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Author Topic: A few questions  (Read 371 times) Average Rating: 0
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Seeker of Truth
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« on: November 17, 2013, 06:22:29 PM »

Hello, this is my first post on this forum. I am highly interested in the Orthodox Church, and I have some questions I was hoping some may be able assist me with.

To provide the briefest of backgrounds, I was raised by a non-Church going Catholic mother and largely atheistic father. I myself was atheistic until around the age of 18 when I was blessed with a transcendent mystical experience which forever changed my life. Since that time I've been searching for Truth, with the ultimate goal of what is variously known as "enlightenment" or "gnosis" or "moksha" in religious/philosophical traditions around the world; I'd imagine the process and goal of theosis would be the Orthodox equivalent. My problem is I have thus far been unable to find my faith or which tradition I should belong to, and over the past few years I've been studying Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Neoplatonism, Christianity, Islam, and a variety of other religious/philosophical/esoteric traditions from around the world. After a process of discovery and elimination, I've begun to consider the Orthodox Church as a primary contender for my eventual home.

In any case, here are some questions I have that I hope those more learned than me might be able to provide some insight on:

1) What is the ultimate goal attainable in this life according to Orthodoxy? I know Christianity deals largely with the life to come, but what is Christian perfection in this life?

2) What does Orthodoxy say about salvation for non-Orthodox or non-Christians? If through human error of judgement or through some other reason (cultural, ethnic, etc.) one failed to make the right choice of either Christianity or the Orthodox Church, is one damned for that mistake? If a non-Orthodox or non-Christian lives piously, strives toward God, and bears no ill will toward Christ or the Church, will they still be damned?

3) Does Orthodox have a tradition of non-cloistered monasticism? Something along the lines of a mendicant monks or ascetics? Are there any people living such a lifestyle in this day and age?

4) Where in the world is Orthodoxy taken most seriously on a collective level? By this I mean which modern day societies are the most Orthodox and least secular?

Those are my initial questions. If anyone can provide any information or insight regarding any of these questions, I'd be greatly obliged.

Thanks!
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mike
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2013, 06:25:55 PM »

4) Where in the world is Orthodoxy taken most seriously on a collective level? By this I mean which modern day societies are the most Orthodox and least secular?

None. There is not such thing as "Orthodox society" or "Orthodox nation".
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2013, 06:48:06 PM »

Welcome to the forum. I will try to give you a very simplistic answer to your questions. I'm sure you realize that volumes have been written on all of these topics.

1) What is the ultimate goal attainable in this life according to Orthodoxy? I know Christianity deals largely with the life to come, but what is Christian perfection in this life?
God created us to have an intimate relationship with Him. Our goal is the restoration of that relationship. The "ultimate" part of that goal seems, at least to me, to be something that awaits us in the life beyond this present one. Here in this life, our goal is to be firmly on the path that leads to that salvation which is a process. It is through Jesus Christ that our renewal is accomplished.

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2) What does Orthodoxy say about salvation for non-Orthodox or non-Christians? If through human error of judgement or through some other reason (cultural, ethnic, etc.) one failed to make the right choice of either Christianity or the Orthodox Church, is one damned for that mistake? If a non-Orthodox or non-Christian lives piously, strives toward God, and bears no ill will toward Christ or the Church, will they still be damned?
Generally speaking, we let God do the judging on this one. Overall, I have found that Orthodoxy is much more generous in this regard than the Protestantism I know from my former association. It is in Orthodoxy that I have been able to accept that God has forgiven me - before I did anything to merit that forgiveness, indeed there is nothing I can do that would deserve His forgiveness.

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3) Does Orthodox have a tradition of non-cloistered monasticism? Something along the lines of a mendicant monks or ascetics? Are there any people living such a lifestyle in this day and age?
One reads occasionally of such people. But the genuine ones are few and far between. Obedience to our hierarchs - and by that I mean our being connected with each other under proper authority - is generally considered a virtue.

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4) Where in the world is Orthodoxy taken most seriously on a collective level? By this I mean which modern day societies are the most Orthodox and least secular?
If only!
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2013, 09:54:18 PM »

None. There is not such thing as "Orthodox society" or "Orthodox nation".

Yea, I figured as much, but I was more or less wondering where the most Orthodox society in the world might be. Obviously there is no Orthodox nation, but perhaps there is somewhere where Orthodoxy has a relatively greater collective influence on society than, say, the extremely secular countries of the West. From what little I know, I would have guessed that Romania may be the "most Orthodox" in this regard.

God created us to have an intimate relationship with Him. Our goal is the restoration of that relationship. The "ultimate" part of that goal seems, at least to me, to be something that awaits us in the life beyond this present one. Here in this life, our goal is to be firmly on the path that leads to that salvation which is a process. It is through Jesus Christ that our renewal is accomplished.

So there is no equivalent to "enlightenment" or a concept of full perfection in this life in Orthodoxy? Is gnosis (as in a supra-rational, direct knowledge of God/Truth and ontological transformation, not anything related to the heretical Gnostic sects) or mystical union with God something serious Orthodox aspire to? What is the ultimate end of the hesychast's effort in this life, if any? I know Orthodoxy and Christianity have concepts of saints and prophets (though I believe I read that John the Baptist was supposed to be the last prophet), but is there the concept of the sage or perfected man?

Generally speaking, we let God do the judging on this one. Overall, I have found that Orthodoxy is much more generous in this regard than the Protestantism I know from my former association. It is in Orthodoxy that I have been able to accept that God has forgiven me - before I did anything to merit that forgiveness, indeed there is nothing I can do that would deserve His forgiveness.

Yeah, I was asking because I've heard everything from perennialist view points (Phillip Sherrard, James Cutsinger, the recently deceased John Taverner), moderate positions (we know where the Church is, but not where it is not), and hardline positions (no salvation outside of Orthodoxy, and certainly not for non-Christians.)

One reads occasionally of such people. But the genuine ones are few and far between. Obedience to our hierarchs - and by that I mean our being connected with each other under proper authority - is generally considered a virtue.

I figured as much. I ask because, while it may seem like putting the cart before the horse, I've long since decided that I'd like to fully devote myself to the spiritual quest and the search for God in whatever tradition I wind up in. I've always admired and been drawn to the lives of ascetics, monks, yogis, dervishes, and the like, and would like to follow such a path myself. I have little interest in secular affairs, the accumulation of wealth, or most of the goals modern civilization holds in high regard. While I would like to follow such a path of complete devotion, I know that it becomes increasingly difficult to do so in the modern world and I am also not sure a cloistered monastic vocation would be the exact means I'd wish to follow in such a case. Having a spiritual father to be obedient to isn't something I'd be against, but I am attracted to the idea of an individualized, intensive practice with a "wander where thou wilt" life without possessions. Sounds like idealism, but that's what I am after. Whether Orthodoxy or any of the current nations where Orthodoxy is practiced would even allow for such a life is unknown to me.
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2013, 10:04:41 PM »

Yea, I figured as much, but I was more or less wondering where the most Orthodox society in the world might be. Obviously there is no Orthodox nation, but perhaps there is somewhere where Orthodoxy has a relatively greater collective influence on society than, say, the extremely secular countries of the West. From what little I know, I would have guessed that Romania may be the "most Orthodox" in this regard.

There are areas where Church has or used to have serious impact on society (actually, there was mutual impact) however these are far from being Orthodox societies. The greater impact Church had on society, the greater impact society had on Church.
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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2013, 12:32:30 PM »

1) What is the ultimate goal attainable in this life according to Orthodoxy? I know Christianity deals largely with the life to come, but what is Christian perfection in this life?
St. Seraphim of Sarov said that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit.
http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47866.htm


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2) What does Orthodoxy say about salvation for non-Orthodox or non-Christians? If through human error of judgement or through some other reason (cultural, ethnic, etc.) one failed to make the right choice of either Christianity or the Orthodox Church, is one damned for that mistake? If a non-Orthodox or non-Christian lives piously, strives toward God, and bears no ill will toward Christ or the Church, will they still be damned?
"...The Lord, "Who will have all men to be saved" (I Tim. 2:4) and "Who enlightens every man born into the world" (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.

With reference to the above question, it is particularly instructive to recall the answer once given to an inquirer by the Blessed Theophan the Recluse. The blessed one replied more or less thus: "You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins... I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever."
http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/metphil_heterodox.aspx

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3) Does Orthodox have a tradition of non-cloistered monasticism? Something along the lines of a mendicant monks or ascetics? Are there any people living such a lifestyle in this day and age?
It's hard enough to live a "normal" Orthodox life!

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4) Where in the world is Orthodoxy taken most seriously on a collective level? By this I mean which modern day societies are the most Orthodox and least secular?
Maybe Mount Athos?

« Last Edit: November 18, 2013, 12:33:02 PM by katherineofdixie » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2013, 04:51:22 PM »

Athos is far from being normal society.
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Byzantinism
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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2013, 05:53:13 PM »

Athos is far from being normal society.

Of course. It's a mountainous island with only monks living there! But it probably fits the OP's description, wouldn't you say? "is Orthodoxy taken most seriously on a collective level? By this I mean which modern day societies are the most Orthodox and least secular?"
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"If but ten of us lead a holy life, we shall kindle a fire which shall light up the entire city."

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