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Author Topic: Pouring my heart out here in hopes of some wisdom...  (Read 960 times) Average Rating: 0
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Dolly
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« on: December 17, 2012, 11:21:41 PM »

Hello All,
I have two issues so I will start with the most pressing:

1)  I am currently a Roman Catholic (I converted in college;had no idea Orthodoxy existed until I was in my 30's) but for years now I have been overwhelmingly drawn to Orthodoxy.  I don't really know why but everything I read and hear (listening to Orthodox pod casts/Ancient radio) really, really resonates with me.  I married a man who is a protestant. While he grew up a dedicated Christian he has become disillusioned with his home church and now goes to Mass with me.  I actually go to a really nice parish where I love the people and the priest.  I have tried for years to become satisfied with being Catholic but then I feel this weird overwhelming ache in my heart to work towards becoming an Orthodox Christian.

While my husband is kind enough to say that he is willing to go with me to Orthodox church he prefers the "convenience" of going to Catholic church because he can wear jeans (shorts in the Summer), go on Saturday night Mass (and sleep in on Sunday), and it is now a part of our routine.  I can appreciate where he is coming from because he is a very hard worker and right now his career has totally consumed him in many ways (out of concern for providing for his family).  I feel fortunate that we are going to church together at all, so I wonder why I keep feeling like rocking the boat and exploring Orthodoxy more?  My husband has fears about Orthodoxy, namely 2 hour services, having to dress up to go to church, the ethic component to many churches, and fasting.  He was from a very "feeling" based protestant church.  He doesn't see how "sacrificing" through fasting brings you closer to God.

So, I am left now knowing what to do.  My husband is generally so stressed out by his work I wonder how I can ask him to add changing denominations to his stress levels, when he has already gotten comfortable with Catholicism.  Yet, I find my self feeling very sad and feeling a great longing towards Orthodoxy.  We have discussed it and he says he will go with me to Orthodox church but then he usually makes a face like it will kill him ( I know that sounds funny but like I said he is one stressed out guy).  So if anyone can offer some wisdom in this situation I would greatly appreciate it.

2)If there are any converts from Roman Catholicism or an Orthodox priest (or any one really) who could give me some guidance on this issue I would be so grateful.  Something that is really bothering me lately is the "rosary".  I feel blasphemous expressing this concern but in a way it is a worry to me. Please don't get me wrong, I love Mary.  I love that she said "Yes" to the Lord's will and was Jesus' mother but for a while now I feel guilty when I say the rosary.  I feel like to be a good Christian I know I am suppose to say it but I almost feel like I am cheating on Jesus.  But, is that nuts on my part?  I have tried the Jesus prayer and it gives me much peace.  Recently I read that at Fatima, the Virgin Mary said that saying rosaries will help you earn your way out of Hell (this was apparently a quote from the child seer-er Jacinta on a Fatima website).  As much as I love the Virgin Mary, this made me feel uncomfortable.  Again, like maybe I am cheating on Jesus some how.  I hope I am making sense here but can someone give me some guidance on this issue?  How do people in the Orthodox religion revere Mary/Theotokis?  Do you say prayers to her like the rosary or is there some other tradition?  Sorry if this is rambling.

At any rate, that is what is on my heart this evening.  I am so grateful to have a forum like this to come to where people are so kind and generous with their time. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and helping me!!!  God Bless!!
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« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2012, 12:36:17 AM »

2)If there are any converts from Roman Catholicism or an Orthodox priest (or any one really) who could give me some guidance on this issue I would be so grateful.  Something that is really bothering me lately is the "rosary".  I feel blasphemous expressing this concern but in a way it is a worry to me. Please don't get me wrong, I love Mary.  I love that she said "Yes" to the Lord's will and was Jesus' mother but for a while now I feel guilty when I say the rosary.  I feel like to be a good Christian I know I am suppose to say it but I almost feel like I am cheating on Jesus.  But, is that nuts on my part?  I have tried the Jesus prayer and it gives me much peace.  Recently I read that at Fatima, the Virgin Mary said that saying rosaries will help you earn your way out of Hell (this was apparently a quote from the child seer-er Jacinta on a Fatima website).  As much as I love the Virgin Mary, this made me feel uncomfortable.  Again, like maybe I am cheating on Jesus some how.  I hope I am making sense here but can someone give me some guidance on this issue?  How do people in the Orthodox religion revere Mary/Theotokis?  Do you say prayers to her like the rosary or is there some other tradition?  Sorry if this is rambling.
Orthodox do have prayers and devotions to Mary. Generally these are in the form of regular prayers and akathists (just do a Google search for akathists to Theotokos and you'll see). She is given great reverence and veneration, second to the Trinity.

However, the Rosary itself is often prayed by many Orthodox, depending. My priest permits it use, and while I don't regularly use it in my prayer life I find it beautiful. What is generally questionable is the use of imagining/meditating while praying it - this conflicts with normal Orthodox spirituality. Apart from that, the words of the Rosary are perfectly Orthodox (except for the Fatima prayers added on by some), and I've prayed it myself.

That said, Catholic Marian apparitions like Fatima conflict gravely with Orthodoxy for reasons like you mentioned. This does not mean that the Rosary is bad just because the apparition endorses it.

Hope this helps with that part. Smiley
« Last Edit: December 18, 2012, 12:36:35 AM by Nephi » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2012, 05:05:47 AM »

First, I have to ask, you can't wear jeans at an Orthodox Church?
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« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2012, 05:07:04 AM »

My husband has fears about Orthodoxy, namely 2 hour services, having to dress up to go to church, the ethic component to many churches, and fasting.  He was from a very "feeling" based protestant church.  He doesn't see how "sacrificing" through fasting brings you closer to God.
Dolly, I just wanted to try to help allay some of your husband's fears. Hopefully I can.

Firstly, where do you (or he) get the idea that you have to dress up from? I've never heard of this requirement and experience in our parish would seem to suggest that there isn't one. Other than at my wedding and my two kids' baptisms, I don't think I've ever dressed up for church. I generally wear jeans and a shirt (with a jumper in winter). If you were to look around the parish on any Sunday you'd probably see that that makes me pretty conservatively dressed - I actually wear a shirt. Of course, there are some who do dress up (occasionally even someone in full national costume) but the important thing is to be there, not what you're wearing, though I'd draw the line at shorts or short skirts.

I wouldn't completely try to downplay the ethnic component of some parishes as I've had one bad experience with that myself, but most parishes, even very ethnic ones will be (and certainly all should be) very welcoming. I certainly wouldn't worry about hypothetical issues up front. Just visit and see what the parish is like. Honestly, you couldn't get more ethnic than my parish. I'm usually the only non-Romanian there, other times there are maybe a handful of us, but if you were to visit I guarantee you'd be welcomed and talked to and you'd get the opportunity to try some amazing Romanian food after the Liturgy to boot.

Lastly, fasting is difficult to start with, no doubt about it. I'm an ex-Protestant myself, so I've been where your husband is. However, as an inquirer you wouldn't be expected to fast. As a catechumen you might (that varies) but it will most likely be only to a lesser degree and certainly should be done with the advice of your priest. In fact, that should continue to be the case even after conversion. If you try to go it alone you may end up slacking off but in my experience you're more likely to go too far too fast and make yourself ill. My priest had to have a serious word with me about that after I worried my wife early on. If you do take his advice, though, and do fast as you are able you will see the worth in it. The fasts really do help with our faith.

I'd suggest that you both go and visit your local parish, experience the Divine Liturgy (which may be 2 hours or so long but often goes faster than a Protestant service, especially the ones where some poor speaker drones on for a half hour sermon), definitely stay for the agape meal - or coffee hour as I see a lot of US posters referring to - if there is one, and without a doubt talk to the priest and mention your situation and your husband's fears.

James
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« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2012, 07:02:41 AM »

Thanks to everyone who posted help to me!
It seems as though I have gotten wrong information on many accounts.  So I am really grateful for your help clearing up my thinking.
About attending church, we got the information on the dress code at Orthodox services after visiting with two different Orthodox priests.  We asked that question specifically and both said they expected men in suits and ties.  Maybe what they expect and what actually happens are two different things?  But, thanks for giving me more information.  My husband will appreciate that.

About the rosary, I was shocked to find out that some Orthodox Christians use it.  From what I've read on line, I was under the impression that Orthodox Christians were not allowed to pray it.  So, I feel more comfortable knowing it isn't that big of a deal.  Thank you!!

In the end, I guess what I was trying to really ask (and maybe from men) was is it unfair to ask my husband to work through the conversion process when he is so stressed out from work?  He will site things like wearing jeans as a concern but I think really what he is trying to say is that he doesn't feel like he has the emotional energy to do this.  I can respect this.  But, since we've gotten married his work stress has never lessened so I wonder if there will ever be a good time?  I was hoping for a male perspective on this.

Again, thanks for all of your help!!
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« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2012, 08:45:37 AM »

Thanks to everyone who posted help to me!
It seems as though I have gotten wrong information on many accounts.  So I am really grateful for your help clearing up my thinking.
About attending church, we got the information on the dress code at Orthodox services after visiting with two different Orthodox priests.  We asked that question specifically and both said they expected men in suits and ties.  Maybe what they expect and what actually happens are two different things?  But, thanks for giving me more information.  My husband will appreciate that.

About the rosary, I was shocked to find out that some Orthodox Christians use it.  From what I've read on line, I was under the impression that Orthodox Christians were not allowed to pray it.  So, I feel more comfortable knowing it isn't that big of a deal.  Thank you!!

In the end, I guess what I was trying to really ask (and maybe from men) was is it unfair to ask my husband to work through the conversion process when he is so stressed out from work?  He will site things like wearing jeans as a concern but I think really what he is trying to say is that he doesn't feel like he has the emotional energy to do this.  I can respect this.  But, since we've gotten married his work stress has never lessened so I wonder if there will ever be a good time?  I was hoping for a male perspective on this.

Again, thanks for all of your help!!

Well I'm male and I can also be stressed from work. For me, personally, there's nothing better for getting over the stress than going to DL. Now obviously after over a decade I'm now only a convert in the sense that I haven't always been Orthodox but I think I remember what the process of conversion was like sufficiently well and I don't recall it being stressful, though perhaps that is because I wanted it for myself. My wife (she's a cradle) was happy when I eventually converted but she certainly never pushed me. It took me years and the impending birth of our first son to actually commit but I'm certainly glad I did. Maybe you could take a similar approach? Go to DL, and get him to go with you, but without putting any pressure on him to actually convert. I think that if you do this together and both become convinced its right you'll have a happier outcome even if, which is possible, it means that he takes longer to be ready to commit to it than you would.

James
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« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2012, 09:23:24 AM »

I'm not sure, but when you start to check out orthodox parishes maybe you should do it first alone without your husband. Because maybe if the first two (or so)parishes will be not that, what your husband and you expect from a parish, it would be perhaps much more difficult to motivate your husband to search other orthodox parishes.

Quote
 Recently I read that at Fatima, the Virgin Mary said that saying rosaries will help you earn your way out of Hell (this was apparently a quote from the child seer-er Jacinta on a Fatima website).  As much as I love the Virgin Mary, this made me feel uncomfortable.  Again, like maybe I am cheating on Jesus some how.  I hope I am making sense here but can someone give me some guidance on this issue?  How do people in the Orthodox religion revere Mary/Theotokis?
How exactly do the catholics say the rosary? Indeed, saying rosaries will not  help you earn your way out of hell, but it should increase your love to Christ. In general, to show veneration, to pray to Saints and to Virgin Mary will help you to increase your love to Christ (with your heart, with your life and deeds). Sure, it will not happen immediately, but after some time. That's my experience and I think I speak for all orthodox believers. And it helps me to be more humble, for example when something happens very positive in my (spiritual) life then I say to myself, that by the prayers of the Theotokos (or Saints, or some friends) God showed mercy on me sinner. To pray Hail mary is not a problem when your whole (spiritual) life and heart is focused on Christ, our Saviour. And anyway, the first part of Hail Mary is biblical.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2012, 09:25:37 AM by Nathanael » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2012, 10:10:03 AM »

Regarding your concerns, as others have suggested, just take some time to explore, putting one foot in front of the other.  Visit some parishes for Divine Liturgy, perhaps only occasionally at first (once per month), either with or without your husband (you may wish to explore first by your self and then take him back to a parish where you feel most at home, assuming there are options).  If you find a parish which you might consider your home, should you both decide to convert, perhaps arrange meetings with the priest to discuss your concerns.  Address them one at a time.  Go at your own pace and allow your husband to go at his own pace, without pressuring him or making him feel like you are forcing him to do something that he doesn’t want to do.  If, after some further exposure to and exploration of Orthodoxy, you find a firm conviction that you must convert, discuss this with your priest and your husband but again without pressuring him.  It is okay if he is not ready when you are, and you should discuss with your priest whether it is best to wait for your husband to be ready, or whether you should go ahead and be received even if your husband does not wish to convert.  Just because you are interested in Orthodoxy does not mean that you and your husband must decide now whether or not you are both going to convert before exploring further.  Again, take your time, pray, be patient and accepting of your husband, and trust in God to enlighten you both. 

Regarding the Rosary, this is not an Orthodox practice.  If you know Orthodox Christians who pray the rosary, then they are not following the Orthodox tradition in doing so.  If they are converts from Roman Catholicism and their Orthodox spiritual father has allowed them to continue this practice for a time due to some specific individual circumstance, then that is between them and their spiritual father.  Orthodox devotion to the Mother of God is very great indeed, and even exceeds Roman Catholic devotion to her, since we believe that she was a spotless and most pure virgin even though she was fully human, born with a fully human nature just like ours.  The Roman Catholic teaching regarding her “Immaculate Conception” insults and grieves the Mother of God, because it raises her to the level of divinity and therefore devalues here humanity and the purity and holiness that she achieved through struggle and with the help of God. 

One of the best books to read concerning the veneration of the Mother of God is “The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God” by St. John the Wonderworker:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Orthodox-Veneration-Mother-God/dp/0938635689

Perhaps the most central prayer to the Mother of God is the Akathist:

http://www.bombaxo.com/blog/?p=359

Here is an Orthodox perspective concerning Fatima:

http://www.orthodox.org/Fatima.pdf
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« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2012, 10:44:09 AM »

I wouldn't stress out over things that may or may not happen. As others have suggested, just go. Go to Liturgy, talk to the priest, be open to God's will and see what happens.
As an inquirer, all the things I thought would be stumbling blocks or extremely difficult about Orthodoxy were in actuality blessings. Other stuff was way more difficult.
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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2012, 10:50:33 AM »

Orthodox services are the most peaceful services Ive ever been a part of.  So if anything, it may help the stress from work.

If I could make a suggestion, try going to a Saturday night vespers service first.  They are much shorter (about 45 min) and theyre at the time of day you are used to attending.  Also, they typically arent as crowded, so it may be easier to spend some time talking with the Priest.

As far as dress goes, there is no dress code at my OCA parish.  However, ive been to a few different Greek churches and ive noticed people there tend to dress a little more conservative.  Its not that you HAVE to, but they do it anyways.  I always wear jeans at mu church.
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« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2012, 12:07:55 PM »

Orthodox services are the most peaceful services Ive ever been a part of.  So if anything, it may help the stress from work.

If I could make a suggestion, try going to a Saturday night vespers service first.  They are much shorter (about 45 min) and theyre at the time of day you are used to attending.  Also, they typically arent as crowded, so it may be easier to spend some time talking with the Priest.

As far as dress goes, there is no dress code at my OCA parish.  However, ive been to a few different Greek churches and ive noticed people there tend to dress a little more conservative.  Its not that you HAVE to, but they do it anyways.  I always wear jeans at mu church.

Heads up. Some Parishes especially in ROCOR hold Vigil on Saturday night which combines Vespers and Matins. It takes about 2.5 hours. So check first.

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« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2012, 12:21:06 PM »

First, I have to ask, you can't wear jeans at an Orthodox Church?

Is there jeans in 19th century Russia?  Grin Grin Grin


On a serious note, I'm guessing piety would depend parish to parish.  The parish I a moving to definitely allows wearing of jeans, though most people there don't.
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« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2012, 02:00:54 PM »

1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

Divine Liturgy itself can draw us and melt our hearts. "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." -Psalm 34:8.

Sometimes it is best to just sink our feet into a pool before worrying about how we will swim an ocean. "Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof" (Matt 6:37).

We have discussed it and he says he will go with me to Orthodox church but then he usually makes a face like it will kill him ( I know that sounds funny but like I said he is one stressed out guy).
Though the cross of suffering and struggle we find rest. A paradoxical recipe for stress relief to be sure, but that is our faith (and God's promise).

"Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it. His commandment never seeks to destroy life, but to foster, strengthen, and heal it..." (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).



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« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2012, 03:42:37 PM »

Regarding the Rosary, this is not an Orthodox practice.  If you know Orthodox Christians who pray the rosary, then they are not following the Orthodox tradition in doing so.  If they are converts from Roman Catholicism and their Orthodox spiritual father has allowed them to continue this practice for a time due to some specific individual circumstance, then that is between them and their spiritual father.
I am not a convert from Roman Catholicism, and I know my priest would have no problem with me praying it as part of my prayer life. That said, he would forbid the meditative imagining of the mysteries which is the only problem with the practice from an Orthodox view.
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« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2012, 12:04:52 AM »

Indeed, praying a rosary can be a beautiful Orthodox devotion, one with roots in the pre-schismatic Orthodox West, variations of which have been prayed by the likes of St. Dmitri of Rostov and St. Seraphim of Sarov, closer to our own time. As mentioned, however, one must take care to do so within the broader Orthodox spiritual tradition, which warns against the misuse of "imagination" in our prayers.
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« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2012, 12:28:12 AM »

First, I have to ask, you can't wear jeans at an Orthodox Church?

I've done that several times.
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« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2012, 01:16:12 AM »

Dolly:
     As many have already advised, you need not dress formally for liturgy, but just respectfully.  For a man, that might be slacks and a button down shirt, tie optional.  I'd leave the shorts or cut-offs at home, though. 
     As a former RC, I was never comfortable trying to concentrate on the words of the Hail Mary while at the same time meditating on a "Mystery."  But I found that the beads work just as well for the Jesus Prayer; meditating on His mercy while repeating the prayer just works.  In fact, years ago I had received a gift rosary and it still does the job quite nicely!   
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« Reply #17 on: December 19, 2012, 02:37:31 PM »

First, I have to ask, you can't wear jeans at an Orthodox Church?

I've done that several times.

I do it every Sunday. Is there a canon on this?
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« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2012, 12:08:12 AM »

It's not a "rule," it's an expression of respect and love for God to dress our best. This can turn into pride and vanity, however. Some things are subjective and are between God, a spiritual father, and the person.

As for the "Hail Mary"s, I do them occasionally. The original form of the Hail Mary is present in Orthodox services, and I say it in that form.

"Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou has born the Savior of our souls."

There is nothing wrong with it at all, and it is spiritually fruitful. I think it was St. Athanasius who recommended saying a Hail Mary for each psalm when one was pressed for time and couldn't read the entire psalter.
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« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2012, 12:55:06 AM »

Indeed, praying a rosary can be a beautiful Orthodox devotion, one with roots in the pre-schismatic Orthodox West, variations of which have been prayed by the likes of St. Dmitri of Rostov and St. Seraphim of Sarov, closer to our own time. As mentioned, however, one must take care to do so within the broader Orthodox spiritual tradition, which warns against the misuse of "imagination" in our prayers.

The key word is misuse. Orthodoxy doesn't completely prohibit the use of imagination. Metropolitan Gregory of St. Petersburg wrote in How to Live a Holy Life: "When you pray, always imagine the Lord God is standing, invisibly right in front of you and is watching you" (106).

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« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2012, 05:02:43 AM »

Indeed, praying a rosary can be a beautiful Orthodox devotion, one with roots in the pre-schismatic Orthodox West, variations of which have been prayed by the likes of St. Dmitri of Rostov and St. Seraphim of Sarov, closer to our own time. As mentioned, however, one must take care to do so within the broader Orthodox spiritual tradition, which warns against the misuse of "imagination" in our prayers.

The key word is misuse. Orthodoxy doesn't completely prohibit the use of imagination. Metropolitan Gregory of St. Petersburg wrote in How to Live a Holy Life: "When you pray, always imagine the Lord God is standing, invisibly right in front of you and is watching you" (106).



That's a rather different use of the word 'imagine' than when one talks of imagining the various mysteries of the rosary, though. In your example, in fact, as it talks of 'imagining' God standing invisibly before you I'm not sure that imagine is the most appropriate word - there simply is no image. It seems as though, in that example, 'imagine' might perhaps better be translated as 'act as though' or 'be conscious that' or something between the two. In the case of the rosary, it really does mean make images in the mind, actively use your imagination, and it's that Orthodoxy repeatedly warns against.

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« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2012, 11:32:04 AM »

Why is the imagination such an evil thing in Orthodoxy?  Huh
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« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2012, 11:40:39 AM »

Why is the imagination such an evil thing in Orthodoxy?  Huh

It's not evil, it's just that we think it's unwise to imagine in the spiritual context as it leaves you open to spiritual delusion, whether self-inflicted or demonic. We are warned not to use it in prayer for this reason but it's not condemned in itself. Outside of prayer and the like, there's absolutely nothing wrong with using your imagination.

James
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We owe greater gratitude to those who humble us, wrong us, and douse us with venom, than to those who nurse us with honour and sweet words, or feed us with tasty food and confections, for bile is the best medicine for our soul. - Elder Paisios of Mount Athos
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« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2012, 04:51:05 PM »

That's a rather different use of the word 'imagine' than when one talks of imagining the various mysteries of the rosary, though. In your example, in fact, as it talks of 'imagining' God standing invisibly before you I'm not sure that imagine is the most appropriate word - there simply is no image. It seems as though, in that example, 'imagine' might perhaps better be translated as 'act as though' or 'be conscious that' or something between the two. In the case of the rosary, it really does mean make images in the mind, actively use your imagination, and it's that Orthodoxy repeatedly warns against.

James

Metropolitan Gregory also encourages the use of imaginative images in the mind as well. In the chapter which talks about what we should do when we find ourselves sleepless at night. He says that we should imagine Christ suffering on the Cross and pray about whatever comes into our heart. We acknowledge our sins, we thank God for His blessings, and we pray for everyone we can think of (see How to Live a Holy Life, pages 103-105). All while imagining Christ crucified. There are other examples from the text as well. I've seen similar instances in some of the lives of Saints but cannot remember specific.

The big prohibition against the use of the imagination is so we don't go and create our own god in our minds. I think if we attempt to imagine what God looks like, and pray to that, then I definitely see the danger and how it can lead to delusion. I thinks its fairly different when praying the Rosary. Yes, some do encourage imagining the events that the Mysteries of the Rosary are based on, but its not like you create your own event. I occasionally pray the Rosary, and when I do, when I come to the mysteries, I usually try to meditate on the different Mysteries. My imagination does help with this, but since I've been Orthodox for so long, the only images that pop into my head are the icons that I've seen of the events. I'm not creating my own story or event.

The use of the imagination, as encouraged by Metropolitan Gregory, I think blends well with Orthodox spirituality. I don't believe we are to kill our imagination, but sanctify it. Its a gift from God that we often misuse, but we can sanctify it. Its just like anything else that pertains to Orthodox asceticism. Like self-control and self-mortification. We don't do it because we hate the body, but because we want to sanctify it and restore it to how God intended it to be used.
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« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2012, 07:56:48 PM »

Frankly, I don't know how one can be expected to have nothing in the mind. When I read the Bible, I picture what I read. When I pray, I close my eyes, but I can't help it if an image flickers into my mind now and then. How can it not? I'm only human. Often I have trouble praying at all. This idea that I'm supposed to pray perfectly and have a mind like a sheet of glass, seems almost impossible and uncharitable to me. I already have difficulty in worship. If I can't hack praying at home either, I don't know what I'm going to do next.
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« Reply #25 on: December 20, 2012, 10:35:25 PM »

The kind of meditation a rosary can engender is precisely the same as that recommended by St. Ephrem the Syrian:

"Come, let us meditate on his sufferings with tears, thinking on fear, meditating with trembling, saying to ourselves, ‘Christ our Saviour for us the impious was given over to death’.

Learn well, brother, what it is you hear: God who is without sin, Son of the Most High, for you was given up.

Open your heart, learn in details His sufferings and say to yourself: God who is without sin today was given up, today was mocked, today was abused, today was struck, today was scourged, today wore a crown of thorns, today was crucified, he, the heavenly Lamb.

Your heart will tremble, your soul will shudder. Shed tears everyday by this meditation on the Master's sufferings. Tears become sweet (for) the soul is enlightened that always meditates on Christ's sufferings."

- "On the Passion"

Other fathers advise it as well.

"[L]et us not merely read of these things, but bear them in our mind; the crown of thorns, the robe, the reed, the blows, the smiting on the cheek, the spittings, the irony. These things, if continually meditated on, are sufficient to take down all anger."

— St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of St. John (Homily 84)

"I have referred to images harmful to the soul because there are other images which are permissable, as St. Kallistos noted. Such images include the contrition, the grief, and the humility of the heart; the meditations upon death, the future judgment, and the eternal punishments; the study and meditation upon creation and the Incarnation of the Lord; the phenomena of creation, the miracles, and the mysteries of the Lord’s Incarnation -- the birth, the baptism, the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection, and so forth, as we said before. Finally, it is permissible, when fighting against certain inappropriate and evil imaginations presented by the enemy, to use other appropriate and virtuous imaginations. Do not pay any attention to the shameful and fearful images of the foolish and irrational imagination and do not be frightened by them. Ignore them and consider them unworthy of your attention. They are empty playthings without any true substance. He who is used to ignoring the imaginations can also ignore the real things themselves that are depicted in the imaginations, as St. Maximos has noted: “He who conquers over the passionate fantasies will also be ale to prevail over the realities they represent.” Let me conclude this chapter and summarize what I have been saying. Know that if you impress upon the board and chart of your imagination beautiful and appropriate images, you will be praised on the day of judgement, when what each person imagines secretly will be revealed. But if you allow inappropriate and evil images to be recorded and to dwell in your imagination, you will be condemned.”

- St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain. (A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, p. 151)

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« Reply #26 on: December 21, 2012, 04:54:01 AM »

Frankly, I don't know how one can be expected to have nothing in the mind. When I read the Bible, I picture what I read. When I pray, I close my eyes, but I can't help it if an image flickers into my mind now and then. How can it not? I'm only human. Often I have trouble praying at all. This idea that I'm supposed to pray perfectly and have a mind like a sheet of glass, seems almost impossible and uncharitable to me. I already have difficulty in worship. If I can't hack praying at home either, I don't know what I'm going to do next.

There's a big difference between what you describe and active use of your imagination, though, and it's the latter we're warned against. I don't know what to make of what Andrew wrote above. What he's saying doesn't chime with what I've been taught but I've never read the book he's referring to so I can't really say for sure. Suffice it to say, I believe the warnings (not a prohibition) against active imagination in prayer are right. If someone feels they can do such without it causing problems (and imagining icons certainly seems safe enough) then I could not and would not condemn it. That doesn't mean I wouldn't warn someone who told me they did that to be careful.

For me, personally, I know actively using my imagination would be a very bad idea. At best I'd be liable to end up daydreaming and at worst - well I'd shudder to think. I've seen where active imagination while meditating took me in my days as a practising Buddhist and suffice it to say that, whether self-delusion or demonic in origin I still could not say, one particular experience I had was more than sufficiently frightening to discourage me from ever doing such things in my Orthodox spiritual life.

James
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We owe greater gratitude to those who humble us, wrong us, and douse us with venom, than to those who nurse us with honour and sweet words, or feed us with tasty food and confections, for bile is the best medicine for our soul. - Elder Paisios of Mount Athos
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« Reply #27 on: December 21, 2012, 09:45:42 AM »

I'm not arguing against what others have said in favor of imagining, just contributing here:

I listened to a talk given by the igumen at the local ROCOR monastery about a year ago, and he covered this very topic. He said very explicitly that imagining anything, including your icons, was absolutely improper. IIRC, he said it left you open to the demons to subvert your imagination and possibly turn it into something else. Kind of like when you're picturing something in your mind and it becomes something else you saw that day (e.g. like a gruesome picture from the news).

Frankly, it seems like the growth and dominance of hesychasm pushed out and mitigated other forms of spirituality like those that became dominant in the West.
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