From OrthodoxWiki.org: “Phronemais a Greek term that is used in Orthodox theology to refer tomindset or outlook; it is the Orthodox mind. The attaining of phronema is a matter of practicing the correct faith (orthodoxia) in the correct manner (orthopraxia).”
One of the things that Christians in the West have trouble understanding are the differing ways in which the Orthodox Catholic Church (the official name of what is popularly called Eastern Orthodox or Orthodoxy) thinks about, talks about, and lives out its apostolic heritage. Even the most anti-Papal western Christians live ontologically within a worldview that came to them through the Church of Rome and Western European culture. The most virulent anti-ecumenist in the Orthodox world also lives bound by his inheritance. And each one embraces less than the whole.
Take note — I’m not saying here that the West completely misses the mark; nor am I saying that the Eastern Christian Church can in no way benefit from Western insights; nor am I saying is that these differences make Christians of the West and the East into “apples and oranges”.
Christians all acknowledge that Jesus was both perfect God and perfect man, the Word of God who revealed the Mind of God in human terms. The Gospels reveal a divine phronema of openness and fearlessness.
The “wealthiest” Christian seeks to understand the other brothers and sisters in Christ, the universal Christian foundations of the first thousand years, and the unfortunate divergences of the second Christian millennium. On the other hand, the impoverished heart — the “whitewashed sepulcher” — is content to remain willfully ignorant or willfully dismissive.
From time to time, we’ll think about what it might mean to hold the right faith and practice it in the right manner. God grant that I become ever more willing to be made uncomfortable, yet without fear, in opening myself to the fullness of Truth.
“Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” Philo of Alexandria is reputed to have said. My life is so safe and soft that it takes an act of hubris to say that I really struggle against anything.
Maybe the thing I need to fight against the most is that very safety and softness? Does God appear in sharper relief against the cutting edges of a harder and more uncertain life? Is that why Jesus called his Apostles to leave their trades and the comfort of family and routine and pleasures derived from profit? Could he have left them alone in their small circles, only teaching them when (and if) they came once a week to services? Would they, left as tradesmen, have converted anyone? Healed anyone? Been willing to die for the Truth?
Is seeking God rather than the self-indulgence that modernity calls us to a hard battle, maybe the hardest? Fleeing to God from a hard and scary life is one thing. Fleeing to God from a comfortable and secure life, breaking out of the seductive call of consumerism and individualism … . I don’t know. All I know is I’m not doing that well.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.
Thoughts from St. John of Kronstadt, archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church during the 19th century, canonized in the 1960’s:
“If you wish to correct the faults of anyone, do not think of trying to do so solely by your own means: you would only do harm by your own vices, for instance pride and the irritability arising from it; but cast thy burden upon the Lord, and pray with all your heart that God himself will enlighten the heart and mind of that man. If He sees that your prayer breathes love, and that it really comes from the depths of your heart, He will undoubtedly fulfill it, and you will soon see, from the change that has taken place in him for whom you prayed, that it is the work of the most high God.”
Ignatius of Antioch, martyred in Rome around the year 110 A.D. was among the Apostolic Fathers, served as the third Bishop of Antioch [St. Peter being recognized as the first], and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
These letters, dating only a few decades from the deaths of the apostles themselves and prior to the establishment of the New Testament canon, are among the wealth of writings available from the earliest presbyters of the Church. They help reveal the continuity of today’s Orthodox Church with that received from the faith and practice of the apostles.
“Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do you, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God. Continue reading →
“The maintaining and practicing of Orthodox customs and traditions may, at times, seem antiquated and out of place in 21st Century America. Their importance cannot be overemphasized, however. As Christians we are in the world but not of the world. We are, as the scriptures, say, “a peculiar people”. We are a holy people and a royal priesthood. We are pilgrims in this world. We live on earth but were made for heaven.
Orthodoxy is a lifestyle – a lifestyle that is, by definition, out of step and in conflict with the broken and fallen world. Traditional Orthodox piety and traditions shape and mold us; their commonality ties us to all those who have gone before us. They are aids to the formation of an Orthodox mind. They are gifts from the past, alive in the present. They create a living trust that helps us to transcend time and space. These holy traditions help us to remember that all members of the Body of Christ, past and present, are inextricably bound up together. The Church is One. Our holy Orthodox traditions and customs are blessed treasures to be honored, respected and lived.”
From the America magazine article: “St. Augustine wrestled with the issue of whether and how to correct sinners and heretics. “It is a deep and difficult matter to estimate what each one can endure,” he wrote. “And I doubt that many have become better because of impending punishment…. If you punish people, you may ruin them. If you leave them unpunished, you may ruin others. I admit that I make mistakes…. What trembling, what darkness” (Letter 95.3). Every church disciplines its members, penalizing those whose conduct is judged unsuitable for disciples of Jesus. For Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, as well as Catholics, discipline is the hard edge of discipleship.”
At a recent committee meeting, our priest expressed his extreme frustration with a parishioner of long-standing who has developed into a gossipy control freak who has recently caused a long-standing church ministry to implode. Our priest has been personally attacked in this mess and is frustrated at the damage done. His comment was “X needs to find a new place to go to church.”
His bitterness made some people uncomfortable, that it wasn’t charitable. Here’s my question: where does charity begin and end when it involves the health of the parish or the church-at-large? At what point does willful disobedience and willful antagonism result in rightly being invited out of a parish or a faith?
I stopped blogging and commenting altogether in 2009 as I realized that blogging in the public space revealed what a pompous and ponderous twit I was. Should I veer into that territory again (almost 100% chance I will at some point and soon), please give me a hard time about it. Thank you!
And here’s a question: Is a blogger not in fact prideful in his heart? Thinking that one’s words and thoughts have such value that they should be put out into public space to “inform or enlighten,” how does that not reveal a prideful spirit? Bottom line: is “humble blogger” an oxymoron?