeem the silence in this house.
The Chalice awaits.
Take, Eat...Drink this all of you...
...wish you were here.
Not necessarily for its efficacy, but rather for its heartfelt intent.
My 6 year old daughter Kelsey has, for as long as she has graced this world, had to deal with the fact that we are the only ones in our immediate local family who attend church. Indeed, we are the only Christians. She sees how integral the Orthodox faith is to our lives (Thank God….certainly not me) and has begun to wonder why we are not joined by family with whom we do everything, except pray or go to church.
Recently my wife found a series of pictures that Kelsey had drawn, which she intended to give to her aunt as an appeal to get her to go to church with us. They astonished me. I’d like to share them and when my scanner is working I will scan them for you all. What follows shall have to suffice for now
The first showed a women holding a young child before the communion chalice. A bearded clergyman held the sacred cup and two volunteers suspended the napkin below. She inscribed upon her image a label showing that the women was her aunt and the child her cousin Kayla. In big underlined letters to the side she wrote: “I wish you went to Church.”
The next page showed three separate boxed images (almost like a cartoon). The first was another picture of little Kayla and above her was a decorated communion chalice with spoon inside. Her inscription: “Kayla would want to go to communion.” In the next frame we again see Kayla, but above her this time is the Holy Gospel book - complete with Christ in the center and the blessed four gospel writers in each corner. Kayla speaks to us this time: “I want to hear the Gospel.” In the last frame we are shown her other cousin Cameron beneath an icon of some vested and bearded saint. “Cam might want to kiss the icons.”
Sometimes evangelism is for us just a veiled attempt at showing our rightness. But here before me sits an example of perfect evangelism. A heart, which recognizes the importance of community in communion, the wholeness of the faith which envelopes our everyday life, is lamenting the fact that this beauty is not shared with someone we love. She sees the error of our separation on Sunday mornings. Right or wrong doesn’t mean a damn thing, we should be standing before that Holy Cup together and that is all she cares about.
And in that last frame on the second page I noticed something very interesting: Cousin Cameron is wearing a crown. Yes….Kelsey, teach us.
This is gonna really hit on some personal notes, but I need to get this off my chest.
None of you know the real me. Scripture tells us that I myself may not know the real me. However, I think I get glimpses every now and then and it scares the hell out of me. These glimpses are frequently provided by the interaction I have with my children.
Folks, let me be as plain and clear as I possibly can be: sometimes I am a big steaming pile of self-indulgent fecal material. There is no end to my selfishness...truly there isn't . You know, I never wanted to be a father and I do not think I'm a very good one. For as long as I can remember, the sound of a crying baby made me want to run in the opposite direction and the loud rambunciousness of children did more to irritate me than lead me to the joy that it should have. I thought perhaps this might change after I started having kids of my own, and to some extent it has, but also to some extent it has not.
It seems to me that my youngest cries ALOT more than any of the others did and I must be honest - his crying brings to heart and mind irritation before sympathy and this is terrible - I hate this about myself. Now, I am pretty sure I love my kids (remember, I'm not sure that I know the REAL me), but boy sometimes the way I FEEL and occassionally act you wouldn't suspect so. Fatherhood is a constant struggle for me and I wrestle with feelings that seem to cry out: "See, told you you shouldn't be a father."
So, where does this leave me...there are good days and there are bad days. Some days joy and other, well you know. Pray for God's help some might say. Well Orthodoxy has taught me that THAT is precisely what got me into this mess to begin with!
Because, salvation is found in them. I could not do this without the Church, without her teachings, without her life. Everyday I see fatherhood as the asceticism I must embrace...more challenging to me than any fast or any vigil. I wish it was easier, I wish my struggle would take place in the realm of something more benign, but THIS is where I need the healing. My sins are being shown to me....painfully so. Sometimes I see it in the eyes of one of my children because I have made it clear to them in some way that I do not have the time, patience, or love for them. In those moments, the fact that THEY are saving me becomes wonderfully clear.
I'm stepping away from this keyboard now and am going to make it abundantly clear to them that by God's grace I do have the time, patience, and love for them. I owe them a good deal of thanks.
note: forgive me for indulging one more “big picture” topic before engaging specifics. After writing this, I may not actually have an episode four because I’m not sure there would be much of a point, because to coin a phrase from a friend: “we seem to all be farting in the wind”. Anyway….
Protestantism has a history of reinvention. It kinda reminds me of Jeffersonian democracy in the sense that it proceeds from the assumption that any given democratic government will eventually be in need of reform: tear it down and rebuild it. From the Orthodox perspective, this seems quite incongruous because we understand the Church (yes, the visible Church) to be the Body of Christ, the pillar and ground of truth (goodnight, have I dragged that passage through the mud enough, or what?!?!?!), founded by Christ, pastored by His Apostles (whose ministry was passed on to the Bishops), promised by Christ to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit into ALL truth, and that this Church would not have the gates of hell prevail over it. The visible church to the protestant is simply an external, a means of governance, a human “institution” which is wholly unnecessary – or at least quite secondary, to the spiritual reality. To us, this smacks of gnosticism. Christ appeared in the flesh, very much visible and tangible…so we believe the same is true of His Church. So, you can see how our jumping platforms differ. They say they want to reinvent the wheel, while we sit back and wonder what the heck we’ve been driving in?
Okay, well let’s assume that right now, almost 2000 years after it was “pristine” we want to recapture the lost original image of what Christ wanted His Church to be. Theories as to when the church “lost it” have really begun to vary (everyone has an opinion!) Traditionally it has always hinged on Constantine. Interesting how we moderners look back at Constantine’s conversion with such pretension and pontificate about how it ruined the Church – many of us can even tell you with confidence that his conversion wasn’t genuine - amazing. I’m guessing that if we lived at the time and had suffered under some of the persecutions we might feel differently about that meeting in Nicea when the Roman Emperor welcomed a Christian Bishop by kissing his empty eye socket (the eye had been plucked out during a particularly nasty time of persecution). But I digress, as usual.
When confronted with numerous examples of beliefs and practices not particularly liked by us moderners that predate Constantine we are compelled to move the date back. We find a liturgy that dates to the late third century (well we don’t like liturgy all that much) and so back we go. In the mid third century St. Cyprian makes extravagant claims about the Church and we move it back. Then St. Irenaios in the later 2nd century appeals extensively to tradition, the office of the Bishop, and the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist…back we go. St. Ignatios tells us in the very early 2nd century about the Bishop being the center of the Eucharistic gathering – representing Christ Himself…back back back. Then we run headlong into the Didache, almost certainly a contemporary of the vast majority of the New Testament (and in fact may even predate it!) Back we go. (Now these are just examples I've pulled out of my nether regions, not intended to reflect literal truths, but mere reflections of them.) I’ve actually heard some even claim that the Church started to “lose it” as soon as Jesus ascended.
Thus from the moment Jesus “left” the earth we are forced to discern on our own what the Church really is and how it should look. (much like theology in general I guess.) Can you imagine the position of power and authority we take upon ourselves by sitting in judgement on 2000 years of history? Heck I can't even balance my checkbook, how can I trust my ability to reinvent the Church? Well, let us assume we believe we can - how do we do this? How do we come to know what the real intent of Jesus was for His Church? Well we appeal to the scriptures of course.
(sound of klaxon ringing) The New Testament scriptures were not written until decades after the ascension…how do we know that they are reliable records of Jesus’ intent? How can we be sure that what the apostles wrote in the Gospels are accurate…after all, the earliest one was written at least 20 years after the fact. Can we trust the author’s memory? Do we not ultimately appeal to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guard the authority and accuracy of the scriptures? This is a leap of faith, no? Anymore a leap of faith than the faith we Orthodox put into the belief that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church – beyond just the writing of scripture? And then of course we must ask thew age old question: how do we know that we will interpret the scriptures correctly.
As far as I can see, using the hermeneutic of Sola Scriptura as applied to theology in general or specifically to how the church ought to look is akin to sawing off the branch one is sitting on. Ultimately it comes down to the Church. Who wrote the Bible? Who decided what would be in the Bible? And who now interprets the Bible? If the splintering of the church is not evidence enough of the futility of this hermeneutic, then nothing I can say here will change the mind of those who are going back to the scriptures to reinvent that body which wrote and chose the scriptures and certainly never intended for them to serve in such a strange capacity.
I'll have some more about the Four Tragic Opinions soon, but today I just have time to offer a few tidbits.
Read this Article Karl's musings turned me on to this article from Khouria Frederica which is excerpted from a book by various authors entitled The Church in the Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives. I highly advise spending some time on this one.
A thought that struck me while reading the aforementioned article There is nothing new under the sun. Say it again, out loud: THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.
So why bother trying?
At least stop pretending.
Ahhhh Winter Nearly as much as the salmon, my heart is gladened to see the arrival of this long anticipated return.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Why don't we seem to care about this, but rather just sweep our differences under the rug and cling to the lowest common denominator? I guess as long as we all love Jesus the divisions aren't really divisions huh? (sigh.....) Furthermore, Zens' argument that the early church seemed not to give much concern to doctrinal unity is rendered moot by this.
The “Dynamic Organism” vs. the “Hardened Institution.”
Boy, do we hate institutions, especially when applied to our religious life…not at all unlike how we despise using the word religion in a particular religious context. (“It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship!”) Of course institutions are okay – we might reluctantly admit - if they are geared toward doing something like…oh say…Cancer Research or something.
Wait a minute, back up. What exactly is an institution? I’m not sure I know…even before I can come up with a clear definition I get a negative feeling (in a religious context…oops sorry…relational context) about it. Zens and many other post-moderners proclaim: the church was/is a “dynamic organism” not a “hardened Institution.” Well, how can we practically tell the difference? Definitions are in order.
Let’s start with Institution:
1. A custom, practice, relationship, or behavioral pattern of importance in the life of a community or society: the institutions of marriage and the family.
2. Informal. One long associated with a specified place, position, or function.
3. An established organization or foundation, especially one dedicated to education, public service, or culture.
4. The building or buildings housing such an organization.
5. A place for the care of persons who are destitute, disabled, or mentally ill.
Honestly these all sound like rather GOOD descriptions of the Church…ESPECIALLY the last one. Outstanding really. Of course in relation to definition number 4, Zens takes a swing at the whole “building issue” and the fact that we see the early church meeting in homes by making this rather interesting remark (thankfully he prefaces it with “I think”): “…the primary theological point of the New Testament in this regard is that under the New Covenant there are no holy places.” Funny, I don’t think the same. In fact I don’t believe that there is necessarily ANY theological point, certainly none is explicitly made. Yes the torn curtain to the Holy of Holies may play into this…but what if the REAL theological point was that MANY (perhaps all) places can be holy as opposed to “no holy places.” A subtle but important distinction. Zens (nor do many others) make any mention of the early Church’s habit of continuing to go to the Temple as long as they could safely do so.
Anyway, based on these definitions, I am pretty sure that I am okay with being a part of an institutional church. What about “hardened”? Well that’s a judgment call now isn’t it? I’d have to ask Zens what he means by hardened…perhaps it is simply a verbal shadow of our negative impression of the aforementioned and defined term?
1. An individual form of life, such as a plant, animal, bacterium, protist, or fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life.
2. A system regarded as analogous in its structure or functions to a living body: the social organism.
Okay, well this sounds kosher to me…but consider for a moment why we think there is a dichotomy between organism and institution? Must there be? Isn’t the word organism derived from the fact that living beings tend to have a certain ORGANIZATION which affords them the ability to “carry on the various processes of life”? Sometimes these organisms are profoundly complex (speaking as someone who works amidst molecular biological organisms everyday).
Of course the “dynamic” attachment to the term “organism” is interesting and in part meant to contrast with the theory of an institution being hardened.
Well what exactly is Dynamic:
1. Characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress: a dynamic market.
2. Marked by intensity and vigor; forceful.
3. Of or relating to variation of intensity, as in musical sound.
Change…hmmm…well you know we Orthodox are not typically very fond of change. But this is not to say that we don’t ever change. I am reminded again of the analogy I made a few posts ago in regards to the oldest living organism on earth: trees. On the surface, they really don’t appear all that “dynamic” (especially to us tremendously short-lived humans), but on a geologic time scale they are very much dynamic.
All that being said, we certainly do fear any concept of the Church being marked by continuous change. It is a dangerous concept…please note the proverbial advice offered in the title of my blog. Zens seems to imply that a church leader is supposed to “naturally” (by which I assume we mean that it just sorta happens on its own?) arise and then step aside as another more qualified person (for a particular time, place, and situation) takes the reigns? Is this really how we see the New Testament Church doing things? Was the New Testament Church, dynamic?
Was it dynamic when they instituted (oops, did I say that?) the office of deacons in Acts 6? Or when the Apostles felt the need to fill the spot left vacant by Judas, even quoting scripture: “Let another fill his office”? Or when St. Paul provides Timothy with a list of qualifications for leaders and commends Titus to appoint such qualified men to offices such as the eldership? Or when we are commended to obey and honor our church leaders? YES, of course it is dynamic! But it is a sort of controlled dynamism…a living flame intended to last forever and not a raging fire that exhausts its fuel in minutes. It is dynamic, and it is institution. It is animate and yet it is anchored to the ancient landmarks. Thank God.
Is there anything in scripture to indicate that any given church body had some sort of leadership rotation? Or anything remotely like this? What do we make of the offices of Bishop (lit. Overseers or Supervisors), Priests (Elders), and Deacons (lit. Servants). There is no doubt that these offices existed (though Bishops and Priests certainly had some overlap), and that these offices went through some developmental changes…so what? If you read the writings of St. Ignatios of Antioch, the importance and authority of the office of Bishop is clearly illustrated – only a few years after St. John wrote his Apocalypse. And one might also wish to reference St. Clement’s writings, which come even before St. Ignatios’, and make very early reference to the apostolic succession which, unless he was lying (and at this early date certainly many people could have called him on it) the apostles themselves instituted.
Yes, the Church is dynamic…it is not stagnant. It has changed, it has grown, it has matured. Trying to get to a pristine age, reminds me of an old woman desperately trying to recapture her youth. She proceeds from the erroneous assumption that there is some inherent greater worth in youthfulness, which is lacking in agedness. In a similar light, why do we assume that the apostolic period was the “pristine” age of the Church? Are we to believe that the Apostles did not disciple their followers properly, such that within a generation they had allowed themselves to become a “hardened institution” rather than a “dynamic organism?” How could they have failed and allowed the development of the dreaded Hierarchy? And if they failed in this, how much more might they have failed in putting together the canon, sorting out the issue of the Trinity, discerning the nature of Christ, or in delivering to us today any aspect of “o”rthodox Christianity? Maybe the Gnsotics were right? Maybe the Mormons ARE right, who also believe that the Church apostatized right after the apostles died and got EVERYTHING wrong after that?
For us, the Church is an article of faith. It is real, physical and tangible. I've come to believe that you cannot have faith in ANY aspect of “o”rthodox Christianity without first having faith in the Church.
More to come, I think…
Sola Scriptura and the Praxis of the Church
The "Anabaptist" directed me to this article by one Jon Zens. The author ends his piece with a call for all believers to "stop contributing to the perpetuation of non-edifying ecclesiastical patterns." By this he means, amongst many others, my beloved Church. Ouch.
Having read the article, there are mighty hordes of issues that need to have some closer examination, and of course I intend to do so…after all must I not justify the rationale by which I choose to stay in an ecclesiastical pattern which so clearly (according to Zens) is “not rooted in the New Testament.”
First the big picture. Sola Scriptura.
Zens, amongst many others, is utilizing the tired and dead end hermeneutic of Sola Scriptura to determine what the Church should be like. In the same way that this doctrine as applied strictly to theology has born the fruit of thousands upon thousands of schism causing opinions, what makes us think applying it to the organization of the Church would do anything less? The author makes the staggering claim (really staggering, had to sit down) that “Church historians of all theological and ecclesiastical backgrounds” (emphasis mine) agree with the history he presents! Really? Hmmmm….no history is without interpretation. Getting the facts correct is one thing, but how you present them can certainly skew reality.
I always ask the following question of people who are trying to return to or rather recreate or rather reenact the “pristine”(Zens word) church of the New Testament:
1. So you are not going to be using your New Testament anymore?
You see – as we all know, but sometimes forget - that pristine Church lacked a New Testament canon. So, if you wish to return to that pristine condition, toss those books out. I’d gladly take them if you like, but just not the NIV…given my blog’s name I simply cannot accept a translation that cannot translate my name correctly. But I digress.
To make matters worse that New Testament which is being used to try and recreate the Church did not exist as such until WELL AFTER the evil emperor Constantine (We call him a Saint by the way…boy talk about historical disagreement…didn’t Zens say “indisputable”?) had delivered “institutional ease” to the Church. The “institutional church” decided what the New Testament would consist of ya know? I reckon they got lucky, certainly had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, because as Zens points out the “institutional church” stopped depending on the Holy Spirit and “trusted in itself.” (Not sure how you can tell the difference, I wonder if any early believers looked at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 as the Church trusting itself? Or for that matter, my God, what must they have thought of casting lots to replace Judas?!?!?! Hey, maybe THAT is the pattern we should follow in choosing our leaders? Leaders? We don’t need no stinking leaders…we are a dynamic organism, we evolve naturally into spirit-lead leadership roles. And if not, we roll dice like the Holy Apostles.)
Lets face it, the New Testament is NOT…I repeat it is NOT a guide on how to recreate the Church. Hell, the very idea that the Church was ever lost to begin with is profoundly assumptive and if I do say so myself (being quite full of my own arrogance – thank you very much) thoroughly unscriptural. But as I note, that is beside the point and would fall into that trecherous realm of interpretation. None-the-less, when the time comes I will appeal to parts of scripture which Zens somehow skips over. Funny, we Orthodox converts often hear that Orthodoxy can be found clearly in the Bible; amongst all the verses you didn't underline as a protestant. But seriously, an article that purports to show the clear path for returning to the apostolic model of Church leadership/structure ought to reference the pastoral epistles to St. Timothy, no?
However before I try and address specifics of the article, I want to call the attention of the readers to some of the words (phrases) he uses, which we might too quickly pass over. They are venerable buzz words (phrases) in the emerging church community, but really they aren’t all that new…many Christian denominations and cults were founded on the energy that such fiery words can create in the human mind when presented in that beautiful, albeit misleading dichotomy:
The “Dynamic Organism” vs. the “Hardened Institution.”
The terminology escapes me as I've heard (read) it, but the idea is akin to a sort of vigilance. Like a cat perpetually prepared to pounce and yet at the same time wholly relaxed and at peace - unmoving. It seems paradoxical to me...this state of being which we are commended to live our lives within. Geared, I gather from the great spiritual writings of our faith, it is intended to be a means of overcoming our passions which war against us.
We Orthodox like to use the word passion (as did the Fathers) in an almost exclusively negative context...but in modern society it seems we have judged the morality of this term be relative to its direct object. In other words, the paritcular thing which we are being passionate about. We seem to believe that it is a good thing to be passionate about things such as feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, or praising God. But perhaps we need to examine our modern useage of the term as compared to its useage in the Church?
When I was first learning about Orthodox praxis I was reading (somewhere?) about the use of a vigil lamp in our homes. One thing that struck me as interesting was the recommendation that we trim the wick to such an extent that we get a small, steady, bright, clean, and long burning flame. Trim it too closely to the oil and it will snuff itself out, trim it too long and it will burn wildly producing smoke and soot while quickly consuming the fuel - out of control. Small, steady, bright, clean, and long lasting - this was the goal. And this goal is to be a lesson for us.
The out of control flame is like one who has surrendered to their passions (irregardless of the direct object they might be applied to.) The person is constantly being blown by the wind, chronically dissatisifed, rarely at true peace, burning so much fuel that their very being becomes erratic and uncontrolled, they are constantly moving in a search I perceive to be for more fuel to consume.
A personal lesson I struggle with everyday, for I am a man almost certainly enslaved by his passions - most of which are directed toward unquestionably sinful things. But something bigger occured to me last night as I was watching a television program on PBS (no idea what it was) which showed a very emotionally intense and firey southern church service. People were screaming, weeping, and dancing in a fury. In my old days I would probably have jumped up and screamed "Hallelujah" or at least I would have sat there and thought: "Jeez, my church is dead compared to these guys...wish I went there." But instead, last night - without judging those on the screen - I had to ask myself why the Orthodox service (and by extension the Church herself) seems dead to some people, especially when compared to the raging flame of emotion in other denominations.
I think it might be because of our perception of the passions. The Church, like those who make the body up, I think strives to exist in a state of vigilance, fortified stillness, and relaxed awareness. The Church naturally seeks to be just like the small, steady, bright, clean, and long burning flame of the vigil lamp. Friends, we dare not interpret the constant quest of the raging fire for more fuel as the moving of the Holy Spirit. The forest fire rampages through the landscape moving quickly and indiscriminately. It will be long gone while the oil in the vigil lamp burns on, as it has for 2000 years. And yet some will continue to say there is no life there and they will move on in search of the big fire.
I pray the big fire may leave a few vigil lamps in its wake. I think it has, and it will. After all, there's one in my house now.
Khouria Frederica's article on beliefnet about The Passion has generated alot of interesting comments there. Some are insightful and balanced, others are...well...ignorant. One which particularly struck me was made by someone calling themselves "contarini717" in which he lauded the "abundant life" of protestantism in contrast to "Orthodoxy, which has been as dead as Julius Caesar for the past 1600 years..."
No contact info was provided, and so I am forced to vent here. Feel free to move on to another post.
Hmmm... the world's 2nd most populated christian branch is dead and has been for 1600 years. Protestantism is not quite 500 years old...so ummm...anyone else see the gap here? And how on earth did a dead church manage to guess the right answer to that ever important question: What is and what isn't scripture? Or how did this dead church manage to stumble its way to the proper understanding of the Trinity or the Nature of Christ? How did this dead church survive the Roman persecutions - in particular those which took place AFTER Constantine - whose reign of course we know marks the historical dividing line between dead church and alive church (note sarcasm). Or how about the Islamic persecutions and the associated Turkish persecutions, OR the MUCH worse persecutions of the communists? (worse than ANY that the church has ever faced and that numerically make the holocaust look like child's play.)
But most importantly, how is it that this dead church is attracting and converting more and more people who find within her "tombs" a life they had never thought they could possibly find there? A rushing river of living water, where before they were dehydrated from the dripping water touted as being so alive by "contarini717."
Life is not discerned by the extent of its animation...ponder this: the longest living creatures on earth are without exception the slowest moving. Nature and science knows that the brightest burning flames burn out fastest. My experience in pentecostalism bears this out as well...though of course your mileage may vary.
We Orthodox may not do jumping jacks in our services, we may not clap, shout, or dance (though you might like to see us outside of our services where the liturgical celebration of life continues on in more freestylye form!). The life of our religion is found in less surface level reasonings. There is depth, there is longevity, there is solidity, there is Life.
To take a pulse you must reach out and touch...come and see before you put the coins on our eyes. The heartbeat is there. And the dead continue to be converted by the dead.
The forgotten part of the story and strange statues along the I-5 corridor
A large sign seen along I-5 read:
Christ died to save sinners
Hmmm...yes a quote directly out of scripture, but part of the danger of proof-texting (especially little fragments of verses) is that this seems to imply the whole sum of Christian sotierology. In other words: THIS little diddy is what "joe non-christian" driver on I-5 needs to hear to understand salvation. Wouldn't it be more fully expressed by:
Christ rose from the dead to save sinners?
Yes, Saint Paul said that the wages of sin is death...but is this literally what he meant? Isn't sin and death ontologically linked? Isn't Saint Paul really saying that Sin=Death? And so that defeating death is the same as defeating sin? Like the general non-christian populace hasn't already heard and rejected substitutionary atonement as being unpalatable? Who of us hasn't heard someone ask: "Why can't God just forgive?" And then we stumble through the answer: "Well you see God is perfectly holy and..." blah blah blah. I know, I know...I'm still beating that dead horse.
Now...somebody help me here. Somewhere along I-5 north of Vancouver Washington there are these huge pillars with golden statues on the east side of the freeway. They are very strange looking - one kinda looked like an older man with a young boy, not totally certain - but they definately appeared to have religious significance. Anyone know? They are impossible to miss.
While most of us reunion buddies have stayed within the general home of evangelicalism, a couple of us had not. My being Eastern Orthodox somewhat labelled me as the "odd man out" which is not to say that anyone was ungracious to me or that I felt like an outsider (far from it), but in certain conversations the differences between my faith and evangelicalism became apparent. (An example might be when the topic of the millennium was mentioned...well, the Orthodox do not ascribe to the evangelical interpretation of the millennium at all.) So, it meant that I found myself sidetracking alot of the conversations which were really directed at convincing one friend that his religious doubting was unfounded. No doubt, I blabbed too much, thus interrupting the flow of christian apologetics.
May I be blunt? I don't like Christian apologetics...not at all. It's an ugly pathway which I refuse to believe that anyone has ever utilized to find God. Rather, I think people find God and then notice the apologetic pathway later. I've never met anyone who was succesfully argued into religious faith...I suppose one might say that the apologetics, the natural theology, and the philosophical reasonings might have assisted (I dunno), but in the end something much bigger and much more beautiful must happen in the heart to allow one to truly see God. Some might say in Orthodox cricles that it is the vivifying of the nous (the eye of the soul).
On the last night a few of us stashed bourbon and cigars and headed down to the beach, the apologetics continued. I tried to play along as best I could, but found myself continually looking up at the stars (which we'd been unable to see throughout the weekend until this very moment). It was beautiful and beauty kept coming to my mind.
Later, during the drive home, I continued to contemplate beauty. For me, as I've said here before, it is the most powerful religious apologetic. The way of worldly wisdom (or "christian" worldly wisdom) is a dead end in my mind. We should know NOTHING about God were it not revealed to us.
Blessed are the educated, for they shall see God?
Blessed are the well apologized, for they shall see God?
Blessed are those who recognize the fulfilled prophecies thus validating the scriptures, for they shall see God?
Blessed are those who recognize the foolishness of liberal New Testament textual criticism, for they shall see God?
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
This is the realm where we find God. The way of the ascetic, the way of love, the way of selflessness, the way of holiness. Logic and reason must be subject to these. And philosophy must always bow to philokalia.
A pox befell the Reuniuon house. A reunion of old college buddies, from this college specifically was held in a beach house roundabout Lincoln City, Oregon (home to the shortest river in the world, which as far as I could see was quite unable to complete it's journey to the sea but rather petered out in the sands of the beach.) Naturally as we were packing up to leave, the first of my family's victims began demonstrating the technicolor yawn - no doubt a precursor of what was going to be a LOOOONG drive back to Seattle. Now, what do you suppose the odds were that 6 people crammed into a Dodge Caravan with one of them puking their guts out that the five non-puking ones would remain in such a state for very long? Presently 3 are down with 3 to go. Communicable diseases are a wonderful thing.
New fur is growing in nicely...should keep the facial epidermis nice and warm for the soon to arrive cold and wet season of steelheading. Will post pics as it grows into full, unadulterated, traditionalist Orthodox glory.
My daughter asked why I was getting so furry. As we are reading the Chronicles of Narnia, my customized traditionalist proverb came quickly to mind: "Wouldn't Aslan look silly if he shaved his mane?"
What a strange world. Yesterday as I walked to my bus stop in downtown Seattle I saw a young man (mid 20's maybe?) walking down the street dressed exactly like this. I thought to myself, after chuckling a bit, "Now there is a guy with a soundtrack running through his head. Better stay clear of him, he may be armed to the hilt and can dodge my bullets by doing cartwheels or something."
Upon arriving at home I found that the local self-proclaimed "halloween superstore" had graced my mailbox with a multi-paged color flyer. On the cover, in between a scantily clad barmaid and a near nude vampire babe were found a hunky priest and a drop dead gorgeous nun. Nothin new I know...but I find myself more and more offended by such nonsense each year.
Imagine, there was a time when such religions "costumes" were a sign of respect and dignity. In part due to the recent RCC scandals, identifiably clothed clergy and monastics can expect harrassment - so real in fact is the potential for violence (yes it has happened), that I have heard the discussion amongst priests I know asking whether or not they ought to wear their collars in public. Of course, the Orthodox are graced with the option of a cassock (which would be my choice) in which case they could don sunglasses and look a little like this guy. Though their soundtrack may sound a bit more Byzantine.