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« on: November 08, 2011, 01:49:57 PM »

I've read a few times in posts that it's better to go to Divine Liturgy, begin to live the Christian life and the understanding will come.

Moreso than in study?

Why would attending the service etc., aid understanding in a better way than study alone? As far as i can tell most of the service is sung scripture and prayers. Nothing unfamiliar to me there so what's the reason people say this?
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2011, 01:52:24 PM »

Well I know with me, my priest told me to come to DL while reading some books (The Orthodox  Church,The Orthodox Way, etc) and it will begin to make sense. He was right Smiley

I was studying alone for a long time and it just didn't connect with me. Only when I participated did it make some sense to me.

Hope this helps.

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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2011, 01:54:34 PM »

No it doesn't help #laughs
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2011, 01:57:16 PM »

Not gonna lie, the inquirers who know everything but haven't attended for DL or vespers (unless they have very good reasons for not going to DL) make me:  Roll Eyes.

I know I shouldn't be judging, but attending DL and vespers seals the deal that reading a book never could. Someone on this board says that it is as much of an emotional experience as a charismatic service, and I think that this is true to an extent. The incense, the icon, the priest reciting the prayers, the chanters...

I think of being in the church as experiencing a very, very small slice of what heaven might be like. The services do not only connect what we have learned intellectually, but I felt a lot of things "connecting" and making sense in my heart as well.

Of course this is sentimental gibberish but I am still an in-love catechumen. Give me a break. Wink
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2011, 01:58:33 PM »

I've read a few times in posts that it's better to go to Divine Liturgy, begin to live the Christian life and the understanding will come.

Moreso than in study?

Why would attending the service etc., aid understanding in a better way than study alone? As far as i can tell most of the service is sung scripture and prayers. Nothing unfamiliar to me there so what's the reason people say this?
Do you want to be in love, or study about it?
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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2011, 02:00:31 PM »

No it doesn't help #laughs
Well, let me put it this way. Reading about how good something tastes pales in comparison to eating/drinking it for yourself.

The same goes for any experience. Reading about how awesome skydiving is really does not do it justice. Only through experiencing it can you understand it.

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« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2011, 02:10:58 PM »

I don't understand as Christianity is about believing in the correct doctrine (agreed beliefs about God, Jesus, The Spirit) then living out that belief fully convinced.

How can you live something unless you first understand whether it's sound or not?
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« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2011, 02:12:36 PM »

I've read a few times in posts that it's better to go to Divine Liturgy, begin to live the Christian life and the understanding will come.

Moreso than in study?

Why would attending the service etc., aid understanding in a better way than study alone? As far as i can tell most of the service is sung scripture and prayers. Nothing unfamiliar to me there so what's the reason people say this?
Do you want to be in love, or study about it?

This sounds like the church i left!
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« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2011, 02:18:56 PM »

I've read a few times in posts that it's better to go to Divine Liturgy, begin to live the Christian life and the understanding will come.

Moreso than in study?

Why would attending the service etc., aid understanding in a better way than study alone? As far as i can tell most of the service is sung scripture and prayers. Nothing unfamiliar to me there so what's the reason people say this?

"The means to confirm and strengthen Christian hope are prayer, especially frequent and sincere prayer, confession of our sins, frequent reading of the Word of God, and, above all, frequent communion of the holy and life-giving sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ." St John of Kronstadt

No one is saying that you should not read books on Orthodoxy. By all means, under the direction of your Spiritual Father, read away!

However, reading alone will not teach you about Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is not something that can be studied; it must be lived. Going to services is part of living your faith. Also, in going to the services, you see how the theology of the church is practiced day to day.

In going to the services, we worship together, we pray together, we receive the holy sacraments, and we grow together as a community. These are things that cannot be experienced in reading alone. (Which I'm sure you're aware.)

Oftentimes, those who are new to the faith approach it with such zeal that they want to read every book on Orthodoxy that they can get their hands on. While their enthusiasm is to be admired, it is best to take things slow, read under the advisement and care of a Spiritual Father, and attend the services.

This is how you experience the ethos of the Church, and how your faith grows.

It should also be said that if you attend services every Sunday for a year (and all the feast days), and never read a book on Orthodoxy, you will learn all you need to know about the Church. Why? Because the theology of the Church is written into the hymnography. All of our beliefs are expressed in our hymns and icons. The reading is just supplementary to all that is already in the services. After all, how do you think the Church survived for hundreds of years with a large portion of the population being illiterate? Having a large portion of the population literate is a relatively new development in the life of the Church.

May God bless you on your journey.

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« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2011, 02:24:19 PM »

I think you see the difference between the inquiry process and the catechumenate.

For inquirers, study is very important for answering questions about Orthodoxy short of experiencing it.  However, the inquiry process begins to change once someone decides to experience it.

Orthodoxy does not draw hard and fast lines between things.  You can look at the Marriage Service and see how it confirms that the marriage is a process of coming together rather than a contract which is validated with the utterance of a single formula, drawing a line between marriage and non-marriage.

Therefore, we are not 'saved,' but are 'being saved.'  We do not as much 'forgive' as we 'are forgiving.'  If you can picture a gradual incline ever-upward, then you see how the inquiry process gradually leads from study to some small experience that either leads to more experience and eventual identification with God (catechism and conversion), or a rejection and turning away.

Study is impersonal, like reading the newspaper.  Inquiry is, for the safety of the inquirer, an impersonal process.  The trick is knowing that eventually Orthodoxy gets deeply personal in a challenging, painful and downright inconvenience way.


I don't understand as Christianity is about believing in the correct doctrine (agreed beliefs about God, Jesus, The Spirit) then living out that belief fully convinced.

How can you live something unless you first understand whether it's sound or not?
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« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2011, 02:42:35 PM »

I've read a few times in posts that it's better to go to Divine Liturgy, begin to live the Christian life and the understanding will come.

Moreso than in study?

Why would attending the service etc., aid understanding in a better way than study alone? As far as i can tell most of the service is sung scripture and prayers. Nothing unfamiliar to me there so what's the reason people say this?

You are experiencing more than just the reading and singing of scripture and prayers. The whole Church is present, full of the saints and angels in heaven worshiping along with those in the church! The Liturgy is the life of the Church. You are experiencing the whole life of the Church when you are worshiping with the Church. The Liturgical calendar is full of feasts and saint commemorations, and the best way to know about that is to see it first hand. It's a great feeling to know that half way around the world there are Christians going to the same service, having the same feasts/fasts, and partaking of the same sacraments as you. The Liturgy and the liturgical cycle is a blessing to have. I guess you could say without Church life there is no Body of Christ... just a thinking brain of knowledge. And what good is that?

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« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2011, 02:47:22 PM »

Contrary to what some Christians believe, Christianity is not a solitary pursuit; it is a communal activity. We grow in our Christianity only in relationship to other people. The Church is the body of Christ on earth and, as a member, we are an indispensable part of it, as a cell is an indispensable part of a larger organism. It is impossible to work out our salvation 'in fear and trembling' in a vacuum. Our faith must be tested and other people are the means. ("It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." Galatians 2:20)

Christianity is not a mere philosophy or spiritual discipline; it is the fruit of patient and daily activity---and communion with other people. Your fellow church members become your family; you feel their pain as much as you feel your own. Need something? Your brother-in-Christ will help you.

Attending church is also important because we worship corporately, as a body. We believe in the communion of the saints--for example, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the saints in church--guardian angels, and the constant presence of a living God. We are never alone. In addition, you have to participate in the yearly rhythm of the Liturgy: share its feasts and rituals with the community. Reading about Forgiveness Sunday is a whole lot different from the experience of actually being forgiven. (Would you rather read about a pizza or eat one?)

It's ignorance or egotism to imagine you can undergo the kind of transformation God requires of you all by yourself. Besides, you need to have a relationship with your priest.

How can you live something unless you first understand whether it's sound or not?

How do you know whether it's sound or not unless you live it?
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2011, 03:06:38 PM »

I don't understand as Christianity is about believing in the correct doctrine (agreed beliefs about God, Jesus, The Spirit) then living out that belief fully convinced.

How can you live something unless you first understand whether it's sound or not?

It seems to be quite the opposite in Orthodoxy.  You attend the services, you pray, you become part of the church, you receive the sacraments -- and you start believing correct doctrine as a result. 
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« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2011, 03:15:15 PM »

A lot of your posts sound so similar to mine when I was first learning about Orthodoxy.  I can now say that I agree wholeheartedly with those answering about living it, rather than just reading about it.  Even if you aren't sold-out to it, attending the services will answer more of your questions than any single book.  The beauty, the worship, the relationships, Communion...none of these are contained in the pages of any book.  "Taste and see that the Lord is good!"
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« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2011, 03:22:05 PM »

Do both.
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« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2011, 03:25:36 PM »

Do both.
Fair enough. I hope that none of us are coming off as, "Don't read!" because not reading the wealth of resources we have available to us would be another problem. But experiencing the services is a whole different ballgame.
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« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2011, 03:28:18 PM »

I'm worried about becoming seduced by something that is heretical (just being honest here -- i don't mean to cause offense) and i know (from experiences at my other church) how easily the whole package together can do that. I think it's better to be convinced first before someone attends.

I don't believe the Mormons to be right in their belief. I'd advocate someone checking into their doctrine to see what they thought (hoping that they'd see eventually that it's incorrect) but i wouldn't tell them to attend service to get the full understanding and then decide, because i realise by that time it's too late. They could easily be convinced into a belief system by the full force of the service, people, docrine and 'experience'. You know how this can easily happen, i hardly need to tell you.

That's what worries me.
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« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2011, 03:30:09 PM »

Well the question is, how far are you going to go, Fountain Pen? There are people on this site who have read tons of the Church fathers, about doctrine, etc, and they are still churning out posts and starting arguments about every issue. You're going to hit a point when you know ENOUGH. That point is different for everyone, but I think you need to ask yourself where that point is or you may never step into a church.

And I say this because I've been there. I was in limbo and attended a Catholic church for two years, even though I had no intention of going back, because I was worried about going anywhere else and getting "seduced."
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« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2011, 03:35:18 PM »

Well the question is, how far are you going to go, Fountain Pen? There are people on this site who have read tons of the Church fathers, about doctrine, etc, and they are still churning out posts and starting arguments about every issue. You're going to hit a point when you know ENOUGH. That point is different for everyone, but I think you need to ask yourself where that point is or you may never step into a church.

And I say this because I've been there. I was in limbo and attended a Catholic church for two years, even though I had no intention of going back, because I was worried about going anywhere else and getting "seduced."

Good point. I think i'd have to reconcile several of the 'biggies' first. That's a good question and i think if i overcame a few huge issues with orthodoxy then i'd have to go along because my issues about it being heretical would cease to exist.
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« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2011, 03:36:08 PM »

I'm worried about becoming seduced by something that is heretical (just being honest here -- i don't mean to cause offense) and i know (from experiences at my other church) how easily the whole package together can do that. I think it's better to be convinced first before someone attends.

I don't believe the Mormons to be right in their belief. I'd advocate someone checking into their doctrine to see what they thought (hoping that they'd see eventually that it's incorrect) but i wouldn't tell them to attend service to get the full understanding and then decide, because i realise by that time it's too late. They could easily be convinced into a belief system by the full force of the service, people, docrine and 'experience'. You know how this can easily happen, i hardly need to tell you.

That's what worries me.

AGREE.  However, now that you've looked at History and the Church, have you found anything that is heretical?  I was nasty about it when I first started researching and realized later on that as History goes, I was the heretical one.  The teachings that I came to believe before Orthodoxy that were not taught in Orthodoxy were the heretical teachings.  I had to come to the realization that if I called the Orthodox heretics, I was essentially calling Jesus a liar.  If I believe that what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth, I HAD to acknowledge that Orthodoxy was IT.  It never made sense to me why there were so many denominations if Jesus wanted us all to be one.  There HAD to be a Church that was the ONE.  I know I may be coming of as saying, "I'm right, you're wrong."  That's not my intention.  But when faced with these things myself, knowing God doesn't change and His truths are Truth for all, in all times and in all places, I come face to face with a right path and a wrong path.  And then I have to choose.
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« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2011, 03:38:24 PM »

I'm worried about becoming seduced by something that is heretical (just being honest here -- i don't mean to cause offense) and i know (from experiences at my other church) how easily the whole package together can do that. I think it's better to be convinced first before someone attends.

You're in inquirer -- it's okay to read right now.  I read a ton for the six weeks or so before we ever attended a service.  But please just don't say (to yourself or others) that you "checked out Orthodoxy" if you never attended a service or became a part of a parish.  Holy Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit within the Church.  You can't know Orthodoxy unless you enter into it a bit.  Faith is not an intellectual exercise.  Think about the mentally impaired person who will never understand the faith, he/she functions as a 2yo or younger -- they can be just as completely a member of the church as the smartest person with seven doctorates.  It's not about what you know, in the end, it's about being united with Christ.  That's not an intellectual exercise, but one of communion.  
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« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2011, 03:40:26 PM »

I'm worried about becoming seduced by something that is heretical (just being honest here -- i don't mean to cause offense) and i know (from experiences at my other church) how easily the whole package together can do that. I think it's better to be convinced first before someone attends.

I don't believe the Mormons to be right in their belief. I'd advocate someone checking into their doctrine to see what they thought (hoping that they'd see eventually that it's incorrect) but i wouldn't tell them to attend service to get the full understanding and then decide, because i realise by that time it's too late. They could easily be convinced into a belief system by the full force of the service, people, docrine and 'experience'. You know how this can easily happen, i hardly need to tell you.

That's what worries me.

AGREE.  However, now that you've looked at History and the Church, have you found anything that is heretical?  I was nasty about it when I first started researching and realized later on that as History goes, I was the heretical one.  The teachings that I came to believe before Orthodoxy that were not taught in Orthodoxy were the heretical teachings.  I had to come to the realization that if I called the Orthodox heretics, I was essentially calling Jesus a liar.  If I believe that what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth, I HAD to acknowledge that Orthodoxy was IT.  It never made sense to me why there were so many denominations if Jesus wanted us all to be one.  There HAD to be a Church that was the ONE.  I know I may be coming of as saying, "I'm right, you're wrong."  That's not my intention.  But when faced with these things myself, knowing God doesn't change and His truths are Truth for all, in all times and in all places, I come face to face with a right path and a wrong path.  And then I have to choose.

No, it's not coming across that way. I've had some of these thoughts too.
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« Reply #22 on: November 08, 2011, 03:42:54 PM »

I'm worried about becoming seduced by something that is heretical (just being honest here -- i don't mean to cause offense) and i know (from experiences at my other church) how easily the whole package together can do that. I think it's better to be convinced first before someone attends.

I don't believe the Mormons to be right in their belief. I'd advocate someone checking into their doctrine to see what they thought (hoping that they'd see eventually that it's incorrect) but i wouldn't tell them to attend service to get the full understanding and then decide, because i realise by that time it's too late. They could easily be convinced into a belief system by the full force of the service, people, docrine and 'experience'. You know how this can easily happen, i hardly need to tell you.

That's what worries me.

AGREE.  However, now that you've looked at History and the Church, have you found anything that is heretical?  I was nasty about it when I first started researching and realized later on that as History goes, I was the heretical one.  The teachings that I came to believe before Orthodoxy that were not taught in Orthodoxy were the heretical teachings.  I had to come to the realization that if I called the Orthodox heretics, I was essentially calling Jesus a liar.  If I believe that what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth, I HAD to acknowledge that Orthodoxy was IT.  It never made sense to me why there were so many denominations if Jesus wanted us all to be one.  There HAD to be a Church that was the ONE.  I know I may be coming of as saying, "I'm right, you're wrong."  That's not my intention.  But when faced with these things myself, knowing God doesn't change and His truths are Truth for all, in all times and in all places, I come face to face with a right path and a wrong path.  And then I have to choose.

No, it's not coming across that way. I've had some of these thoughts too.

I'll be praying for you.  I sense your struggle...I've been there and it's a hard place.  ((((((FountainPen))))))
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« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2011, 04:25:05 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Orthodox is not about studying, it is about experience.  We do not learn about God, we experience His Grace in the Mysteries and this then is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Philosophy and history offer knowledge of facts and doctrines, whereas Orthodox is the wisdom of experience. So the first and most important thing is to attend Divine Liturgy as often as possible, in the spirit of deep prayer.  When we attend Divine Liturgy, God does the talking for us.

I like to tell my sunday school students that when we give lectures, or have discussions, or ask questions, we are not necessarily trying to get "the answers" because much of these matters are Mysteries, meaning only God Himself can explain them.  So the questions are really like rhetorical spiritual exercises, we ask God the questions in our hearts that we discover while reading and studying.  

So we must come to Orthodox for the active experience in prayer, and let the studying come later.  Further, all studies should be grounded in the prayerful experience of the Church.  Remember there is absolutely NOTHING more important than Divine Liturgy in the Church, because at Divine Liturgy we stand before the Real Presence of the Son of God in the Holy Communion, its as if we were standing at Jesus' feet to pray, and isn't that more important than reading about Jesus?

stay blessed,
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« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2011, 04:26:32 PM »

One of the things that most resonated with me about Orthodoxy was the very fact that I could trust the Church not to be heretical. I was not the ultimate authority! I see now that I started on my search for answers at least partly impelled by sincere devout Christians who held diametrically opposed beliefs, all of which they said were based on their personal interpretation of the same Scripture. Who was right, and more importantly, how could you be sure?

The short answer for me at least, was that we cannot be sure of any of our own personal interpretations or understandings, without the guidance of the Church. Because we all understand Scripture through the filter of our own individual knowledge, experience, training etc. and even biases and blind spots. Only the Church, the Body of Christ, can keep us on the path. Only the Church can rightly divide the word of truth.

I can't tell you what a relief it was to realize that it all didn't depend on me! Grin
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« Reply #25 on: November 08, 2011, 04:36:15 PM »

This is not an original with me, but a paraphrasing of something I heard somewhere (yes, pretty vague I know) and I hope I didn't miss it reading through earlier replies: The Western mind says, "I must understand in order to believe"; the Eastern (i.e. Orthodox) mind says, "I must believe in order to understand."

Orthodoxy will never be understood unless it is experienced. What we come to understand is that the more it is experienced, the more there is to be understood. (If you've read the Chronicles of Narnia - the Last Battle you'll know what I mean.)

You are quite right to ask questions before jumping in. If there's something that draws you in, it's worth checking out first. But you will always find some answers less than satisfactory until you do jump in.
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« Reply #26 on: November 08, 2011, 04:51:58 PM »

This is not an original with me, but a paraphrasing of something I heard somewhere (yes, pretty vague I know) and I hope I didn't miss it reading through earlier replies: The Western mind says, "I must understand in order to believe"; the Eastern (i.e. Orthodox) mind says, "I must believe in order to understand."

Boy, does the East vs. West tire.

You know that Western malcontent would disagree:

Quote from: St. Augustine
Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.

Frankly, it is a false dichotomy from the ground up.

So much confusion, so little time . . .
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« Reply #27 on: November 08, 2011, 05:10:57 PM »

This is not an original with me, but a paraphrasing of something I heard somewhere (yes, pretty vague I know) and I hope I didn't miss it reading through earlier replies: The Western mind says, "I must understand in order to believe"; the Eastern (i.e. Orthodox) mind says, "I must believe in order to understand."

Boy, does the East vs. West tire.
Yes, it does when you try to make more of it than is warranted. Different cultures have different thought patterns - that's the point I was making. It's unfortunate you found it necessary to comment on my admittedly inexact terminology.

Quote from: orthonorm
You know that Western malcontent would disagree:

Quote from: St. Augustine
Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.

Frankly, it is a false dichotomy from the ground up.

So much confusion, so little time . . .

Thank you for pointing out the source of my paraphrase. To whom was St Augustine addressing his comments? Why did he need to? Although he may not have had a specific audience in mind, he seems to be addressing people whose mindset resembles that of most people in the contemporary western world.
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« Reply #28 on: November 08, 2011, 05:16:31 PM »

I don't understand as Christianity is about believing in the correct doctrine (agreed beliefs about God, Jesus, The Spirit) then living out that belief fully convinced.

How can you live something unless you first understand whether it's sound or not?

Are children and the mentally disabled not fully Christians?
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« Reply #29 on: November 08, 2011, 05:40:20 PM »

This is not an original with me, but a paraphrasing of something I heard somewhere (yes, pretty vague I know) and I hope I didn't miss it reading through earlier replies: The Western mind says, "I must understand in order to believe"; the Eastern (i.e. Orthodox) mind says, "I must believe in order to understand."

Boy, does the East vs. West tire.
Yes, it does when you try to make more of it than is warranted. Different cultures have different thought patterns - that's the point I was making. It's unfortunate you found it necessary to comment on my admittedly inexact terminology.

Quote from: orthonorm
You know that Western malcontent would disagree:

Quote from: St. Augustine
Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.

Frankly, it is a false dichotomy from the ground up.

So much confusion, so little time . . .

Thank you for pointing out the source of my paraphrase. To whom was St Augustine addressing his comments? Why did he need to? Although he may not have had a specific audience in mind, he seems to be addressing people whose mindset resembles that of most people in the contemporary western world.

This is a discussion for elsewhere. Occasionally I find it necessary to point out the false and often just "buzz word" dichotomies. Trust me, I rarely do it.

Recently there has been rash of this sorta word slinging.

Why was it unfortunate? If you admit it was inexact.

BTW, your very approach to exegeting St. Augustine's words is Western, modern, and rationalistic.

[redacted rant]

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« Reply #30 on: November 08, 2011, 05:40:56 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Orthodox is not about studying, it is about experience.  We do not learn about God, we experience His Grace in the Mysteries and this then is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Philosophy and history offer knowledge of facts and doctrines, whereas Orthodox is the wisdom of experience. So the first and most important thing is to attend Divine Liturgy as often as possible, in the spirit of deep prayer.  When we attend Divine Liturgy, God does the talking for us.

I like to tell my sunday school students that when we give lectures, or have discussions, or ask questions, we are not necessarily trying to get "the answers" because much of these matters are Mysteries, meaning only God Himself can explain them.  So the questions are really like rhetorical spiritual exercises, we ask God the questions in our hearts that we discover while reading and studying.  

So we must come to Orthodox for the active experience in prayer, and let the studying come later.  Further, all studies should be grounded in the prayerful experience of the Church.  Remember there is absolutely NOTHING more important than Divine Liturgy in the Church, because at Divine Liturgy we stand before the Real Presence of the Son of God in the Holy Communion, its as if we were standing at Jesus' feet to pray, and isn't that more important than reading about Jesus?

stay blessed,
habte selassie

This, and a good many other differences in belief tell me that study is more prudent right about now.
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« Reply #31 on: November 08, 2011, 05:56:22 PM »

One of the things that most resonated with me about Orthodoxy was the very fact that I could trust the Church not to be heretical. I was not the ultimate authority! I see now that I started on my search for answers at least partly impelled by sincere devout Christians who held diametrically opposed beliefs, all of which they said were based on their personal interpretation of the same Scripture. Who was right, and more importantly, how could you be sure?

The short answer for me at least, was that we cannot be sure of any of our own personal interpretations or understandings, without the guidance of the Church. Because we all understand Scripture through the filter of our own individual knowledge, experience, training etc. and even biases and blind spots. Only the Church, the Body of Christ, can keep us on the path. Only the Church can rightly divide the word of truth.

I can't tell you what a relief it was to realize that it all didn't depend on me! Grin

It's a little frustrating as i've tried to explain that Protestants rely on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them in their inner being not relying merely on their own fallible, human understanding. The fact that people get it wrong and listen through the filter of their own agendas is true for all of us both Protestant and Orthodox. It doesn't discount the fact that it's what the church does. It's a little like me keep referring to icons as though they are being worshipped when it's already been explained to me that it's veneration. So i don't...

Other than the above paragraph, once the evidence has been established (for me) that there is no heresy within Orthodoxy then yes, that would be a USP that i'd be interested in quite a bit.
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« Reply #32 on: November 08, 2011, 05:57:49 PM »

I don't understand as Christianity is about believing in the correct doctrine (agreed beliefs about God, Jesus, The Spirit) then living out that belief fully convinced.

How can you live something unless you first understand whether it's sound or not?

Are children and the mentally disabled not fully Christians?

From a personal witness others have heard me say here FP, it was seeing infants communed that kept me coming back.

I frankly wasn't taken up with all the bells and incense and icons. But the idea that the Orthodox Church was place where persons could be Christians within the Body of the Church as people without a checklist of dogmas and doctrines to hold to made perfect sense on a gut level. It touched my heart.

I knew those infants were "more" Christian than I.

It was profound for reasons I won't get into here which are probably particular to me.

And most Orthodox parishes I doubt are going to overwhelm you with greetings for better or worse. You can usually slip in and out without much notice IME and that of many others.

IOW, you can sorta dip your toe into the water to the degree you wish and almost no one is even going to notice.

Who knows what will draw and hold people or repel or push them away. There were elements of both for me.

FWIW.
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« Reply #33 on: November 08, 2011, 09:45:52 PM »

FountainPen, I see what you mean about not getting "sucked in" before you have all your facts straight. It's a good point that I need to think about too before I attend a Liturgy.

FWIW, Fr. Hopko recommends that when you first attend a Liturgy, you only observe. Just sort of try to take things in and think about what you're seeing and hearing. There is certainly no rush to participate. No one will shout at you if you don't venerate the icons or something, or so they tell me.

I wish I could offer you some more concrete advice at this time. Sorry.
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« Reply #34 on: November 08, 2011, 09:58:02 PM »

And btw, i don't think you have to worry about people rushing at you when you enter the door. I can see if you have come from some experience with Mormonism why you might think that. From my experience, it is very easy to enter an Orthodox church and exit it without saying a word to anyone, if one so desires.
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« Reply #35 on: November 08, 2011, 10:00:54 PM »

And btw, i don't think you have to worry about people rushing at you when you enter the door. I can see if you have come from some experience with Mormonism why you might think that. From my experience, it is very easy to enter an Orthodox church and exit it without saying a word to anyone, if one so desires.
Word. We've been attending for some six months or so right now, and there are some Sundays where we're jabbering with whoever in line. Other Sundays, when we have work or something else scheduled right after DL, and we need to skip coffee hour, Mr. Ismi and I are able to get out without saying a word to anyone, save a "Hi" and a "How are you doing," (usually during DL, unfortunately, but that's another story...)
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« Reply #36 on: November 08, 2011, 11:52:58 PM »

Yes, you need to know some stuff, but Orthodoxy is to be experienced. And even when you attend, if you've got your nose in a service book and hardly put it down, you're not fully experiencing it!

Orthodoxy is experiential. And it's not just "Jesus and me." You HAVE to attend services. It's non-negotiable. Some converts get into all the mystical stuff, but as my priest says, Orthodoxy is also very practical. You DO stuff!

As my priest tells us, and especially new folks (I'm in an OCA parish with a good balance of "cradles" and "converts"):

Attend Sunday Liturgy, preferably Saturday Vespers, and as many of the other services you can manage depending on your family/work.

Pray at home morning and evening. Start small and gradually build on it.

Fast and feast according to the Church calendar.

Read a bit of the Bible daily.

Give alms.

Help the poor.

Love your neighbor.

Get back up when you fall. Rinse. Repeat. Wink

The Christian life is a struggle. 'Nuff said.

It's not rocket science, but it's deceptively simple.

And I add -

Watch what your parish does on the holidays and feast days. Ask the older members of your parish what traditions they learned.

Try your hand at baking the ethnic specialties for Pascha in your parish (or from your own ethnic heritage). Bring fruit to be blessed at Transfiguration and flowers/herbs to be blessed on Dormition. If your parish is in the Russian tradition, help decorate with greenery for Pentecost.
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« Reply #37 on: November 09, 2011, 12:10:36 AM »

This is not an original with me, but a paraphrasing of something I heard somewhere (yes, pretty vague I know) and I hope I didn't miss it reading through earlier replies: The Western mind says, "I must understand in order to believe"; the Eastern (i.e. Orthodox) mind says, "I must believe in order to understand."

Boy, does the East vs. West tire.
Yes, it does when you try to make more of it than is warranted. Different cultures have different thought patterns - that's the point I was making. It's unfortunate you found it necessary to comment on my admittedly inexact terminology.

Quote from: orthonorm
You know that Western malcontent would disagree:

Quote from: St. Augustine
Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.

Frankly, it is a false dichotomy from the ground up.

So much confusion, so little time . . .

Thank you for pointing out the source of my paraphrase. To whom was St Augustine addressing his comments? Why did he need to? Although he may not have had a specific audience in mind, he seems to be addressing people whose mindset resembles that of most people in the contemporary western world.

This is a discussion for elsewhere. Occasionally I find it necessary to point out the false and often just "buzz word" dichotomies. Trust me, I rarely do it.

Recently there has been rash of this sorta word slinging.

Why was it unfortunate? If you admit it was inexact.

BTW, your very approach to exegeting St. Augustine's words is Western, modern, and rationalistic.

[redacted rant]





Well thankfully we have you here to correct us. Otherwise I'm not sure how we'd make it.
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« Reply #38 on: November 09, 2011, 12:15:42 AM »

I've read a few times in posts that it's better to go to Divine Liturgy, begin to live the Christian life and the understanding will come.

Moreso than in study?

Why would attending the service etc., aid understanding in a better way than study alone?
Life doesn't work that way. You can't learn how to box from a book, you can't conceive a child via contemplation, you can't save yourself through studying about things you should be doing. I'm sorry, but life just doesn't work that way.

I Why would attending the service etc., aid understanding in a better way than study alone? As far as i can tell most of the service is sung scripture and prayers. Nothing unfamiliar to me there so what's the reason people say this?
The Divine Liturgy is not a theology or scripture lecture. We believe the Divine Liturgy ontologically unites the faithful to Christ, that it re-presents the creation to God via Christ and actualizes the eternal worship of the Coming Age.

Saying "why can't I just read the divine liturgy" is like saying "why can't I just read a chemical description of the drugs used in chemotherapy to cure cancer?"

This sounds like the church i left!
false dichotomy.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 12:18:33 AM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #39 on: November 09, 2011, 12:33:55 AM »

St. Bishoy's Coptic Orthodox Church here in Albuquerque is for now meeting in a private home (as it has for the past 15 years). It is a home full of books about the faith! And videos on the saints, recordings of the liturgy and tasbeha, etc. All of these things are helpful in the formation of a Christian, but of course none of them can replace or substitute for the lived experience of Christianity, which is found in community in the liturgy. "Liturgy" is, as the etymology goes, "the work of the people", and you can't really do work without getting your hands dirty! Smiley You can mentally prepare for it, you can read about how to do it, but until you're in the thick of it you won't really understand it (and for sometime afterward, I should say; those of us who were not born Orthodox certainly have a bigger learning curve to navigate than others).

I think that a lot of the ideas that Orthodoxy is not about book learnin' come from a justifiable concern that we not intellectualize (/philosophize/dematerialize/etc.) the faith. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, this is a big concern for me personally, and as such I might be a little more eager than the average convert to embrace the very monastically-influenced faith of the Copts -- but this is tempered (thank God!) by frequent reminders from my priest and helpful church friends that Orthodoxy is not anti-intellectual so much as it is plain not intellectual. The intellect is neither the filter nor the prism through which we experience the faith.

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« Reply #40 on: November 09, 2011, 12:36:54 AM »

Well the question is, how far are you going to go, Fountain Pen? There are people on this site who have read tons of the Church fathers, about doctrine, etc, and they are still churning out posts and starting arguments about every issue. You're going to hit a point when you know ENOUGH. That point is different for everyone, but I think you need to ask yourself where that point is or you may never step into a church.

And I say this because I've been there. I was in limbo and attended a Catholic church for two years, even though I had no intention of going back, because I was worried about going anywhere else and getting "seduced."

Good point. I think i'd have to reconcile several of the 'biggies' first. That's a good question and i think if i overcame a few huge issues with orthodoxy then i'd have to go along because my issues about it being heretical would cease to exist.
Another note:

You really don't have to sign on to the Orthodox Church the minute you step in there. I promise. In fact, when I first met with the priest -- my first meeting with an Orthodox priest EVER -- I was babbling a mile a minute and he was like, "Stop. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. I want you to attend DL and meet with me for several months before we start planning the chrismation."

That's what I LOVED about Orthodoxy. I was so upset, initially, at his response. But I am so glad that they just don't take the first enthusiastic person and start the ceremony (Well, theoretically, anyway). It meant so much more when he said to me, "You're ready." It took probably about 20 or more meetings, him knowing about my personal history, religious history, etc. etc., studying, asking questions, being involved in activities, feasts, praying, etc. for me to get to this point.

And I have a long way to go, even once I am officially an Orthodox Christian.

I think that those viewing their stepping into their local church as a final moment of sorts are kidding themselves. It's just a beginning. I know I'm not there yet, but I feel it, and from my earlier Christian life, I KNOW it.

Anyway, I just wanted to know what your "biggies" are. I still have some issues that I'm resolving in my head, as does my husband, as do many catechumens/inquirers/converts/cradles, I'm sure. Not everything will be so neatly packaged in our hearts when we first enter the building.

And people leave the catechumenate. It happens.

Perhaps you could first visit (if you haven't already) a church when service is not going on? Just walk around, look at the icons, talk to a priest, ask questions. Go through the Divine Liturgy if they have a book for those poor saps who don't speak Greek/Russian/Ukrainian. Just check it out.

I was so freaked out about going to DL that I had to meet with the priest 3 or 4 times before I went. I almost made him run through the DL during one of our meetings, because I was terrified of going up for communion instead of the antidoron. Stupid, in retrospect, but I understand the trepidation of making such a big step. But everything he told me beforehand didn't make sense until I stood there and experienced it for myself.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 12:38:35 AM by IsmiLiora » Logged

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« Reply #41 on: November 09, 2011, 12:44:35 AM »

The Divine Liturgy is not a theology or scripture lecture. We believe the Divine Liturgy ontologically unites the faithful to Christ, that it re-presents the creation to God via Christ and actualizes the eternal worship of the Coming Age.

This.

Some quotes from St John's Divine Liturgy which underscore the point:

-----------------------------------------

Before the entrance with the disk and chalice:
Let us [...] put aside all cares of this world so that we may receive the King of All, invisibly escorted by the angelic orders -- alleluia, alleluia, alleluia ...

Before the epiklesis:
Remembering, therefore, this command of the Saviour, and all that came to pass for our sake [...]  Your own of Your own we offer unto You on behalf of all and for all ...

At the epiklesis:
Send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here spread forth ...

After the epiklesis:
So that they [the Precious Gifts] may be unto those who partake of them for vigilance of soul, forgiveness of sins, communion of Your Holy Spirit, fulfilment of the kingdom of heaven, confidence before You, and not judgment or condemnation ...

-----------------------------------------

Heavy and heady stuff.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 12:49:53 AM by akimori makoto » Logged

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« Reply #42 on: November 09, 2011, 01:24:32 AM »

Well the question is, how far are you going to go, Fountain Pen? There are people on this site who have read tons of the Church fathers, about doctrine, etc, and they are still churning out posts and starting arguments about every issue. You're going to hit a point when you know ENOUGH. That point is different for everyone, but I think you need to ask yourself where that point is or you may never step into a church.

And I say this because I've been there. I was in limbo and attended a Catholic church for two years, even though I had no intention of going back, because I was worried about going anywhere else and getting "seduced."

Good point. I think i'd have to reconcile several of the 'biggies' first. That's a good question and i think if i overcame a few huge issues with orthodoxy then i'd have to go along because my issues about it being heretical would cease to exist.
Another note:

You really don't have to sign on to the Orthodox Church the minute you step in there. I promise. In fact, when I first met with the priest -- my first meeting with an Orthodox priest EVER -- I was babbling a mile a minute and he was like, "Stop. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. I want you to attend DL and meet with me for several months before we start planning the chrismation."

That's what I LOVED about Orthodoxy. I was so upset, initially, at his response. But I am so glad that they just don't take the first enthusiastic person and start the ceremony (Well, theoretically, anyway). It meant so much more when he said to me, "You're ready." It took probably about 20 or more meetings, him knowing about my personal history, religious history, etc. etc., studying, asking questions, being involved in activities, feasts, praying, etc. for me to get to this point.

And I have a long way to go, even once I am officially an Orthodox Christian.

I think that those viewing their stepping into their local church as a final moment of sorts are kidding themselves. It's just a beginning. I know I'm not there yet, but I feel it, and from my earlier Christian life, I KNOW it.

Anyway, I just wanted to know what your "biggies" are. I still have some issues that I'm resolving in my head, as does my husband, as do many catechumens/inquirers/converts/cradles, I'm sure. Not everything will be so neatly packaged in our hearts when we first enter the building.

And people leave the catechumenate. It happens.

Perhaps you could first visit (if you haven't already) a church when service is not going on? Just walk around, look at the icons, talk to a priest, ask questions. Go through the Divine Liturgy if they have a book for those poor saps who don't speak Greek/Russian/Ukrainian. Just check it out.

I was so freaked out about going to DL that I had to meet with the priest 3 or 4 times before I went. I almost made him run through the DL during one of our meetings, because I was terrified of going up for communion instead of the antidoron. Stupid, in retrospect, but I understand the trepidation of making such a big step. But everything he told me beforehand didn't make sense until I stood there and experienced it for myself.


well said, sister!
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« Reply #43 on: November 09, 2011, 11:34:02 AM »

It's a little frustrating as i've tried to explain that Protestants rely on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them in their inner being not relying merely on their own fallible, human understanding.
Of course, we've talked about this before, haven't we? Wink
The flaw in that reasoning is that everyone will tell you that the Holy Spirit is teaching and guiding them, no matter what weird beliefs they hold. Take your example of Joseph Smith. He would certainly tell you that God was guiding him, even though he believed or taught things that were completely different from historical Christian beliefs and teachings.
So how do you know that they are right? You touched on this very point. Especially since we are advised not to lean upon our own understanding.
Quote
The fact that people get it wrong and listen through the filter of their own agendas is true for all of us both Protestant and Orthodox.
Of course, that's what I've been saying. Any one individual can veer off wildly. In Orthodoxy, in the Church, however, we have a built in correction. We have two millenia, give or take, of Apostolic teachings: what the Church has believed, practiced and taught at all times and in all places, to paraphrase St. Vincent of Lerins. 
I'm not at all discounting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. After all, that's what's kept the Orthodox Church true to the teachings of the Apostles, which they received from our Lord.

Quote
It doesn't discount the fact that it's what the church does. It's a little like me keep referring to icons as though they are being worshipped when it's already been explained to me that it's veneration. So i don't...
Not sure what you are talking about here - can you explain?

Other than the above paragraph, once the evidence has been established (for me) that there is no heresy within Orthodoxy then yes, that would be a USP that i'd be interested in quite a bit.
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« Reply #44 on: November 09, 2011, 12:23:25 PM »

It's a little frustrating as i've tried to explain that Protestants rely on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them in their inner being not relying merely on their own fallible, human understanding.
Of course, we've talked about this before, haven't we? Wink
The flaw in that reasoning is that everyone will tell you that the Holy Spirit is teaching and guiding them, no matter what weird beliefs they hold. Take your example of Joseph Smith. He would certainly tell you that God was guiding him, even though he believed or taught things that were completely different from historical Christian beliefs and teachings.
So how do you know that they are right? You touched on this very point. Especially since we are advised not to lean upon our own understanding.
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The fact that people get it wrong and listen through the filter of their own agendas is true for all of us both Protestant and Orthodox.
Of course, that's what I've been saying. Any one individual can veer off wildly. In Orthodoxy, in the Church, however, we have a built in correction. We have two millenia, give or take, of Apostolic teachings: what the Church has believed, practiced and taught at all times and in all places, to paraphrase St. Vincent of Lerins.  
I'm not at all discounting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. After all, that's what's kept the Orthodox Church true to the teachings of the Apostles, which they received from our Lord.

Quote
It doesn't discount the fact that it's what the church does. It's a little like me keep referring to icons as though they are being worshipped when it's already been explained to me that it's veneration. So i don't...
Not sure what you are talking about here - can you explain?
Quote
Other than the above paragraph, once the evidence has been established (for me) that there is no heresy within Orthodoxy then yes, that would be a USP that i'd be interested in quite a bit.

It's okay, i was feeling frustrated at the Protestant interpretation being described as 'relying on our own understanding' when i'd already explained that wasn't the case. I likened it to me keep describing icon veneration as 'idol worship'. Just a small niggle.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 12:25:12 PM by FountainPen » Logged

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« Reply #45 on: November 09, 2011, 03:52:17 PM »

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It's okay, i was feeling frustrated at the Protestant interpretation being described as 'relying on our own understanding' when i'd already explained that wasn't the case.

Of course, I'm not saying that the Holy Spirit doesn't enlighten and guide personal interpretations of Protestants. But you have to admit that the essence of Protestantism, from Bro. Martin on, is the primacy of personal interpretation, to "be one's own pope," so to speak.
And the problem with that is that anyone can tell you the Holy Spirit told them anything, from mainline Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians etc. to Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy and on to the guy who has twice now predicted the end of the world, or even someone like Warren Jeffs, Christians of different denominations believe totally different and often contradictory things, based on the same Scripture. Every one of them, I have no doubt, would assure you that they were guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, and would be appalled by various aspects of the other's belief systems.
So how do you know?
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« Reply #46 on: November 09, 2011, 04:27:52 PM »

Just a thought that entered my mind when I was reading this thread. Muslims say that Christians and Jews are similar to them, in that they are also, like Muslims, "the people of the Book." But it is not quite true. Of course we Orthodox Christians have books. We do have the Bible, we do have works of our Fathers, we do have thick volumes of proceedings of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. But our ultimate authority is not any book - it is Christ.

If we just study books, we do not achieve unity with Christ. This unity is beyond rational, "contemplative" learning. Our most prominent teachers like St. Maximos the Confessor, St. Simeon New Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Paisius Velychkovs'kyy, the late Fr. John Romanides and other, have always emphasized that we become one with Christ by making adjustments in our entire life; we need to get more "book" knowledge, but we also need to learn how to pray, meditate, fast, practice charity and hospitality, in other words, do our "training" ("askesis") in all aspects of our life, gradually purufying our heart from the oppression of various passions and achieving the vision of Uncreated Light ("theoria").

While the acquizition of book knowledge is at least to some extent possible in solitude, the asketic life needs to be guided by a community, which includes your peers and your spiritual directors (priests). And, very importantly, askesis must be strengthened by the True Body and True Blood of Christ, which one receives ONLY if one is a member of a community of faith.
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