Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The new boys in the sidebar

OK I have done some updating to the sidebar. In particular I would like to welcome the blog Logismoi which I recently stumbled on. It's impressive enough that I am perusing the archives (something I very rarely do on blogs for want of time).

Also added is the Orthodox Christian Information Center. The wealth of truly great material there is astounding. But I feel obliged to add a caveat. Mr. Barnes (the site master) is from the conservative wing of the Church and some of the articles posted on his site are authored by Old Calendarists (though he is not Old Calendarist). While I am not passing judgment on their writings please note that some of the opinions there may be controversial.


David Dickens said...

I'm not sure how you missed OCIC. It seems every convert I know has stumbled into, out of and back into it.

I am deeply indebted to that site for speaking plainly about some things that others refuse to even discuss. The actual contentions around Calendars, for example. I know bloggers don't want unnecessary controversy, but sometimes this borders on the neglectful education of converts (and faithful). It's obvious that he's not "objective" but at least he's "fair and informative" on such points.

Some articles were certainly frustrating to read, but not because of the conservative editorial slant, but because much of the cultural-centric nature seems artificially rationalized.

I do not like abstracting cultural experiences out of the descriptive into the normative.

For example, my family has an icon wall and prays nightly, but I'm sure I would be highly disapproving of the many deficiencies of our practice.

For example, my wife would be terrified to leave a vigil lamp burning 24/7. Yet the site presents this as minimally assumed piety.

Even the icon "corner" or "wall". There are jokes about converts building an iconostasis in their living rooms, yet when I first was inquiring about Orthodoxy there was no proper guide online except the one found on O-info. (I think OrthodoxWiki has a basic page now.)

Anyway, glad to see you out-and-about on the net. I'd recommend "OrthoCuban" if you haven't tried it yet.


John (Ad Orientem) said...

I have known about OCIC for a while but to be honest I have always been a bit hesitant to add the link because of the Old Calendarist stuff on the site. But however sympathetic Patrick Barnes is to their views, he is (last I heard) in full communion with a canonical Orthodox Church.

As for the "how to do tings the Orthodox way..." don't loose a lot of sleep over that. Ask your spiritual father. If he says to worry about vigil lamps then worry about them. Otherwise just keep praying.

God hears prayers all the time that are not offered in front of oil burning lamps.


aaronandbrighid said...

David> Didn't I bump into you somewhere else not long ago? You're the guy at Pepperdine, right?

John> Thanks for the shout-out! For your information, Patrick Barnes attends Holy Dormition Orthodox Church in the Dalles, OR, a Serbian parish pastored by my good friend Fr Luke Hartung. Although Mr Barnes and Fr Hartung are, like myself, quite traditional and profit from many of the things that the moderate Old Calendarists (like those to whom Mr Barnes used to belong) publish, none of us advocate the strict 'walling off' that they do, and I think that he's taken most if not all of the items advocating such an ecclesiological approach off the site.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thanks for that clarification. I am deeply impressed by both your blog and Mr. Barnes excellent website.

Yours in ICXC

David Dickens said...


You have probably encountered me at some point as I've made a handsome fool of myself on nearly every blog or discussion board associated with Orthodoxy online.

This is good that such a public record of my inadequancies exist for my humility, but unfortunate that others must be so exposed.


I know, now, that a vigil lamp doesn't change the world. However, I noticed that you didn't say whether you have one or not. That's the real problem. There's alot of vague advice and assurances of grace, but no discussion of specifics of praxis (unlike theology which is often hyper-specific).

This year at Theophany I was invited by my priest to go with him as he blessed a couple of houses. I learned as much about Orthodoxy in a couple of hours as I had in a couple of months.

This is at once a joy, but also a disappointment and a frustration.

I was talking to a nun at coffee hour on Sunday. She was telling us what a wonderful wealth the abbess is (encyclopedia, I believe she said). When I confessed being nervous about the proper means of addressing the abbess or "bothering her" instead of telling me a proper way to talk or about how much bother was probably fine, ... she just told me not to worry about it.

It actually wasn't very helpful.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

The question of "praxis" is one where your mileage will vary. From my very flawed POV here are the three things I think are essential for all Orthodox.

1. You know how to make the sign of the cross correctly.
2. You can recite the Creed from memory.
3. You know the "Jesus Prayer."

Add to that regular confession and communion and you aren't doing too badly by my book. The rest is not unimportant stuff. But it will come with time and there is a lot of room for variation. We are not a legalistic church.

Have you checked out the yahoo email group for converts and inquirers? I found that a really awesome place to ask questions and get advice on all manner of things. See the link in the sidebar.

Your unworthy brother in ICXC,

David Dickens said...

I'm glad you didn't say recite the confessional prayer from memory. There's something about the awkward wording/grammar choice, that makes that the one part of the Liturgy where I still get tongue tied (that and a couple of weird parts where I can't anticipate which cadence the bass-line is supposed to take and the music is absent from the text).

I should point out that I have subjected my spiritual father to more annoyance than was probably needful for his salvation. I've asked everyone everywhere that Google could reach for all sorts of things.

There's a very positive aspect of the Orthodox community online. Even on "opinionated" blogs, the opinion is always about the Church's teaching. Folks don't like talking about themselves. This is a virtue in and of itself, but it is frustrating if you are trying to "ramp up".

If I had put the picture of my dead son on my icon wall and offended Orthodox visitors (and given a bad witness to my non-Orthodox friends) and had to endure the pain of having to take it down when my priest came to bless the house for Theophany... well... can you see it would be easier to know this stuff up front?

I saw Metropolitan Jonah has a Facebook account. I sent him a friend invite. I had no idea what to write so I think I put "Bless, Your Beatitude" (and then wrote four lines apologizing if that wasn't the proper way to address him or if I shouldn't have addressed him at all). But this stuff matters to people and I am lost in the sea of someone else's culture.

I think there is also an assumption that newbies will grow more naturally in time and folks dismiss converts zeal (and might even see their discomfort as ultimately valuable). I can't agree from this side of the tracks. Unfortunately the only place I can spend a near unlimited time learning is by buying more theology books on Amazon. I'm concerned that continuing that behavior pattern will distort, through intellectualism, my experience in the Church.

But treatises on Church history and collections of John Chrysostom's sermons are the only thing people are willing to publish in the thousands of pages.

I must have fuel to feed the beast. :-)

aaronandbrighid said...

David> I can't recommend enough that you leave off 'theology' and spend your time reading Saints' Lives instead. It is through intimate acquaintance with the Saints that we truly learn what it means to be Orthodox instead of mere concepts and facts. Just yesterday on my blog I quoted Fr Justin (Popovich) saying: 'And what else are the Lives of the Saints but the only Orthodox pedagogical science. For in them in a countless number of evangelical ways, which are completely worked out by the experience of many centuries, it is shown how the perfect human personality, the completely ideal man, is built up and fashioned, and how with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues in the Church of Christ he grows into "a perfect man, according to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ".'

David Dickens said...

I would love some recommendations Aaron. There is a strong ring of truth to what you suggest. I've read Fr Arseny and Fr Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works and I have on my list to get St John of Kronstadt's My Life in Christ.

Other than the occasional reading from the Prologue from Ochrid, I don't know much about the saints, certainly nothing in detail.

aaronandbrighid said...

I would recommend, first and foremost, St Athanasius's Life of St Anthony. You can get a translation from the Latin in Penguin's Early Christian Lives, which has the added benefit of also including several other Latin Lives, such as the Life of St Benedict by St Gregory the Great. The Northern Thebaid is a good collection of Russian Lives, and I would recommend Cyril of Scythopolis's Lives of the Monks of Palestine. I HIGHLY recommend Elder Sophrony's St Silouan the Athonite, as well as anything from the 'Optina Elders' series. Maybe start with Elder Ambrose or Elder Nektary. Also, there are various collections of more substantial Lives than those in the Prologue, although the latter is a good 'bare minimum' for daily reading.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

David, definitely read the Saints' Lives. There is no better reading for the newly Orthodox, and all Orthodox love them.

I recommend Saint Nectarios Press as a good source There are two lengthy pages full of Saints' Lives: Lives of Saints & Righteous - Groups and Lives of Saints & Righteous - Individual. Many are under $5. I have a number of these, and derive no small amount of pleasure and benefit from them. Saint Isaac the Syrian also has recommendations for your reading.

I'd also recommend the Modern Orthodox Saints series by Constantine Cavarnos. I've posted on it here. The Evergetinos is another one to consider, which Aaron has recently received and commented upon.

As an Archimandrite told me nearly ten years ago in the midst of my conversion, when I told him of the various books I was reading: "Stop reading about prayer and pray!" Which is to say, don't get tied up in reading about Orthodoxy when it is meant to be lived.