Many people who enter the Orthodox Church as adults, whether from other Christian traditions or even from non-Christian traditions, see Orthodoxy not as a change of course so much as a fulfillment of inchoate longings. And though it’s not untrue to refer to my “conversion” to Orthodox Christianity from Evangelicalism through Calvinism, it’s also true that its a “fulfillment” in at least three senses:
- It was a recovery of my preschool faith in a God who fundamentally loved me but was disappointed when I sinned. That faith had been shelved and forgotten in favor of a God who was more like a medieval lord, controlling, angry at deviations from His sovereign will, and apt to torture me eternally for those deviations.
- It fulfilled my desire for quod semper, quod ubique, et quod ab omnibus creditum est (the Vincentian Canon). Some people have so deeply internalized the myth of progress that they chase after every religious novelty (e.g., last week’s popular press baloney that an earthshaking new manuscript suggests Jesus was married) as if it were the veriest zenith of wisdom. I’ve never suffered that affliction. On Christian faith, closer to the original has always struck me as better.
- My favorite verses from Senior year of high school: “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17b-19).
I do not claim to have fully realized the third item yet, but I’m now in a Church that believes that it (not mere escape from hellfire) is God’s desire for us.
In Protestant terms, the Apostle Paul is writing about a part of “sanctification.” In Orthodox terms, being “filled with all the fullness of God” (or becoming “partakers of the divine nature” as the Apostle Peter put it) is “theosis” or “deification” – sanctification on steroids, as it were.
But it requires our cooperation, and that’s hard work. Orthodoxy is not a “let go and let God” religion.
(H/T Abbot Tryphon for the image)
The most important thing imaginable is to live by preparing well for death, with or without, inside or outside of, schools and their institutional counterparts. As Catholics we cannot accept a pedagogy that lacks mystagogy.
Samuel D. Rocha at First Things, explaining what they’re doing with this final year before the law requires them to enroll their son in a more formal education – i.e., education that leaves little time for “the most important thing imaginable.”
George Weigel remembers “back when” in pre-Vatican II Catholic weddings:
[W]edding servers were exposed, time and again, to the prescribed “exhortation” the priest read to the couple before they pronounced their vows. That exhortation is worth recalling, now that the very idea of marriage is being contested on four state ballots, and in the national election, on Nov. 6:
My dear friends: You are about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred, because established by God himself. By it, he gave to man a share in the greatest work of creation, the work of the continuation of the human race. And in this way he sanctified human love and enabled man and woman to help each other live as children of God, by sharing a common life under his fatherly care.
Because God himself is thus its author, marriage is of its very nature a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self. But Christ our Lord added to the holiness of marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He referred to the love of marriage to describe his own love for his Church, that is, for the people of God whom he redeemed by his own blood. . . . It is for this reason that his apostle, St. Paul, clearly states that marriage is now and for all time to be considered a great mystery, intimately bound up with the supernatural union of Christ and the Church, which union is also to be its pattern. . . .
No greater blessing can come to your married live than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. . . .
It’s impossible to imagine a Catholic priest pronouncing those words at a gay wedding.
(George Weigel at First Things; emphasis in original.) I don’t know what is said post-Vatican II.
It sadly is not at all impossible to imagine a “missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian” celebrity/author/pastor pronouncing some sort of recognizably Christianesque twaddle at a gay wedding.
Although the words of the Orthodox Crowning Service (Wedding) are dramatically different from the Catholic, the reality that marriage is designed for “the continuation of the human race,” not the fulfillment of a couple’s romantic longings, is even more intensely expressed in litany and a long blessing, beseeching God to bless the couple with children as he blessed a line of Old Testament couples, named couple-by-couple:
That there may be given unto them soberness of life, and fruit of the womb as may be most expedient for them; let us pray to the Lord.
That they may rejoice in the beholding of sons and daughters; let us pray to the Lord.
That there may be granted unto them the happiness of abundant fertility, and a course of life blameless and unashamed; let us pray to the Lord
Who did also bless Your servant Abraham, and opened the womb of Sara, and made him the father of many nations; Who bestowed Isaac upon Rebecca, and blessed her offspring; Who joined Jacob and Rachel, and from them made manifest the twelve patriarchs; Who yoked Joseph and Asenath together, and as the fruit of generation did bestow upon them Ephrem and Manasse; Who accepted Zacharias and Elizabeth, and declared their offspring the Forerunner;
Who out of the root of Jesse, according to the flesh, produced the Ever‑Virgin Mary, and from her were Incarnate-born for the salvation of the human race; Who through Your unspeakable Grace and plentiful goodness were present in Cana of Galilee, and blessed the marriage there, that You might show a lawful union, and a generation there from, is according to Your Will; do You Yourself,O Most Holy Master, accept the prayer of us, Your servants; and as You were present there, be present also here with Your invisible protection.
Bless this marriage and grant unto these Your servants … a peaceful life, length of days, chastity, love for one another in a bond of peace, offspring long‑lived, fair fame by reason of their children, and a crown of glory that does not fade away.
Account them worthy to see their children’s children ….
This does not mean that well-formed Orthodox and Catholic Christians, in the crude terms sometimes uttered even by well-meaning folks, “oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons.” In both traditions, marriage is a sacrament, after all. We don’t give sacraments to folks off the street who “just want ‘a Church Wedding’,” and we don’t expect everybody to fulfill our vision of it marriage any more than we expect everybody to fast on our holy days (or feast when we feast).
Rather, we grieve at, and resist, civil amnesia about the teleology of human sexuality and the consequent natural meaning of marriage. Such amnesia bodes great ill. And those who consciously inflict such amnesia on society exhibit damnable hubris.
And what of the nuptial service of your Christian tradition (if you have one), gentle reader? Is it an anchor holding you to reality, or a moistened finger held aloft to discern the direction of the wind?
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