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.
Christian love is the “possible impossibility” to see Christ in another man, whoever he is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan, has decided to introduce into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an occasion for a “good deed” or an exercise in philanthropy, but as the beginning of an eternal companionship in God Himself.
--Fr. Alexander Schmemann in “Great Lent: Journey to Pascha”
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:15 PM [+] +++
I think the tension is in how they view the world - The scientist believes what he sees, the man of faith believes the self revelation of God, whether he perceives it or not. James, are the two mutually exclusive? or have you come to understand science as the exploration of the created world?
I don't think the two are mutually exclusive, though they can be at odds the minute "science" becomes "scientism". What do I mean?
When science becomes the interpretive lens through which we believe that all that there is may be discerned and understood. In other words, that these five senses we have are the only means of interacting with and comprehending the world. This mindset is in truth a metaphysical belief system of profound audacity and requires a great deal of faith...hmmmm
Jesus said that the "pure in heart" shall see God. Sceince has no understanding of the heart beyond being a muscle for the pumping of blood through the body, let alone being able to discern what "pure" might be.
Purification, Illumination, and Theosis...what can science tell us of such things? What room is there in science to discover the nous or to cultivate its sense of the Divine? I firmly believe that there is a plane of being where science is very much a "fish out of water" and the bane of our society will be the ever increasing belief that there is no such place.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:25 AM [+] +++
Continuing to research my eastern european heritage. Here are some pretty cool crafts from the homeland. I should like to acquire one of these.
Do you think there could be something holy about words? Like specific words or phrases? Power behind them perhaps?
I know there is something perceived as holy or powerful in names, this seems rather consistant in all cultures - except maybe those of us who live amongst the "enlightened." I recall reading a book about the "Jesus Prayer" written by a monk on Mount Athos in which he made mention of the power behind the name of Jesus. In my old days I would dismiss such nonesense as superstition - funny how we chrsitians can label something as superstitious as if we don't see any stories in the Bible that could be labelled as superstitious? If you don't recall any, then I'd advise you read it again.
Some Christians accuse us Orthodox of being superstitious because of our relics, icons, the reciting of certain prayers and some of the miracles associated with such things...but again I would contend these folks need to reread their Bibles.
Anyway, I read an editorial a long time ago which was lamenting the loss of language skills in our world today. The author was referencing Tolkein and The Lord of the Rings in which we really do see lofty language being used by the "good guys" and what might be coined as "gutter talk" by the orcs and such. I really like reading and hearing english language being used in a form that we might say is akin to classic literature. I'm not sure I can explain it, but listening to Snoop Dog give a lecture as compared to say Bp. Kallistos Ware (who uses wonderful english!) just cannot compare...even if (or perhaps especially if) Snoop Dog were making very illuminating and profound remarks.
I don't know...it just seems that some things deserve better lingual attention.
Last night as I was participating in the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts, I began to notice that long stretches of the service did not require me to use the book; the words seemed to pour forth from my heart...they had in a sense become a part of me. Strange, it could be becuase I was basically without children for this service and could only under such conditions recognize the extent to which so many of these beautiful and profound words and phrases had stayed with me.
It reminded me of the sensation we pentecostals would get when "speaking in tongues" where it seems that something is welling up from within us...not of our own devise, but from the Holy Spirit. It was powerful.
Making Holy people's prayers my prayers, their words my words, their praise my praise...maybe there is something inherently wise about this? Maybe? Like learning a fine art from the masters? Hmmmm.
Kit made mention of how much Forgiveness Vespers assisted him in getting geared up for Lent...I heartily agree. There just seems to be something profoundly right about how we transition into this repentant season. First, as most of us know, the Church lovingly gives us warning and preparatory signs of its approach. And then we gather as a community to "ring in" the lenten season, somewhat like New Yorkers might gather at Times Square to ring in the New Year, though I suppose we are a little more sober and subdued.
The arena of the virtues has been opened.
Let all who wish to struggle for the prize now enter,
girding themselves for the noble contest of the Fast;
for those that strive lawfully are justly crowned.
Taking up the armor of the Cross,
let us make war against the enemy.
Yes...and we begin this warfare with forgiveness. Before setting sail upon the sea of the Fast, we unite ourselves to one another in reconciliation. Seems paradoxical to begin warfare with forgiveness.
Yesterday afternoon had me spending time thinking about that movie that starts today about Jesus, have you heard about it?
On the Catholic Answers radio program I learned, much to my suprise, that Mel is apart of a group that is not in communion with Rome. I had no idea, I mean I knew that he was very much a traditionalist but it didn't occur to me that he might not be a Ctholic in union with the Roman Pontiff. Anyway, that is just an intriguing sidebar.
I watched a documentary on PAX last night which was about the making of the film, and while I experienced my own little passion in having to suffer through the unimaginably stupid "christian" commercials (Good Lord, talk about oxymorons!) it was none-the-less a fgacinating glimpse into aspects of the film.
As a traditionalist Catholic we can rightfully expect to see our Lady portrayed as more than just a grieving motherly witness to all these events. Rather, even in watching some excerpts and some of the direction Mel was giving Maia, I could see that she is "in the loop" as to what is happening. Thank God...and thank you Mel!
At one point we hear Mary say as she watches her son being led away by guards: "And so it begins..." and then as He is carrying His cross toward Calvary she follows along in the crowd and is mystically somehow able to see satan on the other side also following along. In his direction, Mel tells Maia that she is the only person who is able to see it and I thought to myself: "Wow, what a cool concept."
In another scene that was shown in the documentary, an adult Jesus lovingly and playfully gives his mother a kiss. Now think about this for a moment, why should this strike me as being odd or unusual? Proabably because I had this underlying belief or impression that once Jesus became an adult he must have treated his mom like one of his followers...the mother-son relationship had to cease, probably based on that little verse when Jesus says "who are my brothers and sisters?". I must have thought something along these lines...I just don't have any recollection of giving much thought to the reality of their relationship. We moderners just don't seem to like the idea of some people being "special" in the eyes of God...the God who authored the US declaration of independence.
I am glad to see the Theotokos given her due and am anxious to see what else Mel might have done in the film to further show the role the second Eve plays in our salvation. This is our tradition...believing that "blessed" does not equal "lucky" and that to believe that any young somewhat pious girl would have served God's purpose in incarnating God is to be blind to the physical reality and holiness of the incarnation.
What ponderings might we glean from the Mother of God in this Lenten season?
There was a big part of me that just simply was/is not ready for Lent...and yet here it is. I wholly believe our priest's declaration that if left up to ourselves we wouldn't have a Lent. Certainly, this would be such an occassion for me. God will understand that I am tired, wearied by caring for four children, burdened with financial woes and complexities, and in an altogether lazy stump. Let's push Lent back to the mid-summer, or perhaps early fall....tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, you're ALWAYS a day away!
Of course some are able to see the good side of it all and relish in it, but such was not the case with me. In no small way Forgiveness Vespers really brought me out of this mindset. One nice and stubborn thing about the Church is that we do things according to Her calender, not mine: an instant lesson in humility. Any good coach would not let his or her athelete slack off. Of course I do not wish to paint a picture of a brutal tyrant, the Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom is ALWAYS read at Pascha for a very good reason.
I guess I'm ready now...I hear the music and have just about got the rythym down to begin the dance...
One can see that Lent is a very rich, very deep agglomeration of different elements. They serve to purify and to enlighten us. During the time of Lent, the Church leads, as if by the hand, towards the radiant paschal feast. The more serious our Lenten preparation has been, the deeper we shall enter into the mystery of Easter and gather its fruits.
The Temple nave grows dark as we sing...together...
O Joyful Light of the holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly, holy, blessed, Jesus Christ.
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening,
We praise God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For it is right at all times to worship you with voices of praise, O Son of God and Giver of life.
Therefore all the world glorifies Thee
And with that, the purple of Lent is revealed. We begin Lent together and we traverse it together. Our first act is that of forgiveness.
To the world...the trees, the animals, the stars, the waters of earth, and of course to my brothers and my sisters, I have sinned against you all! I have polluted the world with my many sins and have manifested death and sickness upon us all. Heal us Lord! Save us Lord! Make us whole!
I beg forgiveness from all of you...especially for all the times that I have spouted stupidity and rashness from my mouth or from this keyboard and have caused offense. I plead for God's mercy...healing oil.
Maintaining the Traditions of Sts. Paul and Barnabas
Our discussion on Church and culture has apparently moved over to Felix's blog for the time being. Our positions on the matter may be discerned from the design of our blogs. In the time that I have been reading Leaving Muster (maybe 4-5 months?) it has had at least two overhauls in design (all very nice, I might add)...while Paradosis has remained essentially unchanged (in it's same old boring blue and grey) for two years.
Seriously though, I am actually compiling info and thoughts that I expect will lead to a lengthy article of some sort. The topic being generally: Why are we so slow to change our services and traditions in a world that seems to prize change and adaptation? Input is appreciated on this, and of course feel free to participate in our discussion.
From my perspective, the song takes on a new dimension - the need to get quickly to my icon corner to pray and "seek his face" as we used to say a lot.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:41 PM [+] +++
What ARE those Questions?
Felix posts about some new trends in the Anglican Church (not terribly big news, right?)...but a quote from Archbishop Rowan got me thinking.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told the synod: "We can say that already new kinds of church are appearing ... this is not an attempt to subvert the parochial system but to ask what are those questions which the system now is not answering."
Continuing to read Undiscovered Russia. Recall that it is a book written by an Englishman traveling about pre-revolutionary Russia. Here's the latest gem (thanks to Basil for confirming my suspicions on the word moujik - which is generally akin to peasant):
The moujiks are sociable and brotherly; they do things together, sing together, pray together, live together. They like meeting together in public places, in churches and markets. They like great parties at marriages and funerals, and prodigal hospitality at all festivals. They like to wash themselves together in the public baths, and to work together in field and forest. They are more public than we are ; less suspicious, less recluse. They would never live next door to anyone and not know all his family and his affairs. They always want to know the whole life and business of a stranger moujik, and the stranger is always willing to tell. They do not shut themselves in; their doors are open, both the doors of their houses and the doors of their hearts.
This simple charity is the peasants' heritage. It is what we have lost by our culture. It is a golden virtue, better worth preserving than all other prosperity. Consider how it is we have partly lost it, and how the peasant may lose it also if the ministers of progress are not careful.
Carlyle once observed that the book had now become the church. Men entered into books as formerly they entered churches. This is profoundly true, but it is not a truth of which to be necessarily proud. The book has been a great separating influence. It has taken us away alone. It has refused to be shared with others. It has taken us from our parents, our wives, our husbands, our friends. It has given us riches, and not necessarily given the same riches to others. It has distinguished us ; it has individualised us. It has created differences between ourselves and our fellow-men. Hence our pride, our suspicion, our distrust. Churches are not of stone. A church is composed of two or more people gathered together with one accord. The great ideal of a nation has been to be one church, but books have been the disintegration and ruin of that church.
In Russia there are no books. The Church supplies the place of all books — I am, of course, speaking of the peasantry. Instead of every book being a church, the church is the book.
Hence the delight in every tiniest portion of Church ritual; hence the full attendance at the churches; hence the delight in the service and in the music. Hence the wonderful singing, that is accomplished without organ and without books of the score. If Russian choirs astonish Western Europe, it is because Russians have loved to come out and sit together on logs in the village street, and sing for hours, night after night. If they learn to play the balalaika well, it is because they all make balalaikas themselves, and play upon them together from boyhood to old age.
A lot of meat there. I get a sense from that section on books isolating us from one another that there is great truth there - especially if we look at the state of Christianity since the Bible took the place of the Church. And now we hardly know our neighbors at all.
Sara, esteemed abbess of the Munkee residence has led me to this old article regarding Brian McLaren in which we Orthodox get some intriguing lip service. I am always fascinated by articles that bring us into the picture.
Anyway, here is the quote:
"We need new churches and we need transitioning churches. And we need for other churches to stay the way they are. There are resources we are gaining from the Orthodox tradition that, if they had not been very conservative, those theological perspectives would have been lost or even more marginalized than they are. The beautiful thing God does in the church is some people conserve things and they don't even know who they are conserving them for. And that’s a beautiful thing."
Well, let me speak for all the Orthodox both living and "dead" and offer a very hearty: "Your Welcome! Glad we could help!"
Now I know (of) Brian, and he probably didn't mean this quote to come out like it sounds/reads to my ears/eyes. The Orthodox Church is not ignorant of the fact the She has preserved her Traditions for the Church, of course...but I think what McLaren meant to say was that She probably never realized that some folks would come along and glean some of them for their own use. I kinda feel like he is conceiving (albeit perhaps unknowingly) of the OC as a sort of beast of burden that will provide resources for the "future" church.
Well we've already discussed at length the dangers that we who "stay the way we are" perceive in picking traditions out of their "natrual" environment so I won't beat that dead horse...but suffice to say that since this article makes reference to nature and evolution as a model, we can certainly be reminded of the potential dangers of taking an animal out of its natural environment.
Anyway...I've no real big point to make here except to remind all my readers that the Orthodox Church is not a reference book and it is not a museum. It is alive and growing and She serves a greater purpose than to provide others outside of her embrace with resources. I write as one of Her newest sons.
Josh S. (no blog Josh?) is defending substitutionary atonement in the comments of my post from Feb 11th. And while I am not a real theolgian (I simply play one on the internet), I am willing to tip a pint over the topic. Surely Josh isn't the only Protestant reader of this blog who affirms this doctrine as the effectual means of their salvation - with that in mind I have some honest questions for such folk. (please make sure you have your own pints as well...I've no desire to turn this into some silly internet debate thoroughly devoid of spirits.)
Is our salvation wholly and completely accomplished on the cross?
Does the Resurrection of Christ accomplish anything for our salvation?
Was God's pronouncement in the Garden (You shall surely die) a judgement? A punishment?
I suppose if you prefer a Dram or a Cup O' Joe that will suffice too, but please have something on hand, lest we rob ourselves of such pleasurable and gentlemanly (or womanly) social niceties.
My eldest son Nicholas continues to battle a nasty virus. Today is day 5. This weekend landed us in the ER at Children's Hospital with the diagnosis of Adenovirus and a prescription to "wait it out." High fevers, delirium, and crying abound. Combined with the day to day frenzied life we live, Mom and Dad have found themselves near the end of their rope. Pray for healing and peace. We want our normal bouncy boy back.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:42 AM [+] +++
I am continuing to read through Stephen Graham’s book Undiscovered Russia online. It is a fascinating to go along with him on his journey through northern Russia as he meets many interesting characters, not the least of which are the exiled revolutionaries he seems to frequently find. One such encounter prompted this brief east vs. west debate:
But think of the danger inherent in the oppressed and in the thoughts of these men and women. Think what they were ready for — Ready to rush into all the errors of the West, ready to raise up the image of Baal once more, ready to rebuild the slums, ready to give the sweet peasant girls to the streets, ready to build a new Chicago, ready to make London an exemplar of blessedness.
They look towards England. They call out land civilised, not knowing that it long ago ceased to be civilised and became commercialised. "The English are free," said a Pinyega revolutionary to me. "We are still slaves." But we are all slaves. I put the question to him, "Which would you rather be, slave of God or slave of Capital?" But he could not choose because he knew nothing of the latter slavery. I quoted the words of Neitzsche to him with regard to the wedding of democracy and plutocracy —
"Once men played with gold, but now gold plays with men and has enslaved them."
But he could not understand what was meant. He went off to talk of the English Parliament, and the glorious traditions of the Anglo-Saxon race.
"What are those traditions?" I asked. "Just think! Once we were bold yeomen, we became a nation of shop-keepers; now we have become a nation of clerks and shopmen. Even our women have become clerks! Once we were content to live for life itself, for eating and drinking, marrying and bringing up children, now we live for a purpose, for a position in life, for an ambition. And marriage, which was once the significance of our life, has become merely the foundation of our pleasures."
Marriage and family were once the significance of our lives…sometimes it seems as if they are just something we do, like a hobby. Looking through Graham’s written lenses I see that Peasants know something we do not, however unintentional it may be. They do seem to live life for life’s sake and that the so called “simple things” are what really mattered. Much for us to learn from their lifestyle, much that we have forgotten.
Now please, all you cynics out there, do not imply in your comments that I may be too much romanticizing the life of the peasant. I would not give up my indoor plumbing and my beetle-free bed. But I will look to their lives and glean what lessons I may as I continue to read.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:37 AM [+] +++
Saturday, February 14, 2004
The Moral of the Story
A response to Shermer's article...
First, anytime I see an article begin, which I know will have an anti-religious bias, by mentioning some prominent person who is purported to be a Christian (i.e. George Bush) the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. No doubt a moral response born in my genes?
Let my offer a few dissenting thoughts. Surely you could expect no less from me. First…”show me the data.” As the article claims itself to be preaching what “science tells us about” why leaders link themselves to religion then surely we ought to see data. If the author is bold enough to use definitive terms as opposed to theoretical terms, then surely we ought to see reams and reams of numerical data, right? The linkage and identification of specific genes that might lead one to being more altruistic or guilt ridden should clearly be identified before we came make such bold proclamations such as: “The moral emotions…evolved genetically.” But, as it seems to me is the case with ALL the evolutionary biologists, the world of probable (sometimes remotely probable) conjectures is laid before us as unadulterated and undeniable facts.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:52 PM [+] +++
Friday, February 13, 2004
Morality and the Materialist
Hey folks...I am offering this article as it was offered to me. It begs a response to the person who sent it to me and I am compiling it now. I covet your insights as well. Either respond in comment or email me direct. The article is here.
Once I develop a response, I will post it here.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:37 AM [+] +++
Others blogging better than I could today
Steve writes about singing the Orthodox Blues. Listen to his song selection while you read and ponder the mysteries of taking the road less traveled as opposed to getting out your communicator and asking Jesus to beam you up.
The Munkee reminds us that we are what we build. I've lamented similarly: Look around, what is the biggest, prettiest, and most well decored building in your city and what does that tell you?
In our most recent email dialogue, I made the claim that human beings are the only creatures on earth who hope. To which the BA responded "I rather suspect my dog hopes to clean my plate after supper." Hmmmm...
Is this hope, or expectation. Hope is something bigger than expectation...a sort of pavlov's dog response to past experience is not what I mean by hope. Hope is what we express and teach to our children when we comfort them and tell them that "everything is going to be alright" when if we are truly honest, this may not be true - at least from the secular perspective. Things could get worse, things will not neccesarily work out okay in the end. The bad guy can kill you, get the girl, and live happily ever after. You may spend the rest of your life struggling, suffering, and ultimately dying a painful death. Hope, I hope, is more than believing that statistical odds probably will preclude you from such a fate.
Hope, I think, springs from the notion that the story of life (all of our lives) is not being written by a chimp on a typewriter. Hope connects deeply I think with our innate sense of purpose...that feeling we often get that our lives ought to have a soundtrack and that there truly are lessons to be learned, lessons beyond survival.
Hope that in suffering there is redemption and that in the end, there will be someone to hug us, wipe away our tears, and tell us that "everything is going to be alright."
How can I offer this on a daily basis to my kids, if I myself do not believe it is offered to me?
Recently “heard” someone blogging (cannot for the life of me recall where - and I looked) about how we Orthodox tend to make too much of the west being juridical and analytical in their theology. Maybe so…indeed the west is not some static entity, certainly the pomo’s are showing us this.
Anyway, I listen to alot of Christian Radio. Everyday on my way home from work I jump back and forth between Catholic Answers and the Bible Answer Man (As a side note, I prefer Karl, he seems to like us Orthodox better than Hank does). Obviously, based on the nomenclature, they have the answers. I suppose we Orthodox have our answers too, we just don’t have a cool radio show that has the word “Answer(s)” in it. Rather we have a show called “Come Receive the Light” which began at last to be aired here in the Seattle area last Saturday.
Anyway, in listening to these Protestant and Roman Catholic radio programs one cannot help but hear intense juridical and analytical theological musings…so much so that sometimes I am literally astounded. Now I know, I know these shows do not speak for the whole of either entity (who or what could?) but it does make me think that the Eastern opinion that the west overly emphasizes such things is not completely a “straw man.”
One might imagine hearing over and over again on the Orthodox Answers program: “We do not know, it is a mystery.”
Hey, I could do THAT show.
Ahhh...priorities, priorities. Sorry my dear readers, but I must make mention of this. A very serious theological issue has arisen: it is of unfathomable importance that we consider and rethink the gender identity of the "Magi."
Since the death of my Grandmother I have been really delving into my eastern european family history. (Yes, I know I've posted about this before). Something about the past appeals to me - not sure I can explain it. The fact that I have a slavic and Orthodox ancestry is very exciting to me...and yet a little saddening too. As I talk and correspond with some of my more distant Orthodox relatives and as I peruse numerous historical documents and texts I find myself learning all sorts of beautiful family traditions and practices - some of which I have been learning and tripping through the process of establishing in my own family. This should not be the case.
Does anyone else out there, feel an emtpiness in regards to connecting with their ancestors? A sort of void that fuels a desire to establish your own personally designed family traditions? Perhaps you are like me and growing up you had none, save for watching TV or something along those lines. A longing for something meaningful we DO that speaks to us as a people and unites us in some way. Liturgy is alot like that I suppose...for it's part, Orthodoxy brings many wonderful traditions and practices that accomplish much of this...but as a convert I sometimes feel clumsy about it all. I mean, I don't want to pretend to be Greek or Russian...and yet there are somethings the ethnic cradle Orthodox do which can make the faith come alive in the home...beautiful things, wonderful things. Frankly my kids freaking LOVE IT when we engage in our little rituals at home which we have learned. Kids seem to have an innate need and appreciation for such things.
I do not pretend to ignore this profound sense of interest in the past as being a factor in my initial attraction toward Orthodoxy. In a way, this Church kept saying to me: I am your past...I am your ancestor...and I am yet alive. Of course one needn't find Orthodoxy in their distant relatives for these words to be true.
I've heard some folks lament that they felt cheated for having known next to nothing about Church history...in a way I feel cheated for having all of my family's Orthodox traditions and faith denied me...but we are working to correct that!
I know there are probably many out there who would merely shrug their shoulders at this concept of "t"raditions, I suppose it may be another sign of my agedness? LOL!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:59 PM [+] +++
Another beaming example of effective Evangelism
Obviously this guy didn't take Professor Brady's evangelism class at Northwest College like I did. Hope he enjoyed his career as an airline pilot.
I mean jeez, he didn't even offer to give his personal life testimony...he should have that stuff all rehearsed and ready to go.
I can tell.
I can see.
I, I, I.
I recently read a post in which someone was lamenting about the horrible condition of the "church" - using the term in the protestant sense. He goes on to list all the things that are screwed up about all the different denominations and throws his hands in the air in frustration - not knowing where to go to Church. (I'm not linking to it because I don't wish to engage him on the topic - as I don't know him, but rather want to discuss it amongst those who grace this place with their presence.)
The one thing that stands out to me, as I read many of the "I can relate" comments to the post was the extent to which it all came back to me...that is the "I" factor. In a sense, we set ourselves up above ALL the denominations, all the history and say that none of them are worthy of our participation. Now, I know that that is NOT the intentional spirit of what is being said or done...but I think it might be the reality of the situation. By what measure can we as individuals judge the churches? Are we really looking for a perfect and flawless denomination? Failing to find one, do we start our own? And if we wish it to be flawless, can we expect it to remain so if others join us?
What do you think? Can this lead to the "me and Jesus going to church alone on the beach" mentality?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:02 PM [+] +++
In the past, I would have claimed that one cannot simply claim to be one and thus REALLY be one. In other words, there were REAL Christians and there were unREAL Christians. Essentially we equated the term with salvation.
As Orthodox we do not believe that salvation is a once in time event - we simply have no theological basis by which to ever use the term in the past tense. So, what does it mean to fancy yourself a Christian? I am reminded that we Orthodox do not also equate the term Church with salvation either...this may add to the depth of this potential discussion.
I know I know...by our love for one another you will be known...but is there more to it than that? No doubt, the Mormons have love for one another. Does this lead us to importance of theological correctness or exactness as a litmus test for "REAL" vs "unREAL" Christians?
OK, so I have received a host of confused emails and comments in regards to my post A Tale of Two Countries and their Religions. That post was a response to the discussion being had over at the Violent Monkee in which someone basically had said that before we convert to Orthodoxy we should spend some time in a traditionally Orthodox country to see how screwed up it is. Thereby, I assume, dissuading us from converting. I hope my post shows the absurdity of this claim and was actually summed up much more concisely by the good Rdr. John when he said: "For any faith it is all a question of whether you judge by the highest manifestation or the lowest"
But there is a secondary point in that post. The person making the comment originally (that we ought to experience the depravity of Orthodox countries), is a Protestant missionary in Eastern Europe. And thus, to some extent my post also says: Why travel thousands of miles to do God's work, while walking away from God's work to be done in your own backyard?
Why does Greece, Russia, or the Ukraine need American missionaries any more than America?
Bill made mention of the same article that Steve did the other day regarding Mega-Churches. Someonenamed Faith over at Bill's comment box made note of this quote from the article...
"It's not a churchy feel," Osteen, 40, said. "We don't have crosses up there. We believe in all that, but I like to take the barriers down that have kept people from coming. A lot of people who come now are people that haven't been to church in 20 to 30 years."
...and then asked that we contrast that with I Cor. 1:18-25.
I put up another question and since then have been giving this more and more thought. My question:
What if the "barriers that keep people from coming" aren't the physical crosses, but what we BELIEVE about the cross? What then? Take them down?
More and more people are going to find Christianity difficult to palate, many already do. To what extent do we cater to their concerns? Why is "belief" the last thing to be sacrificed, while traditional expressions of beliefs (no matter how beautiful or rich) are the very first and easiest to "take down."
Shelby Spong is willing to yield everything to what our culture is willing to accept and ingest. Is he wrong?
What is the lowest common denominator for our Christian faith? When does a belief system cease to be Christian? Are the Mormons any more Christian than Spong because they at least affirm a literal resurrection?
…a brief lesson is offered from one Greek man to another in regards to another’s decision to convert to the specific breed of Protestantism being pandered by a newly arrived American missionary…
Why would you convert to this American’s religion? Have you ever been to America? I mean that country is in religious and moral chaos! Yes yes yes, they are the richest country in the world and 90% of them claim to believe in “god”, yet despite all their unfathomable wealth they still have poverty there and prefer to send robots to mars rather than feed their homeless! Imagine that! Do you know that they have the highest divorce rates in the world, and it is no wonder: even their last president could not keep his pants on, all the while attending the same sort of church your missionary friend comes from.
You should spend sometime in America first…they have thousands upon thousands of different kinds of Christian religions…just about one to suit every single individual! They change their religions constantly in a noble, albeit futile attempt to try and convert the people, and yet there is no improvement in the moral compass of that nation. Their TV still appeals to the basest of senses, sliding ever further into newer and newer levels of debauchery and their laws continue to support immorality. Money and sex are the real gods in America.
And violence! My Lord, that country has some of the highest violent crimes rates in the industrialized world. It is not safe to send your children to school there, you know? Because the kids all bring guns to school and you constantly hear about students going on shooting rampages. You know I actually saw video games there that they give to their children that allow them to kill, steal, and have sex with prostitutes! And you saw their “superbowl” right? That is their most cherished feastday in which they celebrate their patron saint – the sports hero and the sexy cheerleader! Remember that show in the middle of the game? Have you ever seen or heard such nonsense? This music that they give to their kids to idolize is full of nothing but sex, drugs, and money. The ONLY value in America is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion about values.
I will not speak of their wars – their foreign policy of bomb dropping – like when that same sex starved Baptist president sent his planes to kill our Orthodox brothers in Serbia.
On top of all this, they have no sense of community! They have turned their formerly religious holidays into hedonistic drinking, feasting, and sex parties with no sense of the sacred in them, and the protestants just plunder along trying to find the right approach to save their country…and not being able to do it decide to send their missionaries over here to convert you and I!
What for? To make our country look like America? Admittedly the money would be nice, but…
Lee, speaking at Kent State University's regional campus in Stark County, Ohio, on Tuesday night, said there has been a decline in artistry.
He said it's not enough to be a good singer, and that entertainers "have to do something extra" — such as the openmouthed kiss Madonna (news - web sites) gave Britney Spears (news) and Christina Aguilera (news) during the MTV Video Music Awards in August.
"What's gonna be next? It's getting crazy, and it's all down to money. Money and fame," said Lee, the director of "Malcolm X" and "Do the Right Thing." "Somehow the whole value system has been upended."
I made metion of this sort of thing (what has become of dignity and class?) here at work and got pretty much blank stares.
As my wife had missed liturgy sunday I brought home to her a piece of the blessed bread (not the Eucharist, but antidoron - blessed bread from which a portion was taken to be consecrated as the Eucharist) . It turned up missing and based on where I'd left it we determined that Maggie (our beagle) very likely endulged herself (a potentially blasphemous thing given her normally preferred diet). Upon the announcement of this theory, Charissa the new new theologian, proclaimed: "Then Maggie will become a part of God."
Hmmm...I decided to save reexplaining the difference between blessed bread and Eucharist for a later time.
Steve has apparently abandoned his title of Arch-sloth blogger and is back with a vengence. Taking my advice that every post needn't be a literary masterpiece, he's begun barfing on the keyboard like the rest of us. Go and see what he's been eating.
In regards to the exposure of Janet Jackson's breast, FCC chief Michael Powell said
"Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt."
You know, I got very little sleep last night and I find myself to be highly irritable, thus this post is just a precursor of what will come later. I'm pissed. Pissed, not because I saw Janet's boob, but because the whole damn halftime show was not considered "a classless, crass, and deplorable stunt."
Yes, the world was watching and we have given them a taste (once again) of what American culture is all about. Ahhh, yes, imagine the picturesque scene of an American family gathered around the television to "celebrate" with the SuperBowl. Up until the breast exposure incident, were we really witnessing a "celebration"? A celebration of WHAT?!?!
Our groins. Frankly, the Islamic world has reason to be afraid of what we are selling. I recall hearing a proposal about 6 months ago to begin broadcasting MTV into the Middle East, I guess as a means of helping them to appreciate the fun they can have with exported americana. Utterly brilliant.
Karl turned me on to what I perceive to be a periodical gem called Road to Emmaus. After looking through some of the articles provided online I intend to subscribe. This one was particulalry enjoyable.
It is by an english journalist named Stephen Graham who toured Russian and comments upon his experiences in pre-revolutionary Russia. He would later convert to Orthodoxy and I have actually found the entire book online here.
A few quotes that stood out to me:
The candle before the Ikon is man's finite life shining against the background of the Infinite.
So the Ikon is the "God in the midst" with eyes for the highest and for the lowest things...It is so powerful that it suggests itself as the spirit of the room; take away the sacred picture, and you leave the dead body of what was once a living, breathing room.
If a peasant yawns, he makes the sign of the cross over his mouth to prevent the devil getting in - which is in itself a little sermon on the dangers of boredom
So by a thousand little gleams of ritual, we see how the Russian has interwoven Christian religion with life.
Anxious to read more.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:04 PM [+] +++
I don't know how to love Him
Like the song, I feel the same way (minus being a female or a prostitute). I've been thinking alot about how to love God. The Scriptures tell us much about how we express that love: keeping His commands and providing charity, to name a couple. But what I am thinking about (right or wrong) is how to internalize that love...how to feel that love. As evangelicals we used to talk alot about having a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" as if to give the impression that Jesus was indeed our friendly "co-pilot" as the bumper sticker says. I sometimes had the distinct fear that I was like an adult man who still had an imaginary friend.
I want to grab onto something deeper...while avoiding the trap of hyper-emotionalism and a dead intellectual faith, because I've been in both places and do not believe either to be very secure. Experiencing Christ in the sacraments has certainly brought a good deal of illumination to me - oh I've not said that strongly enough - it has rather completely turned my Christianity around (there, that's better). But, I have been thinking about the conept we often here from the fathers and mothers of the Church in regards to all of life being a sacrament and I am also reminded of that oft-used invocation of the Holy Spirit, "who art everywhere present and fillest all things."
There are so many things and people I love in my life...and yet I am not sure that I have the faintest notion of what love is beyond the hedonism which demands that I derive some sort of pleasure from them (hence the connect between things and people?). Parenting teaches me much about this, as a new parent is apt to quickly realize and (if they are like me) struggle with the fact that we are there to serve them and not the other way around. Fr. Jonah once said that Christianity is all about making our "I" plural.
I feel like life is beautiful...there is so much wonder to be seen and experienced on a day to day basis...even the simple things like wrestling with my boys, reading to my girls, sharing a good Sctoch and "virginia weed" with an extraordinary gentleman, or dancing with my wife should all become touchpoints with the Almighty - the Holy Spirit being everywhere present and filling all things. I guess it is a matter of opening my eyes to this reality and putting these celebrations of life into the context of my "I" becoming plural. So much would change, I think.