Finding Your Place

Among the many things we desire, an important one is a “place to belong.” With the fragmentation of the extended family, and so much else, a growing number of people are becoming accutely aware that they do not “belong” anywhere. Our highly franchised suburban world often has the strange effect that places separated by miles (even states), all look the same, have the same stores, the same restaurants, and an overall sameness that only accentuates the sense of alienation in that it “looks the same” but is “not ours.”

I recall the first Christmas my family moved from Durham, NC to Oak Ridge, TN. My wife and I were Christmas shopping in the local Toys ‘R Us. We walked in the door with our list, and my wife directed me towards a particular aisle. I said, “How can you know where that toy is? We’ve never been in this store before.” She replied, “It’s the same as the one in Durham.” It was at that moment that I realized that moving 400 miles meant nothing. America is a franchise operation – everywhere you go, there you are. It works out to be the same as being nowhere.

The simple fact is that human beings innately need a place to belong, even though it is expressed in a vast range of ways. Its absence is one of the many factors that are making us increasingly sick (soul-sick). The Tradition of the Church is not silent in this matter.

The late-5th century writer of the Dionysian corpus coined the term “hierarchy” in his writings. Archbishop Alexander Golitzin notes that the word did not exist in writings that preceded Dionysius, “But then he coins it, and it’s everywhere!”1 In modern speech, hierarchy is a “vertical” term, describing a system of increasing authority. In Dionysius, it has a larger and broader meaning, describing the sense of “holy order” (which reflects the actual Greek). Indeed, according to Vladika Alexander, the term is pretty much synonymous with “liturgy” itself. The Liturgy has movement, actions, of bishops, priests, deacons, people, choir, readers, etc. All of them, in the reckoning of Dionysius, are ordered in a manner that reflects a heavenly order. It is Dionysius who first describes the nine “ranks” of angels. There is a very deep and discerning observation within the thought of Dionysius. Not only do human beings desire a “place,” the whole created universe desires a place – and the right place.

Dionysius (and later St. Maximus and others) pondered the meaning of the ordered universe reflected in the Liturgy. The ordering for him, was an understanding of the lower’s desire for the higher, and the higher’s love towards the lower. This vision is reflected in how the liturgy describes itself to us. As the priest and deacon bring the Holy Gifts out of the sanctuary (in order to bring them in again to the altar), the choir sings, “Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and who sing the thrice holy hymn, now lay aside all earthly cares…” There are other mentions of the angels in many of the silent prayers whispered by the priest. Quite prominently are the angels described by Isaiah in his vision of heaven. Surrounding the throne of God they ceaselessly cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of Your glory…” Thus, when we sing that hymn we specifically describe ourselves as having entered into that self-same heavenly Liturgy. That which is there, is now present here.

This would all be but a fanciful description of a Church service were it not the fact that the whole of the universe and our lives as well are seen and best described as a Liturgy. The counter-clockwise movements of the priest and altar party (going out the North Door and entering through the South) reflect the counter-clockwise movement of the earth itself (if looked at from the North axis). It is the path traced by the stars through the heavens (at least in an earth-centric description). As the earth orbits the Sun, so all things move around God. We follow the dance of the angels. That same dance is wonderfully repeated in weddings and ordinations. There, the same path is traced as we sing, “Rejoice, O Isaiah!”

The writings of Dionysius became extremely popular in both the East and the West. To some extent, the structures of medieval society and its feudalism, were a deeply flawed attempt to structure society in accordance with this vision. It is deeply flawed for the simple reason that structures cut both ways – either as oppressors or as liberators. Romantic tales of the medieval world often portray a false idealization, whereas its corruption and oppression had as much to do with its end as anything else that can be traced. The Reformation and its unintended consequences were, at the very least, a response to the evils and failings of the medieval synthesis.

The problem with all that, I think, is one of the baby and the bathwater. Democratic idealism and radical individualism were extremely effective in deconstructing what went before. They had no vision, however, for a world with “place.” It is easy to destroy a structure. It is an absolute work of grace to put something salutary in its place. In large part, modernity has defaulted to an “every man for himself” model of place – something which has failed to prevent oppressive structures of a modern cast.

Despite all of our modern protests, the need for appropriate and life-giging structure has not disappeared. There is no better name for this need than “hierarchy.” It is a divine or holy order that our hearts require. A great difficulty with this “order” is that it is better described as a dance than as a rigid building or framework. It is a movement in which there is freedom – point and counterpoint – giving and receiving – action and response. In truth, hierarchy (as envisioned and described by Dionysius) is love.

Marriage is an apt image for hiearchy – perhaps the first hierarchy ever given to human beings. We can abuse the notion that “man is the head of woman.” We fail (in our translations) to see St. Paul’s wordplay in that expression. Man is “head” because he is “source” (in the Adam story – Eve is taken from his side). He is not “head” as in “boss.” In Hebrew, head is “rosh,” as in the “source” or “beginning.” Thus Rosh Hashannah is the “head of the year,” its beginning or source. This is the background of St. Paul’s wordplay. He was not musing about some misogynist bureaucracy.

Think of parents. They are the source of their children. In dysfunctional families parents may imagine themselves to be lords and masters of their children. More properly, when all is well, they nurture their children as the very bones of their bones, flesh of their flesh, heart of their heart. Good parents sacrifice themselves for their children. That is the nature of love.

We long for a place to belong. I want relationships of sacrifice. I want to love with abandonment and be loved in return.

We live in a dessicated society where the medieval sythesis long ago perished, now replaced by incompetent servants of wealth and power and the diseased madness of political philosophies hatched from the brains of broken little men.

We were created to dance with God and the angels, to move in circles of meaning that renew and return us to the place we belong. There is a Liturgy in which all are, even now, participating. Angels and archangels, guardians, and the whole synaxis, watch over us, invisibly maintaining the structures of the universe and keeping open the paths that direct us to our place and to the homeland of paradise.

The Cross marks the way – for them – for us – for every created thing. Blessed be God!

Footnotes for this article

  1. An interesting lecture by Archbishop Alexander on Dionysius can be found in this Youtube video. He specifically addresses the notion of hierarchy.

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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65 responses to “Finding Your Place”

  1. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    “Not only do human beings desire a “place,” the whole created universe desires a place – and the right place.”
    Very timely and insightful.
    I pray God opens my eyes and heart to show me my “place!”

  2. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Heather,
    When I was publishing the article this morning, I wondered if I should have said more about “finding” the place…but the article was already long enough. So…in our discussions in the comments might be a place to expand on it.

    I key, I think, is two-fold. One is to know that there is such a thing as “place.” We actually belong here. We are not having to invent a place for ourselves. Second, is to pay attention to the function of desire and love. Dionysius points both towards the desire of the lower for the higher (we are drawn towards it), and the love of the higher for the lower. Our “place” (particularly if we recognize that “place” is ultimately a description of the heart) involves both. Modernity tends to be so democratic in its outlook that it denies the existence of a “higher.” This also has a way of destroying beauty. For example, if “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” then there isn’t any beauty at all – just a narcissitic fascination with ourselves.

    Liturgy calls us towards a higher beauty – to allow ourselves to be caught up in the wonder of it – to desire it.

    Our love for the lower (however that may manifest itself) is the care for others – a losing of self in the love of others – wonder in a direction for everything around us – creation itself.

    There is lots of room for fruitful meditation in this.

  3. Nancy A Holloway Avatar
    Nancy A Holloway

    So beautiful! I love the idea of dancing with God!!

  4. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    This is a very beautiful reflection, Father. Many thanks!

  5. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Fr. Stephen,
    So marvelous to hear when you say that the liturgy calls us to a higher beauty, to be caught up in the desire for it.
    We find our “place” in various sites, don’t we? I have often spoken with my wife of how I desire to be in liturgy, caught up even for a brief time into the heavenlies, than to be in any other place. I feel most whole there. My place is also with my beautiful wife of 57 years…a quite peaceful, wondrous place. Last night we celebrated our granddaughter’s 15th birthday with family. Another place of settling, rest. As the circle expands I could also include the home I feel with my brothers and sisters at church, one with them in spirit… with them entering the homeland of worship. And I could continue with relatives and friends. I am and have been so blessed in life. Everything I have described above is undeserved gift from God. As we enter into that place of rest with Him, into the heavenly hierarchy, our heart finds its true home. Thank you Father for your words.
    P.S. I could also write about how our consumerism has decimated small town America. But I’ll stop.

  6. Andrew Roberts Avatar
    Andrew Roberts

    We belong here and have our place; where God Himself came. I have for much of my life felt out of place, often spending a lot of time by myself; at times self imposed, at other times being avoided. Such is life😉.

    It also got me thinking about hierarchy, which all to often mirrors Egypt of times past; the pyramid system. One man at the top claiming all authority and power and all the various grades from top to bottom, with people knowing their place. How different is true hierarchy.

  7. Jordan Avatar
    Jordan

    When I read this, I find in myself a deep love and longing for hierarchy for the very reasons you describe – wanting a place. But I also find in myself a tendency to be subsumed in institutional structures and hierarchies – to let them “answer” for me on questions of identity and place in the world. Whereas I think I need to learn to recognize my own agency, and to take responsibility for my own response to Christ’s call.
    I only say this to observe a difficulty that I have, and I wonder if you encounter it in the souls that you care for. It is difficult because I agree with the assessment you give of the modern world – as trying to get rid of hierarchy, but only replacing one hierarchy with billions.

  8. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Coincidently, Father, I set up a writing assignment for my chemistry class. One student decided to use the metaphor of a dance to describe the behavior of water molecules. It was a joy to read.

    And this article was a joy to read. Thank you, Father! Sometimes such coincidences suggest that the Lord might be trying to tell me something. God willing that my heart and mind are open to His words.

  9. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Jordan,
    A very large thought in my mind when I think of modernity and what it does to souls (including those who have been in my care) is how “unnatural” it is. It was born of an ideology that was not itself based on any human experiment. It “sounded” good, but had no self understanding as to what might have been attractive in it. Much of our individualistic/democratic notion is supported by envy and wrestles with an unnamed and unrecognized shame. We try to build virtues where virtues cannot be built. Every failure only provokes us to work harder, digging the hole ever deeper.

    We do not ask the right questions. Those questions would concern beauty, as well as duty and obligation (out of love), and so much else, no doubt. We have disordered souls. Nonetheless, Christ, the Logos, is Himself the Order of all creation, and He is among us. He whispers to us all.

  10. J Avatar
    J

    I’ve struggled with “who I am” and “where do I fit” most of my life, and the only answer I’ve ever found is “at church”. Letting that answer stand for itself is difficult at times, but it’s the only practical answer I’ve ever had. Thank you for writing about it.

  11. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Fr. Stephen,

    Byron and I follow a blog called Granola Shotgun. He tracks how Americans live and work. One common observation he’s had many times is how malls and neighborhoods spring up all new and shiny, and then are abandoned 20 years later for the next new and shiny establishments.

    What I’ve pondered about this is why do people continually migrate from one place to the next like nomads. My conclusion was the same as yours but I broke it down into two pieces. The first is that, as you noted, all is the same. At the next town there will be an identical Walmart and McDonalds and everything ese I require to fulfill my “needs”.

    But the second conclusion is that my “needs” are generic. I don’t need you; I just need a priest. I don’t need John at the Starbucks; I just need a cup of coffee. I don’t need a neighborhood of trusted friends; I just need a group of houses that looks decently safe with a reputable school nearby.

    Now actually what I said about my needs isn’t true. Unbeknownst to me, I actually do need you and John and a group of trusted friends. I need to go to a place like Cheers where everyone knows my name and they’re always glad I came. But for some reason most of us have decided those true needs are too expensive or even a fairytale which we’ll never achieve. So let’s be realistic and just go with generic needs that we can easily fill at the next shiny place down the road.

    We say that and yet feel more hollow all the time because our heart does not agree. It was made for deep communion with God and neighbor and we end up getting more dehumanized all the time.

    I can’t put it into words well quite yet, but I think the answer lies in being willing to reach out and love, to put down roots, to get to know the local priest/grocer/plumber/neighbors in a way that it would hurt if we had to leave them. I think if you want to find your place, you have to stay in one place and make it home.

  12. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    The idea of the topos complements the ‘idea’ of hypostasis. There is no personhood apart from other persons. I would suggest that there is no ‘person’ apart from ‘place’. We are beings situated within a time and place. For better or worse, we are in continuity with ‘place’. Full hypostatic reality is also a topological reality. It cannot be separated from ‘place.’

  13. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    Father,
    As I reflect on liturgical practice and order and consider it a dance, I also reflect upon the relationship between the mind and the heart. I’ve heard it said that unless the mind descends into the heart, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see and experience God. Our culture seems to favor the mind over the heart, giving it a priority ‘of vision’ and direction or purpose. In the process, it seems to push away its capacity for a noetic life, to perceive the ‘thinness’ of this world and the concreteness of the spiritual realm, of the kingdom of God.

    I see the dance of the liturgy in this relationship between mind and heart. I do not take the mind as a source in itself, but rather the movement of the mind into the heart that is the origin of our communion with God.

    Dear Father, if I have misspoken, please correct me.

  14. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Drewster,
    A profound yes.

    I live in a town of 25,000. We’ve been here for 33 years. In that time, I’ve been the Episcopal Rector, a Hospice Chaplain, the Priest for the Orthodox Church, a now a retired priest. My kids all graduated here. I was in the Rotary Club. I helped found a Habitat for Humanity Chapter. I served as a board president for the Victim Offenders Reconciliation Program, and have done other things. But I’ve been very intentional about being here.

    My wife jokes about it. We were going by the pharmacy one day and she said, “Let’s go through the drive-through.” I told her that I’d rather go inside. She said, “But it will take you a half-hour!” I realized she was right. I know the people in my pharmacy. I have conversations with them – I know their names and they know mine. I’ve done that around town – I don’t go in every store, but, pretty much, wherever I go, I’m a “regular.” They know me at Waffle House!

    I believe that heaven is a small town – not because there are only a few there – but because everybody knows your name. To live anonymously (“namelessly”) is not to live at all. “Remember me, O Lord, when You come into Your kingdom.” It is striking to me that we know the name of the thief who spoke those words: St. Dismas.

    It is possible, by paying loving attention to others, to turn any place into a small town. To know and to be known. It has a place for you.

  15. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Dee,
    You are on point (as far as I can see). The instinct of Dionysius (and others as well) that the Liturgy is an icon of heaven – is a way of saying that this “pattern” is the very explanation of our existence. Having said that, the meditation can begin (and never end).

    CS Lewis’ image of the Great Dance in the novel, Perelandra, is one of the most expressive modern descriptions of this vision. It is wonderful.

  16. Jonathan McCormack Avatar
    Jonathan McCormack

    Paul Tournier, a brilliant Christian psychologist :

    “It is readily understandable that to be denied a place is to suffer a serious moral trauma. It is a sort of denial of one’s humanity.”

    Many psychologists list a place in society as one of the 7 things that protect against depression.

    Like millions of others, single, 44, and in a dead end job, it looks as though God has no place for me here, no real purpose, but during liturgy, at least, it does feel right.

  17. Brandi Avatar

    Father, thank you for this beautiful meditation. As always, your posts strike right to the heart and seem to give me more than enough to chew on … They are a feast.

    I have lived in small town West Texas my entire life. We moved a lot when I was growing up, from one dust-covered small town to the next. I was, and I think I always have been, plagued by that feeling of “not belonging” anywhere. Not just in what town or house, but what community? What school? What group? I think these questions directly created (at least for me), the giant crisis question of WELL, WHO AM I THEN, if I don’t “fit in” anywhere?

    Two things have helped me with that over the years: 1. Finding my True Home in Orthodoxy and all Her teachings, and 2. Seeking B/beauty.

    When I know I don’t fit in anywhere else in the world (and typing that makes me tear up), I know Who/Whose/Where I am when I look through my creation (and place in it) within the Church. I am so, so grateful for that. Unfit, but not ungrateful.

    And ironically, seeking beauty in the world calms all those anxious and lost feelings. Because where I find beauty (which is everywhere), I find God, and I’m reoriented to myself, if that makes sense.

    I’m reminded, too, of a saying of Abba Anthony about pleasing God, which I think also addresses these feelings of not belonging: ” Whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes. Whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures. Wherever you live, do not easily leave it.”

  18. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Jonathan,
    There are many things that happen in the course of history that can rob us of our sense of place. Modernity is filled with such. I thank God that the Liturgy supplies something of that for you.

    As for the rest – I think it is correct for us to view it as warfare. Frequently, we discover that we are prisoners of war, POW’s, held hostage in a setting that seeks to create a nameless, faceless, consumerist voice as an ersatz “place.” It is more pernicious, I think, than many dystopias found in novels. It is soul-injuring.

    God gives us grace in the Liturgy – and there is a Liturgy of the heart that goes on without end. May we learn to enter into it and abide.

  19. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Brandi,
    Thank you for that. For my readers, I’ll introduce you. Brandi is a writer and poet. Her book, A Long Walk with Mary, is a personal favorite for me. Thanks for dropping by and sharing!

  20. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    At 74 years of age I have only just begun to find my place. It is a blessing of working more diligently on repentance. A good deal of the early stages have been in beginning to recognize who I am not and by God’s Grace beginning yo let go of those false identities. I am blessed with a number of people in my life to know a number of people who appreciate and support that process.
    Then, of course, there are the Sacraments of the Church in which our Lord not only reveals Himself but also me to myself even as I resist. Preferring all to often the ersatz worldly notions of whom I should be all of which lead to tyranny.

    The more deeply I recognize that I am a sinner and call on His mercy, the more I beging to see myself. It enlarges my soul, reduces fear and allows for Joy and Thanksgiving in the midst of the existential difficulties of aging, mismanagement of resources and the physical entropy that sets in.
    In a sense it is starting to look as if my “place” has always been closer than hands and feet. Not dependent on any ideology or external reckoning at all.
    So I am more able to say: “This is the Day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
    Even in the midst of personal pain, uncertainty, loss and largely external trauma.
    In the thread on mimesis I wrote of my encounter with a young man who was living the Biblical commandment to honor our parents and living it with almost angelic joy. Not that long ago, I would not have approached him as I did. But in my new place I did and we both shared in God’s life more deeply because I did. A very small moment yet one uniquely mine that only I could do.
    Mt 4:17 proclaims not only where my place is but how to realize that place in very concrete, specific and living ways tailored to me.
    Glory to God for His Mercy

  21. Justin Avatar
    Justin

    As a kid, I tried to express this by saying “They’re trying to replace Grandpa and Grandma with a Big-Mac and a Coke.”
    Much later, interesting verbiage emerged. Corporations got themselves officially declared “persons” – and immediately ceased calling their employees by that term. The “Personnel” director / department became the “Human Resources” manager / department. [My blood ran cold when I first heard that phrase – an open and rather Orwellian adoption of the language of slavery.]
    At the same moment these fictitious “persons” began using this language ABOUT their “resources”, they began utilizing the language of belonging/place when speaking TO them: “Welcome to the XYZ Corp FAMILY of employees!” “Come join the ABC Corp FAMILY. Apply today!”
    Thank God that He has provided us a True place to belong – “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
    Glory to God for all things – even the sick culture in which we live.
    Personally, I can’t help but wonder if I would be seeking God so fervently were I not perpetually goaded into it by the nauseating anemia in which we abide.

  22. Leigh Frank Avatar
    Leigh Frank

    Fr Stephen,
    Thank you.
    My heart is broken as I read and meditate on what you have said. My husband died about 15 months ago after a long battle with cancer. I have said to my very dearest friend who is Orthodox and has trudged this long road with me, that I don’t know where I belong. I know in reality that I belong here where God has placed me, yet the grief of having lost my husband is like a tearing of my flesh, of my soul.
    I was raised in a high Episcopal church. I left it and entered a non-denominational church along with my husband. And now, I am in the process of leaving it and entering the Orthodox Church.
    I’m a catechumen and will be completing my classes very soon.
    I look to be lifted into the heavenly’s at Liturgy as one responder noted.
    I look to find my place in the Church.
    I believe I will experience my “place of belonging” more and more as I walk in the Orthodox way.
    Thank you. Your words are precious and give me so much to consider as I approach my faith that the Lord has revealed to me through you!
    God bless.

  23. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Justin … like it or not our hearts are just as anemic. At least mine is. The only difference is I have an inkling that I am sick and I am beginning to want the medicine a little. As it is Our Lord administers it gently or I would not be able to take it. I thank him for His mercy.

  24. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Leigh, having lost my spouse of 24 years in 2005, I know the emptiness, yet I also know that she is still with me in her prayers.

  25. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    “Much of our individualistic/democratic notion is supported by envy and wrestles with an unnamed and unrecognized shame. We try to build virtues where virtues cannot be built. Every failure only provokes us to work harder, digging the hole ever deeper.
    We do not ask the right questions. Those questions would concern beauty, as well as duty and obligation (out of love), and so much else, no doubt. We have disordered souls. Nonetheless, Christ, the Logos, is Himself the Order of all creation, and He is among us. He whispers to us all”
    Oh my!!!! Yes!!! That’s absolutely it!!Disordered souls!!! A life based on shame will never clearly see the Saviour! Never be able to see. the total magnificence of our Creator God! Never feel the sweet care of our precious Mother Mary or feel the presence of our guiding angels.
    Father how very sad that is!!!
    Just this morning I had a moment. I drove past a place I spent alot of time at as a preteen child. A God thought at the memory. It was a very clear memory. At 10 I was surrounded by so much religion. But I was so very lost to self to God to other people in my life.
    Now 51 years later I can see the effect of the utterly failed religiosity. Now I KNOW my God. I KNOW my YWHY!!!! And I KNOW He knows my name!
    Why, oh wh, did it take decades???

  26. Byron Avatar
    Byron

    Leigh Frank,

    God bless and hold you close as you enter the Church!

  27. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Heather, even though we block our selves from experiencing and living in community with Our Lord, His Mother, the saints and angels, they do not go away. Even in the midst of my denial at arguably the worst time of my life God showed me that even in the midst of darkness He and his love and forgiveness is constantly with me just as Scripture says “closer than hands and feet”. I do not deserve it in any way as I care more for satisfying my passions but He is there. Forgiving and healing and revealing hidden Joy.
    Lest you think too highly of me, it has all been a gift most of which remains unopened because of my stubborn and diseased will. No one else keeps me from Him. No piece of shaming and distracting culture. Just my own sins.
    51 years is but a small amount. I am at 74 and counting.
    Lord, forgive me a sinner. Bless us all with your mercy in all things even past our final earthly breath and bring us into your Kingdom.

  28. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Heather,
    Your comment on the lost decades reminded me of a conversation with my father. He became Orthodox at age 79. He said to me one day, “I feel like I wasted my whole life, only coming to the Church at age 79.” I told him, “Last time I checked, it only depended on how you finish the race.”

    Truth told, the whole of our life is a journey into the true faith. I was never a catechumen, for example. I had been in serious conversations with Archbishop Dmitri, of blessed memory, for 4 years prior to entering the Church. When my family and I were finally to be received, the priest receiving us asked the Archbishop, “What do I do? Do I make them catechumens or what?” Vladika replied, “No. Chrismate them. They’ve waited long enough.”

    I once told a group of inquiring Anglican priests that “I was born Orthodox…but I lived in schism from myself for 45 years.” That, I think, more accurately describes the truth of the matter. Properly, the entry into Orthodoxy is not joining a different Church – it is coming home – a return to and discovery of the true self. And then the journey continues.

  29. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Fr. Stephen,

    If I wanted to read some Dionysius, where would you suggest I start?

  30. Andrew Roberts Avatar
    Andrew Roberts

    This quote from sayings of Saint Sophrony, that Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos had collected, that he either heard personally, or had heard from others, has given much food for thought: ‘God did not create masters and slaves but sons in relation to a Father. All those who become sons of God by grace afterwards also become spiritual fathers of Christians.’

  31. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Leigh,
    My prayers are with you. Pray for my wife too as she battles lymphoma.
    Heather, it took 5 decades for me as well. May Christ continue blessing you with His love and mercy.
    I also bemoan the loss of unique small- town America, including my own. It provided a wonderful place of rootedness. My wife and I used to love traveling, getting off the highways, and visiting small towns. Many had a charm and beauty that is now forever gone, in large part because of Walmart and
    other like stores and franchises. As these proliferated on the town’s outskirts, the downtown was basically gutted. We had a beautiful town where I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. Downtown bustled with 2 locally owned pharmacies, 3 lumber yards, men’s and women’s clothing stores, dime-stores, a beautiful old library,
    a locally owned hardware store, etc. These are all gone now. My heart aches as I drive through what used to be our downtown. Well, enough of reminiscing. Alas, think I’ll go get a Big Mac! 😒

  32. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    Michael Bauman 💜
    May we live the rest of our lives richly in the abundant love of our Father God!
    Psalms 139
    Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
    8 if I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
    9 If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
    10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
    11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
    12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.
    All the years I thought I was far from God…I wasn’t.
    Being raised with super regilosity, without emphasis or education on relationship, fostered separation from God. And, a highly works based belief system taught fear not love. It’s very difficult for Love and fear to coexist. It’s very difficult to DO right when punishment and fear are motivators. It’s Easy to BE right when love motivates. I think that was the meaning behind Jesus’ words, ” my yoke is easy and my burden is light ”
    Bless you brother!
    We have the best yet to come!

  33. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    Father Stephen,
    Thank you for sharing your journey of faith! As we age it’s easy to look at the past with regret. But its not regret at all is it! It’s just many miles down the road. And Dean we have miles’s to go yet!
    May God continue to richly bless our journey!
    💜

  34. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Drewster,
    This is definitely a case where a secondary source if better than the primary. I began with Abp. Alexander Golitzin’s Mystagogy: A Monastic Reading of Dionysius Areopagita. Without such a guide, reading Dionysius is almost too difficult. He’s thick as can be, but Vladika Alexander’s work helps make it digestible. The book is essentially his dissertation from back in the day. He did his doctorate at Oxford under Met. Kallistos Ware and wrote his dissertation while living as a monk on Mt. Athos at Simonopetra. I know from private conversations with him (he’s my bishop) that his daily experience of life at Simonopetra, where Aemelianos was Abbot at the time, made Dionysius come alive for him. He himself was a professor of patristics at Marquetter for many years before being made a Bishop.

    I find it interesting, as well, that he’s Russian royalty. His grandfather was Prince Golitzin – a very old Russian family. He tells the story of visiting Russia as a bishop and being chided by a Russian priest, “You’re Russian royalty and you don’t speak Russian?” Abp. Alexander replied, “I’m real Russian royalty – I speak French!”

  35. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Heather,
    I would not be who I am had I arrived here by any other path. I often made wrong choices and gave evidence of character flaws – but God’s providence constantly wills us good and marvelously redeems even such things in our life. Only a firm trust in His providence (His good will working always through all things in our life) makes any sense of anything.

  36. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    Yes! His grace abounds!

  37. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Fr. Stephen,

    (grin) Yes, truth is often stranger than fiction. Thank you so much for the direction on reading.

  38. Margaret Avatar
    Margaret

    Thank you for your response/comment to Heather here, Fr. Stephen. I have agreed with your statement, copied it, posted it on Facebook, giving you credit. I so very much appreciate your ability to express: “I would not be who I am had I arrived here by any other path. I often made wrong choices and gave evidence of character flaws – but God’s providence constantly wills us good and marvelously redeems even such things in our life. Only a firm trust in His providence (His good will working always through all things in our life) makes any sense of anything.” You express so well what my heart knows and wants to be able to say, and wants to be able to live. Thank you.

  39. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    Margaret
    Father Stephen’s words are solace for the soul!

  40. Michaela Avatar
    Michaela

    Your words on marriage and parents in this is different from my background. It is so soothing–healing even–to read this. I crave this kind of nuance.

    I long to find evidence that God does not want me nameless and absorbed into others. To seek value and identity often feels like a crime. However, I’m learning (very slowly) that the answer is not being my own island. Paradoxically, our society’s desire for individualism leads to loss of self. You ache alone and when you can’t get proper mirroring, you lose the ability to nurture your soul. I can’t internalize love if we’re all too independent to give or if society expects my healing to be a completely private matter.

    I don’t know if I make sense half the time but I think I’m trying to say that I find such comfort in much of what you write. I’ve been to a Protestant seminary and have read great and wonderful books….yet Orthodox writing (much of it) has a comfort I have not found elsewhere.

  41. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    An idea I remember from Chesterton (“Orthodoxy”) is that Christianity does not seek the golden mean but the paradox of simultaneous opposites: fully God, fully Man; perfect justice *and* perfect mercy. I think the paradox you describe is part of that, Michaela.

    It is the mystery of love but one a parent understands in that we can love each child uniquely, yet call all of love by the same name. And each child, no matter their number, is part of the same family but also holds a unique place..

    Although we need to avoid the temptation of falling into self, nevertheless, God does value us as individuals–enough that we are told He knows the numbers of the hairs of our head. If such a superficial trait as our hair count is worthy of divine consideration, how much more those beautiful characteristics that reflect our individual personhood?

    If we are not uniquely and infinitely loved, the Parable of the Lost Sheep is irrational:

    “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

  42. Eric Avatar
    Eric

    This is a beautiful post Fr Stephen

    As someone who lives as far from ‘home’ as it is possible to do so – a Brit living in the land of the Kiwi – deracination is much on my mind. One thing the culture here seems to display is an insubstantiality, which I’ve always put down to the fact that everyone here is from somewhere else. Even Māori introduce themselves in terms of their ‘waka’ – canoe – as they remember that they too are what my home Northern English culture would call ‘off-comed’, or ‘not from round here.

    The Modern Project seems intent on turning everywhere into nowhere. In this respect ‘heirarchy’ is seen as purely negative, the young are thought to be as wise as the old for example. In the end everything becomes grey, lacking soul, for the soul has no home.

    I wonder if Identity politics and all the dark heat around such things is part of the fruit of this homelessness? Not knowing where we are, our identity seems most fragile and must be defended at all costs. Of course Individualism says we are who we are wherever we are.

    On a lighter note, living on the underside of the world, viewed from the North, I did wonder if the Orthodox in these parts enter at the North door 🙂

    Blessings of Advent

  43. Michaela Avatar
    Michaela

    Mark,

    That was such a great reply. Very comforting. I found your recognition of simultaneous opposites profound.

    Thank you for the reminder about how intimately we are known. Beautiful.

  44. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Eric,
    I thought of you when I mentioned the counter-clockwise thing. To the best of my knowledge, upside-down Orthodox still go in a counter-clockwise direction in your part of the world. I think the answer (I making it up, but it sounds brilliant) is that liturgically, we’re all in Jerusalem.

  45. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Heather,
    Psalm 139 in the KJV is truly beautiful. I really like the first 6 verses:
    “O lord, thou hast searched me , and known me.
    Thou knowest my downsittting and mine uprising, and art acquainted with all my ways.
    For there is not a word in my tongue , but, lo, O Lord thou knowest it altogether
    Thou has beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”

    He knows my heart better than I do and still calls me to himself regardless of my sins. Every time He reveals a bit more, I have a foretaste of hell and repentance is the only way out and into the Kingdom. Even knowing that I do it poorly. Lord help us all.

    Michela, I wonder if the paradoxes Mark challenges us with, indeed the Chrisitan Faith challenges us with are really opposites.

    The three persons in one God for instance. The longer I am in the Church I find that my real identity is only found in the community as a whole which includes my fellow Orthodox as well as all of the Heavenly beings. My real identity is somehow revealed initially in my Chrismation. The rest takes most people, including me, their whole life. In my late wife’s case I am convinced that it was only revealed to her on her death bed while in a comma. That also is the paradox of perfect justice is perfect mercy.

    My repentance is not just about me but about those I have sinned against and with too. If that were not so, it could easily become and exercise in narcissism: “Lord, I bet you haven’t seen as big a sinner as I am. Heal THIS!” Maybe not that directly, but in attitude.

    Indeed, all of the Sacraments of the Church, assume and/or bestow on me oneness with Christ our Lord. Oneness with Him requires oneness (eventually) with others as well and it works both ways. My sins effect everyone else, as does my honest repentance. My identity is not as a separate being but as one in many because He is one in many.

    Just a thought. If I am wrong, I pray that Fr. Stephen correct me.

  46. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    Michael I believe we are absolutely one. One with God ..one with man. Our failures effect others but so does our love and kindness. Is it possible the suffering we feel is in reality the very suffering of our Lord? When we grieve over our loved ones, either far from God or wracked with illness , is even that suffering the Father Gods sorrow ?
    I was on my way home from work at a very busy intersection. An elderly man was at the corner watching watching carefully to cross. People are nuts…so self absorbed so unseeing
    I was ready to park my car right at the intersection and help him walk with his walker.
    He started carefully to make his way painstakingly. Whew he made it across! I felt such grief and relief all of a sudden for the stranger. I started to weep for him. Big crocodile tears streaming down. That was I think an example of my sorrow but hugely Gods sorrow as well. He was a stranger to me. But the spirit welled up in me. I prayed for him. I am now praying for him. That has effect.

  47. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    I like what Simon said above about the integration of topography, about the connection between the person, hypostasis, and place.

    For various reasons, I often feel out of place, belonging nowhere, especially under circumstances I cannot name in public.

    Father mentions that we’re all in Jerusalem. There is true beauty in such a place. May God grant that we all live there.

  48. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I wrote to a friend of mine today on his blog that “We are never alone” It is Satan’s work that I believed I was until very recently. Through the gift of His Mercy I am slowly beginning to recognize and repent and forgive of that wrong belief. It has begun to enlarge my heart. For what it is worth my wife and I offer prayers for all on this blog every day, some by screen name. Even as I do not know specifics, Jesus does. I certainly need all I can get. Thank you one and all to each of your contributions.

  49. Heather Criscione Avatar
    Heather Criscione

    Michael…prayers your way!

  50. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Heather, thank you.

    I did not come to the Church by any of the typical means these days. I came to the Church because many friends and my brother were investigating Her. There was an Orthodox Church just a few blocks from where my wife and I lived and I had passed by it for six years when in elementary school and never knew it was Orthodox nor what it meant had I known.

    I went one Sunday. As the priest went down the aisle right passed me, suddenly the Chalice started to glow with light a light that got brighter as he approached the altar. When I first entered, the icon of The Thetokos with her outstretched arms blew me away. Such a sense of welcome I cannot to this day adequtely describe.

    Those encounters convinced me to remain faithful to Him in the Church even though the priest who carried the gifts that day, catechised my wife and I and who Sacramentally blessed us to become of the Church was completely faithless in his personal life and whose actions against us made it necessary to transfer to the other Orthodox Church in town which later became The Cathedral for his Grace Bp Basil. Thank God there was a second parish with a young priest at the time who is still there 29 years later.

    I could not have gone to a non-Orthodox place of worship but my participation would be Sunday only and a Confession so unrevealing as to be meaningless if he had stayed.

    I learned early that as helpful and necessary faithful priests are absolutely necessary,, like my current one and Fr. Stephan , and many others including my brother, Jesus Himself is the measure. They do not make the Sacraments make them real, indeed it is the other way around and that is wonderful.
    The first time I met Fr. Stephen, that was obvious (forgive me Father). Same with my parish priest. It took a little longer with my brother because of my own issues.

    God is Great and Christ is ever with us. There is no greater Joy than to enter into His Body by grace and into repentance by His mercy. … and I just have a footstep over the threshold. God’s Mercy will always be with me and it would of been with my first priest but he never got that I am afraid. May our Lord’s mercy be with him even now and we shall meet again in The Kingdom.

  51. Leigh Frank Avatar
    Leigh Frank

    Dean,
    I am praying for your wife.
    Thank you to Michael as well for your kind thoughts.

  52. Chris S Avatar
    Chris S

    Thank you for all your light and effort

    It appears that the word “our” should be removed from this sentence ‘This vision is reflected in how our the liturgy describes itself to us.’

  53. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Fr. Freeman,

    All boils down to two hierarchies, of life or death.

    I think this is why the whole Divine Council worldview of the Bible, since it is a hierarchy, is crucial to our imagination. Everything has its place in the Council. God interacts with the Council/hierarchy. Knowing your place in it gives a path to fulfilling purpose.

    I was thinking last night about the breakdown in society/hierarchy. Most people who study the Reformation and Evangelicalism, its child, realize the crisis that exists in it, is a crisis of authority. There is no functional equivalent of authority because defining “Christian” so broadly (Evangelicals debate continuously over what Evangelical means) ruins any notion of objective, especially when Baptism is part of the debate. But the same thing has happened in society, and the Reformation is likely to blame, though it would have been unintentional. When authority stops with you, you become a sort of monad.

    Fr., I won’t go on too long, but my gut/heart have been telling me that this has all led to a pantheistic/monistic worldview. All reality collapses into one mind/will in the end. All hierarchies dissolve into you. And you are left to figure out your place by invention. Quite the challenge. No one takes it up truly (almost never) because they are sold constantly a vision/marketed a vision of distraction. “Be yourself!” “What the heck does that mean?” “It means you buy the stuff and do the things we tell you to buy in order that you are distracted from the fatalism we have concocted to make you spend your life’s energy buying unsatisfying bread.” “Be happy being you, and being you, means buying and doing whatever makes you our slave.”

    The crisis of authority in the Christian world leads to crisis of authority everywhere else eventually. I can’t help but side in one sense with an anti-ecumenical attitude, because the desire of orgs like the WCC, is to essentially destroy the authority of the Church, and that authority, the hierarchies, actually give meaning to people, and without them, people are forced to invent meaning – but they don’t actually do this though they think they’re original – they buy into another authority and find an identity in it, almost always on the basis of individual (outside the hierarchy) freedom (from the hierarchy) never really realizing you have just switched hierarchies (you’re not original and you’re not an individual and you’re not free – in the new hierarchy). All boils down to two hierarchies of life or death.

    Thanks,
    Matthew Lyon

  54. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Matthew,
    I generally agree. I want to take care, though, to allow “hierarchies” to have as broad a meaning as Dionysius gives it, and not just the sense of “authorities.” That latter meaning is part of it, and it was certainly undone in the unintended consequences of the Reformation.

    I took care in the article to note that the medieval synthesis had a great deal of rot in its applications (a good history of the 14th-15th century will reveal this). Bearing that in mind can keep us from simply demonizing the Reformation as if that were the core problem.

    A great deal of the modern “problem” is a “humpty dumpty” thing. You cannot just reform modernity with a better model in mind. The disruption of the medieval synthesis resulted in a shattering of culture. Individualism is a matter of billions of pieces. Every effort to create a synthesis since then is an exercise in oppression.

    As such, we can speak among ourselves as believers, as Orthodox believers, who have freely assembled ourselves and given acknowledgement to the place of the fullness of the Christian tradition. We can talk about how we should live (speaking gently to one another). We can offer ourselves to God for His purposes.

    We have no idea whether God wills that there should ever again be a Christian synthesis in the general culture – and it is wrong for us to assume that it is automatically the case (as so many do). There is a great deal of “modernity” in such a notion.

    It is always no more than the question, “How should we then live?” Nor should we despair and weep for the loss of the synthesis. I cannot fathom the purpose of God’s providence in ever having allowed such a thing to be destroyed – but He did. What we can do, as I said earlier, is to offer ourselves to God, with thanksgiving for all things, and determine to live in accordance with the commandments of Christ in the eucharistic fellowship of the Church – that we might “do all such good works as He has prepared for us to walk in” (as the Anglican BCP borrowing the phrase from St. Paul said).

    And pray.

  55. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Heather,

    “Now 51 years later I can see the effect of the utterly failed religiosity. Now I KNOW my God. I KNOW my YWHY!!!! And I KNOW He knows my name!
    Why, oh wh, did it take decades???”

    This feeling/awareness, that false depictions of God actually disable or handicap the mind/body/soul, is at the heart of my preoccupation with theology. The doctrines that lead to this, keeping in mind our own propensity to self-autonomy, if they are not rooted out of the imagination, will leave us living with an “utterly failed religiosity.” Hierarchy, as it involves multiple levels of willing/wills, that interact with God synergistically, is one correction to the dogma of monergism (that God’s will is ultimately the only will in town) and to pantheism (because the hierarchy is never, ever, equivalent with God but exists as the creation of Christ). Hierarchies make for distinctions. Distinctions are good because they allow us to come into union. They are not meant to be divisive, but to allow for communion and union. The union of a husband and wife is an ideal. It would not be ideal if both parties lost their identities in the other, that’s actually a mental disease/disabling (it occurred to me now, that to dis-able something, means to take away its ability/abilities, and that this is the desire of Satan, to dis-able our will). The union, while retaining the distinctions, is ideal. This is at the heart of Christology. If the hypostasis/coming together in union, of the eternal Divine Son, with the body, dissolved or amalgamated into a thing where the distinctions were gone, we would not have the Jesus we know. But the distinctions (in God and in us) can only go away (in my mind) in two ways, reduce everything to God’s will (the hierarchies then make no sense, distinctions are meaningless, and in essence this is deterministic Christianity and every other sort of monergistic system like Islam), or reduce everything to one thing, like in pantheistic religion. In both, the idea of a free Creation from Nothing, is negated. Put back hierarchy, which is Biblical, Traditional, literally everywhere you look, and synergism, the will, finding your place in the order of things, is back on the table, touches the imagination, motivates a new, not-a-failure religion, based on the glorious greatness of the love of God in Christ.

    And this is why the Bible, our Tradition, takes seriously what you do with your body, because the body is the expressive capacity of the will/mind/heart in the hierarchy for good, in union with God and man for good – this is the ideal – the not-ideal, handicapped-heart version, is unholy union which is really just union with something that is going to enslave you and later kill you. Freedom for good is inherent in the structure of reality when Christ, the “radiance of the glory of God”, creates you. The enemy seeks to steal, kill, destroy. I think those words were meant to be seen as a progression: take, exterminate, annihilate. Take your purpose in the hierarchy, move you into the labor camps, exhaust you and kill you, then annihilate all of us. Sound familiar culturally?

    Fr. Freeman, I thank you that, I catch myself regularly writing or talking and I’m about to say something like “… exists as the creation of God”, and then I switch it to Christ. An actual switch in my imagination takes place from somewhat vague to specific, really from pure mind to the embodied mind/soul of Christ.

    Sorry if I went on too long!

  56. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Fr. Freeman,

    Thank you for your response.

    “We have no idea whether God wills that there should ever again be a Christian synthesis in the general culture – and it is wrong for us to assume that it is automatically the case (as so many do). There is a great deal of “modernity” in such a notion.”

    Yes, I have no clue. I can see it from several angles. One, is that the propensity to turn the synthesis into a Babel is always there. Two, God has allowed free-will. Three, Christians aren’t up for the task. Four, our modern imagination assumes the synthesis is impossible, that secularism is normal. Five, that free will doesn’t work the same when people are given the illusion that nominal Christianity is as good as the real thing. Six, that this was all sort of laid out in the Bible and we are heading for the wrapping up of history.

    I could keep going. I just see that it is also a modern tendency to assume secularism with some religious freedom is as good as a properly functioning Christian state if there ever was one (and even then, I’m colored by secularism). The modernity I think, of the desire for a Christian synthesis, is the pride some might have which would lead to dystopia. But on the other hand, is it pride to assume that the synthesis is impossible? When does humility with Providence turn into fatalism/deep pessimism under Providence? I don’t think I have the gall to answer that.

    But as it relates to authority, “God gave” Ephesians 4. It could just as easily say God gave hierarchical authority structure – though that is a bit dry – so that we would live in union with Him and each other.

    11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

    It’s all the things/reasons/goals God has for us, that is the loving reason He gives the hierarchical structure. If He gives for this reason, to supply the means, then when the means are gone, the reason (rationale, purpose, teleology) also goes away or changes such that it goes away. And this is darn near complete I’m sad to say, at least here.

  57. Simon Avatar
    Simon

    We can speak among ourselves as believers, as Orthodox believers, who have freely assembled ourselves and given acknowledgement to the place of the fullness of the Christian tradition. We can talk about how we should live (speaking gently to one another). We can offer ourselves to God for His purposes…with thanksgiving for all things, and determine to live in accordance with the commandments of Christ in the eucharistic fellowship of the Church.

    I like when a lot is said with few words.

  58. Drewster2000 Avatar
    Drewster2000

    Matthew,

    For what it’s worth, I’ve seen you grow a lot since you started commenting on this blog. Finding a place to be heard and learning to be concise in your thoughts have certainly been two reasons for this. Keep up the good work – and by that I mean doing the work as well as allowing God to work in you.

    He is so good, drewster

  59. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Fr. Freeman,

    But, I should have added, yes, we know what to do in the meantime: live in and for Christ. That is gladdening to the heart because, I’m not sure where I first heard this quote, “The only hope we have is the only hope we’ve ever had.” Christ is the same, yesterday, today, forever.

  60. Matthew Lyon Avatar
    Matthew Lyon

    Drewster,

    Thanks for your kind words. He is!

  61. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Matthew,
    Indeed. It is tragically comic, I think, that many Evangelicals think about creating a Christian culture in that they have unwittingly been as much a part of deconstructing the last one that existed. Indeed, they have heartily deconstructed evangelical denominations rather willy-nilly. I do not say that to beat up on them – only to note that evangelicalism is sort of the leading edge of Christian modernity (they do not know that). Many of their tendencies have infected other Christians, including Orthodoxy to some degree. There are, no doubt, some bad actors among bishops, but those who seem to major in attacking hierarchs are themselves channeling the zeitgeist of modernity. Of course, it’s always done in the name of something holy…

    A healthy, daily dose of the Orthodox doctrine of divine providence is as good a tonic as I can think of to counter such nonsense in our heads.

  62. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Matthew I am somewhat of a reductionist so please forgive me in advance.

    Modernity in all its forms has at its heart the myth of progress. That myth assumes, even in its Christialn forms, mankind is in charge and any change is good because it is “progressive” while any objection to change is narrow minded and regressive.
    The myth is heretical and can assume the forms of radical individualism OR ideological tyranny (such as communism) and lots of other forms.
    Frequently they seem to be pitted against each other both philosophically and politically. They are not.
    Eph 4 that you refer identifies the core problem: the lack of love and communion.
    The Holy Trinity reveals the perfection of communion in love. The Incarnation brought us into that. The true Kingdom. As Jesus Himself said “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand ” (Mt 4:17)
    Repentance and communion are dynamic processes in which we communicate with God and God with us in many ways directly and indirectly. It is never static but real progress is not of this world nor is it linear.

    One thing the Reformation got mostly right is that each of us has a unique relationship with God through our Incarnate Lord and Savior. The Roman Church had mostly forgotten that.
    What they both misunderstand, though, is communion with God is neither a one way street, nor fixed (once saved, always saved for instance).
    The other wrong way is to assume that a ridgid hierarchy based on the “correct” principals and belief will always be correct.

    But even a correct theology as The Church has must be entered into and lived out in each person’s life. Not just intellectually agreed with. The Fathers of the Church make that abundantly clear as do the best of our current bishops and priests.
    Forgive me, a sinner and may our Lord bless all of your endeavors to bring you into greater ontological union with Him and those around you.
    God is good.

  63. Eric Avatar
    Eric

    Thank you, Father Stephen for remembering me
    Your made up answer was brilliant 🙂
    Blessings

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