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#301 Guest_Rebecca

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 03:02 AM

Hi Margaret,

I can't prove anything, but can offer pea brain response with good hearted intent... Posted Image

Should it be unthinking, unquestioning, based on suspension of free thought

I think this is good question. If I can take the discussion to extremes perhaps not originally intended, I would say that although I really do agree with Matthew's post in as much as he speaks of obedience to God and His commandments, and obedience in daily life to a degree, and add that I do believe that the Orthodox Church brings us to God with clarity and focus, I also remember hearing a priest say something like "go ahead and (something that the Church teaches is sinful), if there will be a judgement for it, let me be judged for it"...

And what about St. Mark of Ephesus?

So I would argue that obedience, understood in that generic moral sense, is perfectly achievable outside the confines of a religious system, especially if one has become unchurched, for whatever reason.

But is that really enough to give meaning and provide peace in the turbulence of life?


#302 M A Jackson-Roberts

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 11:12 AM

And your thoughts, as ever, dear Fr A, are immensely to be treasured and savoured over time.


a seeker, willing to be instructed by a generous- hearted avatar.


#303 Jim Nee

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 02:50 PM

All,

At the risk of interrupting this tremendous dailogue, I did want to quickly step in and say "thank you" for all the words expressed to my original questions. I've also benefitted much from the discourse it seems to have sparked. Thank you again.


#304 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 08:17 PM

But a question here about obedience. Should it be unthinking, unquestioning, based on suspension of free thought?


No. It should be thoughtful, reverent, based on full use of unrestrained but controlled will. I'm not sure what "free thought" is, unless it is thinking that I don't pay for....and remember you get what you pay for...

I was taught in early childhood that conscience is the best moral guide of all, but the success of that maxim depends crucially upon an inculcation of a strong sense of right and wrong at a formative stage.


Conscience is not simply a matter of learning "right or wrong", it is a matter of hearing the still quiet voice of God in a world full of noise and distractions. This takes a great effort of will and thought, free or otherwise. It takes obedience.

So I would argue that obedience, understood in that generic moral sense, is perfectly achievable outside the confines of a religious system, especially if one has become unchurched, for whatever reason.


Certainly, but obedience for its own sake is meaningless. Obedience is not an end in itself, it is a means by which we learn to break the bonds of self and experience God.

Some free thoughts, and worth every penny,
Herman

#305 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 08:34 PM

Fr. Thomas Hopko once talked about a teaching he did at a Buddhist monastery. One of the monastics taught him a Zen koan: "if you meet the Buddha, you must kill the Buddha." Fr. Thomas replied: "Christianity teaches us that if you meet Christ, you must let Christ kill you."

Another free thought, for what it's worth...

Herman


#306 M. Rallis

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 12:40 AM

Dear Matthew:

In your post #478 you said many insightful things, and I really enjoyed reading and studying your post. One phrase that caught my eye was:

“God is Himself love, and His acts are love, and our relationship to Him is, in its perfection, an iconic image and adopted realization of the intra-Trinitarian love that is His by nature. “

So, then, could one say that the love which we seek to participate in is different from any human concept of love, in as much as we are seeking adoption into the Trinitarian Love, a communion with what we are not.

If, so, then surely the detachment from created things, a fruit of obedience, must needs come first. We must, in a sense, abandon all earthly cares and concepts, so as to receive the Trinitarian, the Godly. Our own will stands in our way, as you have said.

In this light, only by crucifying our own will can we achieve true freedom, and truly live the life God created us for.


#307 Melissa

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 02:05 AM

I've read with such interest the discussions about obedience and love, but something 'within' this thread (and occasionally others) is bothering me that I'd like to mention. With apologies to you, Fr. Averky, and anyone else who may have talked about converts -- I want to say that not all converts come to Orthodoxy looking for the "lovey-dovey" approach to God or to a 'soft' understanding of His love for us. Not all converts try to fight the church's teachings on obedience, before or after realizing they love our Lord. Some of us come to the Orthodox church because we are longing for the structure of the Christian tradition that is upheld; longing to be held accountable; longing to be able to confess our sins and repent; and yes, longing to be reassured of His love for us. Some of us come because we want the discipline, however frequently we may fail, and however little we may understand it in the beginning. By the grace of God we will grow.
If someone wants to be Orthodox but complains about venerating icons, honoring the Theotokos, or whatever - maybe they're not serious about it, or more generously, perhaps they haven't spent enough time as Catechumens. I know no one said "all converts" as they then go on to talk about the less open or critical attitudes some converts have...but I got a little reactive. Please hear my heart through my sinfulness. And please give some of us converts a little more credit.
In Christ's love, and with appreciation for all of you, from whom I am learning so much - Melissa



#308 Melissa

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 02:14 AM

Juretta - "Certainly I would not wish to deny that obedience is central to the Christian life, and that it is often the most relentless and exacting and uncomfortable and obvious demand that love itself places upon us."
I really like this statement.
Thanks.


#309 Fr Averky

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 04:30 AM

Dear Melissa,

If you will read over my posts carefully, you see that I noted that those new converts to Orthodoxt rather drag their heels are bujt a small minority.

To me, the danger lies in not receiving proper instruction as to how or how not to approach the Divine Mystery which is the Church, and this lies with individual priests and parishes..

I can understand your reaction, but I simply wanted to make it clear to Jim Nee and his good wife that the shortcomings of which I have been speaking as a warning to them not to get bogged down in such considerations. As a priest of going on twenty yers, and having travelled all over this great country of ours and Canada as well, I have observed first hand the doubts and fears about which I speak.

I was at a parish festival one time, and while looking around the book and icon shop the parish had set, I overlheard a rather long conversation between two converts. I must confes that I walsked up to them and chastized them for whar they were saying was bordering on heresy! I asked them where they gotten their ideas, and one said to me, "Our parish priest has heard what we are saying many times, and not once has he corrected us." What could I say?

Melissa, I have been a convert for thrty five years, more than half my life, and I can tell you that it has been only the last six years or so that I have become thouroughly comfortable in the Church, and it took me that long to acquire the wonderful peace of heart and soul one gets only in time. Of course, I am giving you a break, but remembrer, I have gone through all of this myself, so I am not simply guessing at what I say.

As I clearly also said, each person moves at his own pace onlong the path to Salvatioon, and God understands that. This one of the beauties of Orthodoxy-no need to rush, time is on your side.

Fr. A.

Forgive me if my typing is especially bad-I lost my glasses and I am looking through one lense of a very old pair. But I am still responssible for what I say.


#310 Fr Averky

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 06:58 AM

My Dear Seeker,

Please allow me to direct you to the perfect warm hearted avatar: His name is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is the fullness of all our spiritual desire.

Know that I pray for you daily, and am always willing to be in contact with you. God bless!

Poor sinful
Fr. Averky


#311 Fr Averky

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 07:18 AM

Dear Jurretta,

You are too kind to me with your generous words; I can tell you this-if it were not for the prayers and words of comfort and and support from so many of you, I know that I would not have made it out of all the severe illnesses that I suffered througout last year.

Monachos has made me look more inward, going deeply into my life's experiences, mistakes, joys, and times of intense grief and at times and of terrible loneliness, along with real miracles and moments of unsurpassed joy in order for me to be able to see that we monastics face so many of the same temptations that you who are in the world do. It has helped me to take a serious look at myself, and through all of you, I have grown, I have grown. It is I who am filled with gratitude to God, and to all of you, especially to Owen.

You know, it is like the old Beatles song. "I get by with a little help from my friends," but all of you, my dear fellow members, have given me far more than "a little help," you all have been a very big help in so many aspects of my life.

And for that Juretta, I am humbled and oh so grateful.

Least among monks
hieromonk Averky


#312 Guest_Jurretta J. Heckscher

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 07:29 AM

Dear everyone, and particularly Matthew, Fr. Averky, and Melissa:

This is indeed a fascinating and important discussion, and though I can’t do justice to the very thoughtful and wise and provocative comments made in the course of it, as you will understand if I tell you that it is 2:30 a.m. here on the East Coast of the States and I have to get up at 6 to go to work [please say a prayer for me when you read this, that I do not make serious mistakes on the job tomorrow out of sleepiness!], I did want to jump back in long enough at least to say thank you to everyone and to respond to just a couple of points.

Matthew, your reflections are very interesting and thought-provoking. I remain unpersuaded that obedience comes before love, or that obedience rather than love is the cardinal Christian virtue (are we not fashioned to find our way back to the likeness of God? and St. John the Theologian tells us that "God is love" [1 John 4:16], not that "God is obedience," after all)--but I am more convinced than ever that the two are so intertwined in the Christian life that it is entirely unwise to try to separate them in our understanding. And I am much struck by your insight that the fact "that Christianity has to a large degree lost its spirit of authentic obedience is, I say with all my heart, the chief accomplishment of the Devil in our modern age."

That is something I am going to have to think about very seriously. You may well be right, and you have at least identified one of the great sources of Christianity’s contemporary crisis. Yet how should we expect otherwise? I am not among those who say that our age is utterly corrupt: it is corrupt, but so is and has been every age until the Kingdom. As a culture, we have fallen from obedience, to our great peril. But that fall has been related to some more positive, or at least inevitable, developments: the loss of hierarchy that has allowed true democracy to become one of the most powerful political forces in history; the loss of socioeconomic hierarchy that has increasingly put economic security and even wealth within the grasp of most families; the loss of sexual hierarchy that has allowed women to go to school and college and to contribute their talents and insights to the public sphere of life in Western societies, at least; the loss of racial hierarchy that has allowed multiracial societies to begin to recognize, however belatedly, the equal worth of all their citizens; the loss of elite intellectual authority caused by the expansion of education that has put knowledge in the hands of the common man; even the rise of the Internet, which places overwhelming amounts of information at the fingertips of everyone with online access—and fails to make any distinction between true and false information, the e-mails of friendship and the e-mails of purveyors of pornography, and so on and so forth.

Your comment is that of a theological scholar, and it is fascinating; let me reply as a historian, then, and say that your insight is intimately related to the fact that the fall of hierarchies at every turn is one of the hallmarks of our age. Many of those hierarchies were false, artificial, even oppressive—but the hierarchy of authority in the Church, which springs ultimately from Christ as our Head, gives everlasting life, and lovingly commands our obedience in love.

How then is the Church to train its people in the virtues of lovingly obedient submission to Christ, when they live in a culture in which hierarchy itself, and the authority and obedience that flow from it, is everywhere in retreat, and is viewed as inherently illegitimate? That is the problem we confront as Christians today.

Pardon the digression. Before I close and go to sleep, my thanks to Fr. Averky, too, for his pastoral reflections. Although I think perhaps we still differ a bit in where we might place the relative priorities of love and obedience, I repeat that I am persuaded by this discussion that the two are functionally inseparable, and that surely one way to distinguish the false sentimentality often misunderstood as love, which you so rightly criticize, from authentic love is by discerning whether or not it calls forth free obedience. If it does, it may in truth be love rather than mere sentimentality.

Thanks to Melissa for her kind words. In the end, we should perhaps not insist too much on theoretical models for what happens as a person is touched and transformed by Christ. The Christian journey is above all a holy encounter in freedom between person and the Persons of the Trinity, and perhaps you all will forgive me if I suggest to Jim and all of us that it is an abiding mystery to be understood experientially by opening ourselves to God’s loving action—in response to the fact that "He first loved us" (1 John 4:19), as Melissa so rightly reminds us—rather than a process to be grasped and defined by our puny intellects.

A joyous Nativity to those among us who touch the eternity of our Faith through the Old Calendar. Father Averky, who has just posted such a beautiful message on this thread, may this Feast be for you especially full of God's blessings!

Yours in Christ,

--Jurretta



#313 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 05:46 PM

Jurretta wrote:

are we not fashioned to find our way back to the likeness of God?


I am not sure that is true. We were fashioned in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) for certain, but only through God can we "find our way back." Otherwise, why was the Incarnation necessary?

Matthew, your reflections are very interesting and thought-provoking. I remain unpersuaded that obedience comes before love, or that obedience rather than love is the cardinal Christian virtue (are we not fashioned to find our way back to the likeness of God? and St. John the Theologian tells us that "God is love" [1 John 4:16], not that "God is obedience," after all)--


I don't know if one comes before the other, it is my simple understanding that the two are inseparable. Jesus says: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 15:10) And also: "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me." (John 5:30) Isn't this "obedience?"

Herman
Your opinion may vary. Not valid in all spiritual states. Consult a licensed spiritual physician before using. Do not contemplate any heavy theological concepts while using.

#314 Melissa

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 08:10 PM

This is a multi-layered post ...
Herman, I enjoy your "end notes" beneath your signature...and your comments are cogent and helpful.
Juretta, many times you challenge me, for which I'm grateful, and always I learn from what you say and how you say it. I have come to the same or a similar conclusion, I belive - love and obedience are so intertwined in Christianity that it isn't necessary - perhaps not even advisable- to try to separate them.
As Herman reminded us, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 15:10)
And as you said, Juretta, "...that surely one way to distinguish the false sentimentality often misunderstood as love, which you so rightly criticize, from authentic love is by discerning whether or not it calls forth free obedience. If it does, it may in truth be love rather than mere sentimentality."
Father Averky - I accept your words. I ask not for "a break" for myself, but for just such correction as you may give because I trust your faith and your heart. I also hear converts that say and do horrendous things; I think I just wanted to know that you don't think all converts are like that -I have enough trouble doubting my intentions and trying to make them correspond to Christ's will for me, and simply making mistakes in what I say/believe, that I felt a wave of insecurity as I read some of your words. Forgive me, please. (And, why didn't I just ask you?!)
Must go because I'm at work. Melissa


#315 Daniel Jeandet

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 11:40 PM

It seems to me that while obedience and love are intertwined and the highest of virtues, niether is possible or even make any sense without humility. Its very easy to take pride in our obedience and impossible to truly love without forgiving those who tresspass against us, and "the grace of God is with the humble". I dont think obedience or love come from anything other than the grace of God. I definately think that humility is the root of obedience. Ever Father puts humility before all other virtues. It takes humility to admit that we dont yet love, and pride is clearly the biggest obstacle to true obedience. With humility, love is natural and obedience is spontaneous and all encompassing, we would even be obedient to dumb animals and trees if we were really humble. But now I am thinking that maybe obedience precedes humilty, since, when bad things happen, if we accept that they are the will of God and we should take joy in our suffering, then obedience to that Gospel precept would give birth to humility, since we would see the cause of our trials as our own sins and failings and not blame people or the universe for our problems. With patience we would see that only God can be trusted to save us and help us, but to often we cannot wait and we take our own mesures to deal with things and never learn the lesson that was just around the corner. Seeing how powerless we are and great God is teaches us to be humble. In my opinion, the main obstacles for converts are patience and faith. Alot of times, we are unwilling to wait on God, to see what he wants for us. We rush around trying to do things according to our own ideas, avoiding stillness and silence. At the same time, we stress about money and things, but Jesus told us not to worry about what we will eat or wear, and we want all this insurance and security, we even think God wants us to take these mesures to protect ourselves but His own words contradict this. How many converts really stop caring abpout food and clothing? Its a basic commandment. I think these things are difficult because of our pride, we dont want to die so that we can live. We want all pascha and no lent. It is also good for us to be very merciful and gentle. Please know that I am smoking a ciggarette while I type this.


#316 M A Jackson-Roberts

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 10:34 AM

Well, Herman (#139), I guess one's interpretation depends upon one's starting point and, since I am "outside the family" of Orthodoxy, my free thinking is not conditioned per se by any a priori acceptance of obedience as you understand and have explained it. I start with more of a tabula rasa on these matters, and am not as yet persuaded to abandon myself to a force that I do not understand: as I have said before, I incline to a rationalist tendency, hence in part my scepticism about religious claims to obedience. For I also have in mind that "Islam" means "surrender", or "yielding", which may be fine if you know to what you are surrendering, but I don't.

At least Buddhism brings me serenity of spirit and encourages compassion for all living things (not that I have surrendered to all of its claims, eg on reincarnation, and I most certainly would have no truck with the demons to which Owen adverted a while ago on a different thread).

I hope you believers can all accept this doubting cuckoo in your midst.

seeker



#317 M A Jackson-Roberts

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 10:39 AM

Ok, Herman, (#140) I suppose that I haven't "met Christ" yet. But as life's experiences have certainly dealt me some heavy blows so I find the Buddhist tenets of "anatta" (no-self) echo those experiences and make sense of the advice to "kill Buddha" by surmounting individual conceptions of self in order to achieve a higher form of understanding of the cosmos and of our human purpose in it.

seeker


#318 Melissa

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 02:36 PM

Dear seeker,
I like having non-Orthodox in in the discussions. It's good for me to hear other points of view.
You are right, of course, obedience without love is possible (your post 91); I stated my thought poorly. I was specifically thinking about obedience to Christ, because the Christian faith is so challenging. I suppose theoretically it's still possible, but I havent talked to or read about anyone who has persisted in a deep examination of their souls, repentance, and embarked (and persisted) on the path of obedience to the commandments without loving Christ. (Not that I'm all that well read)
Clearly many who call themselves Christians don't do what I just described, but then, they're not loving (of Christ) or obedient either.
I definitely do not believe obedience should be unthinking, but I also have accepted that there are some things not given to me to understand. Hence the paradox people often talk about with Christianity: our intelligence is valued highly, but can take us only so far; then we're presented with the need for faith. When I try to articulate "living in faith", it's trusting because of my love for Christ that I think of first; nothing else is really available to me in those moments.
With all my heart I pray that wherever your seeking takes you, you find the challenege, hope, joy, and peace that I found when I became Orthodox.


#319 Melissa

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 02:36 PM

Dear seeker,
I like having non-Orthodox in in the discussions. It's good for me to hear other points of view.
You are right, of course, obedience without love is possible (your post 91); I stated my thought poorly. I was specifically thinking about obedience to Christ, because the Christian faith is so challenging. I suppose theoretically it's still possible, but I havent talked to or read about anyone who has persisted in a deep examination of their souls, repentance, and embarked (and persisted) on the path of obedience to the commandments without loving Christ. (Not that I'm all that well read)
Clearly many who call themselves Christians don't do what I just described, but then, they're not loving (of Christ) or obedient either.
I definitely do not believe obedience should be unthinking, but I also have accepted that there are some things not given to me to understand. Hence the paradox people often talk about with Christianity: our intelligence is valued highly, but can take us only so far; then we're presented with the need for faith. When I try to articulate "living in faith", it's trusting because of my love for Christ that I think of first; nothing else is really available to me in those moments.
With all my heart I pray that wherever your seeking takes you, you find the challenege, hope, joy, and peace that I found when I became Orthodox. Melissa


#320 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 03:43 PM

Dear Juretta and the many others in this active thread,

Thank you all for so many interesting messages and reflections. I'm afraid that my current return travels to the UK keep me from typing anything lengthy at present, but I do have a moment for a brief remark or two. Firstly, Mr Rallis wrote concerning 'love':

So, then, could one say that the love which we seek to participate in is different from any human concept of love, in as much as we are seeking adoption into the Trinitarian Love, a communion with what we are not.


Perhaps we could say, communion with the God whose image we bear, and whose nature has been given anew to us in the Incarnation through our baptism. But I wholly agree with the essence of your comment. True Christian love is communion in the eternal, intra-Trinitarian love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which becomes manifest in our own being and our own relationships -- both with God and with other human beings, as with all of creation. It is not a human sentiment, however pure or devoted; nor is it purely selfless devotion or care. It is communion with the love of the Trinity. Thus it is only born of obedience, for only obedience (in the fulness of its Christian definition) unites us to the Trinity through the breaking and re-fashioning of our will.

Secondly, Juretta wrote:

I remain unpersuaded that obedience comes before love, or that obedience rather than love is the cardinal Christian virtue (are we not fashioned to find our way back to the likeness of God? and St. John the Theologian tells us that "God is love" [1 John 4:16], not that "God is obedience," after all)--but I am more convinced than ever that the two are so intertwined in the Christian life that it is entirely unwise to try to separate them in our understanding.


I wholly support your assertion that obedience and love are deeply, inseparably intertwined. Especially as one grows in maturity, distinguishing 'obedience' and 'love' becomes ever more difficult. Indeed, in Christ we can no longer distinguish between them at all: is His taking up the cup of the Passion an act of 'obedience', or an act of 'love'? The answer is 'yes'. Posted Image

The question, as far as concerns the praxis of Orthodox living, is how the advance into such maturity can be brought about in one's own person. Theories and distinctions are all rather hypothetical, or at least largely rationalistic. The point is actual attainment of maturity, of growth, and development into the restored likeness of the Word. In this, obedience as a practice must have priority over love, for until we attain to some state of spiritual maturity, we have no real conception of what genuine love is. We are not all mature enough to love genuinely, but we are each of us capable of being obedient faithfully. Love will eventually be born in us if we make ourselves obedient, and we will find the distinction between these two sides of Christian devotion fade as that transformation gradually takes place. But if we make our start by aiming soundly at love, we will likely never attain either virtue.

Then Daniel (J.) wrote:

It seems to me that while obedience and love are intertwined and the highest of virtues, niether is possible or even make any sense without humility.


Yes, but true humility gained by any means other than obedience has been the charism of only a very few saints in the whole of the Church's history. The rest of us are rather more like the hard stone described by St Hesychios the Priest, who noted that even as small drops of water will eventually wear away the hardest stone, so will our small acts of obedience eventually soften our hard hearts.

INXC, Matthew




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