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Friday, June 27, 2003

What Happened to the Mountain??!!

Well, I don’t usually post this sort of entry, but today I feel I must. I will do my durndest to keep things unemotional and civil, but it gets difficult when someone who purports to be what I am (not that I am in any way suggesting they are not), a Christian, devotes an entire issue of their ministries monthly devotional to deriding what I cherish and have banked my entire salvation on; the Orthodox Church. But the reason this particularly gets under my skin, is not that it happened; ignorant people (please note I do not use the term in any derogatory sense, only in it’s strictest denotative sense) say ignorant things all the time. For that matter, I say ignorant things all the time.

What particularly hurts, peeves, unsettles, and passion-nates (I love making up words) me in this instance is that it comes from a very well known and respected Protestant theologian. One of the biggest of the Protestant “big-brains” as John likes to call them. This is someone I used to listen to a lot, even though I disagreed with some of his theology, because he always made me think about and examine myself and my ideas. But alas, my mental bubble of appreciation has burst.

Why such a reaction? What I always appreciated about him and his ministry was that they always seemed to try to be compassionate, zealous for the truth, and intellectually honest. But in this instance, an entire issue of their magazine was none of these things, much less well researched. I remember I always used to wonder what they would say if they would stop comparing their theology against Rome, and were to take a hard look at Orthodoxy. I’m still waiting for them to take a hard look.

On my way back to work from my lunch break, I did as I always do, and turned on his radio show, and it hit me like “some clever phrase I’m not witty enough to think of” why he will likely never take a hard look. He was saying that the Christian faith hasn’t changes since the beginning. Obviously at this point I’m agreeing. He said that it cannot change, because truth is immutable, and the basic questions of life are the same now as they were then. Still in agreement.

He then proceeds to say that the point of theologians isn’t to change or develop the faith, but to define and further understand what already was, that indeed it is imperative that we break it down to the infinite minutiae, lest we fail to grow in our knowledge of God. He is where we have a radical breach in understanding.

This kind of thinking reminds me of an analogy I read in a book on the life of Fr. Arseny. He finishes hearing the life of Mother Maria, a nun who has come to share the story of her life, so that she may present her final confession before she dies. Later, one of Fr. Arseny’s spiritual children says discreetly to him something to the effect of “Why do you seem so enamored with this woman’s life? I heard the story too, and there was nothing extraordinary or awe inspiring about it.” To which Fr. Arseny responds, “that is because you are like a man who looks at a mountain from a foot away and says, ‘What mountain? All I see are pebbles and rocks!’”

I used to think, some years ago, that Mr. Sproul and I were at least looking at the same thing when we looked at Christianity, simply from diffeerent angles. Even until now, I thought our differences akin to two men looking at the same great work of art, but somewhere along the line he lost his glasses and was simply unable to appreciate it in all it’s beauty anymore. But now I understand that in all his breaking down and intense study of “theology”, he is like a man studying a mountain, proclaiming, “Look at how beautiful these fine grains of sand on the beach are!”

Holy St. Paul, who revealed the truth of Our Lord to those outside the Church, pray for them, and also for me, a sinner.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, We’ve been back for a week and a half, so I suppose it’s time to officially say my honeymoon is over, to give in to reality, and face the fact that I’m no longer in Greece. Sometimes denial really is just a river.

THE WEDDING:

WOW, what can I say? The Orthodox wedding is far beyond comparison to anything I’ve ever seen before. Experiencing it firsthand…. well that’s something else altogether. Many thanks to my brother-in-law Rod, who so sagely advised me, “take deep breaths, lots of them.” It is certainly effective for curing the “I don’t remember anything about my wedding” phenomena. Many thanks to my best man Aaron (get that blog going!!), who made sure I kept within the preparatory guidelines of the Church the night before at my bachelor party, and helped keep me anchored in the midst of the pre-wedding chaos. Many thanks to my Godfather James for sharing that wonderful moment with us, and for chanting the epistle during the liturgy (who knew you had that talent in you??).

Double many thanks to our priests for all their pre-marital wisdom, support, and their Christ-likeness. They have truly been “icons of Christ” to us. That God saw fit to have them shepherd us has truly been a blessing. Thanks also to our Choir director (who also happens to be Cybil’s Godmother) for such amazing beauty. In short, I cannot imagine a more perfect way to get married. Like Fr. Wayne said during our Pre-marital counseling, “When it’s over, you’ll KNOW you’re married.” Indeed, we are!!

Thanks also to our families for their love and generosity. You truly made the day happen. Words are not enough to express our gratitude. I only hope that we will grow into that kind of self-sacrifice. You are beautiful people.

GREECE:

Like I said in the cave. Many folks like to refer to America as “Gawd’s Country”. Well I say that if there’s any place on earth where God resides, it’s Greece, at least the God I worship. Where else in the world (except perhaps some other Orthodox country) can you visit a city that spans at most a square mile, and find within it 22 churches, two monasteries, and one convent. What’s more amazing is that there is no denominational bickering between them, because they’re all in communion with each other, in very fact they are all the same Church!!

The two major highlights of our trip (not that we had any low lights) were Patmos and Meteora. Patmos is beautiful, quaint, quiet, and full of history. We saw the cave where John wrote The Revelation, visited the monastery dedicated to him, attended Divine Liturgy at Evangelismos Convent, met Emily Markides, whose husband wrote this book (a must read for anyone trying to get a layman’s grasp of Orthodox Spirituality), and purchased some amazing icons. And the food…..well let’s just say that your local Greek festival compares like El Torito compares to Mexico.

Meteora….how could anyone come close to describing it. Absolutely awe inspiring. Thousand plus year old monasteries built on top of stone pillars some 400-800 feet high. How they built them I will never know, but it truly is a sight to behold, and that just the outside. Inside are some of the most amazing churches I’ve ever seen. God has truly begun redeeming the physical there; you can literally feel the holiness of God and his Saints there. You just know that those Holy men and women have walked the halls, have prayed in the chapels, have eaten in the refectories. Their presence even now fills those places. What a privilege.

I could write for a year about those two weeks. So many experiences, so many great people, so much Godliness to be found literally everywhere you look. I kept feeling as though I ought to remove my shoes, for like Moses, I was on holy ground. Trust me on this, make whatever sacrifice you need to, but get to Greece…you won’t be disappointed.

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