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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
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:: Sunday, February 25, 2007 ::

I Don’t Go To Church, But I’m Very Religious!

You all know people like this…the following is an excerpt from Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s book “The Eucharist” p. 144, 146 in the 2003 St. Vladimir’s Press Edition.

“Meanwhile, ‘religoius feeling,’ which ino our day again dominates in religion, is so distinct from faith because it lives and is nourished by itself, i.e., through the gratification that it gives and which, in the final analysis, is subordinated to personal tastes and emotional experiences, subjective and individual ‘spiritual needs.’

Faith, to the degree that it is indeed faith, cannot but be an inner struggle: ‘I believe; help my unbelief…’ (Mk 9:24). Religious feeling, on the contrary, ‘satisfies’ precisely because it is passive, and if it is oriented toward anything, it is primarily toward help and consolation amidst life’s adversities. Although its subject is always the person, faith is never individualistic, for it is directed to that which is revealed to it as absolute truth, which by its very nature is incapable of being ‘individual.’ Faith therefore invariably requires confession, expression, attraction and conversion of others to itself. Religious feeling, on the contrary, being utterly individualistic, feels itself to be inexpressible and shies away from any attempt at expression and comprehension, as if it were an unnecessary and unhealthy ‘rationalizing,’ which would put ‘simple faith’ at risk of destruction…

…But ‘religious feeling’ does not know this tranformation [from the world to the radical newness of faith] above all precisely because it does not want to. It does not know and does not want to know because in its very essence it is agnostic. Not oriented toward the truth, it is nourished and lives not by faith, as knowledge and possession of the truth, as the life of life, but by itself, by its own self-delight and self-sufficiency. The best witness to this is the startling indifference to the content of faith, the complete lack of interest in what faith believes…all this holds no interest for the contemporary ‘religious man.’ And this is not the result of a sinful laziness or weakness. The content of faith, the truth to which it is directed, holds no interest for him because it is not necessary for his ‘reigliousity,’ for that religious feeling that gradually substituted itself for faith and dissolved faith in itself.”

Yeah, go be ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ or whatever you’re calling it today…

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 11:37 AM on Sunday, February 25, 2007 [+] ::

:: Monday, February 12, 2007 ::
Scholarship & Goals

I have the next few weeks to decide what the topic for my Master’s thesis will be. Originally, I had planned to answer the question, “What are the sources of tension between the monastery and the parish?” I had hoped to explore the different interpretations of the evangelical calling, comparing “Go ye therefore…” and the parish with “Be ye holy…” and the monastery. There are historical reasons (Constantine and early monasticism, monastic reforms, &c), liturgical reasons (tonsure versus ordination), and an interesting set of people with one foot in each camp, such as celibate priests, monastic bishops, and hieromonks. So, that was my original idea.

Then, I met with the professor who will be my advisor, Fr. J. He is quite an academic and an excellent theologian in the English-speaking Orthodox world today. He mentioned the areas where he was doing study, and asked if I wanted to take a related topic, just so he would be really current on what I was studying and I could benefit the most from our meetings. Well, no, I want to study what I want to study: monastery/parish tensions. But, at the same time, this is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study theology under an eminent theologian. If nothing else, I could simply learn to “do” theology the way he does it. As I hope to do future work in theology in a non-Orthodox setting, it could only be beneficial to study under someone who can help to solidify the finer points of Orthodox theologia and give me a good basis on which to build other work.

So, here’s the quandary. Do I do the topic that I really want to do, or do I take the opportunity and sit at the feet of a master to learn theology his way? I have a few weeks to decide…

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 6:33 PM on Monday, February 12, 2007 [+] ::

:: Monday, February 05, 2007 ::
A Letter of Encouragement

Last night, after finally getting around to doing it, I sent a letter to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York in which I commended one of their priests.

A few weeks ago while flying into New York, I noticed a man with a Roman collar board the plane and sit a row ahead of me. Three rows ahead of him was a young man in his mid-20s. The young man stared at the priest, then pulled one of the flight attendants aside, and started whispering quickly to him. The flight attendant walked over to the priest, and very awkwardly said, "Sir, that young man over there was wondering if he could talk with you." The priest smiled, stood up, walked over to the young man, and most of the rest of the flight in what looked like deep conversation.

When I speak to priests, and I frequently do, I kiss their right hand and call them "Father." On that plane, I was reminded that "Father" is not a formal title, and the priesthood is not a "job." I saw a man --- a priest of God --- just as travel weary as the rest of us, allow himself to be poured out as a drink offering for the sake of the salvation of complete stranger. Although I will not meet him nor know him, he deserves this: "Thank you, Father."

Forgive me,


Glory to God!

:: 1:59 PM on Monday, February 05, 2007 [+] ::

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