Something Light and Weird

In the mean time while I work on finishing my collective response to the ecumenical crussaders, here is something light and weird. First, I hope everyone enjoyed Pascha and is continuing to do so, since Pascha continues for some time. I know I enjoy reading, let alone participating in the Liturgies of Holy Week. The rich language stirs my devotion.

So, I am in line on Saturday evening for the Eucharist. The smell of lamb is starting to pour into the gymnasium (we have the liturgy in the gym because the church isn’t large enough to fit all of the once a year people).  Ho hum. As usual I am trying to keep my thoughts directed and under control with my eyes to the floor or something near enough. I hear in front of me people discussing what to do to partake of the Eucharist. “Say your name and then do this…” And I think to myself, “That is rather strange.” So I look up.

In front of me are three men, two younger ones and an elder man. The elder man and one of the younger ones look “Greek” but the one in front of me is black as midnight.  That is not a big deal at my parish since a fair amount of parishoners are from Eritrea, but this guy wasn’t Eritrean.  So he’s getting the low down on what to do. So I am thinking in my head, “Do I ask? Any four year old in an Orthodox parish knows what to do. Cross yourself before and after,  say your name and open wide. But oh no, please God, not today.”

Such thoughts are going through my head. This young man is about 20ish so this is not some 10 year old who is being directed out of some misguided notion of charity or unity. So, what the hell, I go ahead and ask. “Excuse me, are you Orthodox?” The answer was clear, “No.” “Well” I replied “I am sorry but you can’t partake of the Eucharist if you aren’t an Orthodox Christian.”

You’d think someone properly brought up would apologize, plead ignorance and step out of line. Oh no, it has got to be an exciting Pascha! “I am going to take it!” He replied emphatically. At this moment the blood is really starting to move and my hands are getting jittery.  Thoughts of Phinehas are coming into my head (Numbers 25:7ff) as I look around for sharp objects. This guy was bigger than me, which isn’t unusual since I am 5’7″ but he was still significantly bigger and obviously stronger. I didn’t care though.

“No, you aren’t. Not on Pascha! The Priest won’t allow it.” He shot back rather belligerently, “Look! don’t even start with me! I am a deeply religious person.” I said “If you are a religious person then you should respect the teachings of this Church. What you are doing is blasphemy and sacralege!” He wounldn’t hear it. So I sprang into action. There was still time as there were at least ten people ahead of us in line. Big parishes have their advanteges ya know.

So I walked briskly up to the  nearest usher, who I knew. “Hey Mike. We have a problem. There is a guy here who isn’t Orthodox who is presenting himself for the Eucharist and he is being belligerent.” Mike was rather distracted. On Pascha, the Eucharist with three or four priests is like ordered chaos. “How do you know he isn’t Orthodox?” He asked. I said, “Becuse he just told me.” I quickly relayed the relevant details of our conversation.

So this guy sees what is happening and steps out of line and walks past me exclaiming “Snitch!” He then walks out of the church. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I mean utterly shocked, dumfounded, and all of the related terms. I am still shocked. So I went back to my seat thinking to myself “Ohhhh-Kaaayy. Did I just meet the devil on Pascha or what?” It is one thing if someone is a lasped and nominal Orthodox Christian. Fine, thats bad enough. I am willing to extend charity that far. But for all I knew this guy was a Zoarastian.

Granted that the priests can’t be expected to know every single person. But we need a bit more of church discipline in my humble opinion. You can’t grow a healthy rose bush if you don’t prune it once in a while. If some people get offended, too bad for them I say. This coming to church thirty to forty minutes late on the part of the “faithful” has got to stop. Everyone has one of “those” Sunday mornings once in a while. But every week? My personal favorite is when people say “We take the summer off from church.” WTF?!! (use your imagination here.) And how about this, “I was baptised here even though I don’t believe anything that the church teaches, have lived like a pagan but I am nonetheless entittled to get married here.” attitude has got to go. Come to church for six months, tithe and go to confession and then we’ll talk. How about that? I don’t mean to be a hard ass, but this is absurd.

Any of the readers out there who are considering converting to Orthodoxy should know that there is no secret pathway back into Eden. Every church is going to have practical problems. So you need to be aware and make a choice based on what you can and cannot live with. I can live with these kinds of problems. They are going to be everywhere, more or less. I can’t live with Anglican priestessess and bishops who are Unitarians so Gnsotic that the classic 17th-18th century Unitarians would blush and denounce them as heretics. I can’t live with the happy-clappy “contemporary” (read intellectual Romper-Room and finger painting moralism) worship that the Lutherans are flirting with. And what about Rome? Well, waxing Irenean, to look at what they do is to refute it. Just go to  your average Catholic parish in the English speaking world keeping your barf bag in firmly at the ready. Oh sure, they can lawyer up and justify it all on paper, but you aren’t made of paper.

I was glad to hear that Bishop Iakovos had a pastoral letter read out in all the churches denouncing the “Lost Tomb” garbage. I am down with that. But plenty of our own need a good swift kick in the ecclesiastical posterior. Extending the right fist of fellowship once in a while would prune the vine or at least flush away these absurd notions and put some fear into people. How could anyone with half a brain be complicit in such actions is beyond me.

Christos Anesti!

29 Responses to Something Light and Weird

  1. Jiminger.Com says:

    Blowing Smoke (Why I’m not Eastern Orthodox – part I)

    To honor Perry’s request that I not post off-topic comments yet to begin an answer to some of his objections, I respond on my own blog.

  2. Jim says:

    First, stay on topic or I’ll just start deleting posts.

    My apologies. You are correct. This conversation is far removed from the original topic due mostly to my nudging. I will pay more attention in the future.

  3. Jim,

    First, stay on topic or I’ll just start deleting posts. 2nd. Stop hi-jacking the threads to make hit and run attacks.

    3rd since this is an informal venue my claims are as supported as yours so far. And trying to write off Orthodoxy via Plotinus is about as plausible as writing off the Gospel of John as pagan because of the use of “logos.” In fact, your own tradition is one that says that theology is dependent on philosophy so much so that you swallow Plotinus whole concerning simplicity, impassibility, God’s relations with the world, etc. Plotinus was a good Predestinarian as well. So, how’s it going over there, Mr. Pot?

    Your post illustrates exactly what I am speaking of. The Mesopotamian documents do shed light on the Biblical material, but it is not obvious that they do so in the direction of supporting a Scotistic read of it, and that is what you are simply assuming. There is more than one legal theory in the history of the world through which to interpret historical data. Simply using the legal categories, terms, etc. of the modern world to understand these documents leads to an anachronistic reading. “Lord” and “vassal” certianly aren’t Mesopotamian terms, they are feudalistic ones. Hence as I noted before you are simply begging the question.

    And I just have to laugh at the suggestion that suh evidence weakens the Orthodox notion of Covenant. What great works on ORthodox notion of Covenant have you read? Please explicate the Orthodox view of Covenant for me and then contrast it with the Reformed view. I haven’t even mentioned on this blog what the Orthodox view of Covenant is and so I think you are confusing it with theosis. Seriously, it is obvious to me that you are blowing smoke.

  4. Jim says:

    Perry,

    Your (currently) unsupported tenuous connections are an overly simplistic gloss (to borrow a term) akin to those used to write off the entire Orthodox scheme based on its obvious connections to Plotinus. I understand full well that men operate within a context defined much by their ideas of the age they’re born into. (I leave it to you to connect the last two sentences).

    I never said the Reformers had access to the Mesopotamian documents; I’m sure they had none. That has no bearing on whether or not they shed more light on the covenant relationship between God and Israel by way of providing more meaning and context to “the law” so often referred to by Paul. My rhetorical point should have been clear; the Reformers view of covenant is strengthened by this *later* understanding, while the Eastern is weakened.

    Hand waving ostrich impersonations aside, any specific references to obvious importations of Scotus into the scholarship of the ancient treaty form would be more readily accepted.

    Thanks
    Jim

  5. Dear Perry,

    My experience with the Greeks has been somewhat mixed, though positive overall. The Greek cathedral here in Hawaii has plenty of converts, but no parishioners my age. For an introvert like me, the noisy coffee hour doesn’t seem too welcoming. There are also pews, which from my experience doesn’t seem conducive to good worship. Of course, they’re still much better than the RCs here. My tiny Russian parish meets in an office building; the AC is really noisy. But, it feels more like a family here. What can I say? Holy Russia has taken my heart. Anyway, on the off chance you feel like recuperating in Hawaii after turning in that dissertation, come by to our parish! The web address is http://www.orthodoxhawaii.org/

  6. Don Bradley says:

    I spent 6 years in a Greek parish, moved, and now I have spent 2 years in an OCA convert parish. The hilarious thing is that the criticisms each has of the other are so true: I love the Greeks, I really do, but they are so clanish and xenophobic that they fail to even recognize it, they would ooze it out their pores and have it spill out their ears if they didn’t express it continually; the all-English Liturgy the OCA uses is WEAK, and I find it comical that I have been Orthodox longer than most in the parish. The OCA has very few monasteries and they really, really don’t like Elder Ephraim; even with my disagreements with him, I wish my diocese had 3 just like him.

    I like my OCA parish; good priest, nice folks that eat like Baptists and drink like Irishmen. It’s just a young parish. All things considered, I’d prefer to be a Greek because I miss the Greek singing despite how I grumbled about it for years. I have a Greek parish/club close to my home that likes their ethnicity more than Orthodoxy, which means I’ll stick with the OCA. You’re right, Perry, the Greeks think God is Greek.

    I’ve seen about 30 Chrismations in the past year. The Greeks made me squirm for 15 months as a catechumen….. it seems that Orthodox priests in all jurisdictions have become a bit quick with the Chrism oil as of late, and quick to ordain. One wonders whether this is wise. I’m not sure. We need more priests and more bodies so the parishes can function, but at what expense?

    On a good note; Holy Cross seminary will graduate its first class May 19th that has more converts than Greeks. How about that?!!

  7. acolyte says:

    Jim,

    Not all, but a lot of them simply inherit a Scotistic notion of Covenant and its underlying philosophical theology. They say the magic word “Covenant” and suppose that their notion matches up with the Mesopotamian models. They then tend to them gloss over differences between Deformation concepts and the Mesopotamian. Which is just to say that they interpret facts according to their theological committments. But of course, you wouldn’t ever do such a thing. 😉

    The Reformers simply didn’t have access to the documents you mention. They did have access and were for many of them influenced by Scotism and Ockhamism. Just rea Zwingli for example on Providence. Protestantism didn’t spring out of nowhere because people just started reading the Bible. Key notions of the Deformation have a history and a root in late scholasticism. This doesn’t seem so to most Reformed persons which is just a testament to how ignorant they are concerning scholasticism and how effective the Protestant indoctrination process is. If you think that the Deformation concepts of covenant simply sprang from the head of Calvin, Bullinger or Knox whole and skipped 2,000 years of historical development and were therefore untouched by it and not a product of it, you are not only seriously mistaken but being rather simplistic. It strikes me as rather funny to make the implicit claim that Protestantism doesn’t have a history as you seem to do. of course, I might be willing to grant that. 😉

  8. Jim says:

    Perry,

    Of course, I guess you’re right and what’s really going on is that all of the modern scholars are reading back the Scotus interpretation of covenant into the suzerain-vassal treaty form (an interesting selection given that some others would probably better fit a strictly judicial interpretation) rather than enriching the understanding of the Hebrew b’rit between God and Israel.

    After all, any honest interpretation of these legal documents would lead one inexorably to the conclusion that they are treatises on the mystical union between the suzerain and the people of the vassal. 🙂

    Jim

  9. acolyte says:

    James,

    Yes they do, but I am not privy to the specifics of their reception. To my knowledge they do not attend non-Chalcedonian services any longer. Most of them to my knowledge are refugees and out of kindness I do not press the issue and leave it to my bishop since I have little if any say in the matter. In other words, I am not the Bishop and there is no obvious and/or gross violation of the canons that I know of. with this particilar person on Pascha, THAT was obvious and so I did something.

    Adrian,

    Well, the Russians are just that much holier than the Greeks, if you get my meaning. That can be good and that can be bad. The Greeks on the other hand are a different matter. One of the reasons I went to the Greeks was because I wanted to see how bad things could get. I don’t mean to be mean or say something bad, but I wanted to see Orthodoxy “warts and all” so to speak. I also didn’t want to go to a parish of just converts, which can have its own unique set of problems. You get people who functionally think that man was made for fasting and such things. That said, I love my parish, priests et al though I have no specific loyalty to the “Greeks.” Anyone who knows me personally knows that I often mumble things about “not being Greek” which is just fine, since Jesus wasn’t. You’d be amazed at how many people are somewhat shocked to consider that fact. I regularly tell my high school Sunday School class that being Greek is nice, just like being Japanese and God isn’t particiarly concerned with either ethnicity per se. Being a Christian is another matter entirely.

    When I was received in Texas the parish was made up of mostly FOBS (fresh off the boat) Cyprians. Ironically they were on the whole, far more devout and informed than the 2nd-3rd generation Greeks in Saint Louis. Its nothing personal, that is just how things were and are.

    As for the RC’s and LEMS, I personally find LEMS repugnant. From my understanding, and I could be wrong since I am not a Roman canonist, LEMS are to be used only in extreme circumstances. Unfortunatly, the exception has become the rule, at least in my experience in the English speaking world. Recently, my mother who has returned to the Roman communion has become one. I basically chewed her out and let her know that I think even if it isn’t a sin (it probably is) it is bad for other people, her and her church. The usual retort is that they lack enough priests. Well the way you solve that problem is not by making another one, namely an innovation but by looking at the reasons why you have insufficient vocations and correct that problem. Kicking out some Sodomites that literally infest the Catholic seminary system in the US (I know, I am at SLU) would be a good start. having the priests grow beards would be a good thing as well. C.S. Lewis speaks, prophetically of course, about beards on men saying that there is more in that than you’d think. When I was younger, I didn’t understand it. I do now. I personally favor increasing the deaconate so that it is fucntionally what it is supposed to be and not a stepping stone to the priesthood.

    Jim,

    It is truely amazing how Protestants completely forget the historical roots of their concept of “covenant” in late scholasticism and then anachronistically read back into mesopotamian religio-political terms that concept as if it just sprang from the text. There were lots of notions of “covenant” floating around prior to and at the time of the Deformation. It wasn’t like Calvin and Knox were reading non-biblical Mesopotamian treaties, many of which weren’t discovered until centuries later, for their morning devotions.

    I mean everyone else who didn’t have their notion of covenant prior to and at the time must have been too stupid reading the same Hebrew text to see what they saw after all, huh? 😉 Poor Aquinas reading his Hebrew OT couldn’t see the obvious. How amazing indeed.

  10. Jim says:

    Perry,

    Ah yes, Scotus. I have always found it amazing how a thirteenth century scholastic influenced the 2nd millenium BC treaty form that the Hebrew law/covenant took.

    Jim

  11. Alithos Anesti!

    Thank God you noticed! Here at my church (I’m a ROCA catechumen), that kind of nonsense just wouldn’t be tolerated, thankfully. But when I was an RC, the priest (and lay “Eucharistic ministers”) would hand out hosts like crackerjacks. Serious problems there, if you ask me.

  12. James says:

    Perry,

    You mentioned about the Eritreans at your parish, are they communed? Do non Chalcedonians regularly attend EO services in America?

  13. Perry Robinson says:

    Jim,

    Well if I bought the Scotistic notion of “covenant” that you are working with I might accept your conclusion. In some ways revealing the mysteries as did Judas to a pagan is worse though people who are baptized bear more responsibility.

    Second, I wasn’t speaking of inward intention. Sometimes nominal members have true convictions they are just akratic.

  14. Jim says:

    oops – accidentally sent. Sorry about that….

    Anyway – I was going to ask if they are under more condemnation when they violate that covenant (of marriage) than a fornicator.

    Though I’m not sure that the analogy is apt in this case.

    Jim

  15. Jim says:

    Interesting Perry,

    Though I think you have this somewhat backward.

    It is one thing if someone is a lasped and nominal Orthodox Christian. Fine, thats bad enough. I am willing to extend charity that far. But for all I knew this guy was a Zoarastian.

    The former, being baptized and under the covenant, is under a greater condemnation (he literally eats and drinks condemnation unto himself) while the latter is a gate-crasher.

    As Doug Wilson might ask, when someone that enters into the covenant of marriage, are they under more or less condemnation when they

  16. Obadiah says:

    Good for you. I would never consider receiving the Eucharist without confessing first.
    Before I became Orthodox, I went to Liturgy almost two years and never once tried to receive communion.
    What that guy tried to do was foolish, but what his friends tried was insane. They should know better.
    Christos Anesti!

  17. Christopher says:

    An internet friend once talked about the fact that while the priests at her parish in Greece would swear up and down that they believe the Eucharist to truly be the Body and Blood of Christ, in practice they showed that they did not. This particular parish, at least, would ‘finish’ the Divine Liturgy while people were still communing since there were so many people in line. My priest here in NYC refuses to be elevated to Archimandrite because this would mean that the curtain and doors would remain open during much of the Liturgy – one of the few parishes that still seems to follow the rubrics in this regard -, and he doesn’t want to see everyone sitting down and chatting after the epiklesis when the Lord is present in the Sacrament.

    There is a point where ‘economia’ simply becomes excuses, laziness and disrespect – especially when economia begins to be taught and treated as the norm rather than the exception. The fact that we cannot reach the bar is part of the instruction of the canons and the discipline of the Church. The fact that I have the entire Rite of Preparation for Communion in my prayer book underlines the part in my paltry portion of those prayers where I claim to think myself unworthy and unable.

    Regular communion is laudable, but while this was the practice of the early Church it was a practice that was part and parcel with a lot of other things. Simply picking out regular communion without paying attention to the strict piety and morality – the canons and commandments – that went along with it is simply Protestantism. For all of the jibes at ‘crazy converts’ they are usually more attuned to the spirit of the times – especially as this is evidenced in American religion – and wary of those same influences in the Orthodox Church. I think that many ‘cradle’ Orthodox take for granted the Church and are rather naive as to the results that can come from playing with the fire of ‘I know better because I studied under so and so and he says that this isn’t the right thing to believe or the right way to serve the Liturgy, in the early Church they did…’. Your comment regarding discipline in non-Orthodox countries (which should also rightly include Greece, Russia, etc. if the truth be told) strikes right at the heart of way liturgical innovations such as the dropping of the Litany of the Catechumens are so non-sensical outside of academia.

    Rant completed. Kudos to standing up for the Orthodox faith. My Lutheran church growing up actually required those who were going to commune to sign in (!) before the service. We were asked whether we believed this was truly the Body and Blood of Christ ‘in, with and under’ the bread and wine. We were marked down also so as to ensure that members were regularly communing. (The canons of the Orthodox Church state that if you miss communing on 3 consecutive Sundays without cause you have excommunicated yourself from the Church and require reconciliation – which is perhaps why confession has become so closely bound with communion in the piety of Russians, and perhaps pious Greeks (?).)

  18. acolyte says:

    Hey,

    I didn’t post this to get a pat on the back or blow smoke somewhere it shouldn’t be. I appreciate the accolades but really my point is somewhere else.

  19. Death Bredon says:

    Perry,

    Your action was one of spiritual mercy. We know from the the New testament that the consequences of improper reception of the mysteries can be fatal. God protects himself, but often we have to protect are fellow fallen brothers from themselves. Sometimes tough love is hard in our love-equals-license age.

  20. EYTYXOΣ says:

    All I can think to say to you, Perry, is: Axios! Axios! Fortunately in our small church, our priest knows who is Orthodox and who is not and will inquire of visitors before communing them.

    And, while at first I thought the come-at-various-times attitude by Orthodox to the Liturgy was one of its charms (i.e. it’s relaxed, not legalistic), after reading, among other things, Fr. Schmemann’s book on THE EUCHARIST (I think), and coming to realize how such behavior defeats the purpose of assembling as the church by in effect turning what is to be a corporate worship gathering into a private get-your-Eucharist time, I now regard such to be a scandal and pray that it will one day be a thing of the past.

  21. acolyte says:

    We just got a 2nd priest last year. If people gave what they were supposed to, we should have at least two priests and two deacons for that many people. 60% of the giving for our parish is less than 300 bucks a year. The laxity of the people feeds the laxity in discipline. There simply aren’t enough priests in our location and there isn’t because people do not give.

    All I can say is, God help them should they ever choose to lay hands on me.

  22. orthstitcher says:

    I know in my own parish, if the priest doesn’t know him or her – and they haven’t contacted him before the Liturgy in some way – he will not commune them. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

    We don’t have that large of a parish though – we only have about 90 families or so – I am sure that makes it much easier to keep track. I am sure it is more difficult in larger parishes – though I imagine they would have more than one priest?

    Perry, you did a good thing for that man – though he has no idea of that.

  23. Fr Patrick (Monk Patrick) says:

    We had a similar incident on Pascha but unfortunately the non-Orthodox was only discovered after communing. The Priest had explicitly said that only Orthodox with a regular confession or blessing of their spiritual father etc were permitted to communion. However, one non-Orthodox still had the nerve to proceed to take communion acting like a natural Orthodox believer (he wasn’t given away by seeking instruction on how to communion).

    Our poor deacon couldn’t get over the attitude that someone like that was demonstrating. I hope that God has mercy on his poor soul. Although God doesn’t strike people down for such things very often today, I think it would be better for them that this happened than Judgement Day, unless they repent and, to the glory of God, they are received into the Reign of God. I don’t think that people realise, even Orthodox or myself, just how awesome a thing they are doing receiving communion (not that we shouldn’t do so but in remembrance of our complete unworthiness and God’s great mercy with a repentant and submissive heart. The man improperly dressed at the wedding feast was thrown out even though invited to attend because he was not properly dressed, baptised and repentant, for the feast. Strictly those even daring to remain within the nave of the Church unbaptised (received into the Orthodox Church) during the Eucharist are like this man in the parable; they shouldn’t be there.

    I agree that Orthodox need to return to more ancient vigour in maintaining Church discipline, especially in non-Orthodox countries where people do not have any understanding of the awesome mysteries before them, which Orthodox in the past dared not mention to those outside the Church lest they should blaspheme them. As Orthodox we really need to remind ourselves of what is really happening in the Liturgy and that the ancient disciplines were not just because of persecution or a certain time but always to protect souls from participating in something that they are not prepared for (in the wide sense) and being responsible for this, although those permitting them are also responsible.

    Well done for being bold enough to act, you did that fellow a huge favour. Even though I am aware of the concern of causing offence but I wish there was more of the attitude in Priests giving communion of: “But as they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the remaining virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ “But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly I say to you, I do not know you.'” That is if the Priest doesn’t know them (as having heard their confessions) and they do not have a letter or others to recommend them then they should be sent away without communion. Church life and theology is no game; it is a matter of eternal life or death of our souls.

  24. What a strange Pascha story. Good for you. The faith is worth defending.

  25. acolyte says:

    Militus Christi,

    Yes it seemed so, but I know most of the people at my parish at least by a glance and while I had seen them before they don’t come that regularly. That was another reason why I was shocked. I don’t mean to be rude or in any way acting in anger but it just seemed so intrinsically wrong to me. I will keep an eye out for whoever it was, but I fear they are part of the once a year crowd. At my parish it is hard to tell since it is so large (750 families) with some of them going here for a while and then going to our sister parish in west county. I don’t mean to encourage some kind of self righteousness but I can’t see how a bit more observation and some courage on the part of the laity could hurt.

    It just freaked me out.

  26. David Richards says:

    Alethos Anesti! Perry, you kick ass; we need more righteous Nicholases backhanding Ariuses!

  27. […] Apr 9th, 2007 by Benedict Seraphim Man, do I love Orthodoxy! […]

  28. “…Say your name and then do this…”

    So were there actually Orthodox people ‘helping’ someone non-Orthodox receive from the chalice? Seems as though that would be an equal if not greater sacrilege…

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