When Was “The Tradition” Finished?

Christ the True VineThe Orthodox Church is gearing up for the “Holy and Great Council” to meet this June. This is a big deal. We have not had a gathering like this in over a thousand years. And church leaders started planning for this particular meeting in the 1960s. That is over fifty years ago! The Orthodox Church is a bit like a confederacy. We are a bunch of different Orthodox Church-es, more or less divided along national boundaries, that agree that we are really just one church. The upside of this power structure is that it keeps us from doing anything too stupid all at once. The downside is that it can be hard for us to do anything at all. So on the one hand our polity makes us inevitably conservative, but on the other hand that conservatism can get confused with the spirit of Orthodoxy itself. Continue reading “When Was “The Tradition” Finished?”

The Piety of Quitting

One vivid memory comes from my days as a Master’s student, when my professor walked into the room with such a look of serenity on his face. He told us that the president of the university had just replaced the chair of the religion department with someone whom I knew to be an unqualified hack. So why the serenity? He described it as confirmation. What reservations he had about leaving the university vanished with that move. A year later, he was at a new university out West, where he finished his career and recently retired.  Continue reading “The Piety of Quitting”

Facing Forgiveness

It is forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church. This is how we begin Great Lent. I missed Forgiveness Vespers because of car problems. I could offer a blanket, “Please forgive me.” There is nothing wrong with that. Still, there is something about looking into the eyes of the person you may or may not have wronged, of asking forgiveness for wrongs you may not know you have committed. Forgiveness Sunday reminds me of Fr. Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov. Each of us needs to see ourselves as responsible for all the wrongs done to all people, and thus infinitely obligated to make things right. Forgiveness is not easy. It should not be easy. It is about facing the fact that in what we have done, and perhaps most in what we have failed to do, we have broken the world, and we are obligated to make things right.

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