“The more I study the history of the Orthodox Church in this country, the more I am convinced that our work here is God's work; that God himself is helping us; that when it seems as though everything we do is ready to fail, …on the contrary, it not only does not die, but grows in new strength and brilliance.” [said just before leaving the United States for Russia]
Saint Tikhon, enlightener of America

«— For Tim: Lost and Found
—» Farewell Sunday

Getting Down to the Wire

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I ship out to boot camp in less than a week! I’ve set up an email list with Yahoo!; I don’t know what I broke in Majordomo on my mail server, but I’ve run out of time to try and fix it. I currently have it set up so that only I and one other person can send emails, so it won’t become a spam sieve. Of course, I’ll probably have stuff posted here, too. I’m just trying to accomodate as many people as necessary.

I love you all, and I will miss most of you. (Even you, Mr. Hibbity-Gibbity.) You are all in my prayers. I hope that something in all of this blather will have been helpful for you spiritually. May what is true take root in your hearts, and my what is my own invention be forgotten as a tumbleweed is forgotten in the wastes.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:35 pm

«— Identity Crisis
—» Getting Down to the Wire

For Tim: Lost and Found

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Timothy mentioned Laura Nee’s blog last week, and he lamented to me offline that he had lost track of her husband Jim Nee’s blog. Well, thanks to a link by Karl, Tim can once again read Jim’s blog.

Both Jim and Laura are articulate writers, and they are apparently catechumens at the Antiochian parish of Priest Gregory and Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:33 pm

«— Clogged Pipes? Or Totally Depraved?
—» For Tim: Lost and Found

Identity Crisis

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Yesterday, while watching Law and Order — one of the few television shows I watch regularly — I saw a commercial for Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo. The incidental music was “There She Goes,” and it sounded like the Sixpence None the Richer version. I initiallly reacted with shock: I couldn’t believe that a Christian band would ever let their music be used for a birth control pill ad. It took a few seconds for me to remember that most Protestants have forgotten the classical Christian prohibition on birth control, universal until the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s.

In addition to preventing ovulation, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo also “changes the lining of the uterus to reduce the likelihood of implantation” in case ovulation occurs and an egg is fertilized. This makes it a “morning after” pill. It shares this trait with nearly every contraceptive drug designed to prevent ovulation.

As we remember the tragic decision made 31 years ago, it is important to remember that induced abortions are not the only sins we are committing against our children.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:03 pm

«— Some Nostalgia
—» Identity Crisis

Clogged Pipes? Or Totally Depraved?

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Karl posts about works, and Jennifer responds. She pulls in an analogy from one of her seminary professors about pipes and grace: “[Balthasar] sees us as clogged pipes, and grace is Draino. Barth would say the pipes are rusty and no good. Destroy the pipes. We need new pipes! Christ can give us new pipes. Or, does Christ unclog our pipes? Does Barth make grace too disruptive? I guess this is the classic Catholic-Reform debate.”

Therefore, the pipe in this analogy is human nature. In response, the pipes are not totally depraved. We did not irreparably malform human nature. That is categorically false. We do not have the power to entirely pervert what God created good; we have introduced a disease to it, but Christ is still able to heal it. He does not destroy human nature and start over. To return to the analogy of the pipe, it is clogged, not rusty.

If human nature is by nature sinful, the Incarnation is impossible. If the human nature has become sinful by nature, then Christ could not have taken it on, without taking on sin.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:58 am

«— The Famous Leader I Am…
—» Clogged Pipes? Or Totally Depraved?

Some Nostalgia

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A recent post by Huw Raphael brings back many memories of worshipping in Father D. and Matushka R.’s home. The eerie thing is that Dmitri and Anna now live in a very similar house plan. We used to worship in some very tiny spaces in the old days. Now, it seems like we’re bustin’ at the seams in the storefront that’s four times larger than our last storefront.

Have mercy!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:46 am

«— New Blogs
—» Some Nostalgia

The Famous Leader I Am…

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…is Abraham Lincoln! They made me Abraham Lincoln. Damned Yankee bastards.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:57 pm

«— The Right Answer
—» The Famous Leader I Am…

New Blogs

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Check out the blogs I finally started listing in my sidebar. Of special note for Juliana is The Blue Canopy: She links to Dr. Sears and La Leche League, so I’m sure you’ll be interested. Also, for all you Athanasius contra mundum and EOC bloggers, Grand Unified Mystery is Josh Coolman, a budding iconographer from St. John the Forerunner (formerly Holy Trinity EOC) in Indy.

Update: The link to Blue Canopy now works.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:55 pm

«— Receptus
—» New Blogs

The Right Answer

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In every major service of the Church, the deacon instructs us to beg the Lord “for the right answer before the dread judgment seat of Christ.” This word “dread” is variously translated “awful,” “terrible,” “fearful,” and “awesome.” You can see from these translations the deep and dreadful image we are evoking with this rich word. We shall fall on our faces before the divine Emperor of glory, the All-ruler (gr. pantokrator).

This doesn’t jibe with the “Buddy Christ” of much contemporary religion, satirized in the film Dogma by Kevin Smith. Smith’s “Buddy Christ” sports a big grin and a used-car salesman pose reminiscent of the images of the “Lauging Jesus” or the youthful Jesus I call the “Michael W. Smith Jesus.”

Following Scripture and the holy fathers of the Council of Chalcedon, we affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ is, “with respect to his manhood, like us in all things, with the sole exception of sin.” Certainly this includes laughter and happiness. However, the icons of the Church reveal to us a sober figure — neither passionately angry nor passionately happy — and he blesses us. This is utterly counter to the fleshly encouragement of passion that surrounds us on all sides.

In modern English, “passion” has a dual meaning: It can mean the deep commitment to an ideal or vision, but it can also mean the domination of the soul by fleshly lusts. The first sense can be confusing when we discuss the passions in the teaching of the Church, because it developed recently; it will only serve to confuse us here. It is perhaps better thought of as devotion.

The second sense is similar to the word pathos as it was used by the fathers of the Church, especially the Desert Fathers — those men and women who founded the first Christian monasteries in the deserts of Egypt. It is in this sense of domination of the soul by lusts and desires, rather than by Christ, that the fathers held up passionlessness (gr. apatheia) as an ideal. Again, we must carefully distinguish this original word from the modern English word “apathy,” which is quite different — more of a commitment to nothing than a decisive stand against domination of the soul by evil and lusts.

Both Scriptural and in continuity with the life of the Church, this vision for human life is not a bland, colorless, emotionless vacuum; it is the communion of the soul with the Lord Christ, and with him the dominion of all our life. By entering into communion with him, we gain the power and the authority to exercise his dominion and lordship over lust and evil. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1Pt 1.14-16) “‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’” (Jn 15.1,2, cf. whole chapter) This is passionlessness as we find it in the writings and sayings of the fathers.

The goal of this is to be so united to Christ by communion with him in the Holy Spirit that the dread judgment reveals nothing to us that he has not already revealed. We have already cried tears of compunction over our sins; we have turned away from them (gr. metanoia: repentance, conversion, lit. change of mind); we have embraced our Lord, lover, king, and comrade; we have allowed his uncreated light to reveal and purify our sinfulness. In short, we have become filled with the fire of his love.

At that last day, either we shall find that he will welcome us into his embrace, and having already been filled with his fire, we are blessed, or we shall find that he will welcome us into his embrace, and having not known him in truth in this life, we will be submerged in his love as in an everlasting lake of fire, as the Scriptures say.

Is this seat of judgment terrible, fearful, awful and dread? Indeed. I am a sinner and the chief of sinners. And yet, do Christians have anything to fear from the love of God? Only if they refuse to let his love fill every part of their being.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:40 pm

«— A Farce of Titles
—» The Right Answer

Receptus

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Erica was received as a catechumen last night. A fascinating coincidence of events brought a catechumen into our parish last night, as well. She expressed to me exactly the same fears that Erica expresses on her blog, and they resonate with my own fears when I myself faced the forkéd paths. In fact, I have had to face them twice — once when leaving Canterbury for Rome and then again when taking the ship from Rome to Byzantium. The first turning was not so bad, since it seemed natural and logical. The second was awful — “having accepted the Magisterium of Rome, will I be held culpable on the last day for leaving the Bark of Peter?” That was my main fear. “What if I just damned myself?” Erica asks. I resonate completely.

If catechumens did not question their decision, question their very ability to make it, I would be suspicious. All is as it should be. Many years to both, and welcome home!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:18 pm

«— A Reply to Daniel
—» Receptus

A Farce of Titles

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In the interests of increasing the levels of healthy satire, I offer the following farce of titles you are not likely to see anytime soon. Unfortunately, there has been a recent rash of sensitivity going around, so I leave the identity of the authors to your skills of induction.

  1. Sensitive Mules: An ethnological study of the Pott/Kettel feud over color.
  2. Hiding Your Freudian Slips: How to be a behaviorist while convincing your friends that you hate psychology.
  3. Tongue-twisters: An argument for using multiple, inconsistent translations in every parish.
  4. Jesus Was Schizo! Applying priniciples of modern psychotherapy to classical Christology.
  5. La-la-la! I Can’t Hear You! My spiritual father trumps the synod of bishops, especially when it makes my sex life easier.
  6. Christo-technics: How one Orthodox priest uses technology in the service of God.
  7. Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You: The tragic effects of telephone phobia on one family.
  8. Infliction: How the use of older-age toys by younger children might possibly lead to tragedy in a small church, an extensive and detailed explanation of how intricate rules have been developed for the safety of your child.
  9. The Day They Call Me That, I Quit! An examination of the terms servant, minister, deacon, missionary and apostle in the history of the Church.
  10. I Don’t Know: Silent ignorance as a loud witness for Orthodox Christianity.

Of course, this does not bring up the levels of satire to the levels required by the Saints and Prophets Administration, but it makes a small dent .

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:37 pm

«— New Year’s Rez
—» A Farce of Titles

A Reply to Daniel

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This is in reply to a discussion on Karl’s blog. See the comments, especially.

Daniel, I really did mean what I said. The request for you to “pray for us sinners” is a common one in Orthodox Christianity, and it does not imply that I think that you consider me “unsaved.” (Of course, salvation means something a little different in classical Christianity than it does in most forms of evangelical Protestantism.) It means I assume that you accept Ro 3.23 (“all have sinned”) and Ja 5.16 (“confess your sins to each other and pray for each other”) to be true. That’s all.

And really, I do think it’s wonderful that you are not offended just by walking into a standard Christian bookstore (like Family or Lifeway). I would not wish my sensitivity on anyone. It is quite a cross to bear. You have your own cross, and I do not need to add to it through my own self-centered folly.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:45 pm

«— St. Basil’s Day Greetings
—» A Reply to Daniel

New Year’s Rez

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I resolve not to make any New Year’s resolutions.

Bloody hell. I’ve already broken it.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:59 pm

«— Call for Comment
—» New Year’s Rez

St. Basil’s Day Greetings

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Happy St. Basil’s day! If you can read this, you are invited to a St. Basil’s day party at Dmitri and Anna’s tonight. Festivities begin at 8 pm, but I probably won’t be able to arrive until after 8:30. If you need directions, Google for Dmitri’s home address, and then get MaqQuest to show you the way.

Oh, and happy New Year, too.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:23 am