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A Call from the 'outside'. - donald wilson - 04-03-2009 05:14 PM

I have enjoyed reading many of the posts in this forum. Having been in and out of your web page for a couple of weeks now, may I offer a suggestion?
Your dicussions seem to be full of technical orthodox jargon that I am sure benifits the 'insiders' of your fellowship - but spare a thought for those of us sincere seekers who have not had adequate exposure to the Fathers and are unfamiliar with orthodox terminology.
I am not being negative here! I am hungering for a deeper walk with God. I have come to the conclusion that Orthodoxy has pearls of wisdom that may help me greatly in my Christian pilgrimage. BUT I feel somehow out of my depths when participating in this forum. I have for many years followed Christ as an evangelical - but something within me is screaming out that there is MORE to the Gospel than forensics.
Having said this, here is a question that I have been wrestling with for a few months now - could someone please help me here - Am I correct - Orthodoxy does not view the Gospel as primarily forensic but rather ontological. Am I correct?
Thank you

Don Wilson


- Simon - 04-03-2009 08:53 PM

Dear Don,

Thank you for your post which is an invaluable reminder for those of us who forget that there was once a time when we were unfamiliar with many Orthodox expressions we now take for granted. I guess it's nothing unique to Orthodoxy or indeed any other Christian persuasion - the same thing is true of sport, be it football (about which I claim to understnad some of the technical terms), hockey (which my sons play and the same words as in football appear to have different meanings) or cricket of which I understnad hardly any of the terms at all! Thank you again for this important reminder.

I have to admit, however, that I am not the world's greatest academic theologian myself and therefore do not guarantee that I have necessarilly understood your own terms in the way that you have understood them. If by forensic you mean what I mean by judicial - basically along the lines of Anselm's theory of satisfaction, that the Son has by His death paid off a legal debt to the Father on our behalf, then I certainly believe the Gospel to be far far more than this concept. (At least that is what most people who have used the word forensic to me about the Gospels have meant). I believe it is about healing and wholeness (salvation), it is about personhood and relationship, about union with God... something deep and rich and wonderful and bliss without end.

I see salvation in terms of healing and the Church in terms of hospital... I believe that the Great Physician, at great personal cost to Himself on the cross provided for us the medicine or immortality, of eternal life, and that He has established a great spiritual hospital we call the Church with doctors (clergy) to administer this divine medicine. And He has provided all kinds of specialists to assist us and therapies such as prayer and fasting to help us too. For even as I might be prescribed medicine for heart or liver or lungs but refused to give up or fast from fatty chlorestoral filled foods or from alcohol or from smoking, then I would be working against the medicine instead of with it, so am I to work out my own salvation together with God Who works in me.

Not sure if that helps or answers your question at all - but if not then hopefully someone on here will before long,

Simon


- Rick Henry - 05-03-2009 06:15 PM

Dear Don,

To follow up Fr. Simon's very helpful writing, I would like to offer a piece below.

I agree sometimes words just really get in the way. I think of the word "existentialism" which is used so many different ways by so many people that it is really without meaning to me now. Whenever someone uses this word in conversation, I have to ask what they mean by that.

In your definition of the way you were using the word "ontology," in the Introductions thread last week, I wondered how you would define "anthropology." I am sensing part of your question(s) is dealing with this aspect.

And, I hope I am not wasting your time with the first part of an essay below by Fr. Bloom; but, I feel compelled to share this based on your writing here. Hopefully, there will be a nugget or two for you in the following:

SOMATOPSYCHIC TECHNIQUES IN GREEK ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY

The Very Rev. Anthony Bloom

Christians of the Orthodox Church have attached meaning and value to certain techniques which have been found to aid spiritual attainment. For convenience, three principal groups of ascetic exercises may be distinguished.

(a) The first group relate only to the body and affect the soul (psyche) and the spirit (pneuma) only indirectly, in the degree to which the ?total? man is modified by them. These are so-called ?mortification? exercises: fasting, vigil, taxing labour, chastity, etc.

(b.) The second group habituate the body to certain exigencies which have direct repercussions on the psychic life and indirect on the spiritual. These are scarcely known in the Occident and will form the substance of this article.

(c.) The last are ascetic exercises which put man?s psychic powers to work and have bodily repercussions. These essentially consist in meditation and certain forms of prayer, and fall outside the frame of our subject.



I
Mortificational Ascesis


Man was created from naught: this is the prime verity with which Biblical revelation confronts us. Man has no ontological basis either in himself, or in God. Nothing preceded the cosmos of which man is an integral part: and no genetic bond links man to his Creator. The ?chaos? of ancient discourse was only a relative nothingness, that of nullity rather than that of nonbeing. It is a vague and formless ?being,? described to us by the second verse of the Book of Genesis: ?The earth was formless and void; there was darkness over the surface? (or according to Edmond Fieg, ?Now the earth was flood and chaos; and dark lay upon the face of the abyss?), for, to antiquity, ordered being alone had existence. Real, absolute nothingness, that which precedes the creation of the first creature, exceeds the capabilities of natural thought. for it is not absence, void, or even reduction of being to imperceptibility. It is, on the contrary the Presence par excellence of the Unique, of the Only Real, Transcendent and Unknown until He wills to reveal Himself. Chaos is vacuity of the created; what precedes the appearance of the creature is plenitude of the Uncreated, which God alone knows and reveals. No common standard, exists, no natural filiation between God and man, whose only fulcrum is the divine will. This, if accepted, gives him access to life?which is participation in God?s life. And it is to the whole man that this life is offered: as body, soul, and spirit he is called to know God, to commune with divine life. For it is the total man who is in the image of God.

To attain his highest end, the created being must then open himself to God, transcend his own limitation, and expand to the limitless dimension of the Uncreated. But besides this ontological task, another has devolved on man ever since his Fall: having become less than man, he must rebecome what he originally was, before he can accomplish his vocation and fully respond to the call of his God.

The harmony of human nature implies a hierarchy of its constituent parts. The body should be subject to the soul (psyche) and the latter to the spirit (pneuma); man?s spirit (nephesh) communes, in turn, with the breath, God?s Spirit in man (rouah), life force and source of his immortality. As long as this hierarchy is not destroyed, man remains ?like? God, his ?fellow?: he is capable of receiving God and of manifesting Him.

But man is created ?sovereign?: he can determine his own destiny. His very contingency insures his independence. No inner need constrained God to call him into existence: superfluous to the plenitude of the divine being, he is set before his Creator. If he fails Him, if he turns aside, it is the integrity of his nature that he risks and endangers. He can cease to be like unto God or can unite with Him. In the former case, anyone wishing to realize his vocation will face, in addition to the ontological task of transcending the created, a new task: recovery of the lost harmony.

Within the limits of the present article, it is neither possible nor desirable to go into all the terms of the Fall, but for the point we are making, it is of interest to note that the Fall was at once sudden and progressive: ?and death was implanted little by little? says the Book of Genesis. It was sudden, in that a deep and irremediable change at once took place which we may define as ?fragmentation.? God and man found within themselves sundered as one from another; God?s Spirit in man (rouah) became not only different from man?s spirit (nephesh), but foreign to it. It ceased to be the life source and man left to himself could only die.

The triple hierarchic harmony of body, soul, and spirit was broken the moment the spirit of man ceased to be the channel through which life poured into the soul and vivified the body. And, cut off from the divine source of eternal life, man had to seek support for his existence in the natural order. We read in the second chapter of Genesis (Verse 16): ?Thou mayest eat of all the trees of the garden.? But after the Fall: ?The soil shall be cursed because of thee: by labour and trouble shalt thou derive nourishment therefrom all the days of thy life . . . and thou shalt eat the grass of the fields.? Instead of communing with the life of God, Adam must share in the life of the material world and by this fact integrate himself with it until the day when the earth shall take back that which belongs to it, ? . . . Until thy return to the earth whence thou wert taken: for dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.?

This is only the first stage, however, in that integration of man with the material from which he was to have disengaged himself?or rather into which he was to have disengaged himself?or rather into which he was to have integrated the divine Spirit. ?My Spirit shall not remain always in man for man is but flesh . . .? (Gen. 6:3). Once separated from God, man is on the downgrade, driven by the spirit of evil whose slave he has become: ?The Eternal saw that the wickedness of men was great upon the earth and that all the thoughts of their heart were directed each day only unto evil? (Gen. 6:5) and the deluge came. And when only those remained alive who had not been corrupted by evil, but who had nonetheless inherited degeneration from their parents, the Lord ?said to Noah and his sons . . . you shall be a fear and a dread to every animal of the earth and to all fish of the sea: they are delivered into your hands; all that moves and has life shall serve you for food; all this I give unto you like as the green grass.?

This right to eat all ?that which moves and has life? appears then as the cruel ransom of an increasing forfeiture, not as a dignity conferred on man. Incapable of living by the grace of God, with no intrinsic life, man has since that time depended completely on the created world, upon matter, in which he has become more and more involved. From it he derives his life and his death, a precarious and momentary life whose end is his going back to dust.

To return to life will then mean among other things to break the hold of the matter, to become once more ?autonomous? Alas! I have rendered my flesh lusty and lo, it wages war against the Spirit,? declares an Orthodox hymn. The opposition of the two terms flesh and body is strikingly clear; flesh is the body destitute of divine life and maintaining its existence only in the material order; body is the human material permeated by the Spirit of God, restored to harmony and liberated from servitudes familiar to its fallen nature but alien through its vocation.

The struggle against the flesh is then a struggle for the revivification of the body, and the term mortification acquires its true value. What must be killed is servile passion; what must be destroyed is servitude. We belong to the fallen world which succeeded the antediluvian world and must do more than renounce what is for us the source of life in order to acquire a new life. The mortification ascesis makes sense only as associated with a constructive ascesis which fits us to receive the divine life and to ?live by the Word of God.? It is possible only if while casting off the material world we are also gaining a foothold in the divine world; and progress in this second direction must precede the work of renunciation or at least advance parallel to it, failing which the ?flesh? dies before the ?body? has returned to life.

The divers elements of this ascesis?fasting, continence, vigil, work?require no commentary. Each has its special value and they may not be used indiscriminately. If, on the one hand, fasting, carried to the limits of individual abilities, gives the intelligence an acuity and refulgence unknown without it, on the other hand fasting restores man to himself and aids him to make him to make ?his psychic being coincide with the limits of his body.? The thirst ascesis is a necessary is a necessary condition to progress in inner prayer. On the other hand, it is interesting to note and important to know that successful devotion to one ascetic exercise is impossible without simultaneously engaging in the others; to pray without fasting and keeping vigil is impossible, but even more impossible is it to fast and keep vigil unless one be permeated by the spirit of prayers. Here is the reason why lives of Saints calculate spiritual progress in terms (to us so strange) of long vigils, of hardly credible fasts. Here it is surely a matter of ?dying to earth? and of living again in God, of drawing oneself up by constant and concerted effort to the height of one?s true nature, by a struggle that straightens an liberates, that kills the germ of death in order that life may be fruitful and may triumph.


- donald wilson - 05-03-2009 07:58 PM

Dear Simon and Rick
Thank you both for your very helpful replies! I am indeed encourged! I am by nature rather cynical about cyber communication. It is refreshing to realise that there really are spiritually savy and concerned people out there!
Yes Simon you have indeed understood my definition of the term 'forensic' correctly. I am coming to a point in my walk with God where I can no longer propogate a gospel that is centred upon the wrath rather than the agape Theou. Please pray for me in this regard - I have been an evangelical pastor for some twenty years - so I am pretty sure that you can appreciate the earnestness of my enquiry.
Rick thank you so much for the material that you sent me! This is exactly the type of stuff I am looking for! I shall read and re-read this material for the next couple of hours - good stuff!
I am on the whole pretty excited with what God is doing in my life at the moment. He has opened up a vista for me that I was totally unaware of a few years ago. Who knows where this is all leading!?
Thank you both
Don


- Simon - 06-03-2009 12:37 PM

Dear Don,

In response to your words: "Please pray for me in this regard - I have been an evangelical pastor for some twenty years - so I am pretty sure that you can appreciate the earnestness of my enquiry" I was once an evangelical though not a pastor so, yes, I can appreciate the earnestness and, I would add, the courage of your enquiry - and these days, though no longer evangelical but Orthodox, I am a pastor so I shall surely pray for you. Indeed I shall add you to the list of those we bring before God, before His altar by name, in the sacred heart of the Liturgy Sunday by Sunday.

Simon


- donald wilson - 06-03-2009 05:38 PM

Dear Simon
Thank you for you concern - I appreciate it.
Don


- Simon - 07-03-2009 06:17 PM

Dear Don,

The best book I have read expounding Orthodox belief concerning salvation over against the forensic/judicial satisfaction understanding is Clark Carlton's The Life. It is also written with the evangelical in mind. I think you might appreciate it. A deeper theological book also worth study is John Romanides' The Ancestral Sin.

The sermon that follows is an attempt by me, some years ago, to consider briefly Orthodox belief concerning salvation (or at least an aspect or two of it).

Simon


John 6:35 ?And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.?

Anyone remember Toad ? he of Toad Hall fame? He took up sailing, did Toad, until he tired of that, then it was punting which he did all day long every day - until he tired of it... then came his house-boating and how he was going to spend the rest of his life in a house-boat - until he tired of that; then came his rowing, until he gave it up for caravanning, to which he would devote the remainder of his life... well, until he discovered the motor car, that is... How he took up each new interest so totally, so passionately, so all-consumingly! Only to chuck it all in when that next fad overtook him! For all his wealth Toad was like many a millionaire or whatever we?ve read of or heard about in the media who (in the words of Mick Jagger) ?can?t get no satisfaction.? Some even commit suicide in their boredom, loneliness, frustration and despair. If only they?d known the words of Augustine that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. Or the words of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ in today?s Gospel: ?he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.? This is like unto our Lord?s teaching also to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:13&14) ?Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.? Then there are those words of the prophet Jeremiah, how appropriate they are: ?For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.? (Jeremiah 2:13) Whether it?s Toad of Toad Hall or whoever it is, our hearts are always restless, and thirsting again, and failing ultimately (even though they may for a time) to get satisfaction from things which they were never intended to get satisfaction from - substitutes for the real thing... God. Broken cisterns that can hold no water are no substitute for the Fountain of Living Waters.

People sometimes ask whether we won?t get bored in heaven - you know the kind of thing, whether we?d get bored in heaven with it being an unending Church service. No, we won?t get bored in heaven! If we make it to heaven at all, we surely won?t get bored there: ?he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst?- no, not throughout all eternity.
What about when you?re in love, in the full bloom and passion of love? Do you get bored with your lover?s company? On the contrary, you can?t get enough of him or her - you can never spend enough time with your lover. Regrettably, we know, some people do get bored with those they love and marry - and get divorced... But our relationship with our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ isn?t like that. It?s not a relationship we can ever exhaust. For God is infinite and we are finite. So however deeply we enter into that divine relationship, however full of love and joy we are filled... we have all eternity to go on growing into an ever greater relationship, of ever deeper love and greater joy... We shall have eternity to experience Him Who is Infinity. ?as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.?

There is a wonderful prayer of Saint Basil the Great in which he refers to ?the radiant day of the appearing of?our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ? and goes on to speak of accompanying ?Him into the divine palace of His glory, where there is the ceaseless sound of those keeping festival and the unspeakable delight of those who behold the ineffable beauty of Thy Face...? The ?ceaseless sound of those keeping festival? - that?s some party, that is! It?s the eternal party, the eternal festival and celebration. And ?the unspeakable delight of those who behold the ineffable beauty of Thy Face...? That?s like when a lover looks upon the face of his or her beloved, that?s lovers face-to-face with no time for distractions by anything else, held in a timeless moment... But such moments only seem timeless, they pass (as all things temporal) too fleetingly, whereas ?the unspeakable delight of those who behold the ineffable beauty of Thy Face...? is truly timeless, even eternal.

You know, people sometimes, it seems to me, get confused about praise and worship, asking such questions as why God needs us to praise Him so much? But God does not need our praises ? God has no needs. He is sufficient in Himself ? utterly self-sufficient, for He is God. Others seem to think that our praises add something to God?s glory or that our failure to praise Him somehow detracts from His glory. But God is infinite and therefore of infinite glory and so it is impossible to add to his glory. If we could add to it, if we could increase it, then it couldn?t be infinite! And since God is infinite and is self- sufficient in Himself, how on earth can our failure to praise Him detract from His greatness and glory? So what is all this praise and worship and adoration all about? Do not earthly lovers love to tell of their beloved?s qualities, to extol their virtues, to declare them the best, the most beautiful, the most glorious? It is a natural outpouring of love. Well, all this praise and all this worship is the natural outpouring of our hearts unto the Lover of our souls. Boredom in heaven indeed! No! Never! Not for them that love God!

But for those who do not love God?

?Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side would you sit down? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes not your tastes, their character not your character... perhaps you love the company of the...wordly-minded and the covetous, the reveller and the pleasure-seeker, the ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven... you think praying...and hymn singing, dull and melancholy...a thing to be tolerated now and then, but not enjoyed... But remember heaven is a never-ending [worship]. The inhabitants thereof rest not day or night, saying, ?Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,?... How could an unholy man find pleasure in occupation such as this?

?Think you that such an one would delight to meet...Paul, and John, after a life spent in doing the very things they spoke against? Would he...find that he and they had much in common?-Think you, above all, that he would rejoice to meet Jesus, the Crucified One, face to face, after cleaving to the sins for which he died... Would he stand before Him with confidence, and join in the cry, ?This is our God; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation??...Think you not rather that the tongue of an unholy man would cleave to the roof of his mouth with shame, and his only desire would be to be cast out! He would feel a stranger in a land he knew not, a black sheep amidst Christ?s holy flock. The voice of Cherubim and Seraphim, the song of Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven, would be a language he could not understand. The very air would seem an air he could not breathe.?

Thoroughly Orthodox words those, from the Anglican bishop J C Ryle - compare this parable from the Eastern Orthodox writer Frank Schaeffer:

"Let us imagine a superb classical concert in which ...Bach's [music is] being performed. In attendance...are two groups... the first is made up of people who have, from childhod, listened to, studied, loved and enjoyed classical music, particularly...Bach... They have worked hard all year to save money to buy tickets for this concert. They are dressed for the occasion. They savor each moment... Some have even brought the score of the music in order to better follow the performance. At that same concert is a very different group...taken...by a well-meaning teacher... They dislike classical music and would rather be at a rock concert.

"Both groups of people are hearing the same superbly performed, lovingly renedred music...

"One group...have cultivated an understanding, love and appreciation of the music - their experience of the concert is "heavenly" because of their deliberately chosen habits of mind. The others...their experience is "hellish". Their habits of a lifetime have changed them?into?different people than they would have been had they chosen and cultivated different habits...?

The same fire that softens the wax hardens the clay ? the flame is constant, the same towards both? the difference is in the materials. Are our hearts softened by the holy fire of God?s Love or do they harden against it? The fault does not lie in the holy flame of divine love but in man, in sinful human hearts that harden against that Love, that reject it and shut it out.

To quote the Christian writer C. S. Lewis, "The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a ?Heaven? for them...?

Some desire heaven to avoid hell (a not unreasonable exchange!) Others hope for heaven so as to meet again with departed loved ones (again by no means unreasonable - even a good Christian hope). The great Abba Sisoes, however, taught: ?Seek God ? not where God dwells.? He teaches us not so much to desire heaven but to desire God. For if we have God then we have heaven.

I return to the illustration of lovers, of those in love (and what a Biblical illustration it is! Just think of the Song of Songs, that great parable of the love between God and us expressed in terms of man and woman in love. Or think of how the relationship between God and Israel is described in terms of love and of marriage. And think of St Paul?s word in his epistle to the Ephesians considering the love of husband for wife in terms of Christ?s love for His Church). My lovers illustration is from that classic of Oriental literature, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam:

?Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, A Book of Verse ? and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness ?
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.?

Oh my friends, if this be true for human lovers ? that the company of the beloved alone is sufficient to render whatever time spent therein as Paradise? oh doubt not the bliss and beauty and glory of the eternal Love with the Lover of our souls in the true Paradise? Like Abba Sisoes taught, ?Seek God ? not where God dwells.? To have God is paradise, is heaven.

For those who prepare their hearts, for those who love our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, heaven is not boredom ? it is ?joy unspeakable and full of glory? (to quote Saint Paul). Or as the Psalms express it: ?Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for ever-more.?

And you don?t have to wait until the next life to experience it. Every time you take part in the Liturgy, every time you join in the Liturgy - yes, this morning, even here and now - you are in heaven. I know the famous words of Saint Vladimir?s envoys of their experience of the liturgy in Hagia Sophia that they knew not whether they were in heaven or earth, and I know the theology that we are in heaven at every liturgy - but, perhaps like those envoys, sometimes we are more aware of it, more conscious of it... Well, I remember one particular Paschal Vigil Liturgy at this Church that was simply wonderful - I was more in heaven than on earth that night! I was ?floating?! One visual highlight that still stands out in my memory is when we had processed outside and Abba Seraphim turned to face us with the triple candlestick aflame while we sang paschal hymns amidst the coloured lights in the trees. But that was just one moment of glory in a night of glory.

And then the following weekend I visited for the first time the Eritrean Orthodox Church. However little I understood the words of the service, I could not fail to understand the spirit - and I have to say that I spent well nigh the whole of that ancient liturgy aware that I was in heaven. To be in that Church, in that Liturgy was truly to be in heaven. And to be given the cross to carry - what an honour. I felt truly blessed to be allowed to carry their deacon?s cross throughout the liturgy. I really can?t improve on the words of Vladimir?s envoys: ?only this we know, that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. For we cannot forget that beauty.?

Again, I can recall worshipping with the Latvian Orthodox in London, I recall how I was conscious of light and glory and beauty? I was conscious of heaven. For I was with people for whom heaven had meant so much more than the things of this world, people who valued Orthodoxy enough to have suffered cruel persecutions at the hands of the atheist soviets. These were people who had found the pearl of great price and were prepared to pay anything, even to pay everything for it. To be with them in their liturgy was to be in heaven.

I dare say I?ve failed to articulate at all clearly what these liturgies meant to me - perhaps such things ultimately defy mere words... But remember this: whether you feel it or not, whether you are conscious of it or not, you are in heaven each and every liturgy. We are reminded of this by the icons of all the saints on every wall around us - icons of the saints of all centuries together in this timeless and eternal liturgy wherein earth and heaven are fused together. Yes, look around you at the ?great cloud of witnesses? that doth compass us about. ?? (Hebrews 12:1) Even here and now we are in the presence of the saints, in the presence of the angels, in the presence of God Himself - we are in heaven. Look around you at the icons of the saints and at the icons of the angels and at the icons of Jesus and learn and know where you have come this morning. ?But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. And to Jesus?? (Hebrews 12: 22-24)

Attend the Liturgy often, join in and take part as fully as you can - and ?taste and see that the Lord is good.? Receive Holy Communion - partake of Christ, be united with Christ. Pray your prayers at home too and kiss your icons, especially your icon of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Read the Bible ? especially the Gospels (for although all the Bible speaks of Christ, this is especially and supremely so of the Gospels). But above all, I repeat, join in the celebration of the Liturgy ? receive Holy Communion: feed on Him and drink of Him. And be satisfied.

And enjoy, yes delight in, this foretaste of heaven, yes heaven wherein we shall enjoy and delight in our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ even for ever and ever in a relationship of love that goes on and on and on? which this sermon is now in danger of doing the same (going on and on!). So here I shall stop and conclude by doing what we shall surely do forever in heaven: by ascribing, as it most justly due, all glory, honour, worship and adoration unto our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


- donald wilson - 09-03-2009 02:19 PM

Dear Simon

Thank you for the very helpful sermon. In the light of this sermon, am I correct in understanding that the Orthodox view of salvation is a matter of decieding to, and learning to love the Divine?

Further, you used the words in you sermon, 'a fusion of Heaven and earth' in describing the church liturgy. Is not the Incarnation itself that fusion?
I suppose you could answer that Incarnation is God's move towards us and liturgy is how this fusion is experienced (appropriated).
Is this what you are saying? Could you please elaborate on this - I find it very interesting.

Finally (for the present at least!), If the Orthodox liturgy is indeed the God-ordained appropriation of Incarnation to us - where this 'fusion' is actualised - then what of the validity of other approaches to Christian worship (ie. in Protestantism)?

Thank you for you time
Don


- Simon - 09-03-2009 04:06 PM

Dear Don,

I find myself wanting to write that I would not want to restirct the Orthodox view of salvation to "a matter of deciding to, and learning to love the Divine" as I am sure I have read salvation described by far better theologians than myself, such as Bishop Kallistos Ware I think, as multi or many facetted. On the other hand if I had to get everything down to one thing that summed it all up then I suppose, yes, it would be to love God.

As for the Incarnation being tiself the fusion of heaven and earth - as an Orthodox I would not restrict or narrow the Incarnation to the union of man with God but would set it wider than this; the very physical, material universe or creation is included in that union of the Incarnation. This was the argument of St John of Damascus that since God had taken unto Himself a physical or material body then it was right to make physical or material icons of Him.

And I certainly agree that the Liturgy is how this union or fusion is appropriated and experienced and supremely so in the receiving of the Bread which is the Body of Christ and the wine which is the Blood of Christ. But I would also want to add that it is experienced and appropriated when I kiss an icon. And I appropriate it and experience it when I cross myself (whether within the context of the Divine Liturgy or outside of that context)...

As for "the validity of other approaches to Christian worship (ie, in Protestantism)?" As for these who do not follow us Orthodox, who worship other than how we do? "And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not..." My authority is as an Orthodox, to expound the Orthodox Christian Faith - I am not sure by what authority I would pronounce on the validity of Protestant forms of worship.

Simon


- donald wilson - 09-03-2009 04:57 PM

Dear Simon
You offer a fair and adequate response. I will prayerfully consider it
Don