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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::

:: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 ::

b> Christian, or Orthodox?

The other day, my brother and I were having a rather random discussion about church architecture. I don’t remember all of the details, but we were making a differentiation between Buddhist temples which face North-South and Christian churches which face East-West. Without thinking anything about it, I said, “Well, that’s because Christian churches face East, with the altar on the East side and the doors on the West side.” His immediate response was, “You don’t mean Christian, you mean Orthodox.” Well…do I?

Often times, I will differentiate between Christian and non-Christian religions by using a phrase like, “Christians do this, but Moslims do that.” I will say things like “Christians can eat pork,” or “Christians can only have one wife” of “Christians believe in the resurrection of the body.” Is it appropriate to say these things? It would seem that when dealing with non-Christians (like Moslims), this is appropriate. But what about when dealing with other Christians? SDA’s don’t eat pork. LDS (or at least parts) can have multiple wives. And many liberal Christians don’t believe in the bodily resurrection. So, is it then wrong for me to say “Christian,” or should I stick with “Orthodox?”

My brother’s reaction to the directional orientation of the temple was that I was cutting all Protestants off from being Christians because they did not believe or practice that. I would say that until really recently, all Christian temples, on both sides, were oriented East/West, and only very recently (100 years) has it been acceptable to change this. Am I excluding some who call themselves Christians by ascribing Christianity as the motive for my actions and assumptions?

I use the terms “Christian” and “Orthodox” almost interchangeably. Now, I do not go around saying that one must be Orthodox to be a Christian; I know where grace is, not where it is absent. However, if people ask me in the cafeteria if I am a vegan when I ask about the food, I will answer, “Kinda,” and hope the conversation ends. When I am feeling mischievous (most of the time), or if they press the point, I will answer, “I’m a Christian, and sometimes we don’t eat meat.” It is a true statement, isn’t it? I am at least kinda a Christian (not sure about the technical status in the eyes of the Church, but…), and believe you me, if it were not a fast season, I would devour that meat.

I guess I am then asking: should we use the terms interchangeably? Is it divisive, or simpler? Is it rude? I do not to have a problem with it, but…whadda y’all think?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 7:51 PM on Wednesday, June 30, 2004 [+] ::

:: Sunday, June 27, 2004 ::
An Answer: Part II of II

I have discovered not only an answer to the previous post, but yet another reason that I am not really Orthodox. Previously, I asked why the Orthodox church, at least from the point of view of the converts, another choice in church preference like the Nazarene or Reformed churches.

As Karl points out in the comments of the last post, I think it can be summarized in two words: Spiritual Fathers. Or, more specifically, the discipline imposed by someone else to which you must submit yourself. It is fine to come into a denominational church and still make all your own decisions about that denomination. The fracturization of modern Protestant denominations attests to this: some Episcopalians do it this way, and some do it this way. I am not even talking on the level of ecclesiology, but on the level of the individual believer. He is still accountable primarily to himself. If he wants to keep this or that fast, if he wants to have this or that prayer rule, if he wants to…It is still all about what the individual believer wants to do. With the Orthodox church, there are funny things called rules . Now, I am not a Pharisee or in anyway trying to de-emphasize the concept of oekoinomia or grace, but there are still things that people do that are not of their own choosing . It is not the doing of the action (some Baptists fast more than some Orthodox), but the motive behind the action (the Orthodox has someone else saying “fast this way,” while the Baptist does it of his own choice).

It is the existence of an authority outside of the individual that makes Orthodoxy more than another denomination, and not just another choice of churches. With denominations, the individual is still allowed to make his individual decisions about his salvation; with Orthodoxy, there is a church that does things a certain way, and more specifically, there is a Spiritual Father that helps the individual believer.

So, while I know this is probably not profound to anyone but me, I have also realized why I am not Orthodox. I kinda look it, I may even kinda think like it, but I am still such a Protestant who is denomination-hoping. I do not submit my will to anyone. Sure, I have a prayer rule and I keep the fasts, and do all that good stuff. But that is just stuff that I do because I want to . It is still all about me. ::sigh:: Will I ever change?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 5:22 PM on Sunday, June 27, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, June 26, 2004 ::
The Liberals Are Coming…

For all of you who haven’t heard, there is a new “Bible” translation called “Good As New” out by an England-based group called One . To put it lightly, they are liberal. To put it more severely, they have completely perverted the Bible, not only taking it out of context, but exactly reversing its message. Here are some examples:

Mark 1:4

KJV: "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."

New: "John, nicknamed 'The Dipper,' was 'The Voice.' He was in the desert, inviting people to be dipped, to show they were determined to change their ways and wanted to be forgiven."

Mark 1:10-11

KJV: "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And there came a voice from the heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

New: "As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy! You're doing fine!'"

I Corinthians 7:1-2

KJV: "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: [It is] good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."

New: "Some of you think the best way to cope with sex is for men and women to keep right away from each other. That is more likely to lead to sexual offences. My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner."

I Corinthians 7:8-7

KJV: "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."

New: "If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated."

Um… that’s exactly what they all meant in the original Greek. Whadda ya think ‘The Dipper’ would say about this? I dunno…I just don’t think the phrase “Really cool Rocky, pray to God for us!” has the same ring as “Holy St Peter, pray to God for us!” But then again, I am one of those weird people who believes in the funny thing called the Creed.

Speaking of the Creed, One’s site contains some of the most unabashedly liberal “biblical” scholasticism I have come across to this day. I think I want to read the whole thing just so I know how stupid they are. Oh, and their next project is to rewrite the creed, just like they rewrote the Bible. This article speaks of such things as “the idiom of the resurrection,” and its invention because of Jesus’ continuing influence in the lives of his disciples. They flat out deny things like the Virgin birth, Jesus’ Godhead, His Sonship, and a slew of other things (I haven’t read it too carefully yet.) Lord have mercy!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:56 PM on Saturday, June 26, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, June 25, 2004 ::
The Orthodox Denomination: Part I of II

I hear it all the time amongst Protestant converts to Orthodoxy: In Protestantism, one can choose a church that will be like him and meet his needs, rather than making him change to what is true. In other words, if I like pre-trib rapture eschatology and 4 point Calvinism, I can find a church. If I suddenly accept the fifth point of the TULIP, I can go find another church to match that belief. It’s kind of like American consumerism: keep shopping around until you find what you like. Don’t you change what you want, but rather allow us to offer you multiple options so that you can stay as you are and find people who are like you.

Then you have that group of Orthodox converts who claim that they are above this petty ‘church shopping’ and have rather “found the true faith.” I find this attitude, especially in myself, reprehensible. For some of us converts (like this one), we treat the Orthodox church like only one of the multiple Protestant denominations. Oh, I know we say it is not a denomination, but how many people have converted because of our American consumerist attitude toward church? What if it is just that the particular “brand” of church I like has incense, bells, vestments, &c. How is this not just another type of condescension to my consumerist self? How is the Orthodox church not simply the church I like, versus someone who likes a more ‘upbeat style of worship?’ How can it be something else to the mind of someone who is as consumerist as myself?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 1:12 PM on Friday, June 25, 2004 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 ::
Church in Another Language

Last Saturday, I went to Vespers. Twice. First, I went to St. Seraphim for Vespers. It was good, if short; there was General Confession afterwords, then we all left. Since it was so short, I decided to stop by Sts. Peter and Paul, the local ROCOR church, on my way home.

At Sts. Peter and Paul, no one speaks English. They speak the vernacular of the people: Russian. Actually, more technically, they speak Slavonic in service, with homilies and such in Russian. But whatever. Anyway, I stood through about 2 more hours of service, completely in Slavonic. I do not speak Slavonic. I barely speak English, much less any other language. But, I stood there. I know “the doxos” in Slavonic, and I more or les know the vigil service and am familiar with the melodies they were using; I did not have a particularly hard time following the service.

At one point, somewhere in the first half of the 6 Psalms, a babi came up from behind to tell me that my headscarf was caught in the lampada (of course, something I would do in a church where I cannot speak the vernacular!). She said it in Russian, but the pointing and gesturing made her jist obvious. I stepped forward so as not to hit the lampada. That was it. That was all anyone said to me.

I loved it! It was wonderful. Don’t get me wrong; I am normally social outside of church (by which I mean, outside of service.) But in church, I do not want to talk to anyone. I do not want anyone to talk at me. I want to stand and pray and not have anything to do with you or anyone else. Last Saturday, I stood there. I could follow major parts, and I know most of what was said. If I wanted to look specific troparions or kontakions up and find out more, I could easily do that later. But I was in church, and praying, and no one said anything to me! It was wonderful! It was less distracting, and somehow simpler.

Of course, ROCOR is stricter than OCA, and I knew they would not have allowed me (non Orthodox) to be anointed with the oil at the end. (And I knew if I went up there, I would be unable to explain this to the priest.) So, just when the priest was starting to anoint people, I [loudly] snuck out the back. I know they noticed the new person; there were 8 old babis there, one priest, and one deacon. It wasn’t exactly a crowd I could have ‘disappeared’ into. But at the same time, no one came up and bothered me. I was allowed to anonymously pray. I know this is bad in one way; a large part of church is to function as a community. I need to force myself to stop being so anti-social and to start viewing ‘church’ as a group of people (which is really hard as a college kid always changing churches) rather than as a set of theologically abstract ideas (much easier for those of us who study more theology than anthropology.) But at the same time, it was great to just go to church and not have to worry about people. Perhaps I will be able to get there each Saturday night this summer. Oh, and before Huw or Chrysostomos or someone else says it, I know it is something to ask a priest about, but…yeah…I ain’t Orthodox yet…

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:08 PM on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, June 19, 2004 ::
Holy Father John of San Francisco, pray to God for us!

Here in America, we converts are used to singing hymnography to saints from other places. My parish is dedicated to St. Seraphim of Sarov, and so I am very familiar with his akathist, mentioning things like “Boast of the city of Kurusk” and “the monastery of Sarov.” These places and references do not mean too much to me as a person, since they are completely abstract; yes, I believe that these places exist, but they do not really affect me. Then we get to a Saint like John Maximovich of San Francisco. I have grown up about an hour from ‘the city,’ and so St. John is kind of my ‘hometown’ saint. He is a reminder that sanctity is possible, even in a place like San Francisco, even in a time like the 1960s. Holy Father John, pray to God for us!

Akathist to St. John

Troparion (Tone 5)
Thy care for thy flock in its sojourn has prefigured the supplications which thou didst ever offer up for the whole world. Thus do we believe, having come to know thy love, O holy hierarch and wonder-worker John. Wholly sanctified by God through the ministry of the all-pure Mysteries, and thyself strengthened thereby, thou didst hasten unto suffering, O most gladsome healer--hasten now also to the aid of us who honor thee with all our heart.

Kontakion (Tone 4)
Thy heart hath gone out to all who entreat thee with love, O holy hierarch John, and who remember the struggle of thy whole industrious life, and thy painless and easy repose, O faithful servant of the all-pure Directress.

Troparion (Tone 6)
Glorious apostle to an age of coldness and unbelief, invested with the grace-filled power of the saints of old, divinely-illumined seer of heavenly mysteries, feeder of orphans, hope of the hopeless, thou didst enkindle on earth the fire of love for Christ upon the dark eve of the day of judgment; pray now that this sacred flame may also rise from our hearts.

Kontakion of St John (Tone 8)
Chosen wonderworker and superb servant of Christ/ who pourest out in the latter times/ inexhaustible streams of inspiration and multitude of miracles,/ we praise thee with love and call out to thee:/ Rejoice, holy Hierarch John, wonderworker of the latter times.

[props to Clifton for the hymnography!]

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 5:54 PM on Saturday, June 19, 2004 [+] ::

A Tasteless Post about a Tasteless Shirt

I am generally not offended by tee-shirts that are lewd, tasteless, bawdy, or otherwise explicit or base. In fact, I thought I had seen it all until the other day. On my way to class, I walked by a young man who was wearing what would be classified as a “Christian” tee-shirt that shocked me into silence.

“The Devil is a pimp. Don’t be his ho.” It proclaimed its tasteless message in large, bold, capital letters. Wow. I was taken aback. I object to it on two levels; first, I just think its an unpleasant and crude thing to say, especially to print on a tee-shirt. But I can get over that; some people are crude, and these shirts are for them.

I take issue with the fact that this is defacement of the Christianity in general. Why do people wear this? Better yet, where do people buy a shirt like that? I mean, I can’t even think of a store that would carry something like that. I must have been out of the Evangelical pop-Christian sub-culture too long or something. I can’t a store that would sell that! Why would you make something like that? Is it to defame the Church, or to elevate brothels? I couldn’t decide; I figured since I was on a campus where all students are professing Christians that it was not supposed to insult Christianity, but how can it not? Is it a message to reach a ‘lost’ group of people? I will not get back on my soapbox about whoring the Church after the culture (forgive my own crassness here, but the language is biblical!), but I will say that this disgusts me.

Why would you disrespect Christianity so openly, especially if you yourself claim to be a Christian? I do not understand. Was it a joke I didn’t get? What was the punch line? Must I identify myself with a culture that would produce such slogans? Sometimes I like to think that either the world is crazy, or Christians are crazy. This tee-shirt, however, blurred the line between those and their relative insanity…is it just me that is crazy?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 5:29 PM on [+] ::

:: Saturday, June 12, 2004 ::
Catechesis that works?

Now that I am back “at home” (if such a phrase can apply to a college student!), at St. Seraphim, I received an official packet of materials for catechumens to read before they are baptized. It is a three inch binder, full of all sorts of information photo copied from various books and articles.

So, I sat down and read it all. I still don’t get it. Literally, hundreds of pages of everything from excerpts from “Great Lent” to our deacon’s term paper from St. Vlad’s. Don’t get me wrong: it is informative, and I could see it as potentially useful. I read large parts from “The Theology of the Icon,” and a whole spate of articles discussing each of the sacraments. There is theology for days there; I now know the names of vestments of each of the various ranks of clergy and their significance in three languages . I can tell you trivia on all sorts of subjects, from early ikon writers to church architecture to random battles in medieval Russia. But I am no closer to becoming Orthodox.

Sometimes I think too much of the focus on the church is to convert the brain of the catechumen. It’s useless, really. I am no more ready for baptism than before I read these many pages. It is not the intellect that needs work; it is the heart, attitude, and soul of the catechumen that needs to be converted. This cannot be done through study; in fact, I think that more study on these subjects for the purpose of catechesis may actually be bad. I am not saying it is bad to read the patristics, but to hand them to a catechumen with the intent of converting him with their content is narrowminded, to say the least. One of the problems, at least for me and perhaps others just being introduced to Orthodoxy, is that if we are presented with theology, we will argue. These articles that tend to speak in an almost apologetical tone. When someone presents one side of an argument, I am not yet strong enough to turn off that irritating voice in my head: “Well, yes, but also…” It is as if they are asking for me to disagree with them. I do not want to argue, but at the same time I do not want to be argued at.

What can be done to focus more on the person than on his intellect? It is kind of a spooky thought when I reflect upon it for a moment. I know perhaps 25 people who have been attending an Orthodox church for less time than I, and they are already baptized. Have they really been converted in a way other than their intellect? Am I really that slow? I know I am nowhere near ready for baptism. How much has our modern American catechetical approach converted the person, rather than just giving him a thin veneer of Orthodox apologia over a secular/Protestant/Roman worldview? The thin veneer worries me; in my cockier moments, I am confident I could argue at least a few of my newly-baptized Orthodox friends back into Western theology. If these people have only been intellectually converted, they can be just as easily swayed to another direction by a better argument. This is dangerous, especially in a world with cocky college students!

Of course, I know conversion is possible; I have seen it occur in at least one specific case, but that involved an individual who returned to ‘the old country’ for a while. But how can it happen today in America? How can it be facilitated into the modern life of a college student? Is it possible, or will I always simply be a Protestant with a head-scarf?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 6:25 PM on Saturday, June 12, 2004 [+] ::

:: Thursday, June 10, 2004 ::
Not having time to post...

I have no time for a really thought-out post, so...here's a little game for all your theology nerds out there. I was Erasmus one time, and Augustine another time...who are you? (It's short! Only 6 questions...)

"It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is."

You are Desiderius Erasmus!

You have great love for others and will do just about anything to show it to them. You are tolerant
and avoid confrontations, so people generally are drawn to you. You are more quiet and reserved in
front of strangers, but around some people you open up. When things get tough, you like to meditate
alone. Unfortunately you often get things like "what a pansy," or "you're such a liberal."

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:20 PM on Thursday, June 10, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, June 05, 2004 ::
“Father” and “Son,” or Father and Son?

Who are the three Persons of the Trinity? An ultra-modern answer might be “Loving Parent, Obedient Child, Emotional Comforter.” A slightly more conservative answer might be, “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.” The correct answer? Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Well, duh! I mean, you knew that already. The question is “Are the three Persons of the Trinity really ‘Father, Son, Holy Spirit’?” Are they really that in their own relationship with each other (immanent), or is it only in how we refer to them (economic)? Before man was around, could the First Person look at the Second Person and properly say, “You are my Son?”

If this is only an economic relationship, it seems to be a dismal failure. People (historically) have had a harder time understanding the relationship between the first two Persons of the Trinity because of this language. Arius couldn’t believe in a son who had existed as long as his father had; this does not make sense in our world, since all fathers are chronologically previous to their sons. If the relationship is purely economic, made because we intuit (however imperfectly) “father,” “son,” and “begotten,” why do we have to deal with this “Holy Spirit” and “procession;” neither of these words are economic. As far as “begetting,” we understand it as something physical; this cannot apply to incorporeal God. There is also a practical problem: “Father” and “Son” implies that there has to be “Mother” somewhere in the picture. “Father” also somehow implies “maleness,” and the assigning of a gender to the First Person of the immanent Trinity. (Admittedly, the Second Person had one in the economic Trinity, but was this gender immanent also?). If this were only an economic relation, it would hardly seem to work.

There are some problems if the relationship is immanent. Yes, Jesus spoke of God as “Father,” but we were only able to hear the Second Person of the Trinity say this because of his condescension to our flesh. Why couldn’t the language he used also be condescending to our fleshly understandings of paternity? To claim that our earthly relationships are poor shadows of the properly ordered Trinity relationships, it seems as though the shadow is so poor it is lost in translation. There are not only the same problems as mentioned above, but others, such as are exclusive to the Trinity. Can a father and son have the same will? The same essence (ousia)? Can they be “in” each other?

So, are they really Father and Son, or is it just the best way we can understanding them, since we have an intuitive knowledge of fatherhood and sonship? Oh, and does God have a gender? I have heard good arguments both ways stemming from this question…

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:22 PM on Saturday, June 05, 2004 [+] ::

:: Thursday, June 03, 2004 ::
I apologize for not posting in the last week or so; I finally finished school, got home, and then my grandmother Marion died on Monday night. As soon as my life is slightly less crazy (may be another week or so), I will post.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 2:06 PM on Thursday, June 03, 2004 [+] ::

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