Tag Archives: Ancient Faith

A Prayer, And For Good Reason

My family suffered a loss today, which seemed pretty sudden. Not completely blindsiding, but as deteriorations go, it was pretty rapid.

Consequently, I don’t really want to write much.

In the years of finding out about Orthodoxy, I have come across this understanding of death. Everyone goes to be in God’s presence, some people will enjoy the experience, while others will find it torment. So the difference between Heaven and Hell is not so much a matter of geography, rather a matter of perception.

“The fire of Hell is the love of God”, one saint put it. “You can’t expect to go to Heaven, yet not run into God there” – from an AFR podcast, don’t remember which one (possibly the foundations series, and possibly not word-for-word).

Even for those for whom the experience of God int he next life will be Heaven, the transition is expected to be difficult, refiner’s fire and all that. Services are held and prayers said, to help ease the transition.

I give all this background information, just so I can share this prayer. The website of St Barnabas Church in Costa Mesa, CA used to host a page of prayers, I have to use the Wayback Machine to access that page now. There’s a section of Prayers for The Departed. I share a small part of that section:

Remember, O Lord, the souls of thy departed servants, my parents NN, [if they have already fallen asleep in the Lord], and all my relatives according to the flesh. Forgive all their sins, both voluntary and involuntary. Grant them participation in thine eternal good things and the enjoyment of the eternal and blessed life.

Well my parents are just fine, but now I can say it for all my grandparents.

Lord, have mercy. And for the last sentence of the prayer, grant this, O Lord.

And I miss you guys.

Conversations On The End Times

One thing that was interesting to find out, was that some popular notions of the End Times, Jesus returning, and all that, originated in the 18th Century. “But what about all those Bible verses?” you might ask. These are often from different parts of the Bible, and hadn’t been put together to try and form a cohesive theory before. And there are some conflicting versions of these theories about, with disagreements over what’s supposed to happen when, and all that.

Here are some shows to listen to, that give a different perspective on eschatology. Hopefully you will find them entertaining and illuminating.

Faith Encouraged Live has two shows. The first ended up more, “no, we don’t believe this, or that”, and the second tried to be “this is what we actually do believe about this”. Fr Barnabas has a different guest on each program, and also has some live calls. Each episode is about an hour and a half:
1: Rapturemania and the Second Coming of Christ
2: Even So, Come Lord Jesus

Our Life In Christ has 4 shows, which each take on a different aspect of the subject. The hosts Steve and Bill have a chat/discussion around the subjects, each episode is around an hour.:
Part 1: “Steve and Bill discuss the landscape of popular end time scenarios”
Part 2: The End Times in church history
Part 3: They talk about the Rapture and Christian Zionism, among other things, and relate the subjects to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
Part 4: 666, Antichrist and the Beast.

Finally, Fr Thomas Hopko of blessed memory gave a 3-part talk that went through the book of Revelation from start to finish. Each part is just over an hour:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A Sobering Thought

A while ago, I came across a saying along the lines of, “You only love God as much as you love the person you hate most”. I don’t remember where I heard it first, but I’m sure I’ve heard it since.

I think the saying is accurate. It seems to echo 1 John 4, where it is said that you can’t love God, whom you have not seen, if you don’t love your brother, whom you have seen.

Now, it might be argued that “brother” might cover only a small proportion of people in general. Perhaps actual family, or it might extend to church family, which seems to be the context of this verse. This argument would not take into account that it’s the people closest to you, who are best at pushing your buttons.

Living with extended family-in-law, in relatively close quarters, toes do get stepped on fairly regularly, and of course there is the occasional blowup. When one’s toes are stepped on fairly regularly, in a limited number of ways, by a small subsection of household members, maintaining an attitude of goodwill can be difficult. It happens when I am the “one” in that sentence, and I can observe it when others are the “one” in that sentence. Harder to see when I am the “small subsection of household members”.

And then there’s the example of Cain and Abel. It’s not uncommon for loving your actual brother to be hard.

That argument aside, though, it’s not just brothers, extended family, or church family. Or co-workers or anyone else you’re obliged to spend a bunch of time with. In Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus replaces the old Law with the new, the instruction is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

I have heard, at least a couple of times on AFR, that it’s hard to hate someone whose salvation and well-being you are praying for. But how about some examples of this in action?

Jesus, of course, at his humiliating execution: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.”

St Stephen, in Acts 7, while being “bludgeoned to death with big rocks” (that last quote, a slightly censored line from a Kevin Smith movie): “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Early martyrs are described similarly, though sometimes later ones you might find responding with threats of damnation and such.

Dying to oneself, taking up your cross and following Christ, denying yourself, humility. We see these themes. We see asceticism throughout church history, perhaps most obviously, but not exclusively, in monasticism.

Take this story from the Desert Fathers. I’ve heard it a few times, but on searching for it just now, I found it at this link.

A brother came to see Avva Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, “Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.” So the old man said, “Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.” The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it.

The latter said to him, “Didn’t they say anything to you?” He replied, “No.” The old man said, “Go back tomorrow and praise them.” So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, “Apostles, saints, and righteous men.” He returned to the old man and said to him, “Did they not answer you?” The brother said, “No.”

The old man said to him, “You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too, if you wish to be saved, must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.”

Of course, easier said than done. At the moment, for me, actually remembering any of this stuff when interpersonal difficulties arise, is the difficult part. Or, to put it another way, doesn’t really happen. If I can remember, then actually do it, I think it would be worth it. Theoretically, living together could make saints of us all.

Foundations Podcast Series

Our little church group has been going through this podcast series, a rather tightly-packed introduction to the basics of Christianity in general, and Orthodox Christianity in particular. It’s good for those who know something about the subject, but it should also prove interesting to those who know nothing about it.

The series is Foundations Of The Orthodox Faith, and this page links the first episode at the top, and the last episode at the bottom.

I’m actually having to catch up on my mp3 player, because I missed a bunch of the first few episodes we did. The shortest episode is slightly longer than 20 minutes, the longest slightly over 30 minutes, and there are 8 episodes.

Hope you enjoy!

Some Podcasts I Like

I first got into podcasts while I was working nights in a large warehouse, doing a job that left enough brain free to listen to talk while I was doing it.

I think the first one I listened to was The Signal podcast, about Firefly and Serenity, which lasted for a surprisingly long time for a show about a TV show that lasted a season, and a movie that didn’t get a sequel. the Signal got me into Podiobooks via 7th Son.

I moved on from there into The Survival Podcast while it was still in its first 50 episodes.

Feeling the need for Christian content, I found Godcast 1000, a directory of many Christian podcasts. I listened to a few, probably less than 10. I’ll talk about one in a minute, apart from that, there’s another that I particularly remember. It was a short-lived series called “Dark Sayings Of Old“. The episode that stood out most to me, was Episode 4, “Hugh Latimer, The Sixth Sermon preached before King Edward, April twelfth, 1549″, text available at ccel. Though what particularly stood out to me was the mention of Robin Hood.

The other one that I particularly want to mention, is the podcast “The Illumined Heart“. The blurb mentioned the Orthodox church, which I had encountered in a trip to Israel, but knew I didn’t understand at all. Kevin Allen hosted the show, which contained a long string of interviews. Half of them were interviews about the (or, more often, “an”) Orthodox opinion on some topic (animal welfare, the occult, the death penalty), and the other half were interviews with people talking about their conversion stories from different faith traditions to Orthodoxy – from Islam, from the Baptist church, from the Episcopalian church, from Hinduism and Buddhism, from The Byrds – quite a variety.

It was quite a soft introduction, not immediately hard-core theology, and early on there were some things where I had no idea what they were going on about, and kind of had to set it aside and say “I’ll come back to that later, when I know more”.

After moving to America, I decided to visit Ancient Faith Radio, which produced The Illumined Heart, and I started listening to their many other shows. Well, it was less many at the time, it’s kind of taken off since then. I thought I’d list some shows I particularly like.

An introduction to basic Orthodox beliefs and practices, aimed especially at people unfamiliar with it all, the archived radio show Our Life In Christ is a good start. They keep the tone jovial, don’t really get bogged down in The Seriousness Of It All. Even when they discuss one of the hosts’ brush with law enforcement.

I really enjoyed the content put out by the late Father Thomas Hopko, particularly his podcast Speaking The Truth In Love, and in his occasional lectures. He comes across as humble, saying when something is a dogma of the church, or his own opinion, or when he may be wrong about something or other. Some speakers come across more towards the hard line of dogma, or the church position on things, and some will spend more time on a pastoral approach, and I thought Fr Tom was very careful to be not strident, and to be pastoral.

Also taking more of a pastoral approach, Fr Evan Armatas fields questions from all comers in Orthodoxy Live, which is broadcast live on two Sundays a month, and available for download afterwards.

Sermons from various parishes are available to download, I’m quite font of Homilies From All Saints, with Fr Patrick Henry Reardon. He’s very well-read, and will include references, be it to Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, or, much to my delight, to P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels. I was like Captain America, “I got that reference!”

Sometimes AFR has talks from various events. I mentioned the Doxacon Orthodox Science-Fiction and Fantasy Conference in some past post that I’m too lazy to look up, but I’d like to point out that there have been some moments that particularly stuck with me in these two events:
Eighth Day Symposium – Imagination and Soul: Harry Potter, Twilight, and Spiritual Formation (“Whence Potter-Mania?” is so funny)
The World Below (particularly Systemic Abandonment).

If you’re stuck for something to listen to, give something from here a try.