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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::
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:: James' Paradosis::
::Fr. Joseph's Orthodixie::
[::..Other Links..::]
:: St. Vladimir's
(current school)
:: Torrey::
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:: Boundless Webzine::

:: Saturday, January 31, 2004 ::

Band Tour

I apologize for my lack of regular posts; I have been on tour with a brass ensemble from my school, and time off has been a rare thing. We have had 13 concerts/clinics/workshops in the last 5 days, and I am exhausted; we have three more gigs on Sunday at a church.

The tour was good; we played in many places for many different groups. Biola as a Christian school went to mostly Christian schools to try to recruit for its Music Conservatory. There were fascinating differences in the schools, and in the attitudes of the students.

Our first stop was at a school in Stockdale, CA. I had been told that this band of 4th-8th graders was really good; I was blown away. I heard a 6th grade trumpet player who can go higher than our two last chair (college) trumpets. All the students take an hour of classical lessons and a half-hour of jazz lessons a week, and are required to practice an hour a day. This group is so good it is scary; of the 8 students to try out for the state honor band, all but one made first chair. They are completely innocent; no one has ever told them they are good, so they are easy to work with. No one has told them that 6th grade trombonists don’t hit Bb, or that most high school students can’t even circular breathe (a way of breathing in and out at the same time; you don’t have to stop playing to take a breath). This was the only school at which we were able to hold master class; it is something like a private lesson with the whole rest of the band watching. It is rarely done at any level but the college level for fear of embarrassing the students in front of their peers. The director asked us to hold it, and despite his group’s age, it was the most successful master class I have ever participated in.

We went to another school, and a fifth grader for whom we were organizing chairs told me “Work like a b****” I was more shocked than anything; I kind of tried not to laugh in his face. His friend (another trombonist) told me “Your trombone is ugly.” I had to spend the next hour teaching these little 11 year-old kids how to play trombone. It was a long hour. I was not the only one who met with sheer rudeness; one boy told our euphonium/baritone player that “Baritones suck.” They were so rude it was comical.

The cross-town rival of the previous school was its complete opposite; the students actually listened to what we had to say. While I am not an excellent player, I am also not a high school player; I have played for more than 10 years, and even if I can’t play it perfectly, I can identify points for improvement. These students listened to what we had to say, and actually corrected their mistakes. We would tell them something, they would write it into their music, and change the way they played. While the bands at the two schools were approximately the same size, the quality difference was immense.

Why the vast differences in the schools? They were all Christian jr. high schools (with attached high schools). It was very interesting. The attitude was so vastly different, yet the schools were all relatively close geographically. Overall, the tour was good and successful.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 1:18 PM on Saturday, January 31, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, January 24, 2004 ::
The Distance to the Ground

The ground is 6 feet below my head, and 200 feet below my heart. When the ground is closer, mentias and prostrations come easy enough. But usually, the ground is too far away; or rather, my heart is too far from it, so I struggle to reach it. I need that struggle, and I needn’t complain; God came down from Heaven; he reached a this ground that was infinitely below him. I can’t complain.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:20 AM on Saturday, January 24, 2004 [+] ::

:: Monday, January 19, 2004 ::
An Image of Power

After a 6AM Liturgy at a local Old Calendar parish/commune, we drove to the Pacific Ocean (20 minutes away) to bless the waters. We processed down, and stood in a small semi-circle, so that the water would stop about a foot from the feet of the priests. All the clergy were in their vestments, and there were candles, incense, and the whole bit. As the waves would break throughout the service, the group of 20 of us behind them would take polite steps back if it seemed as though we may get wet. Then we’d gradually meander forward again, in a half-awake, half-attentive state, always ready to complain about the cold water.

Then, the ocean got suddenly quiet. The powerful, constant waves stilled for a second; I wasn’t the only one who felt the eeriness. Then, a sleeper wave came. We couldn’t have gotten out of the way if we had a running start. This wave came from nowhere, and was huge.

I was about to follow my gut reaction and try to run for dry beach, but I stopped short. For a fleeting millisecond, I saw Christ in the priest, Fr. Michael. I caught my breath at the image of power displayed there. The priests, who at this point had been backing up a few steps with the people, realized they couldn’t get out of the way. So, they stood, squared their shoulders, and let the water hit them. The deacons saw this, and followed suit. The altar boys did the same. Finally, the people, about 5 feet behind the clergy, did likewise. The water, well above my knees, was freezing and sandy, I didn’t have a change of clothes, and all the towels got soaked. But we couldn’t run.

For a second, I saw the Church, standing against the onslaughts of the world. Why were we at the ocean today? To bless the waters. What was the ocean doing? Trying to stop us. Sure, we could play the “nice” game of politely dodging, moving forward, stepping back, and playing with it. We were doing that for a while at the beginning, being tired and lazy. Then the wave came, and instead of running, we stood there and got wet. For a second, I glanced up at Fr. Michael (whom I could see best). His face showed that he knew he was about to get drenched and cold and wet; he braced himself for it, and stood with resolution. I saw Christ standing against the world. That courage came down through our ranks, until it got to the Church, the people. We weren’t playing a game anymore. It became real; to back down would have been wrong. We were Christ’s disciples standing with him against the world that seeks our destruction. He stood there first; he got the brunt of the wave, although there’s plenty to go around. We’ll get wet; but if we look up, there is an example to follow.

It was a beautiful image. It lasted less than a second, as I was distracted trying to keep my balance in the receding waters. It was unusual; Fr. Michael is an older priest, and would seem more like a grandfather with his long red hair, and reading glasses perched on his nose. But today, at the ocean, Christ was there, blessing the waters, leading His Church in her struggle against the world.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 8:28 PM on Monday, January 19, 2004 [+] ::

New Blogger on the Block

Someone from my home parish recently started a blog…his name is Chrysostomos, and he described himself as an alter server, SRJC (local junior college) student, and guy with long hair. (Which isn't very descriptive in my parish!) Mostly I know him as the dad of his 2-year-old son. Anyway, go on over to his page and say hi. Oh, and he also is the admin of a chatroom. Oh, and for people like Clifton who are thinking to move me to the category of "Orthodox" on your roll...Chrysostomos really is Orthodox, and he actually posts like it.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 7:42 PM on [+] ::

:: Friday, January 16, 2004 ::
A Christian by Any Other Name…

Yesterday, I found myself in a religious conversation with a coworker who happens to be a PK (pastor’s kid). Her dad is the pastor at a local Calvary Chapel, called (irreverently) “The Barn.” There are about 300 people, and he has been the pastor there for a while. She is my age, and attends a Calvary Chapel Bible College. She is not stupid, but she has not studied any theology; she studies the Bible exclusively.

She had overheard an Eretrian-Orthodox coworker and me discussing our church, and asked if we were was Catholic. I smiled and answered that we’re Orthodox. She had never heard of Orthodoxy, and asked how it was different from Roman Catholicism. I went into my brief, usual description: If the Protestant and Roman Churches split only 500 years ago, and she was familiar with their differences, imagine the difference between the Roman and Orthodox Churches that split 1000 years ago.

She replied: “Well, I’ve never been to a Protestant or a Catholic church, so I don’t really about either of them. My dad’s the pastor at a Christian church, not a Protestant church.” When I continued to ask her, she continued, “I’m sure, we aren’t Protestants, or someone would have told me by now. I’m a Christian, not a Protestant.”

She doesn’t think of herself as a Protestant. I explained in simple language the Protestant Reformation, and how the ideas on which her church was founded came directly from Reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Of course she didn’t believe in things like saints, the Pope, Mary, or any of that tradition stuff. But, ya know, no Christians believe in those things. The only people who believe in those are superstitious people, or misguided people, but not Christians!

Here, I am the sectarian; I am one who divides. Heck, I am not even a Christian! I am “Orthodox.” It’s like being Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or even Pentecostal. It is a division of another religion; if you are one of these, you are not “Christian.” The idea has moved from the grounds of “Can a Roman Catholic be a Christian?” (one I have wrestled with many times over) to the grounds of “A Roman Catholic is not a Christian; he is a Roman Catholic, and therefore not a Christian.” It was baffling hearing her say this. I could not convince her that she was a Protestant. The roots of Christendom have been so overlooked, and the focus narrowed to a point where she couldn’t even imagine it being another way than a non-denominational Protestant world. Especially with this “non-denominational” denominational movement (of which Calvary Chapel is the prime example), the idea of being anything other than “a believer” automatically means you are not one.

My coworker is not the only one who holds to this rather odd idea of Christianity. My older brother also denies being a Protestant, claiming rather to just be “Christian.” Why are Protestants not admitting to being as such? Even in my most ardent Protestant days, I knew what I was! Is it out of ignorance to their roots? Is it because of shame of others, like the Liberal churches, which claim the same title? Is it out of a weird sense of ecumenism? “If I call myself a Christian, and you call yourself a Christian, we must believe the same thing.”? Thoughts?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 6:12 PM on Friday, January 16, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, January 10, 2004 ::
A Catechumen’s Walk

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; He ascended into heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; From thence He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets; And I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the Life of the world to come, Amen.

I stood there and said this about 2 hours ago. In front of Fr. Lawrence, Fr Dn Jeremiah, and about 45 odd people who were at Great Vespers. I didn’t pass out, and I didn’t die. I thought I might, but I didn’t. I must’ve looked like I was going to. Everyone was staring at me (something I don’t like much). And then everyone had to come up and say something to me. I didn’t hear most of it, but I’m sure it was well meant…I was shaking so hard and trying to become part of the two doors against which I was standing. I said the Credo the way I knew it, and not exactly what was printed. I was so nervous, and shaking so hard while holding the candle and book, I couldn’t have read from it if I had wanted to. I stared at the ground; I can describe in detail my shoes, the carpet, and the bottom 6” of Father’s stole. I was so nervous. Then I couldn’t escape. I thank the nice people who understood that I was nervous and just let me escape without trying to talk to me.

I do not know what I am doing. I do not know about catechesis. I do not know anything about what I said tonight. I do not know about anything. What if I just did the stupidest thing ever? Father talked about baptism in the words he said tonight. What does that mean? I fear what I just did was really dumb. What if I am wrong? What if all of this is wrong? What if I just damned myself? I can’t back out now, even if I wanted. I am afraid to go to church tomorrow; it will be embarrassing to have all of these people come up and say “nice” things to me. Father, I am sure, will say something about it at the end of Liturgy, and then lots more people will come up to me. I don’t want people to see me; I just want to stand in my corner of the church and pray to God. Please pray for me; I am not only a sinner, but a confused one!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:15 PM on Saturday, January 10, 2004 [+] ::

I’m an adult?

I turned 20 today. I guess that means I am no longer a teenager, no longer really a kid. It was a great day; I spent all day in San Francisco with my parents. We swung by St. John’s (Joy of All Who Sorrow) ROCOR Cathedral, but there was no one who would let us in, so we didn’t see it. Otherwise, we ate at The Cheesecake Factory, at Union Square, at the 8th floor of Macy’s. Wonderful, wonderful food. I got a jacket from my mom, a scarf from my brother, and a shawl from my dad. Good stuff.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:13 PM on [+] ::

:: Sunday, January 04, 2004 ::
Jesus the Practical?

Huw’s post about bread inspired this discussion; go read the comments in it for some background. How practical is the Church? According to Huw:

It's not intended to be practical - it's a celebration.

How much of the church is practical? The Jesus I have always imagined is immensely practical. There was bread that had yeast in it available at the Passover? OK, then He took it and blessed it at the Passover. If the bread hadn’t had yeast, He would have used that instead.

Example: How did Jesus come into Jerusalem? On an asses foal. Why? Because it was what was there. True, He fulfilled the prophecies, and there is typological significance to the things He did, but this has more to do with the common culture of Jesus and the prophets than His being impractical specifically to try to fulfill prophecy. The prophets, and their later interpreters (the Gospel writers) were from the same culture, so to prophesy about riding on asses foal’s, and then actually doing it, wouldn’t have seemed out of place. It was a sensible thing to prophesy about because it was a practical, culturally normal thing to do. Why did Jesus come riding in on an asses foal? Because it was practical.

Today, the Church has stunted its cultural adaptations and in doing so has left the realm of practicality and gone into the ridiculous. Case in point? Watching men trying to wear dresses (aka: clergy and readers in riassas). Its not a big deal, but wouldn’t it be more practical if they were in slacks and collared shirts? They are all pretty used to it from experience (except no man can ever sit right in a dress!), but it would still be practical for them to never have to get used to it. And it still gets in the way. Don’t get me wrong: I love the tradition of the Church. But how much is needed? Why do I have the feeling that if Jesus were to see a priest in a riassa, He would laugh and ask him to put on something more practical? Yes, the outfits were good in 1st century Jerusalem. But I don’t live in 1st century Jerusalem.

There are other points along these same lines that I mentioned in the comments of Huw’s blog. Why not grape juice for the Eucharist? Gee, it would be cheaper, and simpler. Heck, why not Gatorade and pizza? When does it stop “working” as a Sacrament? Some of the things the church does seem so impractical. They seem to miss the point of God for their traditions of man. I don’t see the need for all of the legalism I see. Headscarves, gender-segregated sides, standing for service, “catechumen’s depart,” praying in languages no one speaks, and other such things seem to be impractical throw-backs to times past. Even such things as vestments, bowings, the ceremony surrounding the Gospel, and the deacon with his stole seem out of place. Is it just because I don’t understand their history that I don’t see their necessity, or are they really superfluous?

Rereading this post, I guess I am still pretty Protestant. Oh, well.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:19 PM on Sunday, January 04, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, January 03, 2004 ::
St. Seraphim’s Feast

Yesterday, January 2nd, was my parish feast day! My parish is St. Seraphim, and the Venerable St. Seraphim of Sarov reposed on January 2nd, 1833. Maybe its just because the only real ikon I have is of St. Seraphim, or maybe because he is the patron of my home parish, but I think St. Seraphim is just really cool. His name means “fiery;” the highest rank of angels around the throne are the seraphims. Imagine a monk who was “fiery.” I have an easier time imagining a monk who is quiet, pious, devoted, holy, and all those more “monkish” seeming adjectives. But St. Seraphim was “fiery.” Wow.

The OCA website has a good hagiography of this great saint, but here is a briefer version. Prokhor was born in 1754 in Kursk to very pious parents. In fact, his mother gave him a cross, which he wore for the rest of his life. Anyway, he was saved miraculously after falling off of a church his father was building. He was sick twice, and was miraculously healed. He became the monk Seraphim at the Sarovsk monastery, where during services he would see visions of the angelic hosts serving at the altar. When the abbot of his monastery died, St. Seraphim went off into the wilderness to live as a hermit. He remained there for the rest of his life, going back and forth from the monastery until he got too old to make the distance. He is usually shown in ikons as being bent over because one time he was attacked by robbers, seeking money. They beat him up, knocked him out, and left him for dead. When he awoke, he made it to the monastery (from his hermitage), where he recovered for five months. Unfortunately, many of his ribs were broken, so he walked stooped and with a stick for the rest of his life. He knew he was going to die, so he blessed the monks on January 1st of 1833, then gave his soul peaceably to the Lord on January 2nd, in front of an ikon of the Mother of God.

As far as our feast day went, it was wonderful. Three priests and one deacon served, with another one of each in the nave. There were about 35 people, and a huge lunch. When the catechumens were dismissed, I got to help set up the luncheon. It was a blessing for me to do so; quite often I feel like the useless college student who is too shy to get to know anyone, and so I never get to help out. I very much enjoy putting my hands to work, especially in a kitchen. (OK, so I may not be Orthodox, but I was very involved in my Protestant church my whole life, and got used to working around the kitchen there). The meal was very good and had lots of food; they had planned for 75 people, so there was plenty for the 35 of us to eat. There was a St. Basil’s cake from the previous day, which was good. Otherwise, there was all sorts of good ethnic (and a little American) food. I ate with a very social group of babushkas and a few old widowers. Introducing myself to one babushka, I said, “Hello, ma’am. My name is Erica.” Instead of responding with her name, she smiled and (with a thick Russian accent) answered, “‘Erica.’ That’s not a Christian name. What is your baptized name?” I just smiled shyly, and mumbled that I wasn’t baptized. She chimed in, “Well, I was baptized in 1904 with the name of Natalya. Nice to meet you.” She was so spry and chipper! I mean, she didn’t look, and certainly didn’t act 100 years old…anyway, it was a wonderful feast day. Only one little thing I would change…the Russians like their vodka…’nuff said.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:11 PM on Saturday, January 03, 2004 [+] ::

:: Thursday, January 01, 2004 ::
A Happy New Year to all!

Happy name day to all of you with the name Basil; congratulations to Avery Elijah on the third anniversary of his baptism.

Have a…er…good feast of the circumcision…(how do you say that nicely?) Well, at church today a hieromonk from Wisconsin gave a homily on the circumcision…when we were finally able to stop laughing because of his awkwardness, it wasn’t half bad. Of course, if you have ever tried to stop laughing at a hieromonk, reading notes off his cell phone, trying to quote St Symeon the New Theologian (who doesn’t use “delicate” words in his writings on the circumcision), and not blush or elicit giggles…well, you are a better person than I.

Happy feast day!

Tomorrow, of course, is our parish feast day (the lesser of the two), for St. Seraphim of Sarov. There will be Vigil tonight, with an akathist, and then Liturgy tomorrow. Exciting!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:49 PM on Thursday, January 01, 2004 [+] ::

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