There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hand and say, “Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.” And if the conflict grows fiercer say, “Lord help!” God knows very well what we need and He shows us His mercy.
Abba Macarius

«— The Trinity and the Incarnation Displaced, Etc.
—» Shocking

Not Much of a Leap

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Update: Dawn corrected me about Erich’s blog. It has been corrected below.

Update 2: Dawn has a blog, too. Her blog and Erich’s both have been added to the ever-growing pile in the right column.

I should not be astonished anymore to find Asbury College alumni popping up in Orthodox settings, yet this one somehow amazed me. Joel Klepac was always happy. Happy, happy, happy. I could never tell if it was true joy — which is different from happiness — or that shallow mask evangelicals wear, sort of a Jesus-freak version of a stiff upper lip. I finally visited In Communion, the website of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and I find that he has an article entitled, “Eucharist and the Dying Poor,” front and center in their spring issue.

I also recently found Notes from Underground, the blog of Erich Lippman. Erich was a classmate in several philosophy classes under Dr. Michael Peterson, and the president of the student body.

Asbury College is a Christian liberal arts college, positioned in the Wesleyan Holiness religious tradition. The Priest David Rucker, priest-in-charge at St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in nearby Nicholasville, KY, is fond of saying, “It is not much of a leap from Wesleyan Christianity to Orthodoxy.” Indeed, of all the forms of Western Christianity, Wesleyans have the fewest things to renounce in the Orthodox service of reception.

As many of you know, most of the contra mundum bloggers at St. Athanasius are Asbury alumni. Fr. David, quoted above, is himself an alumnus of both the college and Asbury Theological Seminary.

So, who else is out there? Blog or no, leave a comment and shout out that you’re Asburian and Orthodox!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:51 pm

«— Bibliofilia
—» Not Much of a Leap

The Trinity and the Incarnation Displaced, Etc.

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A few bloglets:

  • Christian theology does not revolve around the Trinity and the Incarnation. That’s the bold assertion of a paper I’m reading by the Priest John Behr, entitled “The Paschal Foundation of Christian Theology”. I’ve read other articles by Fr. John before, and he is a scholar of the first rank. Of course, what else would one expect from a protegé of Bp. Kallistos (Ware)?
  • It is nearly impossible to buy clothes for someone my size and shape. Alana (Juliana) can vouch for me on this score, because her husband is similarly long and slender. The worst is when you think a 32-inch inseam will work, maybe: So you stick it up next to your leg, and it looks like it will cover your ankle nicely. Then you get it home, and it barely covers said appendage. Then you curse God for making you this way and for allowing you to forget the last time you did exactly the same thing. Well, I didn’t curse God, just myself. I think I’m learning to tell the difference.
  • I missed services this morning. I didn’t call the people who have been giving me rides to church. Also, somewhere in the back of my mind, I have a nagging suspicion that maybe they told me to find alternate transportation last week, since maybe they were going out of town. Maybe. Or maybe I’m making that one up. I stood outside waiting for half an hour, then went back inside and made some coffee. Happiness is early coffee on a Sunday morning. Then I sat down and prayed the entire morning rule from the STS Press Orthodox Daily Prayers. About forty-five minutes total, which included a slow, reflective reading of today’s Epistle and Gospel in two translations with patristic commentary on each reading, and the insertion of many, many names into the daily commemorations. And coffee. Ahhh. If I can’t receive our Lord and God in the Eucharist, at least I can have the next best thing. I should blog about coffee as the revelation of God transfiguring common realities. Oh, wait. Someone already does.
  • A few weeks ago, Joel (Thomas) Wilson was tonsured a reader and blessed to serve as a subdeacon. Thanks to Joshua Coolman, who blogged about it and added a phot0graph.
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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:11 pm

«— Netiquette Revisited
—» The Trinity and the Incarnation Displaced, Etc.

Bibliofilia

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Today I received a book I recently ordered from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. As always, it came with a short catalog of books, to encourage another purchase. A few books that look interesting:

The Blackbird’s Nest / Jenny Schroedel, illustrations by Douglass Montross
The illustrations for this children’s book immediately caught my eye as I was flipping through the catalog. They are crisp and vibrant, without resorting to sentimentality. When I turned the page and discovered that the story is about St. Kevin of Glendalough, one of the earliest Celtic saints and one of my patrons, I nearly jumped for joy. “Oh, COOL!” I yelped. “What? What?” my roommate said. “It’s a children’s book about St. Kevin, one of my patrons.” He said, “Oh.” I think he sounded disappointed; I can’t imagine why.
Our Church and Our Children / Sophie Koulomzin
With the recent discussion on children in the Church over at St. Stephen’s Musings, this volume should garner no small interest from many parents who just want to know what is expected of them. The author taught religious education at St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1954 to 1973, and this book is the result of “her half-century of experience working with children in the Church.”
The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox / Johanna Manley, ed.
This is the tome that I received in the mail today. I’ve been trying to keep up with the daily readings lately, and I usually want a little chaser with my scripture to help me digest what it’s telling me. While the notes provided by the Roman Catholic Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in the New Amercian Bible is usually tolerable, sometimes I just want to rest my brain and know the commentary I’m reading is nourishing. This looks to be very helpful in this regard. However, I reserve all final judgments until I see whether I continue using it after the complicated “Lucan Jump” in September. The translation used is the New King James version, of which I am decidedly not a fan. It seems to popular among some Orthodox, though, so I endure patiently until the New Jerusalem Bible catches on.
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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:26 pm

«— Understanding Pain
—» Bibliofilia

Netiquette Revisited

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Some things are so silly you just have to point them out. As, for example, when someone upgrades their blogging software, then puts the new software in a new directory, just so that everyone either has to wait 5 seconds or change all their links and bookmarks. Oh and by the way, all your old links are broken, too. This just screams internet anti-social. Why doesn’t he just SHOUT ALL OF HIS POSTS AT US WHILE HE’S AT IT!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:56 pm

«— Top-heavy Teaching
—» Netiquette Revisited

Understanding Pain

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This post contains censored sailor-talk.

As a youth, I bicycled a lot. As a result, I have three bicycle accidents to my credit. The first, when I was seven, was mostly a bad case of road rash. The second, when I was eleven or twelve, involved getting some stitches in a gash above my left eye. The final crash involved a blackout, a deep gash inside my mouth, and several days missed from school while I recovered. Collectively, they have all been topped.

Today, I was sprayed with pepper spray (OC spray, or O-Cap as we call it). It rates as the single worst experience of my life. Worse than all three bike incidents together. I think having been rejected in love (particularly by my ex-fiancée, among others) rates up there because of the long-term emotional and psychological effects, but I’m torn as to which I would choose if I had to experience one again. It’s five hours later, and I’ve had a shower: My eyes still burn, and my head aches.

Police are regularly subjected to pepper spray as part of their training. This gives them a sense of what it does — the idea being that they will be more judicious in its use. Since I am being trained to augment the base security force, I am being given the two-week summary of police training.

Here’s a earful of what I heard this afternoon:
SEAMAN JONES: AAAGH! O my God! O God! O God! [kicks at brick wall] Unn, unn, unn!
SEAMAN SMITH: Ernnn! Oh! Ow! Oh, f——! Unnn!
SEAMAN DAVIS: Aaagh! Hey man, it’s gonna be alright, just tough it out! Unnn!
SEAMAN SMITH: SHUT UP, man! Don’t F——ing talk to me! Just SHUT THE F—— UP! Aaagh!
ME: Unnn!
  [SEAMAN JACKSON SNIFFLES IN THE BACKGROUND, AND WHIMPERS:]
SEAMAN JACKSON: It hurts, it hurts. O God! Oh, f——! It hurts!
SEAMAN SMITH: Oh, sh——! Aaagh!
ME: [prying eyes open with fingers] Unnn! Aah! O holy Jesus! Lord, have mercy!

It was exactly like a battle scene or something, except there was no blood, no corpses. There were certainly no sailors with vacant stares in their eyes! I think I understand a little of what it meant physically for our Lord and the early martyrs to suffer some of the torments like scourging, crucifixion, burning at the stake.

Or maybe this is divine retribution for that steak last Monday?

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:38 pm

«— Pac-Manhattan
—» Understanding Pain

Top-heavy Teaching

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Is Orthodox catechesis too brainy? Erica worries that it’s too top-heavy. I know I have some readers who refuse to read my posts on Orthodoxy for that very reason. “What do you do, just sit around and think this stuff up?”

I think Erica hits on a practical, pastoral problem for priests and catechists: How much theology is too much? At St. Athanasius, we used to use a catechism developed by a former priest at our mother church that was heavy on un-doing bad evangelical theology, because that was the background of many people coming into their parish (and ours). We kept getting told by other Orthodox priests that it was fine, but it was not at all necessary.

It seems to me that what is necessary is not to learn all of the Church’s teaching before being baptized or chrismated — that would be impossible — but to learn to submit to the Church’s teaching in everything. That can be daunting for many people who are used to coming to their own conclusions. Part of the point of the content of catechesis is to give catechumens a sense of just what they are assenting to when they are baptized and chrismated.

That said, I hope that there is a deeper pastoral process that happens with Erica, for the sake of her salvation. God knows we all need it. I think most adult converts to Orthodoxy who have experienced a catechumenate can agree with me. The hardest thing is not learning all the data of the Church’s teaching but putting on the catholic mindset of submission and humility.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:19 pm

«— Long Division
—» Top-heavy Teaching

Pac-Manhattan

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Props to Mr. Hibbity Gibbity for pointing me to Pac Manhattan. If I were in the Lexington area, I would certainly be in. It sounds like a blast!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:25 pm

«— Peaceful Acquisitions
—» Pac-Manhattan

Long Division

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There is something quite melancholy in the closing lines of The Lord of the Rings. I deeply resonate with Jim’s post about being divided. Fr. Dennis used a scene from The Fellowship of the Ring in his homily Sunday. Sometimes I wish, along with Frodo, that this struggle had never come to me. “I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

But I always come back to this: If none of this had happened, a great deal of many positive things would not have happened, too. Many friends are made in the worst of times, just as the trilogy shows us. I think this is why I am so divided; I cannot turn my back on the good, and I find it nearly impossible to discern that division between light and dark in my own heart.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:53 pm

«— Venus Creations
—» Long Division

Peaceful Acquisitions

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Gideon writes about peace. It is interesting to contemplate this in light of St. Seraphim of Sarov’s famous saying, “Acquire the Spirit of peace, and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” It also brings to mind what I’ve written earlier about Orthodox evangelism.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:11 pm

«— In Memoriam
—» Peaceful Acquisitions

Venus Creations

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Victoria asks, “[W]hy should it be that what women do (have babies) leads to worshiping the creation? Whereas what men do, including the Holy Spirit (provide ‘seed’) — and again, I am not trying to be rude or stir up trouble — leads to worshipping the Creator?”

An excellent question, much like one asked by a very troublesome catechumen many years ago. I say this while winking in her general direction, because you would never know this pious woman ever raged against the Church’s legacy. She was rankled by the apparent dismissal by the Church of women and their contribution, evidenced by their exclusion from holy Orders. Today, she even covers her head in Church! You would hardly recognize her as the argumentative person we knew before.

I remember well my response, because with it a light dawned in her eyes, and she started showing a softer, receptive attitude towards Orthodoxy. Victoria is asking in a completely different spirit, of course, but I see the same honest struggle with the questions facing post-feminist Orthodox women.

The answer is intimately linked with the mythology and symbology of the ancient Near-East. Though the mythology is very localized, much of the symbolism is quite universal. You’ll remember that in the Enuma Elish humans were created from the body of the defeated goddess Tiamat. In the Jewish creation myths — more anti-myths, judging from their deliberate opposition of symbols to those familiar to their audience — humans are created from earth, from dirt. They are created in the divine image, but they have nothing of the divine substance within them.

Male gods are separate from their creation, while goddesses create from themselves — they pass on to their creation their own substance. The creation of a god is completely other and separate from him, while a goddess nurtures her creation within herself, flesh of her own divine flesh, and then gives birth to it. (Indeed, in most polytheistic religions, a god needs a goddess to be creative.)

In the Jewish mythology, the writers were careful to craft a creation story that portrayed God as masculine — though not male. He is completely separate from his creation. At no point in the creation stories is he portrayed as nurturing the creation as mother would a gestating child, or giving birth to the creation.

There are two nods in this direction: In the first creation story, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Gen 1.2) This conjures images of a mother bird covering her chicks with her wings — yet, we do not see the creation taken out of the divine substance. In the second creation story (Gen 2.4-25), where Adam is fashioned from soil and receives the breath of life from God. The story here plays on the word breath, which in Hebrew and Greek is the word for spirit. Here it is even clearer, the man is “fashioned” from soil, from dirt, and then given life by the Spirit of God. The parallel to the Tiamat myth is present, and so is the clear opposition to it. Humans are not made from God, nor from a goddess: We are made from dirt, and we will return to dirt when our days on earth come to an end.

Hopefully, this provides some insight into why it might be of more than passing significance that God has a masculine and not a feminine gender — while of course being neither male nor female, having no sex. Ultimately, the Orthodox Church will resist all attempts to feminize God out of fidelity to the Faith we have received, but sometimes it helps to see some of the possible reasons why.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:38 pm