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.

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