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.
“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.”
Richard Wayne Mullins
October 21, 1955 – September 19, 1997
Today is the 10th Anniversary of Rich Mullins death. It also would have been my Uncle Scott’s
53rd birthday. It’s hard to believe that not only has it been 10 years since Rich passed away but that I lost my Uncle Scott so early. Memory Eternal! I miss my Uncle very much, and also, while I only met him once, I can honestly say that I miss Rich as well. His music and his life have been extremely influential in my own journey. To read a short biography about Rich see HERE
. Memory Eternal!
Ok, so while I’m still writing a lot of thoughts down about Summer Camp and what’s happening in my own life right now, I wanted to pause and post this here. This interview with Rob Bell came to me in the weekly newsletter from The Wittenburg Door. What Rob had to say to the interviewer really hit me. It’s something that I’ve been ruminating on myself since camp, and have discussed with the Men’s at Men’s Group on occasion – this notion that the Church is not acting like the Church but rather like spoiled children most of the time. Especially among Christians in America, myself included, there is often an attitude of entitlement and sometimes a blind ignorance to the needs of the poor and destitute right on our own front porch, much less throughout the world.
So what to do to change? What can I do to affect change?
The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim begins, “O Lord and Master of my life…”
Before I attempt to be profound and expound and resound and then have to rebound and all of that hoo-ha, I’ll tell a story. Actually you should probably know that most of this series will be stories. When I was much younger I thought that I had deep things to say and something to offer when it came to theological dissertation. However, every year older I get I realize that I have much less to say than I thought I did, or ought to for that matter, but I have many more stories. I love stories, especially ones that I am able to be a part of. I’ve often thought that homilies and teachings really ought to be more stories than theological dissertation, but I suppose that is another post altogether. So, my story…