Archive for November, 2005

The blessing at the end of the Liturgy says, “May Christ our true God…have mercy upon us and save us, forasmuch as He is good and loveth mankind.

The good news that Christ is God, is vital information easily watered down or resisted by us. We need to know this because it’s so easy for us to invent or “have” other gods, or to imagine information about God. But we have the whole Bible and Holy Tradition to tell us about Christ, especially the canonical Gospels of His true Incarnation and earthly life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. God became one of us! God reached out to us in love! God loved us even unto His own death! And Christ, the God-man, conquered death, rising from the dead and raising our human nature to Heaven with Himself, so that we could become by God’s Grace – Energetically – what He is by nature!

No merely-human messiah could pull this off. And God isn’t the thunderer in the clouds we so often think about, but the carpenter-rabbi from Nazareth. Orthodoxy upholds together both Christ’s Divinity and His humanity. This is the key to “life, the universe, and everything”! And this is the experience of Orthodoxy’s Saints from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Church History.

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Those of us who accept Holy Tradition are freed from the philosophical need to ‘create’ God. For example, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are OK, so we don’t need to philosophize about a neutered Trinity, even though we accept that the Father and the Spirit completely transcend gender. And what would such a created God be other than an idol, anyway, a human construct. (They’re not all made of metal, wood, paper, or flesh.) Do human beings need a human idol, or the True God? In the last 300 years Orthodoxy has suffered some influence from Western religious philosophy, but at its best Orthodoxy is verified not by shabby ‘logic,’ but by the lives and relics of the Saints, in whom is the Glory of God, literally (by Grace).

The Reign of God that is in the process of coming, isn’t just about God by Himself, but about us with God. It’s not a dictatorship, but a marriage — the wedding feast and its consummation: the Spirit and the Bride/Church say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17). It’s not just about God’s Uncreated Divine Energies, but also our created energies in harmony therewith. And not just the Church on Earth but also the Angels and departed Saints and their harmony with God’s Energies, and their praying and striving for us. Orthodoxy realizes the cosmos is crammed full of life created and sought out by God. We don’t merge into God’s Essence like some faiths teach; we remain distinct from Him, though hopefully in harmony with Him in His Energies.

Before there was “science,” there was Orthodoxy. Just as science seeks to spread its knowledge because it believes it’s the truth, Orthodoxy believes it has vital information about the cosmos that human beings must know, that their lives depend on it. We don’t seek to merely increase our denominational numbers of sheep, but to advance The Truth, which is none other than Christ the Lord Himself, our Divine Spouse. Just like you need to know that gravity makes apples fall down and the Earth circles the Sun, you need to know the things Orthodoxy teaches…even more pragmatically, because lots of people died without knowing the Earth circles the Sun, but they’ve all learned that Paradise is harmony with the Divine Energies.

WARNING: THIS IS JUST MY OPINION! 🙂

From an Orthodox perspective, “debts” may be a better English translation of the term in the Our Father than the “trespasses” used in some Orthodox jurisdictions (as well as by Catholics). The original Greek text and Holy Tradition allow either approach, but I think “debts” commends itself because, in the Orthodox approach to sin, our “debts” infinitely outnumber our actual “trespasses.” This is because since the Fall, we are in the proverbial situation that compared to infinity, any imaginable number is equivalent to zero: compared to God’s Holiness, we are all “the chief of sinners.” And it’s not just our trespasses for which we desire God’s forgiveness, but all our sinfulness. Remember that in Orthodoxy sinfulness isn’t just legalistically about certain misdeeds, as in the Western Church, but about the whole way/all the ways in which we “fall short of the Glory {Energies, Attributes} of God” (Romans 3:23). That is to say, our debts!

From Eusebius, Oration of Constantine 12:

[D]octrine was entrusted to wise people. The truths they communicated could then be kept carefully and with pure consciences by their households. Then true, steadfast obedience to God’s commands could be established and produce boldness in the face of death. Such boldness comes from a pure faith and genuine holiness before God. Those who are armed like this can withstand the world’s storms…. They boldly overcome the greatest terrors and are considered worthy of a crown of glory. People like this don’t accept praise but know full well that God gave them the power to endure and to fulfill His commands zealously. Such people will always be remembered and will receive everlasting honor.*

(*–Hence the Orthodox prayer at death, “Memory eternal” — referring to the memory of God.)

What follows is an extended quote (from pp. 9-10) from Women and Men in the Church, a 1980 work/study by a committee of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). I’m still wrestling with all its implications, myself, but thought I’d offer it here as an example of an Orthodox approach to questions and issues:

Sacraments and Saints, Councils and Canons

The Holy Tradition of the Church is rooted and grounded in the Holy Scriptures and is thoroughly shaped by biblical words and images. It is expressed in the Church’s liturgical worship and sacramental rites, as well as in her ecumenical councils and canons, the writings of her fathers and the lives of her saints. It is expressed also in her sacred art, particularly the holy icons.

Of particular relevance to the issue of women and men in the Church are the following specific sources:

  1. The sacramental rituals, particularly those dealing with baptism, churching and marriage.
  2. The more than one hundred canons of the ecumenical councils which deal specifically with men and women in the Church.
  3. The writings of the Church fathers, particularly Clement of Alexandria, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and most especially Saint John Chrysostom.
  4. The liturgical services, particularly of the conception and nativity of John [t]he Baptist and the Virgin Mary; the Annunciation; the Nativity of Christ, the Presentation of Christ to the Temple; the Entrance of Mary to the Temple; the Dormition of Mary and many services to the saints, especially saintly women.
  5. The lives of the saints, particularly the women saints. The lives and acts of women martyrs and missionaries, as well as the women ascetics and married saints, especially those who bear the title “equal to the apostles.”
  6. The holy icons, particularly the icons of the Virgin Mary, [of] the liturgical festivals mentioned above, and [of] the women saints.

In these sources, and in these sources alone, are to be found the basic, essential and final revelation of the truth of God about women and men in the Church [emphasis in original]. All other sources are additional, and are to be judged and interpreted in the light of these sources, which means in the light of Christ and the Holy Spirit, as this light shines forth from God in the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church. This does not mean that the findings of “modern science” — biological, sociological, psychological, medical, political, economic [–] are unimportant and valueless. It means rather that they are subject to examination in the light of God’s revelation in Christ, the Spirit and the Church. It means that they are always limited and partial, and that they may sometimes simply be wrong; not “science” at all, but merely the opinions of persons who voluntarily or involuntarily are blinded by ignorance or evil. (See Romans 1:18ff). The final word in every instance belongs to the Word Himself, Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God who remains the Lord and Master of all creation in the Church which is his body, “the pillar and the bulwark of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15).