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.
The Akathist of Thanksgiving will be sung tonight in our Parish. It is a jaw dropping song of praise to God for all His goodness bestowed upon us...made even more astounding by the person who wrote it and under what conditions he did so. In 1942, while incarcerated in a Soviet prison camp, Father Gregory Petroff penned this wonderful hymn of thanksgiving. He would die a martyrs death there in 1942.
I am not sure to what extent, but it seems that more and more Orthodox Parishes are offering this service on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I find it to be a beautiful means of inspiring a truly thankful and repentent heart. In the context of Orthodox time, this 60 year old service is barely out of the womb and testifies to the Living Tradition of the Church.
Alas, the illnesses in my home will prevent our attendence, but my wife and I will chant it together tonight before our icon corner...surely if Fr. Gregory can write it in the midst of suffering that I cannot imagine, I can manage to sing it while being pestered by a flu virus.
One thing not mentioned by this brief snippet is the fact that the Soviet government loved to shift the blame for famines on the Church and would then began an active campaign of persecution under the guise of liberating wealth from the Church and using it to feed people. Many folks today - even Christians - would likely have no problem in seeing the Church's possessions being forcibly liquidated for charity. Heck, I might have once counted myself as belonging to such a camp.
Of course, the fact of the matter is, that you could melt down every gold chalice and every gold laced icon, and you could sell off every single parcel of Church owned land and structures and it would not help nearly as much as if every wealthy Christian (by international standards) would rent one less movie a month for and give that 3-4 monthly dollars to charity.
I've made my opinion clear on this matter in the past: why the gold and beauty are more than just permittable, they are NECCESARY. Yes, I said neccesary, how can I say that? Well let me respond by asking a question: Is Art neccesary? Is storytelling neccesary? I would argue they are.
Those who would sit in judgement on the Church ought to first remove the log from their own eye.
In the end, we are the Church...remember? Better a gold plated Gospel Book than a kick ass home theatre system...think about it, what do both these things say to us when we listen quietly?
"...where your treasure is, there will your heart be also..."
Kind of a different twist huh?
The Soviet Empire is gone, the Church remains.
O Lord, save your people...
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:55 PM [+] +++
I once read a great book by this title…actually it’s full title was Last Stand! Famous Battles Against the Odds It is an in depth examination of numerous engagements in which one side is severely outgunned and or outnumbered and yet do not surrender, choosing rather to fight until the very last man. It is a fascinating topic…extreme human drama that is frightfully true. How these men must have felt and what motivated them is something I think a lot about.
No less dramatic - than reading the book anyway - is the Last Stand which I have fought for the past week, and I must now report the end of that most desperate and perilous clash. Over the last few days, I have watched in dismay as the virulent enemy has successfully scaled the immunological ramparts of my children and my wife. I ordered my defenses fortified: trenches dug deeper with spades of Vitamin C, walls of Zinc raised, single barreled cannons of bourbon were loaded and fired into the esophageal field of battle. All to no avail…and now – as the enemy floods the inner chambers of my castle - I must seriously wonder if there was ever really any hope? Probably not, but we must fight none-the-less. And I was indeed the last man standing in the Ferrenberg abode.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:22 AM [+] +++
Friday, November 21, 2003
The Alternative Fix
Saw THIS program on PBS's Frontline last night and found it quite intriguing. One point which particulalry stuck out to me was the fact that many hospitals and medical centers are now instituting and offering to their patients "alternative" therapies. Those officials from such centers who consented to be interviewed were more than ready to admit that they were doing so in order to fully serve their customers patients, who are more and more often seeking alternative forms of medicine. It did not matter what science has to say about such treatments, the demand is present and thus business and marketing drives the decision making.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not against "alternative" medicine per se. But here we see reputable scientific medical directors deciding to provide questionable therapies simply because they want the money of those people who are seeking such services in greater and greater numbers.
What lessons might we learn about church from this? Is there any relation between this sort of thing and "seeker friendly" churches? I think so. Many saints have compared the Church to a hospital, and I think diving headlong into unknown and untested therapies (simply because the demand is present) is quite simply bad medicine and bad religion. Besides, we have a diagnosis and a course of treatment for the disease already laid out for us, and there are no shortcuts.
Leonid Ouspensky in his book Theology of Icons describes what he perceives to be “the plague of our times” as a “dictatorship of ‘taste.’” In regards to the use of Icons in the Orthodox Church, we are reminded that we do not subject ourselves to the aforementioned tyranny – we do not create and display them as “religious art” per se (i.e. because we find them appealing: beautiful or just generally “hip”), but rather because they are TRUE. And by this, I do not mean that what they depict is theologically accurate, but more than that: their very existence (and veneration) is right, correct, even necessary.
We would not venerate a jaw dropping painting by Monet (even if he were to paint a picture of our Lord…as opposed to landscapes), but set before us a crude and poorly painted (by general artistic tastes) icon of Christ written by the hand of some unknown monastic hermit (for example) and we would happily inspire our protestant friends who might happen to be present to scream “idolatry!”
Beer Church is all about taste. Beer tastes good, parties taste good, and helping charities taste good. But most important of all, Beer Church affirms that in tasting your own heart, you should be able to see that it is good…right now, as it is. Change only need happen in the world outside of us. Beer Church accepts us, as we are. And thus we will remain.
Now, who can look at modern Christianity today and not also see what could be accurately described as a buffet table catering to the dictatorship of taste?
- I really like a church that emphasizes solid bible preaching.
- I really like a church that emphasizes lively and hip worship.
- I prefer quiet liturgical worship.
- A church that really grasps and appeals to the modern culture with all manner of media…now that’s the church for me.
- I like surprises….I like a church that is doing something NEW every Sunday.
- I like a church that considers truth as variable as taste.
You get the picture. And we aren’t even talking about theological differences here!
I suppose this would not necessarily be a bad thing, except that it divides us. Ouspensky quotes St. John of Damascus: “If each person could act according to his desire, little by little, the entire body of the Church would be destroyed.” (A prophecy perhaps?) But this is really a side point that doesn’t attempt to answer my original question of what makes Christ’s Church different (to the untrained eye) from Beer Church.
As I said, it has to do with what I eat.
Today I will not eat meat. I really like meat…and I can assure you that I will very much miss it. Furthermore, I will try and pray more today, to be more conscious of my thoughts and behavior. I will try and be slower to speak and quicker to see the needs of others. I am fasting today, not because my “taste” dictates it…quite the opposite really! I fast because the Church teaches and guides me, telling me that this time of serious emphasis on self-discipline tastes good. I’m not looking for some great spiritual revelation or an answer to some pressing prayer need…I’m simply following the path laid out by the Church before me. In a way, you could say that I am letting the Church taste me, as opposed to me tasting the Church. Do you see what I mean?
Medicine sometimes tastes terrible and unlike Beer Church, Christ’s Church insists that it must be taken regardless of how it tastes.
A happy feastday to all those who celebrate it today...even amidst the fast.
Some of you, no doubt, just shrugged Beer Church off, but I didn’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about it these last few days…and NOT because I love beer either, so nyah!
But, did you take a moment to read their “About Us” section? Now, I have no need or desire to rake Beer Church over the coals, quite the opposite really. You see I’ve read quite a few “About Us” articles from a lot of different Christian Churches and sometimes they look ALOT like Beer Church's. What I want to try and do, is discern in my own mind what is the difference between my Church, and Beer Church.
Ok, so, Beer Church is made up of people who affirm the simple belief that beer is good. (And who would dare argue with them???) They also obviously have a communal need to congregate (I chose that word very deliberately), and they do so under the banner of the aforementioned belief system (Beer is Good). Furthermore, the Beer Church communicants also feel an inherent desire to do good deeds, and they facilitate this need by linking it with the communal celebration of Beer.
Less wordy than me, they summarize what they are all about here:
It [Beer Church] is based on our philosophy that people are basically good…People like to party, socialize and generally have a good time. In our human society, beer is a conduit, or catalyst, for making that happen. So find the people where they are. Have a party that benefits something worthy.
Goodness…it’s all about goodness. I am good, Beer is good, gathering with others over a cold pint of beer is good, and helping others is good. Mix them all together and you’d get something VERY good! However, as far as churches go, you’d also be getting sold short.
What do I mean? What is…or should be…the difference in the Christian Church? Well obviously there is an invisible difference, or at least we have faith that there is. The Church of Christ bears an ontological unity that transcends the simple concept of a group of friends who, in the name of charity, are huddled around a keg (or Chalice as the case may be). In Orthodoxy, we affirm that the Church is much more than just a set number of persons united by their fondness for beer Jesus. There is – and indeed must be – a mystical and invisible reality by which we really do become members of one another.
But we Orthodox make such ado about the visibility of the Church, so how do visible aspects of the Church differ from that of Beer Church? That is to say, obviously our self-understanding (as the Church) is different than theirs, but what do we DO differently? What specifically about our Church life would appear different from an outsider or an unbeliever?
I believe I have an answer, and a damn good one too. It has to do with what I am eating today, and for the 34 days that are to follow.
Part 2 coming soon…
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:46 PM [+] +++
St. Constantine's New Churches
From Eusebeus of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History (very early 4th century) in which he writes about the legalization of Christianity (emphasis mine):
A clear and luminous day, without even the smallest cloud, illuminates with rays of divine light the churches of Christ in the whole universe...Churches are again rebuilt to a great height and have a much better appearance than the ancient, destroyed churches...Feasts of renovation and consecration of new churches are beginning to be celebrated in the town...
Illuminating words for someone to use in or around 325AD - especially since some people's histories insist that it was Constantine who was the first to start initiating Christian church buildings. Well, it seems in reality that Christian Church buildings were an ancient thing by the 4th century!
While on my way to a cheap Sushi restaurant for lunch today with a coworker, I noticed a Bible in her car. And interestingly enough, it was a Chinese translation. Now remembering back from reading Christ the Eternal Tao, I wondered if my boss (who knows Chinese quite well and was sitting in the back), might confirm that the Greek “logos” is often translated as “Tao” in Chinese…as opposed to simply the Chinese term for “word.” Indeed, after much searching she read the first couple of verses in St. John’s Gospel and she confirmed it was Tao.
In the beginning was the Tao...
Now consider this for a moment: I wonder if the Chinese (because of the fact that they have a cultural, lingual, and religious context which has some familiarity with the Greek idea of "logos" ), have a much fuller understanding of the Word (logos) of God than we westerners who still, upon mention of the term, think first of the Bible.
No doubt the topics warrant a work of Dostoevkian proportions, but we are dealing with my humble little world here, and so I ask this simple question:
What do you do when you believe that someone has inappropriately passed judgment upon you?
Well…I suppose one could offer the most simple answer: nothing. No doubt in my mind that there is truth and healing in this approach, but alas in the present example much more is involved that precludes the “ease” of simply ignoring it. Now, mind you, the external consequences of what is happening are decidedly secondary to the internal ones I am wrestling with, but both need to be dealt with. The extent to which the internal ones are more critical than the external, has led me to conclude that I must deal with them as a priority…in fact, they may be the only ones over which I have any control.
Right now, I find myself furiously running between two points (as though I were stuck in a pickle between first and second base). At first base, the safety is found in standing strong and pronouncing rebuke and correction. At second, is found the safe haven of capitulating martyrdom. As I scurry back and forth between the two, I find myself pondering whether there is REAL safety to be found on either base such that by planting my foot on the bags, the ground beneath me will collapse under the weight of my pride. Safety is perhaps an illusion.
But I am trying to look at the whole issue in as holy a way as I can muster (yea, I know, good freaking luck!). But here’s one thing I’ve come up with:
Are my “accusers” right?
Is there some aspect of my life in which the issue being raised needs to be more closely examined? Even if not entirely true, or even based on inaccurate rumor, is there something amiss in my moral life that I have been blind to and needs correction? Instead of looking for the log in the eyes of the persons trying to get the speck out of mine, take their diagnosis of my life seriously – regardless of their own ailments. Alas, I might sadly add that those who question me, have not directly questioned me…but none-the-less I may take to heart the whole affair as potentially being constructive criticism.
In the end, my response should NOT be to attempt to redeem myself in the eyes of others, but to use the whole ugly affair as another stepping-stone in my road of salvation. Let it hurt, let it rub me the wrong way…but let me struggle to NOT lash out, to not seek the safety of either of the aforementioned bases, but rather to simply sit down in the dirt and admit that I was out before I even hit the ball.
If nothing else, I have learned to recognize judgment when it all too frequently escapes my heart and lips.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:18 AM [+] +++
Monday, November 17, 2003
At lunch today, I read this article in the paper. Make sure you take a moment to look at their website too.
Now before we laugh this off or shrug our shoulders, let's think about this for a moment. I'd like to hear some deeper thoughts on this, as it is inspiring a good deal of thoughts in my mind - which will be posted later I am sure.
In my mind I am thinking of how our western understanding of Church is fueling the thought process which says that one can have a "Beer Church" that can even "do" weddings. Also, run through their "About us" section and simply substitute "Jesus" for the term "beer" and see if it sounds like your church. Should it? Does it matter? Are they just like us?
More thoughts later...just thought I'd spit this out.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:54 PM [+] +++
The Ecumenical Synod of Orthodox Bloggers (Advent 2003)
Karl, Chance, Aaron, Basil, and yours truly all participated in this monumentous event. Steve, patron of the denominationally promiscuous and arch-slothblogger, could not attend the post-liturgy synaxis due to a little tikes B-day celebration (Many Years to Patrick!). None-the-less we were all present at St. Paul's for worship (including power outages which, interestingly enough, did not cause us to miss a beat! Wonder how the techno dependent mega churches handled the sudden silence of electric guitars, keyboards, and microphones?)
Afterwards we attended the traditional "coffee hour" and then retired to my home for the official synod. No decisions were made in regards to facial hair...except to further affirm the Biblical teachings of St. Paul which exhorts us to "...remain as you have been called." (I Cor 7) Thus, John, we implore you to put the razor away no matter how cute those dimples are. We also affirmed that Kentucky wine leaves much to be desired. But, who dares to challenge their obvious reign over Whiskey?
In all seriousness, from my perspective it was wonderful to have us all together and to celebrate our common faith - not only in the Temple but also at the dinner table and on my tiny living room floor. Christ was truly in our midst.
Pictures will no doubt surface shortly, but as my digital camera is on the blink, I have none to share. Keep an eye out...but maybe also keep your mouse arrow poised over the "BACK" button of your browser - just in case.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:17 AM [+] +++
It's beginning to look alot like ChristmasADVENT!
Somethings never change...Advertisements found everywhere and party plans here in the lab remind me of THIS from a little over a year ago.
Once again I beseech my non-Orthodox brethren to join us in the Advent Fast and to avoid pre-celebrating Christmas. While obviously a time of self-reflection, repentance, and renewel...let us also consider praying for our country and our world which is held captive by rampant consummerism. It is so typical of our culture to skip Advent (even collectively forget it's very existance) and jump right into Christmas.
Yes, well this is apparently THE number one search that landed ALOT of folks at Paradosis over the weekend. Let me just offer a big friendly Hello and Welcome to all of you out there searching for "greek porn." I'm sorry to disappoint you with an obvious lack of Greek Pornography (for that matter any pornography!), but perhaps you might stick around and learn abit about something else that is resident to Greece.
If you are Greek and already know what I am talking about, then let me offer this: Get your crap together buddy! Repent! Go home to the Church and get off of the Internet! You are seeking to have sex with demons and your eternal soul is breathing death!
Can someone help me program my website to fire up a butt-load of popups that will display like 57,000 seperate windows each displaying an icon (but only when someone hits my page while surfing for porn)? Hehhehe
Jeez, these guys! Surfing for "greek porn"...man O man, they are as bad as me.
Why do we Orthodox make such a big ecumenical sticking point of the filioque?
Well in general we understand that God the Father is the "first cause" of the Holy Trinity; the fountainhead and source. Therefore the Son is eternally begotten by, and the Holy Spirit is eternally proceeding from, the Father (as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed states.) I don't think anyone knows for sure exactly why the pre-schism wetsern church originally inserted the filioque (lit: "and the Son"), though I've heard it was to further affirm the divinity of Christ against a new breed of Arianism in the area of Spain (7th or 8th century if memory serves..as it so often doesn't.) Anyway, by the 9th or 10th century the creed began to widely be recited in the West as: "And in the Holy Spirit...who proceeds from the Father and the Son"
In the Eastern mind, this turned the balance of the Trinity on its side. God the Father was no longer the "first cause."
But here is another interesting tidbit brought up by Fr. Breck in his book Scripture and Tradition: The filioque can actually manifest (albeit it perhaps unintentionally) a sort of Arianism in regards to the Holy Spirit. Consider that if the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son then it tends to imply something outside of eternity and bound by time. In other words, the Father begets the Son and then through the Son the Holy Spirit proceeds. One could almost say that if the filioque is true, then there must have been a time when the Holy Spirit wasn't.
It is an fascinating point I thought.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:09 AM [+] +++
Thursday, November 13, 2003
The Train Station
Picked up the wife and kids yeasterday at the King Street Station in Seattle. Good to have them home.
The Station was originally opened in 1906 and underwent some intensive "modernization" in 1965. See info and pics here. At the station, I could actually see the original ornate ceiling and walls in numerous places as the construction continues and one is led to ask: "What in the world were they thinking in 1965?!?!??! Hiding that beautiful and spacious ceiling with those drop tiles?"
Seriosuly, it is striking how the artistic beauty was covered up by 1960's Orwellian office decor.
Well it seemed like a good idea at the time I suppose, but in seeing both options in person the choice seems clear to me. It is good that we have taken an interest in the beauty we once hid and in many areas destoyed - more importantly we are actively seeking to restore...to return to the original train station.
Of course it is not hard to see the ecclesial analogy I derive from this. We "modernized" the Church and then realized: "Good Lord this drop ceiling is ugly! Look what lies underneath...in the past."
My blogging has been happily inhibited lately by my family's return, a sudden crescendo in home improvement work, and a very nice person contacting me with questions about Orthodoxy - a fellow sojourner who sees in the modernized church a base ugliness and is now looking for the original beauty that lies hidden beneath.
Keep digging...no need to reinvent or rebuild...the original is alive and well, albeit hidden behind our modernized presuppositions.
The incense smoke is still be carried aloft...it smells wonderful. It lathers the home with holiness. Better people than me have said that the demons hate the smell - who am I to argue?
The weekend was spent with nailguns, 2x4's, drywall, and such. I remain home from work today in part because of a nearly successful attempt to drive a phillips head screw bit through one of my fingers, which has since become terribly infected and sore. But now I am relaxing with meds and smelling the sweet anti-demon smoke...in a sense my morning prayers continuing.
If you are like me, sometimes your religious faith goes to sleep. A deep slothful sort of sleep from which you may or may not wakeup - at least it feels that way sometimes.) I have needed to go to confession for weeks now and have for some reason been avoiding it...unable to wake up. The home may be lathered in holiness, but I have been lathered in the muck of sin. Asleep.
Going through Morning Prayers though today, they seemed to mean something different to me. I was not just awaking from physical sleep, but I felt as though I was awaking from that more trecherous sort of sleep which endangers the soul. Read through them, and see the theme of repentance as analogous to waking up. Here is a particularly poingant excerpt:
As I rise from sleep, I thank Thee, O Holy Trinity, for through Thy great goodness and patience Thou hast not been angry with me, an idler and sinner, nor hast Thou destroyed me with mine iniquities, but hast shown Thy usual love for mankind; and when I was prostrate in despair, Thou hast raised me up to keep the morning watch and glorify Thy power. Enlighten also my spiritual eyes, and open my mouth that I may meditate on Thy words, and understand Thy commandments, and do Thy will, and hymn Thee with a thankful heart, and sing praises to Thine all-holy name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
It seems that the analogy is not original to me, but is actually carried in the prayers themselves. I just never really connected with it much. Anyway, it's a beautiful rainy morning here in the Northwest....glad to be awake, but making sure my alarm is set.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:00 AM [+] +++
Holy Saint Nektarios, Pray unto God for us Bloggers...
Some excerpts from his writings, along with a very brief life story may be found here.
I am particulalry struck by this one
Christian religion is not a certain philosophic system, about which learned men, trained in metaphysical studies, argue and then either espouse or reject, according to the opinion each one has formed. It is faith, established in the souls of men, which ought to be spread to the many and be maintained in their consciousnesses.
There are truths in Christianity that are above out intellectual comprehension, incapable of being grasped by the finite mind of man. Our intellect takes cognizance of them, becomes convinced of their reality, and testifies about their supernatural existence.
Christianity is a religion of revelation. The Divine reveals its glory only to those who have been perfected through virtue. Christianity teaches perfection through virtue and demands that its followers become holy and perfect.
I know it is perhaps a bit overly emphasized here on Paradosis, but believe me that such things are salvific for me. I was one who so prided himself on being well read and educated (in reality I'm not all that well read or educated), but all my Christian head knowledge (both supposed and real) lended nothing to my personal holiness. My goodness! How many times have I been on my Protestant knees begging God to miraculously change my desires and make me holy...but nothing ever changed. All my life was simply a grueling and perpetual rerun of sin and then begging for forgiveness. I had this ingrained belief that as long as I held the right beliefs that God would work the change in me. In what way was I wrong? Did I hold the wrong beliefs to begin with or was my belief in that aforementioned belief (that God would change me) wrong?
Orthodoxy hasn't ended this struggle against sin! It has not made me a holier person, it's merely opened my eyes to the reality of the fight that goes on right in front of me...not just the "Piercing the Darkness" kind of fight, but more than that: the physical fight that rages in both of these hands that bang away (painfully - see next post) on this keyboard. I am made aware of the need for ME to enter into this battle as the MAIN focus of my Christian life. To struggle to be perfect as He is perfect.
Yes, Holy Saint Nektarios, pray for us bloggers...not only that we might testify to the beauty of Orthodoxy, but that we may also mimic you in your Holy pursuit of and struggle for Purification, Illumination, and Deification.
The so-called Green River Killer has finally been identified. For those of you not from the Northwest you may not know much about this case. During the 1980's dozens upon dozens of women began to disappear from the greater Seattle area, with their bodies turning up sometime later (sometimes never) very often near or in the Green River in south King County. Most (perhaps all) of the women were prostitutes and/or runaways.
With the advancements in DNA forensics, prosecutors believed they had finally caught their man: Gary Ridgway. Just this week, Ridgway’s defense attorney approached the state with a plea bargain. Ridgway would confess to the murders of 48 women (He apparently killed even more, but no charges were filed) in exchange for prosecution guarantees to not seek the death penalty. The deal was done.
Now all the local talk radio shows are furiously debating whether the King County Prosecutor should have taken the deal (after all, Ridgway’s confession gives him the notorious status of being the world’s worse serial killer – at least numerically speaking, who better deserves the death penalty, they ask). But I am thinking about Ridway’s defense attorney…I suppose in truth ALL defense attorneys and the moral dilemma I imagine they are forced to face all too often.
Can you imagine Ridgway telling his attorney to offer the plea? What if the prosecutor said no and the attorney then had to go into court to try and defend this guy knowing that he was in fact truly guilty! I imagine a conversation with the attorney’s spouse just as they are going to bed:
“Well did you have a good day at work, dear?” the spouse asks.
“Oh sure. My client today admitted to abducting, raping, murdering and very often returning to the scene and re-raping the corpses of 48 women,” The attorney says.
“Oh that’s interesting honey,” the spouse says rolling over.
I couldn’t do it. Don’t know how they manage it.
You can read more about the case here. If your kids ever ask if there are there such things as monsters, you might want to think twice before lying.
...O Master who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things that are well-pleasing to Thee.
This, as many of you no doubt know, is our prayer offered by the priest before reading/hearing the Gospel. In relation to a proper reading and meditating upon the Scriptures, Fr. Breck suggests that it:
...involves constant struggle against the passions and weaknesses of the flesh that distract both mind and soul, and thereby hinder the person in his or her pilgrimage that leads from purification, through illumination, to deification. To the patristic mind, there can be no authentic lectio divina that is not firmly grounded in this ongoing struggle against the darker side of the self.
(sound of dust being blown off of the Bible)
#1 If Orthodoxy is so great, why haven't I heard of it?
And in the jungles of South America a native person of pagan persuasion may ask the very same question of a missionary...though insert "Christianity" in place of "Orthodoxy"
#2 If the Orthodox Church has preserved the fullness of the Faith, why are there so many good people not a part of it?
See what I wrote above.
#3 If I see so much fruit in other faiths, how can the Orthodox claim to be the true faith?
See what I wrote above.
Now...something Karl wrote reminded me of something else I'd been pondering while reading Scripture in Tradition because it has an excellent chapter on the Theotokos. Most protestants don't like using such terms (Theotokos, Ever-Virgin) for Mary because they find its use no where in the Bible.
Curious...because these very same folks are often very much staunch defenders of the Nicene Creed - perfectly willing to adopt it and even use it liturgically in some cases. But what about that troublesome little phrase homousia? The Arians decried it for being found no where in Scripture (those writings which were universally recognized as such at the time). But the Council made its decision and we've stuck with it ever since. Today the term is still used as a measure for "o"rthodox Christology...even the Bible Answer Man uses it.
Yes yes I know...we'd like to say that the term is clearly derived from the "plain meaning" of Scripture, but many a Jehovah's Witness, Oneness Pentecostal, or Mormon (perhaps others as well?) would likely disgree. The fact is, the decision was made - not only because the apostolic writings bore witness to it - but because it was what was handed down to the Church in her Holy Traditions. Nothing in Scripture (even as we accept it today...which is not at all exactly as they understood it in 325AD) explicitly states that Jesus shares the same essence with God the Father.
And nothing in Scripture explicitly states that Mary should be called the Mother of God or that she was without a doubt "Ever-Virgin." But the Church met in council and affirmed these titles. The Church saw them as being present and clear in the Scriptures when rightfully connected with Holy Tradition. (Ever Virgin is quite explicit if the early church was correct in her exegesis of many Old Testament passages and her being Mother of God is also explicit IF we accept an "o"rthodox and Nicean understanding of the Incarnation.)
So why accept council number 1, but not council numbers 3 and 5? If they got 3 and 5 wrong, how do we know that they got number 1 right? Or worse yet, what about the REAL number 1 (Acts 15)? Maybe Arius was right? Or maybe we should still be circumcising ourselves!? Is it REALLY that clear in Scripture? Umm...wait a minute...I guess the council in Acts 15 didn't have any NT Scripture - they only had the OT, and I'm guessing they have a hard time justifying no more circumcision using that!
So just how did those guys come to an AUTHORITATIVE decision without using NT Sola Scriptura? Something to think about: do you suppose that that sort of authority ended when the apostles died and it was then suddenly transferred to a not-yet put together collection of writings? (BOY, that takes some faith, doesn't it - especially since we'd have at least another 267 years before everyone could agree upon a canon...and even THEN there wasn't total agreement...still isn't, but that is another post.) The fact is, the early Church believed that that sort of authority was continually handed down to the Church. Hence we continued in the Apostolic Tradition of councils.
And here we sit more than a thousand years after the fact pontificating with all of our vast personal wisdom about which councils were right and which ones were wrong...astounding! Gee, isn't this EXACTLY what the Pope claimed to be able to do? I guess the old Catholic saying (The Reformation rejected the Pope in favor of millions of them) is true. Speaking of Roman Catholics...
A Roman Catholic friend once told me that he was informed by an old priest that you can always tell real "o"rthodox Christology by a groups corresponding Mariology. If they shrug their shoulders at her, they shrug their shoulders at the majority of historic and present day Christian belief, practice, and piety. Perhaps even the Incarnation itself...certainly as it was understood in the ancient Church.
Come on guys...accept them councils!
It just occurred to me on the bus ride to work this morning that the Creed as I've often seen used in evangelical / post-mod churches is in fact NOT just the Nicene, but the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed! Recall that that bit in the creed about the Holy Spirit was not apart of the creed as handed down from Nicea, but was added at the second council after the Cappedocian Fathers had succesfully defended the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Now, I'd say you can probably find plenty of proof-texts to argue for the divinity of Christ, but you'd have a much harder time doing so with the Holy Spirit...and indeed this debate again required a council to decide. And in 381 AD no less! Long after the Church was paganized (grin)
And so, by using the Creed as a statement of their beliefs, they are - perhaps inadvertantly and ignorantly - affirming the 1st AND the 2nd council. I've even noticed that some groups are using the MUCH later western addition of the filioque (the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son)...which is amazing to me. So once again I ask: if they got the Acts 15 council right, the 1st and 2nd council right, AND they got the right cannon decided upon...what more does one need to affirm the Church as an authority and ultimately an article of faith? Surely we cannot contend that all of these are clearly demonstrated by the New Testament witness? As far as I know the New Testament does not itself list the canonical books of the New Testament, unless you count the Table of Contents which I am relatively confident is not found in the earliest extant manuscripts
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:26 AM [+] +++
The good news behind Jesus
The quaint little tonal chime alerted me to a problem as I drove to the Park n' Ride this morning. Knowing that the Van had been giving me intermittent starting problems, my heart sank expecting to see either "Service Engine" or a tiny illuminated battery symbol. However as I scanned the warning display panel I could see no indicator at all.
Then I saw Jesus. A tiny little Icon, which we keep inside the instrument panel cubby, stared back at me. I could almost hear Him saying "Consider the birds..."
About a year ago, I sent a lengthy email to a good friend in which I critique an author by the name of Wolfgang Simson who had been mentioned to me by some of my "post-mod house church friends." While I was directed to one of his books (see previous link), I was also offered this online article by him. That article was the basis for the email critique.
Imagine my suprise to find an email in my INBOX this morning from Wolfgang Simson himself! He makes no mention of my email critique, but does invite me to further discuss matters of Church history and the "original design" of the Church. I directed him to my email/article in case he'd not read it and gladly accepted the invitation to further dialogue.
Wow...what a small world the internet is making of our planet!