Archive for February 6th, 2007

Orthodox in the Southern World

February 6, 2007


I tend to think of myself as doing Orthodox mission work in the world of Appalachia. Geographically that is true, though much of the work I do with people are with folks who comes from somewhere other than the Appalachian region. My own roots are fairly shallow in Appalachia, though they are on the at least the fringes.

There is also the Southern aspect to mission. A culture that is steeped in contradictions. Hospitality and yet a history of slavery (I do not care to hear Southern justifications of slavery – my own family – on my mother’s side – were slave-owners and I do not seek to hear them justified). Slavery was wrong from every possible perspective – an abberation in Christianity and certainly laced with heresy.

Having said that, I love where I am from and I love its people. There is a native goodness in the places I have lived that have been a rich blessing in my life. But that has never left me free from criticism or complaint. The more you love and the more you live, the more you see and wish for something better. And the South could have been better.

But that is already a Southern way of thinking – to speak of what could have been.

More to the point as an Orthodox Christian is what could be. Anything could be. God can do and make many things possible. He has sustained me and my family in this region despite my deepest fears and misgivings.

But there are many things here that make Orthodoxy a natural. There is a reverence in some places for things that have gone before. This is a place that sings of “that Old time religion,” which Orthodoxy almost alone can claim with any sense of truth.

The South has a patience about it, an almost eschatological patience that makes Orthodoxy a hopeful proclamation.

This place loves the Bible, and nobody, but nobody, uses more of the Bible than the Orthodox.

There are deeper things, that will take many years to come to a place of real conversation. But the South has a love of nature. My parents, and all of their siblings and parents, were convinced that the natural world was so designed that there was a cure for everything if only you knew the right plant or mineral. The world of nature was good and meant to be used for good. This is an Orthodox instinct and a place where deep dialog can occur. Interestingly, no culture in the world is more deeply involved in herbal medicine than the Russian culture. My grandmother would have understood and been deeply interested.

The South has a great sense of the “lost cause.” Orthodoxy does not believe in a lost cause, but it does have a deep sense of the true cause having been delayed for a long time, and possibly not vindicated until judgement day.

There are many things that can be said about Southern culture and Orthodoxy, but the truth is that Southern culture is really only a subset of American culture which is a subset of the West. And if you dig long enough in the West you come to Orthodoxy. We were once here, in the work of St. Patrick, St. Columba, St. Brendan, St. Brigit, and so many others. My work as a missionary to the South is only an extention of a mission that began long ago, which also says I am not alone in this work. Great saints – among the greatest – prayed for the ancestors of the very people I now count as my flock. And they prayed for their descendants. And so we are here. We are here as an answer to prayer (I’m sure of it).

What a great long trek we have made to come to this place so that here we may enter into covenant with God and know Him even as we are known. This place is a holy place and our God is with us.

Again, Many Thanks

February 6, 2007


Again, I offer many thanks to the readers of “Glory to God for all Things.” We continue to average nearly 1,000 views per day, and the quality of comment is an inspiration to me.

Part of the software available to those who manage blogs gives them much information about what is going on “behind the scenes.” This blog is hosted by WordPress which is home to over 600,000 blogsites. Rarely does a day go by that you readers fail to place one of my articles in the top 100 articles of the day. This is deeply gratifying and says to me that I should continue to do what I do, and work hard to offer the sort of articles that have appeared on this site.

I am striving to create a place that feels welcoming and informative, not argumentative or too esoteric, but firmly grounded in the Orthodox faith. I would like a reader from any perspective to gain something from visiting this site. I have been privileged to have had articles here translated into Romanian, a very deeply gratifying event for me.

The treasurey of the Orthodox faith is not the discovery of modern Americans, but the legacy of centuries of martyrs who have died that we might have this faithful fullness of the gospel of Christ. I am but one of the grateful recipients of that legacy and can only give to you what was given to me.

Thank you again for reading. I ask your prayers for a priest and a writer who is subject to every possible limitation and grateful beyond desciption for the friends he has in this world and in the world to come.

God bless!

Mission to the Modern World

February 6, 2007


C.S. Lewis spoke of “men without chests” in his famous little book, The Abolition of Man. Without going into all he meant by that, I will suffice it to say that he saw many modern men who no longer felt about themselves and their world as men had generally felt through the ages. And here I should note, that would certainly be true for women as well.

One of the great missions of the Church in the modern world, is that in preaching the gospel of Christ, we are also preaching a gospel “of man,” meaning that Christ is not only perfect God, He is also perfect man. We have lost sight of ourselves and no longer know what it truly means to be a human being.

This is so fundamental. It probably represents the greatest battle of our age. You can tell that I’m hanging around my Archbishop (Vladyka Dmitri). He tirelessly reminds us that human dignity is under assault and can only be restored by preaching the fullness of the gospel as the Church has received it.

To become, as St. Irenaeus said, “a man fully alive,” is the proper result of accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who alone shows us what it truly means to be human.

I believe that this mission includes our own taking the Gospel seriously and becoming, “fully alive,” ourselves, that we may help others to enjoy this gift of grace from Christ.

Yesterday, I asked Fr. Michael Oleska, what he thought about ministering to people in the modern world who had lost their own culture, and were hostile to religion. He smiled, and noted that their children are rarely hostile to religion but usually turned to new age, Buddhism, or other philosophies, or became pagans – and then noted with a wry smile that Christianity has been ministering successfully to pagans for 2000 years. I might add that Western pagans (and their wannabes) do not know much about Orthodox interaction with paganism and should not jump the gun on us and accuse the Orthodox of the practices that were often used in the West to deal with paganism.

There is plenty of mission for us to do. No matter the state of the people to whom we minister. But it is good to be asking questions and thinking about these matters.


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