24 October 2010

Shepherds or Butchers?

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Clericalism suffocates; it makes part of itself into the whole sacred character of the Church; it makes its power a sacred power to control, to lead, to administer; a power to perform sacraments, and, in general, it makes any power a power given to me! Clericalism separates all “sacredness” from the lay people: the iconostasis, communion (only by permission), theology. In short, clericalism is de facto denial of the Church as the body of Christ, for in the body, all organs are related and different only in their functions, but not in their essence. And the more clericalism clericalizes (the traditional image of the bishop or the priest emphasized by his clothes, hair, e.g., the bishop in full regalia!) the more the Church itself becomes more worldly; spiritually submits itself to this world. In the New Testament, the priest is presented as the ideal layman. But almost immediately there begins his increasingly radical separation from the lay people; and not only separation, but opposition to lay people, contrast to them. The tragedy of theological education lies in the fact that young people who seek priesthood are consciously or unconsciously seeking this separation, power, this rising above the laity. Their thirst is strengthened and generated by the whole system of theological education, of clericalism. ~Fr. Alexander Schmemann [Journals, pp. 310 & 311]

Fr. Alexander had a way of cutting to the core of things that I have always found refreshing. Having read, and enjoyed, many of his books, I found his journals (published posthumously) to be the one of the most honest and refreshing things I have ever read from an Orthodox clergyman. In the section above, as on other occasions, he reflects on clericalism, specifically from the vantage point of the Dean of a seminary, having seen scores of young men pass through the doors of his institution, many times I’m sure after the wrong things.
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12 October 2010

The Seduction of Being Right

photo courtesy of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Ottawa

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It never was between you and them anyway. ~Mother Teresa

There are many ways that the Enemy seduces men into falling away from God. One of the more sinister and silent is the seduction of being “right” and placing oneself above others. Basically, it’s the sin of vainglory and nothing more than the original sin of pride. That’s not to say that there is no truth and no right or wrong. It’s simply to say that mankind can often follow a sad preoccupation with being “right” about things, and finding comfort in being part of the “right” group, rather than solace in God. I am an Orthodox Christian, in the classical and canonical sense, and I’m grateful and happy to be so. There is sanity to be found in Orthodoxy, especially with more and more Christians apostasizing from the ancient faith than ever before. However, I’m sitting here thinking about Orthodoxy, and about growing up Evangelical Orthodox, and then joining the OCA and about where I’m at right now. I keep thinking about the danger of being preoccupied with being “right”. I don’t mean searching for the Truth, but more the need to be right and have a “security” in feeling a part of THE Church and an adherent to the “right” way. I’m all for orthodoxy and the Truth, but it seems to me that a large portion of time is spent on debating and defining that truth. Jesus is the answer and the Church is His body, and ultimately the Gospel and the commandments are very simple – Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. And, also, as St. James says, “…pure religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering, and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”
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15 November 2003

Sex in Media

Just wanted to make a pointer to a post and lively discussion over at Karl’s Blog entitled “Sex in Films.” Be sure to have a good beer or a warm cup of coffee handy, as there are now 39 comments to the original post! A very good discussion in my opinion, however, it is much too male heavy. Any female readers, please add your two cents worth. Too much testosterone floating around…

19 September 2003

Diagnostics: Completed

So sorry; me been gone for rong time. Wow. I must say, this has been a very good and enlightening discussion. Thank you to all who took time to comment and post about this topic. I feel compelled to make a few last remarks before closing this topic. To Alana: thank you for your comments especially. What you stated seems to capture exactly what I’m thinking about this whole thing. It was never my intent to come off as accusing and un-compassionate. I merely think that the world as a whole gives in much more frequently to their emotions than is truly Good, and then wind up in the pit of despair (said in a Princess Bride voice) and society, rather than turn to God and Church, prefers to medicate rather than seek the truth. In many cases, the truth may be that an individual’s brain has an imbalance of chemicals, and therefore needs medication to help a soul in distress. This should never be seen as a bad or evil thing. I am thankful for medical science being able to help those that truly need help. Besides the main purpose of this post (to seek out truth and other opinions) my driving point/opinion in all of this has been that I believe our world is caught up in the sin of running from pain. We live in a pleasure driven culture that seeks all selfishness and despises sacrifice and asceticism. The key to being free from painful thoughts and feelings, guilt and shame, is to simply “take something” or “drink something” that will pacify what feels wrong. We all know about that big empty hole in our hearts that aches to be filled. Unfortunately, modern opinion would be to fill it with everything but Christ, which in the end is no new lie. “Nothing new under the sun…” As fallen human beings, we often operate on the “pain/pleasure principle.” I spoke to the campers about this at St. John’s camp this year. With Believers, this has to stop. Jesus did not operate on this principle. He never stayed where he was wanted, and he never hurried away from where he wasn’t wanted. He did what the Father asked of Him in all things, and I believe that we are called to do the same. We go neither towards pleasure or away from pain. Besides, many times what I perceive to be pleasure, and then go for it, turns out to be gold covered dirt anyway. As Solomon says, it’s like chasing the wind; all is vanity. May God give us the grace to follow His commandments and not our own selfishness!