“And it may seem strange to think of Orthodoxy in such a context – a world that has become a stranger to the gospel encountering the Church that wrote the gospels. But that is precisely where I think we are. My experience of Orthodoxy has not been with a new way of arguing the same old things (though it is possible to force it into such a position). Rather, reading and praying the fathers has been a path back to something prior to all of the arguments.” – Fr. Stephen Freeman, “Saving the Atonement” from 2/5/14 Glory to God for All Things Blogsite (a better read btw).
I’m thankful for the many blogs Orthodox Christians write. I read some others, too, and I used to read more. But increasingly, the irony that our Ancient Faith has need to urgently press the modern era with some or all of its wisdom on some minor point of modern life… just seems so beside the point. We cannot slow the whirlwind down. What we can do is remove ourselves from its turns and silence the noises of the winds howling as they rattle the windows of our souls and bodies. Huddling for a moment’s respite has its merits, but also its limits… and in the end the virtue is found in something more.
But where and how we resolve to move and breathe towards this “more” and all that comes next is no simple matter. And it’s here that I struggle and benefit from the support of others, and offer my own… such as it is… in return. Worship directs us outward, towards God, and our life together supports our inward warfare so that the conjunction of these that comprises a life within our modern world manages something of real meaning. For without the ascesis of building meaning in this way, there is only the drudgery of the same-old same-old. Sure, many a day and many a moment can be quite wonderful in this drudgery, and I don’t mean to demean any moment by falsely characterizing a visit to Gramps or family holiday gathering as “drudgery”, and yet repetition without the leavening of the Holy Spirit lessens rather than enriches in the same way that a 34th trip to Disney (substitute wherever you like… and btw, I’m neither “for” or “against” Disney) never matches the first.
Yet this in fact captures something of the sort we DO seek: To see the 145th visit to Gramps with the same sort of wonder and warmth of our first visit to Disney where everything was so-new-and-all. And by contrast, having now just come from the still warm deathbed of my beloved father-in-law, I can say that there is indeed wonder, gratitude and meaning for sharing even in the privilege of that moment… a moment both raw, hard and beautiful at the same time. And yes, it’s not all about “me and my experience”… God did not want that moment, but He did offer the chance to experience it differently… in joy with grief… rather than in grief alone. Thus peering through the veil if we can, to really see all the great, good things of our world as God might want and as He gives them to us… rather than simply as they appear, to see Gramps as he is… as training to see more… even a father-in-law whose life in Christ surpasses most. He was one who succeeded beyond measure in “doing more with less” as my priest likes to say. And admittedly, I mostly fail at this… specializing in accomplishing less with more… and though I might recover here and there… my resolve is to both stand up and stand back… that it might become easier, and success occasion itself more readily here and there by God’s grace.
And so if there are blogs where argumentation runs more commonly than insight… or an emphasis on dogmatics, I’m not sure how this furthers my path along the way. (By no means do I want to suggest these authors don’t have insight… only they may not be sharing their treasures in ways that reach my need at the time.) And so I’ll read on… ’cause most of us can (and do) often find nuggets buried like acorns under a tree. And it’s these that my inner squirrel seeks, where encountering the record of another’s memory transmutes my understanding, and renews the course of my experiences. It does happen, and I am thankful when it does… but at times it does seem as though you do have to be about as busy as a squirrel gathering for the winter if it’s going to work… running here and there, up the bark and down, out on the limbs and back, quickly away from the cat/dog/people, and slowly by hops towards the fruits fallen fresh on the ground…. all the while… finding and filling only small bites at a time.
But here, in a quote from Fr. Stephen’s blog is such a nugget. And I think it does no harm to suggest that by “prior” he may mean “supercedes” or “surpasses” all the arguments… and focuses on the peace of Christ… a worthy goal.