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Author Topic: Lutheran exploring Orthodoxy...questions  (Read 2521 times) Average Rating: 0
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CuriousLutheran
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« on: October 08, 2012, 12:18:06 PM »

I was raised (and still am) Lutheran but have gotten to thinking something isn't quite right with being in a denomination that has only been around for some 500 years, and the EO church appears to have a better case than the RC church for being the original (which is in a way kind of disappointing, since I am in a heavily RC area of the country).  However, I have some concerns.  One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God.  Another is that there seem to be an awful lot of rules--fasting days being one example, women not being allowed to commune during their period (I thought we were well past the idea of being unclean at that time of the month), etc.  Doesn't Scripture speak against exactly that kind of focus on external observances?  Certainly Jesus had a lot to say to the Pharisees in that regard, but then again I realize that they were doing all those things but ignoring the bigger things like loving their neighbor.  I am also having a bit of a hard time understanding some of the EO language--for example, the term "salvation" seems to encompass a lot more for the Orthodox than it does for the rest of us (more like what we Lutherans might call "sanctification").  Finally, what do the Orthodox say about the relationship between faith, works and salvation?  I know this is a lot and I hope I am not offending anyone, as that is not my intent.  Just trying to learn more and figure out if I need to switch to the Orthodox church. 
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« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2012, 12:33:08 PM »

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

With the Saints and Mary, we pray WITH them and it brings us CLOSER to God by the proximity of Grace, not further away as a distraction.  Whether we know the Saints by a direct relationship, or we meditate on them as a concept or symbol of Faith in action and synergy with God, either way we get closer to God in this way.  In regards to external practices, we have these same internal debates as to which are doctrine (required) and which are dogma (essentially extra-curricular activities in the Church which have an added value but are not obligatory for all folks), including some of the Law issues you mentioned.  These things tend to fluctuate from jurisdiction (i.e. Byzantines, Antiochans, Alexandrians, Ethiopians etc) to jurisdiction, and from individual parish to parish.  The key is to only let these things BUILD faith, if they become distractions or take away from faith, they decrease in importance and emphasis until they become valuable.  Fasting is essential though, it is not extra, it is obligatory for all.  Fasting has direct lineage from the Old Testament worship (Jews fasted twice a week as well as for different periods on the anual calendar) and how Our Savior confirmed we "would be fasting in those days."  We Fast because it brings us closer to God in prayer.  Fasting is a kind of deeply personal and individual prayer with God.  It strengthens our relationship with Him in the active, verb sense.

We have a simple adage in Orthodox as to how to apply and implement the vast complexities of the Tradition, "Ask your priest."

If folks don't have this kind of relationship with a spiritual father, they should orient their activities in the Church at developing and building one first before tackling the lifestyle of Tradition Smiley

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2012, 01:14:35 PM »

Hey Curious,
I was in a similar boat, and I'd be glad to answer your questions. However, my answers wont be any way better than that of a priest Smiley

Quote
One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God
To me, it is no different than asking a friend of loved one to pray for us. As God is the God of the living and not the dead, the saints are aware, and rooting for us. The thing is, the saints are not clouded by day to day worries, distractions, or sin keeping them from away from God.

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Another is that there seem to be an awful lot of rules--fasting days being one example, women not being allowed to commune during their period (I thought we were well past the idea of being unclean at that time of the month), etc.  Doesn't Scripture speak against exactly that kind of focus on external observances?  Certainly Jesus had a lot to say to the Pharisees in that regard, but then again I realize that they were doing all those things but ignoring the bigger things like loving their neighbor
Thats the key of what you said. As the rules themselves, thats a priest question....I'd probably just confuse you Smiley

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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2012, 01:49:28 PM »

One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God.
 

When you look at the kinds of prayers we address to Saint Mary, you see that they are not at all a distraction from God, but focusing on Him explicitly. In fact, Saint Mary, like all of the saints, is so revered because of what God has wrought in her -- and since in her case that is none other than God Himself, she is very highly honored indeed. Here is one example of a prayer from the Agpeya (the Coptic book of the hours; I cannot speak for the EO, as I'm not one, but I think the thinking about their prayers would be the same in this case) to illustrate what I mean; You can decide for yourself if it's 'over the top' or whatever...for me, as someone who is ex-Roman Catholic, I find the very grounded/balanced Mariology of the Orthodox to be very refreshing:

"O pure Virgin, overshadow your servant with your instant help, and keep the waves of evil thoughts away from me, and raise up my ailing soul for prayer and vigil, for it has gone into a deep sleep. For you are a capable, compassionate and helpful mother, the bearer of the Fountain of Life, my King and my God, Jesus Christ, my hope."

You see that? She helps us, because she is a good mother, and that's what good mothers do. And, of course, she is the bearer of the Fountain of Life, so in properly venerating her, our focus is turned to our God (and her God), Jesus Christ.


Quote
Another is that there seem to be an awful lot of rules--fasting days being one example, women not being allowed to commune during their period (I thought we were well past the idea of being unclean at that time of the month), etc.  Doesn't Scripture speak against exactly that kind of focus on external observances?


No, not at all. What gives you this idea? Not only is there the actual establishment of the sacrament of communion via our Lord's own hand and command ("take, drink of this all of you..."), but we see clearly how the apostles themselves did not shirk the rules that would establish spiritual health in the context of receiving our Lord as He wants us to, as in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29: "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body." So, when you are contemplating why we have these rules, and especially why we fast, you can know that this is why. We seek to be worthy as we can be (all the time knowing that we are not worthy in ourselves, but rely on God's mercy that our sacrifice may be acceptable to Him), which entails purification and discipline. Self-mastery, if you will. I deny myself the food I would otherwise crave not to conform to some silly rule, but because this has always been the norm when going to receive from God. Moses fasted to receive the tablets of stone, but we fast to receive the bread of life that truly nourishes (John 1:17 is a good verse to consider here). Fasting is a wonderful tool for spiritual fitness/exercise. We happily engage in it because just like the saints, it helps us. As Habte has put it, these are all to build faith, not to become distractions. I could fast the entire year and pray to every saint of our church and if my faith in God is not increasing through this discipline, then something is wrong and should go see my priest to be corrected. It is possible to take on too much, too soon or something like that (the first time I tried to fast beyond the weekly Wednesday/Friday fast, I failed miserably), and in Orthodoxy there is "oikonomia" so that rules do not become like an albatross around our necks, but rather help to guide us and strengthen our faith as they were intended to do.

Quote
Certainly Jesus had a lot to say to the Pharisees in that regard, but then again I realize that they were doing all those things but ignoring the bigger things like loving their neighbor.
 

Yes, and those words apply to us when we behave like that...so let's not behave like that. Smiley

Quote
Finally, what do the Orthodox say about the relationship between faith, works and salvation?
 

We are for all of them, yes. Smiley In Orthodoxy, you will find that many things that are divided up or thought of as binary opposing states in western Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic) are looked at much more holistically. I believe that this would be one of those things. We know that faith and works are not in competition with each other, but rather are both necessary for salvation, which is an ongoing, dynamic reality, and not a simple positional state. We are, we hope, being saved, rather than declaring ourselves to in this or that state and calling it a day. I'm not sure whether this answers your question or not (it's kind of broad and I'm not sure what presuppositions you bring to it, as I myself was never Lutheran), but I hope it at least helps a little bit. May God guide you on your exploration of the Orthodox faith.
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CuriousLutheran
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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2012, 01:50:00 PM »

Thanks to both of you for your clarification--the analogy of praying with the saints being like asking our friends on earth to pray for us makes sense.  As far as the fasting, the general concept makes sense as an exercise in self-discipline and as a remembrance but does it have to be so complicated?  By that I mean the restrictions on so many categories of foods on the fast days...doesn't one end up thinking more about food (in terms of avoiding those things) on those days than they would on other days?  If so, that seems counterproductive.  Another thing I would like to understand better is the Orthodox concept of monasticism--am I correct that they generally do not have "active" orders engaged in medical/teaching/other work (as does the RCC) but are mostly cloistered?  How does that fit in with the Church's duty to be engaged in doing good works that help the neighbor?
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« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2012, 02:03:44 PM »


When you look at the kinds of prayers we address to Saint Mary, you see that they are not at all a distraction from God, but focusing on Him explicitly. In fact, Saint Mary, like all of the saints, is so revered because of what God has wrought in her -- and since in her case that is none other than God Himself, she is very highly honored indeed. Here is one example of a prayer from the Agpeya (the Coptic book of the hours; I cannot speak for the EO, as I'm not one, but I think the thinking about their prayers would be the same in this case) to illustrate what I mean; You can decide for yourself if it's 'over the top' or whatever...for me, as someone who is ex-Roman Catholic, I find the very grounded/balanced Mariology of the Orthodox to be very refreshing:

"O pure Virgin, overshadow your servant with your instant help, and keep the waves of evil thoughts away from me, and raise up my ailing soul for prayer and vigil, for it has gone into a deep sleep. For you are a capable, compassionate and helpful mother, the bearer of the Fountain of Life, my King and my God, Jesus Christ, my hope."

You see that? She helps us, because she is a good mother, and that's what good mothers do. And, of course, she is the bearer of the Fountain of Life, so in properly venerating her, our focus is turned to our God (and her God), Jesus Christ.

I must say my first reaction to the first part of that one is, yikes!  I'm not used to addressing that kind of prayer to anyone but God Himself.


No, not at all. What gives you this idea? Not only is there the actual establishment of the sacrament of communion via our Lord's own hand and command ("take, drink of this all of you..."), but we see clearly how the apostles themselves did not shirk the rules that would establish spiritual health in the context of receiving our Lord as He wants us to, as in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29: "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body." So, when you are contemplating why we have these rules, and especially why we fast, you can know that this is why. We seek to be worthy as we can be (all the time knowing that we are not worthy in ourselves, but rely on God's mercy that our sacrifice may be acceptable to Him), which entails purification and discipline. Self-mastery, if you will. I deny myself the food I would otherwise crave not to conform to some silly rule, but because this has always been the norm when going to receive from God. Moses fasted to receive the tablets of stone, but we fast to receive the bread of life that truly nourishes (John 1:17 is a good verse to consider here). Fasting is a wonderful tool for spiritual fitness/exercise. We happily engage in it because just like the saints, it helps us. As Habte has put it, these are all to build faith, not to become distractions. I could fast the entire year and pray to every saint of our church and if my faith in God is not increasing through this discipline, then something is wrong and should go see my priest to be corrected. It is possible to take on too much, too soon or something like that (the first time I tried to fast beyond the weekly Wednesday/Friday fast, I failed miserably), and in Orthodoxy there is "oikonomia" so that rules do not become like an albatross around our necks, but rather help to guide us and strengthen our faith as they were intended to do.

So you're saying the fasts and other things are tools to help us grow, not supposed to be legalistic rules?  What about the menstruation issue?  That's just a normal bodily function, not something we have control over.


Quote
Finally, what do the Orthodox say about the relationship between faith, works and salvation?


We are for all of them, yes. Smiley In Orthodoxy, you will find that many things that are divided up or thought of as binary opposing states in western Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic) are looked at much more holistically. I believe that this would be one of those things. We know that faith and works are not in competition with each other, but rather are both necessary for salvation, which is an ongoing, dynamic reality, and not a simple positional state. We are, we hope, being saved, rather than declaring ourselves to in this or that state and calling it a day. I'm not sure whether this answers your question or not (it's kind of broad and I'm not sure what presuppositions you bring to it, as I myself was never Lutheran), but I hope it at least helps a little bit. May God guide you on your exploration of the Orthodox faith.

I think the more holistic way of looking at things is part of what is confusing me, having been brought up with the Western way of looking at them.  As far as presuppositions, I have always been taught that "we are saved through faith alone, but faith is never alone"...in other words, faith (not works) is how one is saved, but saving faith produces works ("faith without works is dead").  So they are related.  Also, Lutherans do not believe "once saved, always saved"--it is possible to fall away through unrepentant sin.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 02:04:29 PM by CuriousLutheran » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2012, 02:11:23 PM »

Is fasting that complicated in the EO church? Now I'm curious, because I thought they were like us in this regard, save their "cheesefare" week that we don't have (and hence they condemn the Armenians, in what must be the funniest anathema ever...), and our use of oil. Have I been misinformed?

Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I've been taught to think of fasting in a very straightforward manner. The only real (general) guideline given is that it last until 3 PM and be broken only with vegan food. The exact details of how to do it will vary by person, and that's what your priest is there to help you with, particularly if you're like me and have health or familial issues that might require some special attention.

At the beginning I could see how some might be thinking more about food than makes sense during a fast, but remember: Ideally, we've been preparing for this. If I'm not mistaken, that's what the EO's "cheesefare" week is all about (so that EO can finish their dairy products and music-listening and such ahead of the Lenten fast). For us Coptic Orthodox folks, I guess it's enough that the entire church is abuzz about the coming fast, and/or (extremely likely) that abouna reminds everybody in the sermon, and at the conclusion of the liturgy, and over the agape meal... Grin So eventually, you're sort of "in the zone" and you kind of forget those things that you eat when not fasting (Copts fast for the majority of the year, so really it's eating non-fasting food that must be specifically remembered). For instance, last year was my first Lenten fast and by the end of it I was so used to it that I absentmindedly asked father how I should handle having a guest in my home soon who is not Orthodox, and hence will not be fasting. He looked confused and I said "You know, because of the fast", and then he yelled at me for even suggesting that I would fast during the holy 50 days! I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to have stopped fasting a week earlier...oops.  Embarrassed Rookie mistake! Hafla foul!
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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2012, 02:25:16 PM »

Is fasting that complicated in the EO church? Now I'm curious, because I thought they were like us in this regard, save their "cheesefare" week that we don't have (and hence they condemn the Armenians, in what must be the funniest anathema ever...), and our use of oil. Have I been misinformed?

Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I've been taught to think of fasting in a very straightforward manner. The only real (general) guideline given is that it last until 3 PM and be broken only with vegan food. The exact details of how to do it will vary by person, and that's what your priest is there to help you with, particularly if you're like me and have health or familial issues that might require some special attention.


If I understand correctly, EO fasting entails vegan food, no oil (although I think this varies--some say just no olive oil, others no oil in general, which greatly limits the recipes that can be made) and eating less than one would on other days.  I don't know of any restriction on the time, other than before communing.  It just sounds complicated when you're thinking about what to cook on those days--no oil = a lot of vegan recipes are out, a lot of things have dairy or eggs in them, etc.  It also would seem to make it hard to do anything socially (if it involves food) with people who are not fasting.  Maybe this would be less of an issue for someone who has a family, but as a single person it seems pretty depressing.  And what about visiting family if they are not Orthodox?  I am afraid that if I do end up in the EOC it will isolate me from my family (they are out of state, but we are still quite close) around holidays and other events.  Again, maybe less of an issue for someone who is married and has their own family but I'm not there yet (hopefully someday, and an added reason why I need to sort out this whole church issue so I can be looking in the right place).
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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2012, 02:47:02 PM »

But these things you work at. That's part of the fast, too: Figuring out how to change your everyday life to fit this higher standard of discipline that entails that you put serious thought into what you eat and how much and why. And at the same time, hopefully recognizing that the fast is not a diet, and that the fast from the passions, and from the laziness of the soul is where the true work lies. If it were just a matter of food, you can pick up any number of cookbooks about that (and indeed, many Orthodox parishes sell cookbooks with recipes specifically designed for the fasts, so it's not actually any more complicated than it would be to figure out what to cook from some other source). But that is just one aspect designed to help you turn away from earthly cares and to God. It is not an end in itself.

Personally, if I were in your position I would not worry about such things right now. You are not Orthodox right now, and no one will expect you to take on all the practices of the Orthodox as an inquirer. It's good to ask these questions (ideally of the priest, deacons, and laity of the Orthodox church you've chosen to attend), but getting wrapped up in them when they don't apply to you might heighten your sense that Orthodoxy is so hard and actually derail making demonstrable progress in those things that give you the proper foundation to understand them later on when they might apply. It's good to be curious, better to be balanced, and best to be immersed in worship and love of Christ. You'll pick up the necessary answers and tools along the way, just don't forget the goal in everything. Smiley

Edit: I am the only Orthodox person in my family, and I also live away from them. It makes for some interesting adaptations around holidays whenever I visit (I have my little traveler's kit with an agpeya, a hand cross, some icons, some holy oil, etc., that I just set up in the corner of the guest room), but isolation is not really part of it. Especially with so many converts these days, I think most Orthodox clergy are at least aware of these issues and will work with you so as to help you maintain your faith when around non-Orthodox friends and family. For instance, my priest excuses me from the Nativity fast when I go home for the holiday, and has given me a lot of good advice on how to deal with questions when they come up from non-Christian and non-Orthodox family members. I'm not going to lie and say that it's easy, but it is also a special kind of gift to have so many people who are naturally receptive and curious about my life who I then get to tell about Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2012, 02:51:53 PM »

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

Is fasting that complicated in the EO church? Now I'm curious, because I thought they were like us in this regard, save their "cheesefare" week that we don't have (and hence they condemn the Armenians, in what must be the funniest anathema ever...), and our use of oil. Have I been misinformed?

 

Yes, the Byzantine fasting calendar requires a complicated series of algorithms to make sense of it.  I think that is what Newton was working on calculus for along with his penchant for gammetria Wink

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2012, 10:30:27 PM »

Thanks to both of you for your clarification--the analogy of praying with the saints being like asking our friends on earth to pray for us makes sense.  As far as the fasting, the general concept makes sense as an exercise in self-discipline and as a remembrance but does it have to be so complicated?  By that I mean the restrictions on so many categories of foods on the fast days...doesn't one end up thinking more about food (in terms of avoiding those things) on those days than they would on other days?  If so, that seems counterproductive.  Another thing I would like to understand better is the Orthodox concept of monasticism--am I correct that they generally do not have "active" orders engaged in medical/teaching/other work (as does the RCC) but are mostly cloistered?  How does that fit in with the Church's duty to be engaged in doing good works that help the neighbor?

What work could be better than prayer? If you read Orthodox saints, you will often find them speaking from their experience that they found prayer more effective than direct intervention. Of course, none of them just sat aroud and prayed. Monastic life involves work--asceticism for drawing closer to God and prayer for the world.
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2012, 10:32:25 PM »

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

Is fasting that complicated in the EO church? Now I'm curious, because I thought they were like us in this regard, save their "cheesefare" week that we don't have (and hence they condemn the Armenians, in what must be the funniest anathema ever...), and our use of oil. Have I been misinformed?

 

Yes, the Byzantine fasting calendar requires a complicated series of algorithms to make sense of it.  I think that is what Newton was working on calculus for along with his penchant for gammetria Wink

stay blessed,
habte selassie

It's really not all that difficult if one pays a little attention. There's a rhythm and it's the same every year.
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« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2012, 11:11:08 AM »

Fasting is a discipline, and like a lot of things, it requires attention at first, but then becomes second nature. A priest once told me that the "rules" are "tools" that the Church in her wisdom gives us to help us.


(btw, I'm a former Lutheran also. Feel free to pm me if you have any questions.)
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2012, 12:01:57 PM »

To me, its not about so much what you can or cant eat as the reason WHY the fast exists. It is to curb our passions. More than anything else, our passions are what causes us to sin and by practicing these disciplines, it helps to get the passions under control.

My advice to you is not worry about so much of WHAT at this time, but WHY.

PP
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2012, 12:32:22 PM »

Thanks to both of you for your clarification--the analogy of praying with the saints being like asking our friends on earth to pray for us makes sense.  As far as the fasting, the general concept makes sense as an exercise in self-discipline and as a remembrance but does it have to be so complicated?  By that I mean the restrictions on so many categories of foods on the fast days...doesn't one end up thinking more about food (in terms of avoiding those things) on those days than they would on other days?  If so, that seems counterproductive.  Another thing I would like to understand better is the Orthodox concept of monasticism--am I correct that they generally do not have "active" orders engaged in medical/teaching/other work (as does the RCC) but are mostly cloistered?  How does that fit in with the Church's duty to be engaged in doing good works that help the neighbor?

What work could be better than prayer? If you read Orthodox saints, you will often find them speaking from their experience that they found prayer more effective than direct intervention. Of course, none of them just sat aroud and prayed. Monastic life involves work--asceticism for drawing closer to God and prayer for the world.

True, prayer is important and my intent was not to diminish that.  However, shouldn't it be a "both/and" rather than an either/or thing?  In other words, praying and also being active in helping others (actually, James 1:  15-16 comes to mind here).
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« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2012, 12:54:03 PM »

Thanks to both of you for your clarification--the analogy of praying with the saints being like asking our friends on earth to pray for us makes sense.  As far as the fasting, the general concept makes sense as an exercise in self-discipline and as a remembrance but does it have to be so complicated?  By that I mean the restrictions on so many categories of foods on the fast days...doesn't one end up thinking more about food (in terms of avoiding those things) on those days than they would on other days?  If so, that seems counterproductive.  Another thing I would like to understand better is the Orthodox concept of monasticism--am I correct that they generally do not have "active" orders engaged in medical/teaching/other work (as does the RCC) but are mostly cloistered?  How does that fit in with the Church's duty to be engaged in doing good works that help the neighbor?

What work could be better than prayer? If you read Orthodox saints, you will often find them speaking from their experience that they found prayer more effective than direct intervention. Of course, none of them just sat aroud and prayed. Monastic life involves work--asceticism for drawing closer to God and prayer for the world.

True, prayer is important and my intent was not to diminish that.  However, shouldn't it be a "both/and" rather than an either/or thing?  In other words, praying and also being active in helping others (actually, James 1:  15-16 comes to mind here).

From what I've seen, it's more of a monks= Mary and other Christians = Martha type of process. The active life is important, but the focus for that life belongs to Christians "in the world"- the bishops, parish priests, and laity.

This is not to say monks reject works- but they tend to let the work come to them, which it does with surprising frequency once a settled interior life is reached. Read the life of pretty much any monastic saint since St Anthony and you will see a pattern- Christian withdraws from the world to become a monk, withdraws from the monastery to become a hermit, has others seek him out for teaching, a new monastery forms around him, a village forms around that monastery as others seek out these monks for healing and advice, monk withdraws to the wilderness, repeat as needed.

More than a few towns in Russia sprung up around these monasteries.
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« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2012, 01:53:51 PM »


You might be interested in this:

Faith of Our Fathers: A Colloquium on Orthodoxy for Lutherans
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« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2012, 01:54:14 PM »

I think I am faceing quite same strugglings that CuriousLutheran faces,e.g intercession prayer, honor saints and Mary, icons.
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« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2012, 07:08:12 PM »


Thanks, I'll have to listen to those when I have some extra time (going into a week of 16-hour shifts starting tomorrow).
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« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2012, 11:20:37 AM »

I think I am faceing quite same strugglings that CuriousLutheran faces,e.g intercession prayer, honor saints and Mary, icons.

One of the things that started me on a journey to Orthodoxy was the fact that devout and well-meaning Christians can and do disagree about all of the above and more, each side bolstering their position with Scripture.
With all those personal interpretations, how do you know which one is right?
Now, with some things, it may just be a different way of looking at things, but with other things, it's more important. Is it really the Body and Blood of Christ, or just a memorial?

The reality is that we all interpret Scripture - we can't help it. We all bring our own experiences, knowledge, understanding, and also prejudices and biases to the process.

So how do we know? How can we transcend our own experiences, knowledge etc.?

We look at what the Church, the Body of Christ, has historically believed, taught and preached.

That is Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #20 on: October 10, 2012, 12:14:00 PM »

I think I am faceing quite same strugglings that CuriousLutheran faces,e.g intercession prayer, honor saints and Mary, icons.

One of the things that started me on a journey to Orthodoxy was the fact that devout and well-meaning Christians can and do disagree about all of the above and more, each side bolstering their position with Scripture.
With all those personal interpretations, how do you know which one is right?
Now, with some things, it may just be a different way of looking at things, but with other things, it's more important. Is it really the Body and Blood of Christ, or just a memorial?

The reality is that we all interpret Scripture - we can't help it. We all bring our own experiences, knowledge, understanding, and also prejudices and biases to the process.

So how do we know? How can we transcend our own experiences, knowledge etc.?

We look at what the Church, the Body of Christ, has historically believed, taught and preached.

That is Orthodoxy.


Yes, I start  suspecting the Protestant's teaching of 'sola scriptura'. The Protestant teaches that we only use the bible to form every doctrines as well as determine whether the doctrines and teachings are correct or not.

However, I just find out that different factions in Protestant  ( e.g Calvinsim VS arminianism, charismatic VS evangelical) has their own theologies. All their different theologies can also be supported by bible passages. Moreover, The famous scholars in Protestant easily divided into different sides with different theologies. Again, All of these theologies that various bible scholars form or support are also supported by the bible passages.

The idea of 'bible alone' is very stupid. Scholars and leaders in different factions just interpret the Scripture passages according to the way they like in order to form and support their own theologies .Everyone who have high interpretation skill on Scriptures can easily form their own theologies. Bible Scholars and leaders in different factions just playing with the words in Bible.
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« Reply #21 on: October 10, 2012, 12:15:09 PM »

Thanks to both of you for your clarification--the analogy of praying with the saints being like asking our friends on earth to pray for us makes sense.  As far as the fasting, the general concept makes sense as an exercise in self-discipline and as a remembrance but does it have to be so complicated?  By that I mean the restrictions on so many categories of foods on the fast days...doesn't one end up thinking more about food (in terms of avoiding those things) on those days than they would on other days?  If so, that seems counterproductive.  Another thing I would like to understand better is the Orthodox concept of monasticism--am I correct that they generally do not have "active" orders engaged in medical/teaching/other work (as does the RCC) but are mostly cloistered?  How does that fit in with the Church's duty to be engaged in doing good works that help the neighbor?

What work could be better than prayer? If you read Orthodox saints, you will often find them speaking from their experience that they found prayer more effective than direct intervention. Of course, none of them just sat aroud and prayed. Monastic life involves work--asceticism for drawing closer to God and prayer for the world.

True, prayer is important and my intent was not to diminish that.  However, shouldn't it be a "both/and" rather than an either/or thing?  In other words, praying and also being active in helping others (actually, James 1:  15-16 comes to mind here).

It is. You just don't see it because you have not experienced it. Every person has a different calling and a different gift and different work to do, and all of them keep the Lord's commandments.
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« Reply #22 on: October 10, 2012, 12:27:56 PM »

I think I am faceing quite same strugglings that CuriousLutheran faces,e.g intercession prayer, honor saints and Mary, icons.

One of the things that started me on a journey to Orthodoxy was the fact that devout and well-meaning Christians can and do disagree about all of the above and more, each side bolstering their position with Scripture.
With all those personal interpretations, how do you know which one is right?
Now, with some things, it may just be a different way of looking at things, but with other things, it's more important. Is it really the Body and Blood of Christ, or just a memorial?

The reality is that we all interpret Scripture - we can't help it. We all bring our own experiences, knowledge, understanding, and also prejudices and biases to the process.

So how do we know? How can we transcend our own experiences, knowledge etc.?

We look at what the Church, the Body of Christ, has historically believed, taught and preached.

That is Orthodoxy.



Can anybody tell me what  Orthodox Church historically believed, taught and preached?
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« Reply #23 on: October 10, 2012, 12:53:16 PM »

Can anybody tell me what  Orthodox Church historically believed, taught and preached?
Yeah, what do you want to know?

 Grin
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« Reply #24 on: October 10, 2012, 12:55:01 PM »

A good place to start:
An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by St John Damascene

http://www.orthodox.net/fathers/
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« Reply #25 on: October 10, 2012, 02:29:01 PM »

Catholic fasting: http://www.justforcatholics.org/a37.htm


Protestant has less or even no teaching on fasting. Catholic offically teaches that we  fasting is a means to make satisfaction for sin and its penalty.  Sad   Undecided   Orthodoxy teaches that fasting help us to deal with passion and sin as well as draw us closer to God.


Orthodoxy teaching on fasting is the best!! Smiley
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« Reply #26 on: October 10, 2012, 02:54:25 PM »

Thanks to both of you for your clarification--the analogy of praying with the saints being like asking our friends on earth to pray for us makes sense.  As far as the fasting, the general concept makes sense as an exercise in self-discipline and as a remembrance but does it have to be so complicated?  By that I mean the restrictions on so many categories of foods on the fast days...doesn't one end up thinking more about food (in terms of avoiding those things) on those days than they would on other days?  If so, that seems counterproductive.  Another thing I would like to understand better is the Orthodox concept of monasticism--am I correct that they generally do not have "active" orders engaged in medical/teaching/other work (as does the RCC) but are mostly cloistered?  How does that fit in with the Church's duty to be engaged in doing good works that help the neighbor?

What work could be better than prayer? If you read Orthodox saints, you will often find them speaking from their experience that they found prayer more effective than direct intervention. Of course, none of them just sat aroud and prayed. Monastic life involves work--asceticism for drawing closer to God and prayer for the world.

True, prayer is important and my intent was not to diminish that.  However, shouldn't it be a "both/and" rather than an either/or thing?  In other words, praying and also being active in helping others (actually, James 1:  15-16 comes to mind here).

One of our newer saints, St Elizabeth the New Martyr, found a convent dedicated to ministering to the poor, to include running a hospital. She was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.  BTW, she converted to Orthodoxy from a Protestant denomination, may even have been Lutheran.

See http://orthodoxwiki.org/Elizabeth_the_New_Martyr
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« Reply #27 on: October 10, 2012, 03:42:55 PM »

Catholic fasting: http://www.justforcatholics.org/a37.htm


Protestant has less or even no teaching on fasting. Catholic offically teaches that we  fasting is a means to make satisfaction for sin and its penalty.  Sad   Undecided   Orthodoxy teaches that fasting help us to deal with passion and sin as well as draw us closer to God.


Orthodoxy teaching on fasting is the best!! Smiley

Walter, I agree that Orthodox teaching on fasting is the best. I also do not want to derail the thread. But the site you linked is specifically meant to convert Catholics to Protestantism. That is probably not the best place to go for information on what Catholics believe. For instance, the site quotes CCC 1459 but cuts the quotation short. I know this because the catechism is sitting on my bookshelf.

1459 reads in full: "Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g. return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationship with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance."

Whether you agree with this or not, the sense is obviously different when read in context.

Again, apologies for going off on this tangent. To get back on topic...this is obviously Curious Lutheran's thread, but since he has already brought up prayer to the saints, perhaps I could frame the question the way that it troubles me?

Most explanations of this from both Roman Catholics and Orthodox are along the lines of, "Well, we are not praying to the saints as we pray to God. Prayer to the saints merely consists in asking them to pray for us." I think this is a reasonable position and I often pray to the saints in just such a fashion.

We have things like:

"Today the faithful celebrate the feast with joy
illumined by your coming, O Mother of God.
Beholding your pure image we fervently cry to you:
"Encompass us beneath the precious veil of your protection;
deliver us from every form of evil by entreating Christ,
your Son and our God that He may save our souls."


from the Akathist of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (taken from the OCA website). The language here is a little, er....loftier than I get up to in my personal prayers, which mostly just consist of things like the Ave or, "St Stephen, pray for me." But it's clear what is going on here. Mary is interceding for us in prayer and we are showing her honor. That's all good. I am not troubled by it.

But then we have things like:

Having received God into Her womb, the Virgin hastened to Elizabeth whose unborn babe at once recognized Her embrace, rejoiced, and with leaps of joy as songs, cried to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout:

Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit!

Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind:

Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life!

Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies:

Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness!

Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight:

Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls!

Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession:

Rejoice, propitiation of all the world!

Rejoice, good will of God to mortals:

Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God!

Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!


from, apparently, the Akathist to the Holy Virgin (taken from fatheralexander.org). This does trouble me. I don't see how these kinds of praises can square with either 'merely' showing the Mother of God honour, or 'merely' praying to her that she might intercede for us. I'd appreciate it if you could help me in this.

I would like to clarify that 1) I am not trying to discourage anyone from converting to Orthodoxy; 2) I am an ex-Catholic, not a practicing Catholic, and so I likewise have no particular desire to defend Roman Catholicism; and 3) this seemed like the sort of thing it would be ok to post here, but if for any reason it's not, I apologize.
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« Reply #28 on: October 10, 2012, 03:52:27 PM »

Can you clarify what disturbs you about what is obviously poetic language?
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« Reply #29 on: October 10, 2012, 03:54:44 PM »

Can you clarify what disturbs you about what is obviously poetic language?

Mostly it's the line, "Rejoice, propitiation of the world."

Later there's also, "Rejoice, Thou Who blottest out the stain of sin." And, "Rejoice, salvation of my soul." And, "Rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life." And, "Thou through whom Hades was stripped bare." These things trouble me because they seem to put Mary in the place of Christ.
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« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2012, 03:57:25 PM »

Allowing for the possibility that it is a poor translation, isn't it true that, in a sense, through the Mother of God "salvation came into the world?"
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« Reply #31 on: October 10, 2012, 04:01:05 PM »

Can you clarify what disturbs you about what is obviously poetic language?

Mostly it's the line, "Rejoice, propitiation of the world."
Okay, here's the problem.

Greek Hilasterion = the Mercy Seat

The Theotokos is the Throne of Christ incarnate

Hilasterion is often mistranslated as propitiation (see Romans 3:25)

That's what I believe went on here.

It's not saying the Theotokos is the atoning sacrifice, it's saying she's the Mercy Seat of Christ.
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« Reply #32 on: October 10, 2012, 04:04:40 PM »

Allowing for the possibility that it is a poor translation, isn't it true that, in a sense, through the Mother of God "salvation came into the world?"

In a sense, sure. But here these things (blotting out the stain of sin, rock that refreshes those thirsting for life, etc.) are attributed to Mary. And I think that is quite another thing.
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« Reply #33 on: October 10, 2012, 04:11:05 PM »

Can you clarify what disturbs you about what is obviously poetic language?

Mostly it's the line, "Rejoice, propitiation of the world."
Okay, here's the problem.

Greek Hilasterion = the Mercy Seat

The Theotokos is the Throne of Christ incarnate

Hilasterion is often mistranslated as propitiation (see Romans 3:25)

That's what I believe went on here.

It's not saying the Theotokos is the atoning sacrifice, it's saying she's the Mercy Seat of Christ.

That does change things, yes. Thank you. Despite the other examples I edited in, the propitiation line was the one that most troubled me.
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« Reply #34 on: October 10, 2012, 06:42:15 PM »

One of our newer saints, St Elizabeth the New Martyr, found a convent dedicated to ministering to the poor, to include running a hospital. She was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.  BTW, she converted to Orthodoxy from a Protestant denomination, may even have been Lutheran.

See http://orthodoxwiki.org/Elizabeth_the_New_Martyr

Both Elizabeth and her sister Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt were raised Lutheran. Both converted to Orthodoxy on marrying into the Russian Romanov imperial family, Elizabeth to Grand Duke Sergei, Alexandra to the future Tsar Nicholas II. Both women have been glorified as saints.
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« Reply #35 on: October 10, 2012, 10:31:11 PM »

Can you clarify what disturbs you about what is obviously poetic language?

Mostly it's the line, "Rejoice, propitiation of the world."

Later there's also, "Rejoice, Thou Who blottest out the stain of sin." And, "Rejoice, salvation of my soul." And, "Rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life." And, "Thou through whom Hades was stripped bare." These things trouble me because they seem to put Mary in the place of Christ.

Keep in mind too- aside from the "through" language that katherineofdixie already touched on (pretty much every time "through whom" is used here it is referring to the work of Christ coming "through" Mary in the Incarnation), Mary also works as a symbol of the Church in many of these hymns. In a certain sense Mary is the very literal "metaphor" (in the sense that the "metaphor" of the lamb sacrifice in the Old Testament prefigures not only Christ's sacrifice, but also our the Eucharist which is our participation in that sacrifice- flesh and blood of a lamb seeming far more literal than bread and wine) for the Church- we are all called to be bearers of Christ, yet Mary most literally bore Christ, the Church is the Ark of salvation (in the sense of Noah's Ark), Mary was most ark-like in her bearing Salvation, etc.  
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« Reply #36 on: October 10, 2012, 10:57:40 PM »

Can you clarify what disturbs you about what is obviously poetic language?

Mostly it's the line, "Rejoice, propitiation of the world."

Later there's also, "Rejoice, Thou Who blottest out the stain of sin." And, "Rejoice, salvation of my soul." And, "Rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life." And, "Thou through whom Hades was stripped bare." These things trouble me because they seem to put Mary in the place of Christ.

We say that she does all those things only because of her Son. Same with the holy cross--it "does" things because of Christ. Hence, Christ is the ultimate referrent. This is also why we call the Blessed Virgin the Mother of God and hold her in such high esteem and veneration because she gave birth to our Savior Jesus Christ. She was not just some random woman that God then threw away, but was carefully prepared and chosen and even prophecied and she agreed to become the birthgiver of Christ our God.
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« Reply #37 on: October 11, 2012, 02:17:04 PM »

Hey Curious,
I was in a similar boat, and I'd be glad to answer your questions. However, my answers wont be any way better than that of a priest Smiley

Quote
One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God
To me, it is no different than asking a friend of loved one to pray for us. As God is the God of the living and not the dead, the saints are aware, and rooting for us. The thing is, the saints are not clouded by day to day worries, distractions, or sin keeping them from away from God.

Hi. I don't participate on the Orthodox-Protestant sections very much, for obvious reasons, but I'd like to comment here that I don't really get the whole "no different" thing.

I've heard a multitude of times (from some of my fellow Catholics as well as you Orthodox) that "praying to _______" is another way of saying "asking ______ to pray for us". That makes sense, so far as it goes; but I don't see that there's "no difference", because then why is it that people never say "I'm going to pray to my mother" if their mother is alive and they mean that they're going to ask her to pray for them? I feel like people try to shove the "no difference" thing down my throat but it just doesn't want to go. (Although I suppose it's also possible that I am in some way reacting against those who say things like "There's no difference between saying 'Co-Redemptrix' and saying 'the Woman with the Redeemer'.")
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« Reply #38 on: October 11, 2012, 02:28:28 PM »

Hey Curious,
I was in a similar boat, and I'd be glad to answer your questions. However, my answers wont be any way better than that of a priest Smiley

Quote
One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God
To me, it is no different than asking a friend of loved one to pray for us. As God is the God of the living and not the dead, the saints are aware, and rooting for us. The thing is, the saints are not clouded by day to day worries, distractions, or sin keeping them from away from God.

Hi. I don't participate on the Orthodox-Protestant sections very much, for obvious reasons, but I'd like to comment here that I don't really get the whole "no different" thing.

I've heard a multitude of times (from some of my fellow Catholics as well as you Orthodox) that "praying to _______" is another way of saying "asking ______ to pray for us". That makes sense, so far as it goes; but I don't see that there's "no difference", because then why is it that people never say "I'm going to pray to my mother" if their mother is alive and they mean that they're going to ask her to pray for them? I feel like people try to shove the "no difference" thing down my throat but it just doesn't want to go. (Although I suppose it's also possible that I am in some way reacting against those who say things like "There's no difference between saying 'Co-Redemptrix' and saying 'the Woman with the Redeemer'.")

Because the meaning of the word "pray" has come to be understood in an almost entirely religious sense. A little more than a hundred years ago the usage would not have been out of place, several hundred years ago it would have been quite common for a lad to pray to his living father for a favor.
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« Reply #39 on: October 11, 2012, 04:00:30 PM »

Just being nitpicky here, so feel free to ignore me, but Orthodox would not say "Co-Redemptrix" except maybe under torture! Wink
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« Reply #40 on: October 11, 2012, 04:41:57 PM »

(Although I suppose it's also possible that I am in some way reacting against those who say things like "There's no difference between saying 'Co-Redemptrix' and saying 'the Woman with the Redeemer'.")

Just being nitpicky here, so feel free to ignore me, but Orthodox would not say "Co-Redemptrix" except maybe under torture! Wink

 Cheesy

But you see my point: if I'm being reactionary in that way (which I don't think I am, but if) then that would somewhat invalidate my thinking.
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« Reply #41 on: October 11, 2012, 04:44:43 PM »

Hey Curious,
I was in a similar boat, and I'd be glad to answer your questions. However, my answers wont be any way better than that of a priest Smiley

Quote
One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God
To me, it is no different than asking a friend of loved one to pray for us. As God is the God of the living and not the dead, the saints are aware, and rooting for us. The thing is, the saints are not clouded by day to day worries, distractions, or sin keeping them from away from God.

Hi. I don't participate on the Orthodox-Protestant sections very much, for obvious reasons, but I'd like to comment here that I don't really get the whole "no different" thing.

I've heard a multitude of times (from some of my fellow Catholics as well as you Orthodox) that "praying to _______" is another way of saying "asking ______ to pray for us". That makes sense, so far as it goes; but I don't see that there's "no difference", because then why is it that people never say "I'm going to pray to my mother" if their mother is alive and they mean that they're going to ask her to pray for them? I feel like people try to shove the "no difference" thing down my throat but it just doesn't want to go. (Although I suppose it's also possible that I am in some way reacting against those who say things like "There's no difference between saying 'Co-Redemptrix' and saying 'the Woman with the Redeemer'.")

Because the meaning of the word "pray" has come to be understood in an almost entirely religious sense. A little more than a hundred years ago the usage would not have been out of place, several hundred years ago it would have been quite common for a lad to pray to his living father for a favor.

Can you give an example? (And I don't mean something like "Speak the speech I pray thee".)
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« Reply #42 on: October 11, 2012, 04:52:20 PM »

Hey Curious,
I was in a similar boat, and I'd be glad to answer your questions. However, my answers wont be any way better than that of a priest Smiley

Quote
One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God
To me, it is no different than asking a friend of loved one to pray for us. As God is the God of the living and not the dead, the saints are aware, and rooting for us. The thing is, the saints are not clouded by day to day worries, distractions, or sin keeping them from away from God.

Hi. I don't participate on the Orthodox-Protestant sections very much, for obvious reasons, but I'd like to comment here that I don't really get the whole "no different" thing.

I've heard a multitude of times (from some of my fellow Catholics as well as you Orthodox) that "praying to _______" is another way of saying "asking ______ to pray for us". That makes sense, so far as it goes; but I don't see that there's "no difference", because then why is it that people never say "I'm going to pray to my mother" if their mother is alive and they mean that they're going to ask her to pray for them? I feel like people try to shove the "no difference" thing down my throat but it just doesn't want to go. (Although I suppose it's also possible that I am in some way reacting against those who say things like "There's no difference between saying 'Co-Redemptrix' and saying 'the Woman with the Redeemer'.")

Because the meaning of the word "pray" has come to be understood in an almost entirely religious sense. A little more than a hundred years ago the usage would not have been out of place, several hundred years ago it would have been quite common for a lad to pray to his living father for a favor.

Can you give an example? (And I don't mean something like "Speak the speech I pray thee".)

Dearest father, I pray thee givest me a ten-fold increase in my allowance that I might purchase a new racing horse.
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« Reply #43 on: October 11, 2012, 05:08:58 PM »

Hey Curious,
I was in a similar boat, and I'd be glad to answer your questions. However, my answers wont be any way better than that of a priest Smiley

Quote
One is the practice of praying to Mary/saints (or is it asking them for their prayers?)--I have always been taught that this is unnecessary at best and a distraction from praying to God
To me, it is no different than asking a friend of loved one to pray for us. As God is the God of the living and not the dead, the saints are aware, and rooting for us. The thing is, the saints are not clouded by day to day worries, distractions, or sin keeping them from away from God.

Hi. I don't participate on the Orthodox-Protestant sections very much, for obvious reasons, but I'd like to comment here that I don't really get the whole "no different" thing.

I've heard a multitude of times (from some of my fellow Catholics as well as you Orthodox) that "praying to _______" is another way of saying "asking ______ to pray for us". That makes sense, so far as it goes; but I don't see that there's "no difference", because then why is it that people never say "I'm going to pray to my mother" if their mother is alive and they mean that they're going to ask her to pray for them? I feel like people try to shove the "no difference" thing down my throat but it just doesn't want to go. (Although I suppose it's also possible that I am in some way reacting against those who say things like "There's no difference between saying 'Co-Redemptrix' and saying 'the Woman with the Redeemer'.")

Because the meaning of the word "pray" has come to be understood in an almost entirely religious sense. A little more than a hundred years ago the usage would not have been out of place, several hundred years ago it would have been quite common for a lad to pray to his living father for a favor.

Can you give an example? (And I don't mean something like "Speak the speech I pray thee".)

Dearest father, I pray thee givest me a ten-fold increase in my allowance that I might purchase a new racing horse.

That seems to me like the same usage as in "Speak the speech I pray thee". I'm talking about something like "I didst pray to mine father for a ten-fold increase in mine allowance that I might purchase a new racing horse, but he didst say nay to mine prayer."
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« Reply #44 on: October 11, 2012, 05:19:34 PM »

I'm sorry, I'm Orthodox and all, but...what the heck kind of allowance did children get back in Victorian times that allowed them to buy race horses with just a ten-fold increase? How cheap were race horses back then?  Huh
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