December 5, 2013
American Orthodox Institute
Delivered in Atlanta, Georgia recently.
I was taken with His Beatitude’s comments on spiritual maturity at the recent assembly of the OCA Diocese of the South. He says, among other things, that spiritual formation is the heart of preparing men for the priesthood. Men cannot be priests without proper spiritual formation. I have tried as best I can to make the same observation in my own writing and teaching as did Metropolitan JONAH makes in his talk in Atlanta: Spiritual formation (formation in dispassionate and self-control) is central and (sadly) absent from the life of the seminary.
Met. Jonah’s exhortations are inspiring, and give pause for contemplation. When did seminary become the main criteria for priesthood? Such is the usual way of Papists and Protestants, but why Orthodoxy which developed no scholasticism?
It’s my understanding that instead of being “assigned” by bishops, priests were once selected from amongst the laity of their village parish on the basis of exceptional heart for love of God, spiritual progress, etc., to become the next priest of that parish community. Of course such method worked because a spiritually mature priest led laity into similar maturity, and all lived a traditional, decentralized, land-based, family oriented, and stable community centered way of life. Such traditional lifestyle hardly translates to modernism with its consumerism, long distance transportation and communication, “nuclear” family, and transient lifestyle infatuated with “career” mobility for money-making.
In light of the “darkness” of modernism, it seems Papist-style understanding and actualization of Church heirarchy, and academically “trained” seminarian priests represent a “professional”, modernization (westernization) of Orthodoxy. Without a monastically (ascetically) formed, home-grown, spiritually mature priesthood, how then can there be little more than the blind leading the blind?
If parishes were instead actual, intentional Christian communities where laity lived and worshiped communally within walking distance of the Catholicon (Temple), and worked alongside laity in community “business” instead of being paid “professional” mercenaries, then the former traditional frequency of worship, closeness of community, and method of priestly formation and selection might again become viable, and modernism kept at bay where it belongs.
So when did it all go bad for the OCA on the spiritual formation front?
Probably when this private of thought of Fr. Alexander Schmemann became public OCA policy at SVOTS:
“More and more often it seems to me that revising the monasticism that everybody so ecstatically talks about–or at least trying to revive it–can be done only by liquidating first of all the monastic institution itself, i.e. the whole vaudeville of klobuks, cowls, stylization, etc.”
Joe, may I ask if you have another record and if yes could you change your tune, it is becoming extremely and annoyingly boring…
I enjoy reading here, but for Joe the “one trick pony”…
Joe, I was under the impression that you are a member of ROCOR. If so, then I have a couple of questions for you: since you have such an abiding hatred for the OCA, and since you seem to think that the Phanar will “save” American Orthodoxy, then why aren’t you a member of one of the EP’s American eparchies?
Another question pops to mind: Why was Fr Daniel Byontaro defrocked by the EP –the “savior” of American Orthodoxy–but he was welcomed into ROCOR?
Joe “One Note”
Joe, your quote from Fr. Schmemman does not do justice to either Fr. Schmemman or the OCA. In the context of his musing, Fr. Schmemman was attempting to find a way to get rid of the accretions of monasticism that are simply that–accretions. He was also trying to point the way to living an ascetic life that was available to all centered on prayer, fasting, worship and almsgiving.
If the OCA had the policy you say they do, Met. Jonah would not exist certainly not as Met.
Metropolitan Jonah represents a changing of the guard, that much is obvious to us outside of the OCA.
“Metropolitan Jonah represents a changing of the guard, that much is obvious to us outside of the OCA.”
Yes? And? Good boy! Come on you can do even better….
Metropolitan Jonah represents a changing of the guard, that much is obvious to us outside of the OCA…but it remains to be seen whether the Old Guard will go beyond just representing.
Joe, I’ve asked you before to refrain from ROCOR vs. OCA polemics. Also, I’ve gently reminded you that this blog is not your (or anyone’s) personal soap-box. Since you feel so strongly about the things that you do, I suggest you bring them to your own blog (easy to set-up) and continue there. Anyone interested can join you. Thank you for your contributions.
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