A couple of recent articles of an Orthodox nature have caught my attention.
First, at Sword in the Fire, found here, Theron has an excellent post on What will you do with Ignatius? This is the question all Evangelicals must grapple with if they ever venture into the Church Fathers. For if you believe that the nature of the early church was basically along the Protestant format, and that the rise of bishops and the sacramental view of the Eucharist and of baptism were later developments--innovations, in the Protestant view, that led the church down the wrong road and required the corrective of the Reformation--then what, exactly do you do with St. Ignatius?
His writings show the general understanding of the church in regard to the Apostolic teachings on these subjects--an understanding, I might add, at great variance with later Protestant interpretations. At the time of his martyrdom in AD 107, Ignatius was the aged Bishop of Antioch. He was of the First Century church, a slightly younger contemporary of St. John and the other Apostles. How exactly could these "digressions" have appeared and become generally accepted right under the noses of the Apostles? Either St. Ignatius must be wrong, or the Protestant presuppositions of 1500 years hence.
My first contact with the writings of St. Ignatius was an eye-opener for me, as it was for Theron. And with each of us, his work moved us down the road towards Orthodoxy. So, do read Theron's post. Better yet, read St. Ignatius. Just curious, has anyone else out there had the same experience with his writings?
Second, Frederica Mathewes Greene examines--in the face of an increasingly feminized Western Christianity--what exactly attracts men to the Orthodox faith. She canvased 100 Orthodox male converts for this study. Read the entire article Men and Church, here, from which the following is a brief summary:
1. Challenging. Orthodoxy is active and not passive…[It] is serious. It is difficult. It is demanding. It is about mercy, but it’s also about overcoming oneself…not to ‘feel good’ but to become holy. It is rigorous, and in that rigor...find[ing] liberation.
2. Just Tell Me What You Want. Orthodoxy presents a reasonable set of boundaries…It’s easier for guys to express themselves in worship if there are guidelines about how it’s supposed to work-especially when those guidelines are so simple and down-to-earth that you can just set out and start doing something…People begin learning immediately through ritual and symbolism…This regimen of discipline makes one mindful of one’s relation to the Trinity, to the Church, and to everyone he meets.
3. With a Purpose. Men appreciate that this challenge has a goal: union with God. Orthodoxy preserves and transmits ancient Christian wisdom about how to progress toward this “theosis”…Every sacrament or spiritual exercise is designed to bring the person, body and soul, further into continual awareness of the presence of Christ within, and also within every other human being.
4. A New Dimension. Excitement at discovering a dimension somehow sensed [in previous Christian experience] but unable till now to identify, the noetic”--the reality of God’s presence and of the entire spiritual realm…had become completely distorted in the Christianity I knew...Either...subsumed into the harsh rigidity of legalism, or confused with emotions and sentimentality, or diluted by religious concepts being used in a vacuous, platitudinous way. All three-uptight legalism, effusive sentimentality, and vapid empty talk-are repugnant to men…Participation in the Holy Mysteries [sacraments], observing the fasts, daily prayers, and confession with a spiritual director means making progress along a defined path that is going somewhere real and better.
5. Jesus Christ. He is the center of everything the Church does or says…Orthodoxy offers a robust Jesus…the “Marine Corps” of Christianity…Christ in Orthodoxy is a militant, butt-kicking Jesus who takes Hell captive…Compared to the Orthodox hymns of Christ’s Nativity, “‘the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay’ has almost nothing to do with the Eternal Logos entering irrevocably, inexorably, kenotically, silently yet heroically, into the fabric of created reality.”
6. Continuity. The Orthodox Church offers what others do not: continuity with the first followers of Christ…continuity, not archeology…A catechumen writes that he had tried to learn everything necessary to interpret Scripture correctly, including ancient languages. “I expected to dig my way down to the foundation and confirm everything I’d been taught. Instead, the further down I went, the weaker everything seemed. I realized I had only acquired the ability to manipulate the Bible to say pretty much anything I wanted it to. The only alternative to cynicism was tradition. If the Bible was meant to say anything, it was meant to say it within a community, with a tradition to guide the reading. In Orthodoxy I found what I was looking for.”
7. Worship weirdness. It’s amazingly different…The prostrations, the incense, the chanting, the icons—some of these things took getting used to, but they really filled a void in what I’d experienced till then…Some men initially can’t make heads or tails of what we do in worship, because it’s not purely intellectual, and employs poetic worship language…It’s that there is such a strong masculine feeling to Orthodox worship and spirituality.
8. Not Sentimental. A hearty dislike for what they perceive as a soft Western Jesus…[which] presents Jesus as a friend…someone who ‘walks with me and talks with me’…Or it depicts Jesus whipped, dead on the cross. Neither is the type of Christ the typical male wants much to do with. men are drawn to the dangerous element of Orthodoxy, which involves “the self-denial of a warrior, the terrifying risk of loving one’s enemies, the unknown frontiers to which a commitment to humility might call us…Men get pretty cynical when they sense someone’s attempting to manipulate their emotions, especially when it’s in the name of religion. They appreciate the objectivity of Orthodox worship. It’s not aimed at prompting religious feelings but at performing an objective duty…Evangelical churches call men to be passive and nice (think ‘Mr. Rogers’). Orthodox churches call men to be courageous and act (think ‘Braveheart’).
9. Men in Balance. There are only two models for men: be ‘manly’ and strong, rude, crude, macho, and probably abusive; or be sensitive, kind, repressed and wimpy. But in Orthodoxy, masculine is held together with feminine; it’s real and down to earth, ‘neither male nor female,’ but Christ who ‘unites things in heaven and things on earth.
10. Men in Leadership. Like it or not, men simply prefer to be led by men… It’s the last place in the world men aren’t told they’re evil simply for being men.
For me, the main reason for my journey to Orthodoxy was obviously Jesus Christ, the faith being Christocentric far beyond my understanding and practice as a Protestant. But beyond that, Categories 1, 3, 4, 6 and 8 played a large role in my decision. What about you other guys out there?
And third, the UK Catholic journal, The Tablet, has a good story on noted Orthodox scholar John D. Zizioulas, who is also Metropoliltan of Pergamon. Yes, Pergamon. Zizioulas is noted for his Being as Communion (which I have read), and he has a new book in print, Communion as Otherness (which I have not). The interview touches on a number of topics and is well worth a look. Read it here.