That Thing You Do – Right Worship

In my Anglican years I watched the introduction of a new prayer book. Among its most notable features was variety. In a certain manner, it brought under one roof that most obvious feature of modern Christianity: options. Our culture has an understanding that ideas, thoughts and sentiments are what matters; how they are embodied is largely a matter of private choice – perhaps a lifestyle preference. Confronted with radical differences in worship practice, a modern American Christian would most likely respond, “Does it really matter?” This stands in stark contrast to an ancient understanding of liturgy. Perhaps the most heated debate between East in West during the time of the Great Schism was over whether the bread of the Eucharist was to be leavened or unleavened. At the time, it was seen as far more important than the filioque. Modern sensibilities recoil at such a debate and again want to shout, “What does it matter?”

Our modern protest assumes that we are the masters of our thoughts. Actions and words are fungible, evidence only of style. We believe that substance is a matter of thought and intent. This philosophy is geared towards allowing us to ignore the words and actions of others. In a world of variety and multicultural complexion, such a strategy is understandable. However, it tends to value the private and the notional at the expense of the public and common experience. We imagine that our inner thoughts are what matter and that those thoughts are the product of our own choices. Such is not the case.

Psychological studies have long shown evidence for what is termed “confirmation bias.” We tend to find proof of what we already think. We might also say that you will tend to think like you live – your actions determine your choices to a great extent, long before anything that we describe as “reason” comes into play. The Church has long known this and enshrined it in a formula: lex orandi, lex credendi: “the law of praying is the law of believing.” In simple terms, we believe what we pray – and not just what we pray, but what we pray publicly – the Liturgy.

Historically this referred to the fact that Church doctrine agreed with the Church’s liturgical life and its liturgical life agreed with its doctrine. It can be taken prescriptively, that the one should mirror the other. I take it, however, to be a principle (lex): whatever you do in your praying will eventually determine your believing. I think that because we are wired that way. It is worthwhile to look at a Church service, and, apart from the words, to ask, “What does this action mean?” There is a meta-message that is far deeper and more important than the words you say and the songs you sing.

The modern options in liturgical life (found all through the contemporized denominations), have a hidden, and, perhaps, unintended message. Their constantly changing structures suggest that what matters is what you think/feel/believe. What you do in Church is pretty much “immaterial,” a matter of preference and style. Indeed, many moderns believe that this is the great advantage of denominations – everybody can “do Church” in the manner that they like. But what you do is, eventually, what you will think (no matter what you say).

A simple observation: You cannot say that children matter and exclude them from Baptism and the Cup of Communion, much less isolate them and remove them from the public liturgy of the Church. Their exclusion is a teaching regarding the full humanity of children, regardless of what you mean it to say. There is a connection (whether we want to admit it or not) between the repudiation of infant baptism and the repudiation of the humanity of a child in the womb. Adulthood is not required in the Kingdom of God.

This is a crucial matter. Any time there is some component of worship that “doesn’t matter,” the whole liturgy will begin to not matter. The modern thought, “I don’t need to go to Church to worship God,” simply says that all sense of a Eucharistic life is gone. The notion that some part of life, much less some part of worship, doesn’t matter is already an embracing of secularism. Secularism holds that the world somehow exists apart from God. God only cares what we think or feel; intention and sentiment are what is essential. All that sort of thinking can yield is a bifurcation of our lives, a rupture in the fundamental unity of our being. It is a disintegration of the spiritual life. And, in the end, what you do will win. The modern secularization of Christianity (and then the heart) is an inevitable result.

If there is one saving feature of Orthodox Christianity, it would be its failure to alter its liturgy in a significant manner for the bulk of its history. Anyone who says that what you see in an Orthodox service today is the unchanged liturgy of the early Church is mistaken. Much of what we see is unchanged, but centuries have added things here and there. And those additions were intended. When doctrines have been expressed in a definitive manner, for example, they generally gain a place within the worship life of the Church.

As I study the history of Orthodoxy it is primarily the liturgical life of the Church that remains a constant. Periodic corruption within the hierarchy, cultural captivity and other failures are quite notable in Orthodox history. Indeed, very little in its history can be singled out as an outstanding feature of stability and faithfulness. But corrupt characters and cultural hegemonies come and go. Various religious fads and fashions have passed through. That it is possible to speak of an “Orthodox phronema” (mind), is perhaps solely due to the stability of its liturgical life.

The fact that most of Orthodoxy spent the better part of the 20th century stagnated under various communist regimes may have been far more salutary than not. For many Orthodox, mere survival was the greatest concern of the time. There are some who wring their hands over the controversies and failures of the recent Council in Crete. I am not one of them – primarily because I had very low expectations. St. Gregory the Theologian, who took early leave from the 2nd Ecumenical Council, said: “I have never seen a council produce anything but anger and rancor.”

But the same participants who argue and scheme eventually return to the liturgy that faithfully bathes them in the unchanging truth of the faith. The prayers of the Church produce saints. No decisions, made anywhere at any level, have such effective power.

Ortho-doxa is sometimes translated as “right worship.” This is proper and goes to the point of our lives. It was said by many Jews in Hitler’s camps, “We did not keep the Sabbath; the Sabbath kept us.” The same can be said regarding Orthodox worship in the life of the Church. The Church proper is the Church gathered in Liturgy.

The whole of our life, ideally, becomes a liturgy, and, as such, is rightly lived. We were created to make Eucharist of all things, to give thanks. We are not the masters of our existence. We are its servants.

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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Comments

151 responses to “That Thing You Do – Right Worship”

  1. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Mary, I was able to secure a copy of Mother Gavrilia’s book through interlibrary loan a few years ago. Perhaps it depends on what libraries your local ones share with or perhaps availability has changed. I hope you can find one. Hers is an amazing and inspiring life.

  2. sbdn andrew Avatar
    sbdn andrew

    Mary Benton,
    This site has many of her quotes:
    http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/articles/2010/03/the-life-and-sayings-of-mother-gavrilia/
    This book is a very hard find and should be re-printed as the 3rd ed was in 2006.
    Write to the distributer:
    email hidden; JavaScript is required
    The publisher’s e-mail is: email hidden; JavaScript is required
    Another contact is:
    https://stjohnmonastery.org/
    –they had it in their bookstore for a long time and might know how you can get a copy.

  3. Eric Avatar
    Eric

    Threads like this always tease me into existential despair. I converted to Catholicism from Protestantism some odd years ago for many the same reasons some of you have converted to Orthodoxy, but this split in the Church (or “rupture in God’s people” or whatever you want to call it to maintain the idea that the Church is one regardless of the visible and invisible division amongst those who claim to be Christian) — this split in the Church has always been the #1 reason for me doubting the truth of the whole religion. I suppose this is a large part of my remaining Catholic: We need Peter. We need a vicar of Christ if for nothing else the ability to exercise the authority of Christ over all the bishops. I have Protestant friends who claim to truly love and know God and be in communion with Him and his people, and Orthodox friends who claim that no one except the Orthodox can ever be in communion with God and his people, and Catholic friends who believe a bit of this, a bit of that… all of them well-meaning, God-fearing, good-willed (or as much as a sinner can be). I look at God-fearing men like Elder Sophrony, Pope Benedict XVI, CS Lewis, and it literally boggles the SOUL that these men are not in communion with each other (according to many of the commenters here). THAT to me is the strongest argument against the Christian religion: Not pain, or suffering, or evil. Disunity. It’s disgusting. Lord have mercy.

    If you’ve read past my rant (cry of anguish?), Fr Stephen, the belief that withholding the Eucharist from infants is a form of “harm” infinitely underestimates the grace bestowed by baptism. Baptism steeps the child in enough grace to protect her innocent soul from the corruption of evil. I’ll be meditating more on your thoughts and the meaning of the time between the reception of different forms of grace. Please pray for me if you think of it.

  4. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Eric,
    I understand your pain. Oddly, I think God knows what He’s doing.He saves us in our weakness, not our excellence. It becomes dangerous for each of us if we somehow glory in the excellence of our communion. It is impaired because we are impaired. And our impairment (sin) should give us only cause to call on God and pray for the salvation of all. You might find comfort in this article of mine.

  5. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Eric, even if the external unity had been maintained, disunity would exist. When the Church was under persecution by the Roman Empire, the disunity and heretical beliefs were there just not as visible or important.

    The legalization allowed that reality to manifest.

    Sin and heresy always seek to divide. The grace of God unites.

    I look at it this way: Jesus lifted up on the Cross draws all men to Him. The descent of the Holy Spirit means that He is everywhere present and filling all things. The sacramental grace of the Eucharist is poured out to all through the Church. It is a cup that overflows and cannot be contained.

    Yet, He Incarnated as a specific person in a specific people’s at a specific time and established a specific Church. That is the place, the one place where the flow begins.

    There is a Russian icon, The inexhaustible Cup. It is quite evocative.

    Mary, the Theotokos is the largest figure. The Christ child is shown in the cup. Both Jesus and the Theotokos with hands up raised in prayer. In some versions the cup is shown overflowing.

    There is only unity in Him and we are all called to Him. While I empathize with your existential doubts concerning what visible disunity says about the reality of the faith, in a certain sense the visible disunity testifies to the depth of our pride and how much we fail when we rely on our own will.

    No human can create or maintain unity. Unity is not a static, institutional state. Unity is organic, relational and living. That is why the best metaphor we have of that unity is Christian marriage.

    The candidates I named as the only viable ones for the Church I named because each is Trinitarian, Sacramental and venerate Mary. Any body that does not espouse all three has no place in the discussion.

    There are important distinctions and variations within each communion concerning those three vital realiries. Eventually those will pass away but as of now those distinctions are crucial to the practice of faith in each communion. Unfortunately many who have sought “unity” in the past say the distinctions don’t matter. We should just ignore the differences and proclaim unity. That does not work. Faith is lost in that equation.

    Unlike mary benton, I do not believe we can all be wrong (sinners yes, but there is only one Body), but we need not be enemies. We certainly need to avoid despair for we are still being drawn to Him and our specific journies are full of what is required for our salvation.

    I spent nearly 40 years in a desert of pride, nonesense and heresy before I came to the Oasis of the Orthodox Church. Although I do not know the specifics, each moment I was in that desert is somehow critical to my salvation and Jesus was with me the whole time.

    I have no doubt the same is true for you. Fear not, He is with us always.

  6. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Indeed Eric, the article to which Father Stephen linked, is a wonderful addition to the conversation here.

  7. DMA Avatar
    DMA

    Fr. Stephen, Dee of St. Herman,

    The research I did was from some years ago, and I posted my findings on a blog that is no longer accessible. At the time I was conversing with Roman Catholics on how Rome has altered the Apostolic Tradition. My research was primarily on the subject of communion under one kind of species instead of both kinds in the Roman Catholic practice of Holy Communion. I found that the change in practice began in the 12th-13th centuries. By the time of Thomas Aquinas it had gained some traction in the Church, but was not yet universal. He, however, gave the practice its scholastic argumentation in his Summa Theologica (Question 80, Article 12). The widespread practice of receiving in only one kind consequently led to the protest of Jan Hus and his followers who challenged it as unbiblical and against Holy Tradition, of which they were right. But it wasn’t until the Council of Constance in 1415 that the practice became law throughout the Roman Catholic world and Jan Hus and his followers were condemned.

    The issue of denying infants Holy Communion was an accidental by-product of my research into this as I found that it arose around the same time. In fact, under the same Question 80 in Aquinas’ Summa in Article 9 he addresses paedocommunion, again giving the practice of denying newly baptized infants access to the Body and Blood of Christ its scholastic foundation.

    If you will permit, I will quote from the relevant portions of various sources in order to substantiate what I have written above. Please keep in mind that some years have passed when I did my original research into this topic and I have forgotten some of the sources I used at that time. However, I hope the following will be sufficient enough to kick start anyone’s desire for deeper study into this topic. Forgive me.

    “Since the twelfth century

    The final suppression of intinctio was followed in the thirteenth century by the gradual abolition for the laity of Communion under the species of wine. The desuetude of the chalice was not yet universal in St. Thomas’ time (d. 1274): “provide in quibusdam ecclesiis observatur”, he says “ut populo sanguis sumendus non detur, sed solum a sacerdote sumatur” (Summa, III, Q. lxxx, a. 12). The Council of Lambeth (1281) directs that wine is to be received by the priest alone, and non-consecrated wine is to be received by the faithful (Mansi, XXIV, 405). It is impossible to say exactly when the new custom became universal or when, by the Church’s approval, it acquired the force of law. But such was already the case long the outbreak of the Hussite disturbances, as is clear from the decree of the Council of Constance (see I above). The Council of Basle granted (1433) the use of the chalice to the Calixtines of Bohemia under certain conditions, the chief of which was acknowledgment of Christ’s integral presence under either kind. This concession, which had never been approved by any pope, was positively revoked in 1462 by the Nuncio Fantini on the order of Pius II. The Council of Trent while defining the points already mentioned, referred to the pope the decision of the question whether the urgent petition of the German emperor to have the use of the chalice allowed in his dominions be granted; and in 1564 Pius IV authorized some German bishops to permit it in their dioceses, provided certain conditions were fulfilled. But, owing to the inconveniences that were found to result, this concession was withdrawn in the following year. Benedict XIV states (De Missae Sacrif. II, xxii. n. 32) that in his time the kings of France had the privilege of communicating sub utraque at their coronation and on their death-bed. In the eighteenth century the deacon and subdeacon officiating at High Mass in the Church of Saint-Denis, Paris, on Sundays and solemn feasts, and at Cluny on all feasts of obligation, were allowed to receive sub utraque (Benedict XIV, loc. cit.) The only surviving example of this privilege is in the case of the deacon and subdeacon officiating in the solemn Mass of the pope.”- Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04175a.htm

    “Article 9. Whether those who have not the use of reason ought to receive this sacrament?

    Objection 3. Further, among those that lack the use of reason are children, the most innocent of all. But this sacrament is not given to children. Therefore much less should it be given to others deprived of the use of reason.

    Reply to Objection 3. The same reason holds good of newly born children as of the insane who never have had the use of reason: consequently, the sacred mysteries are not to be given to them. Although certain Greeks do the contrary, because Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. ii) that Holy Communion is to be given to them who are baptized; not understanding that Dionysius is speaking there of the Baptism of adults. Nor do they suffer any loss of life from the fact of our Lord saying (John 6:54), “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you”; because, as Augustine writes to Boniface (Pseudo-Beda, Comment. in 1 Corinthians 10:17), “then every one of the faithful becomes a partaker,” i.e. spiritually, “of the body and blood of the Lord, when he is made a member of Christ’s body in Baptism.” But when children once begin to have some use of reason so as to be able to conceive some devotion for the sacrament, then it can be given to them.”- Summa Theologica, Question 80, Article 9, http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4080.htm

    “Article 12. Whether it is lawful to receive the body of Christ without the blood?

    Objection 1. It seems unlawful to receive the body of Christ without the blood. For Pope Gelasius says (cf. De Consecr. ii): “We have learned that some persons after taking only a portion of the sacred body, abstain from the chalice of the sacred blood. I know not for what superstitious motive they do this: therefore let them either receive the entire sacrament, or let them be withheld from the sacrament altogether.” Therefore it is not lawful to receive the body of Christ without His blood.

    Objection 2. Further, the eating of the body and the drinking of the blood are required for the perfection of this sacrament, as stated above (III:73:2; III:76:2 ad 1). Consequently, if the body be taken without the blood, it will be an imperfect sacrament, which seems to savor of sacrilege; hence Pope Gelasius adds (cf. De Consecr. ii), “because the dividing of one and the same mystery cannot happen without a great sacrilege.”

    Objection 3. Further, this sacrament is celebrated in memory of our Lord’s Passion, as stated above (III:73:5; III:74:1), and is received for the health of soul. But the Passion is expressed in the blood rather than in the body; moreover, as stated above (III:74:1), the blood is offered for the health of the soul. Consequently, one ought to refrain from receiving the body rather than the blood. Therefore, such as approach this sacrament ought not to take Christ’s body without His blood.

    On the contrary, It is the custom of many churches for the body of Christ to be given to the communicant without His blood.

    I answer that, Two points should be observed regarding the use of this sacrament, one on the part of the sacrament, the other on the part of the recipients; on the part of the sacrament it is proper for both the body and the blood to be received, since the perfection of the sacrament lies in both, and consequently, since it is the priest’s duty both to consecrate and finish the sacrament, he ought on no account to receive Christ’s body without the blood.

    But on the part of the recipient the greatest reverence and caution are called for, lest anything happen which is unworthy of so great a mystery. Now this could especially happen in receiving the blood, for, if incautiously handled, it might easily be spilt. And because the multitude of the Christian people increased, in which there are old, young, and children, some of whom have not enough discretion to observe due caution in using this sacrament, on that account it is a prudent custom in some churches for the blood not to be offered to the reception of the people, but to be received by the priest alone.

    Reply to Objection 1. Pope Gelasius is speaking of priests, who, as they consecrate the entire sacrament, ought to communicate in the entire sacrament. For, as we read in the (Twelfth) Council of Toledo, “What kind of a sacrifice is that, wherein not even the sacrificer is known to have a share?”

    Reply to Objection 2. The perfection of this sacrament does not lie in the use of the faithful, but in the consecration of the matter. And hence there is nothing derogatory to the perfection of this sacrament; if the people receive the body without the blood, provided that the priest who consecrates receive both.

    Reply to Objection 3. Our Lord’s Passion is represented in the very consecration of this sacrament, in which the body ought not to be consecrated without the blood. But the body can be received by the people without the blood: nor is this detrimental to the sacrament. Because the priest both offers and consumes the blood on behalf of all; and Christ is fully contained under either species, as was shown above (III:76:2).”- Summa Theologica, Question 80, Article 12, http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4080.htm

    “Session 13—15 June 1415

    Condemnation of communion under both kinds, recently revived among the Bohemians by Jakoubek of Stribro

    In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father and Son and holy Spirit, Amen. Certain people, in some parts of the world, have rashly dared to assert that the Christian people ought to receive the holy sacrament of the eucharist under the forms of both bread and wine. They communicate the laity everywhere not only under the form of bread but also under that of wine, and they stubbornly assert that they should communicate even after a meal, or else without the need of a fast, contrary to the church’s custom which has been laudably and sensibly approved, from the church’s head downwards, but which they damnably try to repudiate as sacrilegious. Therefore this present general council of Constance, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, wishing to provide for the safety of the faithful against this error, after long deliberation by many persons learned in divine and human law, declares, decrees and defines that, although Christ instituted this venerable sacrament after a meal and ministered it to his apostles under the forms of both bread and wine, nevertheless and notwithstanding this, the praiseworthy authority of the sacred canons and the approved custom of the church have and do retain that this sacrament ought not to be celebrated after a meal nor received by the faithful without fasting, except in cases of sickness or some other necessity as permitted by law or by the church. Moreover, just as this custom was sensibly introduced in order to avoid various dangers and scandals, so with similar or even greater reason was it possible to introduce and sensibly observe the custom that, although this sacrament was received by the faithful under both kinds in the early church, nevertheless later it was received under both kinds only by those confecting it, and by the laity only under the form of bread. For it should be very firmly believed, and in no way doubted, that the whole body and blood of Christ are truly contained under both the form of bread and the form of wine. Therefore, since this custom was introduced for good reasons by the church and holy fathers, and has been observed for a very long time, it should be held as a law which nobody may repudiate or alter at will without the church’s permission. To say that the observance of this custom or law is sacrilegious or illicit must be regarded as erroneous. Those who stubbornly assert the opposite of the aforesaid are to be confined as heretics and severely punished by the local bishops or their officials or the inquisitors of heresy in the kingdoms or provinces in which anything is attempted or presumed against this decree, according to the canonical and legitimate sanctions that have been wisely established in favour of the catholic faith against heretics and their supporters.

    That no priest, under pain of excommunication, may communicate the people under the forms of both bread and wine

    This holy synod also decrees and declares, regarding this matter, that instructions are to be sent to the most reverend fathers and lords in Christ, patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, and their vicars in spirituals, wherever they may be, in which they are to be commissioned and ordered on the authority of this sacred council and under pain of excommunication, to punish effectively those who err against this decree. They may receive back into the church’s fold those who have gone astray by communicating the people under the forms of both bread and wine, and have taught this, provided they repent and after a salutary penance, in accordance with the measure of their fault, has been enjoined upon them. They are to repress as heretics, however, by means of the church’s censures and even if necessary by calling in the help of the secular arm, those of them whose hearts have become hardened and who are unwilling to return to penance.

    From this point on the council becomes a duly convened ecumenical council, all previous sessions being ultra-vires.”- Council of Constance, 1415, http://www.ewtn.com/library/councils/constanc.htm

  8. Thomas Avatar
    Thomas

    I must disagree with Eric. First, the Orthodox ‘have Peter’ — in each and every bishop. But the Church does not need a bishop of bishops for many reasons, the most important being that no single office can be guaranteed to not fail to teach the faith correctly (yes, I know apologists for the Latin papacy try to argue they have this, but history proves otherwise) and a single head is the role of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, not a human being. Moreover, a single head can (and has and will) dictate changes in opposition to the faith of the Body (example: Vatican 2 which could never happen in the Church because of its insistence on sobornost (community/synodality/collegiality). The structure of the group of Christians following the Latin pope makes their ‘bishops’ not real overseers (ἐπίσκοπος) but more like middle-managers. It is part of their flawed ecclesiology.

  9. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Michael Bauman,

    Just to clarify my meaning in “we can all be wrong”… what I meant by this is that none of us, as human individuals, knows and understands God perfectly and in His fullness.

    I do believe that the Holy Spirit teaches us and guides the Church to protect the Truth entrusted to it – but obviously not to the point that there are never errors, scandals or controversies within it as a human institution. This is true, regardless of whether one considers Orthodox or Catholic – or both – “the Church”. And this is so because of our sin.

    The Mystical Body of Christ is a communion that transcends the human institutions – and is where Christ brings us to perfection.

  10. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    DMA, thank you for taking the time to present your research. It helps shed light on where the differences in receiving the Eucharist began. We can from there begin speculate why, if we so chose.
    Father Stephen, thank you for a very helpful article that bears much on this present conversation. Your last paragraph sums it up well:
    “To think more clearly about what this means consider the thought that the Cross through History is the “Pillar and Ground of Truth.” The Cross through History is the Crucified Body of Christ. And though ecclesiological struggles remain with boundaries at the Cup, and arguments and comparisons abound, the Cross through History is not confounded by the sin and dysfunction of our lives. It is the only place where they are truly gathered and there they are being reconciled to God as the Cross through History inexorably gathers together in One all things in Christ Jesus.”
    All of our comments…Mary B. where you say The Lord impressed on you that “You already have a home.”….in a way I can’t describe, when I read that, I understood completely. And now even more. When we despair over the disunity, Michael reminds us “There is only unity in Him and we are all called to Him.” Sbdn Andrew reminds us of other Saints that grieved as we do. So we’re not alone. Schisms are a painful reminder of our part as fallen humanity. It is hard to do, but I try to refrain from approaching our differences from a ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ perspective. That approach may help identify the differences. But the answer, as Father points out, is found at The Cross.

  11. DMA Avatar
    DMA

    mary benton,

    [i]”The Mystical Body of Christ is a communion that transcends the human institutions – and is where Christ brings us to perfection.”[/i]

    This is certainly contrary to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Tradition in understanding that part in the creed that says we believe in “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. Fact is, catholic Christians since the earliest times have understood the “Church” to be a visible communion of individuals partaking of the eucharistic (read: thanksgiving) bread and cup celebrated with their bishop. Read St. Ignatius of Antioch for evidence of this. The idea that the Mystical Body of Christ is somehow separate and apart from the so-called “human institutions” is a Protestant novelty with no root in the Apostolic Tradition.

  12. DMA Avatar
    DMA

    Thomas,

    How did you bolden and italicize the type in your comment? It would appear the standard method of using [i][/i] and [b][/b] doesn’t work here, as can be seen with my last response to mary benton. Thanks!

  13. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    DMA,

    I think perhaps you misread me. I am not saying the Mystical Body of Christ is something contrary to the bricks-and-mortar church with people gathered in it, nor is it a replacement for that. Rather, I would try to describe it as the fulfillment or transcendent reality of the Church.

    The notion of the Mystical Body is very Biblical, as St. Paul wrote of the Body, Christ as its head and we as its members. St. Paul was not simply creating a metaphor but describing a living reality in which we are bound together through our sacramental life in Christ.

    It is definitely a teaching in the Catholic Church and, from my checking online, it seems to be accepted in Orthodoxy as well (e.g. see http://www.xcsaviour.com/about-orthodoxy/) Fr. Stephen may correct me if I am wrong.

    It is also possible that I have explained it badly, but that doesn’t negate its truth.

  14. Thomas Avatar
    Thomas

    DMA, substitute less-than and greater-than signs for the square brackets.

  15. Dee of St Hermans Avatar
    Dee of St Hermans

    This was an eye opener. thank you DMA!
    Until you posted your response I really didn’t have a grasp of the distinction between Orthodox and Roman Catholic regarding “both species”. While I had well understood that Orthodox received both consecrated wine and bread, and heard there was “an issue ” about “both species “, I wasn’t clear what exactly that meant for Roman Catholics.. I didn’t realize that when I see “a cup” presented to the laity in a Roman Catholic service, that the wine that is in the cup is not consecrated, is this correct? If I do understand this correctly, I don’t think this can be treated as a trivial matter among the Orthodox.

    And prior to your response I was wondering about how/whether the Roman Catholic understanding would accept the mentally handicapped “to the cup”, if the rationalization about not giving to infants had something to do with a capacity of reason, or rationality.

    I’m grateful for your work on this clarification.

  16. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dee, I have attended a number of Masses in which the Body and Blood are dispensed, largely by lay ‘Eucharistic Ministers’ but not to everyone. It appeared to be a choice by the various communicants. In the RC both the bread and wine are consecrated but not offered ( until recently). Only the Body is (one species). Never made any sense to me even before I was a Christian.

    I have about come to the conclusion not to attend any more RC services although the only ones I have attended of late have been funeral Masses. They make me sad. So much has been jettisoned. It seems a bit like a Cliff Notes version of the Divine Liturgy.

    Every one I have been to has been sloppy. At one the priest sitting next to the altar as the choir was singing seemed to fall asleep.

    At the last one there were robed young (early teen) altar girls that seemed to be preparing the bread and wine on the altar for the priest to say the consecration, then lay Eucharistic Ministers served it and the altar girls took the chalice and pattern away after the priest closed the Mass. (sorry, but that is just icky to me).

    The wonderful woman whose funeral it was got mentioned only in passing. Mostly it was as if she was not even there-irrelevant. Frankly the whole production offended me. I took off work and traveled over an hour to be there to honor her and her family. I could have stayed at home, privately offered the Trisagion for the dead and done her more honor.

    There are good reasons why we are not in communion with the RC although I am told that the American version of Catholicism is not necessarily the best to evaluate by. Still, the theological differences revealed by the differences in practice are massive. They boggle my mind.

  17. Thomas Avatar
    Thomas

    Dear Dee of St Herman’s,
    The Symbol of Nicaea (AD 325) professes ‘… came down and became incarnate, became Man, suffered and rose again on the third day…’ The Symbol of Constantinople (AD 381) which is too often incorrectly called the ‘Nicene Creed’ and sometimes called the ‘Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed’ professes, ‘…came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin and became Man, crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures, and ascended into the Heavens…’ — there is no ‘died’ in either Symbol.
    I suspect your relatives are confused by the so-called ‘Apostles Creed’ (which wasn’t written by the Apostles and was unknown in the East until long after the Symbol of Constantinople was written; it seems to have been first mentioned at the end of the fourth century by a synod in Milan) which has no official standing in the Church.
    In addition to the Western heretical addition of the Filioque, the West retained the phrase ‘God from God’ preceding ‘Light from Light’ from the Symbol of 325 in their translation of the Symbol of 381. Nothing wrong with it, but it is redundant to say ‘God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God’ as they do. Worse, they changed the Symbol of 381’s ‘was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin’ to ‘was incarnate by the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary’ — something which supports the view the Theotokos was a mere vessel.
    Scholars debate whether the Symbol of 381 was a rewrite of the Symbol of 325 or a completely new profession which was similar to its predecessor. Regardless, the Symbol of 381 has been the standard profession of faith and has not been changed by the East.

  18. Eric Avatar
    Eric

    Michael,

    It’s interesting to me that the same complaint against RC usually comes up again and again with the Orthodox, namely, the aesthetics of the Liturgy. Don’t get me wrong: the Liturgy is meant to be beautiful. But the way you describe what makes it ugly in Roman Catholicism is akin to how a man might have seen Jesus incarnate: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (is 53:2)

    What makes the Liturgy beautiful cannot be the eloquence of the homilist, for many priests are not endowed with such a gift. It cannot be the materials within the church or what it is made of, for some places are poor and some rich, and all architects have different taste. It can’t even be the “pacing” or “lack of sloppiness”, because the Church is filled with people who lack a sense for these things, even after training.

    The beauty of the Liturgy is in the uprightness of the prayer of the people gathered, for the Liturgy is our prayer–our service–unto God (and in the Eucharist, His to unto us). I obviously think some forms of prayer are less helpful than others, and some are outright innapropriate, and I’ll admit: being a Roman Catholic is often humiliating, but I mean that in a good way. Unless I’m attending a Cathedral or high Mass, I usually don’t have anything to boast in at Mass save for Christ’s himself and his presence. And I think that’s precisely what being a Christian often looks like. In is often lived out in Faith in the absence of consolation.

    I’m not iconoclastic: I LOVE the beauty of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy and love when a Mass is said alongside beautiful imagery and beautifully executed structure and reverence. But if it were for THOSE things I attended Mass, then I would have stopped attending long ago. I became Catholic not because of the structure of the Liturgy (and not in spite of it either), but because Christ is there, and he commands us to obey him.

  19. DMA Avatar
    DMA

    mary benton,

    “The notion of the Mystical Body is very Biblical, as St. Paul wrote of the Body, Christ as its head and we as its members. St. Paul was not simply creating a metaphor but describing a living reality in which we are bound together through our sacramental life in Christ.”

    I totally agree. This is what I was talking about, not “bricks and mortar” but people gathered with their bishop in sacremental unity of the Eucharist (i.e. Thanksgiving). In the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, “Wherever the bishop appears, let also the people be, even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church.”- Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, chapter 8. Sorry for the misunderstanding mary. Forgive me.

    As an aside, the RC ecclesiological model of the Church is not supported in St. Ignatius. For Ignatius the proverbial “buck” stops with the bishop of the local Church, not with Rome. There is no one above the bishop on earth.

  20. DMA Avatar
    DMA

    Thomas,

    Thank you! As you can see from my response to mary I got it to work. Much appreciated sir!👍☺

  21. DMA Avatar
    DMA

    Dee,

    I can’t say what the current practice in the RCC is today, because things do tend to…uhm…change. In my original research on the subject I had found that the practice began to slightly change around the start of the 20th century. Now that could have been exclusively an American thing, or it could have been in other countries as well. If I remember right, only in the U.S. and perhaps Canada is the chalice ever given to the laity, but I could be wrong about this. In any event, suffice to say that when I had learned about this aberration in the RCC it confirmed for me that Rome had indeed alrered that Deposit which had been handed down since the beginning from the Apostles. I mean, papal supremacy can be understood in a primacy kind of way. The filioque can be interpreted in a way that doesn’t do violence to the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit. I’m speaking in the sense of discussing and arguing these things with RCs. But to have a mandated Church-wide practice to forbid (yes, forbid, as in do not allow) the chalice to the laity is such a blatant departure from the Apostolic Tradition that it can’t be, at least to my mind, defended in the least. How can you possibly justify a practice that directly contradicts the teaching (Drink of it, all of you! This is My Blood of the New Testament…), example, and practice of Christ, His Apostles, and His Church from the very beginning?? I knew I couldn’t. All I can say is thank God for Orthodox Catholicism!

  22. DMA Avatar
    DMA

    Thomas,

    Could you please elaborate on the difference between a creed and a symbol? You piqued my curiosity. Thanks!

  23. Nikolaos Avatar
    Nikolaos

    Dear Mary

    There is little one could add to Michael Bauman’s loving confession of faith and comments on RC. The Church and the Christian faith are great mysteries and whilst the Orthodox cannot rationalise them, they know how to avoid errors, through the guidance of the Holy Fathers ( apophatic theology ).

    I believe that if anyone loves Christ in humility, they will end up in the Orthodox Church, which is the only place where God is worshipped in spirit and in TRUTH ( John 4:24 ). This includes cradle Orthodox like myself, who returned after years of wandering and exploring every faith I came across. Joining the Orthodox Church can only be done in humility and in that sense it takes a repentant attitude. It is a narrow path.

    The Orthodox Church produces abundant fruit, Saints in every generation. The miracles are so natural for the Orthodox that we discuss them like natural phenomena, but in gratitude. The “ordinary” members of the Orthodox Church are no better people than the members of other Christian denominations. To use the athlete metaphor of Saint Paul, the Orthodox athletes are no better that the non-Orthodox athletes. But they are competing according to the rules and we know that no one is crowned unless he competes according to the rules ( 2 Tim 2:5 ).

    So when you are ready, join the Orthodox Church and work your salvation inside it, where you will be safe and certain it is the right place. You will also get to know St Photios, St Gregory Palamas and St Marc of Ephesus who suffered to defend the Orthodox faith and we know they are true images of God.

    Blessed Lent.

  24. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    Dear Father, the addition of your photo with your comments is a good enhancement to the blog I find. It is a helpful reminder that it is persons, as well as ideas, we engage in such mediums.

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Eric,
    My complaint s not about aesthetics. Although I do find he beauty in RC churches cold and distant it is nonetheless beautiful. The Cathedral of the Plains, St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, Kansas is a beautiful place, built by the faithful of the town over generations.

    We have our annual men’s retreat at the monastery associated with it. The monks are quite hospitable.

    BTW, a great book on that includes the aesthetics of classic RC churches is “Mont St. Michel and Chartes” by 19th century American historian Henry Adams. Great book. If any aesthetic concerns are involved it would be the concentrated effort by the RCC in America to strip both the Mass and the churches of any aesthetics at all.

    What was most jarring was the young girls running around the altar spending more time there than the priest, handling the gifts before and after consecration.

    Plus in Orthodox funerals the person of the reposed and their interelatedness with Jesus Christ and the community are essential to the service. Even the body of the reposed is essential. In the RC funeral Mass, the reposed need not even be there. It seems deeply dualistic in content and meaning. That dualism is the central reason I could never be Catholic.

    Still I must emphasize the value of RC commentators such as you and Mary over my years on this blog. Still, there is a real difference. That difference needs to be respected and not papered over by meaningless proclamations from anyone. Either needless false arguments or heedless false agreements.

  26. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Michael Bauman,

    Again, I appreciate your remarks (this time to Eric) but some aspects are puzzling to me. I couldn’t say that the things you describe didn’t happened but they seem unlikely.

    For “little girls” to be “running around the altar” and handling the consecrated Gifts is unimaginable to me. In my parish (which is admittedly not the most conservative in its customs), we have boys and girls who are altar servers. They have to be at least in 5th grade. They wear special robes and are given training. They have minor roles: lighting candles, holding the book for the priest to read from, carrying a processional cross, etc. They may help carry unconsecrated bread and wine to the altar if there is no one else present to do it and may given the priest a cruet of water and a towel to wash his hands prior to the consecration. They are never having contact with the consecrated gifts (other than to receive communion themselves). Children having these minor roles often feel a closer tie to the liturgy which remains with them to their adulthood.

    I will admit that in my church, after the liturgy, some parents do not supervise their children as well as they could and kids run around. Ideally, they should only be approaching the altar area accompanied by family who may be explaining things to them and teaching them reverence.

    Regarding funerals, for a true “funeral”, the body of the reposed does need to be present. There are sometimes occasions when a Memorial Mass is celebrated instead of the Liturgy of the Resurrection. In this case, the body need not be present.

    The latter was actually the case with my father. My father chose to be cremated and not have a formal funeral. My parents were in assisted living after returning to Minnesota and did not know the priest or more than a few parishioners of the church to which they belonged. No longer able to attend church, communion was brought to them. And so he had a small Memorial Mass. (BTW, I am not a fan of cremation, though the RCC permits it. I know that the Orthodox Church does not. I believe my parents made their decision out of humility and love, not wanting a lot of money spent or stress imposed on survivors when they passed. My father was a deeply religious man, having converted to Catholicism as a young adult.

    Some practices that are customary in one area or with one group may seem puzzling or even horrifying to another. But, even if we sometimes fail to understand each other, we can still love and respectfully have dialogue. I appreciate that you are raising questions in that tone.

  27. Thomas Avatar
    Thomas

    Dear DMA,

    The Greek term is Σύμβολον τῆς πίστεως (Symbolon tew pisteos / Symbol of Faith). The word σύμβολον could (can?) mean ‘token’. IIRC, it could refer to something physical which functioned like a ticket for admission (e.g. proving one had paid fare to be admitted on board a ship) and was used before the legalisation of Christianity for a traveller to show he was a Christian (and not a government informant!) to a community of Christians.

  28. Dee of St Herman's Avatar
    Dee of St Herman’s

    Thank you Thomas for your elaboration of the history of the Creed as it is currently used in the Roman Catholic Churches. Before your response, I had attempted to explore explanations of the distinctions in RC blog sites. But couldn’t find anything referencing the historical initiation of their Apostles’ Creed and why this was done but it was described as ‘ancient’ and by the adjective that was used suggested it might be prior to the Creed of the Orthodox. Again, I’m grateful for your detailed response. Because the Apostles’ Creed lacked obvious presentation of the Filioque, I initially interpreted was that this was perhaps a relatively recent attempt to gently ‘walk away’ from the problems with the history and use of their Roman Catholic Creed containing the Filioque. I sincerely believe that speaking “truth in love” as Fr Thomas Hopko of blessed memory used to say, is very important.

    Last, Mary Benton, I sorry to mention, but believe I have seen what Michael describes in RC masses as uploaded to “youtube”. But also, there seems to be RC outrage about this practice, as indicated in comments under these channels. I’m not inclined to give a link to them as it would be disrespectful to you or to others in the RC who might find it difficult. Also, I admit that I’m not well versed in the RC liturgical practices as can be seen in my comments. So perhaps I might have misunderstandings about what I saw in the internet. But given the comments by others who are RC, what I think I saw likely corroborates Michael’s observations.

    On aesthetics: once I was invited by my extended family who are RC to come to a wedding in Ireland. I’ve spent the bulk of my life not a believer in Christianity so the invitation was a unique opportunity to see family and Ireland and I accepted. The church was small, ancient and in a rural place in Northern Ireland. The service was beautiful to my eyes then (as a non-believer) and now. That was many years ago, and it is my hope that it hasn’t changed much (attempting to become ‘modern’) in the way they continue to conduct their services with sobriety and simplicity, and in my memory, beautiful and more similar to the Orthodox Liturgy than what I seen on the internet.

  29. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    After becoming Orthodox, I still sometimes viewed EWTN, a very conservative Catholic network. I remember well Mother Angelica. She was wonderful. I know that there are many, many Catholics who are distressed by some of the things they see happening on YouTube and elsewhere, as were conservative Episcopalians, many of whom placed themselves under, I believe, a conservative South American bishop. As I flip through channels I sometimes pause on the EWTN station and watch a mass from Alabama. It is done with great reverence and simplicity, referring, Dee, to what you observed in Ireland. Twenty years ago I attended a Tridentin mass in Latin, also very sober and reverent. So, yes, aberrant things may take place in masses (I once walked out of a charismatic mass after being told to stomp on the devil!). Reminded me of my childhood days in Pentecostalism. I feel for conservative Catholics here in the U.S. Some may feel as if they’re caught in a spiritual tsunami. Since I am not a student of such things nor a scholar, I can only relate anecdotally to what I’ve observed.

  30. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Mary Benton, the girls were in their early teens, in robes and had obvious training. However they did spend quite a bit more time in the position of the priest behind the altar, a simple table down stage center, than the priest. The actual original altar is still in this Church and is quite beautiful. To my eyes teen girls both prepared the altar by bringing up the bread and wine and placing them on the altar and took the Chalice and Patten off the altar afterwards. Maybe the priest had consumed the remaining gifts but it was still shocking to me. I cannot even find the right words. There was no sense of holiness. They were in places and doing activities that only a priest can do in the Orthodox Church.

    It is a rural church that shares a priest with two other small rural parishes rotating Sunday Masses. The priest, bless him, is originally from southeast Asia. There is also a gentleman in my parish, a friend, who used to serve there as priest before he became Orthodox. I have been there for two funerals and a wedding.

    My boss and his family have been members for generations and continue to be financial supporters.. They are ordinary Catholics except a very high proportion of the family are either priests or nuns. My boss is deeply troubled by Pope Francis. His solution for the moment is to not pay any attention to him. I can understand the reaction.

    My overwhelming feeling is a deep sadness. I expect much more from the RCC than I have ever seen something I found and continue to experience in the Orthodox Church. Your testimony and that of others gives me some hope that the reality is still in the RCC.

    Complicated. I see so many echos of what we used to have together that have been discarded by the RCC.

  31. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Michael B (& others),

    Thanks for making more clear what you saw. For all of us, what we see gets filtered through our brain’s way of sorting and interpreting information. Our brains naturally develop a lot of “shortcuts” to enable us to efficiently draw conclusions about what our senses perceive, rather than having to start from scratch with each new perception. So, you saw, perceived and drew conclusions in accord with your brain’s schemas. (That, BTW, is not meant as a criticism. It is a universal sort of thing among us humans.)

    In your statement that, “There was no sense of holiness,” it appears to me that this conclusion was based on your experience of how the holy is treated. Your experience in Orthodoxy and in your particular cultural venue leads to you say the bread and wine should not be brought to the altar by a teenage girl – that’s not showing it the holiness it should be shown (even though not yet consecrated and just bread and wine). From what you said, the teenage girl was not behaving in a disrespectful fashion. What was disturbing to you was that she was a teenage girl, standing in a certain place, doing a certain thing.

    Now, for me to see something like that – well, I probably wouldn’t even notice it – because I would see it as normal. And what I mean is that I would not experience that as a violation of the sense of the holy. (It would be inappropriate for an altar server to handle the vessels after the consecration, if they had not been first emptied and purified – but I think it is unlikely that this was the case.) Assuming there was nothing else awry in the liturgy, I may have had a strong sense of the holy in the same place where you experienced it as absent.

    How can this be? Isn’t the holy always holy?

    Of course it is. God is always holy. Jesus in the Eucharist is always holy. But that does not mean that everyone’s perceptions or judgments of holiness will be the same. An atheist who watches the Eucharistic celebration will most likely have no sense of the “holy” – not because the Eucharist has become any less holy but because he/she does not perceive the holiness – and may not even have a mental construct for that experience. A Protestant who watches the Eucharistic celebration may have a sense of the holy but not likely the same as a Catholic or Orthodox believer who believes this is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.

    For me, respectful teenage girls doing a limited task to assist the priest does not detract from my experience of the holy. For you, it apparently does. In some ways, I see this as being similar to a cultural difference. If I were to attend a Mass in Africa, for example, I might find much of the experience confusing or not matching my sense of the holy, even though the words and order of the Mass would be the same. The African song and dance that culturally surrounds their celebration might distract me (or maybe not!) – whereas it may enhance the sense of holy for the native celebrants. (BTW, the Catholic Church in Africa is more conservative that the Catholic Church in the US.)

    Certainly, the celebration of the Eucharist must always show the greatest respect for the sacredness of what is taking place, for the Sacrament. But cultures do differ in how they express this respect, even in our own country. Jesus encounters us as we are and enters our space – whether we are well-dressed in a grand Cathedral or shabbily dressed in a soup line – because He loves us enough to so humble Himself.

    I realize that my explanation may not change your feelings about it – but I appreciate the opportunity for dialogue.

  32. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Cultures do differ and the experience of the the Holy is somewhat subjective. But is not just in Orthodox environments that I have encountered the Holy. My father experienced on the high plains of eastern New Mexico and never stopped talking about it. Have seen it and the powwows of Plains tribes as they gather around the drum and sing prayers as the heart beat of the drum brings all together with creation and one another. In Protestant churches of varying denominations.

    There was a Catholic priest I met on a street corner in 1975 in Fargo, ND who was serving a female monestary there. He had been a priest for 50 years. He was imbued with it, full of light.

  33. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    So, I have come o the conxlusion, Mary that I not supposed to be on RC services any more. They are simply not a place for me which is not a commentary on the services so much as a recognition of who I am and where I am supposed to be.

    As always your comments are insiteful and helpful.

    Thank you.

  34. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    I think that is a reasonable conclusion, Michael. If attending RC services becomes a distraction or a hindrance to your prayer, best to not go to them, unless God directs you otherwise. (And I say that with no expectation that He will.)

    That may sound strange coming from a Catholic, but I say it in the same spirit as when I wrote that God told me I already have a home. I do not interpret that as a sign that there is anything wrong with being Orthodox. He has put me where He has put me and I need to listen and obey.

    May we all continue to open ourselves to the Holy and rejoice in His abundant gifts.

  35. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Michael and Mary have come to a conclusion!! And one of peace! Oh Amen….Glory to God!! You know, it’s bad when the times my thoughts are not occupied by some or another task, my mind eventually goes back to your comments (my “brain schema”?)! I couldn’t put it to rest, checking and rechecking the comment section. Is this crazy?! You guys give me hope, more than you think. Thank you.

  36. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Paula,
    You make me smile. 🙂 I obviously have the same affliction. Couldn’t put it to rest.

    I wrote more on my own blog today – took me most of the day. I’d like to share it with anyone who cares to read, if Fr. Stephen gives the OK. I do not purport to have written correct theology (I lay no claims on that). Rather it is about my personal journey through Catholicism and into also knowing and loving Orthodoxy.

    https://apricelessthing.com/2017/03/19/the-great-divide/

    Now, I think I can rest… 🙂

  37. Paula Avatar
    Paula

    Mary, a kindred spirit!
    I was wanting to ask you about your blog, thanks. I’ll check it out.

  38. Alex Volkov Avatar
    Alex Volkov

    Dear Mary Benton and Eric,

    I am sorry if I add more confusion or misunderstanding to the topic. It is not my intention to hurt you and your feelings. In my school years, I believed that in spite of all dogmatic differences, the separation between RCC and the EOC could be healed one day. Later, when I started to study the issue, I found out that the differences are too great and significant to be sorted out or simply neglected. We are not only divided by theology but also by spiritual life.

    Please check out the following lectures by Prof. Alexei Osipov. He may sound a bit harsh but that’s his job: to show the difference between Orthodox and Roman Catholic spiritual life.

    Why Orthodoxy is the True Faith

    “Frequently, I hear the following question: “Well, what distinguishes Catholicism from Orthodoxy. How are they in error? Don’t they simply constitute a different path to Christ?” On many occasions, I’ve seen that all I need to do is to bring out examples of a few Catholic mystics, and the inquirer will say, “Thank you, now everything is clear. Nothing else is needed…”

    http://www.stjohndc.org/en/orthodoxy-foundation/why-orthodoxy-true-faith-osipov-ai

    “Indeed, any Local Orthodox Church or non-Orthodox church can be judged by her saints. Tell me who your saints are and I will tell what your church is. Any church calls as saints only those who realized in their life the Christian ideal, as this Church understands it. That is why canonization of a certain saint is not only testimony of the Church about this Christian, who according to her judgment is worthy of the glory and suggested by her as an example to follow. It is at the same time a testimony of the Church about herself. By the saints we can best of all judge about the true or imaginary sanctity of the Church.

    I am going to give you a few examples to illustrate the idea of sanctity in the Catholic church…”

    http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/7174.htm

    “According to Saints Ignatius (Brianchaninov), Theophan the Recluse, and the Optina Elders, the famous book by Thomas à Kempis (fifteenth century) and much other Catholic, Protestant, and, of course, sectarian literature was written in states of Prelest. The reason for such an assessment becomes clear by the following examples.

    Please note that these examples are not presented with the intention of offending the sensibilities of devout Catholics, but rather to show the sharp contrast between these saints’ spiritual moods and practices and those of the Orthodox ascetics and saints. It is tragic that such practices are promoted as models for emulation, thereby leading a devout flock into dangerous spiritual delusion, and shutting the door against true Christian humility, sobriety, and repentance. Although other aspects of these people’s lives may be worthy of admiration, the dangerous lack of mistrust for spiritual phenomena is something any serious Christian must avoid…”

    http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/42352.htm

    If you would like to learn more about Orthodox spiritual life, I would recommend to start with these two books:

    1 “Christ Is in Our Midst: Letters from a Russian Monk” by Father John (Alexeev).

    2 “Letters to Spiritual Children” by Abbot Nikon (Vorobiev).

    God bless.

    In Christ,
    Alex

  39. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Alex,

    I appreciate your positive intentions but I have no interest in engaging in debate about who is the “One True Church”. Just taking a glance at one of your links, I see evidence of the “confirmation bias” of which Fr. Stephen just wrote. The representation of a Catholic saint was presented in order to find fault, rather than to understand.

    I have read over a dozen books on Orthodoxy and its saints, many of them having been recommended here. I have been reading this blog for nearly 5 years. I have attended vespers at an Orthodox Church as well as some East-West services in my local area. I am not saying that to claim expertise on Orthodoxy but to indicate that I am not unfamiliar with the spirituality of Orthodoxy.

    If you have found your home in Orthodoxy and it brings you to Christ, I am very happy for you. If you cannot feel something similar toward us Catholics, that is your battle to fight. For it is my fervent belief (and hope) that we will be sharing the eternal Kingdom of God.

    So let us begin now, despite our differences. Let us live our lives in love and fellowship. If you believe I am in error, please pray for me. Thank you again for your kind concern.

  40. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    To all,
    I think that the conversation viz Orthodoxy and Rome has said enough and draws us away from the original post after a while

  41. Dean Arnold Avatar

    Yeah, I agree. I never got an answer to my question about Adam and Eve doing liturgy in the Garden.

  42. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Dean,
    From a certain point of view, the Garden was indeed a Liturgy.

  43. Dean Arnold Avatar

    Can you expand on this? Do you think there was anything “formal” going on? Do you think they set aside time to “worship” God, while other times they were eating and gardening and walking and exploring?

    This isn’t a trick question. I think the notion, if on target, punches a real hole in the current “spiritual but not religious” mentality.

  44. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    The “point of view” that I mean would see every motion, movement, action and thought within the Garden as liturgy – and ideally, everything in our own lives as well.

    To imagine it as a Church service in a Garden, however, kind of trivializes the insight.

  45. Dean Arnold Avatar

    Yeah, that’s pretty much the spiritual but not religious angle.

  46. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes. It could be said and meant in a manner that was just that vapid. And yet, the nature of true existence as liturgy is still true and not vapid.

    I would suggest that many times, within the Divine Liturgy, we are not truly liturgizing. We fail to fulfill what we are about. I would also say that in everything we do, in thought, word and deed, we should be liturgizing. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col 3:23)

  47. Dean Arnold Avatar

    Yes, good answer. I like that, and it’s inspirational.

    It can be turned around the other way to mean “spiritual but not religious.” But so can most things.

    I was just fascinated by this one commentator/theologian’s assertion that liturgy was done in the garden. I think he meant something more formal (not sure), but there’s really nothing for him to base it on. But I guess you never know.

  48. Karen Avatar
    Karen

    It seems to me the formal Liturgy of the Church teaches us who we are in Christ and what it means to worship God. We need this special training and revelation because of the fall into spiritual blindness and sin. Adam & Eve in the Garden before the fall had unbroken Communion with God. Would they have needed the formal training of the Divine Liturgy as we know it to tell them how to walk every moment in thankfulness and self-offering and offering of all He gave them to God or would they have just done so instinctively?

    That said, wasn’t it mentioned here one (or some?) of the Fathers taught Creation and the Fall happened pretty much simultaneously, though it is presented in sequential story form in the Scriptures?

  49. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes. Frankly, I think that conceiving the Genesis account in historical terms reduces its teaching and its theological consideration. It places the “truth” within the historical, rather than that of which the historical is an icon. The Genesis account, I suggest, is an icon of the Creation and is best considered that way. Icons do very interesting things – with time, place, etc.

    As the Fathers said, “Icons do with color what Scripture does with words.”

  50. Alex Volkov Avatar
    Alex Volkov

    Mary Benton,

    Thank you for your kind reply.

    Please pray for me. And I will be praying for you.

    In Christ,
    Alex

  51. Jim Rentas Avatar
    Jim Rentas

    After perusing all of the comments made here I am again reminded of the wisdom of the blest St. Seraphim of Sarov who once stated, “I have never had to repent for silence”.

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Latest Comments

  1. Carlos, thanks for your reply. Even if the prayers are first person singular, they are for all of us to…

  2. Janine, Yes! I’ve read about the ancient corporate sense and its interpretive power in scripture, but I’m hesitant to apply…

  3. Kenneth, thanks for that reminder about John the Baptist. Carlos, I kind of think that we are confusing ancient forms…

  4. Janine, Thank you for replying! I understand what you’re saying about unworthiness and I totally agree, it is absolutely by…

  5. Father Stephen, Thank you for zeroing in on the shame and recommending your book. I look forward to reading it!


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