The question of how the Orthodox Church should receive converts from other Christian confessions is a large and complicated one, and is sometimes capable of drawing very warm responses—including from some of our Protestant and Roman Catholic brethren who may feel rejected and slighted by talk of conversion from their confessions to that of Orthodoxy.
Secondly we should beware of the temptation to conform to all the current canons of political correctness. It is true that many if not most in the Jewish community find offensive the classic Christian assertion that “the Jews killed Christ”, and some have gone to the lengths of denying any Jewish responsibility at all and putting the entire responsibility for His death on the Romans. It is also true that the statement, “the Jews killed Christ” is so general as to be unhelpful.
One may have four friends or more, but (in Christian thought) only one spouse. Conjugal union is, by definition, a union of two and only two, because it is sexual. Friends stand symbolically side by side; spouses, face to face. The face to face posture of spouses expresses, both symbolically and physically, the sexuality of their union, and its essential difference from Friendship.
We all have seen the statue of Justice holding her scales and wearing a blindfold so that she cannot be subject to partiality or bribery. That blindfold should obscure her tears as well, for one may well shed tears even when administering just punishment. All punishment for crime, whether execution or incarceration, represents a defeat for society, and should be administered with sorrow—and for Christians, with prayer for all, perpetrator as well as victim.
I understand some of this denunciation of the Most High on online forums and the like—some people are simply angry at Christianity and happily use any stick with which to beat Christians. They take some Old Testament verses out of their literary context and entirely out of their cultural context and start shouting. What is more perplexing to me is finding some Christians arguing that the Old Testament deity is insufficiently Christ-like. I expect the unbelievers to throw large chunks of the Bible angrily across the room. But I expected believers to be more respectful of what is for them, after all, Holy Writ.
Whatever discussions occur regarding the possible revival or creation of an order of female deacon, let us all at least be open and truthful. Let us admit that this is not that: the proffered model of deaconess bears little resemblance to the ancient order. Let us therefore debate possibility of the new model on its own modern merits.
Given that our worship takes place in heaven it is not surprising to see so many icons on the walls around us, nor that we ask for the prayers of the Mother of God and the saints and angels. Since we have ascended to heaven, we find ourselves invisibly surrounded by the saints who also stand with us in heaven’s court. With what else should be adorn our church walls and icon corners but their images?
Why this insistence on exclusion? The Fathers of Nicea wanted to exclude heresy from the Church for the same reason that a doctor wants to exclude cancer from the body of his patient—because if he includes the cancer in the patient’s body, the result will be the death of the patient. Cancer kills, and so does heresy. Heresy is not simply incorrect opinion, akin to getting a numerical sum wrong. Heresy is stubbornly refusing to accept the truth, in exactly the same way as someone who has been poisoned might stubbornly refuse to accept swallowing the antidote. A person who has been poisoned will die. And the good intentions of the heretic notwithstanding (for who knowingly accepts error?), the person who refuses God’s provided remedy of Christ will also die.
One joins a church or a monastic community precisely because it is in some way unlike the modern world, and presents one with a clear alternative to secularism. The different clothing witnesses to the presence of this clear alternative—one rooted in the past centuries and preserving its liturgical practice, history, tradition, and dogma.
For me the perplexing thing about the gap is not that it exists—secularists will be secular, after all, and most people are too busy living life to spend much time questioning the underlying presuppositions of their culture. For me the perplexing thing is how Christians could come to deny the existence of the demonic
The popularity of Destination Weddings is a symptom of a more profound cultural dysfunction. The problem is not just that this is a rich person’s game, and one that effectively excludes as guests those not able to bear the cost of jetting away to the Destination and staying at a fancy hotel.
We know how it will really unfold—with the last trumpet, and the voice of the archangel, and the resurrection of the dead, and the final triumph of Jesus, and the new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God like a bride adorned for her husband. We know what others don’t. We know the word “maranatha”.
America has not yet become Babylon the Great, despite the recent legal ruling. But even if it does, so what? We can peek at the end of the Book, and see how the story will end. And it turns out that it will end with glory, with the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
The pastoral irony of all this, of course, is that any Christian who asks a priest with trembling whether or not he has committed the unforgivable sin cannot possibly have committed it, for the question proves that the one asking it loves Jesus and fears being separate from Him.
It is especially important to remember this at the Feast of the Ascension, for the Ascension is not only the triumph of God, but even more the triumph of Man. We do not glorify God by belittling man and denying humanity its proper glory. Humanism, with its emphasis on the splendour of the human person, at least gets that right.