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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::
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(current school)
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:: Thursday, February 26, 2004 ::

Please pray for me

I just got a letter from my mom discussing me and Orthodoxy. I can’t go into details here, but my heart is broken, and I am confused and torn right now. This is stuff I don’t need to hear, especially at the beginning of Lent. Please, please pray for me.

Lord, have mercy!

Update: Fr. Sergious is cool and is smart; I don't know which was better: the good advice, or listening to him try to sing the first stanza of Handel's Messiah over the phone...

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 8:50 PM on Thursday, February 26, 2004 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 ::

No posts till next Sunday; Lent is here.

And please, brothers and sisters, forgive me.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:40 AM on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, February 18, 2004 ::
Basic Overview of Anselmic Justice, Part I: Creation to Man’s Problem

Disclaimer: I am writing a paper comparing Anselm's and St Athanasius' soteriology (the study of salvation). These are rough notes outlining various sections; more will be coming. And I know the writing is not edited well; they are notes!

God created the perfect number of angels worshipping him in heaven for his glory. Some of these angels, led by Lucifer, chose to rebel against God, and so damned themselves. Instead of creating more angels to fill for the ones that fell, God created man. Man was created so that he was perfect; he chose to follow Satan instead of God, and so he fell. Since man followed Satan willingly, without the need for Satan to use force, God was not justified in using force to release man from Satan’s grip. When man sinned, God’s honor was defaced in the eyes of men, since his prime creation had fallen. By sinning man was not giving God what he owed him. Once Adam sinned, man was in a hole; he could no longer stop sinning, and so kept defacing God’s honor. If man were perfect, the best that he could give God is everything in his life. But since man is not perfect, and continues to sin, man cannot even “break even” with God, much less pay back the debt that he owes him because of his original sin. In his original sin, he defaced God’s honor, and so owes to God nothing less than God himself. So now man not only owes God what we owe him every time we sin, but also for the stealing of his honor, we owe him God. We cannot possibly pay back this huge debt that we owe. We are therefore doomed to face the consequences of sin, which is death.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:40 PM on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, February 17, 2004 ::
Sunday’s Gospel Reading

On the Sunday of the Last Judgment, we read the Gospel of Matthew where it describes the Last Judgment. I have heard the story many times, but in the sermon the priest pointed out something I had never seen before.

Here’s the scene: People are on the left and right sides of Jesus, already divided as to where they will spend eternity. Jesus tells the people on the right briefly why they are there. As he explains this, they are astonished that Jesus was the recipient of their good things, saying, “Lord, when did we see Thee [in need]…?” Jesus answers, “As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” Their response to Jesus is justified; these are the humble people, and are genuinely surprised that Jesus thought their deeds worthy.

On the left, we have the goats. Jesus says that they didn’t do anything for him when they saw him hurting. How do the goats respond? “Lord, when did we see Thee [in need]…?” At first glance, this seems justifiable, since the sheep responded in the same way. But then we remember that this is Jesus judging on the Last Day. He is correct in his judgment; it is not like he is falsely accusing them. But none of them fall down and plead his great mercy; no one cries out, “Lord, you are right! But Son of God, have mercy on me!” They know he is right; they are being damned, and they are still too proud to admit their fault.

I want to try to justify the goats’ response; I want to say that they said the same thing as the sheep, so it can’t be wrong. I fear I am too much like the goats, trying to justify myself by mimicking the sheep when I know I am caught in my sin. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:02 PM on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 [+] ::

:: Sunday, February 15, 2004 ::
The Bubble

There is a phenomenon here at Biola called “The Biola Bubble.” The idea is that Biola is an isolated community and not a fair reflection of the “real world,” and that in its falseness can sometimes inadequately prepare students for “real life.”

The bubble is looked down upon by almost all. They regularly lament the fact that it is isolating and cloistered and that we don’t know what the world is like. Both students and professors claim that we do not know what the world is like, and so we will not be effective in communicating with it.

Let me get this one thing straight: The bubble is the best thing here. In part, I came here for it. I went to 12 years of public school. I have friends, some of whom I have known for most of my life, who are living in immorality and dying of AIDS because of it. I have seen that world; I wish I hadn’t in some ways, but I have. And now I am here. And I love it. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I am a product of the public school system, especially in a notoriously liberal county (Sonoma county, where marijuana is technically legal); they say I am too “homeschoolish.” In fact, it is only the homeschoolers who complain about the bubble, because they do not realize what a grace it is. I choose the bubble. So let me live in it in peace.

Even with this, people still tell me that the bubble is bad, and that I am shielding my eyes from the “real world,” and that I won’t know how to communicate with people outside of it. What is the real world? The money, sex, drugs, pain, abandonment, and teen pregnancy that I saw and left? No thanks, not for me. I try to seek a life that is sanctified, holy, and living in communion with God. I seek the world of the Church; it is a world of purity. The bubble, in gross ways, helps me along that path of purity. I struggle to live a holy life, spending my time at work or at prayer, not engaging in the frivolities of the world. They tell me that I need to wake up and join the rest of the world. I do not; I am awake, so very much more awake then they are. I am still participating in the world; I pray for them, and serve them in practical ways. I do not need to participate in their debauchery to know it is wrong, or to understand them, or communicate with them.

So, yes, perhaps I live in a bubble. But it is that of the Church; and rather than call it a “bubble,” I would use the term “fortress.” More like fortress; it has stood the test of time, and has proven itself. I do not plan to leave it anytime soon. Living in it is not a running or a denial of the “real world,” but an awakening to the sin that exists in it, and a conscience refusal to participate in it. I have seen the effects of it, and I will not go back to it. I do not understand why these people tell me that I live in a bubble and need to “break out” and “see the real world.” I live the life of the Church! I cannot live in a more real world!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 6:02 PM on Sunday, February 15, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, February 13, 2004 ::
Cool page

This page, put up by the monastery of St. Andrew in Manchester, England, has lots of services on it, including Triodion and Lenten stuff, in an easy to follow format…

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:55 PM on Friday, February 13, 2004 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 ::
Falling Through The Cracks

I have written a record number of non-posted blog entries this week. This is a compilation of some of them…again, these are semi-random scattered notes from various other un-posted blogs, so they may not make sense…

One of the things I feared about becoming a catechumen is falling through the cracks. I have what I would consider my “home” church (St Seraphim), but I do not attend there regularly. There isn’t much catechesis that I can do from 500 miles away, so mostly I am not doing any. There is catechism at St. Andrew, but I am unable to attend; I feel as though I am not really a part of the church down here. I mean, where do I fit in? I am not an ‘inquirer,’ I am not recognized as a catechumen (in such things as prayers for the catechumens, the list of catechumens, &c), and I am certainly nothing else. It is like going to a church (which I love ontologically), but not fitting in there. It really, really frustrates me. It shouldn’t, I know, but I love church so much, and it is as though I am “in exile” from it when I am down here; this is not a remark on the impersonality of worshipping with people I do not know, but rather the confusion as to where I fit in. It is as though something that I respect and greatly love simply for its being and office rejects me, and I cannot remember any offense I have given it. I am sorry for the offense (whatever it might be), and would make amends, but I am not sure where I have erred, or how I should proceed. I am sure some of it is because of my shyness, but how much of the obligation rests on me? Sorry that this makes so little sense…

Perhaps I should have waited, and not become a catechumen; then I would at least fall into the category of ‘inquirer’ both at home and at St Andrew. I think/hope I made the right decision, but I am strongly doubting it. A lot of it, undoubtedly, has to do with being a college student and not really having a “home.” A lot of it also has to do with the institution of Church; at the Protestant churches, there is almost more unity than in the Orthodox Church. Any Protestant (or any person, for that matter), at any Protestant church, can take communion and be in fellowship with those there. He doesn’t have to speak with the pastor, or have any personal contact with anyone; he can simply come, and receive. The Protestant church is easy enough to join and participate in; the songs are generally the same all over, and there are fewer rules to keep.

Please, pray for me.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:06 PM on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, February 07, 2004 ::
On Room Blessings and Washing Dishes

Last night, Fr. Josiah drove out here from Riverside to bless our rooms. Actually, he blessed Bree’s dorm room, my dorm room, and Bree’s family’s house. It was really cool; we had our respective roommates, and two other Biola students, a friend from St. Andrew and two people from our OCF. We set it up so Father would be walking around campus as little as possible, and very few people saw us. My favorite part was that when my room was being blessed, we asked for the prayers of St. Seraphim. His ikon is one of the four I have in my corner, and I couldn’t help but smiling as I crossed myself, asking for his holy prayers. Otherwise, it was a standard kinda-house blessing: there was holy water thrown around, the troparia sung, various prayers, and the Father offering the blessing cross to be kissed by both Bree and I and our respective roommates. It was a little weird for them; neither had ever been to an Orthodox church or met a priest, but they understood that this whole blessing thing was important for Bree and I, and they did very well. Our other two friends, one our token Calvinist and the other a recent Anglican-convert, seemed to enjoy the services. Again, neither have been to an Orthodox church, but hopefully we will be able to get rides out to St Andrew at least once this semester.

After the blessing on campus, we drove the 5 minutes to Bree’s house, and did a ‘real’ house blessing there. There were 18 people by the time we sat down for dinner, and it was already 9PM, but Bree’s mom had a wonderful dinner prepared! There was turkey, mashed potatoes, salmon, fancy salad, relish of all sorts, corn, and brownies with ice cream for desert. It was really delicious. After dinner, the 5 of us college students (minus Bree’s roommate, who couldn’t for dinner) got to do dishes. It was great to hang out, work together, and be constantly running into each other in the small kitchen. The fellowship was great. Someone from the ‘outside’ would look at our group and say we should disagree: one Orthodox, one Methodist, one Calvinist, one Anglican catechumen, and one Orthodox catechumen. But we get along splendidly, and are close friends.

Friends, fellowship, blessings, and food. What more could I want? Well, I could have gotten to bed about 3 hours earlier, but that’s OK. I had a wonderful evening.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 1:24 PM on Saturday, February 07, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, February 06, 2004 ::
From Shakespeare to Confession

Rather than do my oh-so-much homework, I would rather sit here and type random thoughts ping-ponging my brain…

Today in session (Torrey) we briefly discussed the idea of change in a Christian’s life. We read Macbeth, and discussing his repetition of sins; he cannot change. While we desperately desire him to be the Aristotelian hero whom we can pity for his mono-flawed greatness, we find in him no heroic attributes. He is not a hero, but we are still compelled by him because we realize that at each point, he has the opportunity to change and become good. But he can’t. Even up to the very end, the last battle, he still has a glimmer of humanity; he recognizes his flaws, and is presented the opportunity change. But he has no grace, no God, and cannot change himself.

The theme of sacramental Confession runs through Macbeth; Malcom and MacDuff have a Confessor/Penitent relationship, and Malcom becomes King of Scotland only after having returned from an England under Edward the Confessor. Macbeth can’t change because he cannot confess; he is going to make the same mistakes because he is the same man. Christians can change only because they can confess; we have to become different people. It is not a question of “accountability” (the Protestant term why sacramental confession is evil), since there is no person on whom he could rely to help change him. It is not something that we can deal with on a human level; we need God to do something in us, real and sacramental, to change our soul.

The Christian say the soul can change; this is my hope. I hope that someday that these sins and evils will no longer plague me; that someday I can overcome this or that sin. I look at my life and see the pattern of my sins stretching back; I have kept journals since I could write, and for the most part, I do not change. I learn, and I grow, but I still sin in the same ways. One of the things I hope to find in Orthodoxy is the sacrament of Confession, the ability to change my soul; I think this somehow relates to theosis, but I am not sure. Does the Protestant church still believe that man can change? I have never been taught so. There is a song, Thankful by a pop Christian group called Caedmon’s Call:

I ran across an old box of letters
While I was bagging up some clothes for Goodwill
You know I had to laugh that the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaugin me still
I know the road is long from the ground to glory
But a boy can hope he's getting some place
But you see, I'm running from the very clothes I'm wearing
And dressed like this I'm fit for the chase

I pray these lyrics are false!

Everyone talks about the Eucharist being the greatest sacrament of the Church. I would agree, it is. But we cannot overlook the sacrament that can change our souls. I have been to Confession once; it was a life-time confession to an Anglican priest (unfortunately, I deleted my old post on it…), and was Great and Holy Thursday of last year. I cannot describe in words how that impacted me. It was glorious…

I know that it is bad for a catechumen to receive sacraments from anther church; Fr. Lawrence is very adamant that I do not receive the Eucharist anywhere. And I cannot confess to an Orthodox priest, since I cannot receive their (your? our?) sacraments. But I can go back to Blessed Sacrament, the Anglican church I attended last year; Fr. David will hear my confession, no questions asked. I do not see how it would be bad, but I have the feeling I would be discouraged from doing so…I can almost survive a service without the Eucharist (hey, I did last week!), but Great Lent without confession? That’s torture! My soul aches for it, much like I thirst for the Eucharist. I mean, of course I don’t want to go to confession in that non-masochistic, self-preserving sense. But at the same time, I desire the cleansing power, especially as I learn to see my own filthiness. Lord, have mercy on this catechumen!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:23 PM on Friday, February 06, 2004 [+] ::

:: Monday, February 02, 2004 ::
A New Semester Starts

Today was the first day of the new semester here at Biola, and I could not have asked for a better day. In the morning, I got to go to Holy Virgin Mary OCA Cathedral with my friend for Liturgy. Think about that for a second: I got to go the cathedral of my church (which is OCA), participate in the Liturgy (as much as any catechumen can), and it was even a feast day. How many people can say that they did that? It was beautiful, except we only got to sing the Troparion of the feast in English three times. The rest of it was in Slavonic; but, it was Liturgy, so I can’t complain.

[Side note: With no disrespect of any kind intended, I think Bp. TIKHON looks like Santa Claus. He has just enough of a serious look to be respectable as bishop, but he looks like he would much rather be smiling than looking serious, and his eyes twinkle like Santa Claus’ would. Is that disrespectful?]

I had session (Torrey) for a few hours in the afternoon, and it was so nice to be back with Wesley. I didn’t realize how much I had missed us during break; lunch before and dinner after were great times to catch up. Our tutor was one of our two Orthodox ones, Mr. Llizo. For the “devotion” at the beginning of the class, we read the Psalm 84/85, then the Gospel reading of the day (Luke 2ish). About 5 people in the class (of 16) knew it was Meeting today, and we all exchanged a smile around the room. Oh, and since we were discussing Spencer’s Faerie Queene, Mr. Llizo handed around an ikon of St. George the Dragonslayer and told us his hagiography. Good times.

Of course, tomorrow I will be petitioning to get into a Shakespeare class and out of a “Study of Courtly Love” class. I am pretty nervous about taking an English class at the college level; I am a sophomore, but still feel as though I have never taken a ‘real’ college class, since I have done all math and Torrey until this point. I can read well enough, and discuss what I read fine, but my writing skills are greatly lacking for my age. I am afraid I may do quite poorly; I am willing to spend the time to study and learn, but I have the feeling I am starting out so far behind in the class I will be unable to catch up soon enough.

So, I have nothing to complain about. This is a fantastic start to the semester, although I am still apprehensive about the whole English class thing. Feast day, Church, friends, session…what more could I want? Sproznidkom!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:35 PM on Monday, February 02, 2004 [+] ::

:: Sunday, February 01, 2004 ::
Sitting It Out

I missed Church today; I am very bummed out about it, but I couldn’t go; the brass group I play with had our last tour performance today. We went to a liberal ELCA (Lutheran) Church to perform at their three services. At first, the church seemed very “high,” and I had the fleeting hope that worship would be at least decent. Well, it wasn’t even remotely “high” church. There were three services at which we played; one traditional, one contemporary, and one mixed. The pastor wore vestments for two of the three, and there were varying levels of the liturgy “played” at each one. It was a game; the pastor would put on parts of his vestments (an alb, cincture, and some weird kind of stole, but no cassock) and do some priest-like things, but only part of the time; for the contemporary service, he served in street clothes. Someone put on a stole at one point over an alb, but it looked more like a Mexican blanket (really bright colored stripes) than anything holy; although it was over both shoulders, I am not sure why this guy was wearing it: I don’t think he was a pastor, but…. During the Eucharist, there were clearly more people than expected, and when the pastor ran out of consecrated bread, he got some that hadn’t been consecrated (I was paying careful attention; I was kind of sitting “back stage” and had a good view) and continued handing it to the people; he didn’t even make the sign of the cross over it or attempt to make it look like it was consecrated: straight from the bag into the hands of his people. Since I knew his church was liberal, his sermon was probably excusable as such; he told us that the soul is not really immortal, and that only the body will live forever at the resurrection (we were all confused by this; I think he was confused himself). The main point of his sermon was that we need to make the Church relevant to the culture so that we can reach them; Paul did this (according to him), Luther did it by adapting bar songs to sing in church, and their church did it by having contemporary music. Update church, or it will die.

So, I could deal with the service; I have been to many churches, heard many bad sermons, and sung some pretty pathetic songs. But I have always taken communion, no matter how bad the church, songs, or sermon was. As Protestants, it just doesn’t matter where you attend; if it is even a relatively Protestant church, you take communion. So, today, as the whole group stood up and exited the stage to go receive communion (which was clear, non-alcoholic wine in individual cups; I actually thought it was water at first), I stayed in my seat. Those were the longest 3.5 minutes of the service. I am not in communion with them; they are my friends, my classmates, my peers. I am not in fellowship with them; that scares me somehow. It is as though I am somehow isolated from them, even in our Christian walks, which should unite us against a dark world. I do not take the Eucharist at the Orthodox Church; I do not take communion at a Protestant church. So, am I in communion with anyone?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 7:36 PM on Sunday, February 01, 2004 [+] ::

Well, yeah…uh…and that too

I like the idea of the substantiationary nature of the Eucharist. The very idea that two plain elements can in some way become Christ is a beautiful thing. I have liked the idea for a while, but got a wake-up call about it yesterday while discussing it a friend, Demetrios. He is Arab, very cradle Orthodox, and very good at being Orthodox; he “gets” it well. We were discussing the reluctance of some Roman Catholics to receiving the Eucharistic wine from the chalice because of fear of germs. I dismissed the idea, with the logic that all Eucharistic wine should be fine, saying, “The alcohol in the wine should be potent enough to kill all of the germs that would be there.” He looked at me like I was crazy, “Uh, no. It’s not alcohol when we take the Eucharist; it’s the body and blood of Christ, and it hasn’t made anyone sick for the last 2000 years.” Well, yeah…uh…that too. I knew that…I mean…Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 7:08 PM on [+] ::

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