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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::

:: Thursday, September 30, 2004 ::

Ever Heard Of...

Have any of you ever heard of Project Mexico? Anyone know what it is? I was looking around for internships to which to apply (I need to have an internship for school), and this one jumped out of the computer screen. I want to apply, and think it would be really cool if I could go, but I was wondering if any of you smart people had ever gone, or know anything else about it? (Esp. you Southern California people.) Thanx!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:16 PM on Thursday, September 30, 2004 [+] ::

Soft Hearts

A few days ago, I was waiting in line at the supermarket. Standing in the doorway a few feet away from me were, I assume, a mother and her daughter. The daughter was in her 40’s, and the mother in her 60’s. At first, they were just speaking loudly and gesticulating wildly; I glanced over, but did not stare. Then, they started outright yelling, quarrelling with each other and saying hurtful things.

I cringed, not so much because they were embarrassing themselves, but because there was something wrong between them. I heard the daughter yell, “I hate you! You’re just an old ----!” The mother retorted with similar phrases. I wanted to walk over and beg them to stop; eventually, the daughter left and the mother went back into the store. The whole rest of the day, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they need something.

The whole walk home, I could not help thinking about them and really hurting for them. We live in a fallen world. Why do they have to hurt? Sure, it is their fault, in that it is the fault of the sin in mankind. But then, I sin also, and I do not feel the pain that these women clearly felt. Their sin has direct consequences in open pain; I rarely suffer the consequences for the wrong I do.

Then I got mad at myself. Is it right that I care so much about them? These are two strangers to me; I have nothing to do with them. But at the same time, I did not want them to hate. I see very little hate; I shelter myself from it purposefully. But is it wise to shelter myself? If I am not somehow calloused to it, then it hurts me when I see it. It has been almost a week, and I still pray that the Lord will have mercy on these two women. Why? Perhaps I am completely wrong, and I have judged these women. Perhaps they were just having a bad day, and they are once again close friends. Perhaps. If so, then they have been blessed, and my prayers have been fulfilled even as I say them. But, as I am more inclined to think, there is still pain between them, and my prayers are needed.

Are soft hearts a liability? If we have them, we will be hurt. If we do not have them, however, we will not be sympathetic when we need to be. Which is worse?

Lord, have mercy on this sinful world! It is so fallen, and so in need of a Savior!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:00 PM on [+] ::

:: Wednesday, September 22, 2004 ::
Inner-Trinitarian Relationships

God exists in Holy Trinity. There are three persons, but one nature. I could insert technical Greek words here, but suffice to say that there is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and they aren’t the same Person; the same stuff (substance) and same God, but not the same Person.

Why aren’t they the same Person? I have been reading a lot of St. Thomas (OK, even if he’s not an Eastern saint, you can’t really just say “Thomas” without the “St.”), and I have been wondering about the distinction of the Persons in the Trinity. I have also been wondering about the fillioque; how does an obscure three-word (in English) phrase cause so much dissent among people? So many people scoff when I say a major theological difference between the East and West is the procession of the Holy Spirit “from the Father,” or “from the Father and the Son.” For St. Thomas, this distinction is what allows him to distinguish the Persons of the Trinity.

St. Thomas’ general idea is that the only distinction between the Persons of the Trinity is their relationship to each other. There are four relationships, but that is beside the point; the basic idea is that the Father begats the Son (the whole “only-begotten” thing) and spirates the Spirit (think about the root words of “inspire” and “expire;” it has to do with “breathing forth”). He says “relations cannot distinguish the persons except forasmuch as they are opposite relations;” (I Q36.2) in other words, there is no difference in the relation of the Father to the Holy Spirit and the Son, since they both come from the Father. St. Thomas says that there needs to be something different in the way the two of them come into being (if such a thing may be said of a Person of the Trinity). He wants the Persons to have distinction, but not a material distinction, so they have a relational distinction. The Spirit must come from the Son as well as the Father, or he is just another Son, since there is no relational difference.

So, now that I have attempted to explain the fillioque as necessary in the West to distinguish between the Persons of the Trinity, I ask: how does the East distinguish the Persons? If we reject the idea of the fillioque, we must have some way of having the Spirit not be the Son, or a brother or some odd heresy. We cannot say their acts distinguish them; they are all God and all have the power to act as they choose; fillioque or not, St. Thomas pretty thoroughly takes actual difference out of the running. We cannot simply say that their modes of procession are different, since that is a semantic escape that will not hold up in the light of philosophy. Why isn’t the Son the Father, the Father the Son, or either the Holy Spirit?

Perhaps I have read this wrong; perhaps I have no idea what I am talking about (as frequently happens when I discuss my views on a book). So, if I have wildly misinterpreted something, or offended anyone, please forgive me.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:28 AM on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 [+] ::

:: Thursday, September 16, 2004 ::
Transcending Divisions

Today in chapel, I had the rare opportunity to hear a truly Christian man speak. Dr. Ajith Fernando heads the Youth For Christ in Sri Lanka, and after hearing him speak for two days on pray, his faith is evident; he is one of those rare people who had transcended the lines of the petty debates which doth so easily beset us.

Yes, he is Protestant. I know that. But…he is still Godly, more so than I can hope to be. He was so knowledgeable with the Bible and his genuine love of the people for whom he worked was so clear that his particular denomination or specific theological distinctions didn’t matter. You had the feeling that if you tried to pick a debate on a specific dogmatic issue, he could show you that you were asking the wrong questions.

I find myself judging people sometimes by what I hear about them. “Oh, he’s a Protestant; his theology can’t be correct!” While to a certain extent, his theology therefore cannot be correct, he can still be right about more theology than I know. I cannot judge anything about his salvation based on the title of his denomination; his faith is evident upon meeting him, or it is not.

I want to be one of these people whose faith transcends petty lines. In a Protestant environment, I do not want to be known as the token Orthodox, but rather just as a Christian. I do not want to give people the opportunity to come up to me and say, “You’re not a Protestant. You are going to Hell!” I want them rather to see my life, and to say, “Well, you’re not a Protestant, but clearly something is right between you and God.” Does this make me liberal? I hope not.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:37 PM on Thursday, September 16, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, September 10, 2004 ::
I, Unworthy

I have a friend, Bree; we have known each other for a few years, and are very close. If I asked Bree to borrow a dollar, I am absolutely sure that she would say yes; she probably wouldn’t even ask me the reason. She thinks that I am a generally good person; we know each other, do not lie to each other, and trust each other; I have a good rapport with her. We have a friendly relationship; we mutually help each other, and expect the same in return.

This is what I do not have with God; in fact, I would venture to say that no man has this with God (perhaps St. John, but…). For the last week, I have been praying as best I know how for another friend, K. As I was praying, it occurred to me that I have no point on which to plead with God; I do not have a good rapport with God.

What can I say when I ask God for something? “Because I’m really good?” No, that’s not true. “Because I don’t break my promises to You?” Again: not true. I have nothing which to claim as a defense…I stand there and can only ask for mercy. I have done nothing good, not even a small good thing for which I can say, “Look, God, because I did this for You, You should have mercy on me!”

How then can I keep praying? What is there to say but for, “Lord, have mercy?” There is no reason that God should have mercy on me; I could not even be worthy if I were perfect. I stood there and kept trying for a while, “Lord, have mercy on me because…” there is nothing to say. What is there to say? The only thing I could think of was to recount the Old Testament accounts of the Lord having mercy on Israel, then asking God to be merciful in that specific way.

It was good for me to stand in silence for a moment, speechless because I have nothing to say in my own behalf. It takes a lot to silence me, but God is very merciful. I do not think the realization that we have nothing to say to God is exactly humility, but I think it may be related. Going back to the analogy at the beginning, it seems as though I have more of a friendship with Bree than with God; this is probably a good thing. There is no reason God should be merciful to me, but God is mercy. So, “Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy!”

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:09 PM on Friday, September 10, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, September 03, 2004 ::
(non)-Angst Ridden “Me”

At a Christian college, there are daily chapels. Everyday, a good percentage of the student body gathers to hear a speaker specifically chosen (I assume) for his ability to “speak to college students,” whatever that means. Yesterday, I had the privilege of hearing a speaker who was introduced as “someone who really understood college kids” (“kids?” Hello?). He spoke from I Pet 5 and Job; he told us about how Satan roams around looking for people to devour. His message was fine, but his main point was that we are all going through Satan’s testing. All the time. Every one of us. We should “be real” in front of God and each other and admit that we are all filled with pain from the difficulties of living our faith and are all greatly tried at every point in our Christian lives, which are filled with suffering and persecution.

Hello? I felt like the only one in the chapel who was not an angst-ridden “college kid.” “Real?” You want me to be real? I live in a very comfortable, air-conditioned room, have a full meal plan, a warm bed, friends who love me, and wonderful health; I go to my dream school, study in the field of my passion, and have nearly all of the comforts I could desire. Heck, I even go to a Christian school, where religious persecution is relatively (for most) low. I am not angst-ridden. Ungrateful? yes. Persecuted? no. So, am I the only one?

Afterword, I wanted to ask him, “If I do not feel persecuted or attacked right now, what does that mean?” I knew his answer, however, and did not feel as though I should waste his time; he had plenty of angst-ridden students surrounding him. He would have told me I was either not being honest, or that I did not have a good Christian life. Both of those statements are false; Sure, I fall into the sin of lying (forgive me!), and I am far from good at being a Christian, but by God’s grace, I am struggling toward Him daily.

During a subsequent discussion with one of my tutors and a group of peers, we decided the problem is that we live too much of a ‘normal’ (and good) life. We have a media that tells us everything should be dramatic and action-filled; then we have our lives, which are routine, and “boring.” We seek constant stimulation when we realize how boring our life really is, so we tell ourselves we have “angst” to remain stimulated and keep boredom at bay. Even more ironically, we seek to be “individuals” in our angst; unfortunately, I was in a whole chapel of such “individuals” yesterday, and they all seemed strangely similar…We are so afraid of boredom in our lives, we will do anything to avoid it; we are so saturated with information that we will do anything to keep this flow of information coming.

We must have our TV, our radio, our “noise.” What if we turned it off? We would have to see ourselves, hear our own thoughts, and probably be scared with the sad estate of our lives. Now THAT would be angst I could abide. If, when someone cuts himself off from the constant aural and visual stimulation of “noise” and sees the depravity of his own soul, he should rightly weep as he sees his own pathetic state. This is not this phony pain we try to claim is “real,” to feed our egos; it is the pain that drives us away from ourselves, and into repentance. It is this real pain that we fear, not the pain our speaker was talking about when he said he wanted us to “be real.” The good thing about this painful repentance, though, is that we are blessed if we weep, for we shall be comforted.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:40 AM on Friday, September 03, 2004 [+] ::

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