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Catechumen: One who is learning the principles of Christianity.
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The theological reflections of an Eastern Orthodox convert and seminarian
:: St Seraphim, OCA::
:: St Andrew, AA::
:: Orthodox Church of America::
[::..Blogs I Read..::]
:: Huw's Doxos::
:: James' Paradosis::
::Fr. Joseph's Orthodixie::
[::..Other Links..::]
:: St. Vladimir's
(current school)
:: Torrey::
:: Biola::
:: The Onion Dome::
:: Yahoo::
:: Dictionary::
:: Boundless Webzine::

:: Friday, November 28, 2003 ::

RANT on Switching Majors

So, after much prayer, consideration, and speaking to authoritative sources, I decided I wanted to change my major from mathematics to church history. I decided that if my parents would OK the move, I would make it; if they refused, then I would stay a math major.
I told my Dad. He said that I was an idealistic youth (probably too true!), that he thought it was not the best course for me, but that he saw that I was passionate about it, and so he would allow me to do it. He went into a whole spiel on the philosophy of God, and how he likes to think of the world as having no God, and then try to think of the best religion he can: he comes up with Evangelical Protestantism. I am not sure if this was as a mockery to what I think, or if he were trying to encourage me; I honestly have no clue where he stands on religion and such issues, but I don’t think I ever will. I know he thinks I waste my time with it, and flat out tells me such beliefs as the presence in the Eucharist is just empty superstition. He can’t understand why I want to waste my time and “talent” studying something so useless and potentially false.
My mom took it a completely other way. I thought she would be the easier one to convince, but that was not true. She has always known that math was an “interim” major until I could choose something else; she knew this well. But she is the only practical one in our family; while my Dad and I live in the clouds, she lives on earth. “What are you going to do in four years?” Those were the first words she said, and the same ones she repeated in different forms for over an hour. If I can find a practical means of supporting myself, I can do whatever I want.
It is interesting; my parents concerns are so different on the issue. My mom knows me well enough to know that I am passionate about this, and that I have wanted to study something related to theology/religion/ecclesiology for most of my life (although she has always been openly adverse to the idea); she is really, really adamant that I have a good means of supporting myself after four years. My Dad couldn’t care less about me supporting myself; he wants me to study something difficult and challenging, but he thinks religion is not an academic subject, and is not true enough to be studied.
I am not sure if I have their permission to change; they will get back to me on it. Right now, it may be that I try to fit in a 5th year in my 4-year program so that I graduate with a teaching credential. It is not something that I would choose to do, but if it means being able to major in church history, I will do it.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 3:20 PM on Friday, November 28, 2003 [+] ::

:: Sunday, November 23, 2003 ::
“I believe…” or do I?

I say “I believe in one God…I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…I believe in the Holy Spirit…”, but I am slowly realizing this is not true, for neither myself nor for most of the people who claim it. Now, lest you think I have gone crazy, I would be more truthful with the following statement: “I know there to be one God…I intellectually acknowledge the existence of one Lord, Jesus Christ…I give cognitive assent to the proposition of ‘Holy Spirit’…” I don’t believe it; I only intellectually know it to be true.
There is a difference between knowing and believing. As a little child, I believed. I believed that Jesus was really God and really man; I didn’t understand the theology, but I believed the truth. Now, I fear that my knowledge has robbed me of my belief. At first, I thought knowledge would strengthen my belief, but now I realize it has almost robbed me of it.
Don’t misunderstand; I am not turning anti-intellectual, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, as I am blessed with examples of very holy, very smart people. I know more many people who are both significantly smarter and more holy than I will ever be. Knowledge is not the evil then, but merely knowledge misapplied is evil (it is not fulfilling its proper function). I think even knowledge about theology is good, but I am not sure how to prevent (intellectual) knowledge about God from replacing belief about God.
If I really believed, and did not just know things about God, I would live differently. I have forgotten the joy of simple belief. The world looks at Christians today, sees us doubting, and wonders why, since we seem to have such strong faith. In fact, I don’t think we have any faith, since we “know” so much. We doubt because we have absolutely no belief, since you cannot doubt knowledge.
So, I once believed. And now I don’t. When did this change? This is not in anyway to say I “doubt” any parts of the creed or my “beliefs;” I am simply wondering how many of them are truly “beliefs.” How can I get back? I have decided that I want to try to become holy. I don’t think I’ll succeed, but I think that striving for holiness is a good way to straighten out “beliefs” versus “knowledge.”

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:34 PM on Sunday, November 23, 2003 [+] ::

:: Friday, November 21, 2003 ::
Youth group, or Church?

When I started high school, I joined a youth group. We would go to places, do fun things, and generally hang out. I am not totally sure of the purpose was; it may have been outreach, but the group tended to be very cliquish; no one really knew anyone outside of the group (but for me, the outsider). It was mostly a chance for Christians to get together and do fun things. Sometimes our youth pastor would give a short sermon; sometimes we would have a lesson, or do a “project,” but not much beyond that.
The above is a good description of a youth group. The problem is when this becomes a church. Get together on Sunday, do some “fun” stuff, hang out mostly with others who go to the same church. We really like the way those songs make us feel; they are “fun,” so we sing them. After the lesson (sermon), we can go back to our lives, enjoying at most the possible intellectual learning that occurred. No! Church has to be something deeper, or else The Beer Church (www.beerchurch.com) is what it is all about. (And if you disagree, go read James’ (http://paradosis.blogspot.com) thoughts on it.)
I also speak more to the social aspect of Church versus youth group this post from the beginning of October.
This is one of my soapboxes; I think this is in part from going to a public school my whole life, then coming to a Christian college. Youth group held appeal to as a public-schooler, since it was the only time to hang out with Christians. But, at the same time, I wanted Church to look like youth-group; just a place to hang out with Christians, maybe learn a little. Now that I can have all of the fellowship I so desire with other Christians (and it is really, really wonderful!), I am looking for a church that is more than just a youth group. I want something more real at church; this has driven me to the sacramental aspects of Christianity. Maybe I am being too harsh on them; youth groups can be good, but just don’t confuse them with real churches!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 2:38 PM on Friday, November 21, 2003 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 ::
I meditated on thy words…

Last night I went to OCF at St Andrew, where there was a guest speaker from San Juan Capistrano, Fr. Andrew. Right off, he admitted to being a Protestant-convert, having been a pastor (teaching elder) at a Protestant church before becoming a priest. I could tell that before he even said it; he talked like a Protestant, using Scripture and Scriptural allusions, for the most part unconsciously, in his speech. As the 9 or so present dialogued on the meaning of Advent, I made an allusion to all of creation groaning and travailing until the fullness of time, per St. Paul. Fr. Andrew cut me off mid-sentence, and with a grin pointed at me and said, “You were a Protestant, weren’t you?” I smiled and corrected the verb tense of the sentence. “I can tell.” He continued, “You quote Scripture. When I was a Protestant pastor, I could tell you at least the book and chapter, if not the verse itself, of nearly every New Testament quote you could give. But I doubt I could anymore.”
He could tell my background from my use of Scripture, and I am a particularly bad scriptorian. There is a man in my chum group who is a living concordance; we play games with him, giving him words and snippets of quotes, and seeing how many places they appear in the Bible. (He is scary about it: literally, he can tell you almost to a “T” how many times concepts and phrases appear in scripture, both Old and New Testaments.) This would be unheard of in Orthodox circles. Yes, they read the Bible, and have it, but they do not study it and know it like Protestants. Outside of the small groups of converts/zealots we all know, I would bet anything that the “average” Protestant (Sunday morning only) knows significantly more scripture than the “average” Orthodox (Sunday morning only). Why is this? The only place this may not be true is where Scripture appears in common prayers and hymnography, but if we are talking about the Sunday-morning-only types, then this is not a problem. Is the view of Scripture lower in the Orthodox Church? Is it that there are other things to study, like the Fathers, so Scripture isn’t as well-known? It is a true phenomenon, but it is a bad one. Why don’t Orthodox know the Bible as well as Protestants?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 3:13 PM on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 [+] ::

:: Sunday, November 16, 2003 ::
Hymnography and Theology

Recently, I was playing through a hymnal (I play piano and sing), when I came across an old Wesley hymn, O the Depth of Love Divine . Upon reading the words, it occurred to me the theology of Wesleyan substantiationary nature was succinctly taught in the second verse: “Let the wisest mortal show / How we the grace receive; / Feeble elements bestow / A power not their to give. / Who explains the wondrous way, / How through these the virtue came? / These the virtue did convey, / Yet still remain the same.” I was also humming thorough the words of the Troparion of the Presentation: “Today is the prelude of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: ‘Rejoice, O Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.’” After reflecting on this theology, I thought back to one of the modern P&W (praise and worship) songs I (didn’t) sing in chapel on Friday, “The simplest of all love songs, I want to bring to you. So I’ll let my words be few. Jesus, I am so in love with you (x5). Jesus, I am so in love with you (x5).”
Music, specifically the words to hymns, is an integral part of theology, since it is the “theology” we are likely to be meditating on as we hum and sing it throughout our day. As I was thinking of how hymnography shaped theology, I half-jokingly asked my roommate what would happen when we started living out the theology in our modern P&W Protestant songs. She looked seriously at me: “We already do, Erica.”
I hadn’t realized it, but she’s right. The P&W songs don’t say anything, but at the same time, they don’t divide anyone; I don’t know anyone who can claim to be any type of Christian and theologically object to the song “Jesus I am so in love with you.” They are all embracing, but they only have emotion and pathos rather than theology. You feel good while saying it, but wake up in the morning and realize there is nothing substantial left over. It is just a passing emotional high, which leaves you with nothing when you cannot feel “happy.” We are all about feeling good and holding hands and singing together, but we are no longer saying what we believe. You could make the argument that we all believe different things, and just hide them for manner’s sake when we are together. But the problem is that these doctrinally vapid songs are not only sung at chapel, but at churches (where people are supposedly doctrinally unified).
So, we are creating a religion without theology. Now…this sounds like something I have heard of before…Oh, yes, the 1800’s in New York. The Second Great Awakening was occurring, and many people were “coming to Christ.” Large, emotional crowds would accept Christ at evening revivals. But the revivalists left town the next morning. The “feel-good” emotions weren’t enough to sustain the people who had no theology to back up their pious feelings. So, they found a theology to go with their new religion; Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientism were effectually started within 20 years and 20 miles of each other. That is the result of religion without theology.
What are the cults springing up now to fill in the void left by lack of theology? I don’t know; I have some ideas, but not much proof. But this will happen, unless something changes. Will it ever be more important to believe something than to be friends with everyone? Hopefully soon.everyone? Hopefully soon.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 7:16 PM on Sunday, November 16, 2003 [+] ::

:: Thursday, November 13, 2003 ::
A Church I went to…

So, my best friend and I have been planning for about 3 weeks to go to Vespers at this one local church (actually, I think it is one of the closest Orthodox churches to us); last night, we finally went. We got lost three times getting there, which made us about 20 minutes late, and there was a beautiful lightening storm and rain happening, but we eventually made it. When we got there, we managed to sneak in relatively unnoticed and stand near the back.
The music was excellent. The chanters were really, really good. There were three of them, two men and a woman; the woman had a very nice soprano voice. They stayed in tune and hit all of the right notes, and no one was straining near the top or bottom. They are one of the best group of chanters I have heard in a long time.
There were about 20 or so people there. No one came and introduced himself, even after the service, but I think that’s because my friend and I must have “looked” Orthodox and like we knew what we were doing. Well, I must make an exceptiong; one little boy of about 6 years old who came up to us right away when we were standing in the back and said, ‘hi,’ but his mom called him back. After service, the priest also came up and said hi. We were being shy, but it still would have been nice to meet some people…
After the service, there was about 15 minutes of saying the Jesus Prayer, which was really neat. Although my friend had said it in a group before, I never had, and enjoyed it. It forced my otherwise distractible mind to focus on the here and now of the prayers; it was good.
The inside of the church was beautiful, although it was located in an office complex. My all-time favorite ikon was at the back of the altar; it is the one of Mary with Christ in her womb. There was one beautiful ikon of the Theotokos in the middle of the room, but I didn’t really get to study it; I was afraid everyone would stare at me if I spent too long contemplating one ikon. The church was well done and pretty, considering the room they had to work with.
It was a very nice church; my friend and I hope to get there some Sunday soon. The priest was saying they had a catechumen who went to Biola, and I’d like to know who…Well, kudos to the first person who can tell me in the comments what church I went to last night… :-)

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:11 AM on Thursday, November 13, 2003 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, November 11, 2003 ::
The War of Sin

This morning, James talks about the war against sin, quoting St. Nectarios and discussing the struggle between the intellectual and spiritual side of a man in his quest for his salvation. I am feeling very Protestant in this response; this is what I have learned and believe about the issue.
Perhaps this is cynical, but it seems as though the fight against sin is a perpetual part of Christianity. The two options for sin are victory, or loss and repentance. Since we will not be beating sin personally any time in this life, we must then resign ourselves to a life of continual struggle and repentance. This is not an encouraging point to bring up to a seeker in Christianity: “Join our religion, and struggle for the rest of your life against something you can’t beat!” This would be the end of all evangelism if it were not for the power of God giving us victory over sin.
Thankfully, God gives us power over sin. To use James’ words, I spend time “on my Protestant knees begging God to miraculously change my desires and make me holy.” I pray this over and over again; every day, in fact. Do I see change? No. Should I expect to? Probably not. But I have to trust that the change is still there. Although I cannot perceive it, I trust I am becoming a more holy person, better at praying, more humble, able to commune with God at a deeper level. But I don’t see the change. It is like the man who boasts in his humility; if you are truly being changed, you will not perceive it. James is right when he says, “All my life was simply a grueling and perpetual rerun of sin and then begging for forgiveness.” Yes, we will constantly sin and need to ask for forgiveness, but at the same time there is nothing wrong with your beliefs if you do not see a change. As the struggle is that of a life-time, our patience must be as long. I would say to James that there is nothing wrong with your beliefs; persevere, and you will be rewarded.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:07 PM on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 [+] ::

:: Thursday, November 06, 2003 ::
Praise & Worship, Chapel & Me

Three times a week, the whole undergraduate population of Biola meets together in the gym for chapel. There is about 20 minutes of praise & worship at the beginning, then a 30 minute sermon. This was designed to be a time to bring the community together and unify us in our common Christian faith. So why am I complaining?
The praise and worship in chapel is despicable. I am not complaining about the sheer volume of electric guitars and keyboards, booming across us sitting on the floor of the basketball courts, but rather the words of the songs. The writers mistakenly wrote their songs content-free! They don’t say anything. And, they say this nothing loudly and repetitively. Now, this is not my rant on modern praise & worship music (that will come later), but rather I am unsure of what my reaction should be to it.
I, along with a good number of my friends, do not sing the songs in chapel because of their theological vapidity and repetitiveness. I usually pray around my choctis, go through some morning/evening prayers I know, or recite a few Psalms. This may seem good, but I have the distinct feeling I am cut off from the community, which is the point of chapel. I feel as though I am doing something wrong in being non-participatory, but also would be doing something wrong in being fully participatory. Also, there are those rare occasions where they sing an old hymn, or something with real substance; then I usually phase back in and join. Of course, then I am personally judging what is “good” to sing, and what is not; I don’t feel as though this is something which I should judge.
So, I purposefully cut myself off from the community; this is bad. But I think that while the community may be theologically sound, this particular exercise is not; therefore, I should be justified in not participating.
So, which is the better of two evils? Of course, there is always the option of “mistakenly” coming late and missing praise & worship, but if you don’t time it to within 35 seconds, you don’t get credit for the chapel, and that is not good…

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:46 AM on Thursday, November 06, 2003 [+] ::

:: Monday, November 03, 2003 ::
Meals and Praying

Why do we pray before, but not after meals? I mean, not only Protestants or Orthodox or anything, but just people in general? Every time I sit down in the caf to eat, I ask Christ bless the food. Why not thank Him for blessing it after we eat? Why thank God before the meal, if you haven’t eaten it yet? If one is only to pray once at a meal, it should be after rather than before. We should bless it first, then thank God when we have eaten. Just a thought. We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly blessings. Deprive us not of Thy heavenly kingdom, but as Thou camest among Thy disciples to grant them peace, so also come to us and save our souls.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:10 PM on Monday, November 03, 2003 [+] ::

Changing Majors

I have spent the last few weeks stressing about my major. I am a theoretical math major, and I think I want to change to humanities-history. I have a list of pros and cons for each of them, but I still cannot decide. My only consolation is that I know God will guide me in the way wherein I should walk. My stress is then that I would like to know this way now rather than later. Ah, the stresses of college.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:09 PM on [+] ::

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