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Monday, September 30, 2002

Tonight I was sitting discussing Orthodoxy with some friends of mine. During the course of it, one of my friends asked me, "What do you now think about what you used to believe? Were you wrong?" Now this is somewhat of a tricky question, not because this person was trying to be tricky, but because how I answer it can have a lot of possible implications, because she goes to the church I used to go to before I came to Orthodoxy.

I gave her an answer, that yes I think that what I believed was wrong. But in many respects, I would say that really it's an irrelevant question. You see, The Christian life really ultimately isn't about right and wrong. While right and wrong are important, shouldn't the real question be, "Which way am I heading?" Let me explain.

Let us assume for a minute that we are at home sitting in front of our computers (I assume you are right now), and while reading this, a friend calls you and informs you that on the way to your house they got lost. Does it really matter how or why they got lost? For that matter, does it really even matter where they're at? The only relevant thing at this point, is where they go from there. Right now, we are all in a place, some place. But where we're at really doesn't mean anything. What matters is where we're going! Once we know where we're going, the last remaining question is, "How do we get there?"

Yes, I was wrong in the past. I am utterly certain that in many respects I am wrong now. I don't claim to possess all truth. I am sure that for the rest of my life, I will find myself corrected, frequently at that. Where I was at in the past really has no meaning to me. I was wrong then, I'm wrong now, and until my state of theosis is complete, I will continue to be corrected in my error. We can never allow ourselves to cease to be corrected; we must continue fervently to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling". So you see, I'm not so much concerned with where I used to be, I'm concerned with where I'm at, and from whom I take instruction to get where I am going. I am the chief of sinners, struggling desperately and daily, to be corrected, that I may someday, by the mercy of God, attain the prize. But I do not struggle blindly, I have found the Orthodox Church, in whom I have utter trust, to correct me in my error, and point me in the right direction.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

My mother called me the other day to see if I wanted some pictures of my family. I got them yesterday, and as I looked at them, these pictures of my grandfather, whom I never met, of my grandmother whom I still maintain is the Godliest woman I have ever personally known, these people who have helped shape me into the person I am today, I pondered them with adoration.

Yesterday I took a picture of my beautiful wife-to-be to work with me. Throughout the day I gazed at her lovingly, thinking often of how much I know she loves me (though I'm still trying to figure out why). While looking at that picture isn't the same as actually being with her, I certainly feel closer to her during work now than I did the day before. I've even thought about kissing that photo, like I did as a child with the pictures of my mom after my parents divorced.

What is it about these reproductions of light on plastic that cause me to consider looking foolish at work? Why did I clutch the image of my mother as I fell asleep as a child? Why do I even care to have pictures of my mother's father, a man who died nearly two years before I was born? After all, they're not the person themselves. So what would compel a person to look the fool at work, kissing said plastic?

Love. Pure and simple love. Though Cybil may not be directly feeling the effects of my lips upon said plastic, the more that I cherish our mutual love in my heart, the more a part of me she becomes, and the more I am shaped by her. This will also reflect back to her when we are together. There are very real, tangible effects to such seemingly useless gestures. My communion with her, and my grandfather, are made all the more real through these paintings on paper. Their lives, and effects on the world, are made part of my life, and thus will further affect the world.

We confess the communion of saints. As an Orthodox Christian, I take that very seriously. When I consider that the Church is frequently called the Body of Christ, with Christ as the head, and we His members (literally parts), I realize that Christ has only ONE body. We are wonderfully and mystically united to those who even now worship around the throne. They are, in very real ways, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. As Cybil and I become one, so do we with the Saints who have gone before. Is it any wonder that the Church, the whole Church (his body cannot be divided), is also referred to as the Bride of Christ? The bride becomes one with the groom. We are all part of that one body. The workings of one part affect those of another. The love of one entwines the love of all others.

So as I gaze upon my picture of Cybil, so also do I kiss the Icons of the faithful who have gone before me, who are ever interceding for me. In the building up of this love of the body, we learn how to love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Holy and Immaculate Virgin Theotokos, save me! St. John the Theologian, whose life we now commemorate, save us! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, purify me, that I might save my beautiful Cybil, and she me.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Today, my priest Fr. Wayne, sent out an encouragement. It resonated with me in a way that I sent him a response thanking him. It was from St. John Chrysostom, and reads as follows.

"When I was driven from the city, I felt no anxiety, but said to myself: If the empress wishes to banish me, let her do so; the earth is the Lord's. If she wants to have me sawn in sunder, I have Isaiah for an example. If she wants me to be drowned in the ocean, I think of John. If I am to be thrown into the fire, the three men in the furnace suffered the same. If cast before wild beasts, I remember Daniel in the lion's den. If she wants me to be stoned, I have before me Stephen, the first martyr. If she demands my head, let her do so; John the Baptist shines before me. Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked shall I leave this world. Paul reminds me, "If I still pleased men, I would not be the servant of Christ."

Now what got me thinking about this was not that St. Chrysostom was quoting Biblical heroes, in fact it was not even so much that it related to the Bible at all. What I particularly noticed, was that this man is not in the Bible at all! He was a giant of faith who lived 300 years after the last scripture was written, and yet his contribution to Christianity was (and is!) both legendary and real. Some might even argue he did more than perhaps some Biblical writers. Yet in modern western Christianity, his name is practically unknown.

What has happened. Why do we on one side of our mouths talk about how Christianity is 2000 years old, but on the other side say nothing of the men and women who worked to get us here? These are the very men and women that devoted their lives (and often deaths) to give us what we have, and yet we act as though Christ died last week. What do we mean when we confess the "communion of Saints" in the Creed (if we even know what it is). Did Christ die so that we could be the only Christians that matter, or did he "trample down death by death" so that we could join the communion of the Everlasting Trinity. If we are to be one as the Holy Trinity is one, we ought to remember that we are one with the vast majority of the faithful; those who have gone before us. We must not forsake communion with both the living and the still living. They are the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Sometimes, in our passion for the truth, we forget that part of the truth is recognizing that you don't know it all, nor will you ever. This is a lesson I have to learn time and time again. I so frequently see how completely far I fall short of the truth. And so it comes again that I have to humbly beg the forgiveness of anyone who may be reading this.

You see, I know the dark secrets of my own heart, in a way that only God knows (far) better, and I have come to realize that perhaps I may come off uncharitable, and unLOVING, which destroys communion, rather than renders or repairs it. I have allowed myself to be proud and boastful of my own faith, and as a result, perhaps, have caused anyone who's read this to feel put down. If I have, in my sin, (it is a sin, whether you've experienced the receiving end of it or not), hurt anyone, or even caused a minor lack of charity, please understand that I, dear reader, have a long way to go down this rabbit hole, and often find myself trying to climb back out to familiarity, rather than embracing, and thus exuding, the pure, warm, transforming love of Christ.

I am grateful to my partner in theosis, my fiance Cybil, and my priest Fr. Wayne, who last night and this morning respectively, lovingly showed me my errors, that I might make ammends to God, and my fellow man. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Well, it's been a few days, and to be honest, I have enjoyed doing not much at all. I say this not so you can all be jealous; on the contrary, I say it to bring up a point about communion that is often minimalized. HONESTY...

Now some might say, you just talked about that a few days ago, so why bring it up again? Because if we are going to attempt to have a relationship (yes I did say attempt) with God, we must first start with being honest. So often, in my conversations with Protestants, (and I do not here mean to imply they are the only dishonest; I myself, a hopeful Orthodox catechumen, am often dishonest) find that it is very difficult to honestly look at the HARD realities of Christianity. It's so easy to hide behind our fears of what reality is.

Case in point. If one were to take a look at the Protestant notion of Sola Scriptura, it is very easy to see the fruit of this tree. No one any longer has any authority with which to have any certainty of their understanding of the Christian life. Yes, we (again I include myself, as I spent the first thirty years of my life as a Protestant) like to think that Holy Scriptures are clear, but if that is so, why do we have the sad state of "christian" thought that we do today? Newsweek a few months ago did an issue on faith that said that at current account, there are 33,000 different Christian denominations, all with a different understanding of what the Christian life is. WHO'S RIGHT? HOW CAN WE KNOW? Does scripture tell us who's right? No, it doesn't.

But from here, if as Christians who desire truth, we are honest, we have to believe that there is an absolute truth, because if there isn't, why bother with Christianity at all? Why not eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die? So the next question is, by what authority do we undertake to discover the truths of Christianity? Ourselves? Do we remake God in our own image? Certainly many have, but is that the truth, or is that, again, our dishonesty.

If we are truly honest, we will remember that the CHURCH is the foundation and pillar of truth (ITim 3:15), that in fact it was the CHURCH who wrote the scriptures, and it was the CHURCH who collected together this book we call the Bible, discerning which books taught the faith of the Apostles, and which contained heresy. Does that same Church that accomplished all of this still exist? If it doesn't, then Christ was a liar, because it was (and is) He that stated that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. But if it does exist, here is where we must ask ourselves the HARD question. Are we willing to be completely honest, and subject our current presuppositions to the authority of that Church? Are we willing to realize that Christ can only have ONE BODY? and that any attempt to make it a "spiritual" body alone, both denies the understanding of the Historic Church, and makes a mockery of Christ's high priestly prayer, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11). Christ was praying for that most intimate communion. It is no wonder that Christians were able to maintain a unity of the faith for the first half of all of Christian history. They fought for it, often literally, but they understood that we ought not divide over our "own" understandings.

After two years of looking at Orthodoxy, wrestling with it, I finally understood that I had to be honest. The fruit of divorcing truth from the Church is the sad state of Protestant (dis)unity. But when we go back and take a look at how things were intended, and have been since the beginning, if we are honest, we will see that the church that the Apostles founded, the Orthodox church, still exists, and is still teaching the truth to those who would hear, just as it was in the beginning.


Monday, September 16, 2002

Well, this morning, I was in a minor fender bender. It was my fault; I rear ended this guy. Now my natural reaction at the point of impact was to start thinking thoughts like, "What can I do to get out of this?" Now the easy way to combat this kind of thinking is to look at the ten commandment and remember that we're not supposed to lie (I didn't by the way.) There are a lot of things that would induce me to want to do so, and a lot of things that make this scenario difficult, which I won't go into here, as they're really not the intent of this post.

What is the intent then? The question that must be asked here, if we're going to hold up that commandment, is WHY? Why did God give us such a law? What was his designed intent in giving those words to Moses on the mountain? Was it just to make our lives more difficult? To be completely honest, I don't presume to know all of God's reasoning, but I suspect that in many regards it comes back to communion. When we lie, we present ouselves (or others, sometimes both) as different than what we truly are. This makes communion and sincere relationships ever more difficult, as we are now attempting to do so with something that doesn't exist.

Certain (protestant) Christian apologists very frequently talk quite a bit about how the "Jesus others believe in" is a falsehood, and so they don't really have a relationship with the true Christian Jesus. Perhaps they're right about the "different Jesus" part. But then from a certain perspective, all protestants have a varying degree of difference on how they view Jesus and thus the ensuing relationship. WHY??? I won't answer for them, but I will say, that there is a Church that has maintained the TRUTH about who Christ was, and what he did, since the beginnings of this whole thing. If TRUTH is our highest criterium for our relationships, if it is truly what keeps us in truest and deepest communion, why arent we going to the source of that truth? I could go on here for a while about the incoherencies of Sola Scriptura, but I'll leave that for another time. Before you make up your mind though, ponder on ITim 3:15, and consider here what is the ultimate source, the foundation if you will, of TRUTH.

But be careful. If you've seen the movie The Matrix, consider well which pill you want to take. While pondering this question, consider just how far down this rabbit hole goes.

As far as my accident today, I OWE him the truth. Love, living in communion, requires nothing short of it.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Welcome to In Communion. As noted in the description, living in communion was what mankind was created for. At creation, God and man had a unique relationship that was intimate and beautiful. At the introduction of sin, the nature of our relationship was forever changed, as our ability to commune with a Holy God was marred, because sin, by definition, is that which damages the intimate communion in our relationships. Hence, that which damages our relationships with man also are sins. The goal of our lives, now and ever, ought to be to restore that communion, by forsaking our selfish desires, and giving up ourselves for that which produces ever closer love in communion, both with God and man. This page will attempt to be an exploration of this theme in all of my relationships, as well as those things I learn along the way.

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