He who sings prays twice.
Saint Augustine

«— Next Stop: World Domination!
—» Talk About “Dazzled by Destroying Heresies”!

The Interview

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Whew! I’ve thought pretty long and hard about these. I hope it shows.

1. You have the phrase “Mother Russia” on your blog and that it is a strange thing to get used to. What in particular is so difficult or strange about it?
Although the United States takes pride in being a multi-ethnic melting pot, the core of our culture has been defined by British culture generally and English culture specifically. Though we have had many nursemaids of diverse nationalities, American culture was originally mothered by England. Ideally, in a religious context that was not fraught with the division and fragmentation caused by the heterodoxy of the West, Christians in this country would have no problem in looking to “Mother England” for guidance and spiritual support. However, even the most cursory glance at the last few centuries will reveal in Anglicanism a growing disdain for classical Christianity and an increasing approbrium given by Anglicans to adultery with foreign gods.

It is clear we must look elsewhere.

I grew up under the spectre of the USSR, which we often abbreviated as “Russia.” Technically the USSR included more than Russia proper, and indeed it was a betrayal of Russia’s truest self in every respect. Yet for most Americans, the Russian bear is still not the bearer of true religion, but the wraith of Mutually Assured Destruction.

This is why I remain so adamantly opposed to those who build churches with Slavic-style cupolas (“onion domes”) — though they are truly beautiful and shot through with the Spirit, the glory of the eternal Father and his only Son. They are symbolic for Americans not of the Orthodox Church, but of Russia. Every night we were presented with images of Conkrite, Jennings, Brokaw, et alia, against a backdrop of the Kremlin, the core of Moscow, with its heart of cathedrals and golden cupolas, while they told new stories of dread — the advent of thermonuclear destruction. Onion domes became the very image of the cold-war Soviet state; even the more enlightened and most Orthodox-minded see in the cupola a symbol of Russia in her fulness. A cursory glance at the cover of any book about Russia will reveal the link between the cupola and Russia in the American psyche.

And in spite of the animosity of the Soviet era, the Russian Church steps in as a surrogate mother, adopting us as lost children, rescuing us from the midst of the spiritual devastation of Western Christianity. There is an amazing image here, one of an ailing mother regaining her health, both helped by and helping her adopted children. So, part of the strangeness is the same strangeness that every adopted child feels toward its new parents. Part of it is also the added strangeness of someone who has been an adversary taking you into her home.

Although it is imperative that American Orthodoxy find a voice of her own, we shall continue to look to Moscow, as well as Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, et alia, for spiritual support and guidance. Americans are used to being self-reliant. There is strangeness here, too; the strangeness of relearning what it means to be dependent upon others.

Yet there is life here, for all of the strangeness.

2. How long have you been Orthodox (trans: affiliated with The Church)?
Two and a half years. Before our chrismation on the Feast of the Encounter, however, our parish was Evangelical Orthodox. The EOC was marked primarily by fidelity to Orthodox doctrine, as best we understood it, and disdain for many Orthodox practices we identified as “ethnic.” I cannot describe to you the process of realizing that many things which we thought unnecessary are actually inseparable from the tapestry of Orthodox faith. It is difficult to precisely answer this question, because we were in many ways Orthodox before, but we did not yet accept the Orthodox Church in its catholic fulness — therefore, we were not fully Orthodox. And though we are Orthodox now, we continue to be formed in startling and wonderful ways by Orthodox praxis.

3. What was your first major learning about Orthodoxy?
As a youth, I was involved in a Catholic retreat called TEC — Teens Encounter Christ. It is essentially a youth Cursillo. (See also my bio.) It was sponsored by the Catholic chaplains on the Marine Corps base in Okinawa, and the Diocese of Naha. While preparing for one retreat, Fr. Ignatius Smith showed us the Orthodox chapel.

I remember only snatches. There were the wooden folding chairs with hymnal holders, omnipresent in small Navy chapels, which served as pews nearly up to the iconostasis, old wood with worn, red velvet padding for the seats. The narthex was separated from the nave by a metal latticework screen; this same material was also used for the bulk of the iconostasis. I remember lots of gold color — though I doubt it was really gold. The only thing I remember about the icons is that they were strange!

In fact, the whole tenor of the experience is one of familiarity and strangeness.

4. Are you a musician? If so, for how long and what is your prefered instrument?
My preferred “instrument” is a hot, steaming horn section ladeled over some crunchy guitars and syncopated drums, a la Chicago. What I can actually play is a very weak piano and an only slightly stronger voice. I studied as a vocalist at Asbury College, while also hoping to be a rock star and studying composition and music theory. My mother is actually a real pianist, and so I have always grown up with music in the house. I guess I really got interested as a teenager, once again because of the rock star siren-song.

5. I have met many “converted” folk online who claim Orthodoxy their home. What is the theology of evangelism of the Orthodox Church? (Note: Baptist asking the question)

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me./ Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me./ Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit./ Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. —Psalm 50(51).10-13

Attain the Spirit of peace, and a thousand around you shall find salvation. —St. Seraphim of Sarov

Evangelism is the fruit of repentance. In Orthodox soteriology, Christians are not justified by a legal fiction and then imputed an equally fictitious righteousness (cf. St. Anselm). Instead, salvation is sacramental union with Christ’s divine nature, restoring our wills and actually become holy in Spirit and in truth. This is the free gift of God, but we must actively accept this grace.

The result of this is “joy and peace in the Spirit.” This state of blessedness, the Orthodox Church affirms, is attainable in this life. And it is the inherent attractiveness of this state that draws people to the Church — that is, to be united to Christ through his body. Moreover, it is a state of being filled with “all the fulness of God,” of being shot through with his glory. Hungry souls who are seeking God intuitively know when they have found the “genuine article,” as it were. And, ultimately, it is God who is attractive to seekers. To use biblical imagery, when they find the pearl of great price, they sell everything they have to attain it.

Orthodox evangelism consists primarily in “not getting in the way” of this pearl, which is God. As St. Innocent said in his manual for missionaries to Alaska, “It is God, and not the missionary, who converts souls to the Gospel.”

Now, as to the mode of evangelism, there tend to be two schools of thought. One school imitates Protestant evangelical methods using Orthodox content. This school is most clearly embodied in the former EOC members who became Antiochian under Archpriest Peter Gilquist and his emminence Metropolitan Philip (Saliba).

The method I have been taught is what you might call “relationship evangelism.” It consists of establishing relationships — ties of communion — and being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. It avoids the hard sell, but it believes that all men are called to be united to Christ in the Orthodox Catholic Church.

Official Rules

  1. If you want to participate, leave a comment saying “interview me.”
  2. I will respond by asking you five questions — each person’s will be different.
  3. You will update your journal with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
  6. And, sure, I will answer reasonable follow up questions if you leave them in my comments.
Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 2:59 pm

«— Dormition of the Holy Website
—» The Interview

Next Stop: World Domination!

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

I am happy to note that this website appears fourth in a Google search for “basil.” I am chagrinned to note that it is buried on page 27 of a search for “kevin,” — behind askew sites for film directors, six million degrees of sites for actors, and boxes full of sites glorifying convicted crackers. But that’s O.K., because “kevin” doesn’t concern me so much. What I aim for now is complete domination of “basil.” I want to own it on Google.

Five seconds of fame isn’t too much to ask, is it?

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 2:42 pm

«— Transfiguration
—» Next Stop: World Domination!

Dormition of the Holy Website

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

The Great Blackout of 2003 appears to have kicked the OCA website in the belly. I take consolation from its downtime, since the website for our little Orthodox mission is often down for much the same reason. Luckily for us, the solution has been for the coloc host’s wife to plug the servers back in. Pesky cat. Keeps fouling the power supplies up.

Did I mention that we’re poor?

I have spent much of my week preparing for a workshop for our choir tonight. I did not think I was stressing out over it, but I could not sleep last night. I would sleep for five or ten minutes, fifteen at the most, and then toss and turn for another forty-five or so. This went on until 5:30 am, at which point I gave up. I made some coffee, stumbled through the shave and shower routine, and further reentrenched a habit I had nearly broken. Plus, my body has been reacting in other ways. So, I guess my body is telling me I’m stressed.

Whatever.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 10:32 am

«— The Bell Tolls
—» Dormition of the Holy Website

Transfiguration

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

We are in the afterfeast of the Transfiguration according to the Eastern calendar. Unable to attend vespers for the feast at St. Athanasius, I tried to make the Liturgy which I assumed would be served at the Greek parish in Lexington. Unfortunately, the doors were locked at nine Wednesday morning — when they normally serve the Liturgy. Why would you not celebrate one of the most important feasts in the Orthodox calendar? It’s unimaginable to me.

The Transfiguration is perhaps one of my favorite feasts of the year — and not only because I get blessed fruit at the end of the Liturgy. Many years ago, the first catechism for our fledgling parish was being held in a catechumen-parishioner’s home. In fact, we were not even a parish yet. I was not a catechumen: I was merely observing, or so I thought. In a discussion of the “kenosis” passage of Philippians 7, the priest-catechist asked, “When is the only time that Jesus was not emptying himself?” We all thought about it, and then I finally replied, “At the Transfiguration!” The light of amazement shone in the priest’s eyes — the Roman Catholic who argued about the filioque and the universal jurisdiction of the pope actually got something that left the actual catechumens scratching their heads. That realization was the beginning of the end for me.

The Orthodox emphasize the Transfiguration because the experience of Prophets Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor is the ultimate goal for every Christian — to be interpenetrated by the divine and uncreated energies of God. As St. Peter writes in his catholic epistle, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” The glory of the holy Trinity revealed on Mt. Tabor — the beauty of God shining through creation — this is what I was looking for. When I finally asked to be made a catechumen, it was because of this glory enfleshed in the people and traditions of the Orthodox parishes I knew. If the pope turns out to have been right, I hope God will go easy on me for “leaving the Church.”

As I mused on the irony of a liturgical addict being unable, through circumstances beyond his control, to attend services on his second favorite feast out of the year, I remembered that this spiritual work — asceticism — in synergy with God is what brings about our own transfiguration. How do you like them apples?

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 8:39 pm

«— The Western Front
—» Transfiguration

The Bell Tolls

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

Recent articles on news.google.com, like one on Reuters a few minutes ago, confirm that the Episcopal Church, USA, has approved Canon Robinson to be the next bishop of New Hampshire.

My grandfather was a priest in the Episcopal Church, USA, and I was an Episcopalian myself for two years. I left because I was trying to be Catholic Lite, and I decided that full-bodied Catholicism was better suited to my palette. I miss the Episcopal Church — but for all the superficial reasons: connection with Mother England, cool seals, excellent taste. My present Church has a tendency towards Byzantinism aesthetically — hell, we’re the reason the word exists! — but the faith of the apostles is secure underneath. It feels rather odd to think of Russia as a mother, but at least I don’t worry any longer about whether “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” is an appropriate invocation of the Trinity.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 8:43 pm

«— It’s Funny. Laugh.
—» The Bell Tolls

The Western Front

Link to this post  

Share with your friends and followers:
Share

I’m following with detached interest the recently convened General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA. As many Christians in the U.S. know by now, the major issue to be decided by this General Convention is sexuality, as it has been at every General Convention for the past decade. This time, it appears that any decision will split the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in twain, as it has so appeared at each General Convention for the past decade. Yet perhaps the conservative bishops have finally realized that the line — that “this far, and no further” divide — which they continually allow to be eroded is a precipice which, in its erosion, continues to rush at them at breakneck speed. As they watch their faithful flock, like the Gerasene herd, plummet over the edge, perhaps now they begin to finally realize the eternal cost of their compromised consensus.

There are two issues on the table:

  • Confirm an openly gay man as the next bishop of the Diocese of Connecticut.
  • Resolve to prepare rites blessing same sex unions, to be discussed at the next General Convention, three years hence.

There are also other issues, but they are being forgotten in the fuss over sex. It seems right that the public is focusing attention on the latest battle in the war for the soul of the Anglican Communion. It is the same war that is being fought in the public square.

In the Episcopal Church — and probably in the Church of England, too — the war was won long ago by the progressives; the orthodox position has no hope of regaining ground. Perhaps this is why the bishops keep negotiating truces with the enemy.

Stop negotiating. End the war. Cut your losses and retreat. Barricade yourself against the continued onslaught. Ally yourself with a force that can keep the opposition at bay. Perhaps the Africans and the Asians will be enough. Or perhaps you should look to Moscow and Constantinople for support. If you hold your ground, they may at least be able to provide arms and materiel; the safer and more sure path to victory, however, will be to accept exile from your thoroughly infiltrated homeland and take refuge in theirs.

But you have lost the war. Your church is theirs now. Face this sad, tragic fact with dignity and find the redemption in what remains.

Share with your friends and followers:
Share
Share

Filed under: — Basil @ 6:36 pm