Monday, July 19, 2010

More thoughts on the Unia

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about the dangers the Uniate Churches (e.g. Greek Catholics and those who are outwardly using Orthodox praxis, but are dogmatically Roman Catholic and submit to the pope) pose whenever theological discussions are held between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox churches. The Roman Catholics conistently hold these Uniate Churches as "models of unity" because they can still keep their traditions and still submit to the pope as Head of the Church at the same time. Such a model has been denounced many times as unacceptable to Orthodox ecclesiology by even the ecumenist Ecumenical Patriarch, VARTHOLOMAIOS I, even though some agreed statements like that of Balamand have given the papists an almost solid victory.

My own thoughts being mediocre as they are, a recent talk given by a Greek priest, Theodoros Zisis, who is also a professor of the Theological School of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki gives even more substantive weight to my thesis that the Unia present real problems of dialogue and (re)union with Rome. I particularly like this statement:
Unity is not achieved by 'uniting the churches', but rather through 'union with the Church'.....

And that is the problem. We talk so much about uniting churches of such dispareate theologies, ecclesiologies and praxis that what we have is nothing more than an amalgam of traditions with competing claims as to what is Christian. Such a cafeteria of confessions only poses more problems than what it supposedly solves!

You can read the rest of Fr. Theodore's thoughts on this subject here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Abusing the Lord's Eucharist: Part 27 of a never ending series

I have written before about how many in the Orthodox Church seem to have a less than reverent attitude towards our Lord's Eucharist. And I must admit that I am guilty of such abuses myself. I have recoiled in horror about how the faithful will "jump lines" so that they can receive the Eucharist from the priest rather than from the deacon or how the faithful, in a mistaken act of piety, will take time to reverence the icon for the feast or saint at the front of the church BEFORE consuming the Eucharist or how many will not fast to prepare for the Lord's Body and Blood preferring to have food of the earth be the first thing that touches their lips rather than the flesh of our incarnate Lord. I'm sure that if I actually took the time and had the wherewithal, I'm sure that I could come up with a substantive list of how the modern faithful abuse the Eucharist, but, since my faith is so weak, I'm sure that all I would do is lose heart very easily. I'm also sure that a great many priest see such actions by the faithful many times in the course of their priestly vocations and do what they can to correct them.

Yesterday was a rainy day. We had started Orthros right at about 8:45. As it was a 3rd class feast, the Great Polyeleos was chanted for St. Euphemia the Great Martyr, whose miracle at Chalcedon was commemorated. There were also additional kathismata, exapoteilaria and praises which made the service go a little long. We started the Great Doxology at about 10:00 and got through it with the concluding troparion, "Having risen from the tomb" at about 10:05. When "Blessed is the Kingdom" rang out from the sanctuary, the church was less than full, the choir had only 6 people there and people would still be stumbling in from that point up until and after the Cherubimic Hymn!

When the priest finally brought out the Eucharist after singing the common Communion Hymn for Sundays, he reminded everyone, as he does every Liturgy, that anyone not Orthodox or not prepared from recent confession, prayer and fasting, should not present himself. The priest then went further and said that if anyone was not present for the Scripture readings from the Epistle of St. Paul and the Gospel, he was also not prepared. I'm not kidding when some people just dropped their pew service books as if this were some new "rule", which it wasn't. Our priest has said this many times in the past and people know it.

The Eucharist is the conclusion of our liturgy, our daily work. Yes, it takes a long time to get to the point where the faithful may partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord. The reason should be obvious. You don't just enter into the church and immediately enter the presence of God and thus transformed. It takes time with prayers and contemplation because we can't just enter the presence of God as we are defiled with sin. Most people don't want to hear that. A lot of Orthodox want the Liturgy shortened to 59 1/2 minutes and get their Eucharist and get out. They don't want to prepare. And how can you consider yourself prepared if you have not fed your minds with the words of life contained in the Holy Scriptures?

I recently read another blog where the author (a Lutheran pastor) lamented that the Eucharist was being served every Sunday in some parishes at the expense of preaching. I agree with his basic premise that the mind must be fed with the Word so that the soul may be fed with our Lord's Body and Blood, but I don't place a near sacramental label on preaching as he does. The Liturgy and the Scripture which buttresses the Liturgy, at least for the Eastern Rite, are quite sufficient "preaching" elements to feed the mind that a 30 minute sermon can only provide supplements, but not replace.

The Liturgy is the work of the people. And we work by training and setting our minds on the words of salvation given to us by our Lord and His saints. The words, "Let us attend" are frequently said throughout the Liturgy for the faithful to direct all of their very selves to the Lord.

Too many Orthodox view the Eucharist as a right to which they are entitled. I remember visiting a Greek church and an old lady went up to the priest before Orthros for St. Basil's Day started and was pleading with him to give her the Eucharist right then and there. And the priest gave in! The old woman and some of her friends partook and left the church. There can be no question that our Lord freely gives and freely calls us back to Himself even though we do everything possible to ignore or thwart Him. But, isn't the Eucharist not only for the forgiveness of sins but also for the attainment of the Kingdom?

I'm sure priests have a tough enough job, but the frequent abuses of the Eucharist that I have seen in just one parish only make me wonder just how widespread such irreverence is grounded in modern Orthodoxy. It's not a convert vs cradle problem, nor an ethnic problem. It's a problem of bad catechesis, from children to adults and that needs to be seriously addressed by local assemblies, synods and even the Great Council, if it is ever convened!

It's nothing short of God's providence that no matter how much we, the faithful, keep screwing with the gifts He has given us even refusing them, He still keeps giving, because our Lord does not desire the death of the sinner but that he should return and live. Amen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Commemoration of the Miracle ascribed to St. Euphemia the Great Martyr

Today, June 11, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the Great Martyr, St. Euphemia and the miracle ascribed to her. From the Prologue of Ohrid:

Saint Euphemia is commemorated on September 16, the day on which she was martyred. On this day, however, is commemorated the miracle surrounding her honorable relics, which was manifested at the time of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon. This Council was convened during the reign of Emperor Marcian and the Empress Pulcheria in the year 451 A.D., after the death of Emperor Theodosius the Younger. The reason for summoning this Council was the heresy of Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria and Eutyches, an Archimandrite from Constantinople, who spread the false teaching that in Christ the Lord there were not two natures, divine and human, but only one, a divine nature. At this Council Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, played the most prominent roles. Because a conclusion could not be reached through debates and testimonies from either side, Patriarch Anatolius motioned that the Orthodox and the heretics write down their confessions of faith and then place them in the sarcophagus where the relics of St. Euphemia reposed. They all agreed to this. Therefore, the two confessions of faith were written and placed on the bosom of the great female martyr. The sarcophagus was closed, sealed with the emperor's seal and military guards were appointed. All of them spent three days in prayer and fasting. When they opened the sarcophagus on the fourth day, they saw the Orthodox confession of faith in the right hand of the saint and the heretical confession of faith under her feet. Thus the dispute, through the power of God, was decided in favor of Orthodoxy. During the reign of Emperor Heraclius, the relics of St. Euphemia were translated from Chalcedon to Constantinople to the church dedicated to her near the Hippodrome. The iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian ordered that these relics be tossed into the sea but, in a miraculous manner, the sarcophagus was translated to the island of Lemnos and placed in the church of the great female martyr Glyceria. Then, during the reign of the Empress Irene, the sarcophagus with the relics of St. Euphemia was again returned to Constantinople to its former place. Blood flowed from these relics from time to time which helped those who were ill or in misery.

Even death cannot separate the martyrs from us in our journey for the Orthodox faith. Through her intercessions, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, keep us steadfast in the faith and have mercy upon us and save us!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sola Scriptura includes apostolic tradition?

Growing up Lutheran (MO Synod), I was taught the four solas: sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, sola cruce. Translated, the four mean: By grace alone, by faith alone, by scripture alone, by the cross alone. Those are considered to be the pillars of Lutheranism and are embedded into the Lutheran confessions though how those four are represented in contemporary Lutheran theology varies greatly in many Lutheran churches and synods.

The third of these, sola scriptura, is supposed to mean that the Scriptures are the norm (normans normata)for all Christian doctrine. If there is a practice or dogma that Scripture flat out condemns, it must be cast to the wind! However, to say that Lutherans (but again, remember that modern day Lutherans have different ideas as to what sola scriptura means precisely) are fundamentalist Bible thumpers like the Baptist is simply untrue (though some definitely fit into that mold more and more in the MO Synod these days). Scripture remains the gem, but Lutherans also hold on to the "catholic principle." Notice this is little "c" catholic, not big "C" Catholic as in the Roman Catholics. The catholic principle refers to those traditions and doctrines which belong to the universal church and which are good for preserving order but are not necessary for salvation. However, even this has come under attack in modern Lutheranism with more fundamentalist groups pulling on one side and more liberal groups pulling from the other.

On another blog I often read, Pr. McCain's Cyberbrethren, he was discussing a recent issue of First Things which had an article on woman's ordination. Responding to a poster who said that he opposed women's ordination on Scripture alone, not Scripture plus tradition, Pr. McCain writes the following:

Lars, actually…the point the post makes is that the “tradition” of the Church is what it is, precisely because there is no Dominical or Apostolic mandate/authority for women to be pastors. That is the “Scripture alone” approach we take as well.

Now, I must admit that I was taken aback by that comment. Pr. McCain is saying, by my reading of his statement, that the authority placed in Scriptures is also placed in the Apostolic Fathers. Sola scriptura=auctoritate apostolorum! Now, I would like to ask Pr. McCain for more elaboration on this. However, Pr. McCain doesn't much like me, which is his right (lots of people don't like me and I don't lose sleep over it) and probably thinks of me as an apostate (his attacks on Lutherans who have left the faith for Rome or Constantinople make for some good reading) so I can't really see if I'm correct in reading him. If I am, it does reaffirm that modern Lutheranism does have a catholic principle and that those who would pull the church to a Biblical Christianity (which is an oxymoron) or a "believe-what-we-feel-like" Christianity really represent novelties.

A lot of people who don't know the Orthodox and who think of them as merely "Catholics without the Pope" don't understand what we mean by words such as Scripture and Tradition. To us Orthodox, there is no dichotomy of categorizing the faith in scriptural or traditional terms. Such is a very western and Aristotelian manner of thinking (nothing wrong with that though it does present some very difficult conflicts with the faith). Tradition includes Scripture. It is not separated from it. Tradition includes all those ways by which God has revealed Himself to us. Tradition includes Scripture, the Holy Councils and Canons, the Hymnography of the Church, Iconography, the Mysteries (i.e. Sacraments),etc. God's Word (the Man God, Jesus Christ and His Icon of the Holy Scriptures) is not revealed strictly through writings.

Though many modern books on Orthodoxy from Orthodox authors make the mistake of examining things through the western lens of scripture vs. tradition, they are wrong. It is Scripture in tradition, not Scripture and tradition. Pr. McCain, on the other hand, seems to be arguing for Tradition in Scripture.

Whatever or however Pr. McCain may mean by his one comment, it should be very clear that the sola scriptura of authentic historic Lutheranism is NOT the Biblical fundamentalism we see with many Baptists and evangelicals today and is certainly not the rejection of Scriptural authority we see with Episcopalians, the ELCA and the Presbyterians. It's just something I found interesting from my reading today.

Monday, July 5, 2010

On women's ordination

I have tried to stay away from controversial or polemical topics on this board (though I've failed a few times), preferring, more or less, to educate on the Orthodox faith and its praxis. One of the many great appeals for Orthodoxy is that, even here in the USA, it has remained immune to the other trends that the Western confessions of Christianity have been wrestling with for many years. Such trends include, but are not limited to, contemporary worship, support for abortion rights, ordination of homosexuals (whether practicing or not), blessing of homosexual "marriages", ordination of women as priests or even as bishops, etc.. But, Orthodoxy is no longer immune to being questioned, both from without and within, about its doctrinal positions with regard to the issues above.

The ecumenical movement frequently wants to court the Orthodox Church in its proceedings but can't possibly understand why it won't condone such things as ordaining women or blessing homosexual marriages, of which the former has become very commonplace and the second is gaining traction. The ecumenists say they understand the Orthodox position but then throw up their hands and lament that they can't be in communion with us.

As the Orthodox church has grown in America and more converts have been received, whether through individual effort or because of mixed marriages, both prominent leaders and laity alike have been also asking why the Orthodox don't ordain women. Even Bishop KALLISTOS, whose books have often been read and applauded by inquirers to Orthodoxy, has come out in favor of it. However, this is an issue which you are not very likely to hear in a parish hall during coffee hour. The issue is there, lurking in the shadows, but it is nowhere close to the elephant in the room for Catholics and some Protestants. Nevertheless, in the growing apostasy of our time, every Orthodox Christian should know what the Church's position is and why it is of the utmost importance that we preserve the teachings of the apostles. I'm not suggesting that those who do favor women's ordination should be drummed out (the Church exists for them, too), but such people should know that their individual viewpoint cannot trump what God has revealed to us.

In this post, I simply cannot cover and refute every argument regarding women's ordination. This is not a comprehensive list.

Argument # 1: Women have the ability to be priests and can execute it just as well, if not better, as any man. I have no problem with this argument. Women can do any job just as well as men can (though there are some jobs where a man's inherent physical strength is a greater help--I refer to jobs as a firefighter). Any reasonable person can agree to this. Opponents of women's ordination (generally) will agree to this point. It's not about ability. Women can read scriptures, evangelize, teach, preach, pray, etc. just as well as any other male priest. Such women are venerated as saints in the Orthodox Church and in the Western churches, but they had no priestly ordination, nor did they ask for one. So, this argument is a pretty lame one.

Argument # 2: Women should be ordained because women have been oppressed for years and this action makes up for that. This argument is the favorite one as if the refusal to ordain women is somehow on par as the South enslaving men and women from Africa and that the Civil War, the Reconstruction and the 13th and 14th amendments were the necessary remedies for such an evil. But the priesthood is not a right! It never has been! No one has the right to be ordained. The Theotokos herself would probably have made probably the best priest after all she literally carried God in her. She had the kind of communion with God on this earth that most of us who earnestly yearn for it can only realize in mystical fashion. Our communion with God is a type; hers was the reality. But even in spite of her direct communion with God, she was still not ordained. She probably had a better "right" than any other priest in history, even St. Peter or St. John, who was called the "Lord's beloved." But the priesthood does not belong to us. It is Christ's priesthood. St. John Chyrsostom tells us that after the Incarnation, the greatest gift God gave was the priesthood. It's not ours, it's His. How dare we tell Him what to do with it. And not even every man can be a priest. A divorced man cannot. A man younger than 30 cannot. A priest who is single and wishes to be married after his ordination will be defrocked and laicized. To say that women have a right to something is to suggest that it is theirs in the first place. It's no more theirs than it is mine.

Argument # 3: Women were only denied the priesthood because of the culture of Jesus' time and the following centuries. Another classic argument and falls closely in line with number two. The proponents say that the culture of those days is gone. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who wrote a letter on this very issue, wrote: what is truly amazing is that while absolutely convinced that they understand past "cultures," the advocates of women's ordination seem to be totally unaware of their own cultural "conditioning" of their own surrender to culture. The proponents don't know what to do with this argument once they are refuted as above. They will typically and frequently then go into a retort as to how stupid and unenlightened the people of the past were. Once they go there, you know they've got nothing.

I'd like to make a little side note on culture, though. Though the church has been one of the great institutions to preserve various cultural heritages (whether Greek, Romanian, Serbian, Russian, Arabic, etc.), the Church did not preserve the culture so that it would be enslaved or defined by it. The culture was Christianized; the church wasn't culturized. At the same time, we must not forget that the Church, by its very nature, is counter-cultural.

This seems to be forgotten by many of the church growth movement who want to embrace pop culture as a means of evangelization and worship. But rather than bringing the Church out to the culture, they are bringing the culture into the Church and the two are not the same thing. The former transforms the culture and conforms it to Christ, the latter transforms the church and conforms it to this world.

Argument # 4: St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians said that in Christ there is no longer male nor female. How the proponents of women's ordination love to quote this passage of St. Paul while at the same time condemning him for saying that women in the Church must be silent.(1 Corinthians 14). St. Paul wasn't writing to the Galatians about egalitarianism in society; his whole letter is concerned with our salvation. Our salvation is not given or denied to us by our sex, just as St. Paul also says that our salvation is not given or denied us by our blood and heritage (which the Jews believed).

This argument has connections with argument number one--that women can do pretty much any job as well as men, if not better. But what the proponents forget is that St. Paul's words do not mean that an individual's sex is no longer relevant within the order of creation. Our sex is a gift from God to us. It is as much a gift as the ability to teach, or to sing, or to prophesy, or to preach, or to evangelize, or to pray. The proponents of women's ordination blur the distinctions of the sexes so that we are no longer man and woman, but now a hybrid or some union of the two. Such a thought inverts the beauty of creation. Man and woman, He created them, Genesis tell us. Man was alone and woman was made to complement him, not to dominate him, nor for him to dominate her, but to work together. If we take this argument further and examine it on an iconic level, man is an icon of God, woman is the icon of salvation. You cannot have God and not salvation. You cannot have salvation without God. The two work together and are complements. St. Paul didn't want a blurring of the sexes here on earth. In his Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us that we are the Body of Christ. If we are all eyes, how do we hear? If we are all hands, how do we walk? If we are all tongues, how do we see?

Making the priesthood into a supposed right and gift for all hurts the Body of Christ. And creating artificial standards by which the priesthood is given is to mock Christ. Many people say that if women can't be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Churches, then those churches will fall. Do they not believe Christ's words when He says that the Gates of Hades will NEVER prevail against the Church? As humans, we do a great job of harming the Church, but Christ will always keep it free from harm. He really doesn't require our "help" in this matter.

One of the ironic things I find is that many of the western churches that refuse to allow for ordination of practicing homosexuals freely will allow for the ordination for women. Such churches, like many parishes in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) say that they cannot be part of an organization that so negligently disregards Scripture? But are they not doing the same with regards to women's ordination? They insist that such is different and then fall back on historical criticism exegesis as their defense. But, historical criticism is also the means of finding support for ordaining homosexuals and blessing their "marriages." You can't laud historical criticism's conclusion for one aspect and then condemn it for another. The method surely must be flawed, no?

Apostolic tradition keeps the Church grounded. Novelties and fads come and go; they are ephemeral. If God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow, then why must novelty be introduced into the picture. The Church is the Bride of Christ. If Protestants (and Roman Catholics) want to do anything to prevent the bride from being a separated spouse, then they must also return to the Apostolic teachings, in full. And we, as Orthodox, must fervently proclaim adherence to apostolicity not as some dead set of rules and regulations, but as the living witness to God Who is not bound by time.

Post scriptum: After thinking some more about this after I initially wrote it, I thought it important to clarify just how important women have been in the church since its inception. We have had many women saints who brought their male children or brothers to the faith--e.g. St. Monica with St. Augustine or St. Macrina with her brothers Sts. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. Women sing and chant in our churches quite beautifully. They read from the epistle at Liturgy (in some jurisdictions, at least). They teach our children and grandchildren. Orthodoxy would have surely died in the countries of the Eastern Bloc if it were not for the courageous efforts of "little mothers" and "yia-yias" to keep the faith alive. Women are the supports for our priests. Behind every good priest, my priest says, is a good priest's wife. We should give thanks to the service that women do; it is so much for our mission here on earth.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Can't Become Orthodox

As I've matured (ha!), I've come to realize that there is a lot more gray in this world than I am comfortable with, but I've come to accept it. Not too long ago, I would insist that if you were a Christian and you were not Orthodox, you only needed some gentle persuasion from me (and I'm really not gentle!) and all would be well. But I've come to realize that Holy Orthodoxy works for me just as Lutheranism works for some people, Catholicism for others, etc.. At the same time, the excuses that are generated by people as to why they are not Orthodox or do not want to convert (though they may really want to at heart but are afraid) are pretty superficial. The following is a list which I've seen scattered over the internet at various sites. I refound it here.

This list should be not be taken too seriously. In a lot of ways, this list confirms a lot about how Orthodoxy has been publicized and stereotyped by Orthodox Christians themselves. Enjoy.

I can’t become Orthodox, because I was born Roman Catholic/Protestant’.
(No, you weren’t. You were born a pagan, like all of us. You were then conditioned and manipulated by a set of ethnocentric cultural values. Look at the Apostles: most of them were born Jews, only they freely changed to Orthodoxy).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have a Pope’.
(You don’t need a Pope; Christ is the Head of the Church)

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have the filioque’.
(Nor does the New Testament. See Jn. 15, 26 or Acts 2,33).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have purgatory’
(The Gospel never mentions this Latin word that was first mentioned at the end of the twelfth century).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s a sect’.
(For nearly 2,000 years, billions of people have not thought so. Are you so much cleverer than all of them?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have saints’.
(Sadly, that is your loss. Don’t you want to know the friends of Christ?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because your way of taking communion is so unhygienic’.
(Then why aren’t Orthodox all constantly ill?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you kiss icons’.
(Don’t you kiss members of your family? Don’t you love Christ and those close to him? Are you not members of the family of Christ? Or are you victims of Protestant scientism?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have to confess’.
(You mean you have no sins? Then give me your photograph and I will stick it on the iconostasis).

I can’t become Orthodox, because Orthodox are sinners and argue among themselves’.
(Yes, we know about ourselves, that we are sinners. We also think our Faith is important – that’s why we argue, because we are not lukewarm and indifferent. And that’s why we go to church and go to confession and communion, repent, read the Lives of the Saints and find healing for our arguments. You mean you do not know about yourself and your own need to repent?).

‘I cannot become Orthodox, because you don’t sing our hymns’.
(Why sing Victorian platitudes, when you can have ancient spiritual depth?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the choir sings badly’.
(Then come and sing yourself and help improve it).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the services are always the same’.
(You mean you have never been to more than one Orthodox service in its entirety?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you can’t take part in the services’.
(You mean you have never tried praying?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I will no longer be free to change the Faith and pick from it what I want’.
(You don’t come to the Church to change the Orthodox Faith, you come to the Church to be changed by the Orthodox Faith. Or do you consider that you do not need changing?).

I can’t become Orthodox, because I can pray anywhere, without ritual’.
(And do you? If you can live without ritual, why then do you have a daily routine?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because there’s no difference between it and my present religion’.
(Why hesitate then?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it won’t help me’.
(Correct. Nothing will help you, if you don’t first make an effort to improve yourself).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you don’t have the same calendar’.
(No, it’s you who don’t have the same calendar).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because it’s not Western, it’s Oriental’.
(Then it’s like Christ. He came for the Middle East. He wasn’t Western and secular either).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I was born English’.
(Nor was Christ. By the way, I didn’t know that ‘English’ was a religion).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because there are foreigners in church’.
(For racists and xenophobes. As I said, Christ was also a ‘foreigner’).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you are so diverse’.
(That’s why we are not boring).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the other people are different from me’.
(Are you anti-social? Yet you are different from them and they accept you).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the clergy wear beards’.
(So did Christ. More victims of their cultural prejudices).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because women can’t wear trousers in church and have to cover their heads. It’s like Islam’.
(Yes, like the Mother of God? Or do you think that She was a Muslim? Or do you mean that you have no sense of modesty?)

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because men can’t wear shorts in church’.
(Nor did the Apostles and the saints and your ancestors, when they went to church. Why this need to distract others from prayer by your immodest way of dress?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the services are too long’.
(You mean you are lazy?).

‘The services start too early and finish too late’.
(See above).

‘I can’t be bothered’.
(See above, but thank you for being honest).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because then I won’t be able to live with my partner any longer’.
(Yes, you will, only you will receive a Divine blessing, your union will become spiritual as well as physical, and your ‘partner’ will become your legitimate spouse, instead of your partner in sin).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have to fast’.
(You mean you reject Christ’s sacrifice of fasting in the desert and his Gospel instructions about freeing yourself from demons through prayer and fasting?)

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I can’t eat roast beef every Sunday lunch-time’. (You mean you have an all-important passion for meat?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I can’t go to the pub on Saturday nights’.
(You mean you are too weak to stop your drinking bouts?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because the priest says that I should try to give up smoking’.
(You mean your passions are stronger than your faith?).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I don’t believe in God’.
(I understand. But how do you know? When you were surprised, I heard you calling on God’s name. If you start searching now, you will find faith and then be able to become Orthodox. Seek and you will find).
‘I can’t become Orthodox, because my family will reject me’.
(I understand you. But are you sure? In any case, Christ will not reject you).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I do not live near an Orthodox church’.
(I understand you. Change your way of life, so that your priorities are based around the Church).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because I don’t understand anything’.
(If you want to understand something, then begin by praying about it).

‘I can’t become Orthodox, because you have to stand and pray’.
(You mean you can’t be bothered. At least this is not an excuse, but honest).

More on the Western Rite

Several times on this blog, I have brought up the issue of the Western Rite. I have been asked by several people what my position on the Western Rite is.   There are so many questions and not any easy answers. For my part, I admit that I am somewhat torn on the issue. Orthodoxy is not just an Eastern phenomenon. If Orthodoxy is the fullness of the truth then that fullness is contained in both the East and the West. Yet, there can be no doubt that the West has suffered much at the hands of heresy and schism and the Rite which incorporates such schisms and heresies has been compromised.  After consideration of this issue, I must take the side that the Western Rite is simply  not suited for Orthodox theology or practice.

Many have written on the Western Rite:  Fr. Milovan Katanic at his blog, Again and Again, has reproduced an article with wonderful insights. Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, last year at one of the Parish Life Conferences, shared his insights.  Though this essay does have praise for the Western Rite, it is approached with a high degree of caution, which should merit serious discussion. If the Holy Orthodox Church ever does manage to finally convene a Great Council of the Church, something that has been overdue for a long time, the issue of the Western Rite should definitely be on the agenda.

Here are my reasons for why the Western Rite, until debated by a Great and Holy Council, should be put on hiatus and the Eastern Rites of prayer and the Liturgy should be the norm for all Orthodox.  These are in no particular order.
1)  The Western Rite is an anachronism.  You will find that I agree with Fr. Patrick Reardon on this one.  Prayer and, in particular, the Liturgy must be organic and be living.  The Western Rite has not been used by Orthodox for a period of nearly 1000 years.  It simply cannot be brought back.  What was brought back was essentially a cut and paste job by the St. TIKHON, Patriarch of Moscow. He revised the Book of Common prayer, purged it of all "non-Orthodox" leanings, inserted an epiclesis and called it Western Rite.  The problem with this is that it codified the lowest point of development in the Western Rite.