Thursday, May 27, 2010
a dose of humility
Well, after spending a great deal of time working out my menu for the Apostles Fast, I come to realize that after nearly 20 years of being Orthodox, I still can't get the fasts straight :) I used as my sources a lives of the saints calendar I own and an online calendar. After getting our church newsletter today with fasting guidelines, followed by a brief visit to evlogia, I did a bit more checking, and realize I made a mistake. It is really rather amusing when I think about it, an appropriate reminder after the weekend - I spent the past 4 days in the presence of Matthew Gallatin, who did a beautiful job talking about the difference in the perception of God according to the East (Orthodoxy) and the West (Catholic/Protestant). Many in attendance at some of these talks were Protestants, and one point that was often made was - Orthodoxy just feels too fluid too many of them (those of us who are Orthodox may find this amusing :). In a sense they are right. It can be frustrating if you are looking for one ultimate source for every detail of living the Orthodox Christian life. As an "A" type personality, I like the idea of someone defining for me exactly what I must do in a given situation. Sometimes I want to throw up my hands and say - please, someone, just tell me exactly what I am supposed to do! That emotion, however, is the pinnacle of pride, because it implies that if I only knew exactly everything I should be doing, I could or would do it. Orthodoxy is not simply about following rules, nor is it as simple as predestination. There is no single handbook to go to like the Westminster Confession of Faith, our path to salvation is not quite so neatly definable. Often we as Christians want a nice neat little set of rules that we can mark off a checklist and say we did it. Even those who believe in predestination want everything neatly defined, so they can be sure they fit into that chosen few. A juridical concept of salvation is much simpler to grasp than a therapeutic one. There is a path, there are rules to that path, but at the same time, God is not a thing, grace is not a thing, and our salvation is not a thing nor a specific moment in time. Christ is a living human being, Grace is the Holy Spirit actually living within us, and God is a real Being. Our purpose is to form a relationship with God, to become one with Him as the Trinity is One. Gallatin phrases it in terms of a marriage. There are things we do as a married couple. There are things we do not do. To get to know my husband, I did not read a lot of books about him. I spent time with him, as we developed a relationship, we interacted with one another to learn more about each other. After 16 years of marriage, I am not finished. I don't have it all perfect, and there are still infinite things I can learn in my relationship with my husband, yet we certainly have a much deeper relationship than 16 years ago, and we become one more and more each day. The sacramental and ascetical practices of the church are our experience and interaction with God. Their purpose is not to make us earn our salvation, or to fulfill some neat little set of requirements to soothe God's sense of justice, but to offer us physical ways to develop that relationship. That is our dance with God. So, forgive my stumble in this particular moment of the dance, and I hope to correct and update my menu and maybe get a few recipes posted soon.