:: Saturday, January 29, 2005 ::
:: Monday, January 24, 2005 ::
This week I am writing about a liberal theologian: a 1930’s German named Walter Bauer. He had some odd ideas about Church [which we are not going into.] After spending yesterday reading Walter Bauer, I swung over to Henry Chadwick, a slightly more modern liberal theologian. It’s all about the “psuedo-Pauline epistles” and “The Fourth Gospel” and “there was no difference between heresy and orthodoxy.” What?
What is the point of being a liberal theologian? What are they trying to do? I can only assume they want to revolutionize the Church. They view it as a great evil that can only be conquered by joining it and corrupting it from the inside out. The Church is a powerful force, which so successfully promotes its worldview and system of morality that the only way to fight it is to corrupt it from the inside. There is no possible way of breaking in from the outside; the moat surrounding this fortress is too deep. So one must use clandestine means to tunnel under the water that otherwise provides free access to the riches of the fortress. The only point of liberal theology is to destroy the Church.
Perhaps I am being too narrow minded here; help me out. Why become a theological liberal? Do they really believe that only parts of the Bible are true? They remove the potency of the faith, the very “God” of the Bible is replaced by a watery human invention. Of course, mere human inventions need mere humans to guard them, and so their apologetic is necessarily weak. Christians, on the other hand, have the Truth of God to back their apologetics; we do not need to defend Aslan, but only to open the cage and get out of his way.
In their favor, I must say that liberal theologians must have a much higher view of Church than I do. I do not always see the Church as the indestructible fortress of truth, but often feel the need to defend it. They have such a high view of the power and influence of the Church; they truly fear it. In this way alone, I hope to be like them, looking at the Church as something so great and powerful that subversion is nearly impossible.
Glory to God!
:: 3:59 AM on
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Two Extremes: Church Communities
:: Thursday, January 20, 2005 ::
As I continue to enjoy the wonderful diversity of the churches here in Oxford, I am learning what I think works and does not work at a church. I also have the advantage that my own church does not start until 10:30 in the morning, and that there are 8AM and 9:30AM masses almost everywhere else. Yesterday I went to two churches that could be described as polar opposite in their approach to visitors: Blackfriars monastery and St. Andrews Anglican.
I thought mass started at 7:30 at Blackfriars, but it wasn’t until 8; this made me the first person in the church, but I browsed through pamphlets on the back table as I waited. As I assumed this was a monastery’s Sunday service, I thought it would be formal enough for headcoverings, so I was wearing mine. I was standing a few feet from the door in the narthex, and slowly people started to come. There were perhaps 60 people in all, but only 5 under the age of 50; 3 of these were babes-in-arms, and the other two were 9 and 11 year old siblings with grandparents. The mass started, and everyone seemed to know what they were doing; it was very organic and natural. I stood in the narthex, observing through the beautiful stonework the proceedings at the altar. At the end of the service, everyone filed out in a rather somber mood and, presumably, went about his day. No one spoke to me. Not one person so much as acknowledged my presence. This was the first time I have been to mass there (when I’m not the only one), and yet no one even took notice of me. Every person who entered or exited walked directly by me; I was not invisible. And not a single person acknowledged my existence.
I was the last one to leave (I had no where else to really go), but decided I had time before my service to check out a church where many of the students in my program go on Sunday evenings. It is called St Andrews Anglican church. Still wearing my headscarf (it was well below freezing, and I was outside), I walked near the door. I was still a good 30 feet away when the door opened. I thought someone else was trying to get out, so I politely deferred, as I was standing in the only walk way. Instead, this woman came out and very loudly and gregariously said, “Welcome to St. Andrew’s!” I quietly and politely responded, and she ushered me in. She asked about a thousand questions, without giving me a chance to respond to any of them. She was so talkative that I didn’t have time to even tell her my name before she kept going on and on and on. She kept talking. She handed me every brochure she could find. When I wasn’t responding to her in the same extroverted and sociable way in which she was talking to me, she assumed I did not speak English. So, she kept putting into my hands all of this information for non-English speakers. Of course, it was in English, but it was simplified and had advertisements for their “Global Café,” where international students can learn English. She wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t get away from her, so I literally started to walk away. She got directly in front of me so I couldn’t escape. flee. I vaulted up the closest flight of stairs and managed to loose her. Of course, then I was afraid that she would latch onto me again when I came down, so I waited until I was sure she was gone. As far as the church went, there was a large overhead screen in front of the altar; the rock band was on one side, with the signers cooing on the opposite side. Get the picture?
Of course, I think it goes without saying which church I would prefer to return to…
Glory to God!
:: 4:08 AM on
Monday, January 24, 2005
:: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 ::
In Oxford, gowns are in. They are theoretically required for chapel and lectures, and since all attend at least one of these at least twice a week, they are rather common. They are derivative of clerical robes; some more ‘derivative’ than others, but still they are old forms of cassocks. As formal dress is popular, many clergy wear their collars in public (although they always trousers, never cassocks); normally, they blend in well enough, but today at the library, I saw an odd sight. A priestess with a collar.
She had a roman collar set in a ruby red, short-sleeved men’s shirt, and matching red pants. I think I must have done a double take, since she looked up and smiled at me. I was really confused. Of course, I had a good 2000 questions I wanted to ask her, and I had the opportunity (we were waiting in a line at the desk), but I couldn’t think of a polite way of phrasing any of them, so I kept my mouth shut.
I really don’t want to be offensive, but it is…wrong. Now, I would be fine if she were a priestess of a pagan group that claimed no relation to Christianity, but it was the fact that she would have claimed to be a Christian that bugged me. This has always been a soap-box of mine, so I have read a few books on the issue. There are the real theological questions: Can she serve the Eucharist? Can she represent Christ to the people? Then there’s the funnier, more practical questions (which I would rather ask): Do you call her “Mother?” “Father?” Does she cover her head in church? Are there maternity vestments?
It was odd; she couldn’t have been too much older than me. Why is she doing this? Is there no other way that a woman can serve God as a woman rather than to try to be a man? Isn’t there more dignity in my gender than to try to become what we are not? Why not seek to use to God’s glory the unique gifts we have received, rather than disobey God and reach for the forbidden fruit? Sure, someone can wear a tab collar, and even parade around an altar, but that does not make her a priestess (priest?). It makes her someone too uncomfortable with the image of God in herself to embrace what He has given her. She insults the Mother of God by degrading and disrespecting her position; she insults me.
I really do want to ask this nicely of a priestess sometime, but I am too afraid I would not be able to remain objective, polite, and calm. Perhaps I will gain these social skills sometime this term, and have the opportunity. Or perhaps I will keep my questions to myself.
Glory to God!
:: 3:09 PM on
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Churches, Churches, Churches Pt. II
:: Saturday, January 15, 2005 ::
Oxford is a land of churches. There are many, many churches here. Each college has a chapel with daily services, as required by its charter. Now, that’s 39 Colleges and 7 Permanent Halls. Add that to the old famous churches, and parish churches in Oxford, and I would guess that there are over 75 daily church services within a 20 minute walk of where I live. Yikes!
I have been to many different churches here. Some good, some bad, some weird.
Good ones include the Blackfriars chapel; they have 5 daily services there, and they are really beautiful. Unfortunately, I went to 7:30 Mass 5 days running, and was the only (laic) one there. Their church (St. Aloysius) about 3 doors down from the monastery has 4 daily Masses; I haven’t made it there yet, but I hope to go soon.
I went to Christ Church; I had to wear my gowns [ridiculous looking Oxford clothing] there. It was faux High Anglican. They were trying so hard to play church for all the tourists, I almost felt sorry for them. They have a Boys Choir, and all the trappings, but it wasn’t church. It was a game that we play called Evensong.
I went to Pussey House, which was a very nice High Anglican Mass (I’m sure that’s not the name of the chapel, but that’s what everyone calls it). It was so ‘high’ I really thought it was Roman Catholic, but then I noticed a wedding ring on the priest’s finger, and had to ask. One weird thing was there was that at the 7:30 mass there were three priests, but only one celebrated. I mean, everyone (myself excluded, so the other 10 people) received the Eucharist, but the priests did not do anything differently than the laics.
Tonight I went to chapel at my own college (Wycliffe), which definitely fit the ‘weird’ category. It was one of the most awkward services I could have imagined. Picture 45 American Evangelical students (with a few exceptions) at quite possibly their first quasi-liturgical service. Now, when I say ‘quasi,’ I mean all we did was read one prayer, one litany, and the Nicene Creed (Western) from the BPC. People were really funny about it; I admit to looking around and seeing the utter confusion on people’s faces when the leader said, “Let us pray to the Lord” and then proceeded to read a prayer. Also, some couldn’t figure out how to bow their heads and close their eyes and read a prayer at the same time…kind of comical, but kind of sad. Very, very awkward.
Finally, and of course, I go to my own church, at least once a day for vespers. We also had Liturgy for Theophany this morning. I like it there a lot; because most of the people live within walking distance (everything is within walking distance here!) the community is close. There is also a good group of students who are dedicated, which likewise helps the community ties.
It is wonderful here. I get to both start and end the day in prayer (whether or not it is Eastern or Western, I cannot be picky!) I get to read theology and work hard in between. I live alone now, and so have few distractions. It will be a wonderful term!
Glory to God!
:: 3:37 PM on
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Slavonic & Russian: The Answer
So, I think I solved my Slavonic/Russian or Greek dilemma. I really want to sing in a choir while I am here, since I will not be playing trombone (for the first time in 12 years!). The majority of the choir music in church is in Cyrillic, so I will have to read it to sing in the choir. If that isn’t motivation to learn, I don’t know what is. So, I will be doing daily vespers and other church services in Slavonic, at least learning to read the Cyrillic if nothing else. That should suffice for now. Officially at the Language Center, I will study Greek…now the question becomes: Which Greek? Biblical? Spoken? Attic? Ah, choices…
Glory to God!
:: 3:03 PM on
Saturday, January 15, 2005
:: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 ::
Well, I am now living closer to church than I am to the laundry room. I timed both walks. It takes me 12 more seconds to walk to where I can do laundry than it does to get to church. 96 seconds. And there’s Reader’s Vespers each night, as well as a few Liturgies or Matins or Priest’s Vespers each week. This will be good.
I am getting involved in the parish, even having only been here a week. There was a party at the bishop’s (he’s the rector) for his name-day on Friday night. I met all of the other college students in the parish, and we got to informally talk for a few hours. Just hanging out with them is more of a blessing than they know.
Since I have been here, I have been feeling like I had little community, and have been having a difficult time in my spiritual life as I am so far from home, even if I don’t have one specific location of ‘home.’ I am in a program with 50 American students, but they are all (but one) Evangelical Protestants. When people ask, I am already quite tired of telling them I’m Orthodox. I just want to be Orthodox and not really tell anyone about it. Normally I hang out with people who either know I am Orthodox or are also Orthodox, but here I have been feeling as though there is something ‘out to get me;’ not persecution so much as…something. It is as though I have been fighting harder than I normally do, and not getting nearly as far in my prayers; it has been an upward battle since I have arrived in England. It is so good to be able to go to church and listen (it’s in Slavonic) to the services, even if I can’t understand them. It is familiar and comforting; it gets me away from people who want to ask and know and talk about why I’m a damned heretic, and into a group of people who want to pray. I don’t think there’s a time I’ve needed the church as a familiar community as much as I do now, and I am very thankful for the wonderful people whom I have found here.
As soon as I can shake this last of the feeling of spiritual battle, I will be off and running into an awesome (and hard!) term. Please pray for me, a sinner far from home, but at the same time, right at home.
Glory to God!
:: 2:59 PM on [+] ::
Slavonic & Russian?
:: Sunday, January 09, 2005 ::
So, last Sunday at church I understood approximately 2% of the service. It was in Slavonic, and while the parish is a ‘double-parish,’ it looked like the majority of their services were in Slavonic or a mix of Slavonic and English. Yesterday, I went to the Oxford Language Center and they told me that I could study languages there, but that Slavonic was not one of the ones they had. So, the question then is: How close is Russian to Slavonic? Is it worth studying it for a semester (just for fun), or should I stick with something more universally useful, like Greek? Will Russian allow me to understand more of the services? Thanx.
Glory to God!
:: 4:32 AM on
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
A Land of Empty Steeples, Pt. I
:: Friday, January 07, 2005 ::
In the last 4 days of being here, I have explored (albeit briefly) both London and Oxford. They are beautiful lands, full of myth and lore, legend and mysterious treasures. Oxford especially has been called the land of “domes and spires.” There are churches on every corner, literally. There are more building here then could be asked for, even by someone like me. But they are empty.
The churches are not anymore. They are various college buildings, administrative centers, and libraries. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with any of the above buildings, but they are not churches. It is actually more difficult than not to find a church that is still used as such. They are empty. They are just symbols of a past life. The glorious steeple about 100 feet outside my bedroom window is now a “Missions Center,” aka. a fancy library. I found a nice steeple on my morning walk today, and it was just an admission center of St. Hugh’s College, no longer a church.
I am not sure my full reaction to this. Is it better that the steeples are there? After all, they are a visible reminder of Christianity and the Church. They are REAL, and there is something good about that. But, on the other hand, they are just empty landmarks. Still, there is a kind of hope: maybe someday they will be used again for the glory of God. But as they are now, do they turn prejudiced, jaded people away from God? Would these people turn away anyway? I do not know the answers…perhaps I will discover them.
Oh, and 0th week (pronounced “not week”) starts on Monday. Even cooler, I turn 21 on Monday (yeah!). So…there will probably be fewer posts as I tackle two tutorials and two lecture series (final honors school) as well as two other seminar meetings each week. Please pray for me, a sinner.
Glory to God!
:: 4:57 AM on
Sunday, January 09, 2005
:: Saturday, January 01, 2005 ::
...not America. Two cultures seperated by a common language. And barely even that at times!
Anyone reading this on this side of the pond and care to offer survival tips?
I'll write more as soon as the jet lag starts to wear off...
Oh, and to all my Old Calendar friends, Christ is born!
Glory to God!
:: 4:51 PM on
Friday, January 07, 2005
Orthodox Christian Fellowship’s West Coast College Conference!
What do you get when you have 85 Orthodox college students from 9 different jurisdictions (including 2 non-SCOBA) and as many states gathered together for a week of fun, work, and growth? West Coast College Conference! All I can say was that if you are a college student who did not attend, you missed out on seeing God work miracles.
I could not have even imagined how great it would be. There were so many like-minded students there, encouraging each other and growing together. We prayed, laughed, ate, and talked together. Speech about things such as religion, ikons, church, and other ‘taboo’ topics was unguarded and free. It was so relaxing and encouraging to be with so many students with the same goals and dreams.
We were at St. Nicholas Ranch in Dunlap, where there is the monastery dedicated to the Life-Giving Spring of the Theotokos. Unfortunately, Met. Anthony, the founder of the monastery and Greek Metropolitan of San Francisco, reposed the day before the conference started. That means the monastery was “closed” (no services), and that with the combination of his funeral in Oakland and some random flu bug, 5 of our 7 speakers cancelled the day before the conference or got sick during the conference and were unable to speak. It was only be the grace of God that we were able to get on the phone and arrange backup speakers to come for a week with less then 24 hours notice. That alone was miraculous.
Fr. Thomas Hopko was the keynote speaker. He is the kind of man who is so intelligent that all one must do is start him on a topic, and then sit back and listen to his wisdom. It was really incredible to speak with him and to ask him difficult questions. Another favorite speaker was Fr. (Abbot) Jonah of St. John’s monastery in Pt. Reyes. He came with less than 24 hours notice, and gave multiple talks. While the talks were titled briefly as “Faith,” there were more of a chance to sit at the feet of a man who through prayer has subjected his deep intellect to his even deeper piety. It is encouraging to me to see someone who through prayer has come to the resolution of greater and more difficult questions than I am even able to conceive. Even better for myself was his ability to communicate them in a way in which I could understand.
This entry could go on forever if I discussed the snow trip, blizzard, bonfire, chapel, monastery services, dance, concert, or any of the many other fun activities in which we participated. The bottom line is that next year, any of you Orthodox college students reading this should attend. It’s a great experience.
Glory to God!
:: 1:58 PM on
Saturday, January 01, 2005