My responses are interspersed with your questions and comments below.
On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 8:59 PM, JB <oxh973@...> wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 7:47 PM, Christopher Orr <xcjorr@...> wrote:
>> The game never ends. Even in heaven we will continue 'from glory to
>> glory'. There is no ending point.
>> You wrote: "how is this different from other religions where you have to
>> appease God with your life?"
>> The answer, God never needed to be appeased. That assumption is wrong, it
>> makes of God a bloodthirsty, vindictive and proud tyrant more in thrall to
>> his Honor than to Love. God does not need to be appeased. Good works do
>> not appease God - even the good works of God Himself. Good works are not
>> simply done out of thanks for God's appeasement - they are what we were
>> created to do from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10).
> In my analogy the "game" was "life on this earth as we know it now". I am
> awaiting death with hope because to die is gain. My citizenship is not here.
> I want to go be WITH God. There will be no right or wrong questions, because
> there won't be any questions. Am I wrong here?
> You're painting an angry, hateful God. I'm not painting that. I would say
> that God is just, but not vindictive. I never got that from Protestantism,
> so let's not go there now.
My experience as a WELS Lutheran was not that God was angry, it's more that
after exploring Orthodoxy I realized there was this implicit aspect to the
Lutheran doctrines about God that I had never realized. The pastoral
practice together with other doctrines about God balanced it out, but the
God envisioned in Orthodoxy is one Who never needed to have His Justice met
and satisfied - He simply killed death by dying and forgave our sins. Blood
wasn't shed for our atonement in that it wasn't shed to satisfy God's
Justice that needed death to satisfy the punishment of death.
If that wasn't your experience, then glory to God. I think it is an
important difference to remember, though, when considering the kinds of
questions we ask about forgiveness, good works, surety, atonement,
redemption, etc. There are different assumption in how the whole salvation
> Maybe I'm missing it still. When I picture my life as an Orthodox
> Christian, some of the picture is blank because I don't know what to expect.
> Like... do Orthodox people watch TV? Only rated G shows? Do you shun
> non-sacred music? Do you shun all Western music? Stuff like that is a big
> question mark, but mostly because it's not that important to me.
I watch TV. I watch R rated films. I love Led Zeppelin and The White
Stripes, I grew up on The Beatles (my dad's from Liverpool). Being
'Western' culturally is not shunned - especially when you/we are Westerners
- but there are 'Western influences' in theology, art or music that have
been coopted by different populations within Orthodoxy. Some fight against
it (Greeks have been fighting to conserve Byzantine chant and are moving
away from western music; there has been a major return to Byzantine
iconography over the past 100 years) and some have accepted it as Orthodox
(most Russian and Slavic music is 'Western' in style; western icons are
still to be found).
> The rest of the picture goes like this: I go visit a priest to find out
> more and get started with catechesis. I'm told that I have to buy a bunch of
> books and icons and dedicate a corner with an east-facing wall to these
You don't have to do this. Over-zealous converts often go whole hog re
icons, but St. Seraphim of Sarov had one icon only. The only books you need
are the ones the choir chants from during the services - the best Orthodox
catechesis is found in the services. Your priest may have you read a given
text, but it's usually some kind of an overview of the basics. If you want
more, he can suggest more books to read. Not so long ago there were few
Orthodox books in English, and, historically, most Orthodox laity either
couldn't read or didn't have access to expensive books - which is why the
services and other texts are read in the language of the people. Of course,
you can buy icons and books and build an icon corner if you want, too.
> I have to kiss them and pray to them.
You only have to kiss them in the way you have to kiss your children,
spouse, parents or anyone else you love. There is no 'have to' about love.
We do not pray to icons, we pray to the people portrayed in the icons. It's
just like talking to the picture of a loved one you miss very much. You
aren't talking to paper, but to the person.
> I have to light candles an incense.
You don't have to do this. I don't burn incense. I light candles
periodically at church, but not often.
> I have to meditate on God with an otherwise empty mind.
Not an empty mind, just prayer devoid of images. The words of the prayers
should fill your mind. Imaginings are what get us off track and make our
minds wander, on one hand, and can tempt us to replace our thoughts and
images about God and the Church for God and the Church Himself/Itself. We
can set up false gods that we call God as easily as we can set up a golden
> I have to pray like a monk, and learn to chant.
I don't know how to chant except for what I've learned in the church choir.
It's like learning a new choir piece.
I don't pray like a monk at all. They pray forever, they do tons of
prostrations, they sleep very little, are under strict guidance regarding
the kind and number of prayers they do, when they do them, etc. in addition
to the regular cycle of services in Church. Morning and evening prayers,
generally, and Sunday morning Liturgy. I say the Jesus Prayer when I walk
to work as I can.
> I have to humiliate myself by listing all my sins on a weekly basis to a
You get to meet with a doctor every week to discuss your health, the
symptoms you have developed, and he helps you with what to do about it - if
We're either judged a little (and kindly) in this life, or finally and
sternly before all the world on the Last Day, too. I'd take private
confession. It's also a historic part of the Lutheran Chuch, so it's not
just an Orthodox/Catholic thing.
> And when I enumerate my sins, then I'll be barred from communion and
> sentenced to some kind of penance like fasting or I don't know what. If this
> is the case, I'll always be fasting and not-communing because I'm not good
> enough to fit into this model for life. I am a poor, miserable sinner.
This is exactly what we admit in the Prayers Before Communion.
I know, O Saviour, that no other
> Has sinned against Thee as I,
> Nor has done the deeds
> That I have committed.
> But this again I know
> That not the greatness of my offences
> Nor the multitude of my sins
> Surpasses the great patience
> Of my God,
> And His extreme love for men.
> I am not worthy, O Lord and Master, that Thou shouldest enter under the
> roof of my soul; but since Thou in Thy love for men dost will to dwell in
> me, I take courage and approach.
> Thou, O Lord, in Thy forbearance, patience, and great mercy, hast not given
> me up to be destroyed with my sins, but Thou awaitest my complete
> ...though I am unworthy both of heaven and earth, and even of this
> transient life, since I have completely succumbed to sin and am a slave to
> pleasure and have defaced Thy image, yet being Thy work and creation, wretch
> that I am, even I do not despair of my salvation and dare to draw near to
> Thy boundless compassion.
> ...it is not insolently that I draw near to Thee, O Christ my God, but as
> taking courage from Thy unspeakable goodness...
It is rare for one to be barred from communion. One receives forgiveness of
sins in confession - the sin is gone, poof. Only if it is a major sin
(murder, incest, adultery, etc.) may one be barred for a time to protect
you. It's the same reason why Lutherans don't allow just anyone to commune
- you have to be prepared or you can 'eat and drink damnation on yourself'.
The fire of God can consume and burn, or cleanse and enlighten.
Fasting isn't punishment. Fasting has saved my soul, my faith. Fasting is
medicine, or preparation for medicine - just like we don't eat before
surgery or major medical tests. We fast only according to our strength.
Some fast more, some less. That's for your doctor - and not the medical
text book - to determine as he helps you in the healing process.
> I have ADD and I have struggled for years on having a daily routine and
> sticking to it. Precision and routine are the polar opposites of me. So,
> when I confess that I missed prayers or did them late... and that I can't
> site read sheet music and chant and that I'm a poor parent and spouse
> because of my problems with routines... I'll be penalized. This sounds like
> a life of misery. It doesn't sound like good news. This doesn't sound like
> unmerited favor.
You are right. I wouldn't want to be in a church like that. Luckily, I'm
Orthodox, so I am not.
I sorta think not making the grade is the point. It keeps me humble. I
try, I struggle, I strive, but I keep falling. The key is to get back up.
It isn't really a shock that I make mistakes all the time - I'm a sinner.
Getting all worked up about it just means I think more highly of myself than
I ought - "How could I, me, of all people, make a simple mistake like that?
Woe is me, woe is me, I'm so much better than that!" But, I'm not, I keep
A loving spiritual father will help you in finding a 'rule of prayer' that
helps you to move toward reaching the command of St. Paul to 'pray without
ceasing'. We aren't to pray only at certain times, we are to pray at all
times! Our very lives are to become prayer. Some spiritual fathers might
offer the rule to pray a simply 'Lord, have mercy' whenever you can; maybe
to say the Lord's prayer when you wake up, or to simply make the sign of the
cross before you go to bed. I pray my morning prayers while walking to
work; i try to say the Jesus Prayer whenever I can (I once said the Jesus
Prayer while being the personal waiter to JLo and her family during a
Manhattan party - long story).
There is no requirement to read sheet music, or to sing or say anything, or
even to be able to read.
I have an 8 month old baby who is the very opposite of attentive. He's
still Orthodoxy, he communes, our prayer is our love for each other, paying
attention as we can, praying as we can, standing as we can, communing.
> It sounds like EO Metal Jacket and Father Sargent Hartman. Do you see what
> I'm getting at yet?
I do. You aren't describing the Orthodox faith. I'm very happy that is the
case. Glory to God for All Things!
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