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.
Looking at different houses that are supposed to look exactly the same, the architect wonders: What the hell went wrong here? A closer examination shows that the foundations upon which they were built were poured differently and from that point onward, they could never look the same as they ought to.
That foundation is ecclesiology.
Fr. Schmemann writes:
...a number of historians have been tempted to look for some sort of metamorphosis within it [the Church] at this period [between apostolic times and the mid 2nd century], some break with the original "idea" of Christianity expressed in the Gospels. The organized Church with its hierarchy, doctrine, and discipline, as we see it again in the middle of the second century, they regard as the product of various crises and adaptations to social conditions...Today, however, scholars are giving increasing attention to the voice of Church tradition...The Gospel,it turns out, must not be seperated from the Church; it is the witness to the faith of the Church, to its living experience, and cannot be understood apart from this experience...It has become increasing clear that the Church has no need to be restored and justified on the basis of the fragments that have reached us. Rather, only in the light of the Church, in the recognition of its primacy, can the meaning of these fragments be discerned and properly interpreted.
I can vaguely recall that illuminating (some would say deceiving) moment when the Church became for me an article of faith. When a new paradigm came into my mind - a LIVING paradigm that made the writings of St. Ignatios of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaios of Lyons, etc. no longer seem quite so foreign, quite so ancient, or quite so difficult to understand. I felt like I had come to believe in the same Church (the same ecclesiology) that they believed in.
It is a real foundation changing belief. It cannot help but to cause the house to look different. Do you remember, when you fell in love with the Church? When this realization that Christ had left us with something concrete, something definitive, something authoritative, and yet something mystical, something transcendent, and something holy, first came into your thoughts and you began to marvel at how different it makes everything?
I am recapturing some of that in reading this book.
The Orthodox ehtos turned my world upside down. I was in danger of actually losing my Faith, but I have fully and completely found it! "Giving" myself to the Church has been the experience of "losing my life to find it". I constantly have to remind myself of this.
James, thanks for your blog. I really enjoy reading it.
James, what a wonderful gift to fall in love with - the precious body of Christ - the church. I thought also that the following might interest you. We now have out first Orthodox congregation in this part of the country - 35 minutes drive from where I live. My best man is the vicar of the Anglican parish that sold their old Anglican church building:
"The Anglican church building at Whatawhata, in the Parish of West Hamilton, is being sold. St Barnabas Church, built in 1957, has had little use in recent years. No regular services have been held there or six years although it has been the venue for occasional weddings and funerals. Put up for sale by tender, members of the Eastern Orthodox Church expressed interest in the building and were the successful tenderers. It will serve as a place of worship for local Eastern Orthodox Christians whose priest will be a Romanian artist who intends to paint the church inside and out with Easter Orthodox iconography, it is understood."
I'm going to try and get along once or twice to experience what you often talk and post about :-)