Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Is Orthodoxy too old?

"There exists today the transformation of the fathers into 'authorities' simply to be quoted for a formal justification of ideas, affirmations, and even 'theologies' whose roots and presuppositions may have very little, if anything, to do with the Orthodox faith. There exists today manuals of Orthodox systematic theology with Patristic references and quotations on virtually every page and which, in spite of this, contain the most 'western' and 'scholastic' type of theology I can think of." - Alexander Schmemann

Wow.. that's a bit rough, huh? This quote jumped out at me in a book I'm reading now called Church World Mission by Alexander Schmemann. The main idea behind this book is to answer the question he poses, "What is the destiny of the Orthodox Church in this second half of the twentieth century, in a world and culture radically different from those that shaped the Orthodox mentality, thought-forms, and lifestyles of the past?" I think that many of us today are quickly resorting to the "oh but that's so old" excuse.  Whether it be Tradition of how things are done, rites in the Church, keeping fasting and prayer times, etc. There are so many things that this generation can point out and quickly discredit, that people in the past have dedicated their lives to protecting, and dying for it - isn't that wrong?

I find myself feeling saddened and encouraged at the same time. Saddened, by people feeling that they are disconnected from the Orthodox faith because of its ancientness - and encouraged to find people believing the exact opposite. Some may think that Orthodoxy cannot be applied to this era because of how old it is, but on the contrary, BECAUSE of how old it is, it SHOULD most definitely be more apparent now - because it gives us a more clear authentic view on who God is, and who the Church is.

The reason for the initial quote above, is because I feel many of us today have a skewed view on Orthodoxy. There are two sides to this problem, I feel. First, sadly disregarding so quickly thoughts and beliefs and Traditions from the past, for the sole reason of its age. Secondly, those who like Fr Schmemann stated, think Orthodoxy is a bunch of quotations from people before us. You will hear it and have probably heard it a million times, Orthodoxy is a way of life - not for us to hide behind quotes or knowledge or books (those are there for us to know and have a better understanding of many things in the past that the church fathers were enlightened and wrote down for us) but to actually live in this way of clarity of who God is and the Church and the Sacraments - and the best way is continual study of books written by these great people before us known as church fathers.

Don't be fooled by the quick fixes and emotional spikes the world may offer - this can lead to our relationship with God in sync with our emotions, up when things are good and down when things are bad. Rather, like St  John of Kronstadt says - Orthodoxy is like a garden that we cultivate and work at and water and see the beautiful pasture and fruits that it will bring.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

    I love watching remakes of old movies! I got to see Snow White and the Huntsman this past week with my brother and cousins. The cool part is when they look at the story from a different angle, or another character’s perspective. Of course there is always a little love story in there, but what really stood out to me was the Queen. I’m not evil or siding with her, but she interested me the most. 
     We've all heard the famous quote from the movie that says “Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” – The Queen only wants to hear one answer "You, my Queen, are fairest of all". If she'd ever hear anything else, it wouldn't be a happy day - like when she found out that Snow White was 'fairer' than her. 
     I do this ALL the time... well, I don't quite talk directly to my mirror, but you know what I mean =). We just hate to hear the reality of things nowadays. Whether it be a loved one in a rough situation, or a truth about someone that we just don't want to believe - but I want to focus more on ourselves. I heard a great quote that said "Irresponsibility is the hardest thing to see in the mirror". I had to think about this one for a while, and it's very very true. People can come down on themselves and say things like 'I need to work harder at this' or 'I keep procrastinating, but I'll get it done', but we seldom tell ourselves, 'I know what it is, I'm just irresponsible".  Now, if you know me, I wasn't the most responsible person just some years ago (some will argue that I still am not, and Dad - I can hear you in the back of my head right now!) 
     There just comes a point in our lives where we have to realize what we do affects the people around us. Unless we live in a cave and interact with absolutely nobody, everything we do has somewhat an effect on those around us - our irresponsibility usually becomes another's responsibility. I tried to find who to point the finger at, but it always ended up being directed back to me. I learned this the hard way throughout college, and am still learning throughout the workforce. 
     Buoyancy - remember that word from physics? I heard a great analogy of a biblical principle that can be seen easily here. St Paul says in Galatians 6:7 ".. a man reaps what he sows". I don't need to be all-knowing to understand that if I don't study for an exam, that I probably won't do that well, or if I smoke cigarettes that it can cause damage to my body. If bad things come across our lives, we usually look up to God right away and blame Him, or better yet - question Him. Why does God do this or allow me to lose my job - He probably hates me. On the contrary, its because He LOVES us so much, that He gave us this principle beforehand so we can abide by it! Now what does this have to do with buoyancy? That's the principle in physics that determines whether something will float or sink. Some things in our life either sink, or they float - we don't necessarily have to correlate them to bad and good, but it's just a principle. Just like when people build boats and ships, they have to abide by that rule. God isn't sitting up in heaven and pointing saying "you can float, you sink, sink sink, float, etc" It is just a principle - if the builder adheres to it, it will float every time. Sometimes we need to just take responsibility for certain things and quit playing the blame game with God.
     The last thing I just want to touch on is something that we may not have thought as a responsibility, but is very essential as a Christian - and that is sharing the Good News with others. Understood, some people are meant to be in the spotlight on stage, some hold the lights, some do the backstage work - but that does not excuse any of them from having the same goal, which is to be a part of sharing a great show. St John Chrysostom says, "Each one is responsible for the salvation of his neighbor" If we look at it like our salvation depends on the salvation of others, then it is our full responsibility as sons and daughters of Christ, to share Him with everyone we encounter. After all, who would enjoy a wedding feast if they were all alone?