Tuesday, August 30, 2005
A Catechumen's Walk
The other day I was surprised to find a hit referred from a blog I didn't recognize, so I checked him out. Apparently this guy has a semi-dormant blog on Orthodox Christianity, and had added me under the links as an Orthodox Inquirer. Uh-oh. I hope the (not Orthodox) deacon who's paying for my college doesn't see that. Just kidding.
Here's his blog:
St. Stephen's Musings
So, I told my pastor (also formerly my boss) that I was looking seriously at the Orthodox Church. His answer: "Hmmmm.."
God's blessings on all.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
We apparently walked in at the very beginning of the Divine Liturgy, because the entire congregation was standing up. While standing there conspicuously observing the church at worship, I got to witness something neat: a little girl came in accompanying her family. As each person came in they would cross themselves and kiss an icon of St. John the Evangelist which was at the entrance. This sweet little girl stood on her tippety-toes to kiss the icon, couldn't reach, so she kissed her hand and planted one on the icon's foot. My kids would love the Orthodox faith.
Lately, encouraged by explorations in the nature of first/second/third century Christian worship, I have allowed and even prompted my kids to kiss the icon of Christ I bought at Annunciation. They love it. When I saw this little girl's participation in the faith of the Fathers, I knew my kids would love it.
But I digress.. Heheheh.. Next, John and (John my friend not John the Evangelist or John Chrysostom, the writer of the liturgy.. there's a lot of John's to keep straight-) found some seats (not that they got used much). We ended up sitting next to the Khouria.
The liturgy wasn't too surprising, since I visited Annunciation in June and listen to the Greek liturgy a lot online. Having it in English was a blessing and of course made it easier to follow along.
When it came time for the homily the priest really preached. This felt very evangelical, although I'm told St. John Chrysostom was a great preacher.
Afterwards John and I met the priest's daughter, who it seems like was married to the son of another priest in an Orthodox Church. We met him too. So, the priest's daughter showed us around the church a bit, and eventually we made our way to the fellowship hall where I gravitated to the book and icon store. I managed to refrain from buying any icons, but I did buy three books:
The Orthodox Church by Bishop KALLISTOS Ware
The Orthodox Way by Bishop KALLISTOS Ware and
Pocket Prayers for Orthodox Christians, which is a daily prayer book and includes the Divine Liturgy. Apparently it's translated an published by the Antiochian Archdiocese.
Then we visited for a little while with the Khouria, followed by a Deacon, who introduced us to one of the priests, who took us to meet the other priest. Along the way we also met an Inquirer who is of a Church of Christ background, and had an interesting conversation about the postmodern epistemological dilemma and how the Orthodox faith remedies it by being what it has always been and doing what it has always done.
We had a great visit with both priests, and walked around the nave a bit to look at all the icons I couldn't see during worship. This church building was gorgeous inside. Flanking the platform/sanctuary were massive fresco icons of the Annunciation and Pentecost. All around the walls were icons depicting a chronological view of the life of Christ between the Annunciation and Pentecost. They were beautiful, otherworldly, all the things icons have been described as. Behind the Sanctuary was a fresco of an icon I've never seen, presumably of Christ enthroned with Patriarchs paying homage. Above Him was an icon of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Theotokos, bearing Christ.
Atop the very ceiling was the Christ Pantocrator icon. I'm familiar with that one, because I bought a miniature version of it. I'm telling you this place looked, sounded, felt and smelt like worship.
Did I mention that the choir stood in a loft above and behind the congregation? It was another aspect that made the worship seem otherworldly.
"Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us" is better sung by an angelic-sounding choir above our heads.
Another thing that struck me is the family/informality of it all. While the worship is decidedly formulated and prescribed (they trace it to the worship of Israel, which was an icon of the worship that takes place in Heaven), the people were relaxed. Some people crossed themselves at certain times. Other people crossed themselves at other times. There seemed to some prescribed rule, but it also seemed to be highly personal. Some people knelt. Everyone stood. Some kids ran down the aisles to sit with different relatives or perhaps God-parents. They were all very comfortable.
Well, John and I already decided that we would visit St. John's in another month and we're making plans to take friends, especially Amy and the kids.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
My classes so far aren't a real stretch. I only have 12 hours, but I'm trying to get into Spanish 3, since I changed my minor to Spanish. Interestingly even though my classification is junior, I have three 100-level courses. Oh well. It means I have a semester to get accustomed to being a fulltime student again.
Today I used a break in classes to visit the illustrious Kent Library. It was fairly nice. In my never-ending exploration of the church in all its forms (particularly the orthodox forms lately), I did a quick search for Bishop KALLISTOS and found his classic The Orthodox Church. I read that for the rest of my break, and plan on reading it more tonight. I am still planning on visiting St. John's on Sunday. Maybe I'll take my friend John with me. It's up to him, I guess.
In answer to the comment from Bernie: Yes, you're right. And the unchangeing nature of the orthodox church is probably what I'm looking for. It is a ways to the nearest Orthodox church (1.5 hrs), so I will take a bit longer to make a year (or a month) of sundays, especially since I'm quite committed to my current church. (even though I don't work there anymore.)
So, I will hopefully comment some on Bishop KALLISTOS' book. Not that I would presume to correct him. Most of what I've read so far I'd already picked up from hours exploring the websites of the different Orthodox jurisdictions and a few church websites.
Many blessings on anyone who reads this blog. I know it's not very interesting.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
To me, the problem is an old modern age holdover -- individualism. We talk about how the individual self was a modern construct- probably true. Then we continue to evaluate faith systems based on how it lines up with our conceptions of logic and culture. I, for one, am totally ready to give up my individual rights to be swallowed up in a whole community that is actively seeking and proclaiming truth. Isn't it from Orthodox theology that we get the emphasis on the trinity which will be our anchor in the trying times ahead?
Post your comments.
Well, to summarize the testimony of Fr. Peter, which makes up the bulk of this book, along with a brief apologetic for some orthodox beliefs/practices we protestant have long ago rejected as Catholic:
Peter Gillquist and some friends are employed in Campus Crusade for Christ in the sixties. They're going gangbusters to win "the campus for Christ today, tomorrow the world for Christ." However, they realize what they are doing has little or no longterm staying power. So, they, while still working for Crusade, begin experimenting with early church-type things, focusing on community and commitment. Before long they become convinced they all need to leave Crusade. They go into "secular" employment. While in their secular jobs they begin to naturally attract other believers, and various communities grow up around them. They come together to try and determine what this New Testament Church would look like, so they can take their communities there. Their line of thinking was, "Where is the church that Christ founded on the apostles, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail?" They decided to look individually at the Scriptures, church history, and worship to see what they should. Six months later they reconvened to discuss what they'd found. First of all, they found liturgical worship in the second century, in the writings of Justin Martyr. Next, they found Bishops in the church as early as the middle of the first century! They look seriously at the church history to find that the church split apart in AD 1054, but it seems clear to them that whatever the church was before that time, the Eastern Orthodox church had it. All this without meeting a single present-day Eastern Orthodox person! Without much hesitation they began to form their communities into what they were beginning to see as the first century norm. They formed a group called the New Covenant Apostolic Order. By 1977 they had founded the Evangelical Orthodox Church. They were still the same, gospel preaching (sometimes yelling) evangelical preachers, but now their communities called them father. Over some years they became convinced that the modern Orthodox Church was faithful to the original, even in its multi-jurisdictional form here in the US. They began relationships with people in the OCA (Russian), Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. With some negotiations they were chrismated and ordained into the Antiochian Archdiocese by Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba. Nowadays Father Peter and his cohorts are involved in visiting churches which are interested in converting to Orthodoxy. That's right, along the way, whole churches have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.
I'd already planned on visiting a nearby Antiochian Church in Memphis, St. John's, which was one of the original Evangelical Orthodox.
Some things I see in the Orthodox Church which I need:
- Truth- the orthodox church believes that truth is arrived at communally as leaders get together to make big decisions and those decisions are received by the communities represented by those leaders. This is great in a world where our individual ability to arrive at truth is, and should be, suspect. Since my truth-finding ability is suspect, I need a community of leaders to help me interpret the Scripture. And all that without the problem of contradictory infallible popes. No one is infallible in the orthodox church.
- The worship of the orthodox church is physical, tangible, sacramental. They are teaching us what it means to embrace the mystery in their faith. They know that Christ is Present in the Communion, but they don't how. They know new life begins at baptism, but they don't have to explain why or how.
- The Orthodox Church has established leadership and centuries of beautiful tradition.
There are decidedly problems for those of us in the "emerging conversation".
- We have a problem with authority, especially the old patriarchal type, maybe rightly so.
- While we are searching for truth is new expressions, we might not like what we find.
- The worship always occurs in a prescribed manner. There's little or no room for that kind of creativity in worship. There will be no laser light shows.
It seems to me like there is one last thing to be said. Fr. Peter says that they didn't come to the orthodox faith for the beautiful worship. They came because it was true.
I already started reading Kh. Frederica Matthewes-Green's book Facing East, which kind of tells the same story for her. I'll post more on that later.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Last night we had a get together at our house for the kids that went to camp and a few friends. It was good. We visited, looked at pictures, watched videos. It was a generally good time. I think the kids enjoyed themselves. Judging by how wild my kids were I would say that they've missed having YoungLife at our house with all the rowdy kids. They sure feed on the interaction with high school kids. I have four-and-a-half and almost-three-year-old teenagers.
I'm listening to the new Relient K. I haven't listend to these guys in a couple of years. Dang. They've gotten really good in the past few years. I'm glad to see them shed their Christian rock skin and step out into the world for a bit.
I'm waiting for a couple of books to get here from Amazon. They're both about the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and specifically about protestants finding a home in the orthodox church, drawn by the mystery and kept by the orthodoxy. It seems to me that the Orthodox church really does have the key to the relational hermeneutic we're searching for. A hermeneutic that doesn't have to have infallibility or an infallible boss to guide it. They simply rely on centuries of church tradition and struggle to guide their search for truth. Anyways, I'm excited to read these books:
Becoming Orthodox by Fr. Peter Gillquist
Facing East by Frederica Matthews-Green
I'll post about them as I read them.