On judgement…

Once on Mount Athos there was a monk who lived in Karyes. He drank and got drunk every day and was the cause of scandal to the pilgrims. Eventually he died and this relieved some of the faithful who went on to tell Elder Paisios that they were delighted that this huge problem was finally solved.

Father Paisios answered them that he knew about the death of the monk, after seeing the entire battalion of angels who came to collect his soul. The pilgrims were amazed and some protested and tried to explain to the Elder of whom they were talking about, thinking that the Elder did not understand.

Elder Paisios explained to them: “This particular monk was born in Asia Minor, shortly before the destruction by the Turks when they gathered all the boys. So as not to take him from their parents, they would take him with them to the reaping, and so he wouldn’t cry, they just put raki* into his milk in order for him to sleep. Therefore he grew up as an alcoholic. There he found an elder and said to him that he was an alcoholic. The elder told him to do prostrations and prayers every night and beg the Panagia to help him to reduce by one the glasses he drank.

After a year he managed with struggle and repentance to make the 20 glasses he drank into 19 glasses. The struggle continued over the years and he reached 2-3 glasses, with which he would still get drunk.”

The world for years saw an alcoholic monk who scandalized the pilgrims, but God saw a fighter who fought a long struggle to reduce his passion.

Without knowing what each one is trying to do, what right do we have to judge his effort? (Source)

* Raki is a Turkish unsweetened, anise-flavored hard alcoholic drink that is popular in Turkey, Greece, Albania, Serbia, and other Balkan countries as an apéritif.

I thought this was an excellent parable on judgement.





C.S. Lewis Quote

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”  – C.S. Lewis

The second feeling, unfortunately, seems all too common.




Praying to the Saints is something that a lot of people, mainly in the modern evangelical church, take issue with although it is something the Church has been doing for a long time.  I think the main reason it seems offensive to people who arent familiar with the practice is because of the word ‘prayer.’  Prayer is viewed as something that should be directed toward God and only God.  I wont say that I disagree with that.

I think it makes a lot more sense when we say we are ‘asking the Saints to pray for/with us’ rather than saying we are ‘praying to the Saints.’  Of course, this raises a whole new issue.  If the Saints are dead, can they even hear us?  In my experience, this is the next criticism after we get past the word ‘prayer.’  How do we know that these deceased Saints can hear us?  The following quote pretty much hits the nail on the head in my opinion.

What healthy, natural body does not have communion with itself?  If I hit my left thumb with a hammer, my right hand will come immediately to it’s aide.  The rest of my body tenses for a moment to limit any jarring of the injured member by reckless motion.  Even feet will step gingerly in sympathy with the injury.  My eyes will scan to see the extent of the damage, if any, and my mouth may even provide some temporary comfort until the throbbing lessens.  And all this attention and care is directed by my head.  A body is one in nature.  It is one in the Spirit as well.  The Scriptures say that the Church is the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). It says the Body is joined in the Spirt by that “which every joint supplieth.” (Eph. 4:16 KJV)  So, can members of this Body not be able to assist other members of the same Body?  Does death have the power to sunder the Body of Christ?  No, it does not.

We ask our family, friends, priest, or pastor to pray for/with us, but we take issue with asking Saints who came before us simply because they are no longer on this earth with us.  Are we not still one body?  We seem believe that there is ‘power in numbers’ when it comes to prayer, so we want to have as many people praying as possible.  Why not have some of the most faithful Christians ever who are currently in the presence of God pray for us as well?

I would argue that nothing can separate us from the Body of Christ.

Not even death.

This is one of those issues that I have always had a hard time wrapping my head around.  This is sort of a hot topic in the Orthodox/Catholic/Reformed debates, and it seems that its the choice of words/imagery that make this confusing.  I was reading a discussion about this on a forum over at OrthodoxChristianity.net and I thought one of the guys on there did a good job at explaining the Orthodox view on it.  He was responding to a discusion between these two reformed thinkers:

Person 1: 

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”  (Colossians 2:13-15) Couldnt these verses be supporting the idea that Jesus was punished on the cross for our sins?

Person 2: 

Yes. As well as Isaiah 52 – 53 and a whole host of other scriptures.  He is the good shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep. He redeems us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. The righteous suffered for the unrighteous. 

The guy I mentioned responded with this:

Person 3: 

Yes, there is substitution. He takes the place for us. He is the sacrificial lamb. His perfection and righteousness goes in place of our sinfulness. 

What is in dispute is whether or not there is a penal satisfaction, meaning that somehow God had to be healed of His anger. We can speak of God’s anger against us in a sense, but not absolutely, as God requires no healing. He is complete and perfect. Rather we are the ones that require healing, and as we are healed, then our position towards God is rectified. Instead of moving against God’s presence in a way that destroys us, like something coming into the earth’s atmosphere can burn it up if the resistance is too great, we move seamlessly into His infinite presence. Also think of diving into the water versus doing a belly-flop. I hope you get my meaning.Anyway,

God is unchanging. So properly speaking, there is a change in us, not in God. That’s the whole difference in the way we talk about it versus many Reformed thinkers. The Son didn’t die to help the Father stop being pissed off at us. Then it’s the Son saving us from the Father instead of from sin, death, and the Accuser.There’s too much of a confusion of terms here: penal, satisfaction, substitution, atonement, blah blah blah. Here is something very specific that Orthodoxy teaches against, and that is the teaching that the Son somehow affects a change in the Father; that we must be saved from the Father.

Thoughts on this?

(If you care to read the entire discussion, you can read it here.)

Eucharist: Part II

For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about the different views of The Eucharist and was trying to better understand the different positions.  Anyone care to discuss it? (I know 2 or 3 people who might chime in…)

How about the Catholic view of Transubstantiation?  How about the more Lutheran view of “Real Presence”?  How about the more modern Protestant view of it just being a symbol, or ordinance, we do from time to time?  What about the Orthodox view of it being a mystery, and however God achieves that mystery is of no concern to us?

One thing that I have been thinking about is this:  How can so many people today take so many things completely literally in scripture, usually ignoring some or all of the culture and context it was written, but they have a hard time taking Matthew 26:26-28 literally?

Could it be that the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Christ once it has been consecrated, like the majority of Christians believe?  Maybe I am missing something, and if I am, feel free to let me know!

I’m not trying to start any arguments, or say that anyone is right or wrong.  Just felt like trying to have a discussion since I havent updated in a while.





The journey toward Orthodoxy has been a comforting one, and a rather difficult one. There is a peace that comes with knowing that this original Church has this rich history of tradition on its side, but there are certain elements of that tradition that are very uncomfortable at first.  Its either because they don’t fit in to my comfortable American culture, or because they are so different than the Protestant environments that I grew up in.

After listening to/reading about dozens of conversion stories, one thing seems to be very consistent.  Everybody has trouble with the Church’s view of Mary, or the Theotokos.  This has certainly been difficult for me too.  While its common knowledge that they dont worship her, some of the things that are said during liturgy are difficult for me.  One thing in particular was when they say “Mary, save us.”  I’m not going to take the time to defend the Church’s position because you are perfectly capable of doing the homework yourself if you want to.  For starters, read 1st Corinthians 9:22 or Romans 11:14 to see similar language. (And if my word means anything to you, I have come to understand this better.  I am sure that nothing heretical is going on. That doesnt mean that it isnt still difficult.)

One thing I have had to remember is that the Orthodox Church was not founded in America.  We have to be careful about viewing it through the lenses of our American culture.  Just like every country or region has its own culture, the same can be said for the Church itself.  This is a 2,000 year old tradition, founded on the other side of the world, that has remained largely unchanged. (Other than the obvious changes: parishes now have running water, electricity, etc.) When something in the liturgy sounds offensive or “wrong” to you, remember that it was not written for English speaking Protestants that would exist 1500-2000 years in the future.  We have to break down the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic/Whatever words to better understand it.  Again, I’m not going to take the time to do that here.

Another example is when you see people in an Orthodox church kneel before and kiss an icon of Christ, Mary, or a saint.  When we view this through the lenses of our culture, it may look like they are worshipping something or someone they shouldnt be.  Again, this is not the case.  In Japanese culture, does bowing mean worship?  If it did, then everyone in Japan would be worshipping everyone they meet.  In their culture, it is a greeting and a form of respect.  Its a way to humble yourself in front of somebody. This is similar to how it is viewed in the culture of the Church.

All that aside, I asked myself “Who am I to walk into this 2,000 year old, unchanged tradition and determine what is right and what is wrong? Is it wrong simply because its different than what I’m used to? Is it wrong because I am ignorant and havent taken the time to understand it?” You may simply just disagree with it, and thats fine with me.  I think I say something like this in every post, but I think its important to be familiar with the history and tradition of the very Foundation of our lives.

I’m still working on this myself.

P.S. I went ahead and did some homework for you.  Here is a VERY short read that may help understand some of the “Mary” stuff.

So I havent updated in forever because I dont know what to write about.  So rather than write about my thoughts or studies, I will share this documentary I just watched.  The whole thing is less than half an hour, so take the time to check it out. Feel free to share your thoughts afterwards.  I’d love to read them!