Thursday, August 28, 2003

C-Dub's in the mix…a reply

John wrote:

Mr. Whittamore has thrown his hat into the community of folks willing to share their innermost thoughts with the rest of us interloping eavesdroppers…

Should I inquire about his former "metal years"? Are they in fact - former?

Below are his questions, and below those my replies. Have fun, and comment if you want to be interviewed (read the rules at the bottom).

1. How has marriage changed your opinion of yourself?

Well, I have realized I am much more prideful than I had previously thought. But strangely, in spite of this revelation, (or perhaps because of it) I also feel more loveable. It is strange, but marriage really is such that the "two become one". I have seen myself slightly less through my own eyes, and slightly more through hers. And the whole of us is greater for it. I have become more aware of the depth of my sinfulness. But as "we" reveal that to me, I am also more aware of the heights to which I can achieve. The two seem to go hand in hand.

2. In what ways has your recent trip to Greece affected your understanding of Orthodox peoples?

Hmmmmm......I could write a few pages on this alone. In the west, there are many who have this idea that because we are more technologically advanced, more artistically advanced, more educationally advanced, that we are necessarily better off because of it than those who do not have these advantages. It's almost as if we believe that advancement is in and of itself an indicator of success, beauty, even Godliness. Spending time in Greece went a long way towards dispelling this notion, which is not to say I held it previously, but there especially can one see how wrong this kind of thinking is.

Now to be fair, Athens and also to some degree Thessoloniki weren't exemplarary of what I'm going to say, though even there it was moreso than one will typically see in the larger cities of the U.S. But bye and large, Greece still exemplifies to a T the idea of community and fellowship. These are generally things that non-Orthodox people SAY is important, but have no underlying framework, whether culturally or theologically, that really drive them to live it out. Not so in Greece. The vast majority of the country was inhabited by small villages and towns. And when these people weren't working in some common way, they were sharing meals together, or playing games as families, or dancing or some other non-individualistic activity.

This is one of the great triumphs of the Orthodox mindset, and it is this kind of lifestyle that is cultivated in thier lives, producing beautiful fruit. It's unavoidable if a given people is Orthodox. If one does not bring this type of mindset to bear in the way they live, they have yet to grasp Orthodoxy. And yet in the West, this is now almost non-existent. Sure, you will find pockets of it here and there, but nothing like the country wide scale I witnessed over there. It has given me a vision of what Christianity can be in America, once we have fully realized the importance of Communion. We can be loving and unselfish.

They may not have riches, or strong national academic programs, or technological advances, but they have the one thing that will inevitably draw us closer to God, the spiritual sight to see the image of God in everyone, and treat them accordingly.

3. What was the single piece of truth responsible for your departure from Protestantism to Orthodoxy?

I'm not sure that it is as easy as singling out a single "piece" of truth. All truth is part of greater truth, incarnate in the person of Christ. But there were some aspects of that greater truth that particularly gnawed at me. I would say what was at first most difficult, but later most convincing, was the concept of "what is the Church". All my life, I had been taught the Protestant idea of the invisible Church; that is that the Church is merely the collection of all people who believe in Christ. Once I realized the fallacy of this idea, that the Church is not and CAN not be just this stripped down idea, that was huge in bringing me towards Orthodoxy. If the Church cannot be that, but must be both spiritual and physical, just as our incarnate Lord is, I then figured I needed to figure out what and where this Church was.

4. What 7 words best describe Cybil?

Loyal, funny, stable, tenacious, strong, loving, and of course beautiful.

Unless you were looking for a seven word phrase, which would look something like

Everything I really wanted in a wife. (and I mean that in all sincerity)

5. Let's just say…for pretend…you were a parish priest responsible for 100 families. The 17-year old daughter of one of your deacons approaches you with a problem…"Father, my boyfriend and I have become more and more physical during our dates and I think sex is imminent. The problem is…I really do want to sleep with him. What should I do?" How would you handle this?

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! My first inkling is to run. Just kidding. No I'm not. Yes I am. In all seriousness though....wow, not sure how to answer this. I tend to liken it to "this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting". Sure, I can come up with all kinds of fancy thoughts and ideas that MIGHT be effective, and I do have those things available at my disposal, but every person is going to need something different here. In your theoretical example, I don't know this person, I haven't watched this girl grow up, seen her temperament, spent time with her family etc. I would hope to have those additional tools in my belt when that came. But more importantly, I really do believe that there is a very real and tangible grace, given by God, at ordination, which would enable and enlighten me further in the PROPER way to handle it.

I hesitate to say beyond this. I know a lot of people will see this as chickening out on answering the question. To them I would respond, it is an invalid question, or rather, it is a question that as stated cannot be answered well, and I truly believe that any attempt to do so purely with what is presented there, will give a gross overgeneralization of ideas that may or MAY NOT have any real application in a particular REAL scenario.


I intend to ask two more people to interview me. I had originally intended to stay out of this whole thing, but then though of an interesting (to me anyways) way to participate. John was my "He knows me, but not TOO well" person, and I also intend to ask both a "They don't really know me at all" person and a "They know me very well" person. I think each of these people would ask very different questions. Should be interesting...I hope, unless you have no desire to know about me...but then that person probably doesn't read my blog.

Official Rules
1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying, "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions
6. I will answer reasonable follow up questions if you leave a comment.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

My Journey with Mary the Theotokos (Conclusion)

0-2 years ago… At this point, I have now embraced the Church, with which come all of her teachings (you can’t take one and not the other). I remember once, when going through my first Akathist service for her, thinking to myself “Ok, so this is Mary, and this is what the Church teaches, but how does this assimilate?” We were singing “To thee, O Champion Leader, do I offer hymns of victory. O Theotokos, thou alone hast set me free. From all forms of danger freed and delivered me….”, and I didn’t know what to make of it. I saw her icon on the iconostasis, and thought to myself, “Who is this woman, that so many hymns of honor have been written about?”

And so I jumped…from the edge of the precipice of unknowing, I jumped. I looked up at the icon, and prayed something like “if this is supposed to have some sort of meaning to me, help me to find it.” I asked her to help me in my unbelief. And strangely, that is exactly what happened.

It was as if she were just sitting there patiently waiting for me to make the first step, whenever I was ready. There was something that happened, just in the asking. It was as if, just by merely asking, I was acknowledging something. If I were asking her something, I had already acknowledged that she was able to be asked. My heart (nous) already knew something, it was just waiting for my head to catch up. God had done the work in me, and was just waiting for me to realize what He had done. He had given me a gift, a gift I imagine he gives to all who come into the Church, the gift of faith.

And in taking that step of faith, I was rewarded. I asked her to reveal herself to me, and she did. I then began to remember all of the Saints and other peoples lives, who’d had such vivid experiences with her. The monk in The Mountain of Silence and Fr. Arseny both stood out in particular. Here were men who had devoted their entire lives to God, to loving God in the face of mankind, though in very different ways. And yet both had a profound love and respect for the Theotokos. It was almost as if, in reading their lives, their experiences became partly my own. And so I looked upon her with new eyes.

I no longer had to justify my relationship with her rationally. God loved her, the Church loved her, and by means of my being grafted into the Church, I found that I loved her. It is strange to go from doubt to a profound love all in one moment, and yet that is exactly what happened. I felt like a teen-aged boy again, afraid to approach some girl, nervous and full of doubt. But just as it was back then, once I had done so, and felt the embrace of reciprocated interest, all doubt was done away with, all fear dispelled. There remained only the knowledge that I need not worry anymore, our relationship had begun.

“To thee, O Champion Leader, do I offer hymns of victory. O Theotokos, thou alone hast set me free.” Indeed she has, and every day I realize more and more just how much. And I love her for it.

Monday, August 11, 2003

My Journey with Mary the Theotokos (Part 2)

2-3 years ago…I’d settled the Orthodox question, and Mary was good too. I still had a hard time with some of the language used, but had come to realize that this probably had more to do with my impure and unenlightened understanding than anything else. So I decided that in spite of my lingering queasiness on the Mary issue, there was more here at stake than just my feeling on the Theotokos. I was OK with calling her Theotokos, for truly she is the “God-bearer”. All the titles and what-not were fine with me. But I still didn’t know what to make of her on a personal level. Yes, she was the Mother of God. Yes, I could affirm all of these things about here, I could regurgitate what, in my limited understanding, I thought were all the right sentiments and doctrines, but I had experienced nothing with her on a personal level. In fact, I wasn’t even sure how a “personal level” experience could be had. Again, I had no intellectual or experiential category to put this in. I had no guide, being outside the church still, to direct me into it, and because of my lack of understanding, did not trust myself. But for other reasons not pertaining to this, I was still outside the Church, and so could not engage any such guide.

I was afraid and fascinated. Intrigued and uneasy. These were my feeling about Orthodoxy. These were my feelings about Mary, our Most Holy Mother. Little did I know the ways in which my world was soon to be turned upside down about both issues (for they really are the same issue). I was the prodigal son, recognizing my beautiful Father from afar on my way home, but too afraid to run to Him. But soon those things that held me back, would release me and leave me with nothing to steady myself, and it was then that I saw the Father running to me. And when he had embraced me, and taken me in, and sat me at the table with the fatted calf, only then was I calm enough to hear her voice, for she was at the table rejoicing with and for me.

To be concluded….

Friday, August 08, 2003

My Journey with Mary the Theotokos (Part 1)

Well, we’re about midway through the Dormition Fast. For those of you unfamiliar with Orthodox Fasting practices, this is the time of the year where we fast for two weeks in honor of the Dormition (literally falling asleep) of the Ever-Virgin Mary. No, unlike the Roman Catholics, we do not believe that she went straight to heaven without dying. But we honor her repose nonetheless. It is our tradition, however, that her body was taken to heaven after her repose. After reading Aaron’s post, I was inspired to write something to chronicle my relationship with Our All-Holy Mother, and yes I meant that in the present tense.

7+ years ago…Well, I can’t put any of this nicely about myself, so I won’t. I didn’t like Mary (wow, it hurts even to admit that now). Being raised primarily in Pentecostal circles, my religious inheritance included a very strong “Rome”aphobia. Any thing that even hinted at Roman Catholicism was immediately suspect. Any respect or honor to Mary was one of those things that, in my youthful zeal, “kept those Catholics from worshiping the true God”. In my mind, she was no more than the woman next door. She was just a woman. It’s strange looking back, because at that time I could have understood honoring Paul, or even Mary Magdalene, they were surely holy in God’s eyes after their repentance. But Mary? Naaaaah…..that was too Roman Catholic.

4-7 years ago…During these years I was one step closer to the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”; I was an Anglican (though recent events have made me wonder how much closer it is). But during this time I was confronted with one undeniable truth, there really is something special about Mary. Just how much I wasn’t to discover for a few more years, but she was the Woman chosen by God to give birth to His Son. I figured that counted for SOMETHING. So I gave her the tacit nod I would give any other woman in Scriptures, a sort of “Yeah, I guess she must have been alright, and since other people say she’s cool, I’ll go along with that I guess.”

3-4 years ago… Enter (or rather re-enter) James Ferrenberg. He informs me he’s converted to Orthodoxy. I’ve (at least I think I have) grown up a little. I’m able to think things through now, without getting so emotionally wound up that I fail to see what’s being shown to me. He gently explains Orthodoxy, and its position on Mary and the Saints (along with many other tough things for me). But I reluctantly reserve my tongue until I know what exactly it is that I’m rejecting. I go to visit St. Luke’s Orthodox Church in Garden Grove. During the Liturgy I hear a lot of things said about the Theotokos that seem to smack of heresy, and it’s just too much for me to take in at that time. Most notable difficulties came something in the form of “Most Holy Theotokos save us!” I just didn’t yet have a category to put that in. And so for a time I was still an Anglican.

more to come...

Squawkbox Hassles

Yesterday I was informed that my comments were not working. So I took a look and sure enough, Squawkbox has cancelled my account, for rather devious reasons. When I originally signed up with them, it said nothing about there being any sort of limitation to how much it can be used. To all appearances, it was just one of many free commenting sources. But alas, it now says that "free accounts must be upgraded if they are heavily used over a prolonged period of time." Heavily used? Certainly they can't mean my blog. Prolonged period of time? And just what exactly constitutes prolonged? So now I'm stuck with the decision, pay them $20 for a years worth of "pro-service", or lose all of my comments.

Normally, I'd be much inclined to tell them what they can do with their request for $20, but because I don't want to lose all of my previous comments ("the cave" alone is worth saving), the only answer I could come up with is "Make sure you send me a receipt please." At least the pro service has a backup function. So at the end of my year's subscription, I can back eveything up, and reinsert them into some other commenting service that isn't so jacked up. Just a word of warning to y'all (I love the word y'all, but then, I would).

BTW, in "24-48 hours" commenting should be back. I'll then have a post of substance ready. Assuming I can get blogger to publish now. (seperate problem....aaaaargh!)

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

May His Memory Be Eternal

From http://www.sourozh.org/


"The Diocese of Sourozh announces with sadness that its beloved founder and archpastor, His Eminence, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, died peacefully today, Monday, 4th August, 2003, at the age of 89. Metropolitan Anthony served the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain for more than fifty years, earning the respect and affection of many thousands of people throughout the world for his deep humanity and tireless witness to the Gospel of Christ.
May his memory be eternal!"

Metropolitan Bloom was a selfless and tireless example and witness of Christ on Earth. His books on prayer will continue to live and admonish. Though we will miss his leadership and example here on earth, I have no doubt that he will continue to intercede to the Father for our salvation.


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