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The theological reflections of an Eastern Orthodox convert and seminarian
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:: Friday, May 27, 2005 ::

Priests of the People

Last weekend, I went on a day-trip event called Opening the Book of Nature. If nothing else, it provides ample opportunity and an ‘excuse’ to meditate and pray in wonderful solitude and peacefulness.

As I hiked up a mountain and gazed out over the Silicon Valley, I could not help but feel a burden for the souls of those who dwelt therein. So many of them are hurting, so many are sick, and so many await God’s comfort and mercy. I thought of all the people who prayed, but did not receive the consolation they so fervently sought. Would their faith survive their testing? I thought of those who had heard the name of Jesus once or twice, but had rejected it. Would they know to whom to turn when life was difficult? Then there are those who seek to do God’s will with pious hearts, but did not have enough knowledge. What would become of them?

Suddenly, I felt like I should pray for the whole world. I don’t mean ‘me’ in particular, but rather that it is the job of the Christian to pray for the world around him; to intercede to God for the salvation of all. Then I started to wonder why I should intercede at all. In my imperfect and sinful way, my heart goes out to the sick children in the hospital. I don’t understand why they must suffer and die; I pray for the those connected, but suddenly it seems as though I am more sympathetic than God, begging him to have mercy on someone he would otherwise not have mercy on. How can I feel more pain for that child than God? That doesn’t make sense! God is all-merciful, so why should I pray that he have mercy on someone? Worse yet, why should I pray that he would have mercy, and then watch that person die anyway? It seems as if I am more merciful than God…? Clearly I’m wrong, but I don’t understand why.

Of course, none of this negates the fact that we as Christians are a royal priesthood. We represent mankind to God, just as mankind represents creation to God. We possess the rational element in the image of God himself, and therefore are able to offer back to him worship in his own kind. If you are humble, you should have no problem offering this type of intercession to God. If you are proud like me, however, it may help to remember that there are other people more pious, more holy, more deserving of God’s mercy, and who seek it more fervently than you. If nothing else, pray that they might receive it. Then pray for those that serve you personally, for those who serve in your parish all the way up to the hierarchy. Pray for those who await no other help but the mercy of God. Pray for those who are hurting; the sick, orphans, widows, those who are dying, the suffering. Pray for those who are forgotten by society…pray for the world and its pain, and offer up your incense before God on behalf of your fallen race.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 12:51 PM on Friday, May 27, 2005 [+] ::

:: Sunday, May 22, 2005 ::
God, good and bad?

I have been reading St. Ignatius Brianchaninov’s “The Arena.” It is a good book, if a little heavy and thick for my taste. It is the kind of book one should endeavor to read in a month, rather than a week.

Anyway, one of the things he mentions is that even the demons are in subjection to God’s will. They are constantly asking him to do lots and lots of evil to people, and he only permits them to do specific kinds of evil and at specific times. The example used is that of Job; God permitted Satan to test him.

This all sounds fine and very Orthodox, until you take a step back and keep in mind that we believe God is a good God. What do I mean? Let’s use another example. I have a red bucket of paint. I go about painting things red. You have a blue bucket of paint. You always want to use your blue bucket of paint, but you are under my control, so you can use your blue bucket of paint only when I say you can. You have an infinite urge to use your blue paint (that is to say, I will never want you to use your blue paint more than you yourself want to use it). This means that as soon as I desire blue paint, I will immediately have as much as I want exactly where and how I control it. Functionally, I have two colors of paint to choose from: my own red, and your blue paint.

This is the Gnostic concept of God; he can dispense both good and evil as he sees fit. Sure, he is not in direct possession of the evil he dispenses, but for all intents and purposes he controls it. Therefore, it is not as if there is some power struggle in the universe of good against evil, but only one God who metes out both as he sees fit. There is no struggle between the red and blue paint, but there is only me who is able to decide how much of each to use when. Because of the control God has over Satan (and God does control Satan, right?), it is as if God has the ability to do both good and evil. This is Gnostic. I do not think it is true. So, where is my logic bad?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 5:42 PM on Sunday, May 22, 2005 [+] ::

:: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 ::
Joseph and Nicodemus

[Written on Sunday, May 15th] Due to the whole Bay to Breakers race today, I was unable to get to my original destination of Synaxis of the Archangels for church this morning, and so I went to Holy Trinity on Green and Van Ness. Fr. Victor gave an excellent homily on Joseph and Nicodemus.

The gist was that while Joseph and Nicodemus were secret followers of Jesus who didn’t want to sacrifice their careers to be associated with him, when he was dead, Joseph went to Pilate to request the body. Pilate must have been surprised; here is a leading member of the Sanhedrin requesting the body of a state criminal who the Sanhedrin itself had condemned. Nicodemus also sacrificed, bringing100 pounds worth of burial spices to anoint the body of God. While the apostles hid with the door closed in fear, these two secret disciples of our Lord paid the honor due to God.

Is it then to be Nicodemus and Joseph or to be the Apostles? The former were fearful while Jesus was alive, showing his power; the later fearful when he seemed to have failed them. The scene makes me question Nicodemus’ and Joseph’s knowledge of the role of Jesus. The Apostles were devastated by his death, since they were under the impression that he would bring a kingdom on earth and physical deliverance from the Romans. While Nicodemus would have rightfully been sad at the sight of his master dead, he did not seem to think it was the end; he still cared for what had been left. Because their actions were so markedly different, it seems fair to conclude that Nicodemus had a different concept of who Jesus was; he certainly wasn’t a conquering king who had been defeated. Based also on the conversation in John 3, it seems as though Nicodemus had a better idea of who Christ truly was than did the Apostles. So, why did he hide during Jesus’ lifetime, and only come out of hiding after his death (and even before the resurrection!)?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:18 PM on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 [+] ::

:: Thursday, May 12, 2005 ::

I have recently noticed that fear is my primary reaction to the whole idea of God (Trinity), Jesus, the Church, and all things connected to religion.

In my experience, most people fear God in the sense that they fear his punishment, specifically spending eternity in Hell. I do not fear Hell or punishment. Perhaps this is wrong, but I am rather resolved to the fact that I love God and that I struggle toward my salvation as best I know how. Therefore, I am not afraid of being damned to Hell; perhaps this idea itself is damning pride, but I do not think so. I do the best I know how, and if it is not enough, then there is nothing better I can do. While I have a healthy knowledge of the torments that await those who will go to Hell, I have really no fear of God in that he will send me there.

My fear comes in that I find myself kneeling in prayer (yes, I was kneeling even though it is Pascha…deal with it!) and having some sort of awkwardness or shyness that God will judge me for what I say or do. The same goes with the saints; while I desire their prayers, I feel as though they are somehow too holy and too good for someone of the likes of me to approach them in prayer. Why would they listen to me? Who am I to stand before the throne of God and pray? Shouldn’t I leave that to the pious people, the good people whom it seems deserve the love of God? Doesn’t it make sense that God would love good people better (since he loves what is good)? I do not want to be presumptuous and assume that my prayers matter. This may sound stupid, but I love God and I know I am inadequate at showing that in my prayer, so rather than poorly show the love I feel, I would rather remain silent and let him think I am impious rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt.

I guess the only one of the lot of the saints I do not fear too much is the Theotokos. For some reason, when I got into Orthodoxy, I kind of fell in love with her. I’m still trying to explain it to myself, but it is enough to say that I spend time simply praying in silence before her ikon. Ikons of her are my favorites, whether in church or in my own ikon corner. I still am nervous about approaching her, but at least I do not fear that I am being a pest of some sort; after all, she is a Mother.

If perfect love casts out all fear, how to we acquire this perfect love to rid us of the burden of fear?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:35 AM on Thursday, May 12, 2005 [+] ::

:: Friday, May 06, 2005 ::
What’s My Line?

Since my internet access is spotty (to say the least!), I figured I’d entertain us all with a little game. How does the following prayer end?

Our Father, who arte in the heavens, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one...

If you are a layman:
a) Nothing. That’s it.
b) Amen.
c) Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.
d) One of the following ‘clercical’ exclamations listed below.
e) Other

If there is a cleric around:
1) For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen
2) For Thine are the kingdom, the power, and the glory...(same as above)
3) For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory...(same as above)
4) For Yours are the kingdom, the power, and the glory...(same as above)
5) For Yours/Thine is/are the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
6) Other

I think I’ve heard all of these before, even the ones where the grammar is…questionable. In my experience, different people/jurisdictions have different preferences. Anyway, which one(s) do you use/hear?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:39 AM on Friday, May 06, 2005 [+] ::

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