Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Several Topics

These from a recent conversation

BurmanThe Good Fight

Who of us in anything contends just because we love fighting? We do it from a sense of duty, honour, and mission. A young man was once asked by a group of Greeks to fight with them, because their faith had been scorned. He did not want to fight with them but, from love, he agreed and fought well. He did it without regret, but it did cost time, energy, and attention, three things which Orthodoxy declares are immensely sacred. It is not a flippant or casual choice. If a brother interrupts your prayers to ask for bread, what do you do? You see. Love compels us. But we long to return to the one thing that really matters. Likewise, do we see a Christian praying, but around him his brethren are being carried off to gulags, to torture, with no one to speak for them. Let him place the marker in the book, run out of the church without bowing to the altar, and be the voice of the voiceless. Let him too go to the Gulag, so they won’t be alone, or let him defend them. But let him long to return to prayer, and do so when he can. Love compels. If we are not moving between the two loves, that of GOD and that of our Brother, then we are lovers of the world, and God save us, for we are becoming kindling and fire is coming.

Blooming Where You’re Planted

ArmeniansTake, for example, the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turks. There’s a concerted campaign to cover it up, bury it, revise it, and eliminate it. But there is enough of a response to that, that can be found, if someone has the integrity to look farther. Those who just believe what they’re told – well, it is hard to find hope for those minds – but the dead, crying from the ground, have a voice, and it can be found and can be heard. But if that were not so, if there was nothing but the mythology, then one might want to be collaborating and working with a web site about the Armenian genocide, to pursue that mission.

Take Kenya: indeed we all pray for “every city and country”, but when there is threat of war, and lives are being lost, and the poor are under attack – thousands of livelihoods burned to the ground in the bazar and their families huddled in the city square – where this is occurring, we ARE involved, always, either by indolence and coldness or by activity. We are accountable to what we know, even if that is little. The great Protestants Niemoller and Bonhoeffer are more Orthodox on this point than this writer when they act and my heart is cold and inactive, or when my emotions are moved but my activity does not follow, or when I think of it but do not make the thought a prayer.

The Poor

It is the tradition of the Orthodox to eat poor foods during Great Lent, abstaining from meat, costly oil, and unnecessary or decadent foods like alcohol. It is the tradition further to eat fewer meals, and to eat less at each meal, and to remain unfilled, to be a bit empty. It is the tradition to eat simple ingredients prepared simply, and to take what money we can save from all these things (cheaper, fewer, less, simple) and to relieve the poor.

The poor – those anywhere who suffer grievous want, who have no defense, no help, no voice. The poor are our mission on earth. Christ warns especially at this time, ‘But to you who I have made to stand on my left, I was poor and you did not come to me: Go now, poured with Hell into the Lake of Fire, which was created for the Enemy, for you are kindling.’

Activity vs. Theory

Leaving the altar to carry bread to the poor does not always mean we want to stop and have a discussion about poverty. An old priest, after Divine Liturgy, used to take money on foot, down stinking alleyways to the poorest shacks – places decent people would never even have occasion to see. He took with him whoever would go, including a young man who wanted to ask questions, who was foolish in his youth. The young man didn’t realize that he had the wrong questions, and that the right questions, the important ones, were all being answered, if he would just keep up. And so he had a choice, keep up with the priest, that lean, fast-weakened, prayer-strengthened man, his feet scrambling down this alley, then down that one, and watch him put the envelopes in their hands, or he could try to ask his questions, and find that he’d gone on. He WAS answering the questions. It was the young man’s ears that were stopped up. And now there is remebrance, because he did the important thing, and did not always stop to answer the youth. But in Confession, he would remind the youth to love the poor, and so he began to know what he meant, by experience. He gave the all sufficient food, when the young man was looking to choose items from a menu.

Setting Out

“Let us, let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our souls and cleanse our flesh; And as we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness, to behold His Holy Pascha.” – The Sticheron of the First Monday of Great Lent

On Questions:

Please be advised: Even if you ask the host of the site something, he may likely have to go ask someone else. And not everyone is standing by with a walkie talkie. We have full lives. We pray, we go to liturgy, we teach, we gather, we eat, we discuss, we work, we have families. It is not always possible to answer every question w/o threatening those things, and so it is sometimes better for him to say “I cannot answer you.”


February 14, 2008 - Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite Issues | , ,

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