Volume 3, Number 1

January 17, 2012

Theme: “Why am I still here?”

We asked different members of our Church to reflect on why they chose to remain in the Church as adults.

Articles:

Because of the Words of Eternal Life

by His Grace, Bishop Matthias

Because Belief Leads to Life

by Father Daniel Rentel

Because of the Pursuit of Jesus Christ

by Dr. Peter Bouteneff

Because the Journey Never Ends

by Mrs. Rebekah Moll

Because of that Charlie Brown Christmas Special

by Mr. William Kopcha

 

More information about our Authors and Contributors can be found here.

 


Because of the Words of Eternal Life

January 17, 2012

by His Grace, Bishop Matthias

When I contemplate the events of my life, I suppose there were times when, in regards to the Orthodox Church, I may have asked the question, “Why am I still here?”  I am what some call “cradle Orthodox,” meaning I was baptized in the Orthodox Church soon after birth.  My father is cradle Orthodox, and my mother converted to Orthodoxy prior to her marriage to my father.  Growing up, we didn’t attend Church regularly.  In fact, we were Christmas and Easter Orthodox Christians.  The turning point in our Church life was when I was about ten, and my grandmother on my father’s side departed.  The priest showed kindness to my family and buried her from the funeral home, and it impacted my father in a positive way.  This same priest, Father Stephen Jula, left what was then the Metropolia (future OCA) and started a mission parish in the Carpatho-Russian Diocese.  My parent’s faith renewed, we began attending this new parish on a regular basis.

At the age of twelve, I became more involved in the Church by reading the Hours and Epistle.  Soon after I graduated high school, Father Stephen invited me to travel with him to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to visit the seminary.  I met Bishop John, the Hierarch of the Carpatho-Russians at the time, as he was leaving the Cathedral in his beautiful and impressive vestments.  He was walking to his home next door, and I’m sure an 18-year-old was the last person he planned to talk to that day.  Bishop John stopped and asked what my plans were now that I had graduated.  I told him I planned to join the Marines.  He said to me, and these words still ring in my head, “Why don’t you join the army of Christ and come to seminary?”  It was as though the Lord had spoken to me.  I went home with my priest and decided to go to seminary that September, just to try it out.  I remember making the commitment that I would attend for one year, whether I liked it or not, and then decide what to do.  After a few weeks of experiencing the studies, the services, and the brotherhood of seminary, I made up my mind that it was for me.  I eventually graduated seminary, got married, and was ordained to the Holy Priesthood.  This bishop gave me five minutes of his time, and it changed my entire life.

The Few, The Proud, The Seminarians

I actually considered monasticism during my last two years of seminary, probably because I didn’t think I would ever meet someone I wanted to marry.  Once again, the Lord had other plans.  I met my future wife, Jeannette, during my last year of seminary, and there was no doubt that I wanted to marry her and be a married priest.

We had a wonderful life together, serving the parishes to which we were assigned and raising two beautiful children.  We had been married 24 years and our children were in college, and I remember a particular moment when I thought life couldn’t be any better.  I remember how happy I was and that I felt blessed to have the family I had.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  My wife was diagnosed with acute leukemia.  It was a type that needed to be put into remission immediately.  So, for the next eleven months, we battled this disease with prayer and the best doctors in Philadelphia.  She spent seven of those last eleven months of her life in the hospital and fell asleep in the Lord on March 26, 1997.  She departed this life minutes after receiving the Eucharist from me in her hospital bed in our home, following the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. I didn’t know how I would live without my soul mate.  I remember being devastated and filled with fear.  Fear, because I really didn’t think I would be able to survive or live life without her.

I visited monasteries for the next several years figuring I would eventually take the monastic tonsure since I truly believed that Orthodox priests are either married or monastic.  I felt that monastic tonsure would be my recommitment to the Holy Priesthood.  After many trips to the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala where I spent time with the nuns, I also stayed more than a month at the Iviron Monastery on Mt. Athos in 2003.  I was tonsured a monastic on October 14, 2003.  I remained a parish priest but also visited monasteries and tried the best I could to live a monastic life, though I felt that I fell so short.

The Iviron Monastery on Mount Athos

In 2006, I was assigned to St. Gregory Church in Seaford, New York, where I thought I would stay until my retirement, at which time I would begin my continued ministry in Guatemala.  Once again, God had other plans.  I was nominated and then elected by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to be the Bishop of Chicago and the Diocese of the Midwest.  I was elected November 16, 2010, and consecrated April 30, 2011.

Why am I still here – in the Orthodox Church?  I guess the best answer to that question is found in the exchange that our Lord had with St. Peter the Apostle in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 6.  At the time, Jesus was preaching “… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6: 53)  Many of the disciples stopped following Christ at that time saying, “This is a hard saying, who can understand it.?” (John 6:60)  Jesus asked the Apostles if they too were going to go away, and Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The Orthodox Church is the New Testament Church – it is the Faith of the Apostles and the Fathers!  Where else would I go when I know the Orthodox Church has the fullness of Truth and has been faithful to the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I have been blessed with many things in my life and, although I have experienced loss and tragedy in this fallen world, I know that it is the Lord that strengthens me and is united to me through the Holy Eucharist.  I look forward to the life beyond this fallen world.  No matter the crosses we bear in this life, no matter the tragedies we experience, no matter the failures of human beings, the Lord remains faithful to us!  The Lord and His Bride, the Church, will always sustain us, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

His Grace extends his blessing to the faithful following his ordination to the episcopacy


Because Belief Leads to Life

January 17, 2012

By Father Daniel Rentel

“Why am I still here, in this Church,” is a good question.  I’ve really had to think about it, to reflect, to tease out the elements that have supported belief, the temptations that challenged and discredited it.  It’s been a good exercise.  I’ve come to realize that I believe because, with God’s grace, I’ve determined that there’s no place else to go where I can be.

From the beginning something about the church appealed to me and answered my innate need to believe. I was born into an ethnic family in central Pennsylvania. My family roots could be found in the mountains of Central Europe, but the Church of  Sts. Peter and Paul was liturgically bound to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North And South America, the Metropolia.  We used Old Church Slavonic and heard  Russian sermons, used Russian Tones, 4 part harmony – Bortniansky was in our repertoire – and there were Russian language classes.  I would go to confession; the priest would recite a prayer (in Slavonic), I’d tell sins in English. It would end by his asking, “You sorry?” I’d say yes and he would then offer a departing prayer in Slavonic.

So it went, but in all honesty there was more. We fasted – Jesus would be crucified and die for us. Everybody knew that. Jesus rose from the dead! We knew that. We feasted.  We ate blessed food for a week. every day at another Aunt or Uncle’s house.We celebrated two Christmases: the New Calendar Christmas exchange and food of the no fasting variety, the 7th of January being the ‘religious one’. To me,  the 7th  meant no presents, but a day off of school and it was always supposed to snow.

There were the sounds of the Church that became part of my inheritance. The old ladies would come to Church early enough so that they could almost whistle their prayers kneeling way in the back, close to the potbelly stoves that heated the women’s side of the sanctuary. The intensity of their prayers made me think that they had to go somewhere to Someone, and these babas were bound together by the common Faith they shared.

Another important memory was of processions, which   worked their way around the Church in such a way that one just knew that the sadness of the walk with the ‘Plaschanitsa’ was different from the one where they pounded on the doorway  so as to enter a Church filled with light, wondrous smells, open doors, and joy that moved itself from individual to community.

The Winding Sheet or "Plaschanitsa" on Holy Friday

Eventually, English-speaking priests came. We opened a Sunday School that met on Wednesdays. I thrilled at the Old Testament stories that came first. I did. Not only were they heroes, but they somehow pointed to Jesus: Jonah in the belly of the whale usually comes first to mind when I think back. Or was it Abraham and Isaac, both so trusting, it actually bothered me for quite some time because I couldn’t see myself going to the limits as they did.  Despite some obstacles in my early experiences, what was there was necessary but not sufficient.  My senses had been stirred and my intellect challenged.  I wanted more.

Coptic Icon of Abraham and Isaac

For complicated reasons that to this day I  don’t fully understand,  I decided in my early teens that I wanted to be a priest. Once the beckoning implanted itself, I never completely lost what became a calling. And, it happened, not without some struggle. My first year of seminary was  a disappointment in my quest for knowledge and understanding, as classes were taught in the Russian language.  However, I formed sound and close relationships with my fellow seminarians.  Their identical desire to respond to a calling promoted discussion, self-teaching, and camaraderie. Several of us left early in the fall of our second year to attend another seminary where classes were rendered in English.. After spending a year and a half  there,  several of us went back to the Seminary we had left. We were met by a new administration, a course of studies in English, and a growing premonition that Orthodox life in this country was beginning to change.

Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection, New York City

I graduated and two years later was married.  Soon thereafter  I was ordained at the Cathedral in New York. All was in Church Slavonic.  Despite my intention to enter the priesthood, when actually faced with the reality, I was in  a state of  panic,  praying against all odds that at least some parts of the service would be in English.  It was not to be.   To my amazement the one who became my champion was the grand and fearsome Russian Protodeacon of the time. He found me cowering in a far corner of the altar, discovered I had no real knowledge of  the Russian language,  and took pity, speaking broken English and leading me through the proceedings. To this say, I bless him.  That occasion was 49 plus years ago.

Our experiences of parish life were mixed, as is often the case. I served one parish whose warden  threatened to kill our dog, another that could not see its way to provide a $25.00 raise despite a paltry salary, and a mission that we loved dearly that finally couldn’t afford to go on. We left there with heavy heart.   The mission collapsed but the mission experience allowed me to see as never before the catholic nature of Orthodoxy.  It dawned on me that Orthodoxy could more than survive in twentieth century America.  That was a revelation.

"We'll get you Father, and your little dog too!"

But in the process of furthering my education, I reentered the world of ethnic congregations while I serviced some small parishes in mining towns. These small places somehow reignited my faith. Despite shrinking numbers, shrinking incomes, shrinking opportunities, these believers hung on.  Their kindness to me  was overwhelming.  The back seat of  my car on Sundays became shelving for fresh eggs, wild strawberry preserves, home made bread, and even kolachi. The people in these mountain towns were convicted in their faith and revealed in their generosity and brave gentility an element of the enduring qualities of faith.

A desire for more schooling forced a move to Columbus, Ohio. While here  initially on a fellowship,  I was put on loan to the Midwest Diocese as a supply priest.  I was then  directed by Central Church authorities to explore the possibility of establishing a mission  in Cincinnati, Ohio, about 125 miles to the southwest.  This ended up a seven year commute that  allowed me to come into ownership of my Faith.  My family and I became for a time spiritual nomads. My wife worked and went herself to graduate school. Finally, the stress and strain on the family front, and the demands of serving a mission two hours’ drive away, while continuing to pursue my own doctoral studies,  all caught up with me. One Sunday, I  pulled into a rest stop, crying.   For two hours at an interstate rest stop, all came into question. In those crisis moments, words offered to me by my Father Confessor surfaced:  “The Fathers tell us that we all go into spiritual deserts, arid and empty. Just go on. Whenever fitting, you’ll find yourself drinking new life in an oasis God will provide.” It didn’t happen instantaneously, but it did happen.

"Just go on."

When I was 54 years of age, I suffered a massive heart attack, and my life hung in the balance for several days.  Even on the border of life and death, the prayers from my youth sustained me, but with a whole new depth of meaning.   Area clergy  anointed me. I knew them only by their countenance: kindness, love, and spiritual brightness – they brought the Lord to me in a holy Mystery.

Now I have retired from what has been ultimately a most rewarding pastoral experience at St. Gregory’s in Columbus.  The challenges of a parish in an urban setting necessitated the fulfilling of Gospel injunctions that I’d not faced before.  I believe that I had become a true shepherd of “rational sheep”; the notion of hierarchy and conciliarity became for me a reality.  What a gift that has been!

So why am I still a believer?  Looking back, I can say without presumption but with total conviction that I believe that God has been with me all the days of my life.  I recognize that at some level, one chooses to believe or not, but I now understand that the greater reality is the absurdity of faith.  The notion of nonbelief I see has a trick of the Evil One, a trick that leads to despair and emptiness.  Belief leads to life! Through belief, I belong to something greater than myself.   Through belief, my life has purpose, structure and meaning—it is life itself. . Through faith, my senses and my intellect have been nourished abundantly.  Through faith I have been called in the most personal way to overcome doubts along the way, and, God willing, in the future.


Because of the Pursuit of Jesus Christ

January 17, 2012

By Dr. Peter Bouteneff

This writing assignment intrigued me: ask people who are committed to the Church why they are “still” here. The implication is that there are reasons not to want to be involved with the Church, and of course there are. “Organized religion” can be a hard sell, generally speaking. Increasing information about the multiplicity of religious and non-religious viewpoints, many of which seem very wise and reasonable, make people wonder why anyone would want to commit to just one view as “the true way.” And, for us cradle-Orthodox, the Church is so easy to associate exclusively with our family background and with our ethnicity, something that we ought to transcend as we grow up, even if we retain a sentimental attachment to it. And then of course there are scandals financial and sexual, Church squabbles, and Church priorities which sometimes seem all askew.

All of these factors are serious, and all of them have affected me – sometimes powerfully – at points in my life.

When I think of the many factors that have kept me in the Church, for which I thank God every day, I think a lot about the people I was surrounded with. Since my childhood I was close to people who were completely genuine, and also completely committed to the Church. Their relationship to the Church was real and penetrated their whole being. One such person was my confessor through my entire childhood, up until his death when I was 23 years old. He was Fr Alexander Schmemann. Partly owing to his influence, and that of my parents whose relationship to the Church was also deep-set and organic (yes, ethnic, but never obsessively so), the church-types I gravitated towards were normal people. They weren’t ideologues. Which means that their real priorities didn’t lie with things like the calendar (old or new), ecumenism or anti-ecumenism, or The One Right Kind of Iconography. They knew when God was properly praised, when Christ was rightly confessed, and when people were being real. Their BS-sensors were finely tuned. Like me, their reactions to the ideologues was some combination of puzzlement, “yuck,” and boredom.

Not everyone can grow up with Fr Schmemann as an uncle-figure, and not everyone who grew up in his orbit ended up sticking with the Church, as many of my extended family attest! But aside from the overall benefits of being around genuineness and realism, one specific thing all this taught me was how to “place” sin and holiness within the Church experience. Because, let’s be honest, the whole thing can sound so confusing and so schizophrenic: on the one hand, we profess faith in “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” an inherently sinless body. And on the other hand, we don’t have to probe very far to find signs of everything that is opposite to unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. Oh look – news of another schism, another financial scandal, another act of bigotry in the name of pious Holy Orthodoxy. A clergy fist-fight in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, for crying out loud! (Google it if you must.)

So where is the Church? What do we even mean by the word? Here are a couple of principles I’ve learned to try to live by:

First, although there is mud, don’t get stuck in it. Learn to recognize, first and foremost, holiness in the Church. It’s there. Right among you, in your parish, as well as in what you see when you travel, what you read in its pages. Holiness is there in sometimes unexpected, unassuming, imperfect ways, and sometimes in very clear-cut ways. And holiness wins.

"...although there is mud, don’t get stuck in it."

Second, don’t be in denial of the mud, the sin. This can be hard for some people to do, because their definition of the Church is so totally exalted and so undifferentiated that they can’t figure out how the word “sin” could possibly figure into the picture. They’re right, Church is holy. But guess what: its members are all sinners, striving for holiness. The Church is not the sum total of its sinful members. It is their hospital. It is our hospital.

"It is our Hospital."

These lead to the third point: the mud is not the Church. Never let sin define the Church for you, because that would be seeing things really, completely backwards. The Church is Jesus Christ: not of the world, yet fully in the world – and sinless, with the holiness of God himself. The Church’s members, from the very top on down, are charged with being Christ’s body. We simultaneously are the Church, and are striving to become the Church.

Fourth, when thinking of scandals, don’t get self-righteous: recall that you and I are sinners too. We’re the scandal. Sin takes us away from the reality of the Church, such that we have to be called back into it. That’s why the priest says after we’ve confessed our sins: “Reunite this, your servant, with your holy flock.” We have to be the Church. Together. Calling ourselves and each other into it, constantly.

The upshot is that every time we recite that line in the creed, “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” we can take it as an invitation to reflect on what that Church is. We can try to ensure that it’s not simply a Church that we are conceptualizing in our own image, or along the pattern of our own possibly deluded ideals. Because our pursuit of identifying the real Church, as an article of faith, as a body that we seek constantly to represent, is finally the pursuit of Jesus Christ himself. The Church, after all, is his body – it is the continuation of his incarnate life. That is what we are saying is holy, whole, full, and sent into the world (i.e., one, holy, catholic, apostolic). And that’s what I want to be in, that is what I want to partake in, eat of, implicate myself in, and continue to grow closer to. And I want to do it together with all these nutty people who, like myself, are groping our way forward in a messy world. That’s why I’m still here.

Why I am still here


Because the Journey Never Ends

January 17, 2012

By Rebekah Moll

A few years ago, I may have thought I was Orthodox simply because of the community I was surrounded by.  Moving to a church in which I knew no one, taught me that although community is an important part of Orthodoxy, the core reason behind me staying Orthodox does not lie there, nor does it begin there.

It began simply with my family.  I grew up cradle Orthodox in a very pious family, my mom working in the church as a church secretary and my dad eventually becoming tonsured a reader.  My parents showed me in the home that Orthodoxy was a way of life, not simply a religion practiced on Sundays.  Together we followed the fasts, prayed, and had our own set of religious discussions.

Outside of the home I was blessed to grow up within a loving community at St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN, one of the largest Orthodox congregations in the U.S., where there were many young people and caring older generations.  After worship on Sundays, there was fellowship at coffee hour, which was then followed by Sunday school.  During the week, there was choir practice and occasional youth events, all of which helped me to create solid relationships and in turn made church life more meaningful.

St. Mary's Cathedral

During college, several of my church friends went away to school, but I still found ways to connect with the Orthodox community by Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) at the University of Minnesota.  I started to date someone outside the faith during my final college years who I married a month out of college.  While we were dating, his desire to learn about and convert to Orthodoxy led us on a new journey that taught us much about our shared faith today.

My youth was filled with people who fueled my spiritual growth.  After marriage, however, I experienced a lull in that growth.  I was working as a full time high school English teacher and needed the faith as an outlet for the overwhelming emotions a teacher experiences, but I felt an increasing emptiness.  I felt that I needed “more.”  More of what was a mystery, but I started to seek it.  I began visiting other Orthodox churches, but that was not enough to satisfy me.  I then went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with a local Christian Organization, and on that trip, I experienced an affirmation in the Orthodox faith while at the same time found a new admiration for the Protestant faithful.  Still, despite these attempts, I remained unfulfilled.

God heard my cry, and I accepted a part time position as a youth minister at a nearby Greek Orthodox Church.  There, I needed to go to that church to fulfill the requirements of the position.  It was a church where I recognized a few faces from pan-Orthodox activities, but had no solid relationships.  My reason to go to this church was not because of the community; it was my job.  The comfort I used to know at St. Mary’s where I was surrounded by people I knew my whole life, was gone.  As an employee, I had to think about the concerns of my work, which made it hard to be at peace during worship.  I was not happy with how my work was causing my attention to shift during Liturgy. I knew I had to let go of worry and uncertainty and focus on the one thing I thought was certain: God.

Before this new experience, I looked to others in the community for development in the faith.  Now I learned that I needed to seek God first.  Through God’s grace my emptiness began to fill.  From meeting and working with youth directors from various churches, I was given new literature to explore.   As an English teacher and major, I have a natural love for reading and to this day can’t seem to stop reading Orthodox-related texts.  I also started to attend various talks and lectures, and listened to numerous podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio. Through all this, my education in the faith increased.  In Liturgy at the new church, my heart began to feel more in tune with God, and I realized that my focus was being re-set in the right place.

During services, I began to experience a tremendous feeling of unity with everyone around me, even though I was just beginning to form relationships with the parishioners.  Having come from an environment in which I naturally looked to the people as a source of strength, in my new situation I found myself looking at the faces of the saints in the icons near my place in church and asking for their prayers.  For me, this awakened my understanding of the unity that extends beyond the physical community we are surrounded by.  I felt a relationship beginning to grow with the saints depicted in the icons, and developed a sense of the heavenly kingdom in the celebration each Liturgy.

"...a sense of the heavenly kingdom..."

The reason I am still Orthodox does not end here.  I am still Orthodox because it is a never ending journey.  As one who does not like books to end, Orthodoxy is like a wonderful novel that has no final page.  One continues to learn, and there is always room for growth.  As I grew in the faith, so did my sense of unity.  I found that when I sought God first, I not only found a spiritual connection with the people worshiping around me, but also with the heavenly community which stretches beyond the people around me:  the angels and the saints.   I find Orthodoxy to be a faith of unity through God’s grace if one seeks it.  I am still Orthodox because I continue to seek it.


Because of that Charlie Brown Christmas Special

January 17, 2012

By William Kopcha

I recently had the good pleasure of seeing, for the first time in many, many years, the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  For those of you unfamiliar with the movie (which is free on Hulu and takes about 25 minutes), here’s a brief synopsis:

Charlie Brown, a lad of about eight years, is mysteriously struck with a case of the blues – a phenomenon that baffles him, since Christmas is approaching and he “should be happy.”  After consulting his friends, including seeking “psychiatric help” from Lucy for a grand total of 5¢, he pins it on the “commercialization of Christmas.”  His friends think that putting him in charge of the Christmas play will cheer him up, but not only does it never materialize, his actors send him out on a mission to get a Christmas tree to use as a prop – apparently a thinly-veiled excuse to get rid of him.  He chooses the only real tree in the lot, which ends up being a tiny, pathetic-looking thing that wins him a lot of abuse from his peers, who in the end, for no apparent reason, decide that it’s not so bad after all.  Miraculously, this makes everyone (including Charlie Brown) happy.  Singing ensues.

"Singing ensues."

As a kid, my analysis of the movie was basically this:  “First Charlie Brown was sad.  Then Charlie Brown was happy.  Yay Christmas!”

Now, it is (somewhat shockingly) obvious that the movie is essentially Charlie Brown’s cry of existential alienation.  It’s deep – deep in a way that makes me wish I had a fireplace and a bathrobe so I could sit around with a snifter of cognac, listening to Schroeder’s jazz rendition of “Christmas Time is Here” and basking in my own intellectualism.  For now, my desk lamp and burnt coffee will have to do.

Charlie Brown starts the movie being the only one who realizes the utter absurdity of the world around him and, by the end, adds only Linus – a kid who is still toting around his blanket and sucking his thumb years after he should have outgrown this and who, somehow, is the only sane and rational one in the entire story, using his few, measured words to poignantly express the Biblical Christmas story and its theological implications for the salvation of mankind, the true cause for Christmas joy.  By contrast, the rest of the world clings to symbols that it neither understands nor cares to understand.  The Christmas tree lot pushes flashy pink and yellow solid aluminum trees that become an end in themselves; his dog, Snoopy, enters and then wins the neighborhood “lights and display contest,” again an expression of joy that has been completely divorced from its origins; Lucy, rather than giving him psychiatric advice, goes on about how much she loves the sound of nickels going in her collection jar and then diverts the conversation with a bunch of canned psychobabble and prescribes distraction; later, she declares herself the “Christmas Queen” on account of her beauty and becomes insulted when he doesn’t immediately agree;  Charlie’s little sister dictates her letter to Santa to him, encouraging Santa to send either very specific gifts or cash, and declares that all she wants is her “fair share;” everyone else seems never to really listen to a word that Charlie Brown says (save, of course, Linus) despite physically hearing and instead carries on with whatever their preferred distraction is, be it throwing snowballs at a can or dancing instead of rehearsing for the Christmas play.

"They don't understand..."

They don’t understand his trepidation and berate him for wondering if there is actually something to understand about the world, calling him a “blockhead” who “can never do anything right.”  Schroeder seems to see understand the absurdity, uttering a very exasperated, “Good grief!” at Lucy’s assessment that Beethoven was over-rated because he never got his picture on a bubble gum wrapper, but chooses to bury himself in his piano playing rather than exert the effort of saying or doing anything to oppose her.  Essentially, everyone except Charlie Brown and Linus are too absorbed in materialism, infatuations, achievements, nonsensical theories and self-justifications, and themselves to realize or even care that they might be missing the point.

The older I get, the more I feel like Charlie Brown.  People are really good at lying, and most of all at lying to themselves.  I guess it’s easier than the alternative.  And I don’t mean to belittle the value of having other people who care enough to stick with you when you don’t see eye-to-eye – sometimes it is the simple fact that I have a community that keeps me going.

But it is really the few Linuses in the world, and specifically, those that I have found in Orthodoxy – and why not in Orthodoxy, while we’re at it, which preoccupies itself so much with the Truth and discerning reality such that we can act with real love, without pretense or ulterior motives – that have not only solidified my presence as a body in the Church, but have also served to motivate me to serve It in a more active capacity.  Some members of my family and my college OCF are included in this category.  However, like Linus, who initially tells Charlie, “You’re the only person I know who could take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem,” they’re not always nice about it – but sometimes this is the only way that I’m sure that they’re sincere.  I once dubbed a certain nun “the mean one” in a monastery that I was visiting, only to discover that in addition to yelling at people in church, she also made sure that people who needed it got time near a space heater that was the church’s only source of heat.  (It was January in Eastern Poland.)  I once witnessed a the abbot of another monastery chew out a novice in public for misuse of the monastery car, only to hug him and reassure him that he yelled at the novice because he loved him and was concerned for his safety.  Closer to home, there is a certain priest’s family that mine has been very close to since they moved to our town.  Both families have since moved.  Now, the mom yells at me if I don’t come to visit.  She yells at me if I do come to visit – apparently, I don’t do it often enough or should have called first.  Either way, she yells, and in so doing, I know that she cares if I visit or not.  She cares whether or not my visit is the best that it could be.  She cares.  Period.  So she yells.  She doesn’t say, “How are you?” and expect your only response to be “fine” and then go on as if you don’t exist.  Given the alternative, I’ll take the yelling, thank you very much.


Volume 3, Number 1, Authors and Contributors

January 17, 2012

His Grace, Bishop Matthias [Moriak] is the bishop of Chicago and the Midwest for the Orthodox Church in America. His official biography can be found here.

Archpriest Daniel Rentel is a retired priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He was the founding pastor of both Christ the Savior/Holy Spirit Church in Cincinnati, OH and St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in Columbus, Ohio. He retired last fall after 49 years of faithful service to the Church.

Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff is Associate Professor in Systematic Theology at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds a D.Phil in Theology from Oxford University. Check out his podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, “Sweeter than Honey”, and his book of the same name.

Rebekah Moll is a high school English teacher in Spring Lake Park Minnesota.  Her home parish is St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis.  She holds a M.Ed. from the University of Minnesota and has previously worked as a youth minister at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, MN.  She is active in the pan-Orthodox community in the Twin Cities writing camp curriculum for summer and fall youth camps. 

William Kopcha is a graduate student of the University of Connecticut where he studied Chemistry and Materials Science. He grew up in Connecticut and Vermont. He attends Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Southbury, CT. He is a past member and former president of the University of Connecticut Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Will teaches high school Chemistry and Physics.  He is a frequent contributor to this blog.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 269 other followers