Unanswered Prayers???—In my extensive research o…

Unanswered Prayers???—In my extensive research only Orthodox Christianity knows what’s up with “unanswered prayers.” Orthodox petitions to God in their fullest and best form say things like “grant their saving petitions” (for other people) or “which conduce to salvation” or “worldly and spiritual goods” and so forth.

The first concern of Orthodox Christianity is “the salvation of our souls and bodies.” That is, that God the Trinity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–may “have mercy on us and save us,” restore us to harmony with Him, to God-like-ness, to the way He made us originally (Adam and Eve) and still intends for us–soul and body–here and now or at least in the hereafter. So this is kept in mind whenever Orthodox use the above petition-formulae. It’s not just gimme, gimme, gimme; it’s, “I’d like this perceived good, Lord, but most of all, Thy salvation, so Thou callest the shots!”

Another point is placing the expressed concern of the petition under God’s care and administration, as our entire life should be, versus being a control-freak: “Got this problem, Lord, take care of it, OK? It’s under Your protection anyway, and You know best.” Like the old Quaker once said, “I’m not always of my own opinion!”

Finally, the “answer” may be in a form you’re not looking for, or it may become clearer years later. As St. Paul said, “Consider that God’s patience is directed toward your salvation.”

Any of these points can be expressed in a repressive way. My experience of Orthodoxy is different from that, because it’s so different from and alien to Western Christianity, and so much better, if you give it a chance. “Come and see!”

Father Nectarios, of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox…

Father Nectarios, of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox (Constantinopolitan) Diocese, and the Blog he cites, seem concerned that a Catholic-school teacher accused of being “possibly gay” can get a restraining order against an anti-gay–or perhaps simply uninformed–Catholic parishioner. (The Pope actually opposes employment discrimination against gays in society generally.) They don’t seem to fully realize the physical danger in this country, indeed in most of the world, to Gay people or those perceived or accused of being such, from violent Gay-bashers…and hence, the need for restraining orders.* Every alleged or confirmed instance of Gaybashing is a crime not only against the immediate physical victim, but a terroristic threat of similar violence against all Gays and those perceived or accused of being such, if they were beaten or killed not randomly but because they were, were perceived to be, or were accused of being, Gay. Not only that, but when it is not condemned, moral leaders’ silence encourages future such crimes: Matthew Shepard was crucified for their sins. As a Straight Christian I condemn all Gaybashing.

And what’s a “strident homosexual practitioner,” anyway? A gay Christian Scientist clergy who likes it rough?!!

(*–Actually anybody can get an order against anybody they prove is a real and present physical or seriously harassing threat to them; it’s not just a matter of Domestic Violence law…although it’s State law, so particulars may vary from State to State within the USA. Like Frasier Crane’s Trekkie co-worker “required by law to remain 100 feet from William Shatner at all times”!!!)

It’s common to think of Orthodox Christianity in t…

It’s common to think of Orthodox Christianity in the Western World as divided-up into ethnic jurisdictions. But actually it’s worse than that, because each immigrant Orthodox ethnic group here is divided into partisan jurisdictions, too! In the USA alone there are 2 Albanian jurisdictions, one OCA and one Constantinople Patriarchal Church. There are 2 Romanian jurisdictions, one OCA and one Romanian Patriarchal Church. There are 2 Bulgarian dioceses, one OCA and one Bulgarian Patriarchal. As far as I can tell there are still officially 2 Serbian groups, though they’re said to be merging under the Serbian Patriarchate. One or more of the contending Hierarchies in the Ukraine are ‘colonizing’ here, alongside the only-recently-reunited Ukrainian Metropolia (Constantinople Patriarchal). Ethnically there are Carpatho-Russians integrated in the OCA, and others in the Constantinopolitan C-R diocese. And there are at least 3(!) “Russian” groups: the OCA’s Russian ‘old line,’ the 30-odd but high-profile parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate here, and the “semi-canonical” ROCOR–which latter group has experienced some splintering of its own in the last decade. There are even now 2 Greek-Constantinopolitan jurisdictions, the New Calendar Archdiocese of America, and the Old Calendar “Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou” in Queens, NY, with a few other associated monasteries and parishes…all with their own separate Metropolitan.

Some of these intra-ethnic divisions resulted from the question of loyalty to Communist-dominated Mother Churches; others are rooted in conflicts over Calendar, Ecumenism, maybe other things. But it should tell us unification will be even harder than we think, when the OCA can take in 5 or more Old World ethnic groups…but not all of their respective members/clergy/jurisdictions. These intra-ethnic divisions may prove harder than even inter-ethnic unity. They too need to be worked on.

"Let us greet our celebrant with Hail Holy Queen!"…

“Let us greet our celebrant with Hail Holy Queen!”

OR, “Let us greet our celebrant with Immaculate Mary!”

"Sin and Mercy" Christianity?—"Lord Have Mercy" …

“Sin and Mercy” Christianity?—“Lord Have Mercy” is the most frequent prayer of the Orthodox Church, both in Liturgy and “private prayer.” It also has a strong consciousness of our unworthiness of that mercy. But as someone who has sampled Protestantism and grown up with Jansenist Catholicism, I think those words and concepts have a whole different feel to them in Orthodoxy.

For example, the same Morning Prayers that earnestly say “I was conceived in sin,” also claim “You have been my God from my mother’s womb.” Contradiction? Ambivalence? Uncertainty? No, a classic case of ‘not either/or, but both/and!’ The principle sometimes claimed for Roman Catholicism is truer for Orthodox Catholicism (so to speak). So in a sense, a kneejerk Westerner like myself needs to take the ‘self-deprecation’ with enough of a grain of salt that it doesn’t turn into what someone once called “worm theology,” sometimes also known as “Total Human Depravity,” in either its Protestant or Catholic (Jansenist) varieties.

The other thing is that Orthodoxy understands everything God does for us as His Mercy. It doesn’t just have to do with forgiving our voluntary sins (or covering them over, if you’re Protestant), but also Creation, Redemption, Nature, Life, improvement, talents, friends and loved ones…everything that is. “We thank You, Lord, for these your gifts and all Your mercies,” Orthodox pray after meals. “Lord have mercy” can be another way of crying “God help me!”

But mercy is of course undeserved by definition, whereas we often feel we deserve God’s “help,” we deserve a break, we deserve this or that. Orthodoxy reminds us–not as a ‘put-down’ or “poor self-esteem” but as simple reality–that God is so other from us, and so much better than us, etc., that in a sense we’re in no position to make demands. We’re mired in our own sins and those in the world around us (voluntary and even involuntary–How do you drive a perfectionist nuts? Tell him about “involuntary sins”!), we’re imperfect, we’re limited, we’re self-concerned, etc.

But Orthodoxy makes the biggest requests of God you ever heard anyway: “that the whole day may be holy, perfect, peaceful, and sinless”!!! So, like so many other things, Orthodoxy takes “Western” concerns at once less seriously and more seriously. So Sin-and-Mercy talk from them is Good News, and realism, whereas from others it usually comes off sounding like Bad News, and somebody’s control-issues. It makes a difference.

The Abstinence-Only people are playing Russian Rou…

The Abstinence-Only people are playing Russian Roulette with children’s lives. Every child, upon puberty, possesses a loaded gun, so to speak–one with a hair trigger. The Abstinence-Only crowd’s approach to AIDS prevention is to hope the gun doesn’t go off. WE ALL hope the gun doesn’t misfire…but some of us are willing to give kids a safety to put on their gun, just in case: a condom. For God’s sake, in case they “fornicate”–and who of you is without sin?–do they have to commit murder too!