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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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:: St. Vladimir's
(current school)
:: Torrey::
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:: Thursday, May 27, 2004 ::

Something More To Confession…

Firstly, I admit that I post way too much on the topic of Confession, but…then again, it is fascinating.

The other day, I was reading an article in the library from a rather post-modern, ultra contemporary, conservative Christian magazine. It was that type of post-modernism where it can look kinda Orthodox if you step back and squint really hard. Anyway, the article dealt with the necessity of confession in the life of a believer.

It spoke about confession between Christians in a peer relationship. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it is a type of accountability relationship which can partly resemble sacramental Confession. Here’s the idea: I have a problem with murder. I kill someone, and then I feel really bad about it. So, I pray to God for forgiveness, then I tell my accountability partner and she reminds me that I shouldn’t kill people. She tells me why killing is bad, and offers me practical suggestions on how to stop killing. She also encourages me not to kill anymore simply through the ‘threat’ of having to confess it to her again.

This sounds good on the surface, and sounds remotely like Confession, but I don’t think it is. Confession is sacramental, and has to be more than simply accountability. In this relationship, the greatest gain I have from not killing people is that I do not have to confess it. She has explained my sin to me, and has offered me practical ways to cease, but this is nothing more than the world can give; it would be easy enough to find a book “Why Murder Is Bad,” or “How To Kick Your Murder Habit.” There is something more than advice in Confession; there is something more real.

As I look with fear and trembling toward making a life-time confession (someday…hopefully…not for a while), I realize that I will confess things that I have not done for years. If I only wanted accountability, I would not have to confess things like hitting my brother when we were kids; I do not have a problem with hitting my brother any more (aside from the fact that he is bigger than I now…). There are things that I no longer do, that I will still confess. Accountability is a part of Confession, but there has to be more than that. Forgiveness plays into Confession, somehow; I think it is the forgiveness that I so greatly desire from Confession. But I do not understand forgiveness in general, so I do not understand why I would so want it from Confession.

I will keep thinking about Confession (sacramental), and its relationship to confession. Perhaps it will encourage me to start preparing…nah, that would take courage and all …well, maybe some day.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:28 AM on Thursday, May 27, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, May 22, 2004 ::
Pauline Authorship of Pauline Epistles

You heard it 3 weeks ago in church. A reader came to the center of the church to read the Epistle on Sunday of the Paralytic, and he said, “The reading is from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews.” And you respectfully listened as he read, thinking you were hearing the words penned by the Apostle himself. Few, if any, modern scholars think you were indeed hearing the Apostle. In fact, until 3 weeks ago, I didn’t believe that even the Orthodox Church held to the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, and had to ask the reader after service. He is a very Serbian cradle Orthodox, and replied in his usual quizzical way, “Of course St. Paul wrote Hebrews…who else would have?”

Well, from all I have ever heard, even from the most conservative Evangelical circles, no one holds to St. Paul’s authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But I am not here to debate the semantics, style, or classic Pauline word usage used to prove authorship. Rather, I want to ask: Who cares?

Does it really matter if Pauline authorship cannot be confirmed for some of the Pauline epistles? Probably not. In session yesterday, we were discussing the possibility that St. Paul did not write the pastorals (I & II Timothy and Titus). None of us are doubting the veracity of the Scriptures; in fact, we have people who hold the extreme views of exact verbal inspiration for all Scripture (kinda like God taking the hand of the writer while he is in a trance). The Holy Scriptures are true and reliable. So does it matter who wrote them?

The argument against ambiguous authorship lies in the interpretation of certain passages. A simple example is I Tim 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” If this is St. Paul writing to St. Timothy, then this can be taken at face value. St. Paul must have heard that St. Timothy had indigestion, and was so telling him a common folk-remedy and giving him permission to use it. Simple enough. If this is not St. Paul, and this is psuedopegraphia (someone writing in St. Paul’s name), then this verse is not literally to Timothy and has other meanings. It may mean that Christians are allowed to do what has the potential to be bad when they do it in moderation and for the purpose of good. It may mean that there were people who were against all wine and that this was to subtlety tell them that wine was acceptable for a Christian. See how the meaning changes with the authorship?

Despite this, I do not think it matters who wrote the Pauline epistles. They are from the late first/early second century, at a formational time of the Church. They have been trusted as reliable forever, whether or not they are Pauline or not. Even if they could be undeniably proven to be non-Pauline, I still say it would not matter. The Fathers and the Church have always accepted them as genuine. Even if they aren’t, the advise in them is good. Also, they made the Scriptures; the Holy Spirit was definitely watching over that whole process, and I am not going to go doubting him! The whole debate over authorship, while interesting, is not something that we should allow to shake our faith in any way, shape, or form. Oh, and does the Orthodox Church really still think St. Paul wrote Hebrews?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:37 AM on Saturday, May 22, 2004 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 ::
Discussion on Death

Firstly, let me say that death is a tough subject for both writing and reading. While I will try to be sensitive to the matter and keep my sarcasm at a minimum, I still feel the need to discuss what so commonly is swept over: people die. We like to mask and forget about it in our everyday lives, and then it hits us. Bam.

I will not attempt to get into morals surrounding euthanasia or other forms of assisted suicide; I have opinions about them, but am unsure I am confident enough in them to vocalize a logical defense. Rather, I would like to know what a Christian’s prayer should be when confronted with death.

[The following situation is purely hypothetical] Someone is dying. He is old, in his mid-eighties, and has lived a good and full life, but is not a Christian. Recently, he had a stroke and is relatively unresponsive. He has a hernia and will die without surgery, but there is only a 15% chance he will survive surgery. I am not going into the realm of ethics with this situation; rather, I am asking: For what should I pray?

Should I pray for his death? Death is evil; it is bad and unnatural. While it has been abolished for Christians, it is still a problem for non-Christians. Should I rather pray that he live? And continue in the life he has? It would seem cruel to hope for that. Should I pray that God’s will be done? Yes; I should always pray for that, but that is not a comfort. It seems someone cruel to pray that someone die, even if he is in pain. Life is precious, and the greatest gift that man possesses. But at the same time, it seems cruel to ask him to live longer

This is not exactly euthanasia; that is a debate for men and for earthly powers. Rather, I am asking what we should petition God to do. Transcend the ethical questions of man for a moment, and try to see this from an eternal perspective. There has to be a right answer. I can’t shake this nagging feeling that the answer to this question should be obvious, and that I expose deficiencies in my own soul by asking it. Well, I will freely admit then that I have deficiencies; but I cannot seem to figure it out.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:04 PM on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 [+] ::

:: Thursday, May 13, 2004 ::

The St. Andrew Greek Festival and Craft Fair!

When: This Saturday and Sunday, May 15th and 16th 12 noon ‘til dusk

Where: St. Andrew Antiochian Church, Riverside CA
4700 Canyon Crest Drive, Riverside CA 92507
909.369.0309 or at www.saintandrew.net

This is going to be a lot of fun! There is going to be lots of music, dancing, crafts, food, a silent auction, a dunking booth, church tours, and a choir performance. My friend and I are working at a booth where we are making and selling kits to make Ukrainian eggs. We are also both in the choir: the choir performances are at 3PM on both days. Anyway, you can also all join us for Liturgy on Sunday morning at 9AM, Orthos at 8AM. If you’re there, you have to come and find me. I will either be working at the Ukrainian egg booth, or I will be singing with the choir; if you come, you must introduce yourself!

Note to my Biola chums: My roommie is driving out on Sunday, leaving school at 7AM for Liturgy and then the festival, and she may have space in her car if you want a ride!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:47 PM on Thursday, May 13, 2004 [+] ::

Let’s be Legalists!

I have a propensity toward legalism. In fact, I would venture to say that most of us do. Isn’t it easier to have someone tell you “Do this, that, and the other thing, and you will succeed?” Unfortunately for me, however, we as Christians are not called to the works of the Law, but to the Spirit of the Law.

I think I would have an easier life if I were an Israelite in the Old Testament times. I mean, I am pretty neurotic, so it wouldn’t be so bad following such a strict set of rules: don’t swear, pray this prayer at this time, don’t commit adultery. Simple enough, right? Well…that may be oversimplication, since even at that time it was necessary to follow the Spirit of the Law and not only the Letter. (If you don’t believe me, check out Psalm 118 and tell me King David doesn’t ‘get’ the Law!) Still, I wish someone would just tell me the rules and I could follow them.

Christianity is so daily, and it would be so much easier in my personal struggle for holiness if someone would just tell me what to do! I want a mathematical formula here, folks. I want to know what works, and what doesn’t; absolutes, scholastic rationality, reductionistic theology! Oh. Whoops. I forgot; God is not reducible to a set of rules or legal principles. Rather, God seeks that we follow the Spirit of the Law.

“Spirit of the Law” sounds like some sort of esoteric theology word that we can’t really grasp, but I think its actually pretty simple. We need to be concerned with the underlying intent of things, and how things ‘really’ are. Example: For many Evangelicals I know, to watch an ‘R’ rated movie is a sin; it is not a sin to watch a ‘PG-13’ movie with one fewer curse word. Does this sound like the Spirit or the Law? For me, a general rule of thumb is when I have to stop and wonder, “Gee, will anyone from church see me doing this?” That generally means that, while I may be following the Letter of the Law, I have lost the Spirit.

While I may joke and say I want to be a legalist, it is not good to be the Rich Young Ruler. While it may be easier to be slaves (or children not yet of age), it is much more freeing to be heirs. The Law enslaves us; it is that which directs immature children until they are of age and they are able to receive the promise of the kingdom. The Spirit is the promise of the kingdom for which the Law was preparing us; we should not want to go back into the slavery of legalism. Sure, it can be nice to have someone else tell you when and what you should do, but we are to be mature in our faith and able to act responsibly. We just need to grow up and act our age.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:35 PM on [+] ::

:: Monday, May 10, 2004 ::
$20 and My Sins

I lied today. I told the bank I deposited more money than I actually did…not good. I had never used the check-deposit system at the ATM until today; I thought I could figure out how to do it. It shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well…I’m not too bright. It said something about an envelope, but I didn’t find one, so I didn’t use one. But then it wouldn’t take more than one check before it closed itself again. So, because I couldn’t “cancel” the transaction (no matter how much I yelled at it), I ended up being a liar.

I will call first thing in the morning; it was an honest mistake, but now I am kinda scared that “they” will come and get me for lying. Of course, I had the sense not to withdraw any of the money I hadn’t really deposited. It was less than $20 (I’m a poor college student!), and I will call first thing in the morning to fix it.

I was busy being worried about this as I got ready to say evening prayers. Then I realized what I was going to pray: The Canon of Repentance to Our Lord Jesus Christ. How pathetic can I possibly be? Reading through the beautiful canon, I was humbled realizing that I do not worry about my truly evil deeds. I worry over small issues, but take no care on issues concerning more real things, like salvation. I am not worried about my sins, and do not realize their consequences. I am in fear of what the bank can do to me over an honest mistake and $20; I am not in fear of what God can do to me for my malicious mistakes that cost his Son his life. Where are my priorities?

Foolish, wretched man, thou are wasting thy time in idleness! Think of thy life and turn to the Lord God, and weep bitterly over thy deeds.

O my soul, why doest thou become rich in sins? Why does thou do the will of the devil? On what doest thou set thy hope? Cease from these things and turn to God with weeping, and cry out: O kindhearted Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:06 PM on Monday, May 10, 2004 [+] ::

:: Sunday, May 09, 2004 ::
Happy Mother’s Day!

Call your mom on the phone and wish her happy Mother’s Day! Better yet, make her a card; yeah, even at your age. Get some construction paper and a glue stick, and have some fun. It’ll take less than 30 minutes, and she’ll like it. ;-)

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:45 PM on Sunday, May 09, 2004 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, May 05, 2004 ::
Intellectually and Scripturally Inept
(Sorry, it’s kinda long…)

I am a nerd, and have no problem defining myself as such. While this does not speak to my intelligence, it does speak to my love for nerdy, intellectual conversations. Being a nerd, I am not accustomed to needing to defend my intelligence. I do expect to defend my positions and views, but my ability to intellectually engage in conversation is not usually brought into question. Specifically, my nerdiness tends toward theology/ecclesiology. This means that while I am woefully ignorant compared to true theologians, I do have a working college-level knowledge of some points of Scripture and theology, especially that which I personally believe. So far, I just sound conceited (probably true); but, what is my point?

I was browsing the Biola bookstore today before chapel, and an interesting pamphlet caught my eye. In the anti-cult apologetics section, right between “Satanism” and “Mormonism” was “Roman Catholicism.” The RCC a cult? Wow…I was shocked. I picked up the pamphlet and started reading. It was 70 something reasons why the Roman Catholic Church wasn’t Biblical. OK, that’s their opinion and they are writing the pamphlet. It was not their opinion that was bothered me. It was their solution. Since the same company produces an anti-Orthodox pamphlet, I will proceed from the view that it would contain similar “solutions” as their anti-Roman pamphlet.

Solutions: “What you can do for your Roman Catholic [Eastern Orthodox] friends:” “Pray.” OK, I see that from their point of view, this is necessary, since we are ‘heretics.’ Their second suggestion was “Give them a Bible.” This is where I take issue. The section went on to say that most RC/EO had never read or know the Bible. There was a great quote about how a seeker will find freedom from the Church by reading the Bible. The third suggestion was equally patronizing, “Discuss your friend’s beliefs with him.” It told us that few, if any, of these deluded people had thought about their beliefs, and that they were just blindly being led by the Church. Of course, any rational person who reads the Bible will realize that Protestantism, specifically Fundamentalist Evangelical Protestantism, is the obviously correct. It bugs me how they think that they are the truly Biblical church, and that rational people who read the Bible will all be like them.

I admit that this may be true for non-converts; there are clearly cradle-Orthodox who have never thought about their beliefs. While this does not make them wrong, I do believe it is possible to be sinfully ignorant. The point was that this pamphlet was written for Americans, by Americans. I suppose someone could use this information against an uneducated cradle-Orthodox, but I have found that cradle communities tend to exist in just that: communities. From what I have seen, they do not have much interaction with American Protestants, especially in terms of religion. This pamphlet was not written to reach cradle communities: rather, it was written to reach Americans. The irony is the people who use these type of pamphlet for apologetical evangelism are probably less theologically and Scripturally educated than the very American Orthodox they are trying to convert!

This is not just an abstract idea, but something I see in my own interactions. I receive this patronization in a debate folder on Biola’s intranet. We are pitied for never having read the Scriptures; our position has no intellectual respect, but is just a false opinion stemming from ignorance. It is comparable to thinking the sun revolves around the earth: a little accurate information will correct our pitiable ignorance.

Perhaps as a nerd I am used to a certain level of intellectual respect in a conversation. Perhaps I am too proud to abide their pity for my ‘ignorance.’ Perhaps I am truly ignorant. I do not know.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 8:06 PM on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, May 04, 2004 ::
Life in the Church

Life is lived in the Church, and she is central to the major milestones in human life. Last Sunday at St. Andrew, we celebrated four major events in the life of a Christian. There was koliva offered at a Panikhida for a woman who died a year ago. There was a baptism of a baby, Victor. There was the announcement of the engagement of a young couple, Kevin and Janelle. And there was the Eucharist in the middle of it all.

It was wonderful to reflect upon all of this: no matter where we as individuals are in our lives, the Church is there and has been there. While it is good to ask the advice of peers, it is always comforting to know that there is the Church, with her experience and compassion, who can give ageless advise on the issues that affect man most deeply. The whole of our lives can be in the Church; we will never out-grow it or out-live it. Thanks be to God.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:07 PM on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 [+] ::

:: Monday, May 03, 2004 ::
Art and My Soul

Last week, I performed a short piece with the Biola Brass Ensemble, and while I am not an outstanding musician, there are some very talented people in the group. There are a few music majors in particular, especially the senior performance majors, that sound so nearly professional it is difficult to tell that they are students. Functionally, my section leader Tim is a professional trombonist; it is difficult to get much better or to produce his art at a higher level than he already does. He is looking at a career as a professional, hopefully in a philharmonic orchestra. When he plays, everyone in the room says, “Wow, that is good art.” From school children to adults, everyone appreciates the beauty of the art.

A few days after my performance with the brass, I attended the opening of an art show in the school gallery. It was put on by a senior art major; this person was the art department’s equivalent of my section leader, and hopes to be a professional artist (?). It was electrical wires with wax drippings stuck on large dirty canvasses. The canvasses were covered in a coat of old magazines and varnish. I spent a good long time staring at them (there were 7 or 8 identical works), trying to see the art in them. I failed to do so. As I finally left, it still reminded me of wet newspaper with electrical wires upon which someone had poured wax.

I am not claiming to be an artist; I leave that for my truly talented art-major roommate. She has been teaching me to appreciate art this year, but I will admit I am a slow learner. I must boast, however, and say that my favorite piece of hers was the one selected for Student Jury for being a really good work; it was a photo of our bathroom floor with green trees growing out of it. I appreciate visual art, even modern stuff, but very little of it. If the music department can produce such glorious music, I would assume the art department produces art of the same quality. This is slightly worrisome to me, since it means I am not appreciating the objective beauty of the visual art, as I do with the music; this means there is something wrong about my soul.

While I think I probably do not appreciate it the way I should, my roommate reassured me that I am indeed not so bad off. She was saying that art has become elitist, and that only a few people can appreciate it. It does not appeal to the normal person anymore; this is unlike music, which appeals to all. She said that perhaps this is the modernity of the art which I was viewing; I would say that Debussy, John Williams, and Shostocovitch (my favorite modernist) are modern composers who produce music that is universally understood as more beautiful than modern art. I do not understand why it should be so hard to learn to appreciate “good” art; I have been trying, and yet I am still repulsed by the ugliness and poor artwork displayed in some shows.

Beauty is objective, and so should be automatically appreciated by those who have whole, complete souls. This means there is either something wrong with most visual art today, or something wrong with my soul. The jury is still out on the decision.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:43 AM on Monday, May 03, 2004 [+] ::

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