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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
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:: Friday, December 24, 2004 ::

My Christmas Eve Traditions

So, my family has a Christmas Eve tradition. It is the only time of the year I remember all of us piling into the car at around 7PM to go to church and take communion together. It accidentally happened a few Sundays of the year that we would all be at church, but the Christmas Eve was the one time I remember everyone making an effort to be there and to take communion. The service would start at 7, but we’d be there really early. My brother and I would try to decide where to sit: they dismissed the back rows for communion first (therefore, they had to wait less), but we could see better if we sat at the front (although, there was never much to see…). Once we finally had decided, my dad would always come and override our decision anyway, but that was how it worked.

Once we’d sung a few carols, seen a few skits, and heard the Christmas story, an usher would come to our row and let us go up for communion. The four of us (and usually a few relatives who were visiting) would crowd around a gold tray of 50 small cups of grape juice and wafers. My dad would pray this really long, comically casual prayer, the most of which I could never understand, as he always prays aloud so softly that he is unintelligible to any listeners. Then we’d all take a cup and a piece of cracker and eat it.

This is a favorite tradition of mine. Even as we got older, and my brother didn’t attend church with us much anymore, we’d still go on Christmas Eve. For the last few years, my mom has been trying to convince us to attend the “late” 9PM service, since we are older. Of course, this doesn’t ever work, since both my brother and I insist on going to the earlier one. I think she’s finally given up on trying to convince us.

So, tonight is Christmas Eve. And we’ll go. But it’ll be different. Tonight, like last year, is the one night I regret becoming a catechumen. I am forbidden to partake. With my family, as we always have, in peace and health. All I ask for is one night to receive with them that which means so much to them. Yes, I know (as do they) that the cup contains nothing more than Welch’s grapejuice, and the crackers are salt-free oyster crackers. I know. I do not understand why I cannot eat the little cracker and drink the cup of grapejuice; there is no sin in eating them normally. Why not tonight? The joy of the season wears this shadow of division; I am not a part of them like I used to be. I am sad.

I cannot partake at all, with anyone, Orthodox or Protestant; while the world rejoices, I am excluded in a subtle but profound way. Yet, then again, I think back to a young Maiden, a few years younger than I, who was likewise excluded on this night from the company due her. Now she is the Queen of Heaven whom all the hosts of angels hymn; I ask for her holy prayers.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 5:24 PM on Friday, December 24, 2004 [+] ::

:: Saturday, December 11, 2004 ::
“The Law of God,” Science and Myth

I read theology. While I am not particularly well versed in any particular type of theology (Christology, soteriology, dogmatics, &c), I think it is fair to say that I am skilled in the reading of “technical” theology. The theology of “logos” (logic, rational), as seen so evidently in Scholastic writers (see Thomas Aquinas), has become so pervasive in society today that I am beginning to wonder if there is anything else.

In the Bible, Jesus tells stories. The Bible itself is a story-book, a myth. The Greek word is “muthos,” while roughly translated “myth,” does not speak to the veracity of the tale, but rather to its form. The narrative, concrete stories are of the type you can tell around a campfire, rather than in a sterile academic lecture room. Of course, Jesus’ stories are not flat, two-dimensional retelling of events, but are rather profound, dynamic, and life-changing tales. Even better, our salvation itself is told to us as a story: “One day, the Angel Gabriel came to Mary…he became man…he was crucified…he rose again.” Myth is very important in the Bible.

Then again, it is the theology in which I find my faith. This is what I believe: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…”. The Creed is not a story, but rather a statement of theology. And it is in the Creed that we define who we are. On a slightly more advanced level, we can discuss the Trinity, soteriology, the science of the Incarnation, and other “logos” theological concepts. It is here that we find the grounding of our faith, its borders and expressions.

So, which is more important? Myth, or logic? Muthos, or Logos? While it is the muthos of the Logos that is our salvation, how does this play into our theology today? If we study the myth to the exclusion of logic, we become either hippies or back-country folk who believe that education is evil. If we study the logos to the exclusion of myth (much more my tendency!), we become not only cynics who talk ourselves out of God, but scholastics who put God into a box. While they often exclude each other in our reading today, we need to remember that they are both essential to our salvation.

All this to say that I am really enjoying the book “The Law of God,” by the Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy. After reading “logos” theology, it is so relaxing to read a refreshingly innocent “story” of God and his interactions with mankind. I cannot speak to the “technical” skill of the book; the translation is slightly woody, and I have my doubts that his apologetical “proofs” may be difficult to swallow with modern scholarship, but the book is a breath of fresh air from a stuffy room of scholastic theology. Sometimes I forget the story of my salvation, and it is good to be reminded.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 8:05 PM on Saturday, December 11, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, December 10, 2004 ::

I haven’t been posting much…I have had finals this week and next week, so I am busy…5 more days…then I’m home for Christmas!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 8:28 PM on Friday, December 10, 2004 [+] ::

:: Friday, December 03, 2004 ::
Miracles and er…not

As little kids, we like to think God can do anything. Unhindered by logic and learning, we imagine God able to create square-circles and wonder about him making a rock too heavy for him to lift. What can God really do, however? I claim that there are limits to miracles, specifically the limit of supernaturality. In other words, it would not be a miracle if I started, for any reason, to fly; at best, it would be scary, at worst, demonic.

I would be very, very scared if I or anyone I knew started to fly. Why? It would not be of God. Miracles are a physical sign of the grace bestowed upon us by God. Now, it is not my nature to fly; there is nothing I do that is “flight-like.” Since grace perfects nature, rather than abolishing it, I have no capacity for flight that can be perfected, and therefore, I cannot ever fly.

The major objection to this limitation of miracles to super-nature would be Christ’s miracles on the earth. Water into wine? Dead men rising? Walking on water? Multiplying loves? These are all simple enough in that they are super-natural. They took the nature of something and improved on that nature without changing it. Grapes take water and make them wine; Jesus did this supernaturally. Bodies are not meant to die, as evidenced by the Resurrection and telos of Life, and so life is natural to them. If a man can walk, doing so on water is an improvement on his natural abilities. Bread has all of the properties of bread naturally, so it is only super-natural to have these properties in a greater quantity.

Almost as interesting as looking at the miracles Jesus does, we can also look at the miracles that he does not do. When in the desert in Luke 4, Jesus did not make the stone into bread. It is unnatural for stone to have anything to do with bread; the grace of the miracle would have needed to destroy the very stone-ishness of the stone to make bread, and grace perfects rather than destroys nature.

All this to say that miracles are not “limited,” but “supernatural.” God does not seek to make us into what we are not, but rather seeks to perfect what we are. God does not want us to become drones or loose our “self” (see Far Eastern religions for this), but rather wants us to become more fully ourselves, created as we are as reflections and ikons of Him.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:07 AM on Friday, December 03, 2004 [+] ::

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