:: Monday, February 28, 2005 ::
:: Thursday, February 24, 2005 ::
I attend many lectures each week given by ‘titled’ individuals. Being a theology student at Oxford, most of the titles I encounter are either religious or academic. The title given to a speaker, however, is almost as demonstrative of their position as their words.
Last week, a hieromonk from Essex came and spoke on 19th century Russian philosophy. In attendance were both philosophy students, and a handful of us Orthodox students who know Fr. Nikoli from Essex, and enjoy hearing him speak. He was not introduced as “Dr. So-and-so,” (which he is) but as “Fr. Nikoli.” While he does hold his DPhil, and was speaking on a very academic matter, he was clearly “Father” and not “Doctor.”
I attend weekly lectures on St. Thomas at the Dominican friary, Blackfriars. About 1/3 of the attendees are monastics of various cowls, predominantly Jesuit, with some Blackfriars, and a few Capuchins and Franciscans. This group tends to be extremely liberal; I admit to being shocked and scandalized when I first heard a very liberal monastic espouse that Jesus wasn’t God, but I swallowed my shock and realized this is the way it is. All save one of the weekly speakers has been a monastic, and they all go strictly by “Dr. So-and-so.” One would never call any of these men “Father” or “Brother,” even in passing. Even their fellow monastics refer to them only by their first names (without any title), a nickname, or “Dr. So-and-so.” No sort of religious titles in this group.
At another lecture on Christianity’s role in the formation of English culture, a man in a dog-collar spoke disparagingly about Christianity and everything for which it stood. Knowing full well he was “Dr,” but not remembering his name, I went to ask him a question about Church-State relations. I mistakenly used the title “Father;” (hey, he had a collar!) but as soon as it came out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong. I had shown my hand as a theological conservative, and he immediately switched his theological side, and told me what he thought I wanted to hear, praising the Church as a great bulwark and redemptive force in English culture. By the very title “Father,” I had given myself away.
If liberal and conservative isn’t enough, try even odder situations. Yesterday, I caught myself calling Bp Kallistos “Father.” It becomes semi-automatic as a way of speaking to clergy, and I mean no disrespect or offense by it! I always say “Father” even for deacons, but only some look up. Back to Anglican-land, I still struggle with what to call women wearing collars; mostly, I don’t speak to them, but if I did…I don’t know. Most evangelical Anglican priests (who sometimes wear collars) have absolutely no response to “Father.” That can be very confusing; you can’t figure out how to get their attention. Then there is always the question of whether he is “Father first-name” or “Father last-name.” It gets tough.
So, when is he “Father,” when is he “Doctor,” and when is he something else? Well, of course you speak to someone with the name with which you have been introduced, but formal introductions are woefully infrequent. I have been here long enough that I know what to call most of those with whom I come in frequent contact. Of course, sometimes I just want to give up and say “Father” if he is wearing a collar; hey, I think the priesthood is worthy of more reverence than an academic degree, and if the title offends you…why are you a priest?
Glory to God!
:: 3:50 AM on
Monday, February 28, 2005
:: Monday, February 21, 2005 ::
Normally, I try to stay off of political issues (even Church ones) and on theological subjects, but today I must turn my gaze to more secular affairs. I recently read Terry Mattingly’s (excellent) recent article on Met. Philip’s speech to a GOArch group in New York. Some friends and I were discussing various hierarchs of the various ethnic American churches over dinner tonight. While I do follow Church politics, especially as it relates to American Orthodoxy, I was unsure of what I should or should not discuss, and what opinions I should or should not share.
I know what I do not want to do. I do not want to be like some Catholics I know who think that because they were born into their church they have the right to absolutely and unfairly decimate anyone who wears a collar, getting worse the higher he gets up the hierarchical chain. I know people who will sink to the lowest levels to sound ‘cool’ in their disrespect of their hierarchy. I do not want to do this.
On the other hand, I want to be well aware of what the hierarchy does, and I do not see it as wrong, in an intelligent and well-articulated manner, to disagree with them. I am not discussing disagreement over theological issues, but over practical issues of government and administration. Now, I understand that I have no experience in this and probably should not dabble in that which I do not understand, but at the same time I feel justified in my opinions.
Conversely, again, I think it is very rude to disrespect our hierarchy around people who have no interest in the political affairs of the Church and are scandalized by the discussion. I have been on the receiving end of this (too many times!), and think many of us Church-nerds (myself included) do not understand that for some people, Church is not a ‘thing’ to be dissected, but is the way of working out their salvation (and may it be for me, too!). I think in this way, we must take care of our discussions on all Church political issues.
While I would be especially adamant about the above point in the presence of catechumens or young Christians, an objection may be that people should know the truth about the Church and the way it functions. I think this is a valid point, but how far is too far? Are we able to keep our discussions civil and rational? Are we able to remember that the hierarchs know more about ruling a diocese than we? Remember, they will be accountable for their actions, and we for ours. We must work out our own salvation, but at the same time protect the Church.
The lines here are fine and difficult to define. But, forgive me my friends for my offences. May the Lord have mercy on his Holy Church!
Glory to God!
:: 3:42 PM on
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The Publican and Me
:: Sunday, February 20, 2005 ::
To quote briefly from this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 18:10-14), the Pharisee says, “I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Now, I know we are supposed to not be like the Pharisee and be like the Publican (I’m not that slow). Unfortunately, I do not understand what is necessarily wrong with what the Publican is saying.
It seems fair for me to thank God that I am not like some people. I thank him that I am not a rough-sleeper (British slang for “homeless”). As I walked home in the snow today, I thanked him that I was not a construction worker who had to be outside all day. On a more practical level, I thank him that I have certain gifts that others do not have: I can read and write (even if on a basic level), I can see (one of my friends here is blind), I can walk. Is there something wrong with thanking God that I am not like other people in their infirmities?
As for the second part of the Pharisee’s claim, if for any reason I ever become non “unjust,” it will be by the grace of God, and therefore I would give glory to God for the accomplishment. If I am able to keep the twice-weekly fasts, it is only by God’s strength that I do it, and you had better believe that I thank God for giving me the strength to do so. If someone has the strength to tithe, he should thank God. I would thank God for the same things as the Pharisee. Now given, I do not go to a street corner and announce this for all the world to hear (not literally, at least), I still pray for essentially the same things.
Is this wrong? It seems like we should be grateful to God for the continence he has granted us. While I freely admit, it would be better if I had the humility of the Publican, and was able to realize my sins and repent of them, that is not a gift he has yet granted me. So, rather, I thank him for the gifts I have, and implore that he grant me the gifts (such as repentance) that I lack. I am much more like the Pharisee than the Publican. But I don’t see this as wrong, somehow. I must really be missing something here.
Glory to God!
:: 3:39 PM on
Monday, February 21, 2005
Semi-Pelagian Narrower Chatechism
:: Wednesday, February 16, 2005 ::
I found this over here, and figured it was at least worth re-posting. If you are offended, forgive me, but I found it too funny to pass up.
The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism
1. Q: What is the chief end of each individual Christian?
A: Each individual Christian's chief end is to get saved. This is the first and great commandment.
2. Q: And what is the second great commandment?
A: The second, which is like unto it, is to get as many others saved as he can.
3. Q: What one work is required of thee for thy salvation?
A: It is required of me for my salvation that I make a Decision for Christ, which meaneth to accept Him into my heart to be my personal lord'n'saviour
4. Q: At what time must thou perform this work?
A: I must perform this work at such time as I have reached the Age of Accountability.
5. Q: At what time wilt thou have reached this Age?
A: That is a trick question. In order to determine this time, my mind must needs be sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce even to the division of bone and marrow; for, alas, the Age of Accountability is different for each individual, and is thus unknowable.
6. Q: By what means is a Decision for Christ made?
A: A Decision for Christ is made, not according to His own purpose and grace which was given to me in Christ Jesus before the world began, but according to the exercise of my own Free Will in saying the Sinner's Prayer in my own words.
7. Q: If it be true then that man is responsible for this Decision, how then can God be sovereign?
A: He cannot be. God sovereignly chose not to be sovereign, and is therefore dependent upon me to come to Him for salvation. He standeth outside the door of my heart, forlornly knocking, until such time as I Decide to let Him in.
8. Q: How then can we make such a Decision, seeing that the Scripture saith, we are dead in our trespasses and sins?
A: By this the Scripture meaneth, not that we are dead, but only that we are sick or injured in them.
9. Q: What is the assurance of thy salvation?
A: The assurance of thy salvation is, that I know the date on which I prayed the Sinner's Prayer, and have duly written this date on an official Decision card.
10. Q: What is thy story? What is thy song?
A: Praising my Savior all the day long.
11. Q: You ask me how I know he lives?
A: He lives within my heart.
12. Q: And what else hast thou got in thine heart?
A: I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
13. Q: Where??
A: Down in my heart!
14. Q: Where???
A: Down in my heart!!
15. Q: What witness aid hath been given us as a technique by which we may win souls?
A: The tract known commonly as the Four Spiritual Laws, is the chief aid whereby we may win souls.
16. Q: What doth this tract principally teach?
A: The Four Spiritual Laws principally teach, that God's entire plan for history and the universe centereth on me, and that I am powerful enough to thwart His divine purpose if I refuse to let Him pursue His Wonderful Plan for my life.
17. Q: What supplementary technique is given by which we may win souls?
A: The technique of giving our own Personal Testimony, in the which we must always be ready to give an answer concerning the years we spent in vanity and pride, and the wretched vices in which we wallowed all our lives until
the day we got saved.
18. Q: I'm so happy, what's the reason why?
A: Jesus took my burden all away!
19. Q: What are the means given whereby we may save large crowds of souls in a spectacular manner?
A: Such a spectacle is accomplished by means of well-publicized Crusades and Revivals which (in order that none may be loath to attend) are best conducted anywhere else but in a Church.
20. Q: Am I a soldier of the Cross?
A: I am a soldier of the Cross if I join Campus Crusade, Boys' Brigade, the Salvation Army, or the Wheaton Crusaders; of if I put on the helmet of Dispensationalism, the breastplate of Pietism, the shield of Tribulationism, and the sword of Zionism, having my feet shod with the gospel of Arminianism.
21. Q: Who is your boss?
A: My boss is a Jewish carpenter.
22. Q: Hath God predestined vessels of wrath to Hell?
A: God hath never performed such an omnipotent act, for any such thing would not reflect His primary attribute, which is Niceness.
23. Q: What is sanctification?
A: Sanctification is the work of my free Will, whereby I am renewed by having my Daily Quiet Time.
24. Q: What rule hath God for our direction in prayer?
A: The rule that we must bow our hands, close our heads, and fold our eyes.
25. Q: What doth the Lord's Prayer teach us?
A: The Lord's Prayer teacheth us that we must never memorize a prayer, or use one that hath been written down.
26. Q: What's the book for thee?
A: The B-I-B-L-E.
27. Q: Which are among the first books which a Christian should read to his soul's health?
A: Among the first books which a Christian should read are the books of Daniel and Revelation, and The Late Great Planet Earth.
28. Q: Who is on the Lord's side?
A: He who doth support whatsoever is done by the nation of Israel, and who doth renounce the world, the flesh, and the Catholic Church.
29. Q: What are the seven deadly sins?
A: The seven deadly sins are smoking, drinking, dancing, card-playing, movie-going, baptizing babies, and having any creed but Christ.
30. Q: What is a sacrament?
A: A sacrament is an insidious invention devised by the Catholic Church whereby men are drawn into idolatry.
31. Q: What is the Lord's Supper?
A: The Lord's Supper is a dispensing of saltines and grape juice, in the which we remember Christ's command to pretend that they are His body and blood.
32. Q: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is the act whereby, by the performance of something that seems quite silly in front of everyone, I prove that I really, really mean it.
33. Q: What is the Church?
A: The Church is the tiny minority of individuals living at this time who have Jesus in their hearts, and who come together once a week for a sermon, fellowship and donuts.
34. Q: What is the office of the keys?
A: The office of the keys is that office held by the custodian.
35. Q: What meaneth "The Priesthood Of All Believers"?
A: The Priesthood Of All Believers meaneth that there exists no authority in the Church, as that falsely thought to be held by elders, presbyters, deacons, and bishops, but that each individual Christian acts as his own authority in all matters pertaining to the faith.
36. Q: Who is the Holy Spirit?
A: The Holy Spirit is a gentleman Who would never barge in.
37. Q: How long hath the Holy Spirit been at work?
A: The Holy Spirit hath been at work for more than a century: expressly, since the nineteenth-century Revitalization brought about by traveling Evangelists carrying tents across America.
38. Q: When will be the "Last Days" of which the Bible speaketh?
A: The "Last Days" are these days in which we are now living, in which the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Thief in the Night shall most certainly appear.
39. Q: What is the name of the event by which Christians will escape these dreadful entities?
A: The event commonly known as the Rapture, in the which it is our Blessed Hope that all cars driven by Christians will suddenly have no drivers.
40. Q: When is Jesus coming again?
A: Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening, and maybe soon.
41. Q: When the roll, roll, roll, is called up yonder, where will you be?
42. Q: Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah!
A: Praise ye the Lord!
43. Q: Praise ye the Lord!
44. Q: Where will we meet again?
A: Here, there, or in the air.
45. Q: Can I hear an Ay-men?
Glory to God!
:: 3:45 AM on
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Mutterings on Obedience and Will
:: Friday, February 11, 2005 ::
After coming back from the monastery (which was better than I can describe, so I will not try), I have been thinking a lot about obedience and will. Obedience seems to be submission of will to someone else’s authority, whether that be a spiritual father, abbot, or your parents. Will seems to be used as a nasty word; it is not something you want to have.
This is where I get confused. When we pray, we ask that God’s will be done, but we also tend to pray for “things.” Anything will work for this example. We insert our own will into our prayers. If we submit our will to people in ‘practice’ for submitting our will to God, how is it that we are able to get off praying for what we will?
The best solution I have is that we should not pray for things until we are familiar with the will of God. We should spend enough time in prayer to know God’s will, and then pray that our will be conformed to his. This is not asking for what we want in prayer, but rather what God wants. Of course this seems to eliminate the purpose of prayer from a selfish perspective: Why pray if it is not for anything I really want? But at the same time, we must realize that communion with God is that which will heal our perverted will and desires and re-align them with God. It seems to be a win-win situation for us, but we have to be non-selfish.
Glory to God!
:: 2:36 PM on
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
:: Saturday, February 05, 2005 ::
If I ever see this at my church…
Well, at least he has rhythm.
In other news…I am going to the monastery of St. John at Essex this weekend (yikes!), and then I will have to catch up on all the homework time I missed. So, probably not a lot of posting this week.
Glory to God!
:: 3:37 AM on
Friday, February 11, 2005
Sunday for the Soul
:: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 ::
I read a lot of theology. All the time. Sometimes it is from the writings of the saints themselves, but much more often it is from the critical reviews of the modern (and frequently liberal) pens of men like WHC Frend, Henry Chadwick, Ramsay MacMullen, RM Grant, and TD Barnes. People frequently tell me that studying theology, or being at a Christian college, was the hardest time for them to remain a Christian. Then they usually ask me if I struggle in the same way, always expecting a positive answer. Truthfully? No, I don’t (well…I’ve always been kind of a bad Christian, but studying theology has not made me too much worse in that department…).
So, how can I read theology everyday, discuss it, write papers on it, and think about it for hours on end without getting fed up with it? Sunday. It is that one glorious day each week where all of my theology reading and intellectual pursuit are put aside and I get to pray to God uninhibited by my own stupidity. I am [still] awed by the beauty of the Liturgy, the enveloping chants, the incense, the call and response of the priest to his people. There is usually a homily, delivered not for the intellectual college theologian, but for the old women sitting in front of me, too old to stand through the service. For myself, this homily is often too difficult to comprehend: I don’t understand how I can love sacrificially, pray fervently, and cultivate deep faith. But it is food for my soul, and my soul is greedy to consume it. I need this worship, these homilies for my soul to stay alive.
It can be difficult to remember that we need to feed our whole soul, not just our intellect. Go to the services, gaze at the simple yet majestic beauty of the Liturgy, hear the homily directed at your heart. Then go back and pick up your books to discover what it all means. But do not neglect your own soul in your pursuit of theology, lest after you have taught others, you yourself fall away.
Glory to God!
:: 11:27 AM on
Saturday, February 05, 2005
To Look For the Resurrection of the Dead
In Oxford, there are many churches; with churches are cemeteries. There are lots of cemeteries here; waiting places for the resurrection of the body. Everyday I confess “I look for the resurrection of the dead,” but what do I mean?
In a very practical way, if I were walking to a tut and all of a sudden I saw bodies coming from the cemeteries, I would absolutely freak out. I mean, bodies don’t exactly raise up, right? Well, I hope they do. Everyday I say that I am looking for it.
I must admit this is one of my favorite parts of the creed to look around church. At church here, there are always plenty of visitors (it’s the nature of the place), most of whom are not Orthodox. There are always a few voices that say the filioque, and then there are always a few people who insist on looking around to find them. But once the embarrassment and stares are forgotten, we talk about looking for the resurrection. People say this with so little…excitement. I always wonder what those people who stared at the newcomers would do if they found the cemetery empty on the way out of church…(I admit to stifling laughter if this thought occurs while I am saying the creed)…but I think, it would be tremendously exciting…spooky, but very exciting.
So, I look for it everyday. Now, I am not going off the deep end with ghost stories or signs or anything, but every morning as I head past it, I check to make sure that the bodies are still in the graves. This is an active looking; actively keeping awake. The whole creed is an active, daily thing, and this looking for the resurrection is no less so. I do not passively “believe in one God, the Father,” but I rather actively believe in Him and try to live my life as daily proof of this belief. So, why shouldn’t I just as actively look for the resurrection of the dead?
In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis states that it is the devil’s greatest scheme to make us forget about the Second Coming, the resurrection. But as a Christian, it is my duty to pray that ‘I may not be found fallen and idle, but watching and upright in activity, and ready to accompany him into the joy and divine palace of his glory.’ So, I’m paying attention. I’m looking for the resurrection of the dead.
Glory to God!
:: 1:12 PM on
Tuesday, February 01, 2005