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Matthew79
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« Reply #45 on: July 02, 2013, 07:35:32 PM »

Orthodoxy is trying to recover its mission mindedness.  Having been oppressed nearly everywhere for centuries it just focused on survival. 

Actually, history has shown that the Church thrives most under persecution.

You should definitely visit an Orthodox Liturgy and see the worship.  Liturgy (western or eastern) is such a wonderful blessing compared to standard evangelical worship.  At least I thought so.  It gives a sense of historical and geographical connectedness to the rest of the Church that is really missing in protestant traditions.

here's a video i found helpful on my journey:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-CJhPlmznA

if you've never heard of Francis Schaeffer (this is his son) then it may not matter to you, but he's a titan in the presbyterian church.

Yes! HUGE Schaeffer fan. Actually, I just saw this video a couple weeks ago and ordered the book, Dancing Alone. Eager for it to arrive! (it's a little late)

My first real experience with a liturgical service, and what actually awakened my interest in the ancient church, was actually in a Southern Baptist church. My pastor at that time liked to refer to us as "the black sheep of the Baptist family." Also used the description, "artsy-fartsy" and "hipster". It was Baptist theology with a liturgical flavor and an awesome worship band. Heavily influenced by Tim Keller- another big name Presbyterian pastor.
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« Reply #46 on: July 02, 2013, 07:43:04 PM »

Orthodoxy is trying to recover its mission mindedness.  Having been oppressed nearly everywhere for centuries it just focused on survival. 

Actually, history has shown that the Church thrives most under persecution.

It sometimes says that it does, certainly.
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Matthew79
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« Reply #47 on: July 02, 2013, 07:47:56 PM »

It sometimes says that it does, certainly.

You don't think so?
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ialmisry
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« Reply #48 on: July 02, 2013, 07:56:47 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.
My, someone seems to have martyr complex.

Perhaps dropping your preconceptions on how the Church should do things might be less discouraging.
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« Reply #49 on: July 02, 2013, 07:59:24 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.
My, someone seems to have martyr complex.

Perhaps dropping your preconceptions on how the Church should do things might be less discouraging.

I didn't read the frustration this way, but it is hard to read anything accurately on a text-only basis.  I really feel this person should make sure that they are communicating their confusion to their priest; "venting" it here is of no help, especially if the priest may have no idea of the frustration the person is feeling.  Talking it over and making sure both parties understand the situation seems to be the only way to make progress.
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« Reply #50 on: July 02, 2013, 08:02:04 PM »

I have been studying a great deal about the Roman Catholic Church and I understand their doctrines/theology very well.I am interested in hearing from the OC, but the problem is I live in a heavily RC community and the nearest OC is an hour and a half drive one way. Too far to really meet anyone  let alone to consider joining and being involved.

What do OC Christians do when they don't live anywhere near an Orthodox church? Maybe that is an unrealistic question because anyone who is Orthodox lives near an Orthodox church?

Matthew, be aware that I am only a lifelong Christian (baptized Roman Catholic) yet wandered in the protestant world after Vatican 2. The folks here have been great answering your various questions from their perspective. I will give you mine, still after over a year of being OUTSIDE and looking in. You write that you are considering 'joining' an OC church.

I thought so, too, back in Sep of 2012. Having attended faithfully (more faithfully than the EO membership) since Nov 2012 AND attending something called a faith class, I am no nearer being a catechumen/member/disciple than I was when I started reading about EO in Nov of 2011.

My experience is more of what Rufus is talking about. What discipleship? After 2000 years you'd figure they would have a set catechesis. Its all over the place with regards to WHAT you are to study, HOW LONG you are to study, no consideration if you walked out of a mosque yesterday or have been a faithful Christian all your life. Its been a very discouraging journey.

They will tell you here to talk to your priest, if he is not busy and not a dual career priest; or find a spiritual father, I believe they all died in Russia 200yrs ago.

I know someone who had a very similar story. Eventually the parish got a new priest, and he immediately had her chrismated. So which priest you're dealing with can make a big difference.

To understand why things are like this, you've gotta look into the political history of the Orthodox Church.

Anyway, my point is not to poop on the Orthodox Church; I'm just trying to give Matthew79 an idea of what Orthodox churches are typically like so he can get his bearings.

And of course, we're just talking about the US, which is the fringe of the Orthodox world.
If the US is where you are, it might as well be the center.
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                           and both come out of your mouth
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« Reply #51 on: July 02, 2013, 08:04:57 PM »

It sometimes says that it does, certainly.

You don't think so?

Some random--probably terribly disjointed--thoughts... I think apologetics get in the way sometimes. The biggest controversy in the first three hundred years of Christian history was what to do with people who abandoned the faith to save their skins, but then wanted to come back afterwards when things were peaceful. Whether Christians thrived during this period is debatable. There is that line about the blood of the martyrs being the seed of the faith. Persecution was sporadic, coming in waves; and not all places experienced it in the same way. Was there a major surge in conversions under Diocletian? The Church definitely seemed to take off the most after 313 when it became tolerated, measuring by adherents, churches built, theological writings, etc. Did monasticism start because the church became more worldly? Monasticism didn't take off until the 4th century, but there were Christian monastics before that.

Did the Church thrive more under the Christian emperors? What happened when an emperor who held to a non-orthodox viewpoint came into power? It seems to me like it was largely a mixed result. Were there large theological, missionary, and educational projects during times of persecution in Constantinople, Syria, Egypt, Greece, Russia, etc., or were they mostly just focusing on surviving? Orthodoxy is still fairly limited in growth outside lands that have been Orthodox for a thousand years. On the other hand it's the 2nd biggest Christian group, despite going through more crap than pretty much any other. And in a sense I can see how persecution would have a positive element to it, what with forcing people who are serious about the faith to come together and weather the storm; it's probably when everything is going smoothly that people are likely to have a somewhat lessened attitude. Does the Church thrive most under persecution? I don't know...
« Last Edit: July 02, 2013, 08:06:08 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #52 on: July 02, 2013, 08:07:05 PM »

Yes! HUGE Schaeffer fan. Actually, I just saw this video a couple weeks ago and ordered the book, Dancing Alone. Eager for it to arrive! (it's a little late)

My first real experience with a liturgical service, and what actually awakened my interest in the ancient church, was actually in a Southern Baptist church. My pastor at that time liked to refer to us as "the black sheep of the Baptist family." Also used the description, "artsy-fartsy" and "hipster". It was Baptist theology with a liturgical flavor and an awesome worship band. Heavily influenced by Tim Keller- another big name Presbyterian pastor.
Fair warning.  Frank is pretty disappointing lately, but that interview is still great.
For your first Liturgy, i would strongly encourage you to attend a large parish with a good choir, iconography, architecture, etc.  Let that first impression be a good one.  My first was Christmas Eve at St George's in Greenville, SC.  Simply amazing.
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Matthew79
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« Reply #53 on: July 02, 2013, 09:00:43 PM »

Some random--probably terribly disjointed--thoughts... I think apologetics get in the way sometimes. The biggest controversy in the first three hundred years of Christian history was what to do with people who abandoned the faith to save their skins, but then wanted to come back afterwards when things were peaceful. Whether Christians thrived during this period is debatable. There is that line about the blood of the martyrs being the seed of the faith. Persecution was sporadic, coming in waves; and not all places experienced it in the same way. Was there a major surge in conversions under Diocletian? The Church definitely seemed to take off the most after 313 when it became tolerated, measuring by adherents, churches built, theological writings, etc. Did monasticism start because the church became more worldly? Monasticism didn't take off until the 4th century, but there were Christian monastics before that.

Did the Church thrive more under the Christian emperors? What happened when an emperor who held to a non-orthodox viewpoint came into power? It seems to me like it was largely a mixed result. Were there large theological, missionary, and educational projects during times of persecution in Constantinople, Syria, Egypt, Greece, Russia, etc., or were they mostly just focusing on surviving? Orthodoxy is still fairly limited in growth outside lands that have been Orthodox for a thousand years. On the other hand it's the 2nd biggest Christian group, despite going through more crap than pretty much any other. And in a sense I can see how persecution would have a positive element to it, what with forcing people who are serious about the faith to come together and weather the storm; it's probably when everything is going smoothly that people are likely to have a somewhat lessened attitude. Does the Church thrive most under persecution? I don't know...

Well, I guess I haven't really thought about it much. Just recognizing that all the persecution during the Roman Empire couldn't snuff out the Church and even recently, within the last century, the explosion of conversions in Korea and China. I still think that persecution strengthens the true Church because it weeds out those who really didn't believe.... Ah, but I have to remember the EO perspective of "the Church". You guys don't believe in a distinction between the visible and invisible Church, right? 
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Matthew79
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« Reply #54 on: July 02, 2013, 09:06:52 PM »

Fair warning.  Frank is pretty disappointing lately, but that interview is still great.
For your first Liturgy, i would strongly encourage you to attend a large parish with a good choir, iconography, architecture, etc.  Let that first impression be a good one.  My first was Christmas Eve at St George's in Greenville, SC.  Simply amazing.

Actually, I think my first real experience with a real liturgical church was a Christmas Eve Mass at a Catholic cathedral. The bishop was officiating. I was trying to see if any Catholic churches out there had any good, strong preaching. I figured, if any Catholic church had good preaching it would certainly be at the diocese with a bishop.... I was pretty disappointed in those regards, but the aesthetics were pretty sweet, though.
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« Reply #55 on: July 03, 2013, 01:06:03 AM »

There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

So I guess my appeal to lack of schisms as evidence of the true church has been shattered  Grin... What would an EO say are the marks of a true church?

I don't know if I've ever clarified, but I am currently protestant- been apart of several traditions, but mostly Baptist. (Actually, tradition used loosely- most people I know view tradition as dull and lifeless and would be offended at the suggestion they followed any kind of tradition.) We would say the marks of a true church are that they preach the Gospel- full divinity/humanity of Jesus, salvation through faith in his payment for our sins on the cross (of course followed by repentance), his resurrection, and the proof of faith by a changed, spirit-filled life.  That pretty much leaves the door wide open for many various ways of "doing church". Given the smorgasboard of denominations, I'm sure you can understand how important it would be for a protestant to ask these kinds of questions. We wouldn't say (at least in theory) that we have our theology all figured out, so we have to be open to change and to be teachable (hard thing for a lot of Baptists, I know Grin), but we take pride in our shortcomings.

Rufus- you're funny!
This, the part I bolded,  is what started me on the road to Orthodoxy. I realized that all churches have tradition. Where your using the term tradition loosely I wont, from my perspective I will say that for each Protestant church their tradition is is every inch a Tradition. This is why  when you were a Baptist you were a Baptist and not a Lutheran, there are real differences yet all "based on the Bible". The problem is most Protestants wont even admit to the differences let alone the tradition. For me, once I realized all churches had traditions I knew I needed to choose one and given the respect I had for the Bible I decided to go with the Tradition that gave us the Bible rather than one that disagrees with it's siblings about what the Bible means.
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Matthew79
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« Reply #56 on: July 03, 2013, 05:11:26 PM »

This, the part I bolded,  is what started me on the road to Orthodoxy. I realized that all churches have tradition. Where your using the term tradition loosely I wont, from my perspective I will say that for each Protestant church their tradition is is every inch a Tradition. This is why  when you were a Baptist you were a Baptist and not a Lutheran, there are real differences yet all "based on the Bible". The problem is most Protestants wont even admit to the differences let alone the tradition. For me, once I realized all churches had traditions I knew I needed to choose one and given the respect I had for the Bible I decided to go with the Tradition that gave us the Bible rather than one that disagrees with it's siblings about what the Bible means.

Well, there's a difference between doctrinal traditions and the traditions of the worship service (rituals, ceremonies, having everything planned out down to the "t" and as they say, "no room for the move of the Holy Spirit"). I think this is more what many Protestants rebel against when they talk about tradition...of course, they obviously reject certain doctrines as well. I don't think that we don't admit to the differences, but a lot of the differences we don't see as a big deal, yet, big enough to split off from each other. We still recognize each other as brothers, but have difficulty coming to an agreement, which makes ministry together difficult. The way we perceive various interpretations is that as long as we agree on the core beliefs, the Gospel, that's most important- it cannot be compromised or overlooked. With everything else, certainly there is a right and wrong interpretation, but  we don't proclaim to have all the answers and trust that God will eventually lead us to the truth as long as we seek Him. We take the posture of the Bereans (Acts 17) by keeping our interpretations open to change if someone can convince us through Scripture... at least, in a perfect world. In reality, the Church is full of sinners, and many churches are not open to change and are not seeking the truth of God- those are the ones that usually die out or descend into cultism- or become stale, at best. They have assumed that they have arrived and need no correction. This is a big reason why I haven't found peace in my trekk through Roman theology. The big thing I look for is a church with enough humility to admit there might be something that God can teach them.

But so far, what I see in the EO, I like.
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Yurysprudentsiya
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« Reply #57 on: July 03, 2013, 05:24:22 PM »

This, the part I bolded,  is what started me on the road to Orthodoxy. I realized that all churches have tradition. Where your using the term tradition loosely I wont, from my perspective I will say that for each Protestant church their tradition is is every inch a Tradition. This is why  when you were a Baptist you were a Baptist and not a Lutheran, there are real differences yet all "based on the Bible". The problem is most Protestants wont even admit to the differences let alone the tradition. For me, once I realized all churches had traditions I knew I needed to choose one and given the respect I had for the Bible I decided to go with the Tradition that gave us the Bible rather than one that disagrees with it's siblings about what the Bible means.

Well, there's a difference between doctrinal traditions and the traditions of the worship service (rituals, ceremonies, having everything planned out down to the "t" and as they say, "no room for the move of the Holy Spirit"). I think this is more what many Protestants rebel against when they talk about tradition...of course, they obviously reject certain doctrines as well. I don't think that we don't admit to the differences, but a lot of the differences we don't see as a big deal, yet, big enough to split off from each other. We still recognize each other as brothers, but have difficulty coming to an agreement, which makes ministry together difficult. The way we perceive various interpretations is that as long as we agree on the core beliefs, the Gospel, that's most important- it cannot be compromised or overlooked. With everything else, certainly there is a right and wrong interpretation, but  we don't proclaim to have all the answers and trust that God will eventually lead us to the truth as long as we seek Him. We take the posture of the Bereans (Acts 17) by keeping our interpretations open to change if someone can convince us through Scripture... at least, in a perfect world. In reality, the Church is full of sinners, and many churches are not open to change and are not seeking the truth of God- those are the ones that usually die out or descend into cultism- or become stale, at best. They have assumed that they have arrived and need no correction. This is a big reason why I haven't found peace in my trekk through Roman theology. The big thing I look for is a church with enough humility to admit there might be something that God can teach them.

But so far, what I see in the EO, I like.

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

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Matthew79
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« Reply #58 on: July 03, 2013, 05:54:06 PM »

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

Neat. After I finished your first paragraph, I was immediately curious about how you interpreted the verse that says Jesus' cry tore the temple curtain in two. I get it though. Paragraph 2 explained it. That's really cool! See, Protestant churches don't have stuff like that.
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« Reply #59 on: July 03, 2013, 07:02:22 PM »

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

Neat. After I finished your first paragraph, I was immediately curious about how you interpreted the verse that says Jesus' cry tore the temple curtain in two. I get it though. Paragraph 2 explained it. That's really cool! See, Protestant churches don't have stuff like that.

Glad that my description answered the question before it was asked!  You might be interested in looking at the text of our normal Sunday Liturgy, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, compiled by him in the 4th century.  It is the one that we usually use on Sundays.  Note that all of this is sung:
http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/liturgy_hchc

It may help to read over this before you go so you will recognize the parts as they occur.

Now, you may wonder about this when you attend the service.  Parts of it are read silently by the priest in the altar.  Some parts may be sung rather quickly or in a foreign language (to you), depending on the parish that you visit.  But the first point to remember is that, while it is true that we benefit by hearing it and participating in it, the Liturgy is primarily a prayer to God.  So if the priest makes certain prayers while we are praying something else, that's OK.  Besides, attending week after week, the main parts of the Liturgy don't change so the average person would pick it up pretty fast.  It helps in that regard that it is set to music.  And, although our ancestors were mostly illiterate peasants, they could learn from the priest or learn the faith from the icons painted around the church, teaching the faith in an accurate manner.  And now, of course, we have the benefit of service books to help us follow along and, after a period of time, even to memorize large parts of the service.

That is not to say that this is the only way in which worship can be conducted.  There were (and are) other liturgies, such as the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great and the Liturgy of St. James (the oldest one still in use), used by the Orthodox Church.  Some of our parishes (very few) use a revised western form of the liturgy.  Of course, in the west during the first millennium of the Church, they used liturgies such as the Gallican Liturgy, the Sarum Liturgy, and the ancient Roman Liturgy which evolved into the Latin Mass.  But what all of these have in common, if you look them up, is that they all proclaim doctrine just the same as ours does.



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« Reply #60 on: July 03, 2013, 07:07:02 PM »

For us, this distinction is not so clear cut.  The worship services, particularly the Liturgy, are the repository of our doctrine.  If we pray it there, we believe it is true. This if you want to really grasp our beliefs the best thing to do is to attend the prayers for an extended period and listen to them.  Even the movements embody the faith.  We inherited our worship from the synagogue and temple.  So the holy of Holies is separated by a curtain.  There our sacrifice is made but it is no longer animal but the Eucharist of Christ who died once for all.

And the priest makes an entrance twice, first with the Gospel book and later with the bread and wine.  First is to show that Christ entered the world and began his teaching.  Second is to show him coming to offer himself. Then he goes to the altar, the sacrifice is made and the curtains are shut with the doors.  This symbolizes his burial.  Then the doors are opened and the curtain pulled away and we commune.  His Resurrection is this shown.  Behind every phrase uttered and every gesture there is a meaning that edifies.   

All of this is done so that we may worship God rightly understanding Him.  To change the ritual could thus distort the doctrine.  Very rarely prayers were added over centuries to combat this or that error or doctrinal confusion.  That way the worshippers knew exactly whom they were worshipping. 

Neat. After I finished your first paragraph, I was immediately curious about how you interpreted the verse that says Jesus' cry tore the temple curtain in two. I get it though. Paragraph 2 explained it. That's really cool! See, Protestant churches don't have stuff like that.

Read Hebrews chapter 13 when you have a chance.  Before and/or after you visit our worship.  We believe that it is writing about the very worship that was given to us by the Apostles and which we still conduct.
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« Reply #61 on: July 04, 2013, 01:26:35 AM »

Yurysprudentsiya it's been said before but I'll say it again your putting some really good stuff out there.

Well, there's a difference between doctrinal traditions and the traditions of the worship service (rituals, ceremonies, having everything planned out down to the "t" and as they say, "no room for the move of the Holy Spirit"). I think this is more what many Protestants rebel against when they talk about tradition...of course, they obviously reject certain doctrines as well.
Oh, some Protestants spend plenty of time railing against both.  Cheesy

I don't think that we don't admit to the differences, but a lot of the differences we don't see as a big deal, yet, big enough to split off from each other. We still recognize each other as brothers, but have difficulty coming to an agreement, which makes ministry together difficult. The way we perceive various interpretations is that as long as we agree on the core beliefs, the Gospel, that's most important- it cannot be compromised or overlooked.
Been there done that, I was raised with that belief major in the majors, minor in the minors. During the early part of my journey my wife who was raised Roman Catholic asked me to explore salvation from the perspective of the Roman church because like a good Protestant she was worried about the salvation of her Roman Catholic parents. When I started looking for tools to compare the Roman view of salvation to the Protestant view I got quite a surprise. There wasn't just one Protestant view. But wait, salvation was a core beleif, it wasn't supposed to be compromised or overlooked. And of course it wasn't completely overlooked, which is why Jacobus Arminius was anathematized by the Synod of Dort.

With everything else, certainly there is a right and wrong interpretation, but  we don't proclaim to have all the answers and trust that God will eventually lead us to the truth as long as we seek Him.
And as you've no doubt figured out the EO church doesn't claim to have all the answers either, it has long been content to look at certain things and say we believe it, we don't completely understand it but we believe it and that's okay. Smiley
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« Reply #62 on: July 04, 2013, 08:10:16 AM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

Maximum Bob is absolutely right.  There is much that we take by faith, because it has been given to us, although we cannot explain it at all.  The Roman Church, with the advent of scholasticism in the late Medieval ages, tried to define everything exactly.  While some of their definitions might be right, our general answer to a lot of it is that "we just don't know," and often, "we just can't can't know."  And once you define exactly how the Communion changes or exactly how salvation works down to the last detail, some people try to satisfy the "bare minimum" requirements.  I think our answer to that is that we know what is given to us to lead us to salvation, but we don't know what the "minimum" is to get there.  If you start fiddling around with it, removing bolts and pieces from the machine, it might still work, but then again it might not.  So we think it is safer to use the device as the designer intended, even if we don't always know exactly how it works.  Smiley 


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« Reply #63 on: July 04, 2013, 01:08:55 PM »

Been there done that, I was raised with that belief major in the majors, minor in the minors. During the early part of my journey my wife who was raised Roman Catholic asked me to explore salvation from the perspective of the Roman church because like a good Protestant she was worried about the salvation of her Roman Catholic parents. When I started looking for tools to compare the Roman view of salvation to the Protestant view I got quite a surprise. There wasn't just one Protestant view. But wait, salvation was a core beleif, it wasn't supposed to be compromised or overlooked. And of course it wasn't completely overlooked, which is why Jacobus Arminius was anathematized by the Synod of Dort.
I had casually studied RC for many years, but most of my knowledge was from an Evangelical point of view. I began studying it from the RC perspective within the last year because I have moved in with my RC grandmother to help her in her old age. I wanted to really understand her faith and how I should think about her as a Christian. This lead me to the early fathers, and now, to EO.
I was trained in the Southern Baptist seminary, which is Calvinistic. As for the Calvinism/Aminian debate- They would both agree on how a person is saved- the necessity of faith and confession of Jesus, which if true faith, leads to repentance and good works. Both would admit we each have some measure of responsibility in that area (this is the core belief). The big disagreement is how that faith is given/received; who can be saved and can they lose it. A Calvinist would say only God knows whom He has chosen, so we must witness and give that opportunity to everyone.

And as you've no doubt figured out the EO church doesn't claim to have all the answers either, it has long been content to look at certain things and say we believe it, we don't completely understand it but we believe it and that's okay. Smiley

Some of us Protestants act like we have all the answers, but I think for most of us it is just the verbalization of working through it in our own minds. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit we don't know it all.

There is much that we take by faith, because it has been given to us, although we cannot explain it at all.  The Roman Church, with the advent of scholasticism in the late Medieval ages, tried to define everything exactly. 

I think this is where the RC misunderstands Protestants. They assume that we believe the authority of Scripture is subject to our conscience (or interpretation), not the other way around. For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell, but it is clear in Scripture so we must accept it and try our best to understand it. Some Protestants, like Rob Bell, have tried to soften that blow to the point of heresy, but he's been rejected by the majority of the Protestant community. The things that we are a little more lax about are the things that are not clear from Scripture, we leave that to a conscience submitted to God.
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« Reply #64 on: July 04, 2013, 04:13:27 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.
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« Reply #65 on: July 04, 2013, 05:13:32 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Well, I don't think Edwards preached Hell to get money considering all his sermons were preached free of charge. I think he was preaching out of his own conviction and concern for those who do not trust in Jesus.
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« Reply #66 on: July 04, 2013, 07:00:06 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Well, I don't think Edwards preached Hell to get money considering all his sermons were preached free of charge. I think he was preaching out of his own conviction and concern for those who do not trust in Jesus.
He spent his life turning God into the boogie man and lived a very wealthy life because of it.
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« Reply #67 on: July 04, 2013, 08:43:15 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
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« Reply #68 on: July 04, 2013, 08:54:57 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.
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« Reply #69 on: July 04, 2013, 08:58:13 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
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« Reply #70 on: July 04, 2013, 09:06:20 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".
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« Reply #71 on: July 04, 2013, 09:11:33 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Unlike universalism, for instance.
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« Reply #72 on: July 04, 2013, 09:44:33 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Unlike universalism, for instance.
That's a seven thousand word sermon that has one message, God is the boogie man and hell is his weapon of choice.
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« Reply #73 on: July 04, 2013, 11:15:32 PM »

Well, anyway, I'm not here to argue anything. Red, You seemed to have completely missed my point.
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« Reply #74 on: July 05, 2013, 05:47:05 AM »

Well, anyway, I'm not here to argue anything. Red, You seemed to have completely missed my point.
It would not be the first time.
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« Reply #75 on: July 05, 2013, 07:55:13 AM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.

Although I believe that we as Orthodox could not countenance the doctrine propounded by Edwards in his landmark sermon, I wouldn't cast aspersions on Edwards here.  I know of many people who did, and do, believe such things with great sincerity.  It is a logical outcome of following St Anselm's satisfaction theory to the extreme.  Edwards simply vivifies it.  Which we believe is error.  We would say that Edwards was wildly off the mark in how he extrapolated the character of God from this theory.  And as to getting wealthy, I cannot say, although I know that he was thrown out of his church for such preaching at one point (as most of the early revivalists were).  Sometimes it is easier to attack a man's motivations or character than it is to refute his doctrine, but I believe it is more profitable to do the latter.  For us, the doctrines expressed in that sermon concerning the attributes of God (as I understand it) are simply an example of going further and further down a path which is not hemmed in by the teachings of the Church.  Edwards apparently also taught that Holy Communion does not possess sacramental grace, which we also claim as error.  But I personally wouldn't want to start accusing this man, who, it seems to me sought to do much good, of being a charlatan.

Incidentally, and completely as an aside, I learned that one of Edwards' grandsons was Aaron Burr.  That is an interesting connection.
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« Reply #76 on: July 05, 2013, 10:03:48 AM »


The bishops themselves are all members of the Assembly of Bishops and meet regularly.


To what degree do the parishes answer to the bishops, do they send delegations to a meeting, or something?


Rome broke from the Orthodox and the Protestants broke from Rome.  

The Romans and Easterns both claim to be the original and that the other broke away from them. The fact that the Eastern one never had any major splits as the Roman did indicates to me that the Eastern was the original.

Matthew,

If you want to attend a canonical Eastern Orthodox Church (which is in communion with all of the Orthodox), make sure that the Ukrainian Church is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.  The hierarchs should be listed as Metropolitan Antony and/or Bishop Daniel.  There has been a schism in Ukraine and some of the non-canonical churches have established parishes here in the USA.  There are only a few such, however.  That's a topic for another day.  

Yeah, I'm not sure. They don't have a website as they are a small country parish. I found it at orthodoxyinamerica.org, if that means anything.

1.  The ancient principle of the church is that "where the bishop is, there is the Church."  See the writings of the holy father Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans.  St. Ignatius (ca. 35? - ca. 117?) was a disciple of the Apostle John and served as the third Bishop of Antioch (the ruins of which are now on the Turkish-Syrian border).  So we take what he says to be very important.  Anyway, you can read his writings more fully online.  But the point is that, as near as we can tell, in the early days each church was drawn from a region of people and was led by the bishop, who conducted divine services.  Soon, however, these communities multiplied so much that the bishop couldn't be in all of the places at once.  So he deputized presbyters (priests) to serve the liturgy in his place.  Thus, the priest acts only in place of the bishop and is answerable to his bishop in all things.  Theoretically, he can do nothing without the permission of his bishop.  In modern times, bishops generally give priests latitude to run the more mundane aspects of their parishes (most parishes here have a parish council of laypeople to assist the priest).  The bishop must be consulted for more substantive actions, and the bishop makes it a point to visit the parishes in his territory regularly.  (In the Ukrainian tradition, as in others, I'm sure, this is beautiful; as the bishop approaches the church the bells are rung and he is greeted with the traditional gifts of bread and salt as he enters the church).  At least in our tradition, every year there is a Sobor (a council) which is held, led by the bishops, and to which the parishes all send delegates, both clergy and lay.  There, important decisions are taken concerning the life of the church.  These meetings cannot be used to alter doctrine, or anything of that sort; considerations of the faith of the church are taken only by the bishops meeting together in council.

2.  There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history.  This is complicated.

a.  In the years following 431 (the Council of Ephesus), the Church of the East (encompassing Persia/India) broke communion over the Council's declaration that Christ was one person with human and divine natures and thus Mary can be called the "Mother of God."  These Christians today are the rather small Assyrian Church of the East and a small branch are the Ancient Church of the East (under a different hierarch) and were predominantly in Iraq and Persia, but the Iraq War has decimated their ranks and caused many to flee.  In the 16th century some joined with Rome but kept their ceremonies and are known as the Chaldean Catholic Church.

b.  In the years following 451 (the Council of Chalcedon), numerous churches broke with the Eastern Orthodox because they could not agree with the Council's definition on the relationship between the two natures of Christ (human and divine).  These churches are known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches or the Non-Chalcedonian Churches.  They include the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (in India, founded by St. Thomas the Apostle), and the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.  Although the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox are not in communion, in recent years, diligent labors have been undertaken to determine the differences and understanding.  It is generally now recognized that the two churches may have been trying to define the same thing using slightly different words and that this, plus political differences, are the reason behind the split.  Because they have been out of communion for 1500 years, however, it will take some time to resolve all of the differences that have arisen since that time.

c.  In the Middle Ages, the Roman Church began to develop different doctrines and practices which became out of harmony with those of the other Orthodox Churches.  Communication was strained, and the relationship was broken when the Roman Church inserted a phrase into the creed unilaterally (that the Holy Spirit proceeded both from the Father and the Son), when the Pope of Rome asserted supremacy over the other Orthodox bishops in all matters, when the legates of the Pope of Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople in the year 1054, and when zealous Catholic Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople in 1204, defiling the holy places and setting up a Latin Patriarch who reported to Rome.  In my mind this split was final around the time that the Council of Florence (1439) tried to reunify the sides, was initially accepted by many of the bishops, but was rejected outright by the Orthodox faithful at home when they learned that they would have to accept all manner of Roman innovation.  Some portions of Orthodox Churches, for political and sometimes theological reasons, accepted the authority of Rome and its theology while being permitted to maintain their own rites.  They are known as the "Greek Catholic Churches" or the "Eastern Catholic Churches," and came from both Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox communions.  Dialogue between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches began in earnest in the 1960s and continues today.  You may have heard that, for the first time in history, the Patriarch of Constantinople attended the inauguration of the Pope of Rome.  But we differ with the Roman Catholics on many important points of doctrine and it will take considerable effort to see how much can be resolved through semantics and how much is truly a difference of faith which must be strongly considered.

d.  Another group is worth mentioning.  In the mid-17th century, Patriarch Nikon of Moscow attempted to reform the Russian Orthodox liturgy to bring it in line with the liturgy as then practiced by the Greek Orthodox Church.  He did this because he mistakenly believed that the Greek liturgy was older when, in fact, it had itself been revised in some points.  A group of people, unwilling to accept the validity of the Greek liturgy (and the revised Russian liturgy), broke off and became known as the "Old Believers."  They have since split and split again; some have priests, some don't, etc.  They exist in Russia and some are in the USA now.  Some of them have since reunited with canonical Orthodoxy.

e.  In the 20th century there are some who have declined to remain in communion with the Eastern Orthodox because of the changes to the calendar and perceived ecumenical efforts.  They are often called the "Old Calendarists."

3.  Use the site www.assemblyofbishops.org.  If the parish doesn't have a website, e-mail or call (even better) the number listed to confirm the service times.  If you explain your interest and the priest knows you're coming he may be able to set aside some more time to talk with you if you'd like.  You'll probably be able to catch him at the coffee hour after church (almost all of our parishes have one, in my experience) but he is very busy and it might be good to let him know ahead of time so he'd be more prepared to be available to answer your questions.  I invite you to try the Ukrainian parish.  Our traditions are beautiful (as are the others, I'm sure) and our melodies are more European-sounding so might be more familiar to your ear.  The language of the parish will probably depend on how many immigrants are in the church.  It might be split, as well, with some prayers in English and some in Ukrainian.  You might want to call the priest and ask.  In any event, most churches have service books printed in both languages so you can follow along, if need be.

Please let us know if you have other questions or if we can help you in your quest to discover more about the Orthodox Church!

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« Reply #77 on: July 05, 2013, 10:33:34 AM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Jesus never taught that God feels we're worthless vermin.
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« Reply #78 on: July 05, 2013, 11:21:03 AM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

You have help me. Its my frustration trying to grasp all there is to know, and trying to know when is one 'ready' to become a catechumen, much less accepted by the church as a member. I cant know 'everything'. That takes a lifetime. My frustrations is with a 'catechism' outline that was assembled by an angry, ex-protestant, its vague and condescending...now I know what to ask my priest. How was he catechized? I am finding the Law of God by Slobodskoy refreshing. I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used? What are American inquirers subjected to the dribble of newly published works? or at worse someone's haste, off the cuff outline?
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« Reply #79 on: July 05, 2013, 11:57:41 AM »

I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used?

Well for one thing the Bible canon he gives in that catechism conflicts with the one favored by most Orthodox today, which sort of muddies that whole "our faith doesn't change" thing  Wink
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« Reply #80 on: July 05, 2013, 12:07:29 PM »

The canon can change but that doesn't mean the faith does.
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« Reply #81 on: July 05, 2013, 12:08:46 PM »

I agree. Not everyone does.

EDIT--That's what I meant by it muddying things, and why I didn't say something like "it therefore proves that the faith changes".
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« Reply #82 on: July 05, 2013, 12:59:31 PM »

I just remember some of the questions that I had when I first found Orthodoxy!  There is so much there it would take more than a lifetime to learn it all, and it is even harder to do what we have learned.  But if I can help even in a small way, I'm glad.

You have help me. Its my frustration trying to grasp all there is to know, and trying to know when is one 'ready' to become a catechumen, much less accepted by the church as a member. I cant know 'everything'. That takes a lifetime. My frustrations is with a 'catechism' outline that was assembled by an angry, ex-protestant, its vague and condescending...now I know what to ask my priest. How was he catechized? I am finding the Law of God by Slobodskoy refreshing. I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used? What are American inquirers subjected to the dribble of newly published works? or at worse someone's haste, off the cuff outline?

I am glad that something that I said proved helpful to you.  I hope and pray that when you talk with your priest, these things will be resolved.  I'm not sure what exactly your process is for being received into the church . . . as for me, when I told Father that I was interested in considering joining the Church, I was given a couple of catechisms authored by former leaders in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  I studied them, as well as some other books such as Bishop Kallistos' The Orthodox Church, attending services in the meantime, and came to Father and told him that I believed all that was written in the catechisms that I had read, and I was convinced that the Orthodox Church was the Church that Christ spoke of in the Bible.  We then made arrangements for my chrismation.  Of course, I've had many questions since, much that I don't know, and much that is sinful in my life needing repentance, but that hasn't affected the Church's willingness to receive me.  Thanks be to God!
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« Reply #83 on: July 05, 2013, 01:11:49 PM »

I have learned there is even an older catechism, by St. Philaret of Moscow (both free online) why are these not used?

Well for one thing the Bible canon he gives in that catechism conflicts with the one favored by most Orthodox today, which sort of muddies that whole "our faith doesn't change" thing  Wink
Only if you believe in Sola Scriptura, and reject Holy Tradition (the same reason why Orthodox should have no problem with St. Jude quoting the Book of Enoch, but the Protestants have a real problem on their hand).

You will find that the same discussion was held at least as far back at the 2nd century.  So our Faith hasn't changed.
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« Reply #84 on: July 05, 2013, 01:13:52 PM »

For example, nobody likes the idea of Hell,
Of course they do, Jonathan Edwards started quite a following using the threat of hell as the centerpiece of his sermons. Emotional blackmail pays well.

Of course. There's no way he could've actually believed it.

Take a look at the sermons of Jesus and how he used hell as a motivator.
The sermon on the mount and "sinners in the hands of an angry god" are not even close to talking about the same God.

What about "Woe to you, Chorazin"?
Comes nowhere close to;
 "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire;".

OK, so the language is stronger, but it's not wildly off the mark.

Unlike universalism, for instance.
That's a seven thousand word sermon that has one message, God is the boogie man and hell is his weapon of choice.
Yeah, I always called that "Boogie-man theology."
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« Reply #85 on: July 05, 2013, 01:26:47 PM »

You will find that the same discussion was held at least as far back at the 2nd century. 

Exactly.
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« Reply #86 on: July 05, 2013, 03:20:10 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.
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« Reply #87 on: July 05, 2013, 03:51:27 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.


This is a very complex subject.  First, you have to understand that until the final judgment, no one is sent eternally to heaven or hell.  In Orthodox teaching, the righteous spirits go to a paradise which is a foretaste of their eternal abode.  Likewise, the unrighteous go to a place of temporary punishment until the final judgment.  It is only after the final judgment that they will be consigned to hell.

There is a very good book which was recently written by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is probably one of the most erudite scholars in the Orthodox Church today.  He serves as director of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church and is frequently going to Rome and London to speak with the Roman Catholics and Anglicans about faith issues. Recently he was in America and spoke at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, a prominent private Catholic university in the Philadelphia area.  Unfortunately I didn't get to attend his talk.  His book that I reference is called "Christ the Conqueror of Hell" and is a very good systematic study of the doctrine of hell -- and what Christ did with respect to it -- starting with Scripture, looking at the writings of the Fathers, references to it in the early prayers of the Church, etc. 

My recollection from this book, and my gleanings elsewhere, is as follows:

There is absolutely a place to which the dead went (and go), a place of prison for spirits, as Peter says.  They went there, and we go there, because of our sin.  My understanding is that it is our teaching that, before Christ went to the cross, everyone went to this place, because there was no salvation for them.  But, after His death, Christ went to this place and brought out the spirits who were then in prison.  You can read about this in 1 Peter 3:19.  You can also read about this in Matthew 12:29, when Christ spoke of binding the strong man and plundering his house.  From the earliest teachings of the Church and the ancient prayers in the earliest liturgies, we know that the first Christians believed that the dead Christ went to this place of the dead, and the gates of hell received Him, not recognizing Him.  But when He entered, they realized who had come, and were powerless to stop Him from leading the righteous dead out from hell.

Now, of that much we have some confidence.  But there are several things that we don't know, and are content to leave as mysteries:
1.  How is it that Christ was in this place, and yet, He was never separated from the Father (another core Orthodox teaching)?  This is a mystery, although one explanation of what hell is (see below) might help clarify this.
2.  When Christ performed this "harrowing of hell," as it is often called, did EVERYONE who had died up to that time exit?  Sometimes this is asked, was anyone besides the devil and his angels left in Hades, this place of temporal punishment)?  There is no clear answer on this.  Some Fathers depicted it as such; a second group depicted it as only the Old Testament righteous (named in the Old Testament) were taken with Christ; and a third group depicted it as many righteous, known and unknown to us, exited with Christ at that time.  The third position is the most popular among the Fathers, as I recall, but we cannot be 100% sure of what happened in this respect.
3.  For those who subscribe to the perspective that Christ completely emptied Hades, and knowing that Christ is outside of time, the next question is, Did he also lead out those souls who came into Hades after His death and resurrection?  Try to get your mind around that.  The answer on this is extremely unclear, although that seems doubtful to many.

Now, there are a separate set of questions that have been considered by the Church.  When people go to this realm of temporal punishment, can their fate be changed?  One thing that we do know, from the Bible and the teachings of the Fathers, is that prayer for the dead is beneficial for them.  In the Second Book of Maccabees, which is part of our Bible, prayers and sacrifices were offered for the sins of dead Jewish soldiers.  And in the New Testament, Paul clearly offers up a prayer for his dead friend Onesiphorous in 2 Tim. 1:16-18 and 2 Tim. 4:19, that "he might find mercy in the Lord in that day," presumably, the day of judgment.  We also have the teaching of a very early Father, St. Macarius of Egypt (300-391), that a skull spoke to him and thanked him for offering up prayers for its soul, by which it received some relief from the fires consuming it.  But we do not, we cannot, define it precisely like the Catholic Church does, with their treasury of merit and the purchasing of indulgences to knock time off of purgatory.  We only know that prayer for the departed is helpful to them.  Here is what St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome (540-604), had to say:

"The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins (are such as) can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them ... The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves during life what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one's exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise this world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son."

Within the Orthodox Church, although this is a realm far beyond our certain knowledge, there is much thought that what hell really is, is standing in the presence of God in an unprepared state (without our wedding garment).  We are free to choose in this life; if we choose Christ and are made holy through Him, through the gifts He has given us, then we will be ready to meet Him and enter a stated of blessedness.  If we choose to reject Christ, He will respect our choice.  And the beauty of Heaven will seem as a violent torment for those who, with all of their being, have rejected Christ and want nothing to do with Him or His glory.  (A non-Orthodox writer, C. S. Lewis, even wrote about this kind of an analogy in his book, "The Great Divorce," where people from Hell were given a day trip to Heaven and couldn't stand it.)

One final point.  The Orthodox Church teaches that the doctrine of Universalism, that all souls will of necessity be saved, is heresy.  The belief that all souls might be saved, however, is not heretical, in that we don't know the state of anyone's salvation.  There was even one Father, whose name escapes me, who prayed for the conversion of the devil.  We know what awaits those who reject God.  And we know that God will allow them to reject Him if they so choose.  What we don't know is what choice all of these people will ultimately make.

Here is an article which explains all of this much more succinctly and clearly than I have.
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles-2009/Mettalinos-Paradise-And-Hell-According-To-Orthodox-Tradition.php
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« Reply #88 on: July 05, 2013, 06:35:01 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.


If you do some research in Patristic writings on hell, you will find a very broad variety of interpretations. However, no Orthodox writer ever denied the existence of hell.

While I can't imagine any Orthodox would say that God "abhors" or hates anyone, some contemporary Orthodox circles have some really ridiculous notions about eternal punishment.

A look a Orthodox hymnography, which is a very reliable standard for discerning Orthodox doctrine, will reveal quite a number of allusions to eternal punishment.
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« Reply #89 on: July 05, 2013, 09:57:52 PM »

So, is it the Orthodox position that Hell does not exist and God doesn't send people there anymore? That God is not now, nor ever was angry with anyone? ... That's just what I'm picking up from the discussion about Edwards. While I appreciate personal opinions, I am also looking for official Church teaching.

From creation, through the incarnation to the ascension and beyond, Gods work has been for our salvation. Hell is very real and the gates of hell are locked from the inside.
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