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Author Topic: Bitterness/Backlash "phase" for Converts  (Read 11314 times) Average Rating: 0
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si2008
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« on: March 25, 2009, 11:36:20 AM »

Is it common for converts to Orthdoxy to have a phase of near-rebellion after awhile?  It seems like certain aspects of Holy Tradition make me almost angry, especially the idea of our souls being tested by angels and demons after death (toll houses).  I feel furious inside when I see humble, loving Orthodox people doing metanoias in church, wondering how they can be so calm and assured when I myself feel imminent doom.  Questions like these seem to be coming thick and fast for me, and it's only been a year since my chrismation.  I am not considering leaving the Church at all...
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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2009, 11:48:27 AM »

I was not aware that tollhouses were a part of Holy Tradition.
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2009, 11:52:28 AM »

Is it common for converts to Orthdoxy to have a phase of near-rebellion after awhile?  It seems like certain aspects of Holy Tradition make me almost angry, especially the idea of our souls being tested by angels and demons after death (toll houses).  I feel furious inside when I see humble, loving Orthodox people doing metanoias in church, wondering how they can be so calm and assured when I myself feel imminent doom.  Questions like these seem to be coming thick and fast for me, and it's only been a year since my chrismation.  I am not considering leaving the Church at all...

I've been a convert now for eighteen years and find myself still dealing with "some" things. Initially I thought your post was directed against your former evangelical denomination (which is not uncommon as we try and distance ourselves from our former faith and in so doing, often create problems both for our family, friends and the Orthodox Church). But you threw a curve on this one so I'll give you my two cents' worth on the matter.

When I converted there were some things that I never fully accepted and certainly the toll houses were one of them. In my view this is an analogy (and a very bad one at that) and certainly not to be taken literally. Again... in my view it is just not scriptural. No demon is going to judge me; that is the Lord's prerogative. When I pass from this life, I expect to stand before His throne and receive His judgment (partial first, complete upon the bodily resurrection). But putting toll houses aside, there are other things that we see in church some of which the Church does not subscribe. They are pious beliefs that have been passed down from yayas to their grandkids... yaya practices and beliefs. I try not to judge (although I sometimes fail miserably) and simply focus on our Lord. Whether or not these practices/beliefs/what-have-you are "Orthodox" or not is really not my concern. If I'm challenged enough about them, I'll take them to either my spiritual father or my priest. Otherwise, I have enough sin in my own life with which to occupy me.

I might add that there was much good in my former evangelical denomination and in no way would I negate this. But that's another story entirely.
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2009, 12:06:59 PM »

I've only been Orthodox for 3 years and haven't dealt with that particular problem.  I think that most Orthodox Christians have different struggles at different times.  I actually envy you your struggle because mine usually centers around my relationship with my non-Orthodox husband and causes me much despair. 
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2009, 12:51:04 PM »

Is it common for converts to Orthdoxy to have a phase of near-rebellion after awhile?  It seems like certain aspects of Holy Tradition make me almost angry, especially the idea of our souls being tested by angels and demons after death (toll houses).  I feel furious inside when I see humble, loving Orthodox people doing metanoias in church, wondering how they can be so calm and assured when I myself feel imminent doom.  Questions like these seem to be coming thick and fast for me, and it's only been a year since my chrismation.  I am not considering leaving the Church at all...

I too don't think of Toll Houses as part of Holy Tradition.  My last priest openly scoffed at the idea. 

I sometimes strongly object to certain aspects I encounter in Orthodoxy--not to the Orthodox Faith itself, but how some people believe it ought to be expressed in America.  I'm not very fond of the zeal to "Americanize" the Orthodox Church.  While I understand the concern that many Orthodox Churches are closed ethnic communities, I think the opposite extreme of eliminating all but token traces of Eastern European culture and heritage in America is just as misguided, and for me at least, alienating.  I get riled up when I hear about "Greek barking" or other things that aren't "American."  I don't come from an Orthodox background, but I don't come from a Protestant one either, and at times I don't know where fit in between the "ethnic" Orthodox and the "evangelical" Orthodox.  I admittedly become angry at times because of this. 
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2009, 01:23:16 PM »

Jesus Christ paid the ultimate toll ... His Life for us to have Life Everlasting.

I think the above thought every time I stop at a toll booth although with electronic toll collection systems, one is hard pressed to think about much when flying through a toll plaza.

Aerial Toll houses do not exist.
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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2009, 01:34:34 PM »

Jesus Christ paid the ultimate toll ... His Life for us to have Life Everlasting.

I think the above thought every time I stop at a toll booth although with electronic toll collection systems, one is hard pressed to think about much when flying through a toll plaza.

Aerial Toll houses do not exist.

And if there are Aerial Toll houses, we've got EZPass anyhow. 
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2009, 01:35:35 PM »

Thank you, I guess the toll houses were just one example.  I've heard pretty much 50/50 about whether it's a Tradition or a tradition in the Church or not.  I'm just wondering whether it is a common thing for converts to go from wholehearted enthusiasm to questioning many things at once.  I mean, most conversion stories, whether saints' lives or interviews with modern day converts don't give me that sense.  It seems like it was straight ahead, no looking back for them.  I truly pray that my mind is a little more confused these days because of pregnancy and not because I'm falling away little by little.

Time for confession again.
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2009, 01:39:30 PM »

And if there are Aerial Toll houses, we've got EZPass anyhow. 

I'll never use it even if toll booths are eliminated.  That's why the scenic route exists.   Shocked
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« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2009, 01:40:51 PM »

I questioned many things before I became Orthodox. Then for awhile after my baptism, I had a sort of "honeymoon" stage where everything was quite perfect and beautiful. Then all sorts of bad things began to happen to me-life was one terrible disappointment after the other-and I began to dislike many things I heard from churchly people and have doubts again. For the  most part I love Orthodoxy, but there are things I'm not totally sure about. I'm still searching and questioning. Hopefully this is all normal.
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« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2009, 01:45:26 PM »

Thank you, I guess the toll houses were just one example.  I've heard pretty much 50/50 about whether it's a Tradition or a tradition in the Church or not.  I'm just wondering whether it is a common thing for converts to go from wholehearted enthusiasm to questioning many things at once.  I mean, most conversion stories, whether saints' lives or interviews with modern day converts don't give me that sense.  It seems like it was straight ahead, no looking back for them.  I truly pray that my mind is a little more confused these days because of pregnancy and not because I'm falling away little by little.

Time for confession again.

I've never had a period of bitterness or backlash against the Church and Her teachings. I did, however, find my first couple years as a Christian much easier in terms of keeping a regular prayer rule, spiritual reading, Scripture reading, total fasting, etc. Yet, despite the fact that I have to work harder at it now, I feel much more settled than I did back then - perhaps because the work makes it more rewarding?
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« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2009, 01:50:01 PM »

And if there are Aerial Toll houses, we've got EZPass anyhow. 

I'll never use it even if toll booths are eliminated.  That's why the scenic route exists.   Shocked

Ha!  That's next on the list of tolled roads.  Wink
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« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2009, 02:19:11 PM »

Thank you, I guess the toll houses were just one example.  I've heard pretty much 50/50 about whether it's a Tradition or a tradition in the Church or not.  I'm just wondering whether it is a common thing for converts to go from wholehearted enthusiasm to questioning many things at once.  I mean, most conversion stories, whether saints' lives or interviews with modern day converts don't give me that sense.  It seems like it was straight ahead, no looking back for them.  I truly pray that my mind is a little more confused these days because of pregnancy and not because I'm falling away little by little.

Time for confession again.

When I was a catechumen, I had questions about this too. My priest told me to aim for a "slow burn" -- it's better to be level-headed and quietly faithful than to have great flashy zeal early on and then "burn out" quickly later once the newness wears off.
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« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2009, 02:47:18 PM »

Some of us may feel a sense of burnout because there are many observable human problems within that make one realize it may be unfair to invite someone who is non Orthodox in to have to be subjected to them. Of course, this can be compensated by a vibrant parish that is really living in the faith. Some are vibrant too & others not. Personally, it is not Orthodox Christianity I feel uncertainty in but a point is being reached where maintenance of parishes may fail by attrition & stagnation & other issues will even lessen the amount of net congregants vs. conceptual gross statistical congregants in the USA. I cannot speak of other nations but Greece for ex, looks like there is much to be concerned since youthful  anarchists may not exist in a vacuum. (interstingly I was composing my post before seeing reply #12 re "burnout")
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« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2009, 02:52:52 PM »

Aerial Toll houses do not exist.

You are off topic, but still I ask... Proof?
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« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2009, 05:00:47 PM »

Aerial Toll houses do not exist.

You are off topic, but still I ask... Proof?

You're kidding me.   Huh

I'll give you my proof - in my years of Sunday School, no one ever mentioned an aerial toll house; hence, they don't exist.
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« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2009, 05:17:33 PM »

I went through a period of great anxiety about the tollhouses until a very remarkable and intelligent Greek friend of mine assured me that it was at best a theological opinion. Is this idea more entrenched in Russian than Greek thinking?
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« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2009, 05:35:47 PM »

Aerial Toll houses do not exist.

You are off topic, but still I ask... Proof?

You're kidding me.   Huh

I'll give you my proof - in my years of Sunday School, no one ever mentioned an aerial toll house; hence, they don't exist.

Wow, I am going to guess that you have never taken a logic class? That is not proof. "Because no one told you, they do not exist." I will not argue if you do not believe in them, but to say that it is an absolute provable fact that they do not exist, you need proof to state is as a fact. You have presented none.
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« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2009, 11:56:32 PM »

Is it common for converts to Orthdoxy to have a phase of near-rebellion after awhile?  It seems like certain aspects of Holy Tradition make me almost angry, especially the idea of our souls being tested by angels and demons after death (toll houses). 

I enquired a year or two ago from a friend whom I know personally.  He is an Archpriest at the Irkutsk Cathedral Russia. He is a serious and learned man, and not given to extravagant words. Here is his reply:


"The opinion about the toll-houses among the
people is quite positive and they love to
talk about them. But among the clergy and
theologians there are diverse opinions,
and they sometimes consider them to be a
uniate-catholic influence stemming from purgatory."


So we see the toll houses are NOT a universal tradition.  Some in Russia believe it, some reject it.  They do not fulfil the Orthodox criteria for sound doctrine. They fail the Vincentian Canon of "what has been believed everywhere, always, and by everybody.."


Here is an interesting message on the Forum by a convert to Orthodoxy...


"Toll Houses: dogma, a logic of damnation, and taking the implications seriously"

Part 1


http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,2145.msg300562.html#msg300562

Part 2

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,2145.msg300616.html#msg300616

Part 3

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,2145.msg300770.html#msg300770
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« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2009, 12:01:38 AM »

Wow, I am going to guess that you have never taken a logic class? That is not proof. "Because no one told you, they do not exist." I will not argue if you do not believe in them, but to say that it is an absolute provable fact that they do not exist, you need proof to state is as a fact. You have presented none.

OK, This sounds like discussing if Judas the Iscariot repented.  I give the same answer which is: I don't know; However, I don't believe in aerial toll houses and I am unable to prove whether or not they exist.   Smiley
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« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2009, 12:11:02 AM »

Wow, the toll houses are really taking a beating in this thread!

It seems like everyone is being so literal about them, like they are supposed to be physical locations in the sky and that they are not a concept to reflect the spiritual journey of the soul after death.

Whatever; I'm throwing my hat in the ring as being pro-toll house.  And that does include cookies.
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« Reply #21 on: March 26, 2009, 12:34:22 AM »

Wow, I am going to guess that you have never taken a logic class? That is not proof. "Because no one told you, they do not exist." I will not argue if you do not believe in them, but to say that it is an absolute provable fact that they do not exist, you need proof to state is as a fact. You have presented none.

OK, This sounds like discussing if Judas the Iscariot repented.  I give the same answer which is: I don't know; However, I don't believe in aerial toll houses and I am unable to prove whether or not they exist.   Smiley

And that answer totally works for me. :-)
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« Reply #22 on: March 26, 2009, 12:51:22 AM »

Wow, the toll houses are really taking a beating in this thread!

It seems like everyone is being so literal about them, like they are supposed to be physical locations in the sky and that they are not a concept to reflect the spiritual journey of the soul after death.

The trouble here is that you are contradicting the eminent Saints who believed in toll houses.  Saint Theodora and Saint Basil the New (who gave us the foundational tollhouse document), St Ignaty Bryanchaninov, and of course Fr Seraphim Rose.

For St Theodora and St Basil the New, St Ignatius Brianchaninov and Fr Seraphim Rose (although he vacillates about his belief) - there are physical toll houses in the air above your head and visible to your eyes if you are sufficientlyy "spiritual" where demons in the form of black Ethiopians have been appointed to judge the souls of the departed.  Souls can purchase their way through those tollhouses or tollgates where they do not have an accumulation of their own sufficient good works to outweigh their evil deeds (salvation by works) by using the superfluous merits of their spiritual fathers. Nobody but the Orthodox may go on this journey since the non-Orthodox do not pass through the toll houses but are taken straight to hell upon their death - the non-Orthodox, Catholics, Baptists, Buddhists, Hindus, do not experience the Partial Judgement at death.   They are already condemned to hell and they are taken from their death bed to hell by the demons ....  Much of the tollhouse belief system is heretical.

In its most attentuated form as advanced by Fr Michael Pomazansky -subtle movements in the soul at the time of death by which the soul comes to a realisation of its spiritual state and its abode until the Final Judgement - it is fully acceptable (although one could question why the imagery of the toll houses is necessary in this case.)

Inbetween these two forms - heresy and imagery - there exists a whole smorgasbord of beliefs from which tollers may pick and choose to create their own private versions of the belief.

The toll houses is one of the most ill-defined theories and, frankly, no Christian could be seriously expected to give credence to it. The least the tollers could do is give us an understanding of their belief/theologoumenon and a universally agreed definition. At the moment the whole thing is so self-contradictory and so nebulous that no Christian can be asked to believe it.


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« Reply #23 on: March 26, 2009, 08:39:04 AM »

"Rebelling as we do against God through the passions and agreeing to pay tribute in the form of evil to the cunning tyrant and murderer of souls the devil, we cannot be reconciled with God until we have first begun to fight against the devil with all our strength. For even though we assume the name of  faithful Christians, until we have made ourselves the devil's enemies and fight against him, we continue by deliberate choice to serve the shameful passions. And nothing of profit will come to us from our peace IN THE WORLD, for our soul is in an evil state, rebelling against its own Maker and unwilling to be subjec to His kingdom. It is still sold into BONDAGE TO HORDES OF SAVAGE MASTERS, who urge it towards evil and treacherously contrive to make it choose the way which leads to destruction instead of that which brings salvation." St. Maximos the Confessor, 1st cent. of various texts, Phlokalia vol.2. My understanding of St. Maximos' teaching is of this present life & not a toll house concept since the savage masters are here & now (in my understanding of his teaching, please correct me otw). I am not trying to infer that toll houses cannot be believed but that they can clearly not have to be believed.
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« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2009, 09:30:17 AM »

Is it common for converts to Orthdoxy to have a phase of near-rebellion after awhile? 

Questions like these seem to be coming thick and fast for me, and it's only been a year since my chrismation.  I am not considering leaving the Church at all...

I saw this small article and wondered if it would be helpful.....


Published by AGAIN, May 4, 2003

"After the Chrism Dries"

Some Pitfalls Awaiting Converts to the Orthodox Church

By David Tillman
Reprinted from AGAIN MAGAZINE, Volume 21, Number 1 - Winter 1999


http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,10849.msg147138.html#msg147138


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« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2009, 10:49:45 AM »

I did not mean for this thread to become another argument about toll houses, so forgive me.  It is some of the saints' lives that have me as much confused as the toll houses as anything, as well as devotion to the Theotokos.  It is a variety of things that, if I have to believe them to be a Christian, I want to believe them, but right now am feeling some reservations about.  I guess I'm asking for the Lord to help my unbelief and my confused mind.  I am not from a religious family, so I'm not yearning for my old Protestant denomination. 
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« Reply #26 on: March 26, 2009, 11:33:46 AM »

I think waiting 10 years to finally convert could of been a good thing for me in the sense that I no longer have high expectations of people. We all may fall from time to time.......no one is perfect....so we should have more compassion.

As far as the doctrine of Toll Houses go.......well, lets just say it's extremely difficult to believe in after reading Saint Irenaeus and what he had to say about the Gnostics living in his day and what they tought.
This is one of the reasons why I like Archbishop Lazar.



I've only been Orthodox for 2 years so I'm still young. My issue right now is not a backlash against the Church, but my own personal discipline in Prayer, fasting, Bible reading..........ect.

This is my problem and the consequences have been hitting me hard eversince July of last year.






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« Reply #27 on: March 26, 2009, 05:46:45 PM »

Something else that could be good to read...

ON BECOMING AND REMAINING AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN

A Talk given at the Orthodox Pilgrimage to Felixstowe in August 2001

http://www.orthodoxengland.btinternet.co.uk/brorthoc.htm


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« Reply #28 on: March 26, 2009, 07:47:53 PM »

...my...pregnancy...


Glory to God!  laugh  May the Lord bless you and your little one!  Many years!  Most Holy Theotokos save us!
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« Reply #29 on: March 27, 2009, 11:09:52 AM »

...my...pregnancy...


Glory to God!  laugh  May the Lord bless you and your little one!  Many years!  Most Holy Theotokos save us!

Thank you!  Feeling him move around really reminds me of all my blessings!  Smiley
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« Reply #30 on: March 27, 2009, 03:23:01 PM »

Beloved in the Lord,

Just a reminder that the purpose of the Convert issues forum is to provide a a place on the OC.Net where inquirers, catechumen, and newly converted could ask their questions about the Orthodox Faith in a safe and supportive forum without retribution or recrimination. Many of those posting in this area are ignorant of Orthodox teachings and are using this forum to understand what are the basic teachings and practices of the Orthodox churches. Due to the simplicity of many of their requests and responses, direct and simple answers with sources if possible are most helpful.

The convert forum is not a place for combative debate or arguement, however it is a place for the new convert or catechumen to discuss issues that are causing them problems in their assimilation into the Orthodox Faith. Feel Free to continue to ask these questions.. 

Thank you for your following these guidelines to the edification and spiritual growth of the forum inquirers, catechumen, and newly converted.

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #31 on: March 29, 2009, 12:55:09 AM »

Chances are half the people who don't believe in "toll houses"  also don't believe in "original sin".

This rejection of certain ancient venerable church traditions and smearing of them and mocking of the Church Fathers beliefs is sad.  It is as if there is a search to make the Orthodox Church as different as the Latin-heterodox catholics as possible to the point where one throws out their true traditions because of concern they tainted with "latin ideas". In the words of Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, I see the creation of "a false dichotomy".
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"and for all who are Orthodox, and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, remember, O Lord, thy servants" - yet the post-conciliar RC hierarchy is tolerant of everyone and everything... except Catholic Tradition, for modernists are as salt with no taste, to be “thrown out and trampled under foot
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« Reply #32 on: March 29, 2009, 02:11:57 AM »

Chances are half the people who don't believe in "toll houses"  also don't believe in "original sin".
What does one have to do with the other?

This rejection of certain ancient venerable church traditions and smearing of them and mocking of the Church Fathers beliefs is sad.
Uh, Chris, this is the Convert Issues board.  Many of those who post here are not even Orthodox yet or, if they are, have not been Orthodox but for a very short time so far.  Cut them some slack.

It is as if there is a search to make the Orthodox Church as different as the Latin-heterodox catholics as possible to the point where one throws out their true traditions because of concern they tainted with "latin ideas". In the words of Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, I see the creation of "a false dichotomy".
Okay. Undecided  It's good to know what you think Roll Eyes, but how is it relevant to the subject of a backlash phase for converts? Huh

Additionally, how is this diatribe consistent in spirit with the formal moderatorial reminder this board's moderator posted immediately before yours?
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« Reply #33 on: March 30, 2009, 09:42:09 AM »

Christopher,  The Toll-Houses remain Theoulegoumen or what is seen as a pious theological opinion/belief and are not a dogma in the Orthodox Church.  There are Saints, Bishops, other clergy, theologians, and laity who accept  or reject this teaching. Some feel it is important to them for their salvation and others do not. As of this point in time it has not been a divisive point of theological  teaching serious enough to be addressed by an ecumenical council.  In fact, as far as I know, only one  jurisdiction (ROCOR) has even addressed the issue in which they censured a deacon for speaking out openly against it.  That deacon is now a retired OCA Bishop. My best advice to converts is to read both sides and pray about it, I am sure that the convert will develop their own theolegoumen about the issue.

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« Reply #34 on: March 30, 2009, 11:31:48 AM »

^^What Thomas said.

AFAIK, in my home country, Ukraine, as well as in Russia, quite a lot of the Orthodox people believe in what is called in Ukrainian "mytarstva" (митарства). It means that when you die, your soul is somehow "shown" hell and the numerous temptations that lead there. It's a horrible ordeal, and some souls might actually be "lost." Because your own effort to repent of your sins and commune with God ends with your physical death, the only thing that can help the soul that goes through the "mytarstva" is the prayer of other people, both those who are still on earth and those who are already in Heaven (especially the Theotokos). The "mytarstva" last about 40 days, and that's why in Orthodox parishes there is the so-called "sorokoust" - the remembering of the dead over this 40-day period after the physical death.

I know that this is not some belief that became a part of the official Church dogmatics; nevertheless, in those catechisms that are now being published in Ukraine, the "mytarstva" are mentioned without any comments of the sort, "this may or may not be the case." So people just believe that it will happen.
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« Reply #35 on: March 30, 2009, 01:22:42 PM »

When I first asked to become Orthodox, the priest told me no. At the time I lived far from any Orthodox parish and would have been unable to participate in the liturgical life of the Church. For nearly three years thereafter I found myself in the position of believing and praying Orthodox but not actually being Orthodox. One of the things I came to realize over that time was that the faith at times is kept and transmitted via some very earthen vessels. By the time I was let in I knew there were troubles, scandels, differing schools of thought on significant issues like the toll house question. I knew some bishops were more bishops in name than in practice, that not all parishes were as equally welcoming of converts as others...and that converts too often tried to out Orthodox the Orthodox...which in time could lead to soul destroying triumphalism or burnout or both.  In any event I was under no illusions about what I would find coming in.

If I had any anger/irritation at all with Orthodoxy it was with the bishops who had the power to fix a lot of the problems/irregularities facing Orthodoxy especially in places like the US and Australia, but did not do so, and often took stands that entrenched one party against the other, and so forth.

None of that deterred me. In the grand scale of things I did not consider that my presence in Orthodoxy would amount to much...it was a mercy to me to let me in at all.  While I waited to be admitted I took the attitude of the slain concubine in the book of Judges. It may be that my passions would overwhelm and slay me, but this much I was determined to have, that my hand would always be stretched out towards the threshold of my Lord. He would avenge me.

It is approaching the 11th year of my baptism as an Orthodox Christian, there are still scandals, still unfaithful or despotic heirarchs, still lax laity, still ethnic clubs, still triumphalitis, still people falling down, getting up, falling down and getting up all over the world. And there are still living saints being discovered, there are still hearts being awakened and ravished by the first clear glimpse of the faith, still young people headed to the monasteries, there are still refuges trickling in from collapsing traditions, and my hand is still outstreached to my Master's threshhold.

Over those years I've encountered a number of spiritual stories that inform my faith, there are two though that have especial relevance to this discussion. If you've heard these before, or know them more exactly, forgive me.

1. A holy elder was nearing the time of his repose and on his death bed he wept and wondered aloud if his repentance had been enough, indeed so much so that it seemed he all but dispaired of salvation. His disciples gather round him, themsleves fighting with despair for if this the holiest man they knew struggled so in his final hour for hope what hope had they who could not yet touch the hem of his garment with their struggles. They asked him what they should do, what hope they could have seeing how difficult it was for him. But he knew this and had shown them his struggle for their benefit. He told them not to despair, but rather to know that no man can save himself, we are all saved through the prayers of others, and others are saved through our prayers...like the great net let down out of heaven drawing up fish from the sea. He said that he would be saved through their prayers and they though his and the prayers of their brothers.

2. A holy elder nearing the time of his repose was asked by his disciples what he should say to the Lord when asked if he should be sent to heaven or to hell.  The elder answered, "I shall say, wherever Thy love places me, O Lord, wherever Thy love places me. Only do not seperate me from Thy love."
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« Reply #36 on: March 30, 2009, 01:57:19 PM »

In fact, as far as I know, only one  jurisdiction (ROCOR) has even addressed the issue in which they censured a deacon for speaking out openly against it. 

Dear Thomas,

Not really.  The bishops told both side to keep quiet.  The bishops proclaimed that conjectures about life after death beyond the very little revealed by our Saviour is dangerous for our salvation.

Resolution on the toll house debate by the Synod of Bishops of ROCA, 1980,

 "...Taking all of the forgoing into consideration, the Synod of Bishops
RESOLVE: In the deliberations on life after death one must in general keep
in mind that it has not pleased the Lord to reveal to us very much aside
from the fact that the degree of a soul's blessedness depends on how much a
man's life on the earth has been truly Christian, and the degree of a man's
posthumous suffering depends upon the degree of sinfulness. To add
conjectures to the little that the Lord has been pleased to reveal to us is
not beneficial to our salvation
..."


http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/tollhouse_debate.aspx


So many times people assert that the bishops came out in favour of the toll houses.  They did nothing of the sort.  They adopted a Resolution of a sober and restrained approach.  How could they do otherwise?  For them to promulgate as Church teaching something which is not held by the pleroma of Orthodoxy would have called their integrity into question among all the Local Churches.

Bishop Jerome of the Russian Church Abroad  (the recently consecrated Fr John Shaw) has stated that the bishops could not promulgate the teaching of the tollhouses since it is not something universally held.

From a message of his in a tollhouse thread:

~* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/orthodox-tradition/message/44029


> From: "Fr. John R. Shaw" <vrevjrs@...>

> 5) the bishops [of ROCOR] have not laid down any synodal teaching on the toll
>houses and the afterlife.

JRS: That much I would agree with: there can be no "Synodal teaching"
about matters of faith that would differ from what the Orthodox Church,
as a whole, has always held.

In Christ
Fr. John R. Shaw
~* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

PS:  Rather than take this thread off onto a tollhouse tangent, ought we to resurrect one of the existing tollhouse threads?




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« Reply #37 on: March 30, 2009, 02:09:00 PM »

I questioned many things before I became Orthodox. Then for awhile after my baptism, I had a sort of "honeymoon" stage where everything was quite perfect and beautiful. Then all sorts of bad things began to happen to me-life was one terrible disappointment after the other-and I began to dislike many things I heard from churchly people and have doubts again. For the  most part I love Orthodoxy, but there are things I'm not totally sure about. I'm still searching and questioning. Hopefully this is all normal.

Not to trivialize your experiences, dear sister, but I believe that many converts go through something similar.  The honeymoon stage where everything is new and exciting, then, either quickly or little by little, the problems of life begin to chip away at our happiness.  Sometimes this is caused by Satan who seeks to destroy our faith; sometimes God allows us to experience certain things in order to show us just how much we need Him; and then there is the fact that we are beings living in a fallen world and all that that entails.  

One 'problem' that I've been struggling with is the seemingly 'negativeness' of Orthodoxy.  What I mean is, is all the 'ascetical' aspects of the Church.  Sometimes I feel that there isn't much joy in Orthodoxy; that we're all supposed to be wearing hair shirts and constantly remind ourselves about how horrible and sinful we are.  Maybe it's part of my Protestant background trying to understand and adapt to something so foreign to me.  But can't I just enjoy a bowl of ice cream sometimes?  Can't I make and laugh at jokes sometimes?   Can't I turn up the radio's volume and get lost in the song sometimes?  I've read some saints say that we should suppress our laughter, not make jokes, not take pleasure in food, etc... What a seemingly oppressive outlook!  Maybe I'm just spiritually immature, but there's simply no way I can relate to that mode of thinking right now.    
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« Reply #38 on: March 30, 2009, 02:12:59 PM »

I know that this is not some belief that became a part of the official Church dogmatics; nevertheless, in those catechisms that are now being published in Ukraine, the "mytarstva" are mentioned without any comments of the sort, "this may or may not be the case." So people just believe that it will happen.

It seems a shame that the tollhouses are being promulgated as church doctrine in the Ukraine when they are not.  Shades of Peter Mogila's Ukrainian catechism! Shocked

I enquired a year or two ago from a friend whom I know personally, an Archpriest at the Irkutsk Cathedral. He is a serious and learned man, and not given to extravagant words. Here is his reply

"The opinion about the toll-houses among the
people is quite positive and they love to
talk about them. But among the clergy and
theologians there are diverse opinions,
and they sometimes consider them to be a
uniate-catholic influence stemming from purgatory."


So we see the toll houses are NOT a universal tradition and they do not fulfil the Orthodox criteria for sound doctrine. Some in Russia believe in them.  Some do not.  They fail the Vincentian Canon of "what has been believed everywhere, and always, and by everybody."




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« Reply #39 on: March 30, 2009, 02:50:00 PM »

I questioned many things before I became Orthodox. Then for awhile after my baptism, I had a sort of "honeymoon" stage where everything was quite perfect and beautiful. Then all sorts of bad things began to happen to me-life was one terrible disappointment after the other-and I began to dislike many things I heard from churchly people and have doubts again. For the  most part I love Orthodoxy, but there are things I'm not totally sure about. I'm still searching and questioning. Hopefully this is all normal.

Not to trivialize your experiences, dear sister, but I believe that many converts go through something similar.  The honeymoon stage where everything is new and exciting, then, either quickly or little by little, the problems of life begin to chip away at our happiness.  Sometimes this is caused by Satan who seeks to destroy our faith; sometimes God allows us to experience certain things in order to show us just how much we need Him; and then there is the fact that we are beings living in a fallen world and all that that entails.  

One 'problem' that I've been struggling with is the seemingly 'negativeness' of Orthodoxy.  What I mean is, is all the 'ascetical' aspects of the Church.  Sometimes I feel that there isn't much joy in Orthodoxy; that we're all supposed to be wearing hair shirts and constantly remind ourselves about how horrible and sinful we are.  Maybe it's part of my Protestant background trying to understand and adapt to something so foreign to me.  But can't I just enjoy a bowl of ice cream sometimes?  Can't I make and laugh at jokes sometimes?   Can't I turn up the radio's volume and get lost in the song sometimes?  I've read some saints say that we should suppress our laughter, not make jokes, not take pleasure in food, etc... What a seemingly oppressive outlook!  Maybe I'm just spiritually immature, but there's simply no way I can relate to that mode of thinking right now.    

I hear ya, dear bro! Sometimes I wonder if this negativity you mention isn't what causes so many Orthodox to drift away; eventually losing interest in religion altogether. I grew up in a different religion which had myriads of totally absurd rules and regulations and there came a time when I sensed the same spirit in Orthodoxy and I became ANGRY. This negativity is found in other Christian faiths as well. Take for instance the very strict Presbyterians-many's the soul who's turned their back entirely on God because of the very harshness, the grimness of it all. I've family in this same situation. Nearly everyone who grew up like this has became atheistic/agnostic-refuses to have anything to do with religion.
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« Reply #40 on: March 30, 2009, 10:33:20 PM »

One 'problem' that I've been struggling with is the seemingly 'negativeness' of Orthodoxy.  What I mean is, is all the 'ascetical' aspects of the Church.  Sometimes I feel that there isn't much joy in Orthodoxy; that we're all supposed to be wearing hair shirts and constantly remind ourselves about how horrible and sinful we are.  Maybe it's part of my Protestant background trying to understand and adapt to something so foreign to me.  But can't I just enjoy a bowl of ice cream sometimes?  Can't I make and laugh at jokes sometimes?   Can't I turn up the radio's volume and get lost in the song sometimes?  I've read some saints say that we should suppress our laughter, not make jokes, not take pleasure in food, etc... What a seemingly oppressive outlook!  Maybe I'm just spiritually immature, but there's simply no way I can relate to that mode of thinking right now.    

Indeed, you took the words right out of my mouth.  I was concerned about having to abandon who I was as a person in order to become Orthodox.  And the conclusion I've come to for myself is that I am not a monk nor an aesthetic.  I find that there is joy to to be found in many things that are not specifically Orthodox - like a song or a bowl of ice cream.  The key for me is to simply make sure that those things are kept in proper perspective.  Enjoying a bowl of ice cream now and then = good.  Gorging on ice cream or getting fat on it = bad.

Same thing with jokes - is not laughter a gift from God?  So long as the jokes you tell or enjoy aren't at the expense of others, how can they be against Orthodoxy?  But again, the key is to know when soberness is required. 

That's my outlook anyway, for what it's worth.  I feel like my journey as an Orthodox convert has enabled me to melt away undesirable parts of my personality while still keeping the good stuff.  Although that struggle will go on for the rest of my life, and I don't claim to have made the proper choices at all times.  May the Lord forgive me!
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« Reply #41 on: March 31, 2009, 08:39:55 AM »

Irish Hermit---Father Bless!

Thank you for correcting what I heard being taught by my bishop when I was in ROCOR,some 10 years ago, I must have misunderstood his teaching.  Apparrently many other ROCOR laity did also if his Grace Bishop Jerome needed to correct it also.  angel I am happy to hear that they have recently clarified their stance more clearly and that it is in keeping with most of the Orthodox Church.  I guess that my main point in that statement still stands well : " There are Saints, Bishops, other clergy, theologians, and laity who accept  or reject this teaching. Some feel it is important to them for their salvation and others do not. "

Once again thank you for your resources that clarify many of our issues.

Thomas
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« Reply #42 on: March 31, 2009, 09:54:06 AM »

Thank you for correcting what I heard being taught by my bishop when I was in ROCOR,some 10 years ago, I must have misunderstood his teaching. 


I don't doubt that you were taught that by your bishop 10 years ago.

If you look at the very jumbled Minutes of the Meeting of the Synod of ROCA in December 1980  (HERE) you will see that the bishops were divided three ways on the tollhouses.  Some were for the tollhouses, some were against them, and some thought it was best to say nothing.    That is why the final Resolution at the end of the Minutes is important.  It has always been the custom of ROCA's bishops to seek to issue unanimous statements from the Synod of bishops and that is why the "last word" is important. It is their conciliar decision.

But those bishops and clergy and laity who favoured tollhouses went on acting as if the Resolution had never been promulgated by the Synod.  Yes, the articles in magazines and such like ceased because the bishops demanded that from both sides, and it is still not taught in Sunday schools, but the tollers still went ahead and taught tollhouses verbally.

It truly puzzles me how people can ignore a synodal decision and work to thwart it.

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« Reply #43 on: April 15, 2009, 10:59:45 AM »

Quote
I hear ya, dear bro! Sometimes I wonder if this negativity you mention isn't what causes so many Orthodox to drift away; eventually losing interest in religion altogether. I grew up in a different religion which had myriads of totally absurd rules and regulations and there came a time when I sensed the same spirit in Orthodoxy and I became ANGRY.

A cure for that attitude is to read about St. Seraphim of Sarov or Elder Porphyrios. They were full of joy and insisted that our experience of the faith should be joyful, but not frivilous.

Part of the problem is that many people can read today...seriously and they read whatever they want whenever they want, a book for spiritual beginners today, a discourse in spiritual quantum physics tommorrow, and a piece of dry toast theologizing the day after, and they try to take it all in and apply what they think they understand until the mismanaged stricture of it all either causes them to seriously reevaluate their path and get so council...or they go nuts with it making themselves and all around them miserable. They act like those whose read a few health clinic tracts plus Grey's Anatomy who decides they are competant to be their own physicians and then wonder at the stinking sore they make of their life. Gosh...there's no joy in this, maybe Orthodoxy has got it wrong somehow?

Most of the deeper spiritual works out there were written by monks for monks and the counsel and instruction in them cannot be applied to those living in the world in equal measure. The trick is...if it may be called a trick is to try and extract the core principles of the tougher spiritual instruction and apply them in a meausured way that stretches you, just a little, but does not strain.  Ten year olds might can muddle out a weight training regimine from an illustrated sports text but that doesn't equip them to step into the gym and start benching 300 lbs. They can get themselves seriously hurt to even try. But with counsel, a coach they can be started on 5lbs. weights and work up to the really big stuff by the time they are 18.

I think we are often attracted to Orthodoxy's disciplined approach to spiritual life but we try to engage that discipline all out of proportion to what we are capable of undertaking.  Even worse, we forget that our neighbor might not be capable of something that we are and so the burdens we find challenging and envigorating to take on we try to press on our neighbor who is not suited to them and for whom they are a crushing weight which only produces confusion and despair if not corrected. 

With respect to the more vigourous spiritual disciplines that can be found in Orthodoxy Elder Sophrony offered some sound advice I think, if I may paraphrase. He said something to the effect of keep your mind on the brink of hell as long as you can stand it, then step back and have a cup of tea.

All the rules in Orthodoxy have pastoral ends just like different physical therapies have health of body as their end. Therapies are chosen to correct specific weaknesses and there is no one size fits all. So it is with spiritual disciplines, the ones that fit the need of the person are the ones that need to be applied. The man who struggles with sensuality doesn't get much help from spiritual counsel designed to root out avarice. That's why we need to not to lone ranger our spiritual life and spiritual reading but keep tabs with our priest or spiritual father/mother if we have one so that questions and difficulties can be dealt with early on, before they suck all the joy out of one's faith.

For example, I remember when I first became Orthodox I tried to keep the Lenten fasting rules very stictly as did a friend of mine...and it was hard on us both, but we were glad we did it.  The next year it was even harder in some ways, and when we failed at times it made us feel bad, but even so we were glad we made it. Third year it seemed harder still and both of us crumbled in various ways and just did the best we could when we could, and were glad we finally made it through.  The fourth year we realized only the grace of God helps us complete any fast, and whether we did well by the rules or not we were glad in those times we could discern God's grace helping us, and when we failed we did not despair, but turned to God in humility acknowledging our weakness and started again.

So nowadays when I talk to new converts I mention the value of giving that first year the old college try knowing that for most it will be more than they can do or nearly so. And when the fretting starts at the beginning of the next lent and the difficulties become very hard to bear and they get a good look at their own weakness, I find that makes for good teachable moments about the dangers of eager beaver zealousness as opposed to purposeful spiritual life, that grows from where its at. My priest, however is wiser and more pastoral in his approach. He prefers catechumens and first year Orthodox acclimate themselves by trying to build up to the full keeping of the fast a little at a time over the course of two or three years. First year, just go down to fish, second year oil and wine, third year...then you can try full fast to the degree you can bear it...just keep him in the loop as to progress and difficulties. 

On the flip side we must be mindful in our world and culture we are used to having our cake and eating it too, and get frustrated when our cake is taken away or even mildly disparaged. If we come to Orthodoxy we must come having counted to cost. It is not Christian Saunas and Full Body Massage incorporated, it is a call to do battle with our passions, to root out our vices and to keep the garden patch of virtue weeded. It is a call to the cross not the country club. And if our heart takes no joy in the cross, then we need to seriously examine our hearts and why we want to be Orthodox.
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« Reply #44 on: April 15, 2009, 11:39:32 AM »

Quote
I hear ya, dear bro! Sometimes I wonder if this negativity you mention isn't what causes so many Orthodox to drift away; eventually losing interest in religion altogether. I grew up in a different religion which had myriads of totally absurd rules and regulations and there came a time when I sensed the same spirit in Orthodoxy and I became ANGRY.


I think we are often attracted to Orthodoxy's disciplined approach to spiritual life but we try to engage that discipline all out of proportion to what we are capable of undertaking.  Even worse, we forget that our neighbor might not be capable of something that we are and so the burdens we find challenging and envigorating to take on we try to press on our neighbor who is not suited to them and for whom they are a crushing weight which only produces confusion and despair if not corrected. 






Interesting thoughts. I suppose we are all different (and that's probably a good thing). I was not attracted to the rigorous discipline of Orthodox spiritual life nor the depth of its theology. Rather for me, it was the beauty of the worship (and it remains so). What I've observed over the years I've been in the Orthodox Church is an over-emphasis on some of these things (i.e. fasting from food) but a convenient forgetting of what St John Chrysostom warns: eating our brother through gossip. In other words, we can so easily pride ourselves on being able to give up not only meat but dairy and yet at the first opportunity we turn around and spread evil about our co-workers. Thus, our fasting is made meaningless. Without a real fasting of the hearts, a fasting of the eyes and the mouth... there can be little if any gain to fasting from foods.

As for my trying to apply anything to anyone else in the Church, I leave that up to the priest. I've all I can do to keep on the path myself. I don't like to discuss fasting and in fact, my priest has expressly forbidden us to do so. Wash our faces and appear to the world as one who has not fasted. Even mentioning it to others is a subtle means of expressing our pride. If we're going to fast, then we need to do so before the Lord... period. As for what I choose to do, that is between me, my spiritual father and the Lord and in no wise a pattern for anyone else. If someone were to ask my advice, I would tell him to seek the counsel of the priest. I would not share with him what I do lest I lead him astray and lest it give me cause for pride. And I'm sooo very prone to pride. We're all sinners. It's so easy for us to parade about as peacocks. We love to pontificate on newsgroups... to express our opinions on many matters. And yet some of the most saintly fathers of the Church hid themselves that they might not fall so easily into this sin of pride. May God forgive us all.
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