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.
Benedict Seraphim (Aka Clifton) has some funny, yet serious posts about Orthodox who take their Orthodoxy a little too seriously: HERE and HERE.
I've neither heard, nor would I pay much attention to Ortho-bloggers complaining about the Study Bible or Conciliar Press tracts. I note it to be an ironic thing for protestant converts to be complaining in true protestant fashion about other Orthodox or their efforts being too protestant. Sure some of these things may be "milk" as compared to "meat"...but I always get a little nervous about claiming I've fully graduated to the "meat" of Orthodoxy, let alone outright decrying the girly-man Ortho-low fat "milk."
Personally, I think it is great to have an OSB that at least makes an effort at applying a little Paradosis to the Scriptures...I know many have found them illuminating. And the low-fat Orthodox tracts may help to open doors to the riches within. And what are those riches? What is the "MEAT" of Orthodoxy?
It is precisely THAT thing which makes the Orthodox Church so much the Ark of salvation. Few, I think, could argue that it doesn't largely hinge on that which we hear time and time again: the call to self-examination and repentance. What is the heart of Orthodox tradition and practice but these things? The MEAT isn't the Typikon or "The Rudder" or keeping the fast perfectly, or attending every service, or wearing a headscarf, or not wearing jeans to church, or anything at all like that...the MEAT is when you start truly practicing asceticism beyond the fast which is (for example) loving your neighbor as yourself. Do we not hear these lessons in the life of the Church? Do we not fast in vain if we are eating our brothers? Are we the Publican or the Pharisee? How many times must we (****I****) hear the admonitions about the uselessness of the fast if we don't have the proper understanding of its intent? The Church pounds into our heads that her traditions are meaningless if we are not exercising them as a means of metanoia.
The Paradosis of the Church is not summed up by trying to be externally more and more Orthodox, but to truly experience metanoia. It is nothing...NOTHING...to do prostrations and bows at the right time and place if we are not truly prostrating and bowing our wills and self to God. Alone, the prayers and bowing render us as clanging gongs and babbling pagans. Bowing our wills and self to God, I believe this will express itself not in judgmentalism, but in the fruit of the Spirit:
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
I cannot help but believe that if we are spending too much time complaining about others not being Orthodox enough, that we ourselves are missing the same boat we think they failed to catch. Now again, I've not seen the blogosphere raging against things not Orthodox enough, but I would advise we concern ourselves with those things which I believe the Church teaches us: that YOU yourself are not Orthodox enough. This is the heart of Orthodoxy that not even a protestant stylized study Bible or tract can hide from people who come and see.
Have those who would spend time labeling such things as overly protestant failed to see it? That is not for me to judge...I'm merely suggesting. The litmus test for how Orthodox you are is VERY VERY clear; we ask God to help us be more Orthodox every time we press your heads to the floor while saying the Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim. It matters little whether you have an Orthodox Study Bible, Prayer Rope, Ancient Faith Radio Bumper sticker, or Starbuck's coffee with steamed milk waiting for you in or on your car in the Church parking lot.
I've seen complaining about the OST on message boards, although I don't recall seeing any on blogs, thankfully. I was actually told by someone they would never venerate one. Biiiig deal.
My opinions on the OSB? it doesn't matter. There is no profit in turning it into a public gripe session when 1) the effort was a labor of love on the part of our fellow orthodox, and that in itself makes it beautiful, and 2) more importantly, i see people reading them and bringing them to church.
Too often I've heard converts complain about some priests not following tradition just right, or even testing to see how orthodox a priest is by quizzing him on obscure Church trivia. That in itself is a passion gone too far, sparked by insecurities.
I've rambled on enough. Back to my Starbucks coffee with steaming soy milk.
Tradition is such a complicated issue, I think, and so easily misunderstood. Thank you for your comments. Like most things, easy to get the cart before the horse with traditions and certainly hard to see into a person's soul and really see what is going on. I have no doubt that I pass many saintly people every day, those that are caring for the sick and infirm and loving the unloved. I count my dear wife as one of those saints. She quietly goes about loving her hospice patients, and loving her mother with Parkinsons (and loving a Neandertal like me) without ever making a big deal about it. It is as if her soul exhales this kind of behavior, and that is how it should be. Anyway, it is "that" kind of tradition that I value.
I for one have been waiting all too impatiently for the OSB. Oh, and I find that when I spend my (at home without kids) time listening to podcasts from (gasp) Ancient Faith Radio, I am much more in tune with what I need to do. (Read the 55 maxims for the Christian Life, on Sue's blog, for more info.)
Obviously the OSB review on (ahem) orthodoxinfo.com has had no lasting effect. Pray for my salvation, as it's obviously more in jeopardy than ever before.
Oh, and sometimes I even forget to ask the nice barista for soy milk. How unfocused of me.
The Orthodox Church has all the external "trappings" that some people criticize as been unnecessary baggage...but what makes that "baggage" all the more important is it's context within the Church...AND, the fact that the Church warns us time and time and time again that these externals are TOOLS and not ends unto themselves. We are warned NOT to let them become baggage - which is precisely what they become when we don't use them for their intended purpose.
Steve... ****I**** was a lame attempt to heavily emphasize "I"
Fro my part, I've fasted rather stringently this Lent so far...but I cannot say that I have been really fasting. Does that make sense?
Well, I suppose the OSB critics could get the Brenton or Rahlfs edition of the LXX (untranslated Greek). Of course, as soon as they tell a non-Greek-speaker what the Greek means, they're sorta doin' an ad hoc translation...And so it goes.
For me, at least, it's not so much paranoia about keeping every jot and tittle, but about remaining engaged in the struggle. What I've seen going on in Orthodoxy is that those who are still victimized by their former worldview get frustrated because there's not this external, monolithic, invariable, verbally inerrant thing out there called Tradition, similar to that whole Sola Scriptura fantasy. So what I've seen happen a few times now is that these folks use this as an excuse to blow off the whole deal. I've found that if I search my heart diligently enough, I'll find some theological dysfunction at the root of my disaffection with presumably lesser matters. And isn't it interesting that most of the stuff I kick (or kicked) about had to do with abstinence? So with me, it's usually just pride and rebellion (no one's going to tell ME what to do). And oh yeah, judgmentalism lets me imagine that I've actually exercised a virtue merely by criticizing someone else's lack of it. Thank God for the Prayer of St. Ephraim; now, if I could just remember to say it before (or instead of) other forms of SELF-expression.
This reminds me of a story that's at least indirectly related:
It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him, having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper, they said to him, "Aren't you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?" "Yes, it is very true," he answered. They resumed, "Aren't you that Agathon who is always talking nonsense?" "I am." Again they said, "Aren't you Agathon the heretic?" But at that, he replied, "I am not a heretic." So they asked him, "Tell us why you accepted everything we cast at you, but repudiated this last insult." He replied, "The first accusations I take to myself, for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no wish to be separated from God." At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.