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Perry, I remember the word "nominal" from my protestant years especially. Then I fast forward to the present and see its meaning etched in the mirror.

I discipline myself and discipline my flock sometimes, and I do so with fear and trembling. But more times than not, I am thankful that my flock remains Orthodox in a non-Orthodox world, that they actually show up in Liturgy, at Vespers, and throughout the hard journey of the Great Fast. I am paid to attend and to lead. But my people come out of love -- a devotion that frequently shames me.

We receive discipline because we have to. But what makes you and me and my people real is Grace.

We will not dissolve. We may disappear from the radar. That may not be a bad thing, because I think that God has removed the intelligence for secular governance from all church leadership, and praise Him for that (without any irony). The state is toxic for church: perhaps it wasn't always this way, but it is now as this generation begins to calcify with age. We are infantile in mind, but beset with cultural arthritis in heart.

We have not missed any chance, because the chance is not yet.

But I take your point: we screw up more often than we say "Lord have mercy."

Buried in this comment section, which is barely read and hopefully not so troublesome, let me disclose the one more besetting sin of clergy that has bedeviled us, besides the truly embarrassing and prurient bedazzlement with riches: too many decisions are based on the sort of gossip that would give old ladies pause, instead of being based on the saintly discernment conditioned by apatheia, fasting and prayer.

There is fundamentalistic arrogance. There is a mindless rush to bedding down with evolutionists and academic functionaries. There is more faith put in the Rudder and rubrics at the expense of doctrine and patristics. There is the abominably silly and tribal/clannish script of insults and whinings launched from one jurisdiction to the other.

For some reason (probably related to chastisement), I have to deal with some of this effluvia. I feel heavy when I get off the phone and turn away from my gmail screen.

But then I see an icon. I read St. Gregory, or pick up the Beauty of the Infinite. I kiss my wife. I walk outside and wait for my bulbs to push through to the sun. I go next door and roll dough for pirohi, or cut hedges with my vice-president, or visit a nursing home.

Then I pray and enter the work, the Liturgy, that saves: "Thine of Thine Own," I am permitted to say. All of my America is made new. The moment, the place participates in grace. I can see gossamer of eschaton even through the cobwebs of silliness, even through sin.

Sorry, Perry, for this rhapsody. Keep me in your prayers.

This is good stuff. Well crafted without being cumbersome and right on the money.

Here is what I wonder. How can we take the recommendation seriously? I am Orthodox and frankly most laymen are nominal in my experience and many clergy suffer from something like cowardice. They are more concerned with keeping the cash flow than condemning the sins of Sodom, let alone actually disciplining their flocks. How can any of this be or become real without church discipline? How can Americans, and I am a home grown one, take Orthodoxy seriously, as something authentic without the slightest bit of discipline? I fear we have missed our chance and now dissolving into another fad.

Thank you, Father. Please excuse my pride in suggesting what any Orthodox Bishop should, or should not do with respect to Orthodox unity in America. I am reminded that I have no business doing that.

I should have simply mentioned that it appears to me to be a stumbling block to bringing Orthodoxy to the various regions of America and left it at that.

Again, thank you for your continued writings and exhortations.

-Eric John

Joshua: thank you for your kind words. You might want to look at the Ochlophobist's latest posts on things agrarian.
I, too, am troubled by the juxtaposition of casinos and welfare checks.
Eric: you should be interested to know that at the priests' convocation where I presented these lectures, a senior priest -- whom I admire greatly -- also suggested the very same U2 number. I think that the rock video of that song was filmed in Vegas, the very place (or "non-place") of not finding what you're looking for.
Thank you for your kind regard.

Father:

Thank you for a most interesting series.

You state: But we Orthodox do not really know Jefferson or Lincoln, don't we? Neither do we know much about Mark Twain . . .

For those of us that may be said to have come from rather soundly Protestant 'American' roots(my father's side were Dutch Colonials pre-1665; my father's mother's were Irish Catholics who emmigrated in the early 1800's; my mother's people were Danish and English who emmigrated in the 1840s and 1850s), who now find ourselves Orthodox, we might know Jefferson and Lincoln and Twain - our struggle is to see how our strongly Protestant Reformed and/or Anglican and/or revivalist (etc.) heritage shall be understood and lived in light of Orthodoxy. To borrow from the senior Francis Schaffer: How shall we then live?

I think you are spot-on in the focus on Trinity and Incarnation (as rightly taught by the Church), although I think the matter of Orthodox unity in America also is a huge stumbling block.

For example, if I mention that I am an Orthodox Christian, the most usual question is: "you mean, like, Greek Orthodox?" Next follows a series of questions about whether I married a Greek woman, or had Greek relatives, or some other sensible reason for being (Greek) Orthodox. There seems some vague ideas about Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox being related, but that's as far as it goes - and anecdotally there I see a perception that it's an ethnic thing and one who doesn't have the ethnic connection is viewed as a bit 'off' for having pursued it.

Unless I have a reasonable amount of time and a truly willing listener, explaining that I actually attend an Antiochian parish and explaining what that jurisdiction represents is likely to result in a complete turnoff to the subject.

While here in the Western U.S. Orthodox unity at the parish level is pretty evident, with priests and parishioners working together (we actually rotate host parishes for certain pre-sanctified liturgies during Lent between OCA, Antiochian, and Greek Orthodox parishes, with the Serbian parish probably not hosting more due to size, for example), I sometimes wonder whether what unity is really going to take is a couple of bishops having the moral courage to relinquish parishes to another bishop who is geographically closer but perhaps not of the same jurisdictional 'chain of command,' perhaps together with a couple of bishops who are willing to abandon a large Californian metrop area for a smaller city/metrop in the West. I think such acts of humility and faith might go a long way to creating a truly "American" Orthodox Church (all due respect to the OCA).

Finally, while I like Pink-Floyd as an example of the gnosticism and effect on our society, if I might cast another Rock candidate in the U2 song -

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you.

I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her finger tips
It burned like fire
(I was) burning inside her.

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I'm still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.
But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

[Lyrics as found on the fan site www.u2.com - I believe there may be variants in a couple of phrases]

I think this song sums up the strange desert the man of our modern secular Western culture finds himself - that even when he seeks Christ and believes in Him, he yet finds that is not fulfilled.

God help us.





Father,
Thank you for posting these lectures. It is a joy to read something that "rings true." I am not yet Orthodox, but I am trying to repent of Gnosticism and to oppose Leviathan. These lectures cause me to weep for my America. Suburbanite though we were, my family was agrarian recently enough to retain a memory of the land and of our place (which is southeast Oklahoma - far enough from New York). Alas, even there, villages are thoroughly walmarted and mcdonaldsed, and casinos have grown up with parking lots appreciably more crowded on the day that wellfare checks are issued. Please continue to post. I am helped by your words.
Joshua

Hear, hear!! :)

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