Monday, March 5, 2012

On Becoming an Orthodox Theologian

As we slowly work our way through implementing and adapting the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I find myself constantly looking to better understand the differences between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic faiths.  Growing up a Reformed Protestant, I do understand the western mindset (and still struggle to overcome it!), but I knew very little truth concerning the Roman Catholic Church.  To faithfully represent Orthodoxy in the Catechesis, I must first understand the faith in which it is rooted.  It also means I am searching to better understand the teachings of the Orthodox Church.  The result, I find that my google searches often look something like this: "catholicism and theosis",  "orthodoxy and baptism", "catholic rite of baptism" etc.   Now, before you take the title of this post to imply that I consider myself on the road to becoming an Orthodox theologian, let me assure you, that is the opposite of my message here.  In my searching, I ran across an interesting statement concerning theology in the Orthodox church, one that I am sure we could all hold as a good reminder, any time we consider ourselves becoming "knowledgeable" about the faith.  

"Orthodox theology is of an explicitly mystical character. Theology in the Eastern Orthodox church is what is derived from saints or mystics of the tradition, and Eastern Orthodox consider that 'no one who does not follow the path of union with God can be a theologian'.  In Eastern Orthodoxy, theology is not treated as an academic pursuit, but it is based on revelation, meaning that Orthodox theology and its theologians are validated by ascetic pursuits, rather than academic degrees."

Once more I am reminded of how little I understand.  Once again I am reminded of the danger of 'studying' the Orthodox faith, rather than living it.  How easy it is to learn about the faith.  How easy to impress others with a list of deeply spiritual books read, or well thought out arguments, or carefully written blog posts.  What is the "proof" of Orthodox faith?  Our life.  How we live.  How we act.  What we say.  What we do.  How the light of Christ shines forth from us as from the saints.  Our humility.   How we dance with God.   


matushka constantina said...

I couldn't agree more!
I've missed your posts. Hope you are well.

shelley said...

Oh I SO agree. And like you I needed that reminder. As a former Catholic and also a catechist with CGS,I struggle a lot with the mystical approach to the faith in Orthodoxy when researching ?'s for adaptations. It's not neatly defined and logically packaged in a way that my Western brain can grasp easily. This reminds me that in working with the adaption process to CGS I need to PRAY through it, not RESEARCH through it. Research only adds to the clutter in my head. Prayer clears the clutter. Lord have mercy!

Thanks for this reminder

Anna said...

matushka - we are well, I have missed being in this space and community. I suppose life has just been very full this past six months, and something had to give. Thank you for your patience and for still checking in!

Matushka Anna said...

I'm glad you're back too!

Very true. I found this infinitely comforting when I discovered it (several years ago now) because I felt lost and hopeless in the face of so many books. It's not that I turn my back on all learning, I just don't agonize over the false dichotomy of "knowing it all" and "failing".

Margaret said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post! I was reading the Glory to God Blog this morning and thought of your post here that I read a few days ago. I believe you're definitely encouraging us in the right direction, thank you!
From the book, The Enlargement of the Heart, by Archimandrite Zacharias:

For Elder Sophrony [Sakharov], theology was the state of being in God….theology was for him the description of the event of his meeting with Christ when he was caught up and saw the divine Light. [as described earlier in the text]. (For him theology was the narration of an event.) According to his writings, authentic theology consists not in the conjectures of man’s reason or the results of critical research, but in the state of the life into which man is brought by the action of the Holy Spirit. Theology is then a grace of the Holy Spirit which rekindles the heart of man. Whoever has acquired this gift becomes as a light in the world, holding forth the word of life.

Anna said...

Margaret - thank you for the addition of that quote, it does a much better job of expressing this idea than my own words!