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.