April 24, 2014

Maybe I’m Just Too American For This Orthodox Church

By Protodeacon Eric Wheeler | HT: OCANews

I firmly believe that America offers the potential for the Orthodox Faith to flourish and grow like in no other land or culture.

Unfortunately, at times, we cannot free ourselves from the “old world” mentality which mires us in our “ancient” faith. Consequently, it makes it difficult for Americans to even attempt to understand the fundamentals of our Faith.

As the first historic Episcopal Assembly ends, and I read the message delivered at its conclusion, I cannot help but feel that we are attempting to fix our American jurisdictional problem with an “old world” mentality solution. Consequently, it makes it difficult for this American to understand why we are being so Byzantine in seeking a plan for Orthodox unity in America.

From the very beginning, the America colonists were used to doing things their own way. When problems arose, they fixed them on their own, and did not wait for direction from Great Britain. The revolutionary spirit which led to the establishment of the United States in America has not waned; it is still very much alive in our spirit and culture – we are a “can do” people who think outside the box and take matters into our own hands. Because of our entrepreneurial nature and our ability to change direction without being a slave to protocol, we are able to solve our problems by charting a course of action. It is this spirit which has made us today the most powerful and influential nation in the world. It is this same spirit that is so attractive to people from foreign cultures that come in contact with Americans. And, it is the same spirit that can cause our Orthodox Faith to flourish in this land.

Many people will state that the convening of the Episcopal Assembly was a major step towards Orthodox unity in the Americas. But, the message issued at its close does not convince my American spirit that the goal of the Episcopal Assemblies is a united autocephalous Orthodox Church in America any time soon– sounds like we have just created another version of SCOBA with a marginalization of the Orthodox Church in America. So committees are created to determine who is canonical and who is not, a registry is created, and the pastoral needs of the Orthodox living in our nation will be addressed – been there, done that over the past 50 years with SCOBA!

Archbishop Demitrios is to be commended for finessing the presence of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America at the Assembly in spite of the protestations of the Ecumenical Patriarch. On the other hand, the Ecumenical Patriarch did succeed in stifling any voice from the Moscow Patriarchate in support of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America, probably through some quid pro quo deal over the Ukrainian situation. And the news blockade during the Assembly (even though matters of national security were not being discussed) seemed to be quite successful. With its complex schemes and bureaucratic intrigue, all of this seems to be patterned after Byzantine politics as usual in an attempt to avoid talking about the 800 pound gorilla in the room – the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.

It is no secret that many of the efforts to maintain control over the American Church are rooted in the need for the ancient Patriarchates to seek support for their very survival. What they do not realize is that an autocephalous Church in America will have far more ability to influence nations and gain support for causes relative to our Orthodox Church throughout the world when it speaks as the independent Orthodox Church in America.

As an American Orthodox Christian, I am concerned that the ancient Orthodox Patriarchates do not have a clue when dealing with the multi-jurisdictional situation in America because in large part they do not understand our American spirit. As Americans, it is part of our nature to celebrate ethnic diversity — something completely foreign to the homogenous traditional Orthodox lands. They lack our capacity to adapt to change and our ability to forge solutions in a rapid manner when faced with obstacles. And, they do not realize that we can in fact solve our own problems and present a plan of action for them to accept, in a relatively short period of time, if we only had their blessing to proceed. From my limited perspective, the events of the Assembly appeared to be choreographed down to the minutiae from Istanbul in order to avoid another Ligonier.

Before I am accused of just being cranky, let me propose a number of steps that can enhance the ability of our ancient Patriarchates to understand the jurisdictional situation in America:

  • An American presence as Observer with a voice at the Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences would greatly enhance the understanding of our situation in America among the “old world” delegates. The Decision of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference dictated to us in America the groundwork for the Episcopal Assembly – talk about taxation without representation – the entrepreneurial spirit in America has served to enhance the resources of Americans that have greatly supported both financially and politically many of the ancient Patriarchates. Unfortunately, no one from America was represented when the Episcopal Assemblies were discussed in Chambesy.
  • If it is the desire of the Episcopal Assembly to truly move towards an autocephalous Church in America, it would behoove them to place a representative of the Orthodox Church in America on the Executive Committee. The OCA has been an autocephalous church for more than 40 years, and even though we have seen our share of scandal, we had the ability to solve our problems on our own without reaching across the ocean for guidance or approval. At present, the Orthodox Church in America is the most transparent Orthodox Church throughout the land and we have in fact had experience dealing with multi-ethnic jurisdictions within our autocephalous church; we have also functioned as an independent entity since the 1920s’and have been a presence in North America for over 200 years.
  • Let the Assembly review the historic documents and working papers which led up to the creation of the Orthodox Church in America. Greater minds than what I see today were the architects of the autocephaly of the former Metropolia which addressed a specific need during a specific time in history.
  • The Assembly must provide for participation from both the clergy and lay representatives of our Church. The Orthodox experience in America has been shaped by a collaborative spirit. This is the time for flowering of sobornost, not for a return to the autocratic way of the old countries.
  • Let the faculties of our seminaries, which represent multi-jurisdictions here in America, prepare working documents on a canonical and administrative structure for the Americas. The Orthodox Church in America currently has three major seminaries and there has been talk about the seminaries working together towards a unified approach to theological education. It is a disappointment to me that seminaries’ faculty members of the Orthodox Church in America no longer seem to represent a leading force in the life of our Church. What the faculty do not seem to realize is that the workers they are preparing will not have a vineyard to plant their fruit in if they do not engage in being a part of the preparatory steps towards an autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Americas.

Whether one wishes to admit it or not, the Orthodox Church in America has a lot more to offer the Episcopal Assemblies than what was proffered us at the present table. And, with our American spirit we have the ability to solve our canonical problems in a relatively short period of time if we only had the blessing from the ancient Patriarchates to proceed. The ultimate goal of the Episcopal Assemblies is in fact what currently exists, in microcosm, in the Orthodox Church in America — so, dear hierarchs of the ancient lands, take another look at the Orthodox Church in America.

Comments

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    Isa Almisry says:

    From the very beginning, the America colonists were used to doing things their own way. When problems arose, they fixed them on their own, and did not wait for direction from Great Britain. The revolutionary spirit which led to the establishment of the United States in America has not waned; it is still very much alive in our spirit and culture – we are a “can do” people who think outside the box and take matters into our own hands. Because of our entrepreneurial nature and our ability to change direction without being a slave to protocol, we are able to solve our problems by charting a course of action. It is this spirit which has made us today the most powerful and influential nation in the world. It is this same spirit that is so attractive to people from foreign cultures that come in contact with Americans. And, it is the same spirit that can cause our Orthodox Faith to flourish in this land.

    With all due respect, the Greek trustees at the turn of the previous century were used to doing things their own way. That’s how we got into this mess.

    The Russian pomory were also used to do things their own way, and conquered Siberia and expanded into Alaska that way. Those lay men baptized and converted long before the hiearchy caught up with them: St. Innocent wrote that when he came to Alaska, he was chrismating (i.e. not baptized) a society. But that society knew enough not to spurn their shepherd. (btw, conversion by persuasion, not by force nor state dictate was the hallmark of the Alaskan Church while it was under the autocracy of the Czars, long before the Russian was taken out of “Russian America,” and the US set up their military administration.).
    http://books.google.com/books?id=NSRxrDm0JYYC&pg=PA227&dq=promyshlenniki++laymen+supportive+charter&cd=1#v=onepage&q=promyshlenniki%20%20laymen%20supportive%20charter&f=false
    So independence doesn’t necessarily entail disrepect of authority, nor ingratitude to elders, two things which, unfortunately plague American society, which it needs to be cured of. The American conviction that new always means improved has got to be corrected.

    It is, btw, why Canadians look at the US like we in the US look at the Old World Patriarchates/Mother Churches. We should remember,not eveyone in North America is American.

    Impatience is also a characteristic Americans are known for: it has to be tamed.

    So while I have been as critical as anyone on how Chambesy was brought about, unbriddled “Americanism” isn’t the antidote to it. We need not reinvent the Church: just get the old world to play by the rules that the Fathers laid down long ago.

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    Trudy says:

    Forgive me, but Dcn. Wheeler’s essay made me a bit cranky. The Puritan work ethic (aka Protestant work ethic – part of the foundation of America) seems contrary to Orthodoxy – that of obedience and humility. Yes, it is necessary to pull oneself up by their boot-straps and get to work. But is it not also to our salvation to be obedient to the Church?

    Is it not necessary for the Patriarchs to survive? Isn’t that how they survived through the millenia?

    “They lack our capacity to adapt to change…” Really? Haven’t they adapted through out the years to the changes wrought in the world, yet at the same time held true to the traditions/Traditions?

    There is much that Isa wrote that I agree with.

    My greatest fear is America will ‘protestantize’ Orthodoxy. Then what?

    God does not ‘hurry’. He is patient. So must we be.

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Trudy, the dirty little secret is that we’re already “Protestantized,” and have been so since at least 1921 (organs, pews, no Confession, etc. ring a bell?), some jurisdictions more so than others. But jurisdictionalism alone is “Protestantization” to the nth degree. As has been noted by others who have studied history, the fact remains that the thousands of immigrants who came to America had no intention of “submitting” in “obedience” to the local diocese. What is that, if not Protestantism? Not only has the barn door been kicked down, but the horses have gone feral for four generations.

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        Isa Almisry says:

        ^Indeed. Which means we are in serious need of taming. Which means Orthodox order. Which means a canonical local united Church. Which of course we have, we just all have to get with the program, and that includes the Primates overseas. There comes a time that those apron strings have got to go, or it is unnatural. But that doesn’t mean we abrogate the Fifth Commandment. As St. Nikolai Velimirovich noted “the Church is the Mother of old and young alike.”

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          Geo Michalopulos says:

          Agreed. Just think how much more love we’d have had for our mother churches had Ligonier been allowed to proceed on its own. Pity.

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      +Stephen-Anthony says:

      Oh Pleaze – I find your response typical of parishioners who would rather sit on their hands in pews while the world goes by outside the stained glass window. Fr. Dn. Eric is correct in the very fine essay he has written. What has Orthodoxy been doing in this country since 1794? Wrangling over who has jurisdiction in this land. It is something all Orthodox hierarchs will have to account for before the dread judgement seat of Christ. Bishops of foreign sees do not understand America and can not in all reality give good direction to this nation. They can appreciate the gifts that America freely sends them for the ministry of the Church. I do not see them as caring pastors over us. My family has been in this land since the early 1600′s predating St. Herman over 100 years. That does not give me any authority over anyone else in the US. This is hard for foreign bishops to understand. Being an American is not being someone who does not know or can not know the Orthodox way. The false dichotomy that somehow is perpetuated by foreign club Christians is not Christian. There is not, never was and never can be “cradle Orthodox” Christians. You must be converted. Read the rite of Holy Baptism again. Your God-parents renounced Satan on your behalf and spit on him at the Western door of the church building. You were converted, not born Orthodox. Stop talking about Orthodox from the cradle and Orthodox who are converts. It is false. It is splitting and dampens the zeal of the Church. So I point out to you then, join in the zeal of those who newly find the true way and do not separate them from the rest of you using as an excuse that you were born into Orthodoxy. So newly converted people are not quite like the old converts. Embrace the new ones and their zeal and do not reject them as being inferior. This attitude must stop if any unity in Christ is to come about. Bishop Stephen-Anthony of the American Orthodox Church.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Rev Deacon, a very thoughtful piece. I understand your take regarding “independence” in a more generous fashion and agree with you. Permit me to draw out this distinction: Isa, if I may explore your line of reasoning that the Greek “trustees…were used to doing things their own way,” then we could concede you the point that independence in this sense is not a good thing. I agree. However, I am more concerned at this point with the thrust of your argument as it goes directly against the anti-RM narrative (the “creation myth”), one of whose hallmarks is that the immigrants were guided and directed by overseas bishops.

    I don’t mean to re-open this can of worms, but logic dictates that the revisionists cannot have it both ways. Were the Greek/Bulgar/Serb immigrants hyper-independent or were they “guided” by foreign bishops (most of whom probably couldn’t find America on a map)?

    Or is the original narrative right: there was no “independence” but a structured diocese fully dependent and responsive to the dictates of its mother church? If so, it would necessarily follow that those parishes created outside of this structure were ipso facto, non-canonical. Perhaps we have unwittingly stumbled onto an unconscious reason why anti-RM partisans such as Arey, Lambrianides, the EP himself and others in the GOA feel they must ignore the first century of American Orthodoxy?

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    This kind of thinking makes my worry about the fate of Orthodoxy in America. How come the “can do” people

    we are a “can do” people who think outside the box and take matters into our own hands.

    we are able to solve our problems by charting a course of action.

    They lack our capacity to adapt to change and our ability to forge solutions in a rapid manner when faced with obstacles

    can’t “even attempt to understand the fundamentals of our Faith”.
    Wondering if there is a need for God anymore… I think the “American spirit” will do it.

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      John Panos says:

      It seems to me that misinterpretation of Dcn. Wheeler’s essay is rampant.

      Working hard does not preclude the need for God’s grace.
      Solving problems does not preclude the need for God’s mercy.

      Americans evidently really are an ontological threat to a way of thinking which is both dhimmi and ineffectual – leading one naturally to an ecclesiastical fatalism and ensconcing byzantine corruption.

      Do you really think that American Orthodox Christians would tolerate the kind of corruption that has bled Greece dry for decades? I’m talking about the Church. Look at how ineffectual it has become – when the nation needs them most.

      You can have your blind obedience if it makes you feel more Orthodox, but obedience isn’t blind – and that sort of thinking is based more on pride than real spiritual obedience. We have some responsibility before God to question authority (not rebel), and to demand the highest moral and ethical behavior from our leaders, not intrigue and strong arm tactics.

      If someone living in America can’t perceive this, then I believe they can’t perceive the necessity of freedom in faith. Talk about a dhimmi attitude!

      Dcn. Wheeler’s essay says something else, though, that many people will not understand.

      When Met. Jonah dressed down the EP, he wasn’t just venting his spleen – he was expressing something that a multitude of Orthodox Christians in America think and feel strongly about. He was just saying what thousands feel – a fact never mentioned or even considered by his detractors.

      The same with Dcn Wheeler – he is writing what a multitude think and feel. This army of Orthodox are ignored and/or marginalized by their leaders. They pray, fast, tithe, and do the bulk of the mission and evangelism in this country. They are believers, and have come through fire and water just to be in the Church.

      Like it or not, American Orthodox Christians are here to stay, and they aren’t going to remain silent just because they are American.

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        Isa Almisry says:

        Americans evidently really are an ontological threat to a way of thinking which is both dhimmi and ineffectual – leading one naturally to an ecclesiastical fatalism and ensconcing byzantine corruption.

        Care to explain the last election, one giant leap on the road to serfdom?

        As Trudy states, the Patriarchs et alia are more adaptable than they are given credit-Antioch has survived in a hostile environment for nearly three times the number of years that have elapsed since Columbus landed. Btw, unless things have drastically changed in the last 20 years, the Antiochian Patriarchate isn’t as dead as it is sometimes portrayed. Alexandria has held on to spread across All of Africa. And the Palestinians have shown with their own resistence to their own Patriarch’s indifference (following the example of Antioch in regaining control of its own house) that Orthodox in America aren’t the only ones able to take the bull by the horns.

        The Americans do not need to be silent, because the examples of Orthodox crying out in the Old World can be multiplied. Freedom or Death!

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          Geo Michalopulos says:

          Isa, I can explain the election easily. There were several states where Obama/Biden won by 1% of the vote: Nevada, North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, etc. These are normally “red states.” Had these gone the other way, McCain/Palin would have won. The reason was due to several factors: 96% of the African-American population went for Obama, 78% of the Jewish population did so as well, and both in greater actual votes than normal. Also fraud and intimidation: In Nevada, New Mexico there was higher than average illegal voting (illegal aliens). Oklahoma was the only state that mandated driver’s licenses to be shown at polling places. Intimidation: it’s been proven that in PA members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside of polling places with clubs. And of course, the economy. A lot of conservatives (myself included) were mad at Bush for TARP and at McCain for carrying water for Bush in this regard. (I still voted for McCain, but I know a lot of principled conservatives who didn’t.)

          Let’s just state at the outset that there are many states that are in cultural decline, permanently colored blue, states like New York, California, Illinois (incidentally the three brokest states).

          I don’t want to make this a political forum, but based on the most recent polling data, there seems to be a great case of buyer’s remorse.

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            Isa Almisry says:

            Let’s just state at the outset that there are many states that are in cultural decline, permanently colored blue, states like New York, California, Illinois (incidentally the three brokest states).

            Being in one of them (the most corrupt), I can tell you, you spelled “consequently” wrong.

            I don’t want to make this a political forum, but based on the most recent polling data, there seems to be a great case of buyer’s remorse.

            And a lot of I told you so. :0

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          John Panos says:

          Freedom or Death!

          Isa, I love you!

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        A young man came to the monastery and full of enthusiasm and determination told the abbot:’I want to fight with the devil’. The elder looked at him shaking his head in disbelief: ‘YOU …??? Fight the devil? He will knock you out in no time!’

        I am very glad the American Orthodox are here. May the Lord help us!

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    Harry Coin says:

    Right on! Except for the bit about expecting those who have deemed it wise to lead us to where we are, with growth downward and expense upward, to listen and to correct the course.

    There is a bicycle path along the river where I live, it goes by a 30 acre field with broken pavement and weeds surrounded by a fence. It once held a John Deere farm equipment manufacturing plant. A mile down the way there was a similar Catipillar earth-moving construction equipment plant, and another mile down was an even larger International Harvester farm machinery plant. The union leadership could not see beyond ‘sticking it to the man’ and the business leadership couldn’t get the message across that agreeing to the union terms meant death and loss for everyone because the world had changed due to overseas competition. It wasn’t about whether ‘the owners of capital’ would ‘exploit the working classes’, because the business just could not survive if it had to pay union demands for labor.

    But like our bishops, the union leadership just refused or were unable to see the world had changed. They were unable or unwilling to live the intended Spirit that got them started, feeling the purpose of it all to see that generating a future might require different immediate choices than repeating yesterday’s dance. Lost was a sense of balance, only ‘some is good, more is better’ so they pushed and pushed along the path their predecessors did unwilling to change or pause, even for survival’s sake, until the cell boundaries of their living organism burst.

    Everyone lost, and now on Father’s Day we ‘ride the river’ past the weed filled acreage where manufacuring plants once employed thousands. Plants leveled to the ground as property taxes for unimproved land are less than for land with idle manufacturing buildigs. So if someone, someday wants to bring those jobs back– now there is the cost of erecting the buildings too.

    Vision. Feeling and living the call of the old Spirit informing and shaping
    the old decisions that made sense in those days to retain that same good sense as applied to here and now is what we need, not living the rules appropriate for another day’s circumstances until we die. Look at the empty factories and ‘unfunded pensions’ the ‘The Union Vs. Management Show’ got us!

    If we leave it to the overseas ordained young never married set that has forced itself into the essential parish decisions, steering by it’s old world wake, taking ever more money and returing ever fewer people over the years will our kids drive by the empty lot that once was a parish?

    Deacon Eric’s good words follow and improve on those of many others. But here we are. The ordained young never married set in overseas leadership hasn’t noticed so far in actual decisions, only allowing words helpful for fundraising. Shall we add more words? Will that help? Or is it time for something else?

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Obedience presupposes freedom. Obedience has to be freely given in order to be meaningful. Obedience that is forced is not really obedience but coercion because it annuls freedom. God has created us to be free. That’s why faith and obedience to God is never a matter of coercion. You are free to disbelieve. You are free to disobey.

    That’s the great risk God takes with man because many men abuse their freedom. Abuse of freedom leads to enslavement. Freedom is really the freedom to obey. But freedom comes first, obedience second, and those who justify coercion in the name of obedience violate the inherent dignity of the human person.

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      Harry Coin says:

      Aye! The enemy is that little ‘wink and a nod’ meaning twist, the shift between ‘the world is such that doing otherwise will leave you worse off’ and ‘I am such that doing otherwise will cause you to pay me more.’

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      Scott Pennington says:

      “Maybe I’m just too American for this Orthodox Church.”

      Actually, this is a very worthy question for all Orthodox in America to ask themselves seriously, not just rhetorically. Orthodoxy is not about freedom, it is about acquiring the Holy Spirit. It is not about fitting in to modern American culture since modern American culture has been in no way shaped by Orthodoxy.

      We sometimes confuse the “gift of free will”, given by God to man, with political freedom. They are two totally different things. Obedience to moral law can and must be coerced. If you don’t believe it, then naturally you should work for the repeal of laws against theft or rape. The freedom God has given man is to be able to choose between good and evil. If man did not have this freedom, he would do only good because no other possibility would exist for him. Doing evil for man would be like dancing for a fish. On the other hand, even when there are moral laws in place, this “gift of free will” remains – - it’s just that there are then consequences for making the wrong choices, just as there were in the Garden.

      “God has created us to be free. That’s why faith and obedience to God is never a matter of coercion. You are free to disbelieve. You are free to disobey.”

      And God Himself struck down a couple in the Book of Acts who withheld property from the Church. God created us to be righteous and to give Him glory. He gave us freedom to choose good or evil. But this freedom is in the absolute sense I mentioned above. Political freedom is something else. If God wanted us to be free to choose evil without coercion, then why is there a hell, or the threat thereof in scripture?

      “. . . those who justify coercion in the name of obedience violate the inherent dignity of the human person.”

      Or, they might be seeking to govern human society so that it does not descend into an evil abyss of abortion, licentiousness, promiscuity, etc. Even coerced obedience has value for the wider society. It can create an environment where those learning how to be decent adults (children and adolescents) are not confused, disturbed and tempted by unseemly behavior or by behavior that challenges Christian presuppositions. It can also help adults to control their own passions by creating clear boundaries of acceptable conduct which reinforce their own sense of self discipline.

      I see that the pre-Fourth of July “Spirit of ’76″ is once again upon us.

      Enlightenment Liberalism is anti-Orthodox. It sees humanity as the center of all things. Thus the rhetoric assumes that human beings, apart from being tied to a moral code, can exercise their freedom without awful, self-destructive consequences. This may have been true for a while when America was founded. Only the landed gentry could vote, a number of states had established churches and the ruling class was, in general, bound by a much more conservative code than exists at large in the masses today. I.e., Enlightenment Liberalism could work for awhile in a non-egalitarian society. Of course, when the old ethos forged under monarchy dissipated after a number of generations . . .

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    This is true American Orthodoxy:
    Father Ambrose Young (Fr. Alexey Young before his monastic tonsure) is a dearly loved spiritual friend, teacher, guide, and author. He is a spiritual child of Hieromonk Seraphim Rose

    From a message sent to “good friends here who were inquiring about the status of my Alzheimer’s Disease”

    Now the Lord has offered me a chance to mortify and humble down that pride, by accepting without complaint the slow crumbling of my mind. And I do accept this, with my whole heart, even if with the occasional tear, as a gift from Him for my salvation. So it sometimes “feels” as though this dying of various parts of my mind is also a dying of self, a dying of ego, a dying to pride. And isn’t that the purpose of spiritual life, after all, anyway? The Lord looked down and saw that I wasn’t going to do it any other way, and so, because He loves me very much (unworthy as I am) and wants me to be with Him forever, He offered me this incredible opportunity to die to self. I see this as a great, if sometimes painful, blessing!

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      Harry Coin says:

      How can something that can’t be declined fit within the meaning of ‘opportunity’ or ‘offer’? Does this make Alzheimer’s research a bad thing spiritually– what if there’s a cure and so nobody will have such an opportunity anymore? I’m working and donating to deprive the world of the opportunity to suffer and die from polio. I don’t feel bad about it.

      I would constructively complain about dying from Alzheimer’s as much as possible in hopes ways might be found to deprive all of you such a ‘gift’.

      Something’s not right there.

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        Isa Almisry says:

        LOL. Are you a “glass half empty” type of guy?

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          Harry Coin says:

          Isa: The may the glass with the label ‘horrific disease’ ever shrink and be as empty as possible. If there is a group of people that thinks that’s a bad thing, I hope that group doesn’t call itself ‘Christian’.

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            Isa Almisry says:

            Nothing wrong with fighting disease. But we are all going to die from something, we might as well embrace that. Both my grandmothers died from Alzheimer’s, the one was almost a second mother to me, and it was like watching her die every day for years. But when the time came, there was the satifisfaction that all that needed to be said had been said (as it was clear that although there was time, it was running out) and that the inevitable came as relief. I can say, President Reagan’s last public letter on his own Alzheimer’s was pure vintage. Much more closure than when my father just dropped dead from cardiac arrest.

            So we all have our Cross. I think the epitomy of “The Passion of the Christ” was when He embraced His Cross and said, with peace on His face “Lord, I am Thy servant, the Son of Thy Handmaiden,” and the unrepentant thief yelled “Idiot! Why do you embrace your Cross?” That was the world speaking.

            But back to more macro matters: Chambesy is a lemon. Our job is not to get a sour puss, but to get busy to making lemonade, and I’m all for pouring as much sugar in the glass of His All Holiness as possible.

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            Harry Coin says:

            Isa,

            I too have a personal appreciation for Alzheimer’s and wish all strength in the face of suffering or supporting others.

            The thing that made Christ’s ‘embracing His cross’ as you write so relevant is that He had a choice. He didn’t have to do it. The significance comes from the fact he could have said no but did not. It was a real choice. By contrast In theological language disease is an inherited consequence, against which we fight, if we choose, in our efforts toward theosis ‘from glory to glory’. We have real choices in how or whether to respond but not whether to decline the disease altogether. That’s an important difference.

            I think that means, being we are baptised ‘reasoning sheep’, the moral obligation we have is to use that reasoning gift in its proper context– and battle the disease (through our own research, or donating and supporting, or improving life choices for better upkeep of ‘the temple’ we each live within) so as to lessen the adverse inheritance we pass along. This so as to make available through human effort higher ‘starting point’ possibilities for our children toward ‘theosis’ than we have — that is to say, stewardship. Of course, they might mess it up as so many of us have done with what we’ve been given. But, some will not and those make all the difference.

            Such an effort, if made, adds meaning to our lives as it adds meaning to those honored forebears upon whose shoulders we stand and provides higher starting points for our legacies as well.

            If you are sick, fight to add meaning if cure isn’t possible, add dignity in the face of it by adding information and using all available weapons against the disease for yourself and for the future. We’ve won about 50 years more for everyone over the last 100 years and that’s a start. Only a start. I am inspired the church recognizes this holding up the example as saints of Cosmas and Damian ‘the unmercinary healers’.

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    cynthia curran says:

    George sterotypes states, in fact, in blue California, there are a lot of counties that are purple or red, San Diego, Orange, Bakersfield, Frenso, and forth, I used to live there. And Florida has went to the Dems before, and Orlando in Orange County Florida votes Democratic more than Bakersfield Ca in Kern County. Its Los Angeles which gives the Democratic party the edge in Presidential electins.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Cynthia, you’re absolutely right. I am dealing in stereotypes usually on the blog as it makes things easier. As far as California, you are 100% correct. If California ejected the LA area and the Bay area, it would be a deep red state. There are maps from the 2000, 2004, and 2008 elections that show that the vast majority of the counties and land mass of the US went for the GOP. In fact, you could literally have driven from Washington State to Florida and from Maine to California without even passing through one county that went Blue.

      The broader point however is that in these deep blue islands (Detroit, Chicago, LA, SF, Madison, Baltimore/DC,etc), the demographic has changed to one of deep government dependancy, whether the people within them are working for the Federal gov’t, receiving welfare, or are a growing illegal alien population (i.e. the illegal voters). The goal of the Left has been to grow the dependency class, hence support for blanket amnesty for illegal aliens, thereby tipping the electorate to 51%+ government-dependent.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Here is the essence of Orthodoxy: to boast of the Lord, the Maker of the world. This does not mean to keep talking about it to deaf ears, but to deeply feel it in your heart.

    St Nicholas the Serb (Bishop Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Zhicha):

    Thus, there are three levels of boasting: the lowest is to brag about things, that is something. Higher than this is to boast of people, that is someone; the highest is to boast of the Lord, the Maker of the world.

    Self-confidence is something built into the American culture. You can be anything you want … believe in yourself… To be Orthodox means to use all your strength and intellectual abilities to become humble before God. Otherwise sooner or later we’ll turn away from our path and take a way that is alien to Orthodoxy.

    When Europe discovered the microscope and the telescope, medicines and surgical instruments, and all types of machines, cars, airplanes, radio and television, she proclaimed herself the wonderworker of this age and turned away from Christ. All of us started to imitate the Europeans and we have cast the words of Christ from our hearts.

    Christ does not need a Cyberknife cutting-edge image guidance system to cure the sick. He brought people back to life with the power of His word. He did not need a spacecraft to ascend to the Father.

    St Nicholas the Serb (Bishop Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Zhicha):

    If only Europe were to boast of Christianity as its most precious inheritance and greatest legacy! That is how it should have been and that is how it was in early Christian times, when Europe was Christian and identified itself with Christianity. The glorification and preaching of Christ on all the Continents and to all peoples – that was the mission given by God to the whole European Continent. Apart from Christianity, Europe has nothing to boast of: without Christ, Europe is the very last beggar and the most shameless plunderer in this world.

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      Harry Coin says:

      A. Eliot wrote: ‘ To be Orthodox means to use all your strength and intellectual abilities to become humble before God’.

      B. The Church Eliot writes of wrote the only statement beginning with I and said by everyone present every liturgy: ‘I Believe in One God…’

      So, you know, I’ll keep A in mind but I’m going with B.

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    John Panos says:

    All of us started to imitate the Europeans and we have cast the words of Christ from our hearts.

    All of us? Really?

    I’m not sure where you live, but it is not so where I live.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    If the Church is relying on “Americans” to be adaptable then we are in trouble because our human adaptability is not the issue. It is the ability of the Church as the Body of Christ to be in all places and fill all things. In most instances, it is our human inflexibility that holds back the Church which is the actual case right now.

    If we remain inflexible, we are like old wine skins. The Holy Spirit will find those people who will respond, no matter how few that is.

    I pray that we all open up our hearts to be able to receive the gift God has for us.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Michael, excellent point, but it’s not our “American-ness” that is being inflexible, it’s our pridefullness that comes from our ethnocentricity. There’s a lot of things I find deplorable about American expressions of Christianity, but straight-talk, clarity, and practically are not part of them.

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      Eliot Ryan says:

      The Holy Spirit will find those people who will respond, no matter how few that is.

      Allow no pride to dwell in you, but prove yourself humble and lowly … That should be easy if I recall my many sins, but sometimes I get forgetful.

      Satans seeks to imitate, confuse and distort, even counterfeiting the Holy Spirit for unholy spirits. As we look at our human weakness and ignorance and compare them with wisdom of the one who was originally an angel of light we see that our only safety is in Christ.

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    Athanasia says:

    Harry wrote, “How can something that can’t be declined fit within the meaning of ‘opportunity’ or ‘offer’?”

    Very easily. It’s all about attitude. One can choose to respond as a ‘victim,’ throw their angry and self-pity all around or one can choose to respond as Fr. Alexy did.

    Geo wrote, “the dirty little secret is that we’re already “Protestantized,” and have been so since at least 1921 (organs, pews, no Confession, etc. ring a bell?),”

    Yes, Geo that does ring a bell. The Orthodox church with the organ I declined to attend. :-) However, there is more than these ‘things’ that Protestantize a belief system. When Orthodoxy is reduced down to “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior” exclusive and jettisons 2/3rds of the Trinity – then it is protestantized imho.

    I appreciated s-p’s “chill dude” post!

    Off to get a sweetened lemonade with Isa.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Harry:

    I am inspired the church recognizes this holding up the example as saints of Cosmas and Damian ‘the unmercinary healers’.

    The Church has more saints “unmercinary healers”. See:
    The Life of Saint Luke of Simferopol and Crimea

    Saint Luke, Bishop of Simferopol and Crimea, the Blessed Surgeon (+June 11, 1961)

    Doctor of Medicine, Professor, and State Prize winner, since 1944 he was the Archbishop of Tambov and Michurinsk, and later of Simferopol and the Crimea. While he was serving the church as an Archbishop, he was also practicing as a surgeon and taught and published many books and articles on regional anesthesia and surgery. He is now known to be a world-famous pioneering surgeon.

    St. Luke’s last words:

    My children, very much do I entreat you,
    Arm yourselves with the armor that God gives, That you may withstand the devil’s tricks.
    You can’t imagine how evil he is.
    We don’t have to fight with people but with rulers and powers, in effect the evil spirits.
    Take care!
    It’s no use to the devil for anyone to think and feel
    that he is close to him.
    A hidden and unknown enemy is more dangerous than a visible enemy.
    O how large and terrible is the army of the demons.
    How numberless is their black horde!
    Unchanged, untiring, day and night, seeking to push all of us who believe in the name of Christ, to lure us on the road of unbelief, of evil and of impiety.
    These unseen enemies of God have made their sole purpose, day and night to seek our destruction.
    But do not be afraid, take power from the name of Jesus.

    See also St Panteleimon.
    Akathist to Great Martyr-Healer Panteleimon

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      Harry Coin says:

      Eliot,

      Wow. I’m really pleased to learn there was a bishop who also was an advanced medical professional. Really impressive of him. Not least too –speaks well of the church!

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        Isa Almisry says:

        In fact, the Commies tied themselves into a pretzel because they had to give him the Lenin Prize: his achievements were too spectacular to ignore (I’ve seen him cited as a surgeon in medical peer papers and thesises). They tried to break him of his “superstition” saying “esteemed doctor! Such a brilliant surgeon-you haven’t seen the soul in an operation have you?” He said “no, but neither I have I seen man’s emotions when I opened him up.” Or something like that.

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