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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::

:: Saturday, August 28, 2004 ::

Awkward Prayer

I like to talk about Church. A lot. Just ask anyone I know; I like Church, theology, and all that sort of related stuff. I have been chatting with my new roommate about such things as we have been hanging out recently. We talk about all sorts of random subjects relating to Church…there is nothing that is really off limits, but at the same time, we know enough not to offend each other or be rude.

So, I’ll talk about any matter of Church with her. But…Why can’t I seem to pray when she’s in the room? The sad part is that it is not her fault at all: it’s totally me; I am pathetic. I hate the feeling that I am being “watched” in Church or when praying. It is as though when I make the sign of the cross, I am somehow showing off. I never want people to say, “Oh, you’re just doing that so people will see and think you are holy! Well, you’re not, and you’re proving it now!” I don’t want my roommie to think I am doing it because I think I am holy or because am somehow special. I want to do it because, well, that is what one does when one prays “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I fear she thinks I am displaying some sort of piety…of course, she doesn’t, and I really am not pious! I know that, while she vehemently disagrees with me, she respects what I am doing and would not disturb me.

I am far to afraid of what other will think about me. Why do you judge me? Trust me, I am far less pious than you think I am! Maybe when I pray I look holy, but if you have ever actually met me, I am nothing of the sort. I do not want people to see me when I pray; I am far too awkward when praying alone, and I generally won’t pray with people around.

Why am I so self-conscious? I know I should not change the way I pray because people are around, but at the same time, it would be nice to not have ikons, and to sit at my desk and pray, and not make the sign of the cross or bow or anything. But…I do not think that would be good. Anyway, I’d miss the ikons. Perhaps I should just learn to be less awkward…I just can’t shake the feeling that people think I am praying to be seen, rather than to pray. As a result, of course, I cannot focus on my prayers and they are useless…pray for me, a sinner!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 7:23 PM on Saturday, August 28, 2004 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 ::
Back to School

So, I survived summer (whew! It was LONG and BUSY), and am now back at school. I worked almost 72 hours in 5 days last week, so posting was down. Now, however, I will be back to the normal 3x per week (or so)…provided I can juggle 19 units and a part-time job…ah, the joys of college life!

I received an unasked-for blessing today. I was feeling slightly trepidatious about being at a Protestant school, although I love it so much I would never leave (Torrey rocks!!) I received a blessing today, however, in the form of an interesting letter from my new mentor. He is a brilliant theologian, and I know he will be good and challenge me. I also know that he will respect my faith and not try to ‘subvert’ it; I was almost certain of this when I initiated the switch, but the letter was very reassuring. It will be a good, busy semester.

Well, please keep me, a sinner, in your prayers; I keep many of you in mine. Here’s to a good school year all around!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:09 PM on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 [+] ::


Do you want to be a martyr?The other day, I was posed this question by my SF. I thought for a second…then slowly shook my head. No, I do not want to be a martyr. But should I?

I think the gut reaction of a Christian is to resoundingly answer “yes!” For new Christians (no matter your affiliation!), they seek this glorification and the martyr’s crown (estephanos). They do not know what it means to be a martyr, and to suffer for what they believe. They have more zeal than they probably should (but hey, who am I to judge?), which is good, but they also have never experienced a taste of the persecution that comes with martyrdom.

If we move a few years, or experiences, forward in a Christian’s life, we will find the answer of “no.” If I may judge myself, I think this is where I probably fit. I do not want to die for my faith; I just want to be left alone to practice it. I do not want to struggle, fight, or suffer. I am not saying that I am apathetic, but rather that I want to live as a Christian, not die as one.

I think there is another stage of a Christian’s life. This is the stage that many of the early saints reached. St. Iranaeus, St. Justin Martyr, and many listed in Eusebius’ “History of the Christian Church” had a burning desire for their own martyrdom. They wanted to die for Christ. While this is partly due to circumstances (political, social, religious), it is also partly due to the great faith of these early saints. Of course, it would not be good for us as Christians today to be running to the doors of Washington and yelling, “I’m a Christian: kill me!” But at the same time, I think there are a surprising few of us who really would be willing to die for our faith. This is a level of holiness that few reach.

So, do you want to be a martyr? I don’t think I do, but I hope that one day I will have that faith. Until now, I will interpret the question in context: I do not want to stick out for my faith at school. I do not want to be martyred: I do not seek debates about my faith to get beat up (not only because I’d loose, but because it would be bad). So, here I remain, living the life of a Christian, and trying not to get martyred.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:56 PM on [+] ::

:: Thursday, August 19, 2004 ::
Fear of Holiness

Each Liturgy, the deacon (or priest) tell us to draw near to the chalice “with fear of God and faith and love.” I think it is self-evident as to why we should draw near with faith and love: even if we do not understand what these are, they are things commonly attitudes associated with Church.

But fear? What are we to fear? Well, from the point of view of someone who is fearful of priests, lemme tell you. Fear the holy. It is powerful, and so we should respect that power; while being rather sure it will not hurt us, we should still keep in mind that it is holy, ie. “set apart” from us.

So why fear priests? They are holy: at least, they are supposed to be. If you wear a rassa, there is a certain first impression of respect and fear that comes with the outfit. I openly admit: some clergy I fear only as far as they wear the rassa; I had the ‘pleasure’ of arguing with a staunchly evolutionist priest once, and by the end of the conversation, I only respected him in as much as he was a priest. It is possible for the fear of what is supposedly holy to be misplaced.

Then, it is possible to fear people for the exact opposite reason: they are holy. They are unsettling. When they speak to me, it is as though they can see through me. Actually, that’s not the unnerving part. The truly unnerving part is that they still speak to me ! I think that’s part of what makes them holy, but at the same time, it is part of what makes them scarier.

I’ll end with a C.S. Lewis quote with which I often sign my emails: “...to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun."

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:19 AM on Thursday, August 19, 2004 [+] ::

:: Monday, August 09, 2004 ::
Well Said…

I don’t listen to much music; actually, I don’t listen to any music but on rare occasion. I haven’t for a few years now; it is merely distracting noise and makes me irritable. This is an older song from the brief year in high school when I did listen to music; the words came into my head the other day. It was one of my favorite songs, and I can still see why; the words speak my thoughts.

Cast Out My Doubts

Sometimes I fear maybe I'm not chosen
You've hardened my heart like Pharaoh
That would explain why life is so hard for me

And I am sad that Esau hated
Crying against what's fated
Saying, “Father, please, is there any left for me?”

Cast out my doubts, please prove me wrong
'Cause these demons can be so headstrong
Make my walls fall, please prove me wrong
'Cause this resentment's been building
Burn them up with your fire so strong
If you can before I Baal, please prove me wrong

I fear maybe this is all just a game
Our friends and our families all play too
Harness the young and give some comfort to the old


Don't let my doubts prove true
Draw me close and hold me near to you
Keep me still until the day you…


-Caedmon’s Call, “Cast Out My Doubts,” Long Line of Leavers

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:17 PM on Monday, August 09, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, August 06, 2004 ::
Let My Prayer Arise In Thy Sight As…DEET

Last week, I went up to the monastery to ask Fr. Sergious some questions. Usually everything smells quite heavily of incense, especially Fr. Sergious with his black podroznik and beard giving off the sweet aroma. But, because of the West Nile Virus outbreak in Napa, only a few miles up river from the monastery, everything smells like DEET. Of course, last I checked mosquitoes don’t like strong incense much more than DEET, but…

Anyway, I asked a ton of questions. It was really, really good. I am almost willing to say that ::shock:: I am not shy of Fr. Sergious any more. Most of the questions were simple, pastoral questions; of course, I got anything but simple answers, but so is life. In the community up there, not much is secret; it is a small group, and very familiar. My questions were along the lines of a Confession; it was a list of lots of the dumb things I had done and questions about them. So after vespers, the group (6 people) sat around the table, and Sarah very politely asked “Should we exit stage-right?” She was ready to excuse herself and the rest of the group to go off and finish the few after-vespers tasks. “No, stay; these are good questions you should hear the answers to.” Fr. responded. I was just about the ask that they go, but Sarah’s glance caught my eye and I shut my mouth. I was extremely uncomfortable for about the first 5 minutes, but then I gave up and stopped being embarrassed. I mean, I stopped being embarrassed of it: the questions, the people hearing them, the stupid things I had done. It was really shocking to realize that as far as sins go, I’ve done ‘um, and so have they, and no one is going to judge me; worse yet, most are obvious to the people who know me, and are of no shock to them anyway. I’ll admit, I thought I would die for about five minutes, but after a moment, it was as if I had permission to ask questions and not really care what anyone thought.

So, I found myself surprisingly not shy today at Transfiguration. Yeah, I get my foot in my mouth, I say stupid things at the wrong time, and I generally am awkward. But, it seems not to matter much anymore. And it was really good to ask the whole list of questions. Of course, understanding the answers…one of the simple ones was “Do you have any book recommendations?” I was saying that I had just finished “Unseen Warfare,” and was asking for more interesting reading along the same lines. It didn’t seem too profound, but the answer was “You should read the Bible.” At first I didn’t think I was communicating my question well, so I rephrased and recontextualized twice, and got the same answer. So…uh…I guess I should read the Bible.

It is good to finally get definite answers to the questions I had never asked before. Fr. Sergious has the attitude of an Athonite, and especially one who has become an abbot: his way, or the highway. Some of my questions involved the conflicting views of various people and the confusion I have as one person hearing different people say different things. I admit, he is pretty unapologetic, but it is nice to hear, “Well, it is wrong to do that. The right way is…” It is good; very good. I finally have some sort of roots, some solid answers, and someone to whom I can ask questions. Unfortunately, I now leave for school in 2 weeks, but…glory to God for all things!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:06 PM on Friday, August 06, 2004 [+] ::


Happy Transfiguration!

What exactly happens today? Jesus goes from being a God-man to being something like a super God-man. Is there really a transfiguration? Yes; he gets all white and glow-y and Peter, James, and John are so scared that they fall down. Also, no; he is still Jesus. There is no addition to his glory or God-head as he is transfigured; it is simply revealed to a greater extent.

Peter’s comment has always peaked my curiosity. In Protestant circles, Peter is rebuked for his comment about building three “booth” (Jewish Feast of Booths is related to Transfiguration…) or “tabernacles” on the mountain. The general Protestant reaction is that Peter wanted to preserve a “mountain-top” experience of God, and did not want to return to everyday life, but only wanted to remain secluded and with God. As a summer camp-counselor, this is what we would commonly discuss with the kids on the day they went home; it is wrong to want to dwell with God away from the world, and rather we must return. Whether or not this is theologically accurate (and I tend to think now that it is not), this was the teaching.

Last night, in the hymnography, it is said that St. Peter doesn’t know what he is talking about. He is ignorant, and that is why he makes the comment. Today after Liturgy, I asked Fr. Sergious about it, and he said that it was because Peter was trying to contain the uncontainable God. Fr. went into a little more philosophy about how it is impossible to say “God is” and apophatic definitions, but the idea was that in trying to build a tabernacle, Peter was not allowing God to be God, but was trying to limit him so he could understand him.

Peter seems to get his foot perpetually in his mouth; the poor guy can’t say anything right. But as soon as you notice this, you also notice that he was the one who founded the Church among the Jewish people. And if a guy that holy can say the wrong thing so regularly, what chance do I have?


Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 3:57 PM on [+] ::

:: Monday, August 02, 2004 ::
Trivia Time

OK, with all of you geniuses out there, someone has to know…what ever happened to Ode II of a canon?

Props to the first person who can answer…

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:06 PM on Monday, August 02, 2004 [+] ::

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