How Much Is Too Little? How Much Is Enough?

christsascension.jpg

One of the most pervasive rules in Christian believing is the Latin phrase, “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” usually rendered, “The Law of Praying is the Law of Believing.” It is a simple way of saying both that we believe what we pray (praying will inevitably bring about a conformity in believing), and that if something is to be preserved it must become part of the liturgical life. Time and history have largely born this out.

It has been a rule that concerns people who write or translate liturgies – and it has been a rule for those who helplessly watch as others write and translate liturgies. For it is simply the case, if the people do not pray it, in time they will cease to believe it.

This principle is linked in my mind to the question of what is needed in theology. What do we need to believe to actually confess the Christian faith? Are there elements, which if neglected, would bring about a change in the faith – possibly even a fatal change?

I believe the answer to this last question is quite clear: it is possible to leave certain elements aside with the result that what is left is no longer Christianity, however it may be disguised.

When I was studying systematic theology (I know, Orthodox Theology is rarely accused of being systematic), it was well understood that if something was not an integral part of the faith, it would soon enough become not a part of the faith. Doctrinal belief is like muscles in our body – if left unused, it atrophies.

I am convinced that for an increasing number of Christians, an increasing number of essential elements are no longer essential to what they believe – the result being the creation of increasingly new belief systems. These may still be described as Christianity, because they are religions centered around the figure of Jesus Christ, but are, in fact,  new belief systems.

I began to be convinced of this as I read the systematic theologies of others. The same conclusions can be reached by anecdotal evidence – speaking with various believers about what they think is important.

This morning, for instance, I celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Ascension of Christ (40 days after Easter). I was also aware that probably two, possibly three other Churches in my town were doing something similar. There is a Catholic Church and I’m sure there was at least one mass, if not more. There is an Episcopal Church, and it is possible, though not not necessarily the case, that there was a liturgy today or tonight. I would also think it possible that the feast was kept by one or two of our Lutheran congregations. What I have mentioned is indeed a minority in our Southern town. For most Christians, the Ascension of Christ will never be mentioned to them in a way that would make them think that the event was significant.

We had a number of conversations within my congregation (which is largely convert) back at the end of Holy Week and during the early parts of Pascha. Most of them admitted that it was not until they became Orthodox that they even realized that Christ descended to the dead when he died on the Cross. Some even told stories of having been in Bible studies when young, and, when reading the verses regarding Christ’s descent to the dead, were told, “We don’t know what these verses mean.” Needless to say in the churches these people had first acquired the Christian faith, it made no difference that Christ had descended into Hades.

I believe that there is a truncated version of Christianity that is moving towards a dominant position with our religion. It is simply the atonement – largely taught in the language of penal substitution, as the only important dogma of the faith. Thus to believe that “Christ died for our sins,” means anywhere and everywhere that he paid a price that we could not pray and that by trusting in Him we will be spared the punishments of Hell.

Everything else, if mentioned at all, is simply a corollary to that single thought. Thus (and I know this is extreme) some years back I had an argument with an Episcopal priest friend who said, “I would be much more comfortable with the doctrine of the resurrection if we could find the bones of Jesus.” He certainly believed that Christ had paid the price of his sins, and that through faith in Christ he would be saved. But the bodily resurrection of Jesus was not important to that theology and he found its primitive, literal quality to be a bit of a bother.

I warned you – it was an extreme case. Many if not most Christians believe that Christ was raised from the dead – but they increasingly do not know why, other than as a reassurance to us that we will be raised as well (Lazarus’ resurrection could have done as much). Indeed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is troublesome for many Christians who would rather prefer to believe in “Life after death, or eternal life.”

This same principle can also be applied to the sacraments of the Church. Many are the young couples who would say, “I don’t need a piece of paper declaring me to be married.” Joni Mitchell sang in her sweet warble, “We don’t need no piece of paper from the City Hall/ keeping us tied and true/my old man/ keeping away my blues …” The rate of illegitimacy for children in the black community exceeds 50% and draws closer to that mark in the white community. And this, of course, is only thinking about the sacrament of marriage.

The sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Baptism may soon be on the way out for many. Many Churches long ago reduced them to something done at a service other than Sunday morning, and then only four times a year. It is not a sacrament that seems integral to the story of salvation as that Church teaches. Never mind the fact that Christ said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.”

I spoke this week to someone who was joining one of the new “Anglican” Churches, I believe the one that is under an African Primate. I asked him about their communion teaching. “Do they practice open communion?” The answer was yes, with the addition that there was some sort of statement of what the Church believed and asked that only those who ascribed to that statement should receive communion. This, of course, is far more than is required in most Christian Churches today, despite the fact that closed communion was the normative practice of virtually every denomination of Christians until the late 1960’s.

Private Confession, long ago jettisoned by most Protestants, has become fairly rare for many within the Catholic Church. Lent as a season of fasting has atrophied beyond recognition.

Actually writing or summarizing the teaching of the Church in which all of the major events in the story of our salvation are given their proper weight is a minimal requirement if one is actually to be or become an Orthodox Christian. What is it about the Descent into Hades that is necessary to our salvation? What is it about the Resurrection that is essential to our salvation? What does the Ascension have to do with being saved (and it does)? What does the second and glorious coming of Christ have to do with our salvation? What does being born of a Virgin have to do with Christ’s saving of mankind?

In Orthodox understanding, all of these things are integral parts of Christ becoming what we are in order to make us what He is. The metaphor of the substitutionary atonement, though not unknown, is simply too thin and weak to bear the full weight of the story of our salvation. Christ became fully human, that we might have a share in His divinity. It was into the depths of our humanity that He descended when He entered the Virgin’s womb, having done no damage to the freedom that belongs to mankind. It was into the depths of our damnation that He descended, when, dying on the Cross, He entered Hades and loosed the bonds of the captives. Now there is no where we may go that He has not filled with Himself. It was still in glorified union with our humanity that He rose from the grave, having trampled down death by death. It is our humanity that he bore (“like a yoke” we sang last night) into the very heavens themselves and in that union sat our humanity down at the right hand of the Father.

These actions, all primary statements in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, not only provide a summary of the events in the life of Christ – they are the utterly essential elements of our salvation. As the Creed states: “…who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven…”

All that Christ did is and should be an integral part of any proper account of Christian salvation. They should thus be integral parts of the worship and prayer life of the Church. Where they have been relegated to some lesser status – there you may be sure that some essential part of our faith has been laid aside and remains in danger of ceasing to be part of the Christian faith – except for the fact that it will remain a part of Scripture.

Two years ago this was demonstrated in an embarrassing manner when a large number of Christian Churches in America closed their doors for Sunday worship in order to steer clear of conflict with the “family holiday” of Christmas.

There is no lowest common denominator of Christianity. There is no modest form of the faith around which we may gather. There is only the “faith, once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Anything less is either no longer Christian, or building a foundation for something that in time will not be Christian.

How much is too little? How much is enough? I consider that if Christ thought it necessary to do certain things and to give us certain things, it was because they were needed for the fullness of our salvation.

How much is too little – anything less than everything.

How much is enough – only everything.

52 Responses to “How Much Is Too Little? How Much Is Enough?”

  1. TB Says:

    A couple of months ago a member of my parish council was asking about the supposed discovery of the tombs of Jesus and his family in Jerusalem. He could not see why it mattered if Jesus had risen from the dead or not. Most of the parish council agreed with him, and one dear lady even warned that we do not want to be too literal about these kind of things. (Needless to say, this was not an Orthodox parish).

    It was quite a chilling moment for this priest. These dear people hope for eternal life, but they have no concept of the resurrection of Christ being related to that life. They do not believe that their bodies will be raised from the dead. And this is in a church which says the Creed Sunday after Sunday.

    Kyrie eleison.

  2. Michael Bauman Says:

    Embarsement, not wanting to be different, wanting to be liked, an appetite for minimalism plus the disadvantage of living in a culture that even as it lionizes individuality rewards homogeneity, but most of all the triumph of rationalism in matters of faith. For most Christians the goal is not to commune with God, but to think about Him so we end with the personalized, privatized, homoginized, desacralized, emotionalism/intellectualism that passes for Christianity. It does not seem to be a faith to live for let alone die for. Everytime we give away a part of the faith or compromise it, we dishonor not only the Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, we heap scorn on the saints and martyrs. “When the Son of Man Comes, shall He find faith on the earth?”

  3. Matt Says:

    Wow. Speaking truth to power, Father.

    Preach!

  4. Matthew N. Petersen Says:

    I have found “lex orandi, lex credendi” to be true in ways I would never have guessed.

    I was raised evangellical, with a bit of a Calvinist bent. And I was mostly Calvinist for a good while. But it is only now, praying “fountian of all holiness” that I truly believe Sola Christe. 🙂

  5. Theodora Elizabeth Says:

    Fr. – Are you sure the Catholic parishes in your town were celebrating Ascension today? Fairly common practice seems to be to move it to the Sunday after, the thinking being that more folks would attend Mass if it was on a Sunday.

  6. Living Deliberately » Ascension Says:

    […] the fullness of christianity, the fullness of any expression this human could ever aspire to? This is why. I missed today’s liturgy; didn’t know it was even happening in fact, so bad am I at […]

  7. fatherstephen Says:

    Living Deliberately,

    I cheat. I was in a liturgical church for 25 years before I was Orthodox – the difference is now when we dress up for a feast, it’s something we actually believe in. I delight in getting to learn all these things together.

    Someday, without even glancing at the calendar, you’ll wake up and say, “Wow, today is the Third-finding of the Holy Head of St. John the Baptist!” (there is such a feast). But long before that it will become as natural as it truly is.

    Theodora Elizabeth – what a lovely name. You’re right, I have no idea if they commemorated it on this day. God help us, our busy world is steamrolling everything ahead of it. But the reality remains, and by God’s grace we’ll be conformed to that reality.

  8. November In My Soul Says:

    Thank you Fr. For not only speaking truth to power but also speaking truth with love. For far too many of my Protestant years I walked around believing whatever the particular pastor at the time said. There was no context, no real teaching, no attempt to understand. Intead it was an attempt to fit eberything under the banner of,

    “….that “Christ died for our sins,” means anywhere and everywhere that he paid a price that we could not pray and that by trusting in Him we will be spared the punishments of Hell.”

    It was a threadbare spiritual existence.

    All of your posting are well written and extremely insightful but this one is really powerful. I will be sending it to my Protestant friends.

  9. Discipulus Says:

    I really appreciate this essay. It explains a lot.

  10. Discipulus Says:

    By the way, I was once told by a female priest that “if they found the bones of Jesus”, it wouldn’t change her faith. I found this annoying (and perplexing) at the time, but again, this essay casts that statement in a whole new light.

  11. titus2woman Says:

    Not to go off on a tangent, but will a Priest regularly hear the confessions of a Protestant? (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  12. Barnabas Powell Says:

    Father,

    This is actually one of the most chilling essays I’ve read of yours. Chilling in the sense that it goes to the heart of my own discomfort with modern American religion.

    I confess that this does overwhelm me at times and threatens despondency. What to do? How to repair this fatal wound?

    Of course, it doesn’t take long for the Lord to remind me that I, in fact, do not have the responcibility of fixing all this. My taks is to work out my own salvation, and in doing that work, I am providing a path for others to return to the fullness of the faith.

    Well, I may be rambling, but this was a good essay and I am going to keep a copy of it to refer to for other work.

    Thank you, father.

    Christ is ascended!

  13. kevinburt Says:

    Wow! Thanks for this entry. My wife and I never realized how theologically significant the Ascension was until Orthodoxy. Our backgrounds saw in it only a historical event, and I cannot recall a single theological gem that came from it, period.

    Then I read Schmemann, and the Ascension exploded with meaning. I am constantly stunned by the meanings contained within icons, and the icon of the Ascension is especially amazing.

    Fr., now that I’ve complimented this blog, don’t I get to request another post of my choosing??? 😀 Actually, we have been dealing with extended family issues over our conversion, and one of the objections is, “So what all do I have to believe?” I’d like to just say, “All of it!”, like you said, but to many of our family, this would be pointless. How do you recommend responding to Protestant family members who want to know, “So where can I go to see what Orthodox believe? What all do you have to believe?” My inclination is to tell them to just come and be part of it, but most of them won’t, or feel they can’t, until they “understand it better.” Your thoughts? Or those of anyone else?

  14. How much is too little? How much is enough? « into the light Says:

    […] much is too little? How much is enough? Published May 17th, 2007 Orthodoxy Another excellent post by Fr. Stephen […]

  15. Michael Bauman Says:

    Kevinburt says: …we have been dealing with extended family issues over our conversion, and one of the objections is, “So what all do I have to believe?” I’d like to just say, “All of it!”, like you said, but to many of our family, this would be pointless. How do you recommend responding to Protestant family members who want to know, “So where can I go to see what Orthodox believe? What all do you have to believe?” My inclination is to tell them to just come and be part of it, but most of them won’t, or feel they can’t, until they “understand it better.” Your thoughts? Or those of anyone else?

    A fascinating question that got me thinking back to my own approach to the Church. I still remember my sponsor telling me that the Church is an inexhaustible supply of spiritual riches that I would spend the rest of my life and beyond exploring if I so chose. I remember nodding my head as if I knew what he meant, politely and somewhat arrogantly, agreeing. Twenty years later, I am just beginning to find out a little of what he meant. No one believes it all because the Church is infinite, a toehold of the divine Persons in His Creation. Like Narnia, each person has his own entry point come upon suddenly, unexpectedly. However, there are six basics to being received by the Church: 1. Rejection of Satan and all His works which includes specific repentance from our own sins; 2. wanting to be united with Christ (our union with Christ is not just mental, or emotional or a “personal relationship” {whatever that means}, but is an interpenetration of our soul by Him); 3. acceptance of the teaching authority of the Church by renouncing all heresies ancient and modern; 4. being cleansed of sin by Baptism; 5. anointing by Chrism to receive the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit; 6. a public articulation of the faith by recitation of the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed of the 4th century.

    For me the uniting with Christ in all parts of my being and therefore with all of my brothers and sisters past, present and future who have taken the same step is the most precious to me. I do not know your friends and I did not come from a Protestant background so you will have to pray hard and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you in love but I offer these words as a possible starting point. Of course just going through the Creed is not bad, its all there. God bless you!

    Just a personal note that perhaps Father Stephen can comment on: The longer I am in the Church, the more I appreciate being received by Baptism and Chrismation and not just Chrismation alone. I understand some of the reasons behind not re-Baptising some, but I think it behooves us to perhaps encourage folks to participate fully in the initiation mysteries of the Church.

  16. Michael Bauman Says:

    Of course, Kevenburt, if you’re family and friends are really interested, my all time favorite book is The Incarnation by St. Athanasius. The introduction by C.S. Lewis is great and places the work in context. It is a book to treasure and read over and over again for each time you do, more will be revealed.

  17. Justina Says:

    Dear Fr. Stephen,

    Christ is in our midst!

    I thank God for your faithful commitment to “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

    After reading this blog entry I found the following in today’s reading in The Bible and the Holy Fathers.

    Archimandrite Justin Popovic’ writes:

    “The salvation-bearing and life-creating power of the Church of Christ is to be found in the eternally-living and omnipresent person of the God-man. Any replacing of the God-man with some man, and any selecting out of Christianity of only that which is reduced to man’s individual tast and intellect, transforms Christianity into a superficial and helpless humanism….The exceptional importance of Christianity for the human race consists in its life-creating and unchangeable God-manhood, by means of which it contemplates humanity in general, and leads it out of nothingness into the light of the Ultimate Being. Only by reason of its Divine-human power is Christianity the salt of the earth…If Christianity melts away into various forms of humanism, it loses its taste.”

    +Justina

  18. Weedon Says:

    Dear Father,

    That was indeed a glorious essay. Thank you.

    I serve a country Lutheran parish (literally out in the cornfields) and we did celebrate the Ascension yesterday. It is an important day to us – for it is the day that our humanity was raised to the heights that God created us for at the beginning and from which we fell but to which our Lord restored us. The words of the Ascension Day preface remain overflowing joy: “and in their sight was taken up into heaven that He might make us partakers of His divine life!”

    To my mind the scene at the end of *The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe* flashes to mind: those thrones prepared and waiting.

    A number of neighboring Lutheran parishes also celebrated the Feast yesterday; some I know will follow the American Roman Catholic practice and observe it this Sunday. But you are so right: it is a vital part of our faith and to lose it, is to be diminished from the fullness of our Lord’s gifts.

    Thanks again for the essay – and for your many thoughtful pieces!

  19. Alyssa Says:

    “Someday, without even glancing at the calendar, you’ll wake up and say, “Wow, today is the Third-finding of the Holy Head of St. John the Baptist!” (there is such a feast). But long before that it will become as natural as it truly is.”

    I look forward to this day! (BTW, this is my favorite quote of the week!!)

    Happy Feast!
    Alyssa Sophia

  20. Pseudo-Polymath » Blog Archive » Morning Highlights Says:

    […] Fr Stephen considers the crises of the truncation of  liturgy and faith at Glory to God for All Things. […]

  21. EYTYXOΣ Says:

    I attended the service for The Ascension of the Lord last night at a Western Rite (Antiochian) parish, my first such experience of the Orthodox Western Rite. The priest told me that except for the smaller number of people, it was basically the same Liturgy they serve on Sundays. No litanies. No recitation of the Psalms. No beatitudes. No doors, just an open “altar” which the priest and the deacon continually faced, kneeling at times and keeping their hands in the typical Western folded-together-for-prayer mode. No censing of the saints or the people (though the Missal indicated that there are times when they do use incense). Silver bells chimed at times. Organ. Pews. Fold-out kneeling bars. The Eucharist was served (including the epiclesis and other pre-communion prayers by the priest and the congregants) – a small disc/wafer dipped into the cup and placed by the priest onto the tongue in each kneeling-at-the-railing-in-front recipient’s mouth. I.e., unleavened bread and NOT a common loaf from which the Lamb had been cut. No “blessed bread” (though the missal/bulletin discussed it – i.e., if a person is given a piece, to know that it’s not the same as the communion bread, so I assume they do it at the Divine Liturgy).

    Was he correct – i.e., was what I saw and did what Western Rite Orthodox do for their Divine Liturgy? I naturally felt that I was at an Episcopal Church. (The priest, though, had been Eastern Rite for a number of years.)

    It seemed to me that so much of the “faith” – or what I’ve come to think of as the faith – had been left out, and in some ways (e.g., using unleavened wafers instead of the Lamb from the loaf) repudiated. Or maybe the Eucharist was peculiar to the Ascension feast and they do indeed use the regular Orthodox Eucharist on Sundays.

    But … if this is indeed Western Rite Orthodoxy, then I wonder what might be being lost or “Americanized” for such Orthodox Christians?

  22. Martha Says:

    Father, bless,

    Thank you for another insightful piece going to the core of what we are trying to do, follow Christ our True God. My turning point came when I could declare that this is not a fairy tale, this is Truth . . . and Church is not a social club, outlet for social action, or source of self esteem.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head re: modern Christian thought. Faith is subject to personal preferences; and “does it meet my needs?”

    Going through a family emergency, I was lucky to be near a Greek Orthodox church. Ducking into liturgy there, plus being revived by canonical online sites like goarch.org, brought my faith to life so I could assert “this is not a fairly tale.” Please pray for catachumens like me — there are so many needing prayer who are approaching the Church. Many thanks again.
    Humbly,
    Martha

  23. fatherstephen Says:

    Kevinburt:

    Michael gave a fairly good summary above. Our OCA practice in the Diocese of the South generally limits being received by Baptism on to those whose Baptism was defective. If a Bishop decides you’re to be received by Chrismation it’s all the same. My own feeling is I would have done whatever he asked me in order to reach the cup.

    Fr. Thomas Hopko’s “rainbow series” called The Orthodox Faith, is on my blogroll and is available online. It’s a perfect place to start. One can also read Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev’s The Mystery of the Fatih on line as well. It can be found at http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/10/1.aspx

    All of what I have written in this post may present the greatest challenge Christianity faces in our lifetime – because it appears to be Christian. More than that, those of us who are converts were raised in the shallow end of the pool for the most part. I think having our minds renewed such that the whole Christ becomes our life’s goal will be a serious struggle.

  24. This Side of the Pulpit » Blog Archive » Ascension & Minimalism Says:

    […] “How Much Is Too Little? How Much Is Enough?” […]

  25. Theron Mathis Says:

    Fr. Stephen, thank you for this. In my experience of the Protestant world, there is a sense that we should trim things down to the least common denominator. What is the minimal we need for salvation? As my own priest, loves to say “Orthodoxy is a maximal faith.” What is the maximum that I can participate in salvation.? I want to swim in it!

    I really believe that when most evangelicals speak of the Incarnation they are thinking of only Crucifixion and possibly the Resurrection. Although it seems to me that when the Fathers speak of the Incarnation, they are speaking of the totality of the experience of the God-man–from conception to sitting at the right hand of The Father.

    Thank you….btw, do we proclaim “Christ is Ascended!”

  26. fatherstephen Says:

    Theron,

    I am not familiar with it as a greeting – but I have heard greetings elsewhere in Orthodoxy that I was unfamiliar with as well. So…I don’t know.

  27. Fatherstephen Says:

    titus2woman,

    Because confession necessarily involves absolution, a sacrament of the Church, it cannot be given to any but the Orthodox. I have done Spiritual Direction with the non Orthodox and heard confessional type material, but could give no absolution, which is much less than ideal.

  28. Phil Says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time conversing with progressive Episcopalians who, to a person, tell me that Jesus included everyone and never told us we had to hold to certain beliefs to be saved. This is in the context of trying to explore what boundaries both sides in the Anglican wars might agree make up the Christian Faith. Their answer, practically speaking, is there are none. At the same time, they insist on their own doctrinal orthodoxy, to which I say one’s personal orthodoxy does the Church no good if one is unwilling to defend it.

    Fr. Stephen has expressed the same here, more elegantly. It is an incredibly powerful piece.

    And yet, the progressive question remains and is, in some sense, a good one. Jesus Himself did not propagate the Creed or insist on fidelity to it as something necessary to being a faithful Christian. He didn’t insist that His followers observe the Church’s calendar and its various feasts and fasts, or tell us, as the early Church certainly did, that new believers should observe a long catechumenate before being admitted to the Sacred Mysteries.

    Once one is committed to the path of hyper-Protestantism, as progressive Episcopalians, at least, are, this objection is difficult to answer; once, that is, one cuts oneself off from a belief in the Apostolic Church as Christ’s Body and the continuance of what He taught. Ironically, many of these progressives feign Anglo-Catholicism, but they are but the flipside of their opponents, teaching a mish-mash of Marcionism and sola scriptura.

  29. Jack Says:

    Dear Unintelligible Greek word,

    That sounds absolutely terrible.

  30. handmaidmaryleah Says:

    On Holy Theophany Fr. Joseph Hirsch stunned us all with “Christ is Baptized!” to which his folks at the Feast up on the Continental Divide replied, “In the Jordan!”
    We were all a bit confused, but the next time he did it we chimed in because it was a glorious day. I don’t think that is ever going to catch on outside of Fr. Joe’s church. That is what you might call a local tradition. But you never know…
    Thank you Fr. Stephen, this one is a keeper for sure.
    Our priest Fr. Anthony made a comment worth pondering yesterday. He said that most Christians in America live their Christian faith like they were Muslims. In Islam if you do certain things like pray 5 times facing east, fast at Ramadan, etc. & you are guranteed that God will do X for you. Christianity is not like that. Our faith is the foolishness of this world and the stumblingblock to the Jews and Greeks. We are supposed to lose our lives to gain it, turn the other cheek, flee from praise, seek humility, flee the world, love our enemies, etc. Are we living that Christianity or the worldy one?
    Christ is in our midst!
    the handmaid,
    Mary-Leah

  31. handmaidmaryleah Says:

    Yes, Dear Unintelligible Greek Word,
    I have heard the Western Rite referred to as, and forgive me any WR’ers out there: The Franken Rite. If this is what is going on, eeww.
    Christ is in our midst!
    the handmaid,
    Mary-Leah

  32. EYTYXOΣ Says:

    Jack Says:

    May 18th, 2007 at 11:45 am
    Dear Unintelligible Greek word,

    That sounds absolutely terrible.

    EYTYXOΣ = “Eutychus,” the young man who fell asleep with almost-tragic consequences when St. Paul went a bit overlong with his sermon. Acts 20:9 ;^)

    As for your comment, that’s why I wanted to know if it’s typical Western Rite, because I had mixed feelings about it, and I don’t think just because of unfamiliarity.

  33. fatherstephen Says:

    My understandings of the Western Rite is that it is largely the Anglican Missal plus a few things. I do know that those who are involved take it very seriously and are very aware of the size of the project to restore a working Western Rite. By the same token, the criticisms from other Orthodox are primarily with the efforts to restore something – it’s a very difficult if not impossible thing to do.

    I have never been to one, though I have met some very good priests who are in the Western Rite. I’ll let the Bishops be the judge of this.

  34. Michael Bauman Says:

    The Western Rite is based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, not the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Many bishops from St. Tikon on down have found it to be valuable and important. I must confess, I do not understand why anyone with any experience of the Byzantine Liturgies would want to worship in that form, but many folks do. I think part of it may be an economia for congregations which used to be Episcopal to make the transistion more quickly but I have not really studied the rationale behind it.

    What EYTYXOΣ experienced is what it is. Given the approbation of a long line of bishops which includes at least two saints, we ought to keep an open mind about it.

  35. George Says:

    Eutychus,

    I know of a variety of independent communities created around persons whose claims of priestly orders derive from Old Catholic lines of succession. From what I know of them they tend to an “Orthodox” (in the sense of appreciation for Eastern theology and traditions) Christology, liturgy, and sacramentalism, but hold to various opinions that are quite “Liberal” in certain particulars which are quite at odds with Christian Tradition. I haven’t researched it that deeply, but I’d suspect many of these communities are formed by people searching for solutions to current crises within Anglicanism.

    There is an Antiochian Catholic Church in the Knoxville area, for example, that has no canonical status with any other ecclesial body outside itself. This appears to be common with such groups.

    Thanks for allowing me to comment.

  36. Fatherstephen Says:

    George,

    I’m probably very judgmental about such groups – mostly because they do not see how particularly protestant their project is. Working to reinvent a century or some pristine model of the Church always was the Protestant model and generally has failed. Orthodoxy, which has plenty of faults, is what it claims to be – the Church through the ages. At least you can submit here and not have to reinvent things.

  37. Justin Says:

    Christ is Ascended!

    Fr. Stephen,

    I frequent an Orthodox message board that has people from various diocese. Most on those message boards use these greeting phrases, and those at their churches as well (from GOA to OCA or ROCOR). “Christ is Risen!” is used for Pascha (where the response is usually “Indeed, He is Risen!”) and until the Ascension (where the response is usually “From Earth to Heaven!” or “Indeed He is ascended!” or “And we with Him!”).

    I’ve only been exposed to these two so far, but I believe there are several others, of which I will find out about when those holy days come.

  38. Justin Says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    What a wonderful blog entry (as usual). At times I’ve thought of deciding to become Baptist again (as in believing their way–I still attend the family church when we go from time to time). It’d be easier, it’d please my family, etc. But this has dissuaded me from such. Thanks!

    God’s Peace,
    ~Justin Farr

  39. JMC Says:

    Father bless,

    An excellent article. I was planning (starting on Pentecost) to produce a blog that would go through the Liturgical calendar, describing the feasts, their importance, and also using a lectionary of Bible readings. I think using yearly cycle of Bible readings interprets Scripture much better than any other way. For example, early Genesis, read through Lent, transcends the debate on literalism vs. myth and becomes the story of OUR personal Fall from grace.

    I had in mind to do this in Chinese, as that’s where I am at the moment – but after reading your essay I realize that many English-speaking people could benefit too!

  40. Roland Says:

    Greetings on the Feast of the Third Finding of the Holy Head of St. John the Baptist!

  41. Roland Says:

    EYTYXOΣ,

    While the communion wafers used in Western Rite parishes have the same form as those used in the Catholic Church, they are actually leavened. (My former Anglo-Catholic parish also used leavened hosts.) As for reciting Psalms, if you show up in time for Matins or Vespers you will here a portion of the Psalter. Otherwise, it sounds like they were doing a scaled-down service, probably because not enough servers were available on a weekday.

    Theron,

    I am told that the Romanians say, “Christ is Ascended!” Unfortunately, the Romanian aficianados in my parish did not translate the response for me, so I don’t know the correct response.

  42. Fatherstephen Says:

    Last week, I heard the greeting: “The Lord has gone up with a shout!”

    And the response, “The Lord with the sound of the trumpet!”

    Just some responsorial psalmody.

  43. What do I have to Believe? « into the light Says:

    […] How much is too little?  How Much is Enough?  […]

  44. brianglass Says:

    I am an evangelical Christian. You have convinced me to investigate the teachings of Orthodoxy. Where should I start?

  45. fatherstephen Says:

    Brianglass:

    1. Fr. Thomas Hopko’s series on the Orthodox Faith, published by St. Vlad’s Seminary Press or available online on the OCA web site OCA.org
    2. Becoming Orthodox by Fr. Peter Gilquist. A short read that tells the story of 2000 Protestants who entered Orthodoxy as a group by in the 80’s but it covers many Protestant questions on a beginners level (don’t know if you need that or not).
    3. Timothy Ware (now Met. Kallistos Ware) little classic volume The Orthodox Church, published by Penguin.
    4. John Behr’s volumes on The Way to Nicaea, as well as his fine book The Mystery of Christ.

    Shall I go on?

  46. brianglass Says:

    Thanks. That will do for a good start!

  47. Mission and Worship - America and the Orthodox « Glory to God for All Things Says:

    […] If our culture is ever to wake up from its enthrallment to Mammon and enter seriously into the life God has prepared for us – I can see no vehicle other than Orthodoxy that is prepared to teach such an awakening in an embodied form. I have no idea what the future holds for our culture or for world culture. God alone knows that. But I do know that whatever the future holds, knowing God deeply and learning the practices proper to the Christian life will be more essential rather than less. “Dumbing down” our schools is not working for education – spiritually “dumbing down” Christianity cannot be good for us either. We do not need less – we need more – we need the fullness. Why ask for less? To read more on this last question see my article: How much is too little? How much is enough? […]

  48. brianglass Says:

    Father Stephen,

    I want to thank you for your blog. This is actually the post that started me on my journey to Orthodoxy. One of your parishioners posted a link to this post on her blog (sixredheads.com) and I followed it. I have been reading your blog off and on since then.

    I have been attending St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Naples Florida for almost a year now and my family and I plan to be Chrismated during this Pascha season.

    Continue doing what you are doing.

  49. fatherstephen Says:

    brianglass,
    Many thanks for your encouraging word. May God bless your journey and give you a joyous Pascha!

  50. brianglass Says:

    Father Stephen,

    It is coming up on a year since my family entered the Orthodox Church. I want to reaffirm your work on this blog. This blog played a fundamental role in my journey to Orthodoxy.

    I just moved to the San Francisco Bay area and will be attending St. Nicholas church in Saratoga. I spoke with Fr. Basil last night and told him this story and he wondered if you knew of your role in my conversion. This is me making sure you do.

    Keep doing what you are doing. It is worth every hour that you invest.

  51. fatherstephen Says:

    brianglass,
    Thank you for the word of encouragement. Fr. Basil is a very dear man and a good priest. Please give him my fraternal greetings. Glory to God!

  52. Chris Brown Says:

    A great article describing the current state of Christianity in the modern world.

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