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The theological reflections of an Eastern Orthodox convert and seminarian
:: St Seraphim, OCA::
:: St Andrew, AA::
:: Orthodox Church of America::
[::..Blogs I Read..::]
:: Huw's Doxos::
:: James' Paradosis::
::Fr. Joseph's Orthodixie::
[::..Other Links..::]
:: St. Vladimir's
(current school)
:: Torrey::
:: Biola::
:: The Onion Dome::
:: Yahoo::
:: Dictionary::
:: Boundless Webzine::

:: Friday, May 26, 2006 ::


[Mostly an entry for you fellow chums!]

To commence something means to begin it. A few hours ago, I began.

Even as I type this, I am wearing the ring. The words, “Bonvm Veritas Pvlcher” stand out whiter then even the white silver that surrounds them. Finally, we knelt, were hit with the Bible, and rose to end it all with a rousing chorus of “Gaudeamus Igitur.” I have waited four years for it, anticipated it, oft envied the very ring I now wear. But what does it mean?

What have I begun? I have begun to be someone I was not four years ago --- a whole soul. I have changed in so many ways since being here. I am not necessarily smarter, but I am more complete, integrated, and more ‘me.’ When I entered Torrey, I was more of a “collection of connected soul parts” rather then a whole soul. I have learned that theology is not only what is done when engrossed in Augustine’s De Trinitate, but that which is done in the confessional. I have learned that if I don’t care, I won’t learn. If I don’t understand my chums over dinner, I won’t understand them in session, either. My tutors are people, like me, not automatons. The best session? I don’t remember the book, but rather that we, a group of “bright, highly motivated young people” ended in tears, singing “Jesus loves me.” And we really meant it. People are more important then ideas. Always! Some things are more important; I have learned how to tell what these are, when to express them, and when to wait for a better time and place.

I have learned to “be real,” but not in the modern “feel-good” sense. I can see my life for what it has been: that of a pampered American with no cause for angst. And yet rather then resent this and fall into the faux-angst of many modern pampered American students, I soberly put behind me the ways of my childhood and look forward as an adult able to act and take responsibility for those actions. I have been given much; much will be required.

I have learned to be a woman, not simply an “imitation man.” I have learned the deep honor and dignity inherent in my gender, and rather then trying to be something I am not, I have turned my attention to seeking to be the best that I am. It is not politically correct to say such things, but men as men should exhibit the goodness inherent to their gender: courage, strength, honor, valor, and the other qualities befitting a knight. To compliment men, women are needed to be women --- not false men. A lady presents herself modestly, humbly, meekly, gently, and is prudent and wise in her dealings.

In conclusion, I will likely forget the names of the circles of Dante’s Hell. Even now, I am not sure I remember which of Shakespeare’s Henry’s did what. Oedipus Rex, John Locke, Homer, and Aristotle are all starting to bleed together in my head, and yet I will never forget the lessons I have learned. Sometimes I wonder in Torrey: how much of my learning takes place in session, and how much at lunch/dinner, parties, Bible studies, plays, musicals, and other events? I have my academic knowledge --- it got me a few cords and a stole to wear tomorrow as I walk across stage. But infinitely more important is that which my soul has learned. And is just beginning to learn.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:40 PM on Friday, May 26, 2006 [+] ::

:: Sunday, May 21, 2006 ::

In all those technical senses, I’m prepared to receive the Eucharist. I’ve done A,B, and C, and so I should receive today, right? But I don’t feel ‘ready.’

It’s finals week, I’m graduating in 6 days (!!), and my mind is in two thousand different places. God and the state of my soul are, unfortunately, not the first on this list. I am not stressed (that has negative connotations), but scattered, tired, and excited. My mind is not ready for church, and my soul is not ready to receive God. So, should I approach?

Ringing in my ears are the words of my SF on the day of my baptism. He told me that now that I can receive the Eucharist, I should. If I am prepared but do not receive it because I do not want to, I am excommunicating myself (literally), that is presumptuous, and I would need to confess that self-excommunication before I receive again. But, I still don’t want to approach.

In the end, of course, I am not worthy. That’s the point, right? We are not worthy to receive God: the earth offered a cave to him who made the heavens with understanding. What can I offer him? I can and should try, but I am not going to be worthy. I must trust that in his mercy he desires not the death of this sinner, but that he should make his abode in my wretched heart and purify my soul by the fire of his divinity. In other words, it is exactly when I don’t feel worthy that I should approach. When I feel worthy…that’s when I need to reflect more.

And yet still…I am afraid.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 10:11 AM on Sunday, May 21, 2006 [+] ::

:: Friday, May 12, 2006 ::
An Orthodox Missiology

We’ve all met Evangelicals who try to hand us tracts and ask us if we are ‘born again.’ Or we’ve answered the door to that friendly pair of young Mormon ‘elders’ who try to tell us about Moroni and becoming your own god. But what does evangelism look like for the Orthodox? What do (or should) we do?

Recently, I have seen a spate of articles dealing with the subject of evangelism among Orthodox Christians. I was beginning to wonder: should we really be knocking on doors, handing out tracts, or coming up with clever advertising campaigns? As I was editing my friend’s thesis on Orthodox Alaska, a novel thought struck me: maybe we should be Orthodox in our approach to evangelism.

What does traditional Orthodox evangelism look like? Well, it’s nowhere near as easy as knocking on doors, handing out tracts, or clever advertising. St. Herman went to Alaska not with a band of missionaries, but with a group of monks. They did not take evangelism classes, but they took their prayer ropes. They did not bring tracts, but they brought ikons. They did not come willing to meet the world on the world’s grounds, but they came to transcend this world, and to bring others with them.

This is incarnational evangelism. The salvation of the world came when God was born of a Virgin and was made flesh. This general salvation of our flesh becomes individual when we in community struggle to save ourselves by likewise becoming as God is. We are saved by reincarnating Christ in ourselves. This means that the Kingdom of Heaven is here, the Second Coming is happening, and the world is being saved --- all in the present tense. If Christ is truly incarnate in and is in our midst, then we live in the Eschaton: this is a what a saint does. No, it is not easy to be crucified with Christ, to struggle daily to confess him as Lord, to live out the beatitudes, loving your enemies and praying for your persecutors. But the world is saved by Christ coming into it, and we are the Body of Christ, then the world will be saved by us becoming Christ; literally, the world will be saved as we become saved.

I’m not saying it’s easy, or quick, or even guaranteed to work. After all, they crucified Jesus, and he let them do it. It’s not tract theology --- it’s the cross. But it is salvation.

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 1:32 PM on Friday, May 12, 2006 [+] ::

:: Saturday, May 06, 2006 ::
Praying Hard

We all have our prayer lists: there are certain people for whom we pray every day. However, if you are like me, you are constantly fighting the urge to just repeat mindlessly the names from off of the list. But, then there are those times when you really want to pray especially for a specific person, be it a praise or a petition. How do you “pray hard” for someone?

Here’s an example: An acquaintance, J, was telling me how much he’s been struggling with his spiritual life, and how some really hard things had been happening recently. I didn’t have too many details, and yet he was clearly hurting, and I really wanted to pray for him. So, how do I do that? It doesn’t feel like enough just adding him to my daily prayer-list. Or how about another couple, T&R, who had their first baby yesterday morning? I really want to give thanks to God with them! But how do I?

I find myself too often drifting into emotional sentimentalism if I try to pray extemporaneously. And yet I feel as if it is impersonal to use the written prayers to give thanks or to petition God for specific things. Sure, there are specific one-or-two paragraph prayers for a whole slew of events, but I want to say more then one or two paragraphs. These are my friends, whom I care about!

I read the verse, “the Spirit itself [sic] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” and yet I still feel as though I could do a significantly better job of voicing my own petitions. The two things I have found useful are the Paraklesis and the Akathist “Glory to God for All Things,” but both tend to feel impersonal, and I am almost sure there is more out there that I just don’t know about.

So, assuming you understand what I am saying, and assuming you too want to ‘pray hard’ about specific things, what do you do? What prayers do you use?

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 5:40 PM on Saturday, May 06, 2006 [+] ::

:: Wednesday, May 03, 2006 ::
On Not Cheating

I had a math test today. I didn’t cheat on it. But I might as well have.

This post could have alternatively be titled, “I Owe My Guardian Angel.” So, I had a major math test today. Most of the test involved memorizing and utilizing long and complex formulas (the class is “Advanced Statistics”); it was not testing knowledge of math so much as memorization of methods. Yours truly took a long time to carefully enter into her graphing calculator all of the formulas, their uses, their titles, and their relations before the test started. I then took that calculator to the test.

Here’s the thing: I was planning to cheat. I was justifying it to myself. Yesterday, I specifically asked the professor if I could use my calculator on the test; although he dislikes calculators and does not use them himself, he agreed. Then I got even more specific: Could I use all of the ‘special’ features on my calculator? Again, he said yes. Now, if my professor had known what I was planning to do with my calculator, he would have not approved. But he said I could use it…so I was justified.

As I said before, I didn’t cheat. Mostly because I think I did really well on the test, and because if I had cheated, I would have had to confess it and the Confessor would have most likely had me own up to my cheating, probably by telling the professor. I feel as though I have barely escaped sin, and it was not due to my own virtue. I was accidentally saved. The test was easy enough, I remember the formulas myself, and I got through it. But what if…? I was so close to doing it, yet I feel as though something other then me stopped me. Alone, I would have sinned. I still really can’t believe that I didn’t. Yes, “Seeing as we have so great a cloud of witnesses…” somehow is ringing through my head.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us !

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 9:18 PM on Wednesday, May 03, 2006 [+] ::

:: Monday, May 01, 2006 ::
Food For Thought…

I distinctly remember 4 years ago, doing Freshman Initiatives with my Torrey group. All 16 of us Wesleyans were sitting on the concrete in front of the chapel, and they had just handed us fairly simple instructions for a card game. I was smart, right? I mean, after all, I had just aced my first year of a college honors program. The instructions for the game were simple and straight-forward. The only extra rule was that we were not allowed to speak once we started. Surely this wouldn’t interfere with such a simple game, especially among such bright students, right?

As we started our second round, I remember the sequence of thoughts as they entered my head. I was sitting across from P, a fellow chum, and a bright man. Suddenly, he started to play wrong. He took the wrong cards at the wrong time, and played cards that were illegal to play. First thought: Great, yet another stupid person who can’t even follow simple directions . Second thought (to my defense, this came almost instantly after the first thought): Wait. P is very bright. He can probably follow simple rules as well as I can. Something else must be going on. So, instead of correcting his ‘rules,’ I let him play with them. It turns out, we had been given different rules, but we had been told that we had the same rules. Embarrassing as it is, I must admit: that was the first time it had entered my head that someone else was at least as smart as I was, if not smarter. I was not in this alone!

Fast-forward four years to last week. While sharing my fears about seminary with my godsister, she mentioned how blessed I was, “Erica, you’ll be among people who love God as much as you, who love the Church as much as you do, and who are willing to give their lives just as much as you to service.” Again, to my embarrassment, I had never thought of that. It sounds quite conceited to admit it, but I am so wrapped up in myself that I had forgotten that there are other people who really love God, the Church, and all that stuff at least as much as I do…and even more. And I will be there with them. The thought, while it is still very new and unfamiliar to me, is of immense comfort and encouragement. Yes, I admit I am rightfully and deservedly the butt of all possible first-year seminarian jokes…but I can’t really care anymore --- I’m too excited!

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 5:42 PM on Monday, May 01, 2006 [+] ::

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