:: Saturday, November 27, 2004 ::
San Francisco Extremes
:: Friday, November 19, 2004 ::
Today, I had the privilage of touring around San Francisco with my family, my roommate, and a friend Demetri. The city, the culture, the life there is a series of extremes; we went into a three different of the classic churches of the city, and saw three very different scenes.
Demetri and I are Orthodox, but my roommie and family are not particularly into it, so I was rather surprised that my dad agreed to let us stop by the ROCOR cathedral; technically it is dedicated to the Holy Virgin “Joy of All Who Sorrow,” but everyone calls it “St. John,” since it contains the complete incorrupt body of the holy St. John of San Francisco. It is truly a beautiful church; the walls are gloriously frescoed, and the whole atmosphere vibrates with the seemingly eternal chant of voices, bells of censors, and pious scent of incense. I have been there before, but not since I have been willing to venerate relics; for the first time, I venerated the incorrupt relics of my “hometown” saint. It is a wonderful, beautiful, holy place.
The second church we went to was the Old St. Mary’s. It is the old Roman Catholic church in San Francisco. It is, in its own way, nice. It was a little odd seeing photos of bishops and priests and such who were clean shaven with short hair, but otherwise, it was nice. I tried to explain to my Protestant roommie and the cradle-Orthodox Demetri what people were doing as the venerated the sacrament in the chapel of the Perpetual Adoration…well, it didn’t work too well, but I think they got the idea. Both Demetri and I had to laugh at the confessionals where the priest can’t see the penitent. How is he supposed to know who it is? Confession like that would be so…removed. It is too sterile, too guilt-free and shameless. Anyway, Old St. Mary is a nice church, and worth a short tour.
The last church we went to was ATROCIOUS. Let me clarify: really, really, really bad. Grace Cathedral is a beautiful stone building, but it is like a white-washed sepulcher; you will fall into danger upon entering the gorgeous exterior. In it we found sacriligiousity too great for words. Not only did we have to pass through the inner-faith chapel (in a CHRISTIAN Church? Ummm…) with its crescent, wicca symbols, stars of David and the like, but there were some of the most sacrilegious ikons ever. In the classical, egg-tempra style of ikons, with both Slavonic and Greek writing was an ikon of Martin Luther King, Jr., and an ikon of John Donne. Harvey Milk was on the back wall. Don’t get me wrong, MLK and Donne were good enough men, but they were not saints. Harvey Milk?! Don’t even get me started! Anyway, I was quite depressed, but there were a few real ikons there, so we venerated them. Demetri and I were debating; is it better that there be real ikons mixed in with the pagan ones, or is it better that they not be there? I think any light in a place as dark as that should be appreciated, but I see how someone else could see them as sacrilegious. We met a nice sacristan in our meanderings, and he showed us all sorts of vestments and other things with which they play church. There were some really obnoxious looking vestments; one was bright yellow satin with green, red, and blue stripes down the sides…um…yeah. Another had 60’s embroidery on it that was so dated you could place it down to the month. Yikes. Sadly (or happily?), there were two beautiful, classic ikons of Christ and the Theotokos on either side of the “altar.” They were large, old, and gorgeous. It makes me wonder where they came from, and how they ended up in such a place.
Anyway, churches in San Fran certainly have extremes…
Glory to God!
:: 11:04 PM on
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Christians and Demons
:: Sunday, November 14, 2004 ::
Let me preclude this by saying up front that I DO NOT LIKE THE TOPIC of demons. I don’t understand why we should discuss it, think about it, or have anything to do with it. That said, of course, I now will now continue to write about it.
This semester, I have read the entire corpus of St. Athanasius; while he usually employs a level-headed, practical, logical approach to theology, in his Life of St. Antony, St. Antony is running around the Egyptian desert fighting demons with the sign of the cross.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just “St. Antony beats up demons in the desert.” That would give me confidence in my faith: Christians beat up demons. Rather, the problem is that it is “St. Antony, getting tortured by demons in the desert.” So, I thought Christians had defeated Satan? Didn’t he get destroyed with Christ’s defeat of death? Why is he giving St. Antony so much trouble?
St. Antony uses the sign of the cross, but he almost uses it like a talisman against demons: “Do this thing, and the demons disappear.” While it is disturbing enough to have the sign of the cross reduced to some pocket magic-trick, it is worse to see its impotence in the face of his foes. St. Antony literally gets so beat up that his friends think he is dead, and they carry him back to the village so he can finish dying. In the middle of the night, he awakens them, and has them carry him back out to the cave where he lived. Hello? St. Antony, you know, the great ascetic and saint? So, if such a great ascetic and saint can get so badly beat up by demons, where does that leave those of us who are not quite ascetics and saints?
Scary thoughts. How vulnerable are Christians to demons? After reading St. Antony, I think we are more vulnerable than we think. And what can we do? Well…the prospects look grim. I know I am not as strong as Antony, and so would probably get beat up worse than he if I ever encountered such demons. Spooky.
Glory to God!
:: 11:23 AM on
Friday, November 19, 2004
Prayer for the Fast
:: Friday, November 12, 2004 ::
The Nativity Fast begins tomorrow. So, when we fast, there is a certain new “urgency” and strength to our prayer. I always seem to forget the power of prayers when combined with fasting, but then by the end of the first week of a fast, I am all excited again about the strength of prayer and fasting. So then the question is, what should I pray for?
It seems like I have everything I could possibly want and more. I go to the best school I could imagine, I have wonderful friends who love me, I have a great family who supports me even when they don’t understand me, and I absolutely love what I am studying. What more could I want?
There is always more, isn’t there? The only thing I do not have on the list above: church. What? No, I am not talking about “Church,” but rather about “a church.” My perpetual college-student complaint is that I have no home church. Yes, I do have the monastery in Calistoga, and yes, that is home in a way. But it is not a parish, and when there are nuns there (quite soon!), it will loose its current parish feel and become more monastery-like. So, I want a home parish for Christmas.
Stupid request, no? Yeah, I feel like with the amount I love Church and all of the aspects tied to it, I should be comfortable wherever I am attending. But I just don’t. I love the faith so much, but I have this desire for a place to call my “home parish.” As I fill out paperwork for various things, it often asks “home parish,” and I feel as though I can write an essay on the topic. What should I put? Calistoga? Well, its technically not a parish. St. Seraphim? Except that I have attended there for a grand total of 5 months. St. Andrew? Yeah, but I’m a catechumen at St. Seraphim. So…this Advent fast, my prayer will be a self-centered one. I want a home church.
Glory to God!
:: 10:50 PM on
Sunday, November 14, 2004
:: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 ::
What is necessary and sufficient for salvation? What do I need to do to be saved? Perhaps I am asking the wrong questions; I know we should not be reductionist in our faith and beliefs, but I still want some sort of line to look at and say, “Here, and you are going to go to heaven; here, and you are not.”
I have heard it rumored that belief in the Creed is necessary and sufficient. But whose interpretation? “The people who wrote it” basically, for whomever is speaking, this means “mine.” Even if I take your definition, what about other people who differ on non-Creedal points? Of the many Protestant denominations, there are some that differ on non-Creedal points, such as eschatological beliefs. But even from this side of the Schism, there are Monophysites and Monothilytes who hold to the Creed as interpreted by the Fathers, but not necessarily to the Councils. The reason for the Creed as the foundation seems circular at best: we believe it according to our interpretation because we believe our interpretation to be best.
If we switch our definition to the Councils, there are more problems. Which are the “Councils?” Most Protestants can make it to the 4th or 5th (weird; very few make it to the 6th on monothilytism, yet I do not think they are monothilytes!), certainly not the 7th. But if you ask Rome, the Ecumenical Councils have not yet stopped: they are well into their 20s. Protestants say they stopped earlier, Rome says they haven’t stopped; again, we find ourselves saying, “This is what the Orthodox believe (7 Councils); if you want to be Orthodox, believe what the Orthodox believe!” It is not a helpful objective standard to point at the Councils, since you are only looking at the ones you have previously defined as correct. It is circular reasoning.
Does anyone else see the circularity here? So, what exactly is necessary and sufficient for salvation? Hmmm…our priest from St. Andrew, Fr. Josiah, is coming out here for a lecture on Monday, and I was thinking of asking him, but…there will be far, far too many questions to actually get a chance to ask this.
Glory to God!
:: 11:16 AM on
Friday, November 12, 2004
I just found out I got accepted to Oxford for next semester! I will be studying Ecclesiology at Wycliffe College. I am so excited!
Glory to God!
:: 2:12 PM on
Wednesday, November 03, 2004