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Author Topic: Thinking of returning to the EO church, but having trouble with a few things....  (Read 3461 times) Average Rating: 0
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yeshuaisiam
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« on: October 20, 2010, 11:16:39 PM »

I was raised & baptized in the Eastern Orthodox church.  I was in communion & participated in a few of the sacraments as a child.

I won't go into details of why I parted the church... Mostly because of my parents in my youth, but no excuse as an adult as I am 34 years old now.

Anyway, I am considering returning to the church, but I am having a lot of problems on a few subjects.


1) Repetitious prayer.  We were commanded by God incarnate not to pray in repetition as the heathens do.  Yet there are prayer ropes...  Over and over again the same prayer is said "O Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me a sinner".   I did this a lot as a child, but I'm not sure God needs so much repetition.  Being all powerful, wouldn't he get the point by just saying it once?  Was Jesus's example the Lord's prayer so that we would not do this?

2) Mistranslation in English of the name "Jesus Christ".  Perhaps this is a Greek problem, but in proper Aramaic translation his name is pronounced in English as Yeshua.  Why have we not fixed this in English?   King James took the 'Iesus Christos' from the Greek.  Yeshua spoke Aramaic, as did the disciples. I find it kind of strange that we are calling our savior TECHNICALLY incorrectly.

3) I know that veneration of Icons is showing respect & love to the individual in heaven / reverence etc.  But as an adult, I'm having a VERY tough time with this.  You are kissing paint & wood, or glass on top of paint/wood etc.  Period.  When people do kiss them, they cross themselves first...  How can we logically say that we are in veneration to the individual, when we kiss paint & wood with a painting of them that an artist "thinks" they may have looked like?

4) Why is it important to constantly cross yourself.  I've never once read in the bible where Yeshua (Jesus) or an apostle did this.  How does this help?  The way I see it is "God knows what you mean".   Why is it so important?  We were commanded to pray in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) OR aka - The trinity.  So when we say "In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit" (emphasis added on the sacred name), why does crossing ourselves help?  I can't imagine how God sees us sitting there crossing ourselves so many times - even during a liturgy.

5) Did the apostles venerate icons of Christ?

6) Did Yeshua/Jesus have an altar or practice anything similar to a divine liturgy (St. John Chrysostom (sp?)  regularly?  Did the apostles do this?

7) Did the apostles use incense?  Did they use the censor on anything?  (Or is there evidence of any early Christian doing this such as Polycarp, Tertullian, Clement, or even Cyprian?

Cool Are we allowed to "confess our sins to one another" as the scriptures mandate, or is it only to a priest?

9) Do you feel God likes all the "bling" in the church.  Silver chalices (ironic as Christ was betrayed for silver), gold plate , shiny stuff.  The vestments of that of rich priests, bishops... Large - rich - or luxurious churches (not all but there are some).

10) Do the Orthodox accept Freemasons in their church?  (I find it to be a luciferian faith - Freemasonry)

11) Are the Orthodox allowed to hold public office, be part of the military, be on a jury, or be a police officer?  All which require a SWORN OATH "To protect and defend the constitution" etc., when Yeshua (Jesus) clearly told us not to swear and let our answers be clear as a Yes or No.

12) Did any early Christians (Prue Nicea), apostles, or Yeshua (Jesus) "Bless" inadament objects?  a) home blessings  b) oil  c) icons d) crosses e) water (found in the old testament)  - What does blessing these things do to them exactly?

13) Liturgical repetition.   I'm having trouble because I wonder of God wants us to pray the same things over and over again nearly every Sunday.  I don't know if this falls into the question #1 category of repetition, but it's kind of hard for me to do it over and over again when I figure God knows I truly meant it last week.

14) Did the early Christians practice ordination after somebody graduated from a seminary?  Or did they basically ordinate people who were of great faith & understood the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus)?  When was a degree requirement needed for this sacrament of ordination?


Please with all my heart & soul forgive me if I've offended anybody with these questions.  I'm just a very confused person right now and I'm trying to find the purity of early Christianity as the Pre-Nicean church fathers practiced.  Many of these WERE Orthodox in principal.... It's just the doctrines, practices, and habits of today's church, though very much unchanged since the 7th council....

Thanks so much.
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2010, 11:49:08 PM »

Some comments on a few of your questions:

Quote
1) Repetitious prayer.  We were commanded by God incarnate not to pray in repetition as the heathens do.  Yet there are prayer ropes...  Over and over again the same prayer is said "O Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me a sinner".   I did this a lot as a child, but I'm not sure God needs so much repetition.  Being all powerful, wouldn't he get the point by just saying it once?  Was Jesus's example the Lord's prayer so that we would not do this?

Yet we are also commanded to pray without ceasing.  Smiley

Quote
2) Mistranslation in English of the name "Jesus Christ".  Perhaps this is a Greek problem, but in proper Aramaic translation his name is pronounced in English as Yeshua.  Why have we not fixed this in English?   King James took the 'Iesus Christos' from the Greek.  Yeshua spoke Aramaic, as did the disciples. I find it kind of strange that we are calling our savior TECHNICALLY incorrectly.

At Pentecost, the Apostles were given the gift of speaking the languages of the world, to equip them to "go out and preach the good news to all the nations". God is not monolingual, he's smart enough to know every language on earth.  Smiley

Quote
3) I know that veneration of Icons is showing respect & love to the individual in heaven / reverence etc.  But as an adult, I'm having a VERY tough time with this.  You are kissing paint & wood, or glass on top of paint/wood etc.  Period.  When people do kiss them, they cross themselves first...  How can we logically say that we are in veneration to the individual, when we kiss paint & wood with a painting of them that an artist "thinks" they may have looked like?

If someone burned, or spat on, or trod on, your Bible, what would you do? Do you not regard this book, which is, after all, made of mere paper and ink, as special and holy, treating it with care, and keeping it in a safe place? Have you never kissed photographs (either the prints themselves, or framed behind glass) of absent loved ones in remembrance and joy?

Quote
5) Did the apostles venerate icons of Christ?

The first icon in existence was made by Christ Himself by pressing a cloth to His face, leaving behind a miraculous likeness of His face. This "Icon-not-made-by-hands", as it became known, was sent to a dying king, who was healed by praying before it. Christ Himself could not travel to the king's city to heal him, so He sent the next best thing.

Quote
7) Did the apostles use incense?  Did they use the censor on anything?  (Or is there evidence of any early Christian doing this such as Polycarp, Tertullian, Clement, or even Cyprian?


Incense was used in Jewish worship long, long before Christ's time. Some of our oldest hymns, as well as many of the OT psalms (from which many Orthodox hymns and prayers draw extensively) mention the use of incense as a sweet-smelling and precious offering to God. At every Orthodox Matins service, this psalm verse is sung: Let my prayer rise to You like incense, the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.

« Last Edit: October 20, 2010, 11:51:04 PM by LBK » Logged
theistgal
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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 11:55:38 PM »

My question to the OP:  what exactly is causing you to think about returning to the Church, since you disagree with all these things?  Realistically, the EO is not going to drop any of these practices which you object to.  So what is attracting you back to it?

(Hope this doesn't sound flippant or rude, I am seriously interested. Thanks! Smiley )
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« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2010, 12:05:12 AM »

Frankly, you don't sound as if you've ever been Orthodox. If anything, your parents would have explained some of this to you already.
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don't even go there!


« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2010, 12:07:38 AM »

But he did say he left the church as a child, so perhaps he was simply not properly catechized.
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« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2010, 12:09:31 AM »

Frankly, you don't sound as if you've ever been Orthodox. If anything, your parents would have explained some of this to you already.

I think you may be making too many assumptions here.
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« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2010, 12:14:38 AM »

My question to the OP:  what exactly is causing you to think about returning to the Church, since you disagree with all these things?  Realistically, the EO is not going to drop any of these practices which you object to.  So what is attracting you back to it?

(Hope this doesn't sound flippant or rude, I am seriously interested. Thanks! Smiley )

It is my impression that the OP has probably come across these common protestant critiques of the ancient church during his/her investigation of Orthodoxy. I know that I did, and I had many of the same questions (if not all of them). These are very common barriers that those from former protestant backgrounds encounter, even if they are interested in other aspects of the church.
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« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2010, 12:32:15 AM »

Ortho-Cat, agreed and good points, so perhaps you're in a better position than the rest of us to explain these things to the OP. Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2010, 12:49:20 AM »

Welcome, yeshuaisiam!

You don't need to apologize. I am sure we all are happy that you have decided to take a second look at your roots in the Church. Smiley

1) Repetitious prayer.  We were commanded by God incarnate not to pray in repetition as the heathens do.  Yet there are prayer ropes...  Over and over again the same prayer is said "O Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me a sinner".   I did this a lot as a child, but I'm not sure God needs so much repetition.  Being all powerful, wouldn't he get the point by just saying it once?  Was Jesus's example the Lord's prayer so that we would not do this?

Being all-knowing, does God need us to pray at all? Christ told us to be like the Publican who continually beat his breast and prayed "have mercy on me." That prayer, "have mercy" is found so often in scripture, I can't help but think God was trying to tell us something. Wink

And if God doesn't like repetition, he forgot to tell the angelic host, because they repeat "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth" day and night without ceasing.

2) Mistranslation in English of the name "Jesus Christ".  Perhaps this is a Greek problem, but in proper Aramaic translation his name is pronounced in English as Yeshua.  Why have we not fixed this in English?   King James took the 'Iesus Christos' from the Greek.  Yeshua spoke Aramaic, as did the disciples. I find it kind of strange that we are calling our savior TECHNICALLY incorrectly.

We can't quibble with the Holy Spirit, who saw fit to preserve the New Testament in Greek, which is Iesous Christos. I'm not aware of any language wherein Christians call him "Yeshua" or a derivative, except maybe Hebrew. It's always derived from the Greek. But really, this is such a minor issue. We worship the person whom the name describes, not the name itself.

3) I know that veneration of Icons is showing respect & love to the individual in heaven / reverence etc.  But as an adult, I'm having a VERY tough time with this.  You are kissing paint & wood, or glass on top of paint/wood etc.  Period.  When people do kiss them, they cross themselves first...  How can we logically say that we are in veneration to the individual, when we kiss paint & wood with a painting of them that an artist "thinks" they may have looked like?

If you kissed a photograph of your wife, would you be expressing love for paper and emulsion, or love for your wife?

4) Why is it important to constantly cross yourself.  I've never once read in the bible where Yeshua (Jesus) or an apostle did this.  How does this help?  The way I see it is "God knows what you mean".   Why is it so important?  We were commanded to pray in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) OR aka - The trinity.  So when we say "In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit" (emphasis added on the sacred name), why does crossing ourselves help?  I can't imagine how God sees us sitting there crossing ourselves so many times - even during a liturgy.

It is an expression of worship. We don't just worship with our minds and hearts, but with our bodies as well. The frequency is up to the individual. We do it at the mention of the Trinity out of reverence.

It's not so bizarre. I know someone who went to university extensively in Israel, and I have it on his good authority that pious Jews cover their head with their right hand whenever they refer to God (saying "Lord" or "Adonai", etc). I don't know if they did that in Christ's day, but performing a simple action at the name of God is something we have in common with Jews.

5) Did the apostles venerate icons of Christ?
In addition to LBK's example, Saint Luke painted one of the first Icons of the Mother of God, called "the Directress."

6) Did Yeshua/Jesus have an altar or practice anything similar to a divine liturgy (St. John Chrysostom (sp?)  regularly?  Did the apostles do this?

Christ didn't, to my knowledge, but the Apostles did. One of the first liturgies was written by the Apostle James, which is what St John Chrysostom based his liturgy on. There is also the Liturgy of Saint Mark, still used by Coptic Orthodox.

Cool Are we allowed to "confess our sins to one another" as the scriptures mandate, or is it only to a priest?
Only a priest can absolve the sins and give permission to take communion (binding and loosing, an apostolic right only), but in the early Church people did confess their sins in front of the whole church. There are no canons against this practice, and you theoretically could stand up in front of everyone and list them off, if you wanted to.

My own priest says that if anyone wishes to do so, they may. But he has never had any takers. Wink

9) Do you feel God likes all the "bling" in the church.  Silver chalices (ironic as Christ was betrayed for silver), gold plate , shiny stuff.  The vestments of that of rich priests, bishops... Large - rich - or luxurious churches (not all but there are some).

St John Chrysostom—quite a stickler when it comes to wealth—talks about this. Because the church temple is the common property of the community and is a communal instrument for worshipping God, it is acceptable for it to be richly decorated. This is God, after all. It is a very natural response for humans to use beautiful things in worship.

More than that, we know God wants us to worship him this way. The Jews built a massive and expensive temple, filled with gold and silver—at God's direct command. Saint John saw the worship of heaven in golden candlestands and the like. Our worship reflects heavenly worship, so we want it to be as heavenly as possible.

More than the extravagance of our churches, we should concern ourselves with our own private homes, and whether they are filled with luxury that we use only for ourselves. That is what separates us from God.

10) Do the Orthodox accept Freemasons in their church?  (I find it to be a luciferian faith - Freemasonry)

No, Freemasonry and other similar secret brotherhoods are condemned.

11) Are the Orthodox allowed to hold public office, be part of the military, be on a jury, or be a police officer?  All which require a SWORN OATH "To protect and defend the constitution" etc., when Yeshua (Jesus) clearly told us not to swear and let our answers be clear as a Yes or No.

I don't know about other countries, but in the US a public official may affirm, rather than swear. But there are plenty of Orthodox who do not hold public office, serve on juries, etc. for this very reason. It is left to individual conscience and the direction of the spiritual father.

12) Did any early Christians (Prue Nicea), apostles, or Yeshua (Jesus) "Bless" inadament objects?  a) home blessings  b) oil  c) icons d) crosses e) water (found in the old testament)  - What does blessing these things do to them exactly?

Father Stephen Freeman explains it quite nicely: blessing an object does not change it, rather the blessing reveals it in its fullness.

13) Liturgical repetition.   I'm having trouble because I wonder of God wants us to pray the same things over and over again nearly every Sunday.  I don't know if this falls into the question #1 category of repetition, but it's kind of hard for me to do it over and over again when I figure God knows I truly meant it last week.

The Bible is chock full of liturgy. How do you think the Hebrews worshipped? They performed the same sacrifices and ritual services and feastdays over and over. They prayed the Hours, just like we do.

Remember, worship is not about entertaining ourselves. It is about coming into contact with God and worshipping Him, and the Church's liturgies are the way the Holy Spirit has led us to most effectively do that.

14) Did the early Christians practice ordination after somebody graduated from a seminary?  Or did they basically ordinate people who were of great faith & understood the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus)?  When was a degree requirement needed for this sacrament of ordination?

There were no university systems in that age, because the Church was underground and being persecuted. More often the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, took disciples and trained them. That is how the second generation of bishops were trained—directly by the Apostles. Not in a structured classroom setting, but much in the same way the Apostles themselves learned from Christ.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 12:50:22 AM by bogdan » Logged
Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2010, 01:05:18 AM »

Welcome to the forum!

Some would have to verify this, but I've heard when Christ gave us His prayer, the "Our Father...", that in the Greek it actually literally says something to the effect that when one prays, they should repetitiously say the prayer.

The Sign of the Cross is a universal gesture throughout the ancient churches. It is a part of our tradition which is not recorded in the Holy Scriptures, but I think the proof is in the pudding on this one; ancient Christians from Persia to the British Isles did this, and still do this.

Your questions about the "necessity" of certain things seems to betray a kind of "what's the bottom line?" approach. I've found this usually comes from Protestant training in questions like "what do I have to do to be saved?" So the "necessity" of certain practices really seems to boil down to why must we do this? This way of thinking is in some ways foreign to the Orthodox view of reality. We cross ourselves frequently because the cross of Christ is our protection. The gesture calls to mind so many realities: crucifixion of our own will, the salvation by His sacrifice, and it is the sign at which the demons tremble because it has defeated them.

Jesus did not celebrate the liturgy with an altar. The sacrifice hadn't been made yet. But He did institute the Mystical Supper; the Eucharist. His brother St. James did, and we still use this liturgy occasionally. Well, I think the altar was originally the table for the agape meal, and the symbolism came in a bit later.

As far as early Christians blessing objects, I believe the Holy Scriptures record that St. Paul blessed rags and sent them to people, and that they were healed by them.

The New Testament is full of liturgy. Here's a good starter text before getting into serious scholarship: http://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Worship-Living-Continuity-Synagogue/dp/0937032727

There are plenty of Orthodox ordinations where the recipient isn't formally educated. Some are nearly illiterate, even canonized saints like St. Nicholas Planas of Athens. My priest didn't go to seminary, nor the deacons at my church (who are also ordained clergy).

Icons are windows to heaven. The honor passes to the one depicted. I don't know anyone who is Orthodox that adores wood and paint, especially not as deity. That's called idolatry.

Confess your sins to whoever you need to, as long as you're not bragging, usually for reconciliation or accountability. But also you must confess to God in the presence of an Orthodox presbyter, for by the bishops' apostolic authority he looses and binds.

God commanded a lot of "bling" in the Jerusalem temple. Christ let the woman pour expensive perfume all over his feet, despite the disciples complaining about how they could have sold that and given the money to the poor. Christ rebuked them. It all must be in balance. If everyone on earth is fed food but not souls are fed the beauty and majesty of God, then there is no point in keeping them alive in the first place.

Incense was used in the Jerusalem temple, I would assume it carried on from there, but it might have been reintroduced later. I don't think there's any definitive proof on this from any primary sources. It's an unknown area. But don't trust your Baptist instincts on that one; again incense has universal use amongst the ancient churches.

There are icons (frescoes) all over the catacombs and the early house churches, as well as synagogues at the time of Christ.

Freemasons are not welcome, although some people just don't care, but you'll find that attitude in any church really.

Hope I was somewhat helpful, if at all.

« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 01:12:24 AM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2010, 01:39:11 AM »

Just to try to discuss what name we call the 2nd Person of the Trinity.  The Hebrew name for Moses is Moshe.  I have not heard anyone object to us calling him Moses.  Joseph's name should be Yoseph.  Mary's name should be Miryam.  So is it really that bad to call Yeshua Jesus in the English language?
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« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2010, 01:44:48 AM »

Just some quick comments on a couple of points --

1) Repetitious prayer.  We were commanded by God incarnate not to pray in repetition as the heathens do.  

I believe the actual command is against vain repetitions.  And I think we tend to think prayer becomes vain after we repeat something once (or maybe twice).  In reality, isn't it the other way around -- we have to learn to pray with our "heads in our hearts" (i.e., with the nous), and that takes a lot of time and practice.  In other words, we're praying "in vain" (in a sense) when we're learning to focus our minds as we pray (i.e., by praying the Jesus prayer on a prayer rope; by saying the same prayers every morning).  I have a hard time staying focused in prayer -- so I press on.  I want to get past praying "in vain."  I want to learn to pray from my heart, without my head wandering all over the place.  

Quote
4) Why is it important to constantly cross yourself.  I've never once read in the bible where Yeshua (Jesus) or an apostle did this.  How does this help?  The way I see it is "God knows what you mean".  

God knows what we mean -- isn't the crossing of ourselves for us, a way of praising Him with our being?  And also, isn't crossing ourselves as a weapon against the enemy?  Is it a part of putting on our armor? I'm a newly illumined Orthodox person, so I'm still learning.  

Quote
7) Did the apostles use incense?  Did they use the censor on anything?  (Or is there evidence of any early Christian doing this such as Polycarp, Tertullian, Clement, or even Cyprian?

Addressing both this and the "bling" comment here -- we loved realizing that WOW, there really was incense, fire, bells, vestments and bling in the Jewish temples.  And the disciples were Jewish men, were they not?  So yes, they must have used incense and the like in their worship.  I would think if they did away with it, the Scriptures would have recorded that , not that they continued using something already in place.

Quote
13) Liturgical repetition. I'm having trouble because I wonder of God wants us to pray the same things over and over again nearly every Sunday.  I don't know if this falls into the question #1 category of repetition, but it's kind of hard for me to do it over and over again when I figure God knows I truly meant it last week.

Similar to above (I think it's done incorrectly if it's done vainly; learning to NOT do it vainly is the goal), but my comment here would also be based on my experience as a protestant for many years. I love that Divine Liturgy is not dependent on a personality or a good worship band or someone's exposition of the Scriptures or fill-in-the-blank.  We have a story that we're telling and it's worth telling every week.  It's like a small child who love the same book read to him over and over and over (and over) again -- it's soothing to them; comforting.  I feel that way in the liturgy.  It's soothing and comforting to be reminded of the story of God each week. 

Side Note: our priest commented last week, during his homily, that "Again and again" -- "Again and again" -- "Again and again" -- these words are repeated much in the liturgy.  Because our spirits/nous NEED the repetition to be changed.  

Again, just some thoughts from this side of the world.  
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 01:49:31 AM by Thankful » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2010, 02:10:32 AM »

I hope this helps.

1) Repetitious prayer.  We were commanded by God incarnate not to pray in repetition as the heathens do.  Yet there are prayer ropes...  Over and over again the same prayer is said "O Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me a sinner".   I did this a lot as a child, but I'm not sure God needs so much repetition.  Being all powerful, wouldn't he get the point by just saying it once?  Was Jesus's example the Lord's prayer so that we would not do this?

Repetition helped the woman in Matt 15:21-28. Jesus taught persistence in prayer in Luke 11:5-8 and Luke 18:1-8. Paul recorded his own persistence in prayer in 2Cor 12:8 and 2Thess 1:11. Christ never taught against praying with repetition, he only taught against using vain repetitions. It wasn't the repetitions, but the vanity of the pharisees that He condemned.

Repetitions of prayers like the Jesus Prayer, the Prayer of St Ephrem, etc. are also meant to help ingrain those words into our thoughts and then finally into our hearts so that that constant communion with God through prayer becomes a part of our being and not just an act.

Another thing to keep in mind is that prayer isn't meant to benefit God, it's meant to benefit us. God already knows what we need before we ask, and even when we don't know what our needs are to ask for them. We pray because we're created for the purpose of communing with God, not just to get stuff.

Quote
2) Mistranslation in English of the name "Jesus Christ".  Perhaps this is a Greek problem, but in proper Aramaic translation his name is pronounced in English as Yeshua.  Why have we not fixed this in English?   King James took the 'Iesus Christos' from the Greek.  Yeshua spoke Aramaic, as did the disciples. I find it kind of strange that we are calling our savior TECHNICALLY incorrectly.

It's not really a "mistranslation", more of just a linguistic difference which, as you pointed out, can be traced going back to aramaic - through greek - through latin - and finally into english. It's the same thing with James, which actually comes from the same name as Jacob.

Quote
3) I know that veneration of Icons is showing respect & love to the individual in heaven / reverence etc.  But as an adult, I'm having a VERY tough time with this.  You are kissing paint & wood, or glass on top of paint/wood etc.  Period.  When people do kiss them, they cross themselves first...  How can we logically say that we are in veneration to the individual, when we kiss paint & wood with a painting of them that an artist "thinks" they may have looked like?

We just understand the honor as going to the individual, and simply to "wood and paint". Even then it doesn't stop at the individual because when we honor a saint, it's because of their lives bearing witness to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. This ultimately glorifies God for what he has done to and through the persons and events being venerated.

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4) Why is it important to constantly cross yourself.  I've never once read in the bible where Yeshua (Jesus) or an apostle did this.  How does this help?  The way I see it is "God knows what you mean".   Why is it so important?  We were commanded to pray in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) OR aka - The trinity.  So when we say "In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit" (emphasis added on the sacred name), why does crossing ourselves help?  I can't imagine how God sees us sitting there crossing ourselves so many times - even during a liturgy.

It's a way of calling on God and the work that was done on the cross. We make the sign of the cross becuase of the centrality of the cross to the message of the Gospel. See 1Cor 1:18, 1Cor 2:2, Gal 6:14, Eph 2:16, Phil 2:8-11, Col 1:20, Col 2:14-15. These passages don't record anyone crossing themselves, but do point to the importance and power of the cross in our lives.

[qoute]
5) Did the apostles venerate icons of Christ?[/quote]

St Luke is traditionally believed to have made the first image of Christ.

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6) Did Yeshua/Jesus have an altar or practice anything similar to a divine liturgy (St. John Chrysostom (sp?)  regularly?  Did the apostles do this?

I can think of three points. What's done in the liturgy, reflections of this in the NT, and modern day practices that echo apostolic and pre-nicene eras in Christianity.

The liturgy is a combination of two things. First there is the liturgy of the Word, which is a Christian continuation of a Jewish synagogue service where Psalms are sung, prayers are made, praise is given to God, scripture is read, and a lesson is given on the scripture reading. The second half is the Christian continuation of the Jewish sacrifices and is centered around the Eucharist. Christ said He came not to abolish, but to fulfill the law. The theme of the book of Hebrews, and that of the entire NT, is that all of the OT sacrifices were fulfilled and perfected by Christ on the cross. 1Cor 11:26 says "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."

You can find a reflection of liturgical worship in Luke 24:13-35 where Christ walks with the disciples, first teaching them from the scriptures, and then making Himself known to them in the breaking of the bread. Also in acts 20:7, they gathered on the first day of the week to break bread and Paul preached to them. Acts 2:42 says "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.", which are all elements of the Church's liturgical worship.

There is a liturgy that is still used on occasion that is attributed to St James, and a few that i don't believe are practiced any more but are attributed to the apostles and their disciples like the Liturgy of St Mark, which are still written down. Also there a few elements of the modern liturgy that continuations of practices born in the early centuries of persecution. Use of the antimension dates back to when worship was held wherever the people could get together requiring an altar that could easily be moved. The proclamation of "The doors, the doors" before the Creed is a command that was given in times of persecution to make sure that the place of worship was secured and guarded so that they would not get caught. The entrance of the Gospel book at the little entrance and when the reader brings the lectionary to the priest to be blessed are both practices that originated in the necessity to keep scripture kept hidden somewhere safe from being found and destroyed when it wasn't being used in worship.

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7) Did the apostles use incense?  Did they use the censor on anything?  (Or is there evidence of any early Christian doing this such as Polycarp, Tertullian, Clement, or even Cyprian?

It was used in Jewish worship and even the apostles continued to go to into the temple at the hours of prayer (Acts 3:1). It was something that was carried over from Jewish into Christian worship. It's also mentioned in Revelation.

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Cool Are we allowed to "confess our sins to one another" as the scriptures mandate, or is it only to a priest?

The verse that you quote follows a command to have the sick prayed over specifically by an elder (greek presbyteros). It is God who forgives sins (Luke 5:21). This authority to perform in this ministry was given by Christ to the apostles (John 20:23, 1Cor 2:10), and those who were appointed by them (1Tim 4:14).

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9) Do you feel God likes all the "bling" in the church.  Silver chalices (ironic as Christ was betrayed for silver), gold plate , shiny stuff.  The vestments of that of rich priests, bishops... Large - rich - or luxurious churches (not all but there are some).

John 12:3-5 "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?"

Please forgive me for stopping short. I will try to come back to finish this later. I hope that this helps. Sorry if it seems long.
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« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2010, 02:48:38 AM »

Edit: I didn't realize Melodist covered everything I planned to say already, and in a much more straightforward manner.

Mistranslation in English of the name "Jesus Christ".  erhaps this is a Greek problem, but in proper Aramaic translation his name is pronounced in English as Yeshua.  Why have we not fixed this in English?   King James [...bible, right?] took the 'Iesus Christos' from the Greek. Yeshua spoke Aramaic, as did the disciples. I find it kind of strange that we are calling our savior TECHNICALLY incorrectly.
It is not a mistranslation, it is the Greek form of Yeshua Mashiah; Mary is not a mistranslation of Miryam, just as Nicholas is not a mistranslation of Nikolaos. As YHWH did not smite the translators of the Septuagint with lightning, but instead allowed his Son's disciples to make use of it when they wrote the Gospels, I have a feeling that linguistic changes of this nature are not too important to our salvation. That said, I like to use the name Yeshua from time to time because, in my fallen mind, it is free of the associations placed on Our Lord by mainstream pop Christianity.

I'm trying to find the purity of early Christianity as the Pre-Nicean church fathers practiced.
Before Constantine fused the church with Roman sun cults and outlawed guitar-and-powerpoint worship, right?  laugh Sorry, just poking a little fun whist recalling my own old attitude.

By the way, are you part of one of the organized messianic jewish denominations?
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2010, 04:43:26 AM »

Ortho-Cat, agreed and good points, so perhaps you're in a better position than the rest of us to explain these things to the OP. Smiley

Hardly! My word is worth very little around here these days!  laugh
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2010, 10:03:43 AM »

These are fantastic responses, I thank everybody who has contributed.  I will research and pray about these things more.

There were some asking questions about my personal religious history...
I was born & raised in an orthodox church.  Since then I've been researching the bible, councils, & languages like crazy through my life.  We hold "home" bible study etc.

I'm trying to return to Orthodoxy, and some of my studies have swayed me a bit.  I am not part of a church.

I tell people "I'm Eastern Orthodox at heart & theology, with a cup of anabaptist, and a dash of messianic jew (Nazarite Christians).

I'm going to start a new thread on probably the grand-daddy of all questions that I have...  I thank you for the responses and look forward to any more input.

Indeed for me this will have to be a "state of mind" change.  As far as icons I'm having a horrific time with VENERATION.  One asked if I would kiss a photograph of my wife and how I would perceive it.... I don't know that I would kiss her photograph (even if she was dead).   I mean I would look at it, remember her from it.... But kiss it?  I don't know.  It's paper.   I can hold reverence to her by looking at the photograph. (if she was dead).  I know icons are more "story telling" and that's what I can find that they were used for... The veneration has me VERY stumped.  I UNDERSTAND the state of mind sort of, because when I was a child I venerated icons.


There was also a comment on Constantine being a sun worshipper etc.  That's typical accusations by Messianic Jews.  I understand that point.  However, I have no peace in my heart with "St. Constantine" either.  He had his own son put to death.  To me that is very Un-Christian. 




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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2010, 10:18:09 AM »

Theologically speaking, the Church holds that our reverence and veneration of icons is passed to the person depicted. The Icon is a mystical touchpoint with the other world, not simply a depiction (which is why they are blessed by sitting on the altar during the Divine Liturgy).  If you are wanting to read more about this, I would recommend the book "Iconostasis" by Fr Pavel Florensky, a martyr under the Soviet yoke. He explains the mystical side of iconography.

As to St Constantine: no saint is infallible or perfect. But his efforts to establish and centralize Christianity saved the Church from dissolving away into a mess similar to the Protestant world. He did much good for the faith, even if some of his choices were wrong.
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2010, 10:20:55 AM »

Quote
Indeed for me this will have to be a "state of mind" change.  As far as icons I'm having a horrific time with VENERATION.  One asked if I would kiss a photograph of my wife and how I would perceive it.... I don't know that I would kiss her photograph (even if she was dead).   I mean I would look at it, remember her from it.... But kiss it?  I don't know.  It's paper.   I can hold reverence to her by looking at the photograph. (if she was dead).  I know icons are more "story telling" and that's what I can find that they were used for... The veneration has me VERY stumped.  I UNDERSTAND the state of mind sort of, because when I was a child I venerated icons.

Perhaps the most influential writer on this matter is St John of Damascus, a saint of immense importance and wisdom, many of whose writings are with us to this day, and whose hymns for saints and feasts are sung in every Orthodox church. This is one of my favourite quotes of his, which beautifully and concisely expresses the rightness and necessity of iconography in Christian worship and devotion:
 
Of old, the incorporeal and uncircumscribed God was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of the God who can be seen. I do not worship matter, but I worship the Creator of matter, who through matter effected my salvation. I will not cease to venerate the matter through which my salvation has been effected.

In essence, those who deny the place of icons in the Church are denying or diminishing the Incarnation of God. St John's treatise In Defence of the Holy Images is essential reading. It's a short book. Here's an online link to it:
 
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/johndamascus-images.html#PART%20I


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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2010, 10:29:27 AM »

Indeed for me this will have to be a "state of mind" change.  As far as icons I'm having a horrific time with VENERATION.  One asked if I would kiss a photograph of my wife and how I would perceive it.... I don't know that I would kiss her photograph (even if she was dead).   I mean I would look at it, remember her from it.... But kiss it?  I don't know.  It's paper.   I can hold reverence to her by looking at the photograph. (if she was dead).  I know icons are more "story telling" and that's what I can find that they were used for... The veneration has me VERY stumped.  I UNDERSTAND the state of mind sort of, because when I was a child I venerated icons.
This is not surprising. For many (if not most) of us who came into Orthodoxy from Protestantism this was the toughest hurdle. Just start going to the services. Eventually things begin to make sense, even if in a non-intellectual way. Just remember that we worship with the saints. Once you become aware of that, you will want to find a way to acknowledge their presence and show respect to them just as you do to those of us who are still present in our bodies.

Quote
There was also a comment on Constantine being a sun worshipper etc.  That's typical accusations by Messianic Jews.  I understand that point.  However, I have no peace in my heart with "St. Constantine" either.  He had his own son put to death.  To me that is very Un-Christian.
With the exception of the Theotokos, I'm not aware of any saint who lived a perfect life. It is very reassuring to know that I don't have to meet a legalistic standard to be accepted by God as one of His own.

And you don't need to be "buddy-buddy" with any particular saint, any more than you need to be so with any particular member of your parish  Smiley.
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2010, 10:34:09 AM »

Wow, some truly wonderful responses in this thread!

I asked myself many of these same questions before I converted from Evangelicalism, and I must say, much of them were rooted in my underlying assumption (which someone else so adequately addressed) in that I kept thinking of "the bare minimum."  It's such a modern, American way of looking at things.  But one of the things I loved so much about Orthodoxy, and what really drew me in, was that this utilitarian viewpoint was totally absent.  Orthodox do not look at things in terms of efficiency and "usefulness," neither of which are appropriate in worship.  This is why Protestant churches are so bare, minimalistic, and frankly, lifeless; a place where ideas are communicated from a pulpit.

Let me ask you this Yeshuaisiam.  What's wrong with veneration?  Even if you don't get it, or understand it, why would it be a road block?  What could possibly be the harm in venerating something?  I think it's worth noting, that icons and the veneration of them, are not a matter of personal preference or simply devotional piety, but are a matter of dogma, settled in an ecumenical council.  They aren't merely niceties, they are essential.  To the Fathers, denying the veneration of icons was tantamount to denying the incarnation itself.  Pretty sobering.
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« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2010, 11:00:48 AM »

There are already so many wonderful answers to these questions here! I love to see a people who know their faith, and this is certainly a place of faithful Orthodox. I offer my own responses, as well, perhaps they will add something valuable to the OP, by the grace of God.

1) Repetitious prayer.  We were commanded by God incarnate not to pray in repetition as the heathens do.  Yet there are prayer ropes...  Over and over again the same prayer is said "O Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me a sinner".   I did this a lot as a child, but I'm not sure God needs so much repetition.  Being all powerful, wouldn't he get the point by just saying it once?  Was Jesus's example the Lord's prayer so that we would not do this?

As has already been said, this is referring to vain repetition. Christ spoke of those who "wish to be heard because of their many words" because they sought after the praise of men and not of God. It is a good note that was made earlier, that the angels stand before the throne of God constantly and offer him unceasing praise. Let us also remember that prayer is a two-way street. It is as much for us, if not more for us, than for God. The prayer of the heart, specifically, is written as a prayer of repentence, of remembrance, of who we are and of who Christ is. It is praise to God, but also humbling to us.

2) Mistranslation in English of the name "Jesus Christ".  Perhaps this is a Greek problem, but in proper Aramaic translation his name is pronounced in English as Yeshua.  Why have we not fixed this in English?   King James took the 'Iesus Christos' from the Greek.  Yeshua spoke Aramaic, as did the disciples. I find it kind of strange that we are calling our savior TECHNICALLY incorrectly.

This has also been addressed. Linguistically, "Jesus Christ" and other names have been Anglicized because we speak English, and it takes on different variants in other parts of the world with different languages. We aren't, and certainly God is not, limited to a single language. These are not mistranslations, simply linguistic variants.

3) I know that veneration of Icons is showing respect & love to the individual in heaven / reverence etc.  But as an adult, I'm having a VERY tough time with this.  You are kissing paint & wood, or glass on top of paint/wood etc.  Period.  When people do kiss them, they cross themselves first...  How can we logically say that we are in veneration to the individual, when we kiss paint & wood with a painting of them that an artist "thinks" they may have looked like?

Again, good points were made here a well. This is akin to kissing a photo of your loved one. The act is not to the paint and wood, but to the depicted individual himself or herself.

4) Why is it important to constantly cross yourself.  I've never once read in the bible where Yeshua (Jesus) or an apostle did this.  How does this help?  The way I see it is "God knows what you mean".   Why is it so important?  We were commanded to pray in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) OR aka - The trinity.  So when we say "In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit" (emphasis added on the sacred name), why does crossing ourselves help?  I can't imagine how God sees us sitting there crossing ourselves so many times - even during a liturgy.

It is a reverence towards God. It shows respect and worship to Him, of which we can never give enough. It also reminds us of the cross and our life in the Church. We are connected to God through the cross, and we remember that each time we cross ourselves. Jesus would not cross Himself, and the Bible does not say that the apostles did, but we do have very early accounts (2nd century, IIRC) of Christians crossing themselves. Just because something is not expressed directly in Scripture does not mean it should be cast aside. Sola Scriptura is a dangerous Protestant heresy.

5) Did the apostles venerate icons of Christ?

Possibly. The Image Not Made By Hands has already been mentioned, as has St. Luke's position as the first iconographer. It is also of note that iconography was also part of ancient Jewish worship, and is spoken of by God in the giving of the Law. As I recall, archeologists have even found one city in which the iconography in the ancient Christian church and the ancient Jewish synagogue in that city was written by the same artist!

6) Did Yeshua/Jesus have an altar or practice anything similar to a divine liturgy (St. John Chrysostom (sp?)  regularly?  Did the apostles do this?

Absolutely, and it's recorded in Scripture! The Liturgy of the Word is a direct descendent of Jewish synagogue worship, of which we see Christ participate as written in the Gospels. The Liturgy of the Faithful is directly descended from Jewish temple worship, i.e. the system of sacrifices detailed in the Levitical Law. Christ would have also participated in this, as he lived during the Second Temple period. This is recorded in Scripture, as the Virgin Mary brought Christ to the Temple for circumcision and presentation, as well how Christ taught in the Temple and participated in the worship of major feasts days (such as Passover) in Jerusalem, at the Temple.

Later on, the apostles would write Christian liturgies that derived from these, such as the Divine Liturgies of St. James and St. Mark. We have also adopted and adapted the Hours, daily prayers of Jewish worship, prayed at the First, Third, Sixth and Ninth hours. This are regularly spoken of in the Scriptures.

7) Did the apostles use incense?  Did they use the censor on anything?  (Or is there evidence of any early Christian doing this such as Polycarp, Tertullian, Clement, or even Cyprian?

Again...absolutely! The Jewish Temple, as in the commandments of God through the Law, had its own altar dedicated to incense, which the priests of the Temple were to burn "constantly" before the Lord. This carried over into the earliest Christian worship. There is an angel in the Apocalypse of St. John that offers incense "as the prayers of the saints" at an altar that rises before the throne of God. The Psalter reads, "Let my prayer arise in thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice." Part of this psalm is sung in various services (such as great vespers) when incense is offered.

8) Are we allowed to "confess our sins to one another" as the scriptures mandate, or is it only to a priest?

This is an interesting historical question. Originally in the Church, sins were confessed to the whole assembly. Under persecution, this often became impossible, and so the priest stood in for the Church. The priest, in Orthodox confession, does not forgive sin, but rather witnesses the confession on behalf of the Church and gives the absolution in the name of Christ, who is the only one who forgives sin.

9) Do you feel God likes all the "bling" in the church.  Silver chalices (ironic as Christ was betrayed for silver), gold plate , shiny stuff.  The vestments of that of rich priests, bishops... Large - rich - or luxurious churches (not all but there are some).

There was a wonderful answer given to this concerning the words of St. John Chrysostom. the chapel of a parish building is properly called a Temple, for it is where God is worshipped and the sacrifce offered. It is a holy place, dedicated to God. Who is more worthy of such decoration?

10) Do the Orthodox accept Freemasons in their church?  (I find it to be a luciferian faith - Freemasonry)

As said earlier, Freemasonry and all similar sects and cults are anathema to the Orthodox Church.

11) Are the Orthodox allowed to hold public office, be part of the military, be on a jury, or be a police officer?  All which require a SWORN OATH "To protect and defend the constitution" etc., when Yeshua (Jesus) clearly told us not to swear and let our answers be clear as a Yes or No.

Also previously addressed, this is often left up to the individual, under the guidance of his or her spiritual father/mother.

12) Did any early Christians (Prue Nicea), apostles, or Yeshua (Jesus) "Bless" inadament objects?  a) home blessings  b) oil  c) icons d) crosses e) water (found in the old testament)  - What does blessing these things do to them exactly?

As you said, this is an ancient Jewish practice: to consecrate (i.e., "make holy" or "bless") objects. The earliest Christians, who were Jews, would have been raised with an understanding of holy objects. Many pagans of the day would have also understood this concept.

13) Liturgical repetition.   I'm having trouble because I wonder of God wants us to pray the same things over and over again nearly every Sunday.  I don't know if this falls into the question #1 category of repetition, but it's kind of hard for me to do it over and over again when I figure God knows I truly meant it last week.

Liturgical repetition is an ancient Jewish tradition as well. The Law of Moses contains strict rubrics for worship in the Temple, and our liturgies are directly descended from those instructions.

14) Did the early Christians practice ordination after somebody graduated from a seminary?  Or did they basically ordinate people who were of great faith & understood the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus)?  When was a degree requirement needed for this sacrament of ordination?

Education was given for baptism (catechism) and for priestly vocation. Originally, as we can see in the relationship between Ss. Paul and Timothy, those entering the priesthood would often serve under a spiritual father to learn the faith. However, theological schools were a common Jewish practice (St. Paul came from the school of Gamaliel) and theological schools also came to exist in early Christianity (such as the schools of Antioch and Alexandria).
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« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2010, 11:43:01 AM »

Sorry I was a little late to the game on those original questions! I'm at work, and it took awhile!

As far as Constantine is concerned, he did some bad things. Quite a few saints did some bad things. The Prophet King David comes to mind. So does his son Solomon. Constantine did, however (as noted earlier) hold Christianity together and make possible the First Ecumenical Council. He was a champion of Orthodoxy, even if he did not always perfectly manifest that personally. This is similar how St. Nicholas the Passionbearer (Czar of Russia during the Revolution) was a supporter of Orthodoxy, even though he did not die for his faith (and therefore is not a martyr) but did suffer and die as an Orthodox Christian.
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« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2010, 12:08:04 PM »

I wanted to join the pile-on with my own two cents.  Smiley

For the question about 'bling' and incense, something I didn't notice anyone really mention, was how it affects us. When we pray and worship, we don't just pray with word or our mind, but with our whole being.

The Bible tells us to do this does it not? To pray with your whole being, you pray with you mind and heart, your words (mouth), your eyes (a beautiful church/icons), your nose (incense), your ears (song and chant), and touch (kissing icons).

So we aren't just glorifying God through these thing (though we are!), we supporting our faith as a community (in and through your church) by providing a proper atmosphere to worship God with all our might and being.
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« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2010, 12:12:52 PM »

. . .I have no peace in my heart with "St. Constantine" either.  He had his own son put to death.  To me that is very Un-Christian.

His son was accused of a crime which was considered equal to a coup d'état - this was, obviously, punished by death. St. Constantine proved that in his empire everyone was equal in the eyes of law, even members of the imperial family. The problem here is that Crispus didn't really commit the crime he was accused of, but St. Constantine didn't realize that.
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« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2010, 01:11:22 PM »

Quote
I tell people "I'm Eastern Orthodox at heart & theology, with a cup of anabaptist, and a dash of messianic jew (Nazarite Christians).

Far more than a cup and a dash.  Heed first of all Khomiakov's advice (given to a Protestant inquirer):  First of all, throw off your Roman Catholicism."  For Protestantism is but the other side of the heretical Roman coin; that which they resist persists.

I cane to Orthodoxy after a lengthy perigrination through the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, and Episcopalians, so I'm not speaking as one without experience of what you're going through  IMHO, the whole Christian West is a sinking ship; abandon it.  Before you can learn what the true Orthodox pronema is, you have a lot of things to unlearn.

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« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2010, 01:15:19 PM »

Welcome! Glory be to God that you are considering returning to His Church! There have been a lot of great responses so far. I thought I'd throw in a more general comment about how to think about 'issues' or disagreements we have with the Church.

On this subject, I think G. K. Chesterton's idea of the Church as a "truth-telling thing" is really quite helpful:

Quote
The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting ... to see some truth that he has never seen before. There is one only parallel to this position; and that is the parallel of the life in which we all began. When your father told you, walking about the garden, that bees stung or that roses smelt sweet, you did not talk of taking the best out of his philosophy. When the bees stung you, you did not call it an entertaining coincidence. When the rose smelt sweet you did not say `My father is a rude, barbaric symbol, enshrining (perhaps unconsciously) the deep delicate truth that flowers smell.' No: you believed your father, because you had found him to be a living fountain of facts, a thing that really knew more than you; a thing that would tell you the truth tomorrow as well as today.
...
This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing [the Church] has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophers say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true.

Chesterton is saying that he accepts the teaching of the Church even when he does not understand it or agree with it because he has found the Church to be a reliable source of truth. Likewise, when Jesus was with them according to the flesh, the disciples did not necessarily understand or even agree with Jesus about everything - Peter "rebuked" Jesus concerning the Crucifixion (Mark 8:32) and also protested at the washing of the feet ( John 13:8 ); nevertheless, the disciples perceived that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:41,45), and so they followed him.

Jesus promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20) - so where is he? (He seems unlikely to have meant he would be with them in some intangible, invisible, ethereal sense - Jesus is God incarnate, after all.) Paul gives us the answer when he says that the Church is the Body of Christ. This is not a metaphor. The Church is truly Christ's Theanthropic Body.

As such, the Church speaks with the voice of Christ. She is a "truth-telling thing", because she is one with her Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Truth Itself, or rather Himself. The Church is "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Furthermore, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church "into all truth" (John 16:13) and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18).

So if we can recognize the Church for what it is - the Body of Christ - then we can accept it as a teacher of truth, despite our not understanding, or perhaps vehemently disagreeing with, some of its specific teachings or practices. A lot really comes down to the question, what is the Church?



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« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2010, 02:41:06 PM »

. . .I have no peace in my heart with "St. Constantine" either.  He had his own son put to death.  To me that is very Un-Christian.

His son was accused of a crime which was considered equal to a coup d'état - this was, obviously, punished by death. St. Constantine proved that in his empire everyone was equal in the eyes of law, even members of the imperial family. The problem here is that Crispus didn't really commit the crime he was accused of, but St. Constantine didn't realize that.

Another thing that baffles me is how Protestants are so harsh with St. Constantine when they are quick to extol the Holy Prophet and King David as a man after God's own heart. He and any other number of biblical characters did many unsavory things, usually including anything up to murder and adultery. But because we are able to see them wrestle with God in the Holy Scriptures and their many instances of faith and obedience to contrast the bad, then we forgive them because we know their hearts despite their actions.

Even if St. Constantine did some "especially" unsavory things from time to time, we can also see his many good works for the Church of Christ. It is totally unfair to merely paint him as a political opportunist who saw a way to unify the religiously disparate people through Christianity. He bares the title Equal-to-the-Apostles, and even if it is difficult for us to understand these canonizations in some ways, in another it is the perfect opportunity to be humbled and to learn to love this Christian brother, as well as to learn that each individual's assessment of a situation is not the ultimate. Rather, the ultimate is the judgment of the Church as a whole, which has canonized our dear St. Constantine.
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« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2010, 02:52:24 PM »

I had the same issues with Constantine, in fact one of the largest hurdles for me before I began attending Orthodox services.

I eventually overcame this, after learning:

Constantine was not sainted for killing anyone, for being Roman Emperor, or for any sin whatsoever.

He committed most of these killings before becoming semi-Christian, and all of them before baptism.

How and why one is sainted in the Orthodox church is very different from the Roman church. He was sainted because he ended the persecutions and spread the gospel to countless hundreds of thousands, and for his help in refuting heresy; he was sainted because everyone wanted him to be, not because his son forced bishops to saint him or because of some pagan takeover. He is not seen as a church father or any doctrinal authority, either.
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« Reply #28 on: October 21, 2010, 03:09:24 PM »


Another thing that baffles me is how Protestants are so harsh with St. Constantine when they are quick to extol the Holy Prophet and King David as a man after God's own heart.

Not to mention Martin Luther lol!

I came from a hardcore Left background so I had a lot of trouble with Tsar Nicholas II being a saint. So I actually just went every time I was in church and stood before his icon and asked him for his prayers, that God might help me with my anarchist 'issues'. I happen to believe the Royal Passion-bearer Nicholas is a saint if for no other reason than that his intercessions were truly effective for me. God really did help me understand some things I was having trouble with, and now I have a love for and devotion to the saint (and no, I did not become a Republican lol).

At a certain point, one has to start to realize that the question is not so much, why would I be a part of a church that accepts that guy? as why would anyone be a part of a church that accepts me? lol.
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« Reply #29 on: October 21, 2010, 03:36:17 PM »

Well said JLatimer!
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« Reply #30 on: October 21, 2010, 04:09:43 PM »

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1) Repetitious prayer.  We were commanded by God incarnate not to pray in repetition as the heathens do.  Yet there are prayer ropes...  Over and over again the same prayer is said "O Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me a sinner".   I did this a lot as a child, but I'm not sure God needs so much repetition.  Being all powerful, wouldn't he get the point by just saying it once?  Was Jesus's example the Lord's prayer so that we would not do this?


Hi, Yeshuaisiam -

I am running very short on time right now. . .but I'm going to take a shot at at least one of your questions for now. . . and if I have the time and if it's His will, I'll come back and try a few more.  

There is fallacy in thinking of descriptions with out the context of the history, culture or assumed meaning of words spoken at the time they were spoken.  For instance. . .if I live in the South - in the US and I call someone a 'flake' . . .1) this person is usually a woman, and 2) she's a ditz.  If I live in the West - in the US and I call someone a 'flake' - then 1) the person is usually a young man and 2) he's either a no show or he's habitually late.  

In other words, sometimes we can ASSUME a meaning of something and while it can be exact for our culture, language and understanding. . .our understanding will not hold the full context of what the text actually means.

But if you know something about paganism. . .and the context of which 'prayer' is used. . .then it becomes very clear.  

If I take the word 'prayer' and substitute 'incantation' or 'spell' - the the feel of the wording changes.  You see, an incantation is said over and over again. . .and it is not said as a communication device . . .but as a means of controlling.  Saying the Jesus Prayer can be repeated over and over and over again. . .and it will never ever be used as a means of control or usurped power.    The prayer is not an incantation, nor is it a spell. . . it's a choice of words that find a heart that is aching to tell Christ the depth of our heart cry. . .crying for mercy. . .when it is said a few times. . .it begins to open a deeper part of your being.  It can't and will never be an incantation or spell.

The sacred is something very different.  You can read the same scripture in the Bible many many times and each time it will take your breath away and heal something deep within you.  Each time, if you are open to that scripture, you understand the life that dwells in the sacred.  There is no life in prayer treated like a magic wand.  The Jesus Prayer is not a magic wand. . .it's a heart cry.  Listen to an infant as it wails for it's mother when it's hungry. . .the wail is repetitive. . .but it's also communicative. . .the wail pierces directly into the heart of the mother.  

So it is not the repetition that's the issue.  The issue is whether I mean what I am praying or not. . . am I just saying words or am I crying out to my God?  Am I communicating TO Him?  Or am I saying something that will 'make' Him **cough cough** do what I wish?  If I seek to control, if I seek to cast my will at a mechanical device that will do my bidding, then I am no more than a pagan praying. . . long or short, beautiful or not. . .it always comes down to the heart.  I've found the Jesus Prayer to be the clearest quickest way to cry out to my God and mean every single word of it.  I often repeat just His Name over and over again. . .while being washed by it. . .to pray the Jesus prayer over and over again?  I wail to Him over and over again. . my heart cries. . .and cries. . . thank goodness for it. . .what a gift!

He already knows what I need. . .but often. . .very often, I don't.  Hearing myself repeat "A sinner' . . . sometimes 'the sinner' reminds me of my need for Him. . .especially on a hard hearted calloused day. . .it breaks right through the hardness of my heart and brings me back to my knees.  Sometimes it's not about Him hearing the repetition. . .sometimes it's about MY hearing it.  I need it.  It changes ME.  God changes not.

I hope this helps.
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« Reply #31 on: October 21, 2010, 07:41:12 PM »

The translation of Gk. battlogeo as "vain repetition" is an example of Anglican ecclesiastical bias that entered into the KJV translation; it was aimed squarely at the Roman Catholic practice of the Rosary by people who largely or wholly rejected the very notion of mysticism.

I think Quietmorning came much closer to the meaning by noting that pagan prayer included spells and incantions, sometimes uttered in gibberish, that were uttered as if the gods were to be at our beck and call.

OTOH, the Jesus Prayer is short, comprehensible, and uttered knowing that we are at God's beck and call.  The repetition of the Prayer is meant to make it as autonomic to us as our breathing and heartbeat.  This is a point which anti-mystical people utterly fail to get.
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« Reply #32 on: October 21, 2010, 09:07:36 PM »

On repetitious prayer:

"So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words." (Matthew 26:44)

"And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words." (Mark 14:39)
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« Reply #33 on: October 21, 2010, 09:37:33 PM »

I also have a big issue with how we Orthodox treat Icons. Not the wood, paint, and glass ones but the flesh and blood type. The parishioners are censed because we too are living icons of Christ. If Orthodox Christians treated each other as well as we treated the wood, paint, and glass....

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« Reply #34 on: October 21, 2010, 09:39:10 PM »

These are fantastic responses, I thank everybody who has contributed.  I will research and pray about these things more.

There were some asking questions about my personal religious history...
I was born & raised in an orthodox church.  Since then I've been researching the bible, councils, & languages like crazy through my life.  We hold "home" bible study etc.

I'm trying to return to Orthodoxy, and some of my studies have swayed me a bit.  I am not part of a church.

I tell people "I'm Eastern Orthodox at heart & theology, with a cup of anabaptist, and a dash of messianic jew (Nazarite Christians).

I'm going to start a new thread on probably the grand-daddy of all questions that I have...  I thank you for the responses and look forward to any more input.

Indeed for me this will have to be a "state of mind" change.  As far as icons I'm having a horrific time with VENERATION.  One asked if I would kiss a photograph of my wife and how I would perceive it.... I don't know that I would kiss her photograph (even if she was dead).   I mean I would look at it, remember her from it.... But kiss it?  I don't know.  It's paper.   I can hold reverence to her by looking at the photograph. (if she was dead).  I know icons are more "story telling" and that's what I can find that they were used for... The veneration has me VERY stumped.  I UNDERSTAND the state of mind sort of, because when I was a child I venerated icons.


There was also a comment on Constantine being a sun worshipper etc.  That's typical accusations by Messianic Jews.  I understand that point.  However, I have no peace in my heart with "St. Constantine" either.  He had his own son put to death.  To me that is very Un-Christian. 

Have you ever shown any sort of respect or reverence toward the American flag, such as saluting it, facing it and placing your hand over your heart, or even something as small as taking your hat off for it?
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« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2010, 09:45:54 PM »

These are fantastic responses, I thank everybody who has contributed.  I will research and pray about these things more.

There were some asking questions about my personal religious history...
I was born & raised in an orthodox church.  Since then I've been researching the bible, councils, & languages like crazy through my life.  We hold "home" bible study etc.

I'm trying to return to Orthodoxy, and some of my studies have swayed me a bit.  I am not part of a church.

I tell people "I'm Eastern Orthodox at heart & theology, with a cup of anabaptist, and a dash of messianic jew (Nazarite Christians).

I'm going to start a new thread on probably the grand-daddy of all questions that I have...  I thank you for the responses and look forward to any more input.

Indeed for me this will have to be a "state of mind" change.  As far as icons I'm having a horrific time with VENERATION.  One asked if I would kiss a photograph of my wife and how I would perceive it.... I don't know that I would kiss her photograph (even if she was dead).   I mean I would look at it, remember her from it.... But kiss it?  I don't know.  It's paper.   I can hold reverence to her by looking at the photograph. (if she was dead).  I know icons are more "story telling" and that's what I can find that they were used for... The veneration has me VERY stumped.  I UNDERSTAND the state of mind sort of, because when I was a child I venerated icons.


There was also a comment on Constantine being a sun worshipper etc.  That's typical accusations by Messianic Jews.  I understand that point.  However, I have no peace in my heart with "St. Constantine" either.  He had his own son put to death.  To me that is very Un-Christian. 

Have you ever shown any sort of respect or reverence toward the American flag, such as saluting it, facing it and placing your hand over your heart, or even something as small as taking your hat off for it?

Not only that but we also fight and die for it. Can't remember the last time someone in my Church died fighting for Christ.
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« Reply #36 on: October 21, 2010, 09:46:48 PM »

Thanks Sleeper, you asked me this question:

Let me ask you this Yeshuaisiam.  What's wrong with veneration?  Even if you don't get it, or understand it, why would it be a road block?  What could possibly be the harm in venerating something?  I think it's worth noting, that icons and the veneration of them, are not a matter of personal preference or simply devotional piety, but are a matter of dogma, settled in an ecumenical council.  They aren't merely niceties, they are essential.  To the Fathers, denying the veneration of icons was tantamount to denying the incarnation itself.  Pretty sobering.

Veneration I have no problem with.  I happily venerate my grandparents in respect & love, venerate church members through a holy kiss, for forgiveness... etc.  These are to people who are flesh and blood alive, breathing next to me here on Earth.  Icons are indeed made of wood, paint, & metal.  The artwork is a conception of what the artists believe the person looked like.  The quality ones use the traditional egg tempera paints.  I have no problem with icons when they were used for teaching others of different languages of the faith.

Here's the deal... How do I convince myself that they are not wood, paint, metal etc.?  They are lifeless.  They are opinions of artwork merely rendered in the artists hand.  If I painted you a photo of what I thought Christopher Columbus looks like, having no idea, and wrote his name "Christopher Columbus" on top, is that what he looked like?  But a blessing and a candle lit in front of these depictions of unknown origins (accuracy) with a name written, we call "windows to heaven".   We cross ourselves, bow down, & venerate the icon.... We are told "no not the paint and wood, but the image on the paint and wood".   The reality is, you are kissing paint and wood.  Sorry if this sounds blaspheming, but if you karate chop one in half, its paint and wood.   I guess my level on this understanding is:

If you convince yourself that this "image of an artists" is a depiction from heaven or ie window to heaven, and your veneration is uhm... "beamed up" to God, the Theotokos, or the saints / somehow mysteriously sent to them, I could more or less rationalize it.  But I am having infinite trouble doing this.  I just can't rationalize how kissing the wooden image of an artists depiction of how they think they looked does anything.

Then there are the other issues of iconography.  You've heard about the Muslims that were forced to make Icons of the Theotokos and crypted in Arabian texts "There is NO god but allah" across the vail of the theotokos.  Christians for centuries venerated that very icon.  The halo is found on many hindu art works.  Even the images on the icons have a oriental (not orthodox) depiction.  Slender oval faces, pointed chins.

So I guess I'm having a beef on this one with the 7th council sort of.  I mean this was in 787, so far from the time of Christ.  (Tell me all what happened in the 1200's for instance.)  This is when they were FORMALLY established and given the OK.  They were used by many Orthodox Catholic Christians, as well as HATED by many Orthodox Christians & even destroyed by them.

Jews believe in absolutely NO images.  Painted, Graven, or otherwise.

I've read the ante-nicene http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html   Absolutely NO evidence of icons used by the early church fathers.  

I do understand our Orthodox view point on teaching through Icons, but I do not understand the veneration at all.  I know what "it's supposed to mean", but (please forgive me) in every rational sense that I have, it just seems foolish to kiss/venerate them.  I mean, what we do to the least of all men we do unto God.  Shouldn't we be kissing/helping/loving/showing respect to those who need help rather than wasting our time kissing paint & wood icons that we have convinced ourselves to be "windows to heaven"?  

Now to make clear what I'm saying, I don't see it as idol worship, as I understand the intent.  Many accuse that way.  I see veneration of the icon (paint/wood by concept of an artists hand) somewhat pointless or foolish.

Forgive me if I've offended anybody.  I'm just trying to work out this issue.  I'm trying to stick with EARLY church fathers to understand True Orthodoxy, not anything hundreds of years later.  The closer to the source to the apostles, I see the better.

Thanks a million guys. ;o)  God bless.
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« Reply #37 on: October 21, 2010, 09:51:47 PM »




Hi, Yeshuaisiam -

I am running very short on time right now. . .but I'm going to take a shot at at least one of your questions for now. . . and if I have the time and if it's His will, I'll come back and try a few more.  

There is fallacy in thinking of descriptions with out the context of the history, culture or assumed meaning of words spoken at the time they were spoken.  For instance. . .if I live in the South - in the US and I call someone a 'flake' . . .1) this person is usually a woman, and 2) she's a ditz.  If I live in the West - in the US and I call someone a 'flake' - then 1) the person is usually a young man and 2) he's either a no show or he's habitually late.  

In other words, sometimes we can ASSUME a meaning of something and while it can be exact for our culture, language and understanding. . .our understanding will not hold the full context of what the text actually means.

But if you know something about paganism. . .and the context of which 'prayer' is used. . .then it becomes very clear.  

If I take the word 'prayer' and substitute 'incantation' or 'spell' - the the feel of the wording changes.  You see, an incantation is said over and over again. . .and it is not said as a communication device . . .but as a means of controlling.  Saying the Jesus Prayer can be repeated over and over and over again. . .and it will never ever be used as a means of control or usurped power.    The prayer is not an incantation, nor is it a spell. . . it's a choice of words that find a heart that is aching to tell Christ the depth of our heart cry. . .crying for mercy. . .when it is said a few times. . .it begins to open a deeper part of your being.  It can't and will never be an incantation or spell.

The sacred is something very different.  You can read the same scripture in the Bible many many times and each time it will take your breath away and heal something deep within you.  Each time, if you are open to that scripture, you understand the life that dwells in the sacred.  There is no life in prayer treated like a magic wand.  The Jesus Prayer is not a magic wand. . .it's a heart cry.  Listen to an infant as it wails for it's mother when it's hungry. . .the wail is repetitive. . .but it's also communicative. . .the wail pierces directly into the heart of the mother.  

So it is not the repetition that's the issue.  The issue is whether I mean what I am praying or not. . . am I just saying words or am I crying out to my God?  Am I communicating TO Him?  Or am I saying something that will 'make' Him **cough cough** do what I wish?  If I seek to control, if I seek to cast my will at a mechanical device that will do my bidding, then I am no more than a pagan praying. . . long or short, beautiful or not. . .it always comes down to the heart.  I've found the Jesus Prayer to be the clearest quickest way to cry out to my God and mean every single word of it.  I often repeat just His Name over and over again. . .while being washed by it. . .to pray the Jesus prayer over and over again?  I wail to Him over and over again. . my heart cries. . .and cries. . . thank goodness for it. . .what a gift!

He already knows what I need. . .but often. . .very often, I don't.  Hearing myself repeat "A sinner' . . . sometimes 'the sinner' reminds me of my need for Him. . .especially on a hard hearted calloused day. . .it breaks right through the hardness of my heart and brings me back to my knees.  Sometimes it's not about Him hearing the repetition. . .sometimes it's about MY hearing it.  I need it.  It changes ME.  God changes not.

I hope this helps.

Yes it does help.  Thank you very much.   This makes a lot of sense to me.  
God bless you for helping me understand this issue very clearly.

I remember when I was a child, praying this a lot at school, as well into my adult life.  Somewhere along the line I stopped. Probably after seeing some protestant apologetics.

I'll pray on this often.  Again thank you.
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« Reply #38 on: October 21, 2010, 09:52:45 PM »

13) Liturgical repetition.   I'm having trouble because I wonder of God wants us to pray the same things over and over again nearly every Sunday.  I don't know if this falls into the question #1 category of repetition, but it's kind of hard for me to do it over and over again when I figure God knows I truly meant it last week.

Everyone seems to have given excellent answers to the questions i missed last night, but I would like to say a couple of things covering this.

As far as praying for the same things every week, it's because we are always in constant need of those things every week. Our need for God to take care of all of our needs doesn't go away, so we continue to express those needs to Him.

As far as repeating the same thing within the liturgy (litanies for example), look at what is numbered as Psalm 136 in most Bibles written in english (KJV, NKJV, NIV, etc).
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« Reply #39 on: October 21, 2010, 09:59:31 PM »

I also have a big issue with how we Orthodox treat Icons. Not the wood, paint, and glass ones but the flesh and blood type. The parishioners are censed because we too are living icons of Christ. If Orthodox Christians treated each other as well as we treated the wood, paint, and glass....

Indeed I feel this way about parishoners, whom I have not problem venerating.  Not because they venerate me back, but because I know in many ways I have wrong people around me.  It's the "beam up" aka window tranference (Sorry I don't know how else to put it) that I don't understand.  In the anabaptist (Amish/Mennonite) church that I have attended, we would wash each others feet to humble ourselves before each other.  I know the patriarchs do this today, but do any EO churches?

I want to ALWAYS venerate Christ, the Mother of God, and the saints.  I just am having trouble convincing myself that the artists depiction on what they looked like is doing this.  I wonder if God intended on us venerating him, though like John, I'm unworthy of untying his sandals, if he would make himself as the flesh today to venerate.  (Only through the Eucharist is he flesh today)

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« Reply #40 on: October 21, 2010, 10:03:30 PM »

"Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Reverence your neighbor and worry about the wooden Icons for later. It is much better that way than to reverence the wooden Icons first and then work up to caring for your neighbor later.
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« Reply #41 on: October 21, 2010, 10:05:55 PM »

I had the same issues with Constantine, in fact one of the largest hurdles for me before I began attending Orthodox services.

I eventually overcame this, after learning:

Constantine was not sainted for killing anyone, for being Roman Emperor, or for any sin whatsoever.

He committed most of these killings before becoming semi-Christian, and all of them before baptism.

How and why one is sainted in the Orthodox church is very different from the Roman church. He was sainted because he ended the persecutions and spread the gospel to countless hundreds of thousands, and for his help in refuting heresy; he was sainted because everyone wanted him to be, not because his son forced bishops to saint him or because of some pagan takeover. He is not seen as a church father or any doctrinal authority, either.

I read a book called "Constantines Sword" written by a RC priest.  There are a lot of things that you are speaking against that the book was gave evidence to.  I mean the book didn't go out and say he was a "holy terror" as some depict.  But it was very informative.  It changed how I thought about him a lot.
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« Reply #42 on: October 21, 2010, 10:19:37 PM »

Quote
In the anabaptist (Amish/Mennonite) church that I have attended, we would wash each others feet to humble ourselves before each other.

The service known as Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday, held the day before the beginning of Great Lent, is a very moving and potent expression of humility before our fellow man. This asking for forgiveness of one another is not only done between the laity - the priest himself (as do any other clergy present) prostrates himself before the congregation. In fact, the theme of repentance and humility is a hallmark of the weeks leading into Great Lent, as is the Lenten period itself.

Even in the Divine Liturgy, there is a point during the singing of the Cherubic Hymn where the priest bows to all who are present in the altar area, and asks for their forgiveness. He then comes through the Royal Doors (or Beautiful Gate), crosses his arms over his chest, bows to the congregation, and says: "Forgive me, my brothers and sisters."

On a more "practical" level, humility and service is also seen in abundance through the work of those in the parish who look after the grounds, do the cleaning and maintenance of the church and all that is in it, prepare food for festive or other occasions, etc. These folks, some with college degrees or high-ranking positions in their work, think nothing of getting their hands dirty, and the best of them do not seek recognition for their efforts.
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« Reply #43 on: October 21, 2010, 10:31:16 PM »

My question to the OP:  what exactly is causing you to think about returning to the Church, since you disagree with all these things?  Realistically, the EO is not going to drop any of these practices which you object to.  So what is attracting you back to it?

(Hope this doesn't sound flippant or rude, I am seriously interested. Thanks! Smiley )

Because eternity is a LONG time.  I want to be sure to get it right.  Shocked)

My belief as of right now is that Orthodoxy existed in the Early Church fathers.  The questions exist of Today's Orthodox church.  Those who tell you it has remained unchanged for 2000 years are not telling the truth.  There have been Many changes.  Polycarp didn't have an iconostasis for example - nor royal doors.  That stuff developed through time.  By orders of Christ?  I don't know.  Orders of the Apostles to do iconostasis & use a censor to icons does not exist.  But there are also things that date back all the way, such as the Eucharist, Unction, Baptism, Ordination, Matrimony, Chrismation (this one is more early Christian, still seeking biblical reference), Confession.  EO has this right in my opinion.  Some doctrines though... I'm working on. ;o)  Thanks.
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« Reply #44 on: October 21, 2010, 10:38:34 PM »

Quote
In the anabaptist (Amish/Mennonite) church that I have attended, we would wash each others feet to humble ourselves before each other.

The service known as Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday, held the day before the beginning of Great Lent, is a very moving and potent expression of humility before our fellow man. This asking for forgiveness of one another is not only done between the laity - the priest himself (as do any other clergy present) prostrates himself before the congregation. In fact, the theme of repentance and humility is a hallmark of the weeks leading into Great Lent, as is the Lenten period itself.

Even in the Divine Liturgy, there is a point during the singing of the Cherubic Hymn where the priest bows to all who are present in the altar area, and asks for their forgiveness. He then comes through the Royal Doors (or Beautiful Gate), crosses his arms over his chest, bows to the congregation, and says: "Forgive me, my brothers and sisters."

On a more "practical" level, humility and service is also seen in abundance through the work of those in the parish who look after the grounds, do the cleaning and maintenance of the church and all that is in it, prepare food for festive or other occasions, etc. These folks, some with college degrees or high-ranking positions in their work, think nothing of getting their hands dirty, and the best of them do not seek recognition for their efforts.

I've been to many forgiveness Sunday's.  They are a beautiful service.  The church I went to as a child it took a LONG time to get through all the people.  Here's an interesting question, and I try to say it so I can be educated only, but did Christ tell us to have a forgiveness Sunday, or to wash each other's feet?

I mean if I can compare.

When I was a kid, the hardest thing about forgiveness Sunday was that my face was raw after all the stubble.  More so on the left side (LOL).   But seriously, when you have to stoop down and clean anothers feet, there is an entire different experience.  It's incredibly humbling. 

This is something Christ told us to do to one another.  But yet it is namely the practice of the Patriarchs & pope.  It's a completely humbling experience. 

I'm just curious why the people of the Eastern Orthodox church do not humble themselves to the lowest point of each other as Christ commanded us to?  Instead we do a thrice kiss.
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