August 31, 2004

The Tragedy, Shame and Sorrow of Eucharistic Schism

From Touchstone 's 31 August Mere Comments:

Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria
Intervention at the meeting of the Plenary Commission on "Faith and Order", Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), 30 July 2004
The "Faith and Order" paper No 181, "The Nature and Mission of the Church", includes a section on "communion real but not fully realised". This section contains the following statement:
One blessing of the ecumenical movement has been the gradual and increasing discovery of the many aspects of life in Christ, which our still divided churches share; we already enjoy a real, if imperfect communion.
I would like to challenge the very notion of "a real if imperfect communion", which appears also in other "Faith and Order" documents in various modifications. This notion seems to me to be questionable, misleading and deceitful. The only "real" communion that could exist between Christians is Eucharistic communion, and if we do not have a common Eucharist, it means that there is no "real" communion among us. We may--and indeed should--lament about this fact, but we should not deny it and pretend that we have already reached, or almost reached, the koinonia which is to be the crown of our ecumenical endeavour. [Emphasis added]
Our inability to share the Eucharist, in turn, reflects the most profound division in dogma, spirituality, ethics, in the very experience of faith that exist among various bodies calling themselves "Christian churches". Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima in his response to the paper in question has rightly pointed out that "there is little ontological unity and little agreement among those. who confess Christ as God and Saviour". And let us be honest to one another and not pretend that the question is about a "unity in diversity": we are deeply disunited, in spite of almost a century of the ecumenical movement. [Emphasis added]
The tragedy of contemporary Christianity, I believe, consists in the fact that, while we are all engaged in a laudable struggle for unity, processes are underway within some Christian communities which alienate us from one another ever more profoundly. And I think it is no longer the divisions between the Catholics and the Protestants, or the Orthodox and the Reformed, or one confessional family and another that should be an object of our primary attention. We must address very seriously the fundamental discrepancy between the traditional and the liberal versions of Christianity.
I believe that the recent liberalization of "faith and order", of dogma and morality within a number of Western churches of the Reformation has alienated them from the traditional churches--notably from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches--more than several preceding centuries of Protestant history. As a result of this liberalization and in spite of many decades of ecumenical quest for unity, we are now more profoundly divided among ourselves than ever before.
I would like to conclude my intervention by a plea to take more seriously the tragedy of division existing among Christians of different confessions, and to look more honestly at the sources of our disunity instead of pretending that the "real"--even if "imperfect"-- communion which we are all seeking is already achieved. [Emphasis added]

Leave it to an Orthodox bishop to say it straight. It's strong medicine, but it's medicine we so desparately need.

August 25, 2004

Women, Childbirth, and the Gospel

Those who take offense at Paul for these words:

"But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety" (1 Timothy 2:15).

Fail to remember that those words are connected to these words:

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. . . . But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:6,7,19).

Sometimes inklings of these truths are granted us in the most unlooked-for of places.

She wore a dress with cherries on it,
Goin' somewhere where she'd be wanted.
A town this small; all they do is talk.
No wedding ring; cheap fingernail polish.
She always wished that she could go to college,
But some dreams fade: they just slip away.
She started to show a few months ago an' she had to go.
That's how she wound up.

On the backseat of a Greyhound bus,
Head on down with the windows up.
Starin' at the rest of her life.
She never thought this would be the place,
Where she would find her savin' grace,
But she fell in love; she fell in love,
On the backseat of a Greyhound Bus.

Oh, yeah, yeah

Moon was full, the stars were smilin':
God has a funny sense of timin'.
The baby came on the Interstate.
Somewhere between Jackson and Memphis,
She finally found what she had been missin':
She cried and cried, while the red lights flashed.
Sweet baby girl: she looked into the face of a mirror,
The face of a brand new world.

On the backseat of a Greyhound bus,
Heart so full that it could bust.
Starin' at the rest of her life.
She never thought this would be the place,
Where she would find her savin' grace,
But she fell in love; she fell in love,
On the backseat of a Greyhound Bus.

Sweet baby girl:
She found a brand new world.

On the backseat of a Greyhound bus,
Heart so full that it could bust.
Starin' at the rest of her life.
She never thought this would be the place,
Where she would find her savin' grace,
But she fell in love; she fell in love,
On the backseat of a Greyhound Bus.

She wore a dress with cherries on it,
Goin' somewhere where she'd be wanted.
Hey, yeah, yeah.

Sara Evans, "Backseat Of A Greyhound Bus"

(Of course, men are not excluded from these graces, though they participate in them differently.)

August 20, 2004

"Making Eucharist"?

I came across a phrase recently that has raised some questions for me. I've read it on some of the blogs I read, and have heard it in some conversations among friends. "Making Eucharist." As I understand the phrase, it's meant to indicate what the celebrant does as part of the Lord's Supper/Eucharist; he or she "makes Eucharist."

But the more I've heard this phrase, the more it has become deeply offensive to me. As I understand the Eucharist, we humans do not make anything. We entreat, in faith, the Holy Spirit to come down upon the gifts of bread and wine and make them the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the Eucharist; we receive it. This is no magical mumbo jumbo or sacerdotal mojo: it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And indeed, this Eucharist makes the Church; apart from it, there is a group of people, but in and through it this group of people become the Body of Christ.

So when I hear someone say something like "Let's go make Eucharist," it is seriously bothersome to me. I am deeply saddened and hurt at what seems to me like a failure to honor the work of God in the Eucharist.

But, let me be quick to say that I may be misunderstanding a) what those who use the phrase "make Eucharist" really mean, and/or b) what the Church's teaching on the Eucharist actually is.

Would any of my readers care to address this question for me?

August 18, 2004

Further Intercessions of St John the Wonderworker, and Thoughts on a Family Patron

In two earlier posts (18 May and 11 June), and as the first item in this post, I have made reference to answers to prayers which have come about in conjunction with asking for the intercessions of St. John the Wonderworker.

To summarize: concerned about providing adequately for my family, but not (then) making a very adequate income, I prayed that somehow it would work out that my willingness to work would be matched with opportunities to work honorably and provide for my family's needs. As it happened, shortly after beginning to pray that prayer, I was able to begin working full time at Northwestern's library (where I've worked for the past three years now) and I was assigned a summer class to teach. We also received a very timely (and swift) tax refund check--the very day I asked St. John's prayers that we would receive it soon (we had been expecting it, but not quite that fast). And, when we could have been made to pay a very costly ticket related to our car accident, the other party failed to show, and the ticket was nullified.

Just yesterday, another answer to prayer came about. I have really felt that I needed to teach at least two classes this fall to make ends meet. But I only had one class definitely assigned to me. Another class was "in the works" but enrollment was low and there was serious doubt about whether the college would go forward with the class. One deadline for a decision came, and there was enough of an uptick in enrollment that another deadline was set. I learned yesterday that the college decided to go ahead with the class, so I will be teaching two classes.

I could understand if I'd asked St. John's intercessions for one need, and that prayer was answered, how one who otherwise believed in answers to prayer might be skeptical whether St. John really did intercede for us. But here a good almost half-dozen specific prayers have explicitly sought St. John's intercessions since late spring/early summer, and each of those have been answered. Clearly God hears the prayers of his people, and clearly the saints who are part of the Church Triumphant pray for us.

I hasten to add that I do not see in this some sort of "magical formula." With regard to this class I just got assigned: I was prepared to receive a negative answer from God, and prepared to work at finding ways to make our finances work. I knew that St. John would only ask God that which was for our souls' salvation. Maybe having two classes would not be good for my salvation or that of my family. So I'm well aware that simply because I ask St. John's intercessions for a particular need is no "guarantee" that I'll get what I ask for. To reiterate: this ain't magic.

But this "rate of answered prayer" has me wondering: should I take on St. John as the patron saint of our family? He clearly has demonstrated his love and care for our family and our financial needs. At the risk of asking a really foolish question: How does one decide on a family patron saint? My own personal patrons are St. Benedict of Nursia and Blessed Seraphim Rose. Dare I "make" St. John Maximovitch our family patron?

[Note: I should add that with the exception of the first paragraph, this post is an email I sent to my priest this morning.]

Fr. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina: On Stability and Christian Striving

“Christianity in practice, and monasticism above all, is a matter of staying in one place and struggling with all one's heart for the Kingdom of Heaven. One may be called to do the work of God elsewhere, or may be moved about by unavoidable circumstances; but without the basic and profound desire to endure everything for God in one place without running away, one will scarcely be able to put down the roots required in order to bring forth spiritual fruits. Unfortunately, with the ease of modern communications one may even sit in one spot and still concern oneself with everything but the one thing needful—with everyone else's business, with all the church gossip, and not with the concentrated labor needed to save one's soul in this evil world.

"In a famous passage of the Institutes, St. Cassian warns the monks of his time to 'flee women and bishops. . . .' Women, of course, tempt by means of the flesh, and bishops by means of ordination to the priesthood and in general by the vainglory of acquaintance with those in high positions. Today this warning remains timely, but for the monks of the twentieth century one can add a further warning: Flee from telephones, traveling, and gossip—for they will cool your ardor and make you, even in your monastic cell, the plaything of worldly desires and influences.”

--Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, p. 459

August 13, 2004

Memento Mori

We are called to make a life of faith, a way of living, from the flotsam and jetsam of daily moments and events. Here's one such piece from my life today.

He said: "I was in my early forties,
With a lot of life before me,
An' a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days,
Looking at the x-rays,
An' talking 'bout the options an' talkin’ ‘bout sweet time."
I asked him when it sank in,
That this might really be the real end?
How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?
Man what'd ya do?

An' he said: "I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'."

He said "I was finally the husband,
That most the time I wasn’t.
An' I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all of a sudden goin' fishin’,
Wasn’t such an imposition,
And I went three times that year I lost my Dad.
Well, I finally read the Good Book,
And I took a good long hard look,
At what I'd do if I could do it all again,
And then:

"I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'.

"Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it."
What did you do with it?
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

Sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
And then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin'.
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin'."

"To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'.
To live like you were dyin'."

--Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying"

(You can go here to hear the song and read the lyrics.)

Fr. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina: On the Daily Struggle of Salvation in Christ

[T]he less you think of spiritual life in the abstract and the more you are just struggling in the labors of daily life, praying according to your strength . . . the better for you. Orient yourself towards zealous Orthodoxy, and then just struggle from day to day, and God will give you wisdom.

--Letters from Father Seraphim, p. 133

August 11, 2004

Fr. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina: On the Struggle in the Saving of One's Soul

“We are told by the Holy Fathers,” Eugene [Fr. Seraphim] explained elsewhere, “that we are supposed to see in everything something for our salvation. If you can do this, you can be saved.

“In a pedestrian way, you can look at something like a printing press which does not operate. You are standing around and enjoying yourself, watching nice, clean, good pages come out printed, which gives a very nice sense of satisfaction, and you are dreaming of missionary activity, of spreading more copies around to a lot of different countries. But in a while it begins to torture you, to shoot pages right and left. The pages begin to stick and to tear each other on top. You see that all those extra copies you made are vanishing, destroying each other, and in the end you are so tense that all you can do is sort of stand there and say the Jesus Prayer as you try to make everything come out all right. Although that does not fill one with a sense of satisfaction (as would watching the nice, clean copies come out automatically), spiritually it probably does a great deal more, because it makes you tense and gives you the chance to struggle. But if instead of that you just get so discouraged that you smash the machine, then you have lost the battle. The battle is not how many copies per hour come out: the battle is what your soul is doing. If your soul can be saved while producing words that can save others, all the better; but if you are producing words that can save others and are all the time destroying your own soul, it's not so good.”

--Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, p. 380

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: On the Incarnation and Theology

No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle in Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders, that God became man. . . . Theologia sacra arises from those on bended knees who do homage to the mystery of the divine child in the stall. Israel had no theology. She did not know God in the flesh. Without the holy night there is no theology. “God revealed in the flesh,” the God-man Jesus Christ, is the holy mystery which theology is appointed to guard. What a mistake to think that it is the task of theology to unravel God's mystery, to bring it down to the flat, ordinary human wisdom of experience and reason! It is the task of theology solely to preserve God's wonder as wonder, to understand, to defend, to glorify God's mystery as mystery. This and nothing else was the intention of the ancient church when it fought with unflagging zeal over the mystery of the persons of the Trinity and the natures of Jesus Christ. . . .
The ancient church meditated on the question of Christ for several centuries. It imprisoned reason in obedience to Jesus Christ, and in harsh, conflicting sentences gave living witness to the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ. It did not give way to the modern pretense that this mystery could only be felt or experienced, for it knew the corruption and self-deception of all human feeling and experience. Nor, of course, did it think that the mystery could be thought out logically, but by being unafraid to express the ultimate conceptual paradoxes, it bore witness to, and glorified, the mystery as a mystery against all reason. The Christology of the ancient church really arose at the cradle of Bethlehem, and the brightness of Christmas lies on its weather-beaten face. Even today, it wins the hearts of all who come to know it. So at Christmas time we should again go to school with the ancient church and seek to understand in worship what it thought and taught, to glorify and to defend belief in Christ. The hard concepts of that time are like stones from which one strikes fire.

(Letter to the Finkenwalde Brothers Christmas 1939 [from A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 471-472.])

August 08, 2004

The Road to Canterbury V

[Note: This series of posts can be found here on this blog, or in a single html document here.]

The Aftermath

The aftermath of my decision was pretty much anticlimactic. Since arriving at the seminary, I had only been to a couple of Episcopal parishes in the area on a few occasions. Despite the prayerbook service I loved, the parishes were so anti-traditional, and so opposite what I'd come to Anglicanism for, that I just couldn't force myself to go. Here I was, at seminary, seeking a vocation to the priesthood, and I couldn't bring myself to even attend the churches I might one day be serving. So, since we'd arrived in Chicago in 2000, my wife and I had essentially not gone to church or had a parish home for those two years at seminary.

Having left the ordination process, I also silently, but resolutely left ECUSA and Anglicanism. Other than a couple more visits to a local non-ECUSA Anglican parish, and to my one-time home parish in central Illinois, I walked away to never set foot in an Episcopal Church again. A year and a half before—just a few months after having started seminary—I had discovered an Orthodox parish, and had visited it a handful of times. I had already been reading and investigating Orthodoxy, and talking to the Orthodox parish priest. I had also already begun my PhD program at Loyola University in Chicago. So I simply turned my attention to Orthodoxy and to my philosophy studies (which are described in the next essay “Journey to Antioch”).

So, for the first six months of 2002, my wife and I had no church involvement whatsoever. We moved into the city—and out of seminary housing. Within about a month of relocating, I began to openly and seriously investigate the Orthodox Church.

My experiences to that point on my spiritual pilgrimage had brought home to me some important truths: 1) Not to trust my own wisdom and experience as an infallible guide to faith; 2) To remember that it isn't about me or my needs or self-fulfillment, it's about what's best for my family and my descendants; and 3) There are only two important questions worth asking when it comes to faith: “What think ye of the Christ? Whose son is he?” and “What is the Church?”

I grew up with a healthy dose of American individualism and personal autonomy. I had huge reservoirs of thought which said essentially “Only you can ultimately determine what's right for you.” Well, that was proven to be untrue. I quite clearly did not determine what's right for me. More to the point, if I am the ultimate criterion on which to base my determinations of right and wrong, good and evil, not only will I never be able to discover what's right for me, the best I will ever be able to do is to determine what it is I prefer—most of the time. This is not to say I did not have good reasons for exploring Anglicanism, nor that I did not have good reasons for being confirmed in the Episcopal Church. Furthermore, it wasn't as though I didn't take other contrary views into account in my decision. But rather, if my own judgment was the be the ultimate criterion of faith, then I am bound to go wrong. Mine, after all, is a very limited viewpoint, untested by the vast centuries of time open to the Church and her Tradition. And I found that weakness only exacerbated by my adopted church who seemed utterly intent on throwing off the inherited life and doctrine of the historic Church.

I remember clearly how easily I acclimated to and how deeply I resonated with liturgical and sacramental worship. I could see the benefits it accorded me, and how those things would benefit my wife and our family. But this was still just my preference. It was hardly grounded in anything more significant. This preference, of course, was tested when it was brought up hard against manifest heresy and the advocation of immorality. There clearly had to be more to worship and my Anglo-Catholic preferences. More to the point, what would I be handing on not only to my own family, but to my grandchildren, and their children? Could I, in all good conscience, promote the Episocpal Church to later generations of my family? I found that I could not.

But the final and concluding resolve came from the awareness of the primary two questions one must ask oneself in investigating the Christian Faith: “What think ye of the Christ? Whose son is he?” and “What is the Church?” If one is a Christian, there is only one answer to that first question: Jesus is the Incarnate God. But already in my experience in the Episcopal Church I not only found those who publicly denied this bedrock Christian dogma, but more to the point, were not held accountable for that heresy. I could not recommend to myself, my family or my descendants a church who failed to call to account those who denied the central tenets of her faith. In my judgment, no matter how many faithful there were in the pews on a given Sunday honestly confessing the Nicene Creed, if the highest levels of clergy and church governance both denied this faith and could not enforce adherence to this simple bedrock of the common Faith, then that church had, in essence, denied the Faith. How could I recommend such a church to my grandchildren's children?

Furthermore, it was clear that the ecclesiology of the Episcopal Church was deteriorating to such a point that it no longer resembled a Christian Church. Bishops were set up as mini-popes over their own dioceses, untouchable by any outside agency. Collegiality—the sine qua non of Church governance since Pentecost—had been gutted as innovating bishops went ahead with their own sociopolitical agendas despite warnings from the greater national church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. Even the very Sacrament itself, which constitutes the Church, was denigrated by those who mocked its essence substituting their own “elements” (in substitution for the bread and wine) and replaced the Traditional and canonical words with political agendas—in effect, making the Holy Eucharist part and parcel of the kingdom of this world, and divorcing it from its rightful King. How could I recommend such a church to my descendants?

I have spoken in ways that some will see as harsh and judgmental. It is not my intent to judge the hearts and thoughts of those whom I've criticized. But it is my place, indeed my responsibility, to speak about public behaviors to my family, to say to them, “What you are seeing is not of the Gospel.”

If my words seem harsh, it is doubtless because I had come to the Anglican tradition with very high hopes. The picture of the church I saw there was winsome and inviting. Unfortunately, that church had ceased to be some decades before I came on board. I filtered all my experiences through this image I had built, until finally, my experiences showed to me that it was nothing more than an image. An image that no longer matched the reality of the church I was in.

With those two questions in my mind, and my resolve to find a Church that answered them rightly, I turned my attention to the Orthodox Church.

August 07, 2004

The Road to Canterbury IV

The Fork in the Road

During all this growing struggle, a clergy friend of mine expressed that one way to approach these concerns is to remind myself that adulthood is rife with continual negotiation. There are no easy answers or infallibly clear alliances. Everyday we are faced with various compromises through which we negotiate our faith. So while this moral and theological fragmentation which is occurring in the Episcopal Church is regrettable, it is nonetheless part of the realities of adult life: we pick and choose our battles and our allies, hopefully and prayerfully with the guidance of and in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Conformity to an ideal might not be so much a sign of orthodoxy as it is a sign of immaturity.

But the actions of the Episcopal Church’s national leadership and other laity and clergy were deeply troubling to me nonetheless. Furthermore, it could be responded that a sign of adult maturity is to recognize one’s limitations and obligations. This willful disregard for catholicity and tradition in which the Episcopal Church is engaged may not be so much a sign of relevance and sophistication as a sign of regression to adolescent rebellion and lack of a formed identity. An "adult" church would then be one which realized that one had an obligation to be faithful to the Tradition, and that limits are not always signs of oppression but signs of protection and of responsibility.

I also had it expressed to me that the Episcopal Church is still orthodox: the Creeds are recited, the faith is proclaimed, the sacraments are administered. The other matters going on in ECUSA are important, but ultimately not the reality that is the Church. In some ways, this made sense to me. Just because a bunch of folks are behaving foolishly, doesn’t mean that all are foolish. Jesus, himself, said that the wheat and the tares would grow together. But it was clear to me that in ECUSA de jure orthodoxy is not a guarantor of de facto orthodoxy. A creeping nominalism of theological word games had become the political tool in recent decades. One could say certain words, but what did one mean by them? More to the point, one must ask the question: Where is the demarcation between faithfulness and apostasy in a denomination? When could one say that ECUSA had become apostate? Must it only be when it officially pronounces a heresy? And how many heresies must it officially pronounce to be "really" apostate?

It is rather ironic to reflect that among my hesitations in being confirmed in the Episcopal Church were my beliefs about baptism and the orientation from my heritage regarding the Lord’s Supper and church polity. Similarly, the breadth and via media style of thought regarding theology and doctrine in the Episcopal Church was at that time refreshing as compared to a more monochromatic reading of Scripture with which I’d grown up. Now, however, it was just that lack of clarity regarding the wide range of the Church’s orthodox and traditional beliefs that made such things as pouring versus immersion, real presence versus memorial, and elders versus bishops seem, not unimportant, but at least less critical. It was symptomatic of a greater disease.

But the conflicts mentioned previously continued to grow in intensity. Furthermore, I was becoming increasingly aware of my passion for and abilities in philosophy. It began to appear to me that my vocation lay not in the priesthood, but in the teaching and writing of philosophy. I had hesitations about ordination I couldn’t shake. In early 2001, a friend from Lincoln Christian Seminary encouraged me to listen to those hesitations. Then in late 2001 I did so.

On Christmas Eve morning, 2001, I spent some time listing the various matters which had occurred or were occurring in the Episcopal Church that were of deep concern to me. These were all developments that occurred, or things about which I became aware, after my confirmation. In my naiveté, I might still have been confirmed had I known of them, reasoning that prayer and strong witness would result in repentance, renewal and reform. Having witnessed the unchecked downward spiral of the few years since my confirmation (and the couple of decades before that), however, I was not optimistic. Not because I doubted the power of the Holy Spirit, but because I doubted the willingness of the major players to place themselves under the conviction of God.

As the new year 2002 rolled in, I found I could not reconcile what I knew to be happening on the national and diocesan levels in the Episcopal Church with the whole set of reasons I’d been confirmed in 1996. So, with heavy heart, on 7 January 2002, the day after Epiphany, I composed and sent a note to my priest informing him I was withdrawing from the ordination process. I would no longer seek to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. I followed up with a note to my parish discernment group and one to my bishop. Their responses were compassionate. Nor were they surprised, as I’d wrestled with these issues ever since beginning study at the Episcopal seminary I had been attending.

August 06, 2004

The Road to Canterbury III

Troubling Intimations

I knew, coming into the Episcopal Church, that many priests were quite a bit more "liberal" than was I. Some of my then primary "diagnostic tests"--literal six-day creation, traditional authorship of biblical books, infallible inspiration of the biblical texts--revealed quite a bit of ambiguity on the part of many of the clergy, though not all, whom I encountered. But the words of the 1979 prayerbook were orthodox as far as I could tell, the creeds were said, and there were still many orthodox priests and laity in ECUSA. I simply assumed that both could exist together; that I would be free to live and practice my faith as I’d always done. We could, in short, agree to disagree. But just a little more than one year after I’d been confirmed, I began to see the warning signs that others, unbeknownst to me then, had pointed out for quite some time.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church, its national legislative body, in 1997 did two things that gave me pause: it called into question the nature of apostolic succession by loosening the traditional requirements for the consecration of a bishop--as part of an ecumenical agreement proposed with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America--and mandated women’s ordination.

I was far from a strict legalist on apostolic succession, having come to a new appreciation of it in just the previous few years. But I knew instinctively that for the Episcopal Church to loosen its requirements on one characteristic that found its way into that church’s very name, was to forecast its willingness to forego other essential aspects in other ways.

Similarly, though at the time I was in favor of the ordination of women and knew little concerning how it had come about in the Episcopal Church, I knew that mandating a doctrinal matter on which there was not complete agreement was an issue that spoke more in terms of political power-grabbing than it did in terms of serious theological reflection and discussion. It also gave the lie to the broad-minded, liberal, inclusive reception that ECUSA claimed to extend to any and all who entered her services.

Even the liturgy for which I’d developed such an appreciation, was rapidly changing and innovations were proliferating. Make no mistake, I had been far from "traditional" when it came to liturgy. I had never subscribed to the notion of a return to the 1928 prayerbook. Indeed, I had appreciated the variety apparent in the 1979 prayerbook itself, not to mention other so-called "supplemental liturgical texts" which had been made available. I made use of as much variety as I could.

But in spring of 1999, I became aware—with the purchase of Enriching Our Worship, the newest forms of approved supplementary liturgies—how the variety actually weakened the intent of the prayerbook tradition of "common" liturgy. It was primarily in the texts for use in the daily office that this realization came home to me. I found that the proliferation of opening versicles, the increasing numbers of canticles, and so forth, actually began to distract from the recitation of the daily office. Indeed, the apparent sociopolitical agenda behind the inclusion of some canticles was patently obvious. I was becoming aware that liturgical reform was potentially another name for sociopolitical causes. Variety was apparently little more than propaganda.

As the next few years would show, this was just the tip of the iceberg as far as my growing realization of the state of affairs in the Episcopal Church. The very next General Convention in June 2000 would see the passing of a motion that made non-marital sexual relationships pastorally equivalent to holy matrimony. It would also see the setting up of a national task force to ensure compliance with the canonical change requiring agreement with and implementation of women’s ordination. I became increasingly aware of the unwillingness or inability of the orthodox clergy in ECUSA to denounce, depose and/or excommunicate avowed heretics such as John Spong, I. Carter Heyward, and William Swing--persons who publicly renounced the beliefs the Church has always held regarding the Trinity, the person and work of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and so forth.

Even all this, aware of it as I was, may not have done much other than to trouble my mind about the national church "out there" somewhere. My home parish, rector and bishop, were all orthodox in faith and practice, and similarly were critical of the direction the national church had taken. My parish priest had encouraged me in seeking ordination in ECUSA, reasoning that if I had been called to ministry in the Stone-Campbell churches, I might well have a vocation to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I at first ignored his encouragement.

At the end of the summer in 1998, my wife and I moved to Baton Rouge so she could pursue her library degree. While there, we frequented the nearest Episcopal parish, which happened to be the chapel on campus. But even in the deep South, I could not forget my former priest's encouragement to seek ordination. So in early 1999, I sought out the local parish priest to inquire about ordination to the priesthood. Beginning there in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, then transferring back to my "home" parish in Lincoln, Illinois, I spent the better part of three years slowly working through the processes of discernment as to whether I had a vocation to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I decided to move to Chicago to go to seminary—and pursue other doctoral studies.

That move to Chicago at the beginning of 2000 was almost immediately the end of my time in the Anglican Church. Though I had largely ignored the troubling developments in the Episcopal Church nationally, given the orthodoxy of the parishes in which I worshiped, when I moved to the Chicago area to explore my possible vocation to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, there was no way I could bury my head in the sand, as it were. I attended a seminary that endorsed same-sex relationships by allowing same-sex partners to cohabit. All the liturgies were systematically denuded of as many references to God the Father as possible. I was seeing day by day the living out of what were formerly only "news items" about national church.

I think most devastating of all, was the sharp contrast between my previous Bible college experience and my experience at the Episcopal seminary. Previously at my other schools, almost nothing was ever said about community, inclusiveness and diversity. Yet I quickly and easily formed a generous circle of acquaintances who were genuinely concerned with my welfare. The schools had their cliques, to be sure, but no one was ever shunned, and one would as often dine and hang out with one's friends, as with those with which one generally had little in common. And the diversity in terms of minorities and ethnicity was far greater than the largely anglo, upper middle class, and Democrat seminary to which I had come.

At the seminary, my experience was just the opposite. I was shunned by most due to my willingness to publicly announce my traditional beliefs. I actually had one female seminarian approach me after class one morning, following a discussion on abortion, and ask me, point blank, when I would be leaving the Episcopal Church, since it was obviously a denomination with which I was out of step. In another instance, after writing a paper criticizing bishops for advocating for same-sex blessing rites instead of laying a foundation of solid Christian teaching from which Christians could address questions of sexuality, the professor gave me a B and largely avoided speaking to me in any way outside of class—even to the point of ignoring my greetings as we passed one another in the hallways. Diversity was a slogan to be sure, but not a reality, as the fundamentalism of belief (albeit liberal belief) was so much stronger than any I had ever experienced at my previous schools.

Adding to the painfulness was the growing realization of the futility of the search in which I'd been engaged. I’d come to the Anglican tradition looking for the connection to the historic Church, for its adherence to Tradition (in the sacraments and liturgies, and apostolic succession, as well as the creeds) and its monastic ethos. I found instead the mere structures of these things; inside all was empty. For a church to erode its adherence to apostolic succession for the sake of an "ecumenical" pact, calls into question its claim to the designator "episcopal." For a church to unleash its individual bishops as the sole ecclesiastical interpreters of the canons in their dioceses calls into questions its synodality and therefore its viability as anything larger than specific dioceses or even congregations. For a church to so clearly ignore the rampant heresy evident in pronouncement after pronouncement from leading clergy, calls into question its retention of the name "Church"--the body to which the faith has been once for all delivered. Indeed, long before I had taken up the road to Canterbury, the adherence to Tradition had begun to erode. I was merely witnessing a church's public, divisive and consequential fall.

August 05, 2004

The Road to Canterbury II

My First Worship in an Episcopal Church

When I first got to Lawrence, I looked up the two Restoration Movement churches in town, and settled on the Disciples Church. In late September, I began to think again about the Anglican tradition and decided to look up the local Episcopal Church. There were two listings and I chose Trinity, which, as it happened, was the church across the alley from the Disciples Church. On the feast of St Francis, 4 October, I worshiped for the first time in a prayerbook service. It was the early service, which in many Episcopal churches, as it was in this one, is the Rite I, or traditional language, service. As is also often the case, there was no hymn singing or other music. It was a spoken liturgy. When I entered the nave, all was silent and around me several parishioners were kneeling in prayer. The service began abruptly with the entry of the rector and immediately we were in the midst of the liturgy. I had read and attempted to use the Book of Common Prayer for a couple of years, and here was the living embodiment of it.

For one who had been reading Scripture daily since the junior year of high school, had spent five years at Ozark Christian College in several exegetical classes studying the Scriptural texts, and had heard countless expository sermons over nearly a decade, the words and cadences and the rhythms of the Rite I service swept over me like a flood. I detected a verse from a psalm here, a verse from an epistle there, not to mention the large sections from the Old Testament, Psalms, Epistle and Gospel that make up the Sunday lectionary readings in the Episcopal Church. I cannot adequately describe the joy I felt in the drenching in the written Word that I experienced in that service. And coupled with frequent and deep silences, I knew that this was the sort of worship with which I most deeply resonated.

I noted in the church bulletin that there was an Episcopal campus ministry that held daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and the very next day, I went to be part of that as well. I also had discussions with the rector and associate rector, as well as with the campus minister. Additionally, I read more and more on the history and worship of the Anglican tradition and the Episcopal Church, and I felt myself very much wanting to be a part of it.

I also happened to read Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware's The Orthodox Church
, and learned even more about Orthodox theology and life. I knew that compared to Roman Catholic belief, I could more comfortably accept Orthodox doctrine. But ironically, Bishop Ware's book only served to underscore how foreign Orthodoxy was to my own religious frame of reference, and it confirmed me in the direction of looking at Anglicanism.

My journey continued over the next several months, but I then left Lawrence in early 1993, returned to Wichita, Kansas, got engaged and was soon married. At that point all thoughts of joining the Episcopal Church were placed way down on the list of my priorities. I also continued to appropriate Orthodox items. I purchase a couple of Orthodox prayerbooks, which I used infrequently. I also purchased some icons, but these were mostly religious art, and not a significant part of my daily life.

A few months after my wife and I had returned from our honeymoon, I began to rethink my vocation to ministry. I was at the time working outside the church in other employment. But after a lengthy process of relocating with my company to the Springfield, Illinois area, sending out resumes and supply preaching, I found myself again called to serve as a minister of a local congregation among the independent Christian churches.

I should pause and give some indication of where I had come to with respect to the Anglican tradition and the Episcopal Church. Though I had not been confirmed in the Episcopal Church, and indeed had only worshiped for a handful of months in a local parish before leaving Lawrence, nonetheless I had taken on several of the disciplines that the Anglican tradition of spirituality fosters. I was daily observing Morning Prayer according to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. As best I could I was also observing the Church calendar and the ecclesiastical seasons of the year, including observing the commemoration of various saints. While in Wichita, I had worshiped a couple of times at Episcopal parishes, but this was largely an infrequent practice. I also began conscientiously to orient myself toward an embrace of the universal Church throughout history and throughout the world. This meant for me an embrace of the theology of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, and many of the aspects of the Church Tradition. It will come as no surprise that I also tried to incorporate these into my ministry in the local congregation, though in a very oblique and general way.

As it turned out, I had agreed to serve a church which I later learned had a history of troubled relationships with their ministers. My wife, Anna, and I ended up being yet one more couple in that list of ministers. After a year and a half, and on the tail end of a protracted, if subdued, conflict with the local leadership, I resigned my ministry. Anna and I relocated to the town where I was finishing my seminary degree. Within the month I began worshiping again at the local Episcopal Church.

This time began one of the darkest and most fractured periods of my life. My wife and I had been deeply wounded by the church. Our own marriage, not even a full year old when I started at the parish, had been effectively put on hold as we both tried to survive the dysfunction of the parish. We emerged bloodied and broken, with a marriage not yet strong enough and mature enough to handle the devastation. We both entered a time of mental and spiritual darkness. By God's grace, we survived individually, and somehow God's mercy, the prayers of our family and friends, and our love held us together when it would have been so easy go our separate ways.

It was in the midst of this darkness, instability, and financial poverty that my Anglican journey came to an official point. After a few months of study and counsel with the rector—some six years after discovering liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer through a required devotional book in my Practical Ministry class—on 14 April 1996 I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church by the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield (Illinois). As the following next few years unfolded, my love and appreciation for the historic Church, for liturgy and sacrament, for monasticism, all grew stronger and deeper. Sadly, very soon, the intimation that in the Episcopal Church things were not all as well as I had thought they were also began to grow, so that almost six years after being confirmed, I found myself on the brink of leaving.

August 04, 2004

The Tonsuring of Orthodox Monastics

If you would like to see and read about how Orthodox monks are made go here (scroll down to just below the schedule of services). [Note: A fuller pdf file is here.]

With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop TIKHON of San Francisco, His Grace, Bishop BENJAMIN of Berkeley tonsured four monks at the Monastery of St John on the Feast of St Sergius of Radonezh, July 5/18. Three monks were tonsured into the Small Schema or stavrophore: Fathers John, Martin and Dimitri. One novice was tonsured as a Rasophore, Father Elijah.
The Monastery of St John has nine brothers, under the spiritual direction of Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen). It was established by the blessing of Bishop TIKHON in October, 1996, at St Eugene’s Hermitage in Point Reyes Station, Marin County, near San Francisco. It is the only monastery for men in the Diocese of the West of the Orthodox Church in America. At the Monastery are the Abbot, a hiero-schemamonk visiting for an extended period, four stavrophores, two rasophores and one novice. There are several other men who are intending to join the brotherhood in the immediate future, space permitting.

The remainder of the site gives pictures and liturgical text of the ceremony.

Glory to God! America desparately needs more monasteries. To the newly tonsured: Many years! May God bring the increase of monasticism!

The Road to Canterbury I

[Note: This is the second series (chronologically) of posts describing my spiritual pilgrimage from the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement churches, through the Anglican churches, to the threshold of the Orthodox Church. The first series "Starting from Cane Ridge," can be found here on this blog, or in a single html document here. The third series of posts, "The Journey to Antioch" can be found here on this blog, or in a single html document here.]

Looking for the Historic Church

From my final semester at Ozark till my confirmation in the Episcopal Church was a period of some six years of exploring and living, as best I could in my circumstances, what I was discovering about the Anglican tradition and the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA). But although, as will be told, my exploration took place within the Anglican tradition, what I was searching for was the historic Church, a connection to the New Testament Church that I had not found in my heritage churches.

During my final semester, I was ordained in the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement Christian churches on 7 April 1991 at my home congregation, Countryside Christian Church. It was a powerful and moving experience for me. I felt the heavy weight of the responsibility to which I’d been charged, as well as the powerful support that God was giving and would give me through his Spirit.

In May, I then presented the salutatorian address of my college graduating class, and submitted a plethora of resumes to secure a local ministry with a church as near as would facilitate me studying at Lincoln Christian Seminary, in Lincoln, Illinois, where I intended to continue my education and training. Though the process was a lengthy and anxious one, I eventually secured a ministry as a full-time minister to a fledgling campus ministry in Vincennes, Indiana.

The area in and around Vincennes was very strongly Roman Catholic, and as one might guess, while in Vincennes, I intently, though only briefly, explored the Roman Catholic Church.

In studying the Anglican tradition, to the extent that I had at that time, I knew enough about Anglicanism's history, and the emergence of the Anglican Church in its present identity from the spousal troubles of King Henry VIII to know that there was a difference between the pre-Reformation catholic Church of England, and Church of England after the Reformation. I knew that as a result of the act of King Henry, among other factors, the Anglican Church was not in communion with Rome or the Orthodox Churches.

It was clear to me, then, that the history and connections to the New Testament Church that the Roman Catholic Church had, were deeper than that of the Anglican Church. So I purchased several apologetical works on the Catholic Church, attempting to explore its major doctrines, its liturgies, and its life. It was during this time that I took up the practice of praying the Rosary, and began to better understand and accept the realities of the Sacraments and of the intercessions of Mary, the Mother of God, for us.

However, I don’t think I ever held any serious thought of converting to Rome. My Protestantism was too deep to accept such dogmas as the primacy and infallibility of the Pope, the Immaculate Conception, and other distinctly Roman Catholic beliefs. Instead, I continued to turn more fully to the Anglican tradition. I wasn't much troubled by apostolic succession at the time, or of the validity or invalidity of Anglican orders and sacraments. I was simply looking for a church that had a history that connected it to the New Testament Church, and one in which I could keep the central convictions that I had. And it seemed the Anglican Church, specifically the Episcopal Church, would both give me what I wanted and allow me to keep my core beliefs. But though there was an Episcopal Church in Vincennes, I could never summon the courage or sense of comfort, given my circumstances in the campus ministry, to attend.

My short life as a campus minister was a great experience overall. I divided my time between campus ministry, my classes at seminary, and my personal exploration of the historic Church. Being single and a minister magnified my solitude, but it was a necessary discipline, and gave me time to think, study, write, explore my vocation and to pray.

During that first semester at seminary, one of the books I read was The Way of a Pilgrim, and I began to pray the Jesus Prayer with some regularity. But though I had, by this time, read Peter Gilquist's Becoming Orthodox, I did not begin to seriously think about or pursue Orthodoxy until much later. For now, I simply enfolded these discoveries into my Anglican search.

From the first few days of my arrival, it was clear that the husband and wife founders of the campus ministry, who were still integral parts of the daily operations of the ministry, had a different conception than did I of how the ministry was to take shape. One of the early disagreements was about whether I should have a series of lessons on the specific Restoration Movement understanding of baptism. I took up a position that focused on discipleship to Jesus first, and after that would come specific doctrinal understandings, so I did not present the lessons they had in mind. Indeed, I made clear to them that the focus of my ministry was one of encouraging and enabling serious commitment to Jesus Christ. I was not out to turn this into a “glorified youth ministry” with a focus on social activities and field trips. Nor was I intending on turning the campus ministry into a recruiting tool for the local Stone-Campbell churches. Most of the students came from other church groups, and it was my responsibility to minister to them where they were at, and not conform them to a predetermined denominational slant.

For the first several months these differences were largely kept out of sight of the students. But in early spring a ministry trip with the students was planned without my knowledge. Within about a week of the beginning of the trip, one of the founders called me to inform me of the travel schedule, travel dates, and what my participation was to be. Needless to say, neophyte that I was to “full-time” ministry, I knew this was a watershed event. Tensions escalated between the founders and myself, albeit beneath the surface, until finally the founders and I met for dinner and we had a face-to-face discussion. I think they were surprised by my frankness and bluntness, since they assumed me to be inexperienced and “fresh out of Bible college.” I was polite and respectful, but firm in my convictions and my stand. Though we left without unity of purpose, I think we left with greater mutual respect.

Within a month of that meeting, it became clear that the funds for the ministry, and my salary, were not coming in as expected. In hindsight, the campus ministry board had moved too fast and too aggressively in attempting to fund a full-time minister so early. Despite my disagreements with the founders, and the lack of full communication on the part of the board with regard to the finances, I was and am grateful for the experience, and thankful to them for taking a chance on a newly-graduated candidate.

With no salary to pay the bills, I left Vincennes just short of a year of having arrived. Shortly after arriving in Vincennes, I had hooked up with a local congregation which was associated with the campus ministry board. The minister took his faith seriously, and was focused on a ministry of discipleship. This was out of the norm for the area churches whose ministry paradigm was more a “traditional” one of Sunday sermons and lessons and weekday pastoral calls. But whatever faults this congregation may have been alleged to have had, the one thing they were big on was love. They paid for a moving van for me, so I could get my belongings home. And it's no coincidence that the last faces I saw on leaving Vincennes were those of these church members and a handful of students from the campus ministry, who threw me a going-away picnic.

After a long, ten-hour, late-night drive, I arrived home. Within a few months I had relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, ostensibly to study English at Kansas University. Instead, I would begin the first steps toward becoming Anglican.

August 02, 2004

Starting from Cane Ridge VIII

[Note: These posts are available in a single html document here.]

Leaving the Trail, Looking for Canterbury

By autumn 1990, I began my final year at Ozark. I was a much different person than when I'd begun four years earlier, in 1986. Having been raised in the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement churches, in April of 1986 I had made my first adult commitment to those churches, and later that summer had decided to pursue a vocation in ministry. I had explicitly owned the Restoration Plea, and served various student ministries as part of my training and education. But by the start of my final year, I'd begun to question the Restoration Plea, had come to new theological and philosophical convictions, had owned the legitimacy and normative standard of the Church's historical liturgy for worship, and had begun to come to an understanding of the sacramental nature of Christian faith. I longed for some sort of tangible connection to the historic Church, the New Testament Church which I was in the process of concluding had never disappeared nor ever had its faith diluted or changed. I had been introduced to the Book of Common Prayer, and had begun to make connections between my evangelical heroes of the faith, C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, and Dorothy Sayers, and the Anglican church of which they were faithful members. At the same time that I was reading a biography of T. S. Eliot, I was also reading Robert Webber's Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail.

The process of leaving Cane Ridge for Canterbury was a long one, and was not accomplished in one single decision. Part of that dynamic was the period of pain and disappointment I was about to enter during this final year at Ozark and that would last for another five years. Part of it involved a constitutional inability to come to a quick decision. But not to be discounted was the strong and supportive relationships I had formed in my time at Ozark.

I owed a lot to the men who mentored me, professors and ministers. From Kenny Boles I gained my knowledge and love of Greek. I also learned from Brother Boles not to take the solemn pronouncements of various Restoration Movement leaders too seriously, given that time often brings new perspectives and understandings. From Mark Scott, I learned my love of Scripture and the utmost respect we are to pay it. But I also learned that the core of Christian living was a heart and mind surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. From J. K. Jones, I learned to see ministry from the standpoint of cooperating with the work God is already doing in a person's life. I learned to be a midwife to the Spirit, to cooperate with the grace working itself out in the individual heart, not to assert my own agenda. I learned from Brother Jones to wait, to listen, to pray, and then to act. From Kyle Gardner, I learned that loving God with all my mind was not optional but was central to discipleship. But I also learned that loving God with all my heart, soul, and strength involved suffering, that no Christian life was exempt from suffering, and that only through it can Christians be given integrity.

There were the many friends and parishioners who supported me, and to whom I had, and have, a great responsibility. I owed it to them, and still do, not to lead them astray from the faith of the Church, and to embody in myself the life that God desires to live in me. At that time, during my last year of Ozark, and for the next several years, I was not always sure that heading away from Cane Ridge was a good thing. My mind and heart told me one thing, my sense of obligation told me another. I was sure of the things I was learning. But as is always the case with me, to make such a momentous decision takes a level of certainty not usually granted us this side of heaven. I would have to take the steps which I was convinced God was demanding of me, and to trust to him the outcomes and consequences.

But more to the point, certain events began to unfold which took my attention away from these decisions, and gave me a focus on mere survival.

During my last two years at Ozark, my parents' long-troubled marriage began to unravel, and during the Thanksgiving holiday break of my fourth year, my father told me one on one in our kitchen that he would be separating from my mom, and moving out. The long months from that point till their eventual divorce was an unforgettable period of the pressure to take sides and the dealing with the dissolution of the only meaning “home” had ever had for me. Forever forward, the peace and joy of family holidays would be destroyed in lieu of competing allegiances. Weddings would be marred by various conflicting demands. And even the celebration of the arrival of children would be always colored by the darkness of divorce.

Not only was I fighting the demons on the homefront, the solace I hoped to find in dating and vocation was soon shown to be misplaced. I made horrible decisions with regard to dating, and endured the consequences. At one point in my final semester, I simply hibernated and recluded myself in my dorm room. I emerged to fulfill my student ministry obligations, but for little else. Friends kept me up to date on class assignments, or brought “health food” to keep me bolstered.

I eventually emerged from blue funk, preached my senior sermon, graduated as salutatorian (including giving an address at graduation), and was eventually installed as a campus minister after graduation. More suffering was to come, but this is better told in the account of my journeys along the road to Canterbury. At this point, I was till a Restorationist Christian. I enrolled in a semester at seminary, while serving as a campus minister. But I had found liturgy and the historic Church, and nothing would dissuade me from pursuing it till I found it in its fullness. That would first mean leaving the Cane Ridge trail for the Canterbury road.

August 01, 2004

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

Today begins the Dormition Fast, where, for the next fourteen days, Orthodox Christians engage in a strict fast (no meat, dairy products or eggs) in preparation for the feast of the death and assumption into heaven of our Lady. It is one of the principal fasts of the Church, which include the Nativity fast, the fast of Great Lent, and the Apostles fast.

These fasts highlight the distinct difference between a dualistic understanding of the body and a wholistic one.

Perhaps the greatest example of dualism is found in Plato's Phaedo, where Socrates' last hours are recorded in dramatic form. In this dialogue, Socrates notes the distinct differences between body and soul, and how it is that a philospher prepares for death all through his life by purging his soul of any contact with bodily pleasures, pains, and sensory knowledge. Thus, at death, the philosopher is finally free of the cage that is his body, and can contemplate the invisible forms without hindrance. By contrast, a soul not purged of this bodily contagion, is forced, through a cycle of rebirth, to go back through bodily existence and learn there to purge himself of these taints.

It is arguable that this view was Socrates' or even Plato's understanding of the soul. The dialogue contains many Pythagorean elements, and other Platonic dialogues, such as the Republic, are more friendly to the soul-body relationship.

But this dualism lives on in our own day, largely through our Cartesian inheritance. It lives in the notion that, as Christians, we are primarily what we believe, rather than an accumulation of what we do. Aided and abetted by the "faith only" paradigm of salvation, it is not surprising that we find polls of evangelical Christians who say they believe in the inerrancy of God's written Word, but also find sexual behavior outside the marital bond acceptable as well.

Orthodoxy, on the other hand, being a devoutly incarnate religion, does not go to either extreme. Orthodoxy maintains the balance between a legalistic faith of works and a careless inattention to moral behaviors. The body is both the field of battle, and the place of sanctification in the Christian life. Christians purge themselves not of their bodies, but of the passions which have infected the flesh. The body is not subjected to fasting as a form of punishment or hatred of the flesh, but as an attack on the passions which not only war against the soul but also attack the body itself. Christians know that their resurrection, like their Lord's, will include the bodies they now inhabit. There is no sense in mutilating the body.

Orthodoxy knows that faith must be fulfilled in actions. And she also knows that actions apart from faith have no value. So when the Orthodox Church fasts, she is calling all her members to make war on the passions, to purify soul and body of these deadly contaminants. But the act of fasting in itself is nothing. Many a spiritual father has forbade his son or daughter to fast, knowing that the act will do harm, coming as it does either from a lack of faith, or from an unwise lack of concern for the body.

For my brothers and sisters who've begun the fast: May the Lord bless your works for the glory of his name, and your sanctification.

For those of us forbidden to fast: pray for us that our faith will be made stronger and our sanctification would be found in the holy balance of grace.