(1) I can sympathize with your desire to be untrammeled by money in your relationship with your parish but what you seem to be doing is saying, I'll do it my way and no other way. (2) You are paying no attention to what the Orthodox have done traditionally and for many centuries. (3) There is also a feeling that the ordinary parishioner who conforms with the practices of his brotherrs and sisters in the parish smells a little less 'spiritual.' (4) It also smells like an attack on the priests and bishops and your fellow parishioners since they allow prices to be marked for candles, prosfirki, etc. and you call that "commerce." (5) I am just not sure what to make of your way of thinking.
Taking a break at work. Thank you for your answer (and ialmisry, too).
(1) Not quite true. A late Serbian Priest told me that this was acceptable. As with all of my decisions in life, I consider this one "for now", even though this has been my path for most of the last 15 years. Who knows, tomorrow I may be shown a completely different path.
(2) In my experience, most Orthodox don't seem to pay attention to what the Orthodox have done for centuries. I guess that if I had to pick and choose among traditions, I would choose some different ones than charging money to belong to the Body of Christ.
(3) Quite the contrary. I don't worry about other people's sprituallity, nor do I justify or condemn an act based on how many people do it. There are many kinds of "spirituality", and I am not the judge of which is best. I follow my concience and assume that others follow theirs. I keep in mind the parable of the workers in the field, and those who were paid the same for one hour of work as those who worked all day. They each got what they agreed to. I see "spirituality" the same way. God has put a certain burden on my heart, and I must obey that burden to the extent that I am able. How he has bound others is not my concern, nor is how they are rewarded. If asked, I will explain my position. But I usually do not walk up to a person of a given parish and start the conversation with matters of which I disagree.
(4) Attack? Not really. I see it more as a fact, and a practice of which I disagree. I am in no particular mood to go through the Church with a whip, or nail documents to the door. If selling candles and such is not commerce, what is it? I define as one's gift to God through giving to His Church to be offerings, since the are "offered" by the giver from his heart. When a price tag is put on it and demanded, it is no longer an offering, but commerce.
(5) You can certainly be forgiven for that, since I myself am not always sure what to make of my line of thinking. I am not cradle Orthodox, but rather a repenting heretic. Perhaps, as you say, I am just a guest of the Church, which is one reason that I do not embrace a particular parish as I perhaps should. It was rather traumatic for me to find that I had been lied to for 30 some odd years of my life, and by those whom I trusted most. What is more, to find that they really did not intend to lie, but had themselves been decieved, also affected my line of thinking. I don't intend to let that happen again. Given the history of the Church, and the fact that most heresies have come from the clergy, I am not prepared to go against my concience simply because a group of people have been doing it, even if those people are priests and bishops. I have spent most of my life studying the Scriptures, the Fathers, and the Lives of the Saints. I have done this with the prayer that God show me the Truth, and I believe that He has answered my prayer by bringing me to the Orthodox Church. What has been distressing, to a point, are the number of "Orthodox Churches" and the wide variety of what they teach (beyond the core beliefs). So, I tend to be a bit cautious before I swallow something hook, line and sinker. On the other hand, I do listen, and your comments and teaching are not wasted on me, as your words will be carefully considered and dwelled upon. I do not doubt that God speaks to me through His Word, the Church and the Clergy. I do doubt my abilty to always understand what He is saying, so I am, by nature, cautious.
Ialmisry - I do not disagree with your position in whole. What confuses me is that for my entire time in the Lutheran Church (including multiple parishes since we moved around a lot when I was younger), we had no dues and charged nothing for sacraments. Yet, we seemed to manage to take care of our clergy and have the Church's needs attended to. And this was true even in poor areas. To what would you attribute this? For my part, and based on my experience only, I have found that people give more generously when they are taught to give than when they are compelled to give. Perhaps I am wrong in this - but it is difficult for me to reject my experiences in this matter.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to discuss this matter, as it really does bother me a great deal.