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Author Topic: Going Through Priests  (Read 1159 times) Average Rating: 0
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Rosehip
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« on: April 28, 2010, 01:33:15 PM »

A friend recently commented to me that Catholics and Orthodox don't understand how to have a personal relationship with God, because they're so used to having to go through priests all the time in order to access Him-and that this sets up an unnatural barrier between God and man.

What are your thoughts? Does anyone here ever feel that maybe we have too much of this going on and that there should be more direct contact encouraged with God? 
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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2010, 01:36:51 PM »

I certainly don't go through a priest when I pray the Jesus Prayer and I consider my relationship with my Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ to be quite intimate.  I don't know how much more personal one can get aside from the Jesus Prayer.

In fact, my relationship with Jesus is so intimate that I even know His mother! Wink
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chrevbel
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« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2010, 01:52:36 PM »

Quote from: Rosehip
What are your thoughts?
My first thought is that they sound exactly like me before I found Orthodoxy.  They're wrong.  Is it worth debating with them?  Unlikely.  I'd be tempted to ask them "Why do you think you even NEED a personal relationship?  Is your faith simply all about you?"  Hopefully, discretion would keep me from actually asking.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2010, 04:00:59 PM »

Is it possible that some Orthodox and Catholics have this problem? My first inclination is to say yes, some may have this problem. But there is the verse in Hebrews that says...

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." - Heb. 13:17

And then I think of monastics, and even a rare laymen, who "goes through" a spiritual father for a great many things. It is not for you and I to decide how much a person should "submit" or "obey" a priest, that is hopefully for God to decide and the person and the priest to follow through with. So some people need a lot of hands-on guidance going through a priest, and others are better doing it on their own. That's just the varieties of human nature--as Gregory the Theologian pointed out so long ago:

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As then the same medicine and the same food are not in every case administered to men's bodies, but a difference is made according to their degree of health or infirmity; so also are souls treated with varying instruction and guidance. To this treatment witness is borne by those who have had experience of it. Some are led by doctrine, others trained by example; some need the spur, others the curb; some are sluggish and hard to rouse to the good, and must be stirred up by being smitten with the word; others are immoderately fervent in spirit, with impulses difficult to restrain, like thoroughbred colts, who run wide of the turning post, and to improve them the word must have a restraining and checking influence.

Some are benefited by praise, others by blame, both being applied in season; while if out of season, or unreasonable, they are injurious; some are set right by encouragement, others by rebuke; some, when taken to task in public, others, when privately corrected. For some are wont to despise private admonitions, but are recalled to their senses by the condemnation of a number of people, while others, who would grow reckless under reproof openly given, accept rebuke because it is in secret, and yield obedience in return for sympathy.

Upon some it is needful to keep a close watch, even in the minutest details, because if they think they are unperceived (as they would contrive to be), they are puffed up with the idea of their own wisdom. Of others it is better to take no notice, but seeing not to see, and hearing not to hear them, according to the proverb, that we may not drive them to despair, under the depressing influence of repeated reproofs, and at last to utter recklessness, when they have lost the sense of self-respect, the source of persuasiveness. In some cases we must even be angry, without feeling angry, or treat them with a disdain we do not feel, or manifest despair, though we do not really despair of them, according to the needs of their nature. Others again we must treat with condescension and lowliness, aiding them readily to conceive a hope of better things. Some it is often more advantageous to conquer— by others to be overcome, and to praise or deprecate, in one case wealth and power, in another poverty and failure. - St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 2, 30-32
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katherineofdixie
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« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2010, 04:57:22 PM »

A friend recently commented to me that Catholics and Orthodox don't understand how to have a personal relationship with God, because they're so used to having to go through priests all the time in order to access Him-and that this sets up an unnatural barrier between God and man.

What are your thoughts? Does anyone here ever feel that maybe we have too much of this going on and that there should be more direct contact encouraged with God? 

If I had some time on my hands, I might ask them what exactly they mean by "going through priests" in order to gain access to God. On the face of it, the assertion is ridiculous.
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Rosehip
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« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2010, 05:02:45 PM »

Probably things like confession, the rituals etc.
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« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2010, 05:08:35 PM »

If I had some time on my hands, I might ask them what exactly they mean by "going through priests" in order to gain access to God. On the face of it, the assertion is ridiculous.

Not at all. I believe that the way confession is done in at least the Antiochian tradition, the priest says something like "may God forgive you your sins through me, a sinner" in the prayer of absolution.
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2010, 05:35:20 PM »

If I had some time on my hands, I might ask them what exactly they mean by "going through priests" in order to gain access to God. On the face of it, the assertion is ridiculous.
Not at all. I believe that the way confession is done in at least the Antiochian tradition, the priest says something like "may God forgive you your sins through me, a sinner" in the prayer of absolution.

John 20:23

"Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."

No Protestant has yet adequately explained this verse to me in a way which favors their anticlerical position.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2010, 05:47:52 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2010, 05:42:03 PM »

A friend recently commented to me that Catholics and Orthodox don't understand how to have a personal relationship with God, because they're so used to having to go through priests all the time in order to access Him-and that this sets up an unnatural barrier between God and man.

What are your thoughts? Does anyone here ever feel that maybe we have too much of this going on and that there should be more direct contact encouraged with God?

A good counter question might be: Can they can think of anything more personal than eating His deifying Flesh and drinking His deifying Blood?

In other words, do they know what it is to actually consume God Himself, flesh and blood, in order to partake of His very nature? If not, then the relationship might not be quite as "personal" as they think. Usually the whole "personal relationship with Jesus" revelation is more about being casual with God than anything else, as if that was somehow profound.

"You know, just talk to Him like He's just anybody else you know, like He's your closest friend." This is very beautiful if done in an Orthodox manner, but often it can make Christ a "partner" at the expense of His Lordship. It also takes about two seconds to grasp this "profound" concept on a basic level, while cultivating holiness takes a lifetime of cooperation and ascesis.

We all have relationships, but what those relationships look like is very important.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2010, 05:45:28 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
katherineofdixie
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« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2010, 02:01:03 PM »

If I had some time on my hands, I might ask them what exactly they mean by "going through priests" in order to gain access to God. On the face of it, the assertion is ridiculous.

Not at all. I believe that the way confession is done in at least the Antiochian tradition, the priest says something like "may God forgive you your sins through me, a sinner" in the prayer of absolution.

Doesn't the Priest say he is "only a witness," to your confession, because you are really confessing to Christ who is standing invisibly before you.

Greek: "Whatever you have said to my humble person, and whatever you have failed to say, whether through ignorance or forgetfulness, whatever it may be, may God forgive you in this world and the next.... Have no further anxiety; go in peace" or
Russian: "May Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, through the grace and bounties of His love towards mankind, forgive you, my Child [Name] all your transgressions. And I, an unworthy Priest, through the power given me by Him, forgive and absolve you from all yours sins."

Is the Antiochian different?
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« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2010, 02:08:04 PM »

Doesn't the Priest say he is "only a witness," to your confession, because you are really confessing to Christ who is standing invisibly before you.

Greek: "Whatever you have said to my humble person, and whatever you have failed to say, whether through ignorance or forgetfulness, whatever it may be, may God forgive you in this world and the next.... Have no further anxiety; go in peace" or
Russian: "May Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, through the grace and bounties of His love towards mankind, forgive you, my Child [Name] all your transgressions. And I, an unworthy Priest, through the power given me by Him, forgive and absolve you from all yours sins."

Is the Antiochian different?

I'm not sure, when I see Fr. John on Saturday before Vespers I will ask if I can take a look at the prayers for absolution.
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Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)
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« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2010, 02:33:37 PM »

Probably things like confession, the rituals etc.

Confession as a Holy Mystery/Sacrament--as well as an integral part of the Divine Liturgy, Vespers, Hours, or private prayers--is not accomplished through the priest, although the priest is usually present and may act in various capacities (witness, spiritual father, and prayer leader (in the case of the Liturgy of the Faithful). I have never confessed only to my priest but to the Lord and my priest, when the priest was present. On the other hand, the role of the priest is critical when it comes to absolution, that is, when the Lord is "talking back" to us because, as the Bishop's Deputy, he does have the authority to bind and to loose in the name of the Lord.

I would tell my Protestant brethren that we have both private and corporate prayers and the latter are led by our pastor, just as it is in their churches. And that we also have many sacraments, which we call Holy Mysteries, that can only be led by a pastor who is also a priest, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.
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« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2010, 03:08:03 PM »

When I go to see my Father-Confessor for Confession, he takes a lot of time to pray with me before and after confession. Amongst the prayers said is the following:

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God through Nathan the prophet forgave David his sins; and Peter shedding bitter tears over his denial; and the Adulteress weeping at his feet; and the Publican and the Prodigal Son. May this same God, through me, a sinner, forgive + you everything in this life and in the life to come. And may he make you stand uncondemned before his awesome judgment-seat, for he is blessed forever and ever. Amen.

IMHO, this prayer cites scriptural proof that God through the ages has used others to do his work. Furthermore, there are other verses in scripture that tell us to go to the Church:

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
James 5:14-16 NKJV

The claim that we do not have a personal relationship with the Lord because we go to a priest is about as legitimate as saying that we don't believe in God for healing because we go to a doctor.

Just as God uses doctors and nurses to address our physical ailments, he uses the clergy to address our spiritual ailments.
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« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2010, 03:26:49 PM »

When I go to see my Father-Confessor for Confession, he takes a lot of time to pray with me before and after confession. Amongst the prayers said is the following:

Quote
God through Nathan the prophet forgave David his sins; and Peter shedding bitter tears over his denial; and the Adulteress weeping at his feet; and the Publican and the Prodigal Son. May this same God, through me, a sinner, forgive + you everything in this life and in the life to come. And may he make you stand uncondemned before his awesome judgment-seat, for he is blessed forever and ever. Amen.

IMHO, this prayer cites scriptural proof that God through the ages has used others to do his work. Furthermore, there are other verses in scripture that tell us to go to the Church:

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
James 5:14-16 NKJV

The claim that we do not have a personal relationship with the Lord because we go to a priest is about as legitimate as saying that we don't believe in God for healing because we go to a doctor.

Just as God uses doctors and nurses to address our physical ailments, he uses the clergy to address our spiritual ailments.

Wow- what an excellent post, Handmaiden! If only I could memorize all this wisdom so I'd have the right words to say at the right time...
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« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2010, 08:34:23 PM »

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God through Nathan the prophet forgave David his sins; and Peter shedding bitter tears over his denial; and the Adulteress weeping at his feet; and the Publican and the Prodigal Son. May this same God, through me, a sinner, forgive + you everything in this life and in the life to come. And may he make you stand uncondemned before his awesome judgment-seat, for he is blessed forever and ever. Amen.

This one is similar to the one my priest uses at an Antiochian parish. However, I did pull another one from a Service book tonight...

"May our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, through the grace and bounties of his love towards mankind, forgive thee my child, N., all thy transgressions. And I, His unworthy priest, through the power given unto me by Him, do forgive and absolve thee from all thy sins. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

That's from the Service Book of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic And Apostolic Church, According to the Use of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (Ninth Edition, 1993).
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« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2010, 11:56:39 PM »

Quote from: Rosehip
What are your thoughts?
My first thought is that they sound exactly like me before I found Orthodoxy.  They're wrong.  Is it worth debating with them?  Unlikely.  I'd be tempted to ask them "Why do you think you even NEED a personal relationship?  Is your faith simply all about you?"  Hopefully, discretion would keep me from actually asking.

Exactly. A 'personal relationship' has nothing to do with God being all mine, or about me reinterpreting scripture to fit my agenda.

I would explain to them that we don't pray 'though' priests, but before them as witnesses to our genuine contrition and to seek spiritual guidance from a mentor, Many will ignore this very simple explanation because it deflates their high minded accusations.  As for those who have ears to hear, let them hear
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