Safely in Florida

crucifixionIt seems ironic to report that I am safely in Florida, following so closely on a post concerning Science Fiction and the Orthodox Church. Florida, of course, has been the launching site for most American space research. I also find it interesting that my article on Science Fiction and the Church, which touched tangentially on the issue of cremation, stirred more response over that question than the actually questions engendered by Orthodoxy and Science Fiction.

It says to me that most of the questions that impose themselves on our faith – at a particular level – are far more practical than the speculations brought about by thinking about culture and Science Fiction. We still want to know how to bury our dead and why we should bury them in one way and not another.

As a priest it reminds me that the questions which surround my ministry are not nearly so much concerned with the theoretical as with the practical. And this is as it should be. God is not a theoretical God but the God who meets us in the most personal and uncomfortable places. Were it not so, our abstractions would rule and shortly we would become and imaginary religion and the Church of Jesus Christ.

The great battles of our lives will be fought on just such small battlegrounds. The more abstracted matters we can discuss over coffee and everyone can feel free to offer an opinion. No opinion matters because nothing is at stake.

But the great battles, as noted, will be on very small grounds. How do we bury? How do we pray? How do we fast? How do we marry? How do we sing? and so forth.

These are not small questions – but questions which test our faith, our humility, our love, our obedience – in short, all of the things that are truly saving in the life of an Orthodox Christian. And thus our faith is perceived as hard or difficult by others. It is only hard and difficult because it asks us to be real. And this is the greatest test of all. God have mercy.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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8 responses to “Safely in Florida”

  1. clary Avatar

    I was just reflecting on the “difficulty” of our faith, on how we better live it when we learn to embrace the cross, not easy for anyone. It also call us to not be guided by feelings and emotions, something we all seem to need in our life. Could you share your thoughts on this?

  2. Pastor Chad Avatar
    Pastor Chad

    This is one of the things I love about the perspective of orthopraxis within Orthodoxy. When we leave things up to the way that people want them to be without making people aware that their practices ACTUALLY have a huge impact on their faith people become embroiled in a debate about whose preference is best, or most suited to the culture, or …

    These questions test us because they take away the idea that we set our own standards.

    Thanks for this reminder.

  3. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    Dear Father, bless!

    “It is only hard and difficult because it asks us to be real.” So true, and though it is frightening to become real, I thank God for the opportunity the Orthodox Church has given me.

    (BTW, the editor in me thinks you meant to say: ” . . . we would become an imaginary religion and [not] the Church of Jesus Christ.”) 🙂

    God grant you travel mercies.

  4. Robert Avatar
    Robert

    Fr. Stephen,

    “I also find it interesting that my article on Science Fiction and the Church, which touched tangentially on the issue of cremation, stirred more response over that question than the actually questions engendered by Orthodoxy and Science Fiction.”

    No surprise Father.

    You insulted “mother” nature, that idol much worshiped.

  5. JLB Avatar

    Father, bless.

    “But the great battles, as noted, will be on very small grounds. How do we bury? How do we pray? How do we fast? How do we marry? How do we sing? and so forth.”

    In that spirit, and after reading the comments on the post in question, I believe I must echo the last of them:

    What about organ donation? 🙂

  6. Sean Avatar
    Sean

    Father, bless.

    As I was one of the first to stir the questioning on forms of burial in the previous post, I thought I’d continue on the issue of practical matters by saying that I fully agree with you that any practical argument is much more severe and creates more controversies that a theoretical, especially when simple christians are involved (and not bands of theologians). Many people find, though, that wherever the Church is a norm of social life (like in my country, per se), some of these practical matters cannot be brought into question not because of their significance in the Tradition of the Church, but because there is a flourishing trade behind the traditional customs. And not only do laymen gain monetary profit from this trade. Clergymen do likewise. It is something that, sadly, has driven many people away from the Church.

  7. fatherstephen Avatar

    to my knowledge organ donation is fine.

  8. Robert Bearer Avatar
    Robert Bearer

    Fr. your comments and this dicussion on the necessity of a real faith that tell us how to live (and even bury our dead), rather than an imaginary faith of mere opinion, makes me think of my observant Jewish friends who would be quick to rreflect that this is why the LORD (i.e. Christ) gave His people the Torah–an insight that seems too easily lost on us who are not trained in it, and so quick to think of it in terms of a set of old and superseded laws.

    Charis & shalom,
    rlb

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