Lent begins for us Orthodox this week, about a week-and-a-half before non-orthodox have Easter! I’m excited, and a little nervous, to be beginning Lent. You see, in the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church, the Lenten discipline is to fast and abstain (from meat) every day of Lent except on Sundays! I’m not sure I can handle that yet… Donna is planning on doing Monday/Wednesday/Friday as meatless for the entire family. I am going to attempt to do closer to what the Church call for… but no promises! This is one thing that I love about the Orthodox Church. The Church expects a lot from its members, but it also realizes that everyone is at a different point in their spiritual journeys. It doesn’t proclaim that its members are “going to hell” because of their failures. Rather, the Orthodox Church, as a true hospital for sinners wants us to work towards the goal. I can handle that attitude, and honestly, I think I am more likely to reach (or at least, get close to) the goal. Additionally, I will be striving towards the goal with the right attitude — not avoiding hellfire — but striving towards being more like Christ. After all, that is the ultimate goal of life.
I know that we’ve been back and forth over which church to attend for a while. We’ve been attending (somewhat sporadically, at first) Saint Benedict Antiochian Orthodox Church since January, 2015. Saint Benedict is one of few western rite churches within the whole of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
I think that I have finally found the church that teaches what I believe is the truth in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Like the Roman Catholic Church, it is an ancient church that teaches Scripture and Tradition. But, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, it does not teach what I consider to be excesses – such as papal infallibility. It also doesn’t demand scholastic answers for everything like the RCC does. This scholastic reasoning in the RCC has resulted in such teachings as the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mortal/venial sin definitions and requirements, and a host of other things that just about drove me mad during the time I was in the Roman Catholic Church.
It is also different from Confessional Lutheran Churches in significant ways. The Lutheran Church does not teach that Tradition is authoritative, which hardly makes sense since the New Testament didn’t even exist in the early days of the Church! The Orthodox Church also teaches free will, unlike the Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church teaches a confusing single-predestination which is best described as follows: If you get to Heaven, it’s God’s fault; if you go to Hell, it’s your fault. Ultimately, nearly all of Lutheran doctrine is affected by this faulty doctrine.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is a sacramental church, which I think is a necessity. Like both the RCC and Lutheran Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is apostolic in both senses – bishops ordaining bishops throughout time, and in that it adheres to the apostolic teachings. It is biblical – almost all the liturgy and prayer is taken from scripture.
I’m really excited to be becoming a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. If all goes according to plan, we will all be Chrismated in November, before Advent.
I found this poem and wanted to save it:
Some people go to Church because they think it makes them good
While others occupy their place because they feel they should
In pleasant weather some will go a little time to spend
And others like to grace the place to gossip with a friend
Yes, people go to Church for many reasons, some quite odd
But oh, what blessing waits for those who come to worship God.
– Source Unknown
Donna and I decided to start attending church closer to home. While we weren’t unhappy with Our Redeemer, we were just getting exhausted going into Wichita Falls so much. We also felt that it would be nice to begin getting to know some people in Holliday. We officially joined Holliday First United Methodist Church on October 5th. Donna and I both are in the choir, which we enjoy. The boys have Sunday School or nursery and they seem to enjoy it. It is really nice to not have to go to a restaurant afterwards on Sunday, too. It only takes a couple of minutes to get home, so we can eat there if we want to! All in all, I think it is a good move for us. We really look forward to getting to know our new church home!
After a little over two years in the Catholic Church, Donna and I have decided to switch back to the Lutheran Church (LC-MS). We will be officially joining Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Wichita Falls this Sunday. It has been a bumpy road, but I am glad for the experience. To be honest, I always liked the theology of the Lutheran Church better than the Catholic, even when we decided to join the Catholic Church. Perhaps it was more “me” leading myself to the Catholic Church than God (which is what I thought at the time). I kind of think God just allowed me to go – not that He necessarily thought it was the best place for me. I don’t regret joining the Catholic Church though. I don’t think I would have fully appreciated all that the Lutheran Church has to offer without having been in the Catholic Church. Maybe that was God’s plan after all… No matter what, I know that I love God, and I intend to follow Him wherever He leads me.
A priest and a pastor from the local churches are standing by the side of the road, pounding a sign into the ground that reads: “The End Is Near! Turn Yourself Around Now–Before It’s Too Late!”
As a car speeds past them, the driver yells, “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!”
From around the curve they hear screeching tires and a big splash.
The pastor turns to the priest and asks, “Do you think the sign should just say “Bridge Out?”
During the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours yesterday, I ran across a beautiful passage written by Saint Ambrose:
It is also written: Open your lips, and let God’s word be heard. God’s word is uttered by those who repeat Christ’s teaching and meditate on his sayings. Let us always speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.
How wonderful it is that everything we think and say and do can be focused on Christ! That is the beauty of the Catholic faith; we are able to find Christ in day-to-day things. It is not just on Sundays that we think of Christ but every day, in all circumstances!
I am a 1st Degree Knight at Holy Family’s Knights of Columbus Council. Soon I will have my membership transferred to the Sacred Heart Council. I am excited to be getting more involved with my church down here in Wichita Falls. The Knights in Lawton really do a lot of good work for the Church and its Parishioners. I hope the Sacred Heart Council is as active as Holy Family’s. I am looking forward to getting my 2nd and 3rd Degrees soon!
I ran across this article on the Catholic News Service website. I think it is a wonderful idea for Christians to begin to defend their faith. In order to defend their faith, Christians must know and understand their faith, and that is sadly lacking in American Christianity today…
Making the old new: Vatican encourages a recovery of ‘apologetics’
The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the Catholic Church, it’s true that everything old can be new again, and the Vatican wants one of those things to be the art of “apologetics” — dusted off and updated to respond to new challenges, including those posed by militant atheists.
The term “apologetics” literally means “to answer, account for or defend,” and through the 1950s even Catholic high school students were given specific training in responding to questions about Catholicism and challenges to church teaching.
At least in Northern Europe and North America, the effort mainly was a response to Protestantism. Today, while sects and fundamentalist groups challenge Catholics in many parts of the world, almost all Catholics face objections to the idea of belief in general, said Legionary of Christ Father Thomas D. Williams, a professor at Rome’s Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University.
Father Williams is author of “Greater Than You Think: A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God,” written in response to the late Christopher Hitchens’ book, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” and similar works.
Over the past 50 years, apologetics lost its general appeal because “it was considered proselytism,” an aggressive attempt to win converts that was replaced by ecumenical dialogue, he said. It didn’t help that many Catholics started seeing all religions as equally valid paths to salvation, so they thought it was best to encourage people to live their own faith as best they could without trying to encourage them to consider Christianity.
Among the Regina Apostolorum students, he said, there is a renewed interest in apologetics — usually covered today under the heading of fundamental theology. “You can change the name, make it gentler and nicer, but you always have to give reasons for your hope and belief,” he said.
While there have been scattered attempts to train Catholics to explain their faith to others since Vatican II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has asked for a more widespread effort to get apologetic material into the hands of Catholics.
In early January, the congregation issued a note on preparing for the Year of Faith, which will begin in October. Addressing national bishops’ conferences, the congregation said, “It would be useful to arrange for the preparation of pamphlets and leaflets of an apologetic nature” so that every Catholic could “respond better to the questions which arise in difficult contexts” from sects to moral relativism and from secularism to science and technology.
The congregation included a reference to the biblical admonition from the First Letter of Peter: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
The passage continues by saying responses should be given “with gentleness and reverence,” which Jesuit Father Felix Korner said means taking the attitude that “the person talking to me has a real question; through the question I discover the deeper grounds of my hope and joy; I try to respond by making myself and our faith understood.”
The Jesuit, a theology professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and expert in Christian-Muslim relations, said, “Apologetics in the restricted, poor, primitive sense later became: ‘I learn some answers, and I respond to any question as if it were an attack by refuting the other.'”
To make apologetics part of a true Christian witness, he said, involves “being interested in the newness of the question” posed and “challenged by its rationality, daring to explore deeper my own tradition and hope.”
Pope Benedict XVI and the Pontifical Council for Culture have chosen the path of dialogue to explore the issues and objections to faith raised by some secular humanists, atheists and agnostics. The pope invited nonbelievers to his day of dialogue for peace in Assisi last October and the pontifical council has launched a dialogue project called “the Courtyard of the Gentiles” to explore issues raised by experts in the fields of politics, economics, law, literature and the arts.
An effort to combine dialogue and apologetics is found in Catholic Voices, an organization in the United Kingdom that compiles detailed responses to current questions and trains Catholics to present official church teaching civilly and clearly in the media when questions are raised on controversial topics.
The need for articulate Catholics who could remain calm under fire became evident after a 2009 formal debate in England in which Hitchens and the actor Stephen Fry faced off against Nigerian Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja and Ann Widdecombe, a Catholic member of Parliament. The crowd clearly was on the side of Hitchens and Fry, who argued against the motion that “the Catholic Church is a force for good.”
Jack Valero, coordinator of Catholic Voices and U.K. press spokesman for Opus Dei, said the group began by trying to respond to objections raised by groups protesting Pope Benedict’s 2010 visit to Scotland and England. The issues included homosexuality, contraception, assisted suicide, clerical sexual abuse, abortion, AIDS, same-sex marriage and women in the church.
“Once we had identified the issues, we studied how best to answer them and developed our apologetics materials,” Valero said.
But having written responses isn’t enough. “If somebody communicates aggressively, which is not a very Christian way to behave, then the message does not come across,” he said.
So, a guy in a dream asked me this: Is God’s love greater than all the evil in the world?
Even in my dream-state I knew the answer. Of course it is! God became man, taking on our flesh and all the pain and suffering that comes with it. He then willingly died on the cross so that we can be with him forever. In doing so, Christ defeated sin and death for us! If that isn’t a love that’s more powerful than all evil, then I don’t know what is!
So, dream -guy. I guess you accomplished your goal. You ask me a simple question, and I think about God’s love all morning!