:: Monday, June 27, 2005 ::
Orthodox and American
:: Thursday, June 23, 2005 ::
I think partially to spite me, and partially for his own reasons, my dad is involved in a ‘missionary’ organization that preaches to the ‘lost souls’ in Kiev, The Ukraine. This group seeks specifically to convert Orthodox Christians to Protestantism. Now, while agree that many Orthodox Christians could use better Bible knowledge in general, I think that in places like Kiev, Orthodoxy is so engrained that it would be difficult to wipe out; if the Communists can’t do it, the Protestants certainly can’t.
There is an ethos of Orthodoxy in some countries. There is a strong historical, and familial tie to Orthodoxy that connects even those who claim atheism as their personal belief. While an individual can believe anything he wants, his country still remains fundamentally Orthodox. In fact, I would argue that even he remains fundamentally Orthodox. The mindset, mode of thinking, and cultural osmosis through which he has picked up even the Orthodoxy he denies is so permeating that he cannot shake it, even if he ‘converts.’
So, I’m American. I do not live in an Orthodox country. And as I think of Ukrainian Protestants, I wonder if they are as Protestant as I am Orthodox. Sure, the head knowledge, the zeal, the ‘convert’s correctness’ may be there, but none of the rest of it is. Protestantism is as much a mindset as Orthodoxy. It is the Protestant “pioneer spirit” that founded this country; it is the Protestant ideals that help to shape its democratic nature with an idea of intense personal freedom. I have this mindset, this mode of thinking, and I have picked up by cultural osmosis the ideas with which I have been surrounded. It is the very air I breathe. To do otherwise is fighting a loosing battle. While I may be a ‘convert:’ correct, zealous, and knowledgeable, I can never really ‘be’ Orthodox. I cannot understand it from the inside. I am American, and therefore whatever Church I attend, whatever my personal beliefs are, I am heir to my fathers’ beliefs: freedom from religion, independence, and Protestantism.
The few converts here and there in this country are this odd mixture of people all trying to ‘remake’ something that never really existed. Our convert perception of the Church will never be true; we are converts! We will always see it from the outside. We either come at is as Protestants (“Orthodoxy is great, but this one little thing needs fixing…”) or we try stumble around in (stereotypical) cradle-parishes wondering why it is so ‘dead.’ How Orthodox can I be as a convert? How Orthodox can I be as an American? Is it worth trying to do so, since I know I cannot fully succeed, whereas I can successfully be Protestant?
Glory to God!
:: 9:13 PM on
Monday, June 27, 2005
:: Wednesday, June 22, 2005 ::
From H.G. Bishop BASIL of Witicha
“... [S]end to us your sons to be priests, and your children – sons and daughters both – to be monastics. Raise pious families. Nurture fear and love of God at home, so that we can do what the Church has been called to do. The harvest is white. If today we did get our act together, if today we did put on Christ as our only garment, how many laborers would Holy Orthodoxy need here in America and from where would they come? We need to raise up pious men and women to be servants of the Church, in lay ministry as well as in ordained ministry, in monasticism as well as in marriage. That’s what our people can do. That’s what our people must do so that together we will be co-workers in building up the Body of Christ - Holy Orthodoxy – to the glory of the All-Holy Trinity and the salvation of souls.”
May it be!
Glory to God!
:: 10:56 PM on
Thursday, June 23, 2005
A Failed Catechumen
:: Sunday, June 12, 2005 ::
Today [Pentecost] I watched the reception of a catechumen at St. Seraphim. Listening to the prayers, it occurred to me: I have failed as a catechumen.
The prayers are for the salvation of the catechumen; that he may in due time receive the laver of regeneration. He is preparing for baptism and looking forward to a real date in time in which he will be received as a full member of the Church. On the other hand, I have no firm plans about my own baptism; I do not even know if I can look forward to a certain reception, much less a specific date for it. The catechumenate is a time for one to move forward in his relationship with God and the Church; I have just kind of stood still. I am using it more as a half-way point between being not-Orthodox and being Orthodox. I care far too much about what people think; most people who do not specifically know I am a catechumen think of me as Orthodox, so I do not keep looking toward my baptism.
The momentum is not there. Sure, I love God and the Church and all, but I have zero motivation to be baptized. I really think the Eucharist would kill me; it is a fire that consumeth the unworthy. While the ‘spiritual’ part of me desires it like one starving, the ‘theological’ part of me reminds myself that it is too much for me, and it would be my destruction. Then of course there’s all the stupid ‘political’ factors. Things like not having one church I regularly attend, or even one jurisdiction (don’t get me started!), or having my parents deride my religion at every possible juncture. There are stupid details, like godparents, as well as more serious things, like confession. Or there’s just practical things, like the distance I live from church.
I guess I have not really found a ‘home’ in Orthodoxy yet. I remembered when I was received as a catechumen. At the end of the longest 15 minute service of my life, Father said, “Welcome home.” You will find no argument from me that, yes, the Church is home. But there is no ‘home’ in any parish. I guess I am still working on those words, “Welcome home.” I think when I am home, when I stop falling through the cracks by constantly moving, then I will be baptized and will finally be ‘home.’
While I technically am still a ‘catechumen,’ I am not really one. I know what I believe: in that way, I am already there. So, I should no longer be a catechumen. But on the other end, I am not comfortable in any church yet (excepting when I am the only person there), with any priest, or in any congregation. I have a huge way to go. So, am I damned? If I die, will I go to Hell for my lack of faith? I am not part of the Church, and I know it is true. Does that mean I am living unrepentantly in sin? If I’m this bad at being a catechumen, will I ever make it as a fully baptized Orthodox Christian?
Glory to God!
:: 9:56 PM on
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
That Last Prayer
:: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 ::
Each night, I diligently read my prayer rule. First this prayer, then that one, then that one. I am often so tired that I have a hard time focusing, praying, or even staying awake. By the time I get to the end of the rule, and blow out the candles, I am ready for bed. But there’s one more prayer.
No matter how quickly I have read my rule, how lacking my focus has been, or how sleepy I am, I end my rule with a simple, sung “Unto thy merciful care…” It is a simple melody I learned in Oxford. We used to end each Vespers with it. After stumbling over the tones, the texts, the language (!), the number of stichera, and everything else I could possibly mess up at Vespers, this prayer came as a quiet, welcome relief. Next to the complex, memorized, carefully intoned prayers/chants I have done, it is so simple and easy. But, like no other prayer, I pray it.
It is a little bit of a prayer-rule after a prayer-rule. Sometimes I hurry through the other parts so I can get to it at the end. I wait to pray it, for some odd reason. It is a beautiful Rumanian melody with the current British translation; I wish I could give you the melody here, but I will give you the words. If you are unable to pray, try this simple, yet beautiful prayer:
Unto thy merciful care, we hasten in our sorrow. Despise not our prayer, O Virgin, Mother of God; but from misfortune deliver us. O! holy, pure, and blessed one! Most holy Mother of God, save us!
Glory to God!
:: 7:49 PM on
Sunday, June 12, 2005
It’s A Joke, Right?
:: Friday, June 03, 2005 ::
Someone, please tell me this is a joke…?
Com'on, with a name like Billie Shakespeare, this guy can't be serious...?
The Gospel of Judith Christ
Props to Fr. Joseph at Orthodixie
Glory to God!
:: 11:10 PM on
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Giving and Taking
Recently, in my casual perusal of the Gospels, I have noticed the theme of giving and taking. It is illustrated four times in the synoptic Gospels (Matt 13:12, Matt 25:29, Mark 4:25, and Luke 19:26); most recently I found it in Mark 4:25, “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” I don’t get it. Wouldn’t you give to him who has not, rather than taking from him what he already has? Even if he has lost it because of his own stupidity (see the parable of the talents, which I do not completely understand), he will only end up with nothing and needing help if we take from him what he has. Here at Raphael House, people come with either very little or nothing; they have ‘lost’ it for multiple complex reasons. We do not take what they have…that is crazy! Rather, we give to them what they need. Why would you take rather than give?
Glory to God!
:: 6:36 PM on
Friday, June 03, 2005