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Switch to Forum Live View My experience with the Greek Orthodox Church.....
10 years ago  ::  Jul 18, 2008 - 12:24PM #51
Posts: 798
[QUOTE=Incognitus;633228]And yes I am in spiritual diapers. Aren't we all?[/QUOTE]

No, we are not ALL in spiritual diapers. Read the epistle to the Hebrews:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

That does not mean that ALL are in spiritual diapers, my friend. From the study notes of the Orth. Bible: "When Christians are not growing spiritually, doctrine is difficult to explain to them. Let us repent of being dull of hearing - a constant criticism Christ and the prophets had of God's people - and habitually and vigorously exercise ourselves in spiritual matters. According to St John Chrysostom, the primary spiritual exercise is the study and knowledge of the scriptures."

We are NOT all at the same level, my friend.
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10 years ago  ::  Jul 18, 2008 - 3:03PM #52
Posts: 3,689
"...I believe the Orthodox faith and hold it to be the truth. But I did not reach that conclusion through argumentation but by a very different route. I believe in a “good God who loves mankind,” to quote from the blessing so often given in Orthodox services. Thus I have no fear that God is seeking to make any of us pass a special test or is purposely making salvation to be a difficult thing.

Instead, I believe most profoundly from my own personal experience, as well as nearly 30 years of pastoring people, that we stand on the edge of an existential abyss. It is God alone who sustains us and He alone is the Lord and giver of life. Apart from God we not only can do nothing - we verge on becoming nothing (though God in His goodness does not begrudge us our existence and thus does not take even that from us). But in our lives we often are standing in relationships and situations which place us in opposition to God and thus in opposition to our own existence - and this opposition is frequently at the point of criticality.

Repentance is the turning away from the madness of our flirtation with non-existence and turning to the true and living God, the Father of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. Repentance and life in communion with God are not in themselves difficult - but being loosed from our death-wish and our drive towards a depersonalized and meontic hell - can be difficult in the extreme.

Thus, most of my writing is aimed towards the goal of our salvation in the Truth. I do not mind if Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists or Animists (or Atheists) are saved. In accordance with the will of God, I would that all men be saved, thus I do not begrudge anyone any amount of the truth they may perceive. But I believe that the fullness of Truth and the fullness of our existence are made known to us only in the incarnate God-Man, Christ Jesus, and that the fullness of His teaching and Life are found ultimately only in the historic and living Orthodox faith.

But that itself is only the means or a description of what I believe God has done for us - the goal is union with God in Christ - to be drawn away from the abyss of self-destruction and to be united to the Good God and become ourselves the lovers of mankind.

Thus much of my writing is pointed towards prayer, towards forgiveness, towards a greater understanding of our culture and how we are drawn away from the Good God. Those who read this blog or listen to my podcasts (which are generally taken from this blog), will know that I hold in the highest regard my deceased father-in-law, who was a Baptist deacon, and whom I number among the most faithful and extraordinary Christians I have had the good pleasure to know. This is not a question of ecumenism, but simply of knowing a friend of God when I meet him. Those who refuse to recognize such friends are in serious delusion and are not perceiving the world in the manner vouchsafed us in the lives of the Saints.

Readers will also note that I have no ecumenical speculation in my writings. I seek only to be a faithful, and increasingly simple, Orthodox priest. God has not set me in a position to make decisions about matters ecumenical. He has set me in a place to pray for all as though they were my own self and to understand that I am the worst of all sinners. But in that, He has called me to be a faithful Orthodox priest. I have made solemn vows and promises to God and been set with very specific responsibilities that I dare not ignore and I never want to become so clever that I can see my way around any of those promises and responsibilities.

But everything - all that is - is rightly centered and focused in God. There are a million distractions to be found in the world of religion - each of which is not God. Only those things that draw me to God are of use to me or anyone else through me on any given day. Only if I give myself to God will I be of use to anyone else. And only if this ministry draws people to the true and living God will it have been in the least bit useful.

I have been blessed in the past year (almost two) to have received many encouraging notes and emails that make me believe that some small part of what I hope is actually being fulfilled and the time that I spend in this form of ministry is, in fact, of God.

But I quote Fr. Thomas Hopko, who in retirement seems more focused than ever on the simple message that we should “remember, it’s all really about God.”

Fr. Stephen, "Glory to God for All Things"
“The Law of the Church is to give oneself to what is given not to seek one’s own.” Fr. Alexander Schmemann
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10 years ago  ::  Jul 18, 2008 - 3:23PM #53
Posts: 504

And Esphegmenon on Mount Athos ["the Guardians of Orthodoxy"] are not in communion with the EP, and neither are the zealot monks of Athos.

This is true to my knowledge, but I have to ask what you consider the implications of this statement.  Does this mean that all the other monks and monasteries of the Holy Mountain have no grace? Does it mean all those zealots have taken this action are completely dispassionate in their stance? Does it mean monks who have serious issues with the current EP reject the canonicity of their brother monks who commemorate the EP (even if they too have issues with him)? Does it mean they would reject as false the Orthodoxy of a pilgrim to the holy mountain who is in one of the majority communions who still maintain communion with the EP? Would they reject a pilgrim from the OCA as a matter of principle. 

If not...then my essential point still stands.

If you don't mind telling us, how far away is the nearest parish to you? Do you have a priest at least with whom you maintain contact...or even a spiritual father/mother who gives you counsel and whose blessing you can seek on the milestones of your journey?...someone who can screen your theology as it develops and who can inform your exercise of the faith?

I too live 2 hours away from the nearest parish... fortunately I have no icey mountain passes to contend with...and I go every Sunday...and more when I can during festal seasons and for special events. Parish life is important if it is at all possible.

If I may cautiously speak to a couple of points in your posts which concern me.  The first and most important is tone.  You can speak buckets of truth but if it is not in love then you make the truth a lie and no one can receive it...people do not easily separate the message from the messenger.  Remember in the Acts of the Holy Apostles when a possessed girl was saying that these men (the apostles) were teaching the truth...and yet though girl spoke the truth about them it was coming from a deceptive and deceiving source so they silenced and expelled that spirit.

So to share the Gospel it must both be the right Gospel given in the right spirit. Recall how Christ will one day say "I never knew you" to those who did apparently many mighty works in His name.  This is why the Fathers and Saints enjoin us to be sure of our own faith calling and to be very circumspect in our dealings with others.

As for the canons of councils there is a way to read and apply them and a way not to in the Church. One thing is for certain is that they are not private rule books to be interpreted and applied privately...that is a very "protestant" way of dealing with those texts. Like the Scriptures they belong to and are only properly interpreted and applied in the pastoral context of the Church. The are the province of Bishops and holy elders whose first love is Christ and in Christ all whom He loves and have been given into their fatherly care.   

If the canons are use as naked rules outside the pastoral context of their creation and the pastoral context of their putative application then they are made to lie and to do harm. Even with the most unambiguous and deeply rooted canons one must use great pastoral care...for we do live in weakened times and the strict applications of the canons that might restore someone stronger to health will only wound and kill a soul now. If one is not healthy enough for strictness that ones pastor need the discernment on just how far to press this or that canon as a spiritual medicine.  After all his objective is not rule keeping for the sake of rule keeping but rather the spiritual health and salvation of his charge.

As for the heretics...of whom I was most certainly one, many of the saints of our own time took a very irenic tack with them. They would tell those who inquired about the salvation of heretics to leave them to God who loves them and to pay more attention to the state of their own souls.

A distinction must be drawn between defending heresies held by heretics and defending those heretics when they are being dealt with unjustly.  They too are human they too are part of the whole Adam...and in the the whole Adam they have a claim on our prayers and on our love...for Christ's sake who gave Himself for the whole Adam. As Orthodox we cannot defend heretical beliefs...but that does not translate into automatically savaging everything about a heretic.  Many of them have things right on this or that on those points narrowly speaking they are Orthodox...and some ministration of grace must attend to that since it is Christ who enlighteneth the heart of every man. Also we are forewarned that those without the law who keep the law are a law unto themselves. So if a heretic in his ignorance keeps the law of love according to such lights as he has, then the Gospel I read teaches that we serve a gracious Master who will not disparage him for it. I also see where it say those who say "I see" yet who do not the things Christ commanded concerning the Kingdom will face a sterner judgement.

At the judgement the Orthodox having the greater light will have far more to answer for than many of the heterodox who did more with the little that they had.

Anyway...what I am hoping that you will take from this is the need to establish a relationship with a priest/and or spiritual father who can act as a check and a guide of your spiritual life; that you make a more concerted effort to find a parish, even it is far and participate as much as you can (you might even consider moving to be nearer a parish); and finally that you give some thought to your tone...for it is a dangerous thing to label and dismiss one's fellowman...such demonizing has lead to much atrocity...look at the holy land.  Little Israeli kids grow up being taught the Palestinians are beasts...and little Palestinians grow up being taught the Israelis and vicious monsters and infidels.  And both sides have done an admirable job of living down to the expectations of their neighbors.  In reap what you sow, especially in relationships.

You cannot dismiss or disown your brothers and sisters in the whole Adam whom Christ gave Himself for because they have been labeled "heretic" by you or others (justly or unjustly) and say you love Christ. He died for us while we were yet sinners. We of course cannot ignore or coddle heresy and remain faithful to Christ...but neither can we apply the label of heretic as a way of minimizing and dehumanizing our fellowman. So please be careful and prayerful in how you speak about and to those who are or who you think might be heretics and infidels...for Christ's sake.

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