Sacrifice and Worship

In the 1970’s, the BBC did a series, “The Long Search,” in which Ronald Eyre explored various religions. To my mind, it remains the best such series I’ve seen. When it came to Christianity, the series wisely presented three separate treatments: the Orthodox, the Catholics and Protestants. In its program on Orthodoxy, Eyre traveled to Romania, which was then under the boot of Ceausescu and official “atheism.” The persecution only allowed the Church to shine brighter in Eyre’s examination. The Patriarchate assigned one of its spokespersons to accompany and guide the filmmaker.

In an early conversation, Eyre asks a particular question about “What do the Orthodox believe…” The answer was enlightening:

You would do better to ask, “Whom do the Orthodox worship?”

It is a commonplace to explain the meaning of the word “Orthodox” as “right-believing.” However, depending on how the word is derived, it can also mean, “right glory,” i.e. “right worship.” The Orthodox are those who worship the true and living God in the right way and manner.

Many people would be surprised to learn that in the history of the controversy between East and West, Orthodox and Catholic, among the most bitter disputes was the question of whether the bread for the Eucharist should be leavened or unleavened. This was not much of a problem for the West (you can do what you want), but was a major question in the East. This reveals a very different attitude towards worship itself, something that, through history, has played itself out in a very telling manner. The difference has been a tendency in the West to say, “It’s the thought that counts,” while in the East it’s what you actually do that matters. The tragedy of the Old Believer Schism in Russia is rooted in this aspect of Orthodoxy.

My own Western roots have tended to make me a little skeptical of the Eastern approach. Time, however, has made me think that it is both correct and salutary.

In ancient Israel, right worship seems to have been a careful point within the Scriptures and Tradition. Of course, if there is only one Temple, variations are hard to come by.

A difficulty with the Western approach is its movement from the outward to the inward, and then the inescapable morphing of the inward. In the 8th century, the Fathers in the East offered a careful definition regarding the veneration of icons. The actions of that Council were badly translated in the Latin version, and roundly condemned by the Carolingians. In their condemnation, they said some positive things about images (mostly statues), but, importantly, described veneration as being “in the mind’s eye.” It was the 9th century, and in the West a turn towards the psychological was already beginning.1

The truth is, we can never tell what someone intends by their actions. We cannot see intentions. It is not that our inward disposition has no particular value, but we are beings who are truly enfleshed. Worship is never merely inward.

There is a classical phrase regarding worship: lex orandi, lex credendi. It means: “the law of praying is the law of believing.” It is generally applied to the Church’s treatment of worship. Liturgy is primary in the life of believing – our actions should and ultimately do express and determine what we believe. You might say that you believe this or that, but your worship reveals the truth of the heart.

Discussions of worship in Western traditions generally center around intention and subjectivity. For one group, liturgical worship can be solemn and reverent. For another, worship is raucous, electronic and ecstatic. And in both varieties, there can be many variations. And when Western attention is turned towards the Orthodox, we are often accused of “worshipping” icons and saints. The most common Orthodox response often turns to subjectivity as well, protesting that the actions directed towards icons are not intended as worship, but merely as veneration. It is a conversation that often seems circular – we say we don’t and they say we do.

Returning to the approach of the early Eastern fathers changes the nature of this conversation. Following the Biblical pattern, worship is primarily understood as sacrifice, an offering of praise and thanksgiving, as well as the fulfillment of the Old Testament model, the “bloodless sacrifice” of the Eucharist. In Biblical terms, worship of a false god was obvious to everyone: you were offering sacrifices at the wrong altar with the wrong god.

In Orthodox understanding, the bloodless sacrifice of the Eucharist is the primary act of worship. It is not something we do while we worship: it is what worship truly is. And this is a very helpful distinction. Honor and veneration are given to many things, many of them having no religious character at all. In our culture, we honor movie stars, rich people, generous people, and many things as well: documents, antiques, historical monuments, etc. In classical Christianity, many things and persons are venerated: saints, relics, holy places, clergy. All of these are honored in some manner or another. But in no case does the Church ever offer sacrifice to any other than God.

It is worth considering that Christ does not give us a merely mental version of the faith. The clear commandment to “do this for the remembrance of me,” instead of simply, “remember me,” retains the place of a true offering and sacrifice at the heart of worship. For that matter, He gave us Baptism, a sacramental action, as the initiation into communion with Him. Worship is something we do, not something we simply think or feel.

Of course, Protestant thought, primarily through its anti-Catholic polemic, has become anti-sacrificial. Verses in Hebrews that refer to Christ’s sacrifice “once and for all” have been misconstrued to attack the notion of the Eucharist as sacrifice, despite the fact that this was a very common teaching of the fathers. Orthodoxy (and Rome as far as I know) have never taught that the Eucharist is a re-sacrificing of Christ, a repetition of what can only and ever have been once and for all. There is, however, a firm and continual teaching that the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is made present in the Divine Liturgy. Indeed, that is the meaning of “this is my Body…this is my Blood.”

This is in keeping with the understanding that sacrifice is the primary and distinctive form and the very heart of worship. In the Scriptures, sacrifice is so primary that praise and thanksgiving are referred back to it in order to gain their meaning: “the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”

One contemporary Orthodox elder has said that “exchange” is the very heart of worship. This is inherent in sacrifice. Sacrifice is not, and never has been understood as payment. God cannot be paid. Worship is an offering in which we give to God a portion of what He has given us, and, receive life in return,

“Thine own, of Thine own, we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all.” It is an exchange the establishes and nurtures communion.

And this:

O God, our God, Who sent the heavenly Bread, the food of the whole world, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, to be our savior, redeemer, and benefactor, blessing and sanctifying us: Bless this Offering, and accept it upon Your heavenly Altar. Remember those who offered it and those for whom it was offered, for You are good and love mankind. Preserve us blameless in the celebration of Your divine Mysteries. For sanctified and glorified is Your most honorable and majestic Name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

When worship as sacrifice is rightly understood, veneration and honor assume their relative positions. When, however, the sacrifice loses all concrete meaning and is purely interiorized, the distinction between worship and veneration becomes blurred. It is strange indeed when we live in the metaphor and cease to have any relationship with the roots of meaning.

 

Footnotes for this article

  1. I am indebted to Anthony Ugolnik’s Article, “Iconoclasm vs. Art and Drama,” for this understanding of the Carolingian treatment of the 7th Council.

41 comments:

  1. “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:“‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’” Aaron remained silent.” (Leviticus 10)

    Well said, Father. The point of the above biblical reference makes clear that true and right worship are bound up in the externals. Nothing of Nadab and Abihu’s ‘intentions’ are mentioned; their misstep was in doing that which God had not ordained.
    Reading your article made me think of the flippant, capricious manner in which worship was handled in the various Protestant churches I pastored at. If worship is a matter of the individual’s intentionality only, is it even possible to have sacrificial worship within this model? That is, doesn’t worship as sacrifice ALWAYS require external manifestations, if, as you say, sacrifice is giving back what God has given us? Does the incarnation require of us externally minded worship? If so, how does our heart and mind play into this?

    Thanks, Father.

  2. “…we are beings who are truly enfleshed. Worship is never merely inward.”

    After my time spent in Protestant churches and among neo-gnostics, I was shocked to hear an Orthodox priest say something to the effect of, “We worship the God of matter. We believe that matter matters.” I had been taught by neo-gnostics that matter was something to be overcome. This was surprisingly similar to what I’d heard in Protestant churches: icons, vestments, pilgrimage sites, the flesh… all of it was meant to be escaped (and the Lutherans seemed awful proud they did and/or would). I, however, often wondered, how do I escape that which I am? I’m definitely part matter. If you hit me in the head with a claw hammer hard enough, you can change my personality. Clearly, psyche and soma are intertwined (I’m still not sure what pneuma is, but that’s a topic for another discussion, I suppose). But, the more I thought about my nature as being partially material, the more comfortable I became with the idea of matter as part of worship and the more comfortable I became around icons (instead of being simultaneously drawn to and unnerved by them).

    Now I hear something equally shocking: action matters more than intent in worship. But, surely intent matters? If I come to Divine Liturgy on Sunday, but spend the whole time distracted and thinking about work, does it matter that I came to Church and participated?

  3. John R.,
    It’s clear that no one, other than an extreme Quietist, actually does purely mental worship, and even then, some sort of posture would have to be assumed. As you note, the Incarnation requires of us that worship be enfleshed. The verse in John, “Those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth,” has been abused for nearly the last 500 years to dismiss ritual actions as if they were somehow not “in Spirit.” This is due to the heresy that contrasts material and spiritual and equates spiritual with mental. It’s an utterly false teaching. St. Paul actually tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, describing as “spiritual worship.”

    The heart and mind matter as well. My experience over the years is that nothing better engages the mind and draws it into right attention than the physical actions that accompany it. Evagrius of Ponticus taught that the soul will follow the body. If we want to humble ourselves before God, then we humble our bodies.

  4. Thank you, Father. I will look for this BBC archive. There was another one from the same broadcaster more recent called “Extreme pilgrim – ascetic Christianity”; link here:

    https://youtu.be/9VjU_505i6E

    The topic of right glory also comes up and it appears that it makes the Protestant priest “angry at the demons”. It is a shocked reaction to a novel realisation: that there are things in our Tradition that those in the West dislike profoundly, principally because it goes against our psychological approach to God. Hence the phrases ” I personally do not believe in a God that ____ can be eaten, crucified, resurrected” and so on.

    These documentaries and the comments about how strict Orthodoxy is, show that we each believe in our own God: a convenient, aligned with our passions, Goldilocks God, not too present and not too material, who is constantly adapting to our devised norms.

    Listening to an old podcast of yours about the common complaint about the beauty of the Church and how this money should be given to the poor, earlier today, I noted that “these are Judas’s words”.

    Amen.

  5. Chris,
    I’m not sure that I said actions are greater than intent. In point of fact:

    The truth is, we can never tell what someone intends by their actions. We cannot see intentions. It is not that our inward disposition has no particular value, but we are beings who are truly enfleshed. Worship is never merely inward.

    It is also the case that our intentions will tend, over time, to follow our actions. That is part of the point of “lex orandi, lex credendi.” Indeed, the scholars of the Liturgical Movement who were responsible for the radical changes that began in the 60’s within Western liturgical churches, knew jolly well that if you control the ritual, the theology will follow. I know this because I studied under them and they knew this to be true and would say as much privately. For public consumption, they spoke repeatedly about a return to an earlier pattern of worship, but this was not so. For example, a “West facing” Eucharist, in which the celebrant faces the people, was said to be ancient. But it was well-known that such had never(!) been the case. But there was a desire to effect a radical change in theology. Frankly, they have succeeded far more than any imagined, proving the truth of lex orandi, lex credendi. How do you turn devout Catholics into Pentecostals? Lex orandi.

    It matters that you participated, and it matters what you do with your mind. Sometimes as the priest serving in the altar my mind wanders. I have ADHD! a wandering mind is normal for me. But if I were not engaging in actions, it would be almost impossible for me to get my intentions and heart into the service. When I was on Mt. Athos, the services lasted for hours. They were in Greek and I could not follow what was said (a word here and there). Sitting for hours (or standing) was almost torture for me after a while. God has been merciful enough to me to let me serve in a very active pattern. Many of my altar servers suffer from the same problem. Together, we get our minds to follow our bodies.

    I tell people, if your mind wanders, cross yourself. Or even move somewhere else in Church (easy to do if there are no pews). But mostly, do something!

  6. Oh no, Father! I didn’t think you meant ONLY actions matter. My reading comprehension isn’t THAT poor. 🙂 Just like the psyche/soma interdependence, I was curious about the meeting point of action and intent. You’ve definitely cleared it up for me and offered some helpful advice. And, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who gets distracted during services. I can’t sing along as I don’t yet know the words or melody to the hymns (plus, I’d hate to punish my fellow worshipers), so I quickly find I’m thinking about everything except what I should be thinking about! The next time I’m at Divine Liturgy, I’ll follow your advice. I’m sure I’ll wind up crossing myself 1000 times! 😀

  7. Chris,
    For those of us with minds that wander, sometimes, anxiety or others things increase the problem. On such occasions, I make a prayer before entering the altar in which I ask God’s forgiveness, and to accept the offering of my body standing where it should and doing what it should and ask Him to heal my brain, in some measure.

    There is such a thing as “empty ritual,” but I’ve not seen it in a sacramental setting. Empty ritual is common in Masonic ceremonies, and anything involving politicians. After the fall of the Soviet Union, when public figures in Russia began to show up at Church services in order to be seen showing up, they acquired the nickname of “candle holders.”

    There is also the empty ritual of a preacher looking at his watch…

  8. “Sacrifice without murmuring makes of our stormy life a calm holy day. We fill all our days with the talk of the people who are loth to sacrifice and of those who dare to sacrifice. Disgust and admiration are two baths in which our hearts bathe from sunrise to sunset. By nothing is the disgust towards a man more excited than by hearing: “He is incapable of sacrifice.” When this sentence is directed to ourselves, we feel as if we had lost the whole battle of life.”

    St. Nikolai Velimirovich, from the intro to his “The Agony of the Church” (freely available several places on the net)

    St. Nikolai said this in a different context but it relates to this article in that right and true sacrifice in worship extends to right and true sacrifice in every other part of life, including (most especially) to right and true sacrifice “for” the neighbor. The modern man interizes and psychologizes loving the neighbor such that ther is a split between what he is (the internal Cartesian self) and what he does (pragmatic “help”) so that just like his worship, his “love” becomes disconnected and disjointed from what he is and the connection between love and sacrifice is lost.

    You wrote some time recently about the character of the middle class and its connection to morality of our time. Is modern, middle class man even capable of sacrifice, either in worship, relating to neighbor, or anything else?

    I would like to say that being/becoming Orthodox helps, but after 20 years of Orthodoxy as done in America I am realizing just how many modern, moral men and women are standing next to during any given sacrifice…

  9. Absolutely agree and enjoyed your article Father.
    The experience of our Church has taught us that the nature of love is sacrificial, hence the action of our all loving God and Father, Who sent His Son Who in turn, willingly suffered and died on the Cross in the flesh. His Resurrection immortalised man by destroying death, and seated His glorified human nature at the right hand of the Father.

    Countless Christians since then were unwilling to compromise the relationship and unity they had (and have) in Christ and suffered martyrdom, for them Christ was real, in human form as was His suffering, death and resurrection.

    Christ’s life was and is their life, so the very nature of partaking in the Divine Mystery of His Body and Blood is physical and spiritual. Matter is sanctified and love demands through free will an exchange of gifts

    Therefore, a holistic approach to worship is the only way we can re-unite our fragmented nature (mind, heart, body and soul) so that we can be healed and united with Christ.

    If we worship only in part ie only the mind, or only the body the we do not participate in the fullness of what the Church offers us, that is the life of Christ and indeed Christ Himself. He became matter, flesh and blood to give us life eternal, a truly amazing act of love.

  10. Yes, ‘in spirit and in truth’ has been grossly misinterpreted. If the body was not important then why is it referred to as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

  11. Father Bless,
    This is a thought provoking post and well worth rereading and digesting. Some initial thoughts occurred to me while I was reading. One, internal equals individual. If things are done internally then each person has their own version of truth. I have found this in theological discussions with Western Christians and this multiplicity of theological understand was a major driver in my conversion.
    Two, external is Liturgy, a common action done in public. This results is same beliefs and practices and is a major attraction for me. There is only one Truth and knowing that in worship I am with a group that is of one mind in faith is good.
    Third, in my Seminary days it became very obvious to me that Protestantism especially has no idea of what worship is. The definition I was taught in class (entitled “Worship in the Church”) was so broad and nebulous it was meaningless. Boiled down it meant whatever floated my boat. In Orthodoxy I know what worship versus veneration is.
    Fourth, our participation in the Liturgy in Christ’s Once for All Sacrifice is in Kairos, outside time as is all of the Liturgy. I am often struck when Liturgy is over that it seemed to be only moments long, even the All Night Vigil yesterday passed in a moment. My Protestant friends cannot conceived of stepping out of Kronos into Kairos so they balk at understanding how we can participate in Calvary as it happens.

  12. Thank you Fr. Freeman. There was only one time when we attended Roman Catholic Mass that the words of that particular Holy Eucharist did indeed sound as if Christ was being re-sacrificed. We were attending military chapel. We looked at each other mortified at what we had heard, and slipped out. We were Christians who had been worshipping in the Anglican tradition, but with the disintegration of the Anglican Communion into further heresy and “flying Bishops” taking oversight we would sometimes go to the Roman Catholic service. The wording of the Holy Communion portion of the liturgy in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the Roman Catholic were almost identical, and what were generally used. Hence our shock.

  13. Thank you for posting the link to the “Extreme Pilgrim” Thomas. I wanted to find it again for some time…
    Around min 13:50, he asks the Beduins what is the one thing they would like the most in the world….
    I have been meaning to show this to my sons… 🙂
    I love this Fr. Lazarus, there is a priest in my town who said it’s possible to go to Egypt to visit the cave of St. Anthony… It’s my new travel dream… 🙂

    I am sorry for this off topic comment
    There is another documentary on Fr. Lazarus that is absolutely wonderful:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmSm120gFlQ&t=3352s (part one, then part two follows)

  14. Fr. Bless
    I forgot to mention that we are now home in Orthodoxy. The original, full Divine Liturgy, from which the form of several mainline Protestant liturgies are taken from, is truly a blessing. I had tears roll down my face many times in the first several months of attending. Nicholas, yes, part of the Kronos, Karios is when we sing the Cherubic Hymn and are told to “lay aside all earthly cares” and heaven and earth are joined and we enter the Kingdom. When it is time for worship to end, it seems as no time has passed usually and I am sad to walk outside. Divine Liturgy moves us in the right direction, of humility before the Trinity, of repentance, or praying for others, hearing God’s word infused into every aspect, hearing that God is the lover of mankind. The use of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls in worship of the Trinity forms us. Some Protestant denominations indeed make the accusation of Liturgy being empty ritual, but fail to see the fact that every church has order to what they do, and individuals can be just “going through the motions” whether it is Divine Liturgy or a praise band. Each person is an individual and whether one “gets something out of it” depends on the disposition of one’s heart. Dry spells come when one cannot concentrate, or is distracted, or feels that God is not near. That is where Liturgy is a continuous gift as through the use of all the senses, steeped in God’s Word, and through the motions of body and mind; those divine things will come to the forefront of our thoughts and our nous at the right time to save us according to our needs. Reading portions of St Theophan the Recluse’s The Path of Salvation, he teaches to surround children from infancy with icons, home prayer, candles, incense, the Word of God. Some Orthodox mothers share that they hold their babies and move their little arms crossing themselves. This surrounds the child with good things to guide their formation. While we adults are more set in our ways, the same applies to us. I apologize as my point may not be clearly said.

  15. This article nearly wipes out my last and greatest reservation about embracing Orthodoxy. Thanks, Father. You’re absolutely right about the argument between Protestants and Orthodox about whether veneration looks too much like worship. It’s a cyclical argument based on a deficient Protestant understanding of the nature of true worship. This clarifies a lot for me.

  16. In the Roman Catholic Church I was taught that every Eucharist is a communion of saints in which all, living and dead, participate. In other words, there is only one Eucharist and it takes place outside space and time.

  17. I believe the technical term is “anamnesis.” The point is that the Eucharist is neither a recreation nor a memorial. It is the Eucharist. It is here and now. It is the actual body and the actual blood of Christ. If I did not believe that, I would not bother with it.

  18. Chris,
    Don’t get overly bothered about wavering attention during liturgy. Happens to most. Remember to keep pushing back whenever you catch yourself drifting. Also helps if the drifting has not taken you too far from the shore. (On very many days pushing is all i’ve done during the entire service. On such days don’t forget to thank Him and congratulate yourself for having marked your attendance.) And yes, cross yourself often (you can do it without others noticing it, like on your palm with your finger(s); He’s okay with all that).
    I remember a priest telling us long ago that a total of 15 minutes of attention during liturgy would guarantee us food for a week. Needless to say he was not asking us not to strive for more but i’ve come to appreciate his wisdom. The liturgy has got it’s own way of getting inside you even if your attention is elsewhere. One huge reason why kids —
    no matter the age and the difficulty — should be brought to church without fail.

  19. Fr. Stephen, I am a Roman Catholic and have for many,many years followed your blog. Sadly, many of the things this post points out about my faith as being splintered from the truth ring true among us faithful. Whether by God ‘s design or fate I read this post by Fr. Dwight this morning before I read yours, https://dwightlongenecker.com/americas-two-catholic-churches/. I have many questions. Pray for me and I will continue to pray for you. God’s Choicest Blessings upon You!

  20. Cathy,
    I have seen the phenomenon that Fr. Dwight describes. It is, alas, the product of modernity. It was a disastrous decision to “embrace modernity” starting in the 60’s. When people argue positively about “modern” stuff, they do so as if “modern” were merely a period in history. “Modern” is not a period in history. It is a philosophy, a set of ideas, that has come to dominate a period in history. But it hides by wrapping itself in the mantle of a sort of historical inevitability (that part rhymes with Marxist notions).

    I have seen videos of the whole charismatic movement thing being spread in Ukraine, including among Eastern Catholics. It carries many, many of the assumptions of modernity within it. For example, it is a “movement,” and thinks of itself in terms of progress, etc. Charismatic notions are in no way truly embracing of tradition. A vision here or there would knock tradition off its feet.

    These ideas are very widespread. Orthodoxy, for a variety of reasons, has been sheltered from some of this, but we live in a sea of modernity. We must pray for one another!

  21. When it is time for worship to end, it seems as no time has passed usually and I am sad to walk outside.

    I also find that when I enter worship, I suddenly think “an hour and a half? That’s a long time!”. But when it is over, it seems so short and I wish it would go on! Glory to God for His Grace.

    Orthodoxy, for a variety of reasons, has been sheltered from some of this, but we live in a sea of modernity. We must pray for one another!

    Father, I do not think we will remain sheltered much longer. There are already “fringe” groups within Orthodoxy nipping at the corners and the politics of the modern U.S. will soon target us as they have Rome.

  22. Byron,
    It is important, I think, always to focus on our own soul in these sort of times. When we look at various assaults, groups, etc., we easily exteriorize the threat, get drawn into the passions, etc. It is depth and greatness of soul that drives away these assaults. When I see lots of external battles going on, lots of ads (I see this in Catholic magazines, etc.), I know that the battle is being lost. We need to remember that the mind of modernity thinks it is in charge of history. Nothing has come upon the Church that God has not allowed. We cannot “defeat” it other than by not being “it.” Such statements produces a fearful response in some. That fear is a tool of modernity…saying, but if you don’t control it, it will conquer you! And we cite examples like Athanasius. He was utterly not in control of history. Pray.

  23. Father, I was once advised (suggested) to withdraw from opinion with regards to certain inflammatory topics which in the end due to their heated nature benefited no one. I use to have the habit of getting over involved.

    But I would like to ask this sincere question: Is there a moment in time when a Christian can voice his opinion in defence of the Faith with regard to modernity etc. Or do we risk losing the peace that took so long to obtain.

    I have fallen into this trap in the past, and the only fruits it has brought me is: anger, judging people, pride, sadness etc

  24. Father…thank you for the reminder to focus on our own souls….always always always. It is so easy to get caught up in the events of this world and think we must do something to “make a difference”. In reality, a difference is made when our soul is in peace. ..this is what draws people to Christ and away from the false reality of modernity.
    Far from having conquered even one passion, God has given me glimpses here and there of the effect of this spirit of peace , which only makes me want it all the more. So your advice to us to pray for each other, oh yes, so very important, for love, unity, protection.
    Another consequence of modernity is alienation from each other. Compound this with the phenomenon of ones own personal world getting smaller as we grow older (for many reasons, kids grown and leave, illness, death of loved ones, and those of us who have been single all our life especially are keen to loneliness as we age), we can easily succumb to despair. This is why the experience of being present at Divine Liturgy, offering the sacrifice of praise and worship to the One who knows our very condition , together with our brothers and sisters of the same Body, feeding on the life giving Body and Blood of Christ, being present in Heaven on Earth….all this sustains our life, feeds our soul the very nourishment needed to carry us through each day. We may not know the people sitting next to us, in front of us or on the other side of the isle, but it is a comfort to know we are all praying to the same Savior…for the world, as the supplications are read, as well as for each other.
    Please pray…I, for one, need your prayers.

  25. Father Stephen,
    My heart again rejoices as I read another wonderful article by you on Orthodoxy. As I grow fonder of my wife of 52 years, I grow fonder of Orthodoxy after 22 years! It was a blessing that you posted the akathist, “Glory to God for All Things,” by Metropolitan Tryphon. I read parts at my brother’s in law funeral. Also, I have written 5×7 cards with an ode on each to be read by our grandchildren at Thanksgiving for the prayer at the feast. The akathist is so beautiful that it speaks to any open heart, Orthodox or Evangelical, as is the case with our family. God bless you and family at Thanksgiving!

  26. Mario,
    Prayer is much to be preferred to speaking. I think that the situations that provoke our defense are just that: provocations. Will responding actually do anything other than assuage our passion to respond? Pray.

  27. Mario, the only way to do it is 1. Never react. By reacting you are automatically giving up your peace. It is never about being right or winning. Truth carries it’s own authority and power which will bear fruit in proper season. 2. Learn the discipline of giving thanks to God. That allows His order and Providence to manifest. 3. Realize that whatever bad thing someone else says about you is either true or could be true. Allow it to be a call to Repentance. 4. Pray for the salvation of the soul of your adversary and honor him as one of God’s people.

  28. Hi Michael,

    Your words also speak to me. The Spirit of the Church always has the same message.

    Thank you

  29. Thank you, Father, and thank you, Santosh, for the advice. I virtually never get to attend Father Stephen’s Wednesday night classes, so I often look to these blog posts and the comments that follow for my instruction in the faith! There are always so many interesting topics discussed!

  30. I was once skeptical too, but over the years I managed to see in my own life and in the lives of the various churches that Lex Orandi,Lex Credendi means something extremely important, and that i think the Old Ritualists had the right idea all along, and that much of what they were driving at was exactly that of Evagrius that one could not separate and compartmentalize ones beliefs from the way one prays.

    One book that helped me see this was the ex Catholic turned Orthodox Gabriel Bunge’s book “Earthen Vessels” which is exactly about how to pray according to the Fathers, and his own conclusions on Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi are similar to your own. Funny enough but Hieromonk Gabriel Binge was also deeply influenced by Evagrius; he even wrote a book about him.

    All in all I thank you for this Father. You’ve always got a very interesting take on things that make me see that you have sounded the depths of Christian tradition and struggled in your own life to both understand and pass on what you know.

    Since I came to many of the same conclusions in my own life I know that you have thought deeply about this. it takes time to sink in.

    Happy American Thanksgiving to you and your readers Father.

  31. Father, Met. Jonah’s teaching helped in my articulating the proper approach. Mostly though it was a direction from my Bishop to hold on to my peace. I could still engage with others; contend without being contentious. Working to be obedient to his direction has born fruit. With the added dimension of giving glory to God that I learn here it becomes clearer yet.

    There is much that can be said, even needs to he said but unless one has the proper foundation it is better to keep silent. It is seldom easy and I am still a work in progress to be sure.

    Thank you for what you write and the forum here to learn.

  32. Our Priest read it this morning in the Thanksgiving Liturgy. It is an amazing sermon especially under the circumstances in which Fr Alexander preached his last sermon. Glory to God for all things.

  33. Father,
    Thank you for this wonderful blog! I love the imagery and art you choose to illuminate the written content. Could you write the name and artist by the pictures you post? It would be great to know what piece we are looking at and also a courteous gesture to cite the artist and the name of their work. It is the same principle as citing an author when you borrow their ideas or quote written text (as you did with Anthony Ugolnik’s Article above).
    Thanks again for writing!

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