Friday, March 01, 2013

The Paradoxy of Orthodoxy

I have wrestled with the dilemma of being a dreamer, a visionary, a goal oriented purpose driven individual.

The dilemma exists in understanding my life in Christ in terms of my goals and purpose, perhaps even “my calling”, which OF COURSE (said with a tinge of sarcasm) are for Christ’s Sake……right?

This is sticky….I get it….I wrestle with this….but, I believe there lies something deeper that penetrates beyond the seemingly good intention, to the very core of our soul.

We long to fill what has often been called a “hole in our heart” with something. 

For those of us dreamers, I have become convinced that we seek to fill that “hole in our heart” not WITH Christ….(dramatic pause)….. but with Our Goals, Our Dreams, Our Purpose, Our Calling which we truly and sincerely believe we are doing FOR Christ.

If I have lost you….perhaps you don’t have this sickness, and thank God….if you are hanging with my struggle, than tarry a bit.

There is a message that has been acquired and thoroughly “Christianized” in our American Culture.  

Perhaps the following slogans summarize  it:

1    1. Be all that you can be
      2. Follow your Dreams
      3. Live a Purpose Driven Life
      4. Believe in Yourself 
      5. Make the World a Better Place

Please let me interject that the work ethic and discipline of those who strive towards such mantras is honorable and necessary….

But many of us dreamers have become strugglers.

We have begun to realize that the aspiration to “follow our dreams” is an insatiable appetite,  The need to pursue “my calling” an avaricious desire, and the need to “accomplish our goals” a 2 mile train that rolls over anything and anyone in its path.

“For, after all, you do grow up, you do outgrow your ideals, which turn to dust and ashes, which are shattered into fragments; and if you have no other life, you just have to build one up out of these fragments. And all the time your soul is craving and longing for something else. And in vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, raking them over as though they were a heap of cinders, looking in these cinders for some spark, however tiny, to fan it into a flame so as to warm his chilled blood by it and revive in it all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins, that drew tears from his eyes, and that so splendidly deceived him!” 

- Dostoevsky

And to those of us who struggle, we struggle because we long to be satisfied, and we can’t rest till we find satisfaction.  Something innately in us needs to keep searching and fighting because we know that there is more and something within us cannot rest.

So “like a dog to his vomit” we return again and again to our dreams, our goals, our vision, our calling,  to warm our “chilled blood” and find satisfaction……..and we exhaust ourselves only to find we’ve been deceived again.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
-          Proverbs 14:12 

The difficulty of the deception is equaled only by the paradoxy of the solution for we cannot simply wrap our minds around the solution.  

For the struggler, we need to “Know”, not just “Know About”, and therefore we must try again and again……..but there is a path that we don’t want to believe is true, because frankly, it means to give up control.

"The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, nor it is in man, but in God. By giving man freedom, God has yielded to man a piece of His Divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most perfect offering."

- St. Theophan the Recluse

We wander about lost and searching when all the time Life is offered to us…right here, right now, in the midst of this very moment.  In fact the only place we will ever find life and Life to the Full, is in this moment.

If St. Theophan is right, and I would say that he is right, then the path to life may just lead us to offer Our Dreams, Our Goals, Our Vision, Our Perceived Calling, Our Plans to God as…. “ a most perfect offering”. 
It goes against everything we have thought to be true, and yet if we can muster the courage to attempt this path we begin to develop a taste…. as taste developed by experience and patience, through hardship and rocky paths.  A taste hard to describe in words, and yet very real, and for the first time we are satisfied.

One of my favorite quotes from Fr. Thomas Hopko, was given at the commencement address he gave at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in May of 2007.  Speaking to the graduating seminary class he says;

in language befitting a commencement ceremony at an Orthodox graduate school of theology -- we come to see that true theologia is always stavrologia. And real orthodoxia is always paradoxia. And that there is no theosis without kenosis.

Theology is stavrology and Orthodoxy is paradoxy: the almighty God reveals Himself as an infinitely humble, totally self-emptying and absolutely ruthless and relentless lover of sinners. And men and women made in His image and likeness must be the same. Thus we come to see that as there is no resurrection without crucifixion, there is also no sanctification without suffering, no glorification without humiliation; no deification without degradation; and no life without death. We learn, in a word, the truth of the early Christian hymn recorded in Holy Scripture:

If we have died with him, we shall also live with him;
if we endure with him, we shall also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful -
for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2.11-13).

According to the Gospel, therefore, those who wish to be wise are constrained to be fools. Those who would be great become small. Those who would be first put themselves last. Those who rule, serve as slaves. Those who would be rich make themselves poor. Those who want to be strong become weak. And those who desire to find and fulfill themselves as persons deny and empty themselves for the sake of the Gospel. And, finally, and most important of all, those who want really to live have really to die.

Theologia (knowledge of God) is always Stavrologia (Knowledge of the Cross).  If we want to truly live….we must truly die….

And it is in this dying, that we strugglers become believers, because finally we “KNOW”

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
                                                Matthew 16:24

Friday, December 18, 2009

Memory Eternal - Archbishop Job

I feel as if I just lost a dear friend….perhaps a dear grandfather. Archbishop Job of Chicago, fell asleep in the Lord this morning.

I didn’t realize how dear this man was to me, but I feel as if a part of me has died with him. What a deep loss. He visited our parish just 10 months ago with all the Bishops of the OCA. Wyatt was able to serve with the Bishops, and I remember my heart just filled with joy upon seeing him here in Colorado at our parish. It was so good to visit with him afterward, and I felt as if it brought him joy to see us as well. I believe he made some kind comment about being glad we were happy in Colorado, but that it was a “loss to the Midwest”. I remember asking him to remember me and our family in his prayers, and he asked for us also to remember him in our prayers. What a joy and gift that day was to our family.

Archbishop Job was the first Orthodox clergy member I ever met, as he was teaching the catechism class at Holy Trinity Evangelical Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. The parish in Indianapolis was moving as a church into the Canonical church and Bishop Job at the time was doing a mass catechism for the entire parish. I was in the midst of my own conversion as well, and remember sitting in the back on the side room off the sanctuary listening intently to this white haired man in a black robe. I don’t remember much about what he taught at that time, but I do remember thinking that this man, truly, was a Man of God.

Upon moving to Greenville and beginning our long journey into the Orthodox Church, Archbishop Job helped us even while in Greenville. I was able to connect an old professor at Greenville College with Bishop Job, and the future Greenville College Bible and Culture Trips started visiting the Orthodox Cathedral and Bishop Job on their trip to Chicago. Following one of these trips, Bishop Job came down to Greenville, and taught one of Prof. Rick McPeak’s Religion Classes one night, and discussed iconography. I remember it was right after the return of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God to Russia, because Sdn. Joel Wilson was traveling with him at the time and brought the video to play for the class. Four students from that class as a result of their visit with Archbishop Job and his visit to the college, started attending the Readers services we held in our house during that time.

Over the course of the 7-8 years of knowing him, our face to face encounters were limited, but I had a deep connection with him…..and perhaps it wasn’t till today and hearing of his loss, that I realized how deep that connection really was. Sdn. Luke Beecham, whom spoke often with the Archbishop, would relay how the Archbishop would ask about our family, how we were doing, and assure us of his prayers. How the Archbishop remembered us, or even had the time to pray for us, I cannot fathom, but I am assured that it was through his prayers we were guided safely home.

What a great loss to our church. Selfishly…what a great loss to our family.

My busy and distracted life came to a screeching halt today. May we all be found sober and vigilant, ever expecting the coming of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ! May the Lord God strengthen our church, our clergy, and every one of us to pick up this great work of the Kingdom, for which the Archbishop so diligently gave his life.

Memory Eternal Archbishop Job!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Step 10 - On Slander

8. Fire and Water are incompatible; and so is judging others in one who wants to repent. If you see someone falling into sin at the very moment of his death, even then do not judge him, because the Divine judgement is hidden from men. Some have fallen openly into great sins, but they have done greater good deeds in secret; so their critics were tricked, getting smoke instead of the sun.

10. Hasty and severe judges of the sins of their neighbor fall into this passion because they have not yet attained to a thorough and constant remembrance and concern for their own sins. For if anyone could see his own vices accurately without the veil of self love, he would worry about no one else in this life, considering that he would not have time enough for mourning for himself, even though he were to see a whole River Jordan of tears streaming from his eyes. I have observed such mourning, and I did not find in it even a trace of calumny or criticism.

17. Do not Condemn, even if you see with your eyes, for they are often deceived.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Kingdom of Heaven Suffers Violence....

"I have seen men poor and needy in virtue, with words not clever but rather humble, vague and stumbling, call shamelessly and persistently from the depths of a desperate heart upon the Heavenly King, and by their violence force His inviolable nature and compassion."

St. John Climacus - The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The door of the Kingdom is already open

We are in the first week of Lent and these words from the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete that we celebrated last night are necessary for me. May we remain sober and vigilant....ever expecting! Enlighten my eyes oh Lord that I sleep not in death, lest mine enemies say, I have prevailed against him!

My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded. Awake, then, and be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere present and fills all things.

Seeing Christ's healing temple opened, and how health Streams from Him to Adam, the devil suffered and was stricken. Then he wailed as if in mortal danger and to his friends raised a bitter howl: what shall I do to the Son of Mary? The Bethlehemite is killing me, Who is everywhere present and fills all things.

Like coals of immaterial fire, burn my material passions, and kindle in me now, O Apostles, a longing for divine love.

Smash the passionate idols of my soul, as you smashed the temples and pillars of the enemy, O Apostles of the Lord, consecrated temples.

Christ became man and called to repentance robbers and harlots. Repent, my soul! The door of the Kingdom is already open, and the transformed pharisees, publicans and adulterers are seizing it ahead of you.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Beneficial to me?

"These tortures are very beneficial to me.  Just as wheat cannot arrive at the granary before it is cleansed from the chaff, so my soul cannot enter into paradise if my body is not humbled by tortures beforehand."

- The Holy Martyr Agatha (251)
   Commemorated February 5th

The path of descent is essential to the path of ascent.  One must go down in order to be raised up.  One must die in order that one might truly live.  One must embrace suffering as a fountain of life.  For it is Christ who revealed this path to us, and in so doing reveals the path of salvation to us if we have eyes to see.  When the urge to avoid pain arises we must walk into the fire, for it is in the fire that we are purified of our passions, and the scales slowly peel back from our blinded eyes and we are illumined to reality....the reality that Christ is in our Midst......He is and ever shall be!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Best Roads of All....

This song was the first song Friday played on my radio once we got the Ipod working in the Truck. It is mystically sweet how God orchestrates divine encounters . Given this day was the day of our departure down roads of the earth and roads of the spirit.....I thought this song says it best....Enjoy!

Child Of The Wind

I love the pounding of hooves
I love engines that roar
I love the wild music of waves on the shore
And the spiral perfection of a hawk when it soars
Love my sweet woman down to the core

There's roads and there's roads
And they call, can't you hear it?
Roads of the earth
And roads of the spirit
The best roads of all
Are the ones that aren't certain
One of those is where you'll find me
Till they drop the big curtain

Hear the wind moan
In the bright diamond sky
These mountains are waiting
Brown-green and dry
I'm too old for the term
But I'll use it anyway
I'll be a child of the wind
Till the end of my days

Little round planet
In a big universe
Sometimes it looks blessed
Sometimes it looks cursed
Depends on what you look at obviously
But even more it depends on the way that you see


Bruce Cockburn - (Tucson, December 24, 1989)