Friday, March 21, 2003


Ten years ago, if someone had asked me my preference in worship, I would have said something along the lines of "free-form where everything happens by the direction of the Holy Spirit". While perhaps there is a place for that (which is a subject I am not going to address now), I would no longer say that is "my prefered" way of worship. There are all kinds of reasons why I could give why liturgical worship is better, beginning with the fact that historic Christianity has always been liturgical, it keeps a continuity and orderiness of worship, the continuity of doctrine in worship etc. etc...but these also are not the point I'm getting at right now.

Tonight, after Cybil and I finished our evening prayers in front of our icons with special guests Aaron and Sara, Cybil and I began chanting together "Holy i-is the Lo-o-ord our God". We both entered in the same way, almost spontaneously. Reinforcing each other. Something that is so simple, yet so beautiful. The Liturgy suddenly just lept out of us, caught us up unaware. This is something that I've noticed happening more and more as we become more familiar with the prayers of the Church. It just flows out. I see children, small children chanting along, singing these ancient words at home.

Liturgy reinforces itself in us, draws us back, catches us up in the worship of God. It becomes an inseperable part of our being. Tonight, as it has many times without my realizing it, the Church came alive in our home (at least what will be our home after June 1st!!). Inside, I can almost see the Angels and the Saints. We joined the host of heaven. Am I saying others who don't worship Liturgically will never do this? No, not at all. I am saying liturgy certainly lends itself to that in a way I've never experienced it before. Cybil and I worshipping together in our "home-church", joining in with the Saints, singing some of the very songs they sang on earth, and for all I know, may still be singing right along with us before the throne of God.

Holy i-is the Lo-o-ord our God!

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Karl, Who's reading what, and horse heads

Sometimes you just have to recognize that someone else can say something much better than you can. Go read this by Karl. Some good stuff on why the Orthodox Church practices closed communion. I'm still trying to work out my salvation, so I'll mostly keep my mouth shut for now.

On other notes, my mom informed me that she read Ware's Orthodox Church. See, it really is true that more gets accomplished when I just shut up. It's Lent anyway, so I'll try for a while to just work on myself, and let God work on those I love.

Lastly, Fr. Wayne told me that James will be my God-father. James told me to be good or I'll wake up with a horse head in my bed. I told God to let both Fr. Wayne and James know how much they mean to me, and then thanked him for the joy of having known them. Hopefully that will keep my bed horse free, even if my life is not free of the sin that so easily besets. Lord have mercy.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Forgiveness Vespers

Tonight began the great fast of Lent. It was also perhaps the most amazing service I have ever attended. The day began with our Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. Father Michael gave a homily on forgiveness. He quoted from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6:

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

and also from Luke 6:37:

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.

It is interesting to note the HEAVY emphasis on our forgiving our neighbor, in order to obtain forgiveness. It paints a picture of the relationship we are to have with our Father in heaven, and his creation on earth. After catechism, we all went home and were to consider the gravity of our sins until we came back in the evening; to consider in what ways we may have sinned against our fellow members of Christ's body.

At seven, we came back to Church. I had always heard about this service, and was both excited and intimidated at the same time. Most of the way through the vesperal liturgy, Fr. Wayne came out, asked the forgiveness of Fr. Michael, then the deacons, and they their turn, asked for his. Then the congregation began to come forward, and each individually asked forgiveness, forgave, and proceeded to the next person, and so on, until all had both forgiven and been forgiven by all.

To some, this may seem silly, to others beautiful. To me...it was gut wrenching, and yet freeing; painful yet healing. As I passed each person, I was careful to look each in the eye, and while doing so, to consider how I may have sinned against them. Many of them it was easy to do, my sins were before me so clearly. Sins of anger, or callousness, or apathy, or of assumption....far too many to count, and these were among those I am supposed to love. And yet each one of them hugged or kissed me, and in that embrace and in their words, I found forgiveness. In turn, I knew more clearly my Lord forgiveness.

I realized then, that all my petty attitudes, and thoughts, and actions, my sins, were just that....petty. Here I have found a home, amongst imperfect people, people who understand suffering and joy; pride and humility; sin and forgiveness. People who have taken me in and welcomed me into the family of God. People who see me, the imperfect sinner, and have so known forgiveness so as to weep before me and forgive me. What an amazing way to begin Lent.

My eyes are still heavy and bloated from tears, but my heart is light. I don't think I will ever pray "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" the same again. Thank you Most Holy Lord, for bringing me home, even if for now, I can only sit on the porch.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Jobs...a lesson in humility

Well, today marks the end of week one looking for a job again. The last one I had, a contract job, was supposed to be permanent, but due to some upper level machinations, only lasted two weeks. Needless to say, it was a blow to me. But here I am, trying to rest in God's provision. Cybil has been wonderful and strong in the midst of all this. She is truly a great woman, the kind that I will be truly blessed to call my wife come June 1st.

I can't help but think that this is happening at this time for a reason. I am a mere six months from graduation, three months from marriage, two months from being brought into the Orthodox Church, and three days from the start of the Great Fast of Lent. So much to look forward to in the time to come, and I guess that's the point I'm getting at. Too much time spent looking for the future, and not enough spent on the here and now. Too much time making plans and not enough living today.

And so, now I find myself looking for work, forced to look at the here and now, trying not to become despondent. It isn't that bad yet, but every time I start looking to the future again, I'll admit I start getting a little uneasy. It's kind of ironic, that now, the last thing on earth I want to do is look to the future. Anyone have a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down?

Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of thine immaculate Mother, and of all thy Saints, help us, save us, and keep us Oh God by your grace.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Comments Schmomments


After fighting my idiocy, I finally got comments to work. Hopefully I'll get my blog to look good too soon. Comment away if you like.
A Pity my Piety

Well, it's been a while, but finally I'm back. Wedding plans are coming along. We had a great time meeting Jeremy and his wife Katherine last Friday. It's always wonderful to meet Orthodox people, especially converts, and to hear their stories. Wayne the brilliant was there too, and to think, as soon as I finally got to meet him in person, he'll be leaving for grad school soon. The loss is ours in Southern California.

Sorry to those of you who were wondering what the title had to do with who I met. Actually nothing. But that was more important than any of my retarded ramblings, so I said it first.

Lately, I've been having a discussion with a friend of mine over Piety. Since I haven't asked for his permission, I won't post his side of it, but it seemed to me that posting my response, with a few edits, would make a nice blog entry, especially as we head into Lent next week. So often there is the tendency to look upon and judge another fast, or our own fast for that matter, as if our piety in this regards is some indicator of our spiritual maturity. We converts are often especially tempted in this respect, as we often have not gained a proper perspectiveof ourselves, much less others. I have often been guilty of this, and to any of you reading this, I beg your forgiveness for sins both known and unknown. With that said, if you're still hanging in there with me, here was my response to my friend.

...I definitely agree that piety without inward change is bad fruit. I also believe it's opposite to be true. Inward change without piety is no inward change at all. But here we have to be careful. What form of piety indicates inward change, and how much. This is the place where I believe we get into trouble.

You note well that we are all working differently. I think this is of tantamount importance. What is most important, is that we are working. So the question to ME is, ARE WE WORKING? Just as in a job, all of us have to put in varying amounts of effort to accomplish a particular task, I believe the same is true of our piety. For some, a given thing will come easily, for others, it will come at great effort. I think anytime we begin to look at another's particular acts of piety and use that as ANY sort of measuring stick of their spiritual state, we are in danger. Some people work very hard to curb their tongues, and fail all the time. Others make no effort at all, and never say an unclean word. But looking at this one thing, or even a group of things, tells me nothing of their spiritual state. It may be that the first more earnestly and honestly loves our Lord, knowing deeply the state of his sin, and honestly repenting daily, while the second was raised in a legalistic environment, and so never cussed in the first place, but is the proverbial white washed tomb. And I guess that's my point, we cannot, nor is it our place to, judge someone else's piety. I know this often grates against us, but I believe it is the truth.

This is a lesson I have learned the hard way, as humility is the hardest of virtues to learn, and yet I think it is the single most important. Humility is the spring from which all pious acts flow, and NONE of us are as humble as we could be. You asked the question why do we swear? I would posit that it is because there is an underlying issue of humility or of Christian love and charity that has not been dealt with. I for one will never be the judge of what that issue is, unless I am intimate enough with that person that they have chosen to disclose that to me, and even then I would be very cautious. I think it is very interesting that Christ used the analogy of the white washed tomb, for piety is just that, the painting on the outside of the heart. A building can be solid, but have a bad paint job, or it can be dilapidated, and have a beautiful one. Either way, its appearance tells you nothing of the quality of the building. Only someone intimate with the knowledge of the structure and materials knows.

This kind of intimate knowledge is known only to two people (or kinds of people). First, is the person themself. But even here, we are often times VERY poor judges of ourselves; on this, the church fathers are very clear. This is not to say we cannot at all take inventory of our lives, on the contrary, we should. But often we are too sick in our spiritual conditions to know the exact nature of our ailments. To set ourselves up as the final authority on our own condition, I believe, is the height of arrogance. I believe this is why ALL historical churches practice confession (even Anglicans technically do, though it is rarely practiced anymore). But ANY church older than the protestant reformation regularly encourages confession. Why, because the Church has always known that we are poor judges of ourselves, and only under the guidance of someone more mature and learned in the faith, will we ultimately mature ourselves. Just as a doctor might treat our maladies in ways we might never conceive of, because we may not even know the extent of our sickness, so does the spiritual confessor/advisor treat our spiritual maladies. The church is our spiritual hospital, and the confessor our doctor. They (the second person mentioned previously), even more than we, will know where we ought to be progressing, even in piety. We can judge that we are sick, they can judge what sickness we have, and prescribe our method of treatment.

So ultimately, what does this all mean? From a protestant perspective, to be honest, I don't know. Without confession, we are left to diagnose our own sicknesses, and this is always dangerous, ask any doctor. Who's progress in piety is where they should be? I have no idea. I only know I want to be holy, and for that I ought to see a doctor. In Orthodoxy, I believe I have found the best hospital, with the best doctors, and the best understanding of the human condition. As far as the quality of another's piety, I'm fearful to judge my own, much less theirs. When my own building is solid, and I have spent many years studying the construction of it, only then will I begin to see and understand what makes an eternally sound structure. Until then, I will investigate my own weaknesses, and focus my energies there....

Forgive me a sinner.

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