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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::
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:: St. Vladimir's
(current school)
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:: Boundless Webzine::

:: Thursday, March 31, 2005 ::

A Vision of Unity

As I mentioned briefly in the previous post, I attended a pan-Orthodox youth conference this last weekend. One of the things discussed there was the necessity of unity among the various ethnic Orthodox jurisdictions. While I am as against highfalutin “mission statements” as the next guy, I do wonder what this “unity” means. What are we looking to achieve?

Do we envision parishes were everyone speaks one language? This whole United States experiment has been trying that for the last 225 years, and it hasn’t worked yet. Heck, the state of California can’t even manage to have its public schools all using the same language; why do we expect this of an even more diverse Church? Immigrants to the States bring with them their language and customs, and probably do so even more so in the church than in any other area of their lives. So are we asking them to drop their identities so that we can seem like one body? The Orthodox Church is easily the most ecclesiastically united body in the world; isn’t this enough?

Are we looking to achieve one bishop over each geographic region? It seems like that will only happen when we start speaking one language, or sharing a common culture. For the same reason we use multiple languages in church, we are too multicultural have one bishop in each area.

So, if it is foolish to imagine having only one language in a church, or only one bishop in an area, what are we looking to achieve? Should we seek to force immigrants to drop their customs and become American Orthodox? That would be dangerous; they come from established Orthodox backgrounds, while we are the new converts. Should we seek practical things, like using the majority vernacular for services? Perhaps, but this seems more like a pastoral question than one of greater Orthodox unity.

What I am saying that I want unity as much as the next person, but I have no goal at which to set my sights. What are we aiming for?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:57 AM on Thursday, March 31, 2005 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 ::
Dangerous Ideas

These last four days or so, I have been at a conference for Orthodox youth in Britain. It was great! There were many nationalities and cultures, 57 students, a lot of fun, and one dangerous idea…

While listening to presentations of the various youth activities, one of the Copt students spoke about the youth groups of his church. I had a dangerous idea. What if we could have a youth event in Southern California that was both Coptic and Orthodox, specifically Antiochian and Jerusalem Patriarchate students? There are enough of all three groups in the area, and I think it might work. I am talking about a good sized youth rally, with speakers and music and dancing and food and all. I know there is palpable tension between the groups, but if there were enough students willing to be friendly, would it work? Could it work? It would take a ton of planning and work, but it might be possible. Firstly, I’d have to some blessings of the clergy involved…that might prove difficult. But this weekend I learned that the Copts have a bishop in France (Bp. Angelos) who is dedicated to international youth work, so he might be able to help…I don’t know; I am kind of dreaming at this point, but I think it would be incredible to see it actually happen.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 6:50 AM on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 [+] ::

:: Monday, March 21, 2005 ::
Wash not just your face but…the dishes

Arius’ baptismal font may have been the first palindrome (“wash not just your face but your sins”), and while he may have been the arch-heretic of the Church, he had a point which I very much need to hear this Lent.

I pray, fast and keep (to one extent or another) all those good Lenten ‘rules.’ Whoop-ti-do. This Lent is still one of those really hard times. So, I’ve decided to do sometime about it. Like the dishes.

It’s gotta be more than the rules. God is not in the rules, no matter how good for our soul they are. In other words, theologizing and prayer will only get you so far: then, you have to get your hands wet.

And besides (with one exception), no one else in my flat does the dishes. So, I’ll do them each day. Maybe it will help. Hey, at least it’ll be easier to find a clean fork at dinner time…;-)

Pray for me.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 2:01 PM on Monday, March 21, 2005 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 ::
Losing God

Last night, I stayed up far too late reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce.” It got me to thinking.

There is one point in which an Artist Ghost is speaking to a Bright Person about his love of painting. He keeps saying that all he really wants do to paint what he sees. The Bright Person tells him to stop focusing on painting, “Don’t you see you’ll never paint at all if that’s what you’re thinking about?” Artist claims that he is interested in the country for its own sake, since that is what artists love.

“No. You’re forgetting,” said the Spirit. “That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light…Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him.”

This passage, for the first time in a long time, brought me to my knees with tears. What have I forgotten? Have I gotten so wrapped up in doing it right, fasting correctly, the rules and regulations and damned Pharisaical laws, even the Church itself, that I have forgotten God? What if all that I am doing is only to please myself: to justify myself to myself. I want desperately to ‘paint,’ but perhaps I have forgotten my first Love, that Love which drove me to picking up the brush and pursuing Him with all my heart.

What do I do? How do I stop and return to that which I fear I have lost? There was a time when I loved God above all else, a time when my heart was purely toward him; I did what I did because I sought to serve God alone, with a pure heart. They tell me that this is just childish naiveté, and so is it a good part of growing up that I become more jaded? I fear I have become a slave to my own proud motives; I have become so used to ‘fighting’ that I do not remember how to surrender the fight to Truth. So, what happens now?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 6:24 AM on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, March 08, 2005 ::
Let Reproach Come…

It has been one of those random goals of mine for the last few years to memorize the Psalter. Long before Orthodoxy, I realized that I will probably spend my whole life hearing portions of this book, and so I had best memorize it. The other day I caught myself chanting a Vesperal Psalm, 122, “let reproach come upon them that prosper, and abasement on the proud.”

Wait a minute…let reproach come upon…whom? “Them that prosper.” I look at my life. I have everything I could want and more. Not only do I have a wonderful family who loves me unconditionally and provides all my physical needs, but I have loving friends who put up with me even when I’m grouchy. Added to the basics, I am getting an education my parents could have only dreamed of – at Oxford University, no less. As I think about my life, there is really nothing I could want. Heck, I even live 2 minutes from church and get to go everyday! Church, family, school, friends…what more could I ask for?

In a word, I am one of those who prosper. So, why am I praying that reproach come upon myself? I’m not even going into the second phrase, “and abasement on the proud.” That’s self-evidently a rather…odd…prayer. I am proud and I am prosperous – so why would I pray this way?

Simply put, I do not know. I assume that he who prays this prayer would also pray the 50th Psalm, asking for “clean heart,” while realizing that “the sacrifices unto God are a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humble God will not despise.” It only makes sense that one would pray for humility before praying that God would strike down the proud. Of course, it also makes the great leap of faith: Which prayer will God answer first: the one for humility, or the one for striking down the proud? But that still does not answer the ‘prosperous’ part. For Israel, prosperity meant that you were blessed of God; why would God strike down those he had blessed? Is there something wrong with prosperity? Or am I making too much out of a poor translation of a word?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 2:32 PM on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 [+] ::

:: Sunday, March 06, 2005 ::

Wondering what forgiveness is? The following story made me think a little harder...
— Taken from the magazine "The Voice of the Martyrs, April, 2002

A rich man with hundreds of slaves had one by the name of Paulus, whom he trusted fully, making him steward over all his household. One day he went with Paulus to the slave market to buy some new men. Before bargaining, they examined the human merchandise, observing their musculature to see if they were worth their price. Paulus saw for sale a weak, old man. He implored his owner to buy this slave. The rich man, Proculus, answered mockingly, "But he is good for nothing."

"Buy him," Paulus insisted. "He is cheap. And I promise that the work in your household will go as never before."

So the owner yielded. And it really was true that all the work went better than ever. But Proculus observed that Paulus now worked for two men. The old slave did nothing. Paulus tended him, gave him the best food, and made him rest the whole time.

Proculus asked Paulus, "You know I value you. I don’t mind your protecting this old man. Only tell me who he is. Is it perhaps your father who has fallen into slavery?"

Paulus answered, "It is one to whom I owe more than to my father."

"Is it your teacher?"

"No. Somebody to whom I owe more."

"Who is it, then?"

"This is my enemy. He is the man who killed my father and sold us, the children, as slaves. As for me, I am a disciple of Christ, Who has taught us to love our enemies and to reward evil with good."

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 1:08 PM on Sunday, March 06, 2005 [+] ::

:: Friday, March 04, 2005 ::
I Wanna Be a Big Kid!

There is a certain irony with the phrase “Big Kid.” Any time a child is called a “big kid,” he is almost by definition not. This Lent, I wanna be a big kid. So, I am probably by definition not one at all.

I have kept Lent for the last two years in the same way, together with my best friend Bree. While she, being far more pious than I, keeps this under the discipline of her priest and spiritual father, I keep it with no discipline at all. Through osmosis, I know what the idea of the Fast entails and so I do it. While I realize that there are injunctions against keeping the Fast without guidance, each year I have grown incredibly from the Fast; praying more and eating less does wonderful things for one’s spiritual life!

This year, I am faced with somewhat of a dilemma. I now know enough to know that it would be good to ask for spiritual guidance from someone (so much easier said than done, especially when 5000 miles away from any semblance of ‘home!’). Anyone I ask this of would (correctly) view me as a new catechumen, and therefore reach the conclusion that I probably am not someone who should keep the standard rather strict Fast (at least not to the same strictness that I have kept it for the last two years). This is the reason I would not ask. While I realize discipline and obedience are good, I do not want to be told not to keep the strict Fast. The very fact that I want to keep the physical fast rather then submit to spiritual discipline shows that I indeed need the spiritual discipline more than the physical fast. The irony is that in wanting to be a ‘big kid’ it just shows that I am not.

So…to ask or not to ask…that is the dilemma. Of course, there is also the problem that I will probably not be able to keep as strict a fast this year as previously: I walk an average of 7 miles a day to get around Oxford, and I don’t think that would work too well if I were keeping the standard Lenten fast. But if I start with no guidance, and then fail because of the rigors of walking around everyday, I would probably be very depressed about it and things would get bad. Then again, if I did it under discipline and was unable to keep it, I’d have to go back to the priest and explain this. This would probably never get done due to pride and fear, and things would be equally bad.

I wanna be a big kid and do it myself. Therefore, I am not a big kid and can’t do it myself. Please pray for me.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 4:06 AM on Friday, March 04, 2005 [+] ::

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