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lori
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« on: December 26, 2008, 06:57:16 PM »

Hello out there! I'm a Roman Catholic turned Protestant considering Orthodoxy.  I'm reading and studying and praying that I will recognize the truth.  Most things I learn about Orthodoxy make a lot of sense to me.  However, there are a couple of things I am really struggling to reconcile in my head.  The first is the prayers to the saints the second is the apparent "legality" of some things.  One example, is fasting it seems really legalistic.  Like you can't eat meat from this time till that time, unless it's on a feast day and then it's only fish.  You can't eat dairy on certain days, except for on some festival that seemed to involve cheese.  I'm really not trying to make light of the Orthodox traditions...at all.  I just feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place as I believe God did set up a physical church on earth, but did He really intend for it to invlove all the "rules and regulations"?  I say this knowing well that I have been involved in "come as you are", "freestyle", God doesn't care how you worship just so you do "religion" for the last 20 years.  It's just really hard to know what to believe anymore
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2008, 07:49:21 PM »

Hello out there! I'm a Roman Catholic turned Protestant considering Orthodoxy.  I'm reading and studying and praying that I will recognize the truth.  Most things I learn about Orthodoxy make a lot of sense to me.  However, there are a couple of things I am really struggling to reconcile in my head.  The first is the prayers to the saints the second is the apparent "legality" of some things.  One example, is fasting it seems really legalistic.  Like you can't eat meat from this time till that time, unless it's on a feast day and then it's only fish.  You can't eat dairy on certain days, except for on some festival that seemed to involve cheese.  I'm really not trying to make light of the Orthodox traditions...at all.  I just feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place as I believe God did set up a physical church on earth, but did He really intend for it to invlove all the "rules and regulations"?  I say this knowing well that I have been involved in "come as you are", "freestyle", God doesn't care how you worship just so you do "religion" for the last 20 years.  It's just really hard to know what to believe anymore

Hi Lori!  Smiley

In a society where the choices for picking a religion can sometimes be as numerous as brands of cereal to buy, I can understand how it can be a bit overwhelming. The Orthodox Church, with all of her history and traditions can also seem a bit overwhelming at times, even for those of us who have been a member since they were born! So if it's any comfort at all, you are not alone!  Grin

Before diving into your questions specifically, I would like to encourage you to take a step back. One of the blessings of the internet is that there is a lot of information out there. One of the curses of the internet is that there is a lot of information out there, and it sometimes doesn't make a lot of sense when it is not put in the correct context.  Smiley

This is true for Orthodoxy.

If you're in North America, I would really encourage you to go to http://orthodoxyinamerica.org/ to find a local Orthodox parish near you. Check out their website, go to the services, and start to get to the know the priest. He will be the best source of information you could ever hope for, even if you decide that Orthodoxy is not for you. The priest has spent years in seminary, and knows this stuff backwards and forwards. Also, he can address your questions in relation to your particular situation in life.

Now to your questions.

In regards to prayers to the saints. In Orthodoxy, we believe that the soul lives on forever, and that a person's soul can hear and see us after they die. The gospel of James tells us that "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16) The people who the Church regard as "Saints" are people that have fought the good fight and walked in the way of the Lord before us. They are role models to us. So when we "pray" to them, we are not worshipping them. We are asking them to intercede for us on our behalf. Now before you say "but we only have one mediator, and that is Christ." You are correct. But just as it is normal for you to ask friends and members of your church to pray for you in times of need, so to do we ask the saints to pray for us.

In regards to fasting, just as Christ fasted for forty days in the desert before beginning His ministry, so too do we fast during the year. The Church has set up specific guidelines as to how we are to fast. The key word here is "guidelines." For although they may be the eventual goal, or the standard we hope to reach, due to different physical or spiritual needs your particular fast may differ from that of another Orthodox Christian. Fasting is something that is to be discussed with one's Spiritual Father, and he will "prescribe" the right fast that is right for you.

For you see, the Church is our Spiritual Hospital. Just as you go to a Medical Doctor to prescribe treatments for your physical ailments, you go to the Church and your priest or Spiritual Father for a "prescription" for your spiritual ailments.

The Church is far from legalistic, and understands that just as our Lord is a God of grace and mercy, so too is His Church.

Finally, you had mentioned that coming from a "come as you are/freestyle" background, that you don't think that God cares about how we "do religion." In reading the Bible, we see that God does care very much.

In the Old Testament, God gave the Jews very specific instructions on how to build the temple, what the priests vestments are to look like, what kind of incense was to be burned, and how the temple was to be decorated. In the New Testament, the Apostles did not abandon the traditions they had been taught in Judaism, but rather built upon them, fulfilling the law with Christ. They continued to worship in the temple, maintaining the liturgical form of worship that had started in Judaism. Also, they continued to have ordained members of the clergy (Acts 6:6 describes the ordination of the first deacons of the Church) just as they did in Judaism.

Remember, Christ didn't come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. (Matt 5:17) This means that we don't just throw out all that has been given to us in the Old Testament, but we build upon it. Do we keep a Kosher diet? No. (Acts 10:15 explains why.) Do we celebrate Jewish holidays? No, these holidays were the foretelling of Christ who has come. But we do maintain forms of liturgical worship and such, just as God commanded us to do so.

Again, I am glad that you are seeking answers about Orthodoxy on the internet, but the best thing to do would be to talk to a priest. :-)

God bless you in your search!

In XC,

Maureen
« Last Edit: December 26, 2008, 07:50:21 PM by HandmaidenofGod » Logged

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jer 29:11
Justin Kissel
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2008, 08:56:54 PM »

Quote
The first is the prayers to the saints

I think there are a couple issues with this one. First, are the saints awake or asleep after they die? And second, if they are indeed awake, would asking them to pray for us do any good? I think the tradition of the Church definitely speaks affirmatively on these two issues, but I also think that the Scripture shows that they are awake, and do indeed present the prayers of those who pray to them to God. I think that this is seen, for example, in Revelation:

"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." - Rev. 5:8

Who exactly the twenty four elders are is a matter of interpretation. What is relevant for this post is that, whoever they might be, they are alive in heaven, and have "the prayers of the saints" with them. This is the passage that I think speaks most plainly about all of this, though there are some other passages in Revelation which also speak of the saints being alive in heaven:

"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." - Rev. 6:9-11

"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." - Rev. 7:9-15

Notice that the saints are alive in heaven, and this is before the final judgment. They "serve him day and night in his temple," indicating that this is something that is an ongoing activity. Notice also that these saints in heaven can communicate with God, and God can communicate with them as well. And besides these examples, I think there are a few other examples indicating that the saints are alive and awake after death, including the time when Moses and Elijah appeared at the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9; Lk. 9:28-36), and also the "dream, a kind of vision" that was discussed in the deuterocanonical book of 2 Maccabees, where the (formerly) dead Onias and Jeremiah are seen as being alive and able to communicate (2 Macc. 15:11-16).

It is also important to remember that intercessory prayer is something practices by Christians (Col. 1:3; 4:12; 1 Thes. 1:2; Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; etc.), we Orthodox just extend it to those in the "Church triumphant" in heaven. The Orthodox would thus take literally the words of the Gospel that: "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:32)

It might also be helpful to note that the Angels also pray for us, since this is also a practice that the Orthodox engage in. One example of this is seen in Zechariah, when an angel of God intercedes before God for Jerusalem and Judah: "Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?" (Zec. 1:12) There is also the passage in the deuterocanonical book of Tobit, where the Archangel Raphael clearly says that he prays to God for people:

"I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead. When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury the dead, I was sent to put you to the test. At the same time, however, God commissioned me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord." - Tob. 12:12-15

I realise that a Protestant might not attach much weight to deuterocanonical books, but it at least shows that such ideas were held by the Jews of the time leading up to the coming of our Lord.

Quote
the second is the apparent "legality" of some things.  One example, is fasting it seems really legalistic.  Like you can't eat meat from this time till that time, unless it's on a feast day and then it's only fish.  You can't eat dairy on certain days, except for on some festival that seemed to involve cheese.  I'm really not trying to make light of the Orthodox traditions...at all.  I just feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place as I believe God did set up a physical church on earth, but did He really intend for it to invlove all the "rules and regulations"?  I say this knowing well that I have been involved in "come as you are", "freestyle", God doesn't care how you worship just so you do "religion" for the last 20 years.  It's just really hard to know what to believe anymore

This is, I think, a matter of perspective. Some people do take it to legalistic extremes, and Orthodoxy is very organized and regimented in how it has set up the fasts, so I can see how it could come off as being legalistic. I would first just say that, at it's core, the Orthodox are trying to follow the the Bible, since it mentions fasting as a practice done by the early Church (Matt. 6:17-18; 17:21; Acts 13:2-3; 14:23; 27:33; 1 Cor. 7:5) Past that, I would just say that this is a practice which is meant to be a private act (cf Matt. 6:17-18), and one that is for our spiritual benefit. If it becomes legalistic, then some of the benefit will surely be diminished.

As to why Orthodoxy is so exacting about when you do and don't fast, and what you fast from, that is just given as general guidance, as a way to help out people by giving them an already-made plan to follow. However, IMO it is not meant to be one-size-fits-all, because it is supposed to be done within the context of the Church, where you and a spiritual father or father confessor can work out what is best for you personally. Pregnancy, diabetes, being new to the faith, and tons of other factors can be taken into consideration when working out how you approach fasting. But again, if and when it is made into something legalistic, it is missing the point of it.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2008, 09:10:39 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2008, 12:28:56 AM »

Hello out there! I'm a Roman Catholic turned Protestant considering Orthodoxy.

Welcome to the OC.net forum!   Smiley

The first is the prayers to the saints the second is the apparent "legality" of some things.  One example, is fasting it seems really legalistic.

Thousands of posts have been said here about fasting.  Rather than think about the legalism behind fasting, consider why fasting exists.  In the desert, Jesus fasted for 40 Days as He was tempted by Satan.  In the Publican and Pharisee, the Pharisee boasted about fasting while the Publican asked God to have mercy on him, a sinner.  Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; They didn't fast.  All 3 examples demonstrate how fasting (or lack thereof) can separate oneself from God or bring oneself closer to God.  Note that fasting is a personal decision and while Orthodox Churches have guidelines on fasting, as other posters have mentioned, no one forces you to fast.  Many Church events during fasting periods will serve Lenten foods.  If one brought in a Triple Cheeseburger from <any fast food place>, that individual may be looked at funny but not judged for refusing to fast.

A synonym for fasting is abstinence where one can abstain from certain activities that aren't pleasing to God.

Like you can't eat meat from this time till that time, unless it's on a feast day and then it's only fish.  You can't eat dairy on certain days, except for on some festival that seemed to involve cheese.

Let me try to clarify some of the above statements, especially the one involving cheese.   Wink

In roughly 6 weeks (February 8  ), the Church begins the Triodion Period where there is no fasting in the first week.  The subsequent weeks prepare for the beginning of Great Lent (March 2), which is 40 Days of Fasting until the Saturday of Lazarus (April 11).  On Palm Sunday (April 12), Orthodox can eat fish.  For Holy Week, strict fasting until Easter Sunday (April 19).  The weeks before Lent are broken down as follows:

February 8, Sunday of Publican and Pharisee - no fasting the entire week.
February 15, Sunday of Prodigal Son - fasting only on Wednesday and Friday
February 22, Meatfare Sunday - Last Day of eating Meat.  Dairy (including Cheese) is allowed entire week.   Grin
March 1, Cheesefare (aka Judgment Sunday) - Great Lent begins following day.  

I'm really not trying to make light of the Orthodox traditions...at all.  I just feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place as I believe God did set up a physical church on earth, but did He really intend for it to invlove all the "rules and regulations"?  I say this knowing well that I have been involved in "come as you are", "freestyle", God doesn't care how you worship just so you do "religion" for the last 20 years.  It's just really hard to know what to believe anymore

One day, I was driving in the country and came across <a non-Orthodox Church>.  My curiousity got the better of me (and I needed to be in any house of worship at the moment) so I stopped for a visit.  I would consider this particular Church as a "come as you are", "freestyle", "God doesn't care how you worship" Church and saw the Preacher preaching to a Powerpoint presentation.  When the youth rock band ministry started up, I decided that my visit was over and headed back home knowing full well that there is no alternative to the Orthodox Church for me.   Smiley
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Thomas
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2008, 11:43:42 AM »

Lori,

We have a lot of direction on fasting because it is part of our life that needs tweeking, it is a part of our life that is foreign to the "World". It we, ourselves, who make it legalistic and place all of our focus upon what to eat or drink during a fast when in reality we should be focusing on the other two higher aspects of fasting ---that of prayer and almsgiving.  Without these two aspects in full practice our fasting is of no avail. The saints tell us that fasting is easy, giving of one's self to prayer and giving of one's goods or money to those less fortunate is even harder. This year for the first time on a Church website (www.antiochian.org) an American Orthodox jurisdiction actually said if you do not add additional prayer during the  fast or give alms to those in need, do not fast for it is of no value to your spiritual health---pretty much what St John Chrysostom said to his congregation in wealthy Constantinople.

Thomas
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