Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Journey as a Catholic So Far, Pt. 10: "I Just Want To See"

"'I seek for truth.'  Happy is he who places the accent on the last word: 'Truth.'  It is far worse with those who proudly emphasize the word 'seek,' and are full of vanity because of their position among those continually tending towards truth - 'Ever learning and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth.'" (2 Tim. 3:7)

-Fr. Alexander Yelchaninov, Fragments of a Diary

I continued to go dutifully to Mass, though no longer with much heart.  The drama, the in-fighting, the politics, the constant analysis of Pope Francis' every word, move and breath had me exhausted and despairing.  Externally, I was very much a Catholic of the Latin Rite, a Roman.  But interiorly, it was a different story.  I prayed the Jesus Prayer often; most of the spiritual reading I did was all Eastern, either from the undivided first 1000 years or from the post-schism world of the Orthodox Church.  My viewpoints, I had found out and been told often, were not those of Western Latin Christianity, but Eastern.

A long time ago, a commenter named "Jack" wrote to me the following, on a blog concerning St. John Cassian and St. Augustine: "You're really Orthodox, you just don't know it yet."  Never before had words rattled me so much - I could not get them out of my head, and kept wondering to myself, "Am I?"

I told a couple good Catholic friends of mine, and they could not understand the issue - I was Catholic, why would I let something like that bother me?  And if anything true that the Orthodox said and did was actually, so to speak, property of the Catholic Church, and if we Catholics had the Eastern tradition intact with the Eastern Catholic Churches, who cared whether someone said a comment like that.  I left that day at the pub in a deep state of inner turmoil.   

From the beginning, I sought for truth.  I forged ahead, and found the Catholic Church.  The Orthodox Church was not an option because it simply was not on the map.  The entire history of the Christian religion was essentially the Catholic Church until about 1500, then Protestants and Catholics fighting for the next 500 years.  Orthodoxy was a footnote.

In my view, I could not understand Protestantism or Evangelicalism - if one had even the slightest knowledge of history, one would see that the Catholic Church was the original, bona fide real deal.  But when I began to encounter Orthodox Christianity, my romanticized and rather simplistic view of it all became incredibly complicated.  Suddenly, things weren't so simple.  There was a third option on the table, one which I had never given an opportunity in my search to actually speak.

Over the past three years, I have read a lot of specifically Orthodox material, quoting it often on this blog.  I immersed myself in the Triads of St. Gregory Palamas (though it took me two years to even remotely begin to understand it all), the Russian ascetics and mystics, the American Orthodox icons such as St. Herman of Alaska and Fr. Seraphim Rose, right up to the modern writings of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware.  My heart was captured by Orthodox spirituality.  I still loved all of my writings of specifically Catholic saints and figures, especially the theologians and mystics of the Middle Ages all the way to Ven. Fulton Sheen and St. Faustina Kowalska, but Orthodox Christianity had completely caught my heart.

Through my encounters with the Orthodox saints and writings, I found that my heart was always profoundly affected.  I broke down crying one time over it all.  I could not gather enough wisdom in.  All of this transposed on to my blog, so much so that I cannot even remember how many times people asked me if I was a Byzantine Catholic or not.  But here I was, a Roman Catholic whose only real-life experience of anything like Orthodoxy was with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish in town.

People began to ask me if why I wasn't Orthodox, whether I had considered Eastern Catholicism seriously, and all the rest.  When I found out that one of my best friends had attended an Orthodox Divine Liturgy, a friend who was the most Catholic man I knew in every way, living the Catholic life and teaching to a "T," it blew the dam open.  I couldn't take the tension of being a Roman Catholic in love with Orthodox Christianity much longer.  I prayed for the first time to an Orthodox saint, my favorite, St. Seraphim of Sarov (who is also seemingly much beloved by Catholics who know of him), and simply said, "If you're listening, if you're actually a saint and in heaven, show me some kind of sign."

With a spirit of great fear and trembling, after much prayer and research, I decided to simply "go and see."  After all, if I didn't allow myself to satiate my curiosity, then it would claw at my heart forever.  I had to, for the sake of my Catholic faith - I simply had to allow myself to see, and to hopefully see that it wasn't what I thought it was.  I reasoned to myself that it was OK - after all, if no Mass is around, Catholics can go to an Orthodox church.  They are viewed as "sister churches", with all the valid everything that we Catholics have, albeit in some kind of an "imperfect way."

Driving to Mass that morning, my car began to have troubles.  I pulled in to the Orthodox Church which was on the way to downtown where my home parish was.  At worst, I would let my car "rest" and head to the parish 12 minutes away from my house in order to fulfill my Sunday obligation afterwards.  I sat in my car, wavering between leaving and going in, feeling guilty about not being at my normal parish, dreading going to the gutted parish near my house frightened of going to Hell for what I was doing.  But morning prayers were beginning, so I nervously walked inside.

What greeted me was another world.  Beeswax candles burning in sand, beautiful icons adorning even the entrance.  An old man lighting candles motion with his eyes towards someone, and around the corner came a tall man who identified himself as the priest.  He obviously could tell by my wide-eyed expression that I was "new" - asking whether I was Orthodox, I replied that I was Catholic.  "Oh ok - well, welcome.  Come in.  We are about to have morning prayer."

His tone and demeanor were not snobbish or suspicious but warm and inviting.  As though he had said nothing to me, I asked "Is it ok if I come inside?"  "Yes, of course," he replied.

Now, for those of us Catholics starved in parishes that seemed anything but Catholic, it is enough to make one fall to his or her knees when entering an Orthodox Church.  Icons adorned the walls, icons of the saints and fathers that seemed to glow with life.  The inside of the church, though relatively new, felt so ancient that, had I walked right back out the front door, I would have expected to bump into St. John Chrysostom on the street.  But all of this ancient "feel" did not seem caught in a certain period of time, nor did it seem stuck or stodgy.  It was alive, living, as though the icons of the saints on the walls themselves were alive

I nervously took a seat at the back, battling the voices in my head that told me I would be going to Hell for this.  I reasoned that it was ok, for I was simply seeking to be informed, to see what an Orthodox liturgy was actually like so I could finally satiate my curiousity and put it to rest.  "God forgive me if I am doing something wrong or evil," I prayed.  "I am just trying to find You Lord.  Help me, and be merciful to me if I am mistaken."

Only one lady was in the church with me, but the prayers, in Greek and in English, carried on as though the church was packed to the rafters.  I suddenly felt, despite all of the fear at being a Catholic in an Orthodox Church, a certain deep joy in my heart.  This was rapidly squashed by my fear of going to Hell for even being where I was, and my feet carried me back out the doors and on to the street.  I kept telling myself as my car sputtered on its way to the parish nearest me - with all its ad-libs, crayola vestments, and unnoticed Tabernacle - "It's not fair to compare the two - just fulfill your Sunday obligation, and remember that not all parishes are like this one.  Don't romanticize it."

Still, I left the Orthodox church that morning with a glow in my heart and a smile on my face, more curious and spiritually hungry than before - exactly the effect I was hoping might NOT happen.  

79 comments:

  1. I went through the 'Orthodox' phase right after I converted. I did not find it very appealing. I had the exact opposite reaction to yours. I found it to be a time capsule, stuck and dead. It was not a living tradition in my opinion. I went to the Divine Liturgy for a while and I even visited a Greek Orthodox convent. Of course it was all beautiful but my opinion never changed about it. Even though I could never stand the Novus Ordo mess that I have to go to every week, I still would take it over Orthodoxy.
    The thing that bothered me the most besides my gut reaction was that in my readings it was confirmed. They are very much an anti position with not many positive arguments for why they are 'right'. They are like protestants, always comparing themselves to Catholics.
    The final seal on the deal was their position on divorce and remarriage. There is no way I could get on board with that load of nonsense.

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  2. Oh, I also did not really care for the ephemeral spirituality or theology they have. The Western view of it all is precise and that is what makes it beautiful in my opinion. Of course, that is a lesser thing in the whole scheme of things, but it did play a role in my decision against the Orthodox.

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  3. As sad as it may be, I have to consider myself lucky that no one talks to me: At least they can't influence me in that negative way you speak of. They wouldn't want to debate with me anyway, because I would upset all their apple carts.

    As far as Orthodoxy, I have found many things very helpful and inspiring. But, on the other hand, it's been too complicated for me to get into, and frankly, those beards scare me :) Their vestments are also rather flamboyant to my taste, but this is a frivolous concern.

    I suspect if I did enter into an Orthodox church, I'd be much more welcomed than the local Catholic parish has been. I've been to several Catholic churches, and find the people cold and indifferent; with one exception at the larger basilica where the parishoners immediately knew I was a new-comer and went out of their way to welcome me and talk with me. But, given my limited exposure to all these things (only been a convert for a year), I may be mistaken and this may just be a cultural/regional thing.

    I just keep thinking, if these people were truly Christian, they would treat each other and strangers like family, and not the typical dysfunction American family where everyone is out to cut your throat and leave you laying in the gutter :P

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  4. Ohh I forgot to mention, the other thing that prevents me from jumping into Orthodoxy, they reject the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which I doubt my patron St Bernadette would appreciate. They reject the Pope as well, and the dogma of Papal infallibility in deciding matters of Faith (I'm probably misunderstanding this). I love our Pope, so I'm not going to jump ship. Let's all pray for understanding and unity.

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  5. Dear Jason, I don't know why you are having all this inner conflict. The Eastern spirituality is gorgeous and to be honest I prefer the Eastern liturgy to the Western in many respects. My step-grandmother was Russian Orthodox and I was reared as an Evangelical Anglican- embraced my ancestral religion of orthodox Judaism and then at 24 became a Roman Catholic. However there is nothing wrong with being in the Western rite and having a love of the eastern rites and their spiritualities. Each rite enriches the other. When I lived in Canberra I attended the Russian Orthodox liturgy next door to me and it touched my soul so deeply that I wept throughout the Divine Liturgy. Why not just relax and enjoy the rich experiences of all the rites of the church that resonate with your soul. I pray to the Eastern Orthodox saints as well as the Western and I even pray to the Jewish saints (Tzaddikim). Of course St Seraphim of Sarov is in Heaven even if he wasn't (which I would find hard to believe) he would be in purgatory and there is nothing wrong to asking souls in purgatory to pray for you anyway. Love your blog by the way. Keep up the good work. I often pray to my Hasidic Jewish ancestor Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and have a great devotion to him and his writings. Our faith is universal not narrow.

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  6. Thank you for your openness. I can relate. As a cradle Roman Catholic...I first felt fully Catholic when I discovered the Divine Liturgy at a local Byzantine Catholic parish...'breathing with both lungs, East & West' is far from a cliche...it is real! Praying that your soul finds His peace & that you have a local Eastern Catholic parish where you can worship Him.

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  7. I stumbled upon your blog while googling for catholic books about christian mysticism, and the list I found is very helpful, I have since read some more of your stuff and am very blessed to have found your site and will read a lot more. God bless you

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    1. Thanks evergreen, I'm glad you've found it helpful.
      Jason

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  8. Jason - I can't believe what I just read because it is almost the same situation I feel myself in. Sometimes I feel the Catholic Church only exists on paper and not in the real world. Prayers for your journey...

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    1. Thanks Luke - I appreciate and need the prayers right now. I will pray for you too. Keep reading, more to come on all this.

      Peace.
      Jason

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  9. We had a wonderful priest in the Byzantine Catholic Rite parish we were in for over twenty years.He left and returned to the Orthodox .The truth was that he was one of the few straight priests in the Byz Cath Diocese.
    I knew one of the the other good Byz Cath priests, and traveled to go to his Church. I told him I was thinking of being annointed in the Orthodox and said the division was a political one dating back a thousand years ,and frankly I am apolitical. He agreed and added that having known our Byz Cath priest friend for 28 yrs ,who returned to the Orthodox of late, "He is the only priest in twenty eight years since my Ordination that I know to be the quintessential personification of the title of "Priest"'
    HE had kept these few chaste priests encouraged in their vocation.He had listened with consolation and prayer to their concerns .Read Fr Despard's book and know that there is cliques of priests who believe in nothing but their own carnal pleasures and these men "bully" those who enter the priesthood and try to live up to what is required in their vows. Read the books by Randy Engel and Michael Rose and know that good men have been barred from the seminary ,while others have been recruited simply because they are ,"disordered."
    One other question to ask yourself when wondering if as a Catholic attending the Orthodox you are going to hell.
    Hopefully you were instructed that you MUST HAVE "Proper Intention" in order to receive the Sacraments?
    I asked a priest Canon Lawyer this question," Fr ,since we know hx have been recruited into the seminaries and chaste men have been screened out by Rectors and Vocation Directors who have an agenda, How can these men be validly Ordained ,having received the Sacrament of holy Orders without the proper intention?"After a long pause ,long breath and sigh, " Well ,it would seem that Rome had better redefine the required Proper Intention doesn't it?"

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  10. liked your post and fully understand the curiosity you have about Orthodoxy. After 40 years of parish ministry I retired as a bishop in the Anglican Church in 2012. This past Easter my wife and I were received into the Catholic Church. I completely understand the feeling of not being welcome by certain Catholic parishes as well as the feeling that many Catholics do not even truly know their faith. I looked at Orthodoxy was well but found it did not resonate with me for several reasons. First, although it is good to stick to the teachings of the Apostolic and Patristic Church, I find it difficult to enter non-20th century worship. I am not a liberal and love the Latin Mass. But I found Orthodox worship to buried in the past for me personally. Second, some of the theology just does not line up as far as I see. Third, it is too cultural for me. I am Italian and Scots-Irish. Greek and Russian cultures are too foreign for me to adapt to.

    However, I can certainly understand why some people like Orthodoxy. In fact, my former assistant priest has become an Orthodox priest and it fits him quite well.

    Do not be burdened by a sense of legalism when it comes to trying out different rites.

    May the Lord bless you as you continue your journey.
    http://mccatholic.com

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  11. Jason, please forgive me for disturbing you and unsettling your soul. That's the LAST thing I wished to do. I wish I knew how to contact you directly to discuss these matters and share with you more about myself. Have a Merry Christmas. Christ is born! Glorify Him! (Yes, that's a bit early.)

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  12. I enjoyed your series. I love the Bys Rite and I am also happy in the Catholic Parish.
    I was a little confused as to why you were so afraid to attend the Orthodox Church, thinking you were going to hell and couldn't ask for intercession of an Orthodox Saints. I see them as brothers and if I went to an Orthodox Church it it would count as Sunday Obligation. It is Mass, they have the Eucharist and the history. If I go to a Protestant Church they don't have Mass, so I would ensure that I would attend Mass. If the Orthodox is how God is asking you to serve Him, then rejoice and be Orthodox.

    You don't have to reject St Faustina if you pray to the Orthodox Saints. They are all in heaven interceding for all of us.

    May God continue to guide us.

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  13. I'm sorry to read that you've left the Catholic faith. (For readers who are unaware, Jason mentioned in the comment section of the last post that he is in transition and has been attending E. Orthodox liturgies since Nov.).

    My only bit of advice is that God often calls us to a task that is against our nature, the easy flow of our being. He does this to show the supremacy of the supernatural, the power of his grace. Thus, he has called me--a bookish academic who craves solitude--to family life and a street ministry. Thus a private, retiring person is called to constantly interact with strangers. Moreover, street ministry can involve absorbing and smiling at insults. Nothing could be more unthinkable for someone like me--a big ex-con who spent time in a max prison. Now clearly you feel more at home with the spirituality, liturgy and even aesthetics of the O. East, but would God ever call you out of communion with Peter? Why not show the triumph of grace and bloom in today's desert like so many of us are?

    God bless you and keep you.

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    1. Thank you Scott for your reasoned comments. It has been a very hard process. I would like to say that I have not formally left the Catholic Church however - I have been attending Orthodox liturgies, yes. But no formal decisions has been made yet. I have only allowed myself to breathe on it all, to see - it is not some snap decision that came out of nowhere, but one that I feel has been brewing since before I became a Catholic. I only ask for your prayers on it all. My priest has stopped speaking to me, I'm getting papal encyclicals thrown at me like fiery darts, and being the very sensitive person that I am, I only ask your prayers for clarity of mind and peace of heart so that I can properly discern all of this.

      God bless you for your kind words and good advice.

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  14. Jason, the in-fighting within Catholicism is something I can totally relate to, and recently I went through a period of total weariness from becoming angry as I sat in Mass (or read Catholic commentaries online). Modernism made me feel as nauseous and angry as the other end of the spectrum!! And as you say, it IS destructive to spiritual life. Yet, we ARE in a battle and this is just part of it.

    As Thomas Aquinas says, for something to be called good, no part of it can be 'bad'. That is, if one's religion/movie/novel/speech/whatever contains mostly goodness, truth and beauty but has a part that is not, then it cannot in entirety be called good. And there's the rub, because you are seeking this - as we all should be - the place where GOD is, as TOTAL Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Alas, we will not find it fully until we are with Him face to face in eternity!!
    But if your desire is to be with Him in the purest form possible (and not for the 'bells and whistles' consolation) - and I believe your intention is the former, : ) know that this is pleasing to Him. He knows your heart. Entrust this intention constantly to the Blessed Virgin that She may guide and protect your steps, and rest in His Heart.
    Peace, and blessings to you!

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  15. Dear Jason, if you ARE considering Orthodoxy, don't expect to find perfection, much less a spiritual boot camp. Any church is full of weak people with varying degrees of fervor. And we have our silly days, too--sometimes 13 of them at a time.

    Remember that Orthodoxy is FIRST of the heart. The Fathers say it is our FAITH that makes us Orthodox, and not the name on the door of the building.

    BTW--remember that Eastern Catholics, especially of the Byzantine Tradition, are not simply Roman Catholics who say Mass funny. You can find the best of both worlds there.

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    1. I don't expect perfection of any kind Jack. I would love to speak with you though. Feel free to email me at thepumpkinpiper@hotmail.com and we can talk.

      Peace.

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  16. Mr. Liske, I *really* empathize with this. To a certain extent, I feel the same way. I am a Latin according to canon law, but I am most of a Melkite Catholic in practice. I have read your blog before and enjoy it very much, but now I am going to leave a comment with the hope that I can say something helpful.
    First of all, the mutual excommunications have been revoked. In such an environment, I can't see how EITHER church can consider membership in the other to be a salvation issue. There is presently no juridical schism.
    Secondly, if the Catholic Church is the true church, wouldn't it be nice if she looked like it? There is a visible discontinuity in the appearance of the church, and in the liturgy particularly. This is a problem that isn't being addressed. The Orthodox Church LOOKS a whole lot like the True Church. I do not mean to imply here that appearances are not important. They are, especially for us sinners.
    Thirdly, I am aware that the Latin tradition seems to have a passion for technical correctness that the Byzantine tradition lacks, and that the Byzantine attitude rubs off on you. I have moods in which the question of who is in communion with which hierarch seems like an enormous triviality.
    All of that being said, there are a couple of concerns that I want to make here about the Orthodox which I think are relevant. I offer these from what I think is a Christian perspective, and not necessarily a uniquely Latin one.
    First of all, the prohibition of artificial contraception is ancient and Christian. Many of the Orthodox churches don't condemn its use at all, not even in a purely formal matter. This is a corruption of the teaching of the *ancient, united* church. The Antiochian Orthodox still do, I think, which is good.
    Second, Our Lord condemns divorce and remarriage in no uncertain terms in Luke 16:18, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, and Mark 10:11. I do know that some of the early church fathers said that divorce (and remarriage?) was permissible in the case of adultery, but the current Orthodox practice of allowing two divorces and three remarriages seems baldly unbiblical to me, and I believe that they allow it for more than just adultery. Admittedly it IS a problem that some Latin bishops hand out annulments like candy, but joining a church with an even more liberal practice hardly seems to be a solution.
    Personally, if I were to become Orthodox, I would become Antiochian. The artificial contraception thing is what bugs me the most about the Orthodox churches not in communion with Rome. Also, if you become Orthodox, I'd find a particular local church and stick with it, except when travelling. Obedience is important, and the hierarch-switching game that some Orthodox play is not obedience.

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  17. St Vincent of Lerins gives instruction on just exactly what is the "Catholic" or universal Faith, especially during times of great confusion. St Vincent lived prior to the 1054 split between the East and the Western Church.The split was political in nature and as Fr Malachi Martin describes in his book,
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Decline-Fall-Roman-Church/dp/0399126651
    The Papal legate Humbert sent to meet with the Eastern Patriarch in Constantinople, in order to obtain his fidelity to the Pope as ,"The First Among Many". Humbert became angry when the Prelate insisted he wait until he finished Divine Liturgy and in his anger left a decree of excommunication on the altar,( some say in the mud outside the basilica) before having consulted with the Patriarch in person as was instructed by Rome.Attempts to reunite the Church following this failed because the people of the East were fearful of the West due to what they endured during the shameful Fourth Crusade in which Christians slaughtered and pillaged their brother Christians.

    An excellent source for what is trully Catholic is St Vincent of Lerins.
    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/434lerins-canon.asp

    I am a Roman Catholic who entered the Eastern Byzantine Catholic Church at 27 when our Diocesan priests in the seventies, began to prefer to "entertain" at Mass rather that give Honor and Glory to God alone .Knowing that the Catholic Faith is based on Scripture and Tradition ( as per , Theology 101 in Catholic universities and seminaries) we chose to educate ourselves in both.
    Our Byzantine Catholic priests used the same Biblical Scriptural sources as the Orthodox and it was through both that we discovered the Truth.
    We also discovered the majprity of Roman Catholics are unaware that private reading of the Bible is an indulgenced prayer of the Catholic Church.
    Many of their arguments against this stem from the Protestant notion of "sola scriptura."After reading over forty versions of Scripture , we discovered that aside from a few of the older Catholic versions, most were edited by the same Protestant Editors. The best one we have found to date is
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Orthodox-Study-Bible-Christianity/dp/0718003594
    To argue that the Orthodox do not believe in the Immaculate Conception is a grave misunderstanding because since antiquity they have honoured Our Mother as the "All Pure Virgin".The need to define such as Dogma was seen as redundant since Scripture is Dogmatic and Doctrinal. The controversey rests in the definition of Original Sin by Rome which was perceived by the Orthodox as having to do with making marital sex as something sinful rather than all good as designed by the Creator. The ancient Titles of Our Holy Mother used in the RC Church originate from the Akathist prayers of the ancient Eastern Church.
    As a Catholic I believe in One Holy Apostolic Orthodox Catholic Church, all politics aside because the Church was not founded in the Middle Ages as the Traditionaist Movements seem to think now was it founded on the Popes since history has proven they were human and many despots sat in the Chair of Peter.
    http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/popes-throughout-history-the-good-the-bad-and-the-.html
    Note, All Encyclicals footnote Scripture as authoritative .
    Also take note, that the Papacy employs ghostwriters as do all politicians.
    http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francis-francisco-29409/

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    1. Poor priests. First pressured and pushed in one direction to relax what is acceptable at Mass and to more "entertain" and engage their parishoners, then attacked for trying to accomodate the vocal minority (or maybe not such a minority.) Damned if they do, damned if they don't!

      Please pray for our Religious! Theirs is not an easy task in such a cynical, myopic, vain world!

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  18. What he is becoming Eastern Orthodox?? If that is true, please do not do it! They are schismatic from the Catholic Church. That is not 'legalism'. Don't leave the barque of Peter!

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  19. Jason,

    Like you and many commenters, I am a Latin rite Catholic deeply interested in the East and deeply live out the division between the two Churches. I attend Divine Liturgy at a melkite church when I can but also frequent Orthodox Churches, particularly around Pascha and Christmas. Ultimately, despite all the frustrations, I remain Catholic because I simply believe that there is a wider view of what holiness can be. I think of the variety of charisms in the Latin Church and believe that the possibility for sanctity still exists. I also have a deep devotion to several medieval saints and feel that if I left the Latin rite that I would be somehow turning my back to them. I pray for true communion between the Churches everyday but have decided to continue the journey from the Catholic perspective.

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  20. The problem with Western Christianity is that it is too spiritually fluid. Modern Western worship is too focused on the here and now, on the individual tastes of specific congregations. If you go to five normal Catholic parishes in your town, you will experience five to ten different worship styles. Heck, the 10 am Mass one week may be radically different from the 10 am Mass next week.

    Modern Western Catholicism is held captive to constant changes. Not in belief, of course. But lex orandi, lex credendi... it is a very true statement. Yes,
    the Mass is valid if properly celebrated, but when you bang tambourines and
    strum Kumbaya, it does lose its purpose on the surface. It's not serious worship.

    Whereas, when I enter an Orthodox church, it feels like how my Slavic ancestors worshipped 1,000 years ago. The priest isn't cracking jokes about the weather or facing the people during the divine mysteries (instead, the face God together in the same direction); there is no guitar music written by Protestant singers; it brings me back into history, and it is a living history. Orthodox are not mired in a spiritual mud.

    I apologize for appearing negative. Catholicism is THE vital force to rejuvenate this distressed world. But Rome has much to learn from the Orthodox. They didin't sacrifice their practices or their patrimony in order to fit in with the 1960's world.

    I have raged between the Catholic and the Orthodox for years. In the end, I remain Catholic so that I do not divide my family spiritually- my wife is Catholic, and we were recently married in the Catholic Church. On this note, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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  21. Missing the point. It is not about our individual likes or what we think is spiritually edifying at the moment. It is about going into a schism. I don't want to harp, and I won't take up the comments but Jason needs prayers so that he will come back to the Catholic Church. Even if some Orthodox saints of the past got a pass because they went to the only Church that was available to them, the same won't be said for us, who CAN go to a Catholic Church and even an Eastern One. Stay with Peter and leave Orthodoxy who does not have him, behind! Your salvation is at stake. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I have been reading this blog for a long time and this is upsetting.

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    1. The excommunication of the patriarch of Constantinople has been revoked. Therefore, the Orthodox are not technically in schism, as far as I understand it. (If this is definitely wrong, let me know.) Sure, there's an enormous practical rift, and I would not like to be on the other side of it myself. Also, Rome has affirmed that the Orthodox do not formally teach any heresy. If a. they aren't schismatics and b. they aren't heretics, then becoming Orthodox should not be a salvation issue.

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    2. There was a lifting of the excommunication but they are still separated from the Catholic Church. If they were not, why would Jason need to convert? He could just go to the Eastern Catholic Church which is not separate. Of course it is a salvation issue to leave the Catholic Church! I don't care what Church you go to after you leave, that does not matter! canon 751 "schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." It is a mortal sin to leave the Catholic Church no matter where you go after that. The Orthodox do not submit to the Pope therefore they are schismatic, even if the excommunication was lifted. If you convert to one of those groups, you are schismatic yourself and by your own will. That is grave indeed! This is why Jason needs prayers not encouragement from Catholics to leave the Catholic Church!!!

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    3. Yes, it's true, it's not about your individual likes and dislikes. The problems in the Church today are a call to battle for people like us, not a sign to exit. I fortunately have ample access to latin masses both low and high in my area, but I also like to attend Byzanntine Rite liturgies on holy days.

      I think often of this Tolkien quote:

      "Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals. Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your Communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children—from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn—open-necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with them (and pray for them).

      "It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people.

      "It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand—after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”

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    4. John H. Graney

      Sorry, sir, but in that case you don't understand the matter.
      The excommunications were lifted, that's true. Some people even claim that the original excommunication wasn't valid as the Pope who issued it died, and the idea of a patriarch excommunicating the Pope really is ridiculous (there are examples of pontifical excommunications of patriarchs, incidentally, of Constantinople) , so this 'excommunication' is irrelevant.
      It matters not.
      Do the Orthodox deny Catholic dogma? Sure they do. Do they acknowledge themselves subject to the Supreme Pontiff? No, they don't.
      I think the question of formal heresy when it comes to the East is tricky as it really is hard to tell what the East teaches authoritatively, small wonder, come to think of it.

      We're all rational beings, though, so think.
      Here's a couple of de fide statements:

      "From the sacramental contract of marriage emerges the Bond of Marriage, which binds both marriage partners to a lifelong indivisible community of life. (De fide.)"
      ________________________________

      "The Pope possesses full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, not merely in matters of faith and morals, but also in Church discipline and in the government of the Church. (De fide.)"
      ________________________________

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  22. Jason, I've been reading your blog for the last year or so, and it's helped my spiritual life tremendously. You're in my prayers no matter where you end up. The last series of posts mirror my own struggles with the Church so much it's almost eerie. I've gone through the whole overzealous convert (revert to the Faith in my case actually) phase and especially the intellectual pride you talked about. My own biggest problem (or one of them at least) has been the tendency to treat the faith purely from the intellectual side of things. I almost overlooked the soul of the Church and made it into a philosophy. Intellectual inquiry is good, but Saint Francis alway cautioned his Friars that their studying ultimately had one end, to deepen their prayer life and make them love Jesus more. We're in the Church in order fight, and it's the only battle where we're assured victory as long as we don't put down our swords. If I were you (and I'm not so you can ignore this if you want) I would put aside the heavy duty theology books for a while and focus on the basics. Pray every day, love the people around you as Christ would love them, try to remember the joy that originally attracted you to Christ.
    Sorry if the above sounded condescending. It wasn't meant to be. I just know what helped me when I was ready to despair about the state of the Church.

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  23. Hello, I'm the fellow who just left the comment with the Tolkien quote. I'd also like to add one more, from Peter's testimony to the council of Jerusalem:

    "And when there had been much disputing, Peter, rising up, said to them: Men, brethren, you know, that in former days God made choice among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

    Acts of the Apostles, 15:7

    Merry Christmas to you!

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  24. \\The Orthodox do not submit to the Pope therefore they are schismatic, \\

    Rebecca, this is the wrong attitude. Nobody gets anywhere talking about "submission," regardless of who is expected to submit to whom.

    If we seek reconciliation and restoration of communion, we'll accomplish more.

    And when it comes to the sundering of this original communion, there's equal blame on both sides of the issue. Have you ever heard how Pius IX treated the Greek Melkite Patriarch Gregory Yussuf of Antioch? And that was a Byzantine hierarch in communion with the Pope!

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    1. That isn't the issue here. I'm not talking about people who were born into the schism. I'm talking about a CATHOLIC leaving the Catholic Church. That is a salvation issue and I am ashamed of Catholics (which I assume most are Catholics who read this blog) who are encouraging someone to leave the Catholic Church.

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    2. Your ignorance of the Catholic Church amazes me. If Jason decides to join an Orthodox parish he is not leaving the One Church of Christ. Instead he will be entering a church that is suffers from its lack of communion with the church of Rome. The thing is, this lack of communion is a two way street and both churches suffer from it. Take a gander at UT UNUM SINT 57. There you will find that Orthodox and Catholics both belong to the same Church, whose churches both have the obligation of restoring unity. What is unfortunate is that people like Jason have to struggle with the lack of communion between the churches of the East and West. As an Eastern Catholic, I have seen these struggles first hand and know people that felt like they were being forced out of Catholicism because of being true to their traditions or for their involvement in the only Eastern church around. In the Middle East where our churches are numerous the distinctions between Catholics and Orthodox are sometimes blurred. Eastern Catholics get married to in Orthodox churches and vice versa and raise their children in these churches. The Melkite church down the road has nothing different then the Orthodox Church in the other city. Families that just happened to grow up in different cities find that it’s only by chance that the church they grew up in has a different title

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    3. Your ignorance amazes me as well. If you knew anything about the scandalous teaching of the Eastern Orthodox about contraception, divorce and remarriage, then you would know they have HUGE problems. Their caesaropapism is their problem and to leave the authority of Peter is a HUGE problem for a Catholic's position before God. Vatican II did not change doctrine. If you refuse to submit to the Pope's authority, then you have cut yourself off from the Church. I quoted it already. It is from Vatican II. These things do not apply necessarily to people born into a schism but Jason is not one of those people. He is a Catholic and it his responsibility for cutting himself off from Peter's rightful authority and not submitting to bishops who can't even call an ecumenical council for 1000 years. If the Church is visible it must have a visible head, that is just common sense. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg5sgytk1uM This is a journey home episode of a greek orthodox who converted to the Catholic Faith. It has a lot of good information in it.

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    4. “If you knew anything about the scandalous teaching of the Eastern Orthodox about contraception, divorce and remarriage” Seems you know very little, time to do your homework Rebecca. Did you know that when Pope Paul VI wrote HUMANAE VITAE the Eastern Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople thanked him for clarifying the teaching of the whole Church? There is no place in any Eastern Orthodox Church where contraception and divorce are treated then anything less than sin. What you do have are different ways of dealing with the sin amongst various bishops, which you may not agree with, which also is something that could be further clarified or given different pastoral procedures in dealing with it, when reunion is established. It’s a matter of discipline and not teaching, the teachings are clear look it up. Has not the pope mentioned at various times the discipline of the Orthodox churches in dealing with divorce! Did you not get your questioner that was given to all Catholic dioceses for the upcoming extraordinary council of bishops; it talks about it in some ways in there regarding the disciple. Your understanding of Vatican II is also off beat. Read the CDF’s “"Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion” there you will find that Orthodox churches suffer only a “deficiency” as churches and also the fact that true universality doesn’t not exist in the Catholic Church as is it should because of the division. As an Eastern Catholic and I also can speak for many other noted Eastern Catholics when I say this: Mr. Likoudis doesn’t represent the East in any good way and for the most part is a person that should be ignored.

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    5. Yeah, I'm sure EWTN knows less about Mr. Likoudia than you or is less of a good judge of character. I'll take EWTN's recommendation over yours. You are misrepresenting the Eastern Orthodox yourself, not him. Furthermore, here is an INFALLIBLE statement: "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Unam Sanctam Even if you deny that people born into a schism don't fall into this, you cannot deny that someone leaving the authority of the Roman Pontiff willfully does not. The only reason I am writing is that I hope Jason still reads this and he learns some things and keeps thinking this over. That's why I gave that journey home video, as I think it highlights the deficiencies of the Eastern Orthodox position and why they are wrong. Eastern Catholics as you claim to be came back to the Church and the Eastern Orthodox should as well and Jason should not repudiate the authority of the Pope, which is what he is doing if he becomes Eastern Orthodox!

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    6. EWTN:”good judge of character”=Fr. Corapi , think again! Yes, and the Church in many places has laid the framework for what degree other Catholics participate in salvation. Orthodox churches are churches but as the CDF document that I told you to read says, they have a wound, the same wound as it says in #17 that DOES NOT allow the full universality of the CATHOLIC CHURCH TO EXIST. Is it necessary for salvation to have the pope, yes, it is also equally necessary for Catholic churches and Orthodox to overcome the divisions. Every ones salvation is on the line here in some degree as long as full universality does not exist, read #17. To what degree? God is the judge, and your salvation is just as much at risk as Jasons’. We are all hurting here.

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    7. He does not work for them, he was on one program of theirs, and he said nothing that was wrong as I listened to the whole thing. I was simply saying, I would take their recommendation over a stranger on the internet, not that their judgment of people is infallible. I never said my salvation is not at risk, everyone's is until the moment they die. But it makes it a lot harder if you reject the Pope! Come on, be reasonable. The only thing I see from what you say is emotion, not reason or common sense. The Catholic Church is ONE whether the Eastern Orthodox decide to submit to the Pope or not.

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    8. Ric Ballard,

      Sorry to note this, sir, but you are mistaken, as, for example, the Russian Patriarchate did not condemn 'non-abortive' contraception.

      The tricks Eastern Orthodox manage to perform under 'economy'!..
      That one is expected to believe in such a thing as remarriage (up to three times) without divorce (their words, not mine) is simply mind-blowing! Yeah, I suppose, penitential psalms are, urm, penitential, but that they're used during these ceremonies does nothing to remedy the fact that the priest is blessing and sanctioning fornication on a regular basis.

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    9. Ric Ballard

      I hope I never get this questionnaire. Are we suddenly holding referenda on (faith and) morals. I might have a few suggestions..

      You do realise, of course, that the word 'pastoral' should be a danger signal? :)
      There is no divorce between Christians, as Our Lord ordained.
      And a 'pastoral discipline' presuming to ignore that will be a futile exercise in ethics rather alien to Christianity.

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    10. \\ Furthermore, here is an INFALLIBLE statement: "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Unam Sanctam\\

      This is NOT an infallible statement, but a political one, and therefore VERY fallible. Everyone knows that Boniface VIII and Pius IX suffered from delusions of adequacy.

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    11. Jack

      I wonder if you actually read the Bull*. Yes, the context could be called 'political' by some, I guess, but so was Arianism, and so was Photian schism.
      How do you know it's purely (!) political? Because it's not.
      In fact, is it news that the Catholic Church just is the Institution of Salvation?.. And the Pope is Her visible head? Boniface VIII was not original in the bull.
      And it is true, objectively, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.
      Subjectively, it's up to God alone to read the hearts of men. Non-Catholics can be saved, that is possible, invincible ignorance, say. But there are only Catholics in Heaven.
      We are not supposed to take chances with our Salvation, lest we put the God Our Lord to test.

      * here's a link
      http://www.catholicplanet.com/TSM/Unam-Sanctam-English.htm

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  25. Pope Boniface I (418-422) wrote to the bishops of Thessaly: "It is therefore certain that this Church [the Roman see] is to the Churches throughout the world as the head to its members. If anyone cut himself off from this Church, not being in union with her, he is outside the Christian religion." Notice CUT HIMSELF OFF. People born into schismatic groups don't cut themselves off, but if someone leaves the Catholic Church they cut themselves off!

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  26. Even Vatican II says, those who refuse to enter the CATHOLIC Church or who leave can NOT be saved.

    "This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved."

    -Lumen Gentium 14

    If you know this teaching of the Church (which I just quoted it to you), and you refuse to accept it and you leave you are not going to be saved, period. Barring an extraordinary perfect act of contrition at death where you renounce having left the Catholic Church for the sake of love of Jesus Christ and His Church, you are not going to be saved. That is my last word on it as I said, I did not want to start having it out in a comment box over what SHOULD BE common knowledge for Catholics.

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    1. Someone wiser than I said, "We know where the Church is. We cannot say with equal certainty where she is NOT."

      And Alexis Khomiakov said something like this: The Visible Earthly church is NOT the fullness of the Church that will be revealed on the Last Day. There may be people of all religions who are united to the Church by ties that God has not seen fit to reveal in this life.

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    2. Rebecca you seem to be fixated on the Dogma of Extra Eccelesium Nulla Salus. mother Teresa of the so called Feeneyite group was a dear friend of mine. Fr Feeney was allegedly excommunicated for holding to a strict interpretation of this Dogma. Of course he always said that we do not know the Mercy of God ,but that never made the secular and Catholic News headlines that criticized him. Before his death the alleged excommunication was publicly refuted by the Local Ordinary but the good sisters had gone to the vatican years before and found that the Bishop's excommunication was not validated by the Vatican anyway.
      When one resides in a Diocese whose Bishop does not care about the Faithful under his See ,is corrupt and lies even to the courts , how does one remain Faithul to the Pope in your opinion?
      What we believe as Catholics is in the Creed and fyi the Orthodox say the same Creed........

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    3. I mentioned other dogmas as well anon. I never said he is going to hell if he leaves. If he can repent before he dies, then he will be saved by Jesus. But if he is confirmed in his error, well.
      I live in a terrible diocese. If you can read my comments above I considered becoming Eastern Orthodox right after I converted but I did not do it. It wasn't because I all of a sudden loved the Novus Ordo, I don't. But, I looked at the issues objectively and I came to the conclusion that even though Eastern Orthodoxy has retained beautiful traditions and liturgies their position is fatally flawed and they allow immorality like remarriage and contraception as I said. That is no choice for any Catholic to go to them just because you have a bad bishop or a bad Mass.

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  27. I'm a fellow truth-seeker from Poland and your blog was always a great encouragement to me. I will pray for you to make the right decision. I can't recommend anything, but I hope God will show you the path.

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    1. Thank you. Prayers are very appreciated during this difficult time.

      Peace.

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  28. As an Orthodox Christian that is investigating Catholicism, I would caution you not to romanticize Orthodoxy. While we may not have the same problems as the modern Catholic Church with liturgical abuses, we do have others such as phyletism, division among the autocephalus churches, and a strongly negative view toward anything western. The spirituality, iconography, and patristic mindset are extremely appealing, but those aren't entirely absent in the Catholic Church either. After 8 years in the Orthodox Church (a convert from Lutheranism), I've begun to have a more positive appreciation for my heritage, and now attend a Western Rite parish. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people attend a Greek Orthodox church, and have a parishoner ask them if they're Greek, and when hearing they're not, ask them why they are there. I'm glad to hear that you had a positive experience, but the cultural barriers can be daunting. You mentioned the Eastern Catholic churches, but didn't give a reason as to why you're not considering them. Could you comment on that?

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    1. I will comment on that at some point. Right now, I'm trying to avoid any negativity on it all...in a lot of pain about this whole situation.

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  29. I think you're being seduced by the so-called "Traditionalists" who apparently care more about outward forms, superficial sentimentality, nostaligia, whatever you want to call it. What matters is the REAL PRESENCE and communion with the Vicar of Christ, Il Papa :)

    It's definitely starting to show in how you're becoming negative and judgemental toward those things you find disappointing in your local Catholic churches. Focus on Jesus present in the Eucharist. Ignore the other stuff.

    My patron saint, Bernadette, made a comment, documented in one of the books I read about her, about how she glanced at someone once during Mass, and felt an immediate rebuke for daring to judge them instead of minding her own sins. Too lazy to go dig out the exact quote, but the gist is the same as "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?" (Luke 6:41)

    Hold fast. We pray for you to find the way that leads straight to the Lord :)

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    1. No, actually if you read carefully, I stated in another post that if one's faith is based entirely on externals that it is a house built on sand. As for the negativity, I am very much trying to avoid that. My earlier posts evinced such an attitude as you describe, but here, I am simply describing what I know. Yes, my frustration at it comes out sometimes. Forgive me, I am weak.

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  30. Hello Jason,

    May the Grace and Peace of Christ be with you and guide you in all your deliberations. And bring you to the place He wants you to be.

    You're in my prayers.

    Pax Christi,
    John

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    1. Thank you John, it's appreciated.

      Jason

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  31. Rebecca, in many ways the Roman Church is out of step with the rest of the pre-Reformation Apostolic churches.

    1. Infants are denied Confirmation.
    2. Infants are denied Communion.
    3. Married men for the most part may not become priests.
    4. Fasting before Communion or any other fasting has been practically abolished.

    You will find NONE of these abuses, even in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

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    1. I don't understand how an INFANT can, willfully and with full knowledge, be able to CONFIRM themselves in the Faith.

      I understand the argument for infant baptism, by way of the proxy of her guardians. But, there are those who argue the same way against infant baptism, because an infant cannot CONSENT.

      But, how can an infant be confirmed, when they have not attained the age of reason?

      As far as fasting, as a mere lay person, I can agree with you, especially here in the USA we have been given exceptions which perhaps should not have been granted. Perhaps they did so because they would rather relax the rules so their parishoners are not receiving unworthily simply for violating some arbitrary time period of fasting. What is loosed on earth will be loosed in Heaven, Matthew 16:19. I just read in a book about St Bernadette, in her time, the period of fasting was 12 hours, and they could not receive Communion daily, as we can now. Things change. These are not major changes, in my opinion.

      But then notice how overweight the majority of US priests are. Obviously, the value of fasting has been diminished here in the USA. Pity. Graces flow to those who deny the flesh. This is self-discipline. Do we need a taskmaster riding us like donkeys to force us to do these things? Or should we let those moved by grace pursue them, and leave the rest in peace?

      But, I wouldn't go so far as to abandon the Church, including Il Papa, just because Americans are fat and undisciplined! :) God wants us all saved. I doubt He wants to condemn us just because we're eating an hour before Communion.

      As far as married men becoming priests, my understanding is that only CONVERTS who are already married, may retain their marriages when they pursue a vocation.

      But, none of these ecclesiastical differences would lead me into schism with the Church. If the Catholic church decided the reason for infant confirmation & communion were acceptable, I would accept it. Whatever their reasons are for their position, I'm sure it's well-thought and reasonable.

      Let's not be divided over triviatae. Pray for Unity. Pray for peace. Pray that we all obtain the grace to love one another as Jesus commanded!

      (Taking off my anonymous mask and posting under my pseudonym, rosc)

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    2. \\As far as married men becoming priests, my understanding is that only CONVERTS who are already married, may retain their marriages when they pursue a vocation. \\

      As a matter of fact, I know several Eastern Catholic men who were raised Eastern Catholics, married as Eastern Catholics, and were ordained as Eastern Catholic priests.

      Try again.

      And the Eastern Catholic Churches confirm and commune infants. The Roman Church is NOT the standard of Catholicity.

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    3. Actually, if just even THINKING about leaving the Catholic church to become orthodox leads to such discord and strife, I'm fleeing in the opposite direction, as anything that does not lead to peace, love and unity can't be from God. :)

      Mary, Mother of God, help us sinners!

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    4. Hi, Rosc--some Catholic dioceses are returning to the historic order for the Sacraments, even with infants: Baptism, Confirmation and then Eucharist. A persons does not confirm him or herself in the faith after the age of reason. The Holy Spirit confirms us--we do not confirm the faith.

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  32. Hello, Jason, Have you ever read the messages of Our Lady of Soufanieh? The web-link is: www.soufanieh.com. The message is for prayer for: "unity of hearts, unity of Christians, the Unification of the Date of the Feast of Easter". I found your blog a few months ago and visit to read your posts often although only commented once on your post of "Ireland". When I read this of your spiritual-conflict I remembered Our Lady of Soufanieh and believe she might help you in some way. I'll remember you in my prayers. God bless you and ALL your loved ones and a very Merry Christmas season to you too.

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  33. Sorry for writing this but it's just so frustrating!
    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time! I’m very grateful to you, Jason! Your posts have helped me greatly in my struggles.

    I apologise if my tone is somewhat aggressive. T
    The Church needs to be defended! And it includes the Latin West. Our Holy Roman Church (yes, Roman, as it was Roman to a great many saints) is in a terrible predicament now. With modernism rampant, Novus Ordo, pervasive ambivalence in teaching, the Church needs us! Now is not the time to abandon Her.

    Writing as a Russian Catholic catechumen (what you can call an 'atheist convert'), and although I was never ‘Orthodox’, I'm somewhat immune to the charm of the East.
    Yes, they do have a great spiritual tradition. Yes, I'm well aware they have valid sacraments. But from a certain perspective it actually makes things worse, because these precious jems were STOLEN. This alone should make a Catholic – whatever the rite - furious.

    All this talk of 'sister Churches' is not really helpful. First off, it's not dogma, not even doctrine, it's diplomacy. And given that it is, we need to consider an important fact: they don't think of us that way. Most Eastern Orthodox I know are anti-Latin (if even aware of the Church's existence). The 'damned Latins' are legalistic (because Catholics actually have a coherent ecclesiology and rational theology), the jibes against Scholasticism is at times verbatim 'Enlightment' propaganda, great Catholic saints like St. Francis (once much loved by Russian intelligentsia) and St. Teresa of Avila are slandered as maniacs and hysterics etc.

    They deny revealed truths. I actually believe the Orthodox are not only in schism, they are actually heretical. Perhaps I'm being a bit too radical, but almost from the get-go they denied Petrine Primacy, a de fide dogma.
    Then there's the issue of Palamism, a most influential current in 'Orthodox' theology. Given that it's said to be very difficult to interpret Palamas, I'm not going to put words in his writings, but if it Palamas does mean in his (supposedly brilliant) teaching about essence (absolutely unknowable)-energies distinction that this distinction is real (as modern Palamists such as Lossky seem to be saying), then this doctrine is against Catholic dogma, as God is absolutely simple. Might seem too abstract to some, but I think this teaching actually implies an assault on the supernatural end of our lives, the very possibility of it - the Beatific Vision. I hope I’m wrong. But this is serious.

    Perhaps it's not that bad, it's possible I'm reading in too much into the theologian. But I'm not the only one!.. I know of 'Orthodox' people eagerly waiting for an orthodox interpretation (!) of Palamism.

    Ultimately, the Eastern position is simply incoherent, as the East doesn’t have the divinely instituted court of appeal that is the See of Peter. Catholics do have an objective criterion to tell the Faith from heresy, orthodoxy from heterodoxy, a true Council from a Robber Council - the Pope. It's that simple. The Church is an actual monarchy, with Christ as Her King and Pope His vicar.
    The ‘Orthodox’ don't have that. They don't have much agreement between themselves (even when it comes to the number of the binding Councils: some say 7, some say 9), and yet they tell us that the council recognised by the Church are not real Councils. Why’s that?..

    Here I’m going to have to reproduce a couple of passages made on a different blog in a similar discussion, excuses in advance. It’s just that’s rather late here in Moscow, and English’s my second language.

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    1. The Pope can't be the Vicar of Christ, because a vicar takes the place of one who is absent, and Christ is NEVER absent from the Church.

      And "Vicar of Christ" in Greek becomes "Antichristos."

      Even most Eastern Catholics prefer "Vicar of St. Peter."

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  34. Apologies in advance if the following is going to sound a bit goofy, please do believe me, I actually had to talk it through. With myself.

    The closest thing I can think of that can serve as a silver bullet is the question of the Councils and their validity. You correctly note that the Orthodox believe the Pope to be in error and heresy. Surely you will agree that to declare something an error would entail an appeal to truth. So what makes one a heretic? His heresy, "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas” (ST II-II:11:1). I believe St. Thomas’ definition to be uncontroversial. And what makes an orthodox Christian orthodox? His orhodox faith. But what precisely makes faith orthodox?

    It is my impression that the Orthodox prefer not to use the term ‘infallibility’, but please forgive me, as I hope the term will be vindicated with a clarification.
    It is my understanding the Orthodox certainly accept the concept behind the term, it appears, and rightly so, justly condemning Arians, Nestorians, Monophysites, Iconoclasts etc. These heresies were condemned by Ecumenical Councils, the first seven of which the East certainly upholds, the Orthodox do believe these to be, for the lack of a better term, infallible enough to enable us to recognise these ‘opinions’ as heretical, and doctrines defined by the Councils are orthodox. But what councils are to be considered Ecumenical and (therefore) binding?.. The famous Second Council of Ephesus, or Robber Council, a name aptly coined by Pope St. Leo I, a saint venerated by both East and West (nota bene: and a champion of Papal primacy). It was certainly intended as Ecumenical, and it ended up trying to reverse the teaching of the First Council of Ephesus, which condemned Monophysitism. If both these Councils are valid Councils (as they seem to be), it would follow that the Church dogmatically and solemnly taught error, and the gates of Hell did in fact prevail. It would not do to claim that if it repudiated a previous Council it’s not ecumenical, as there’s no reason to deny the Robber Council at least it’s ‘initial ecumenicity’. It would be prudent to note there were, say, no quorum requirements: the first Ecumenical Council – the first Council of Nicea was attended by about 300 people, with only 5 people representing the West, Ephesus I had 200-250, Constantinople II – 15o, and the number of people signing each document could actually vary substantially.

    Then again, there’s the Rock of Peter. The reason why both Catholic and Orthodox reject Ephesus II is precisely because it was denied validity by the Papal legate present there, future Pope St. Hilarius, and his judgement was later confirmed by Pope St. Leo I. The Catholic criterion for determining the validity of a Council is very simple – it’s ratification by the Pope (the scope of Council’s acceptance by the Pope depending on the scope of his approval), and is entirely objective. But, obviously, the Orthodox cannot accept this, as it would appear to make condemning Catholic teaching as erroneous /heretical simply because it’s not taught in the East impossible. There is a later theory among the Eastern Orthodox called receptionism, which states that in order for a Council to be considered Ecumenical and binding it has to be received by the body of orthodox faithful. The historical example of that would be the repudiation of the Council of Florence by the Eastern bishops upon their return to Byzantium. But it isn’t it circular reasoning? The teaching is orthodox because it is believed by the orthodox?

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  35. I fail to see who the Orthodox can be said to have a legitimate reason to recognise the first seven (and some think there are nine) Councils and deny validity of the Councils recognised by the Catholic Church? Why are they not valid Councils?.. Surely not because of representation, especially given schism (and quorum not being a necessary (though welcome) condition), etc. So are Catholic in fact heretics and schismatics? If so, why? And how can it be established?

    I have to confess I doubt autocephaly is that much (or at all) closer to the early Church, especially given its remarkable abscense in the writings Church Fathers like St. Cyprian.
    _________________________________________________________________


    All the autocephalous sects can do against the Catholic position is repeat old objections to the 'filioque' (all the Catholic graecophiles out there - no, it's not optional, it's de fide, nevermind the possibility of omission in Greek – it’s the Faith), the supposed imperial ambition and pride of the Bishop of Rome (truth being the reverse, of course), barbarism of the West (Greek revanchism?..), the Sack of Constantinople, and even the matter of azymes occasionally resurfaces, and that I hope we can all agree is silly.

    Is that legalism?.. Is coherence 'legalism'? I don't think so.
    The claims of the East are not modest, but grand! It was and still is a rebellion.
    It's no fault of all the people led astray by this sad - and silly - schism. Many Russian Catholics think of Seraphim of Sarov as a Saint, but a Catholic saint.
    Please do remember that Russia was once Catholic country, and didn't enter schism untill the sad repudiation of the Council of Florence. And although he lived much later, his sainthood is no fruit of Photius' or Cerularius' ambitions and conceit, but of the Catholic Faith!



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  36. When I first came across your blog I was strengthened in my conviction that Catholics are amazing people.

    I will pray for you!

    Pax Domini sit semper tecum

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  37. Russian friend,

    As another long-time reader of this blog, thank you for all you've written here.

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  38. With your being a Russian Catholic catechumen, you should be lock step with your Orthodox brethren, on most matters, if not all. Most Russian Catholics are truly Orthodox in communion with Rome. So I find it unsettling when I read your disparaging remarks about Orthodoxy. As a person, your more than welcome to chime in; but on matters of faith, please live your catechumenate, with an empty cup.

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    1. Sounds like Georgiy above is probably a catechumen in the Latin rite Church, in Russia, rather than the Russian Greek-Catholic Church.

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  39. Age reason was an innovation, a gnostic one at that I'll expand later, as I have to get to work

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    1. I went to a Russian Catholic church in California. It was totally indistinguishable from other Russian emigre churches I've seen--including icons to post schism and post revolutionary Russian Orthodox saints.

      When the Russian Catholics asked Pope Pius XI what they should do in their liturgical praxis to conform to Catholicism (including saints commemorated), he replied, "Add nothing, omit nothing, change nothing."

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  40. " I immersed myself in the Triads of St. Gregory Palamas "

    I found the teachings of St Gregory Palamas and especially this work especially perplexing. That was one of the reasons I followed the opposite direction from you- from (Greek) Orthodox to Catholic. Of course there were other reasons too (the Immaculate Conception, divorce etc.)
    The theologians and mystics of the Middle Ages you mention (and St Faustina) talk about the beatific vision, seeing the divine essence of God. How can you reconcile this with the Orthodox spirituality (the divine essence being amethektos)?
    Thank you
    Christos

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  41. Just go to the Eastern Catholic Church, then you will keep both: Eastern Traditions and Full Communion with the Pope.

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  42. I think you might find this link interesting. It's written by an Eastern Orthodox Christian who reevaluated the Catholic Church. It's lengthy, but well worth the read:

    http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2012/11/26/an-eastern-orthodox-christian-looks-west/comment-page-1/

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  43. Jason, I am an ex-Eastern-Orthodox (baptized Orthodox as a baby) from East-Europe, entered the Catholic Church in 2012. You have approached Orthodoxy through books and I can understand why you find it so compelling. Now you frequent an Orthodox church and I can also understand why you are attracted. The Orthodox way is great if you want to live a monastic life. However, I am not sure you would like to live in any of the traditional Orthodox countries. Like Russia for example. The people of that country, Holy Russia have always been enslaved in a way or in another....as I said, Orthodoxy works great if you want to leave as a recluse...

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  44. One more thing Jason: you think that some readers were harsh...let me tell you: what you have faced this time it was a piece of cake.....if you will ever consider to revert to Catholicism, the Orthodox brethren are likely to tear you in pieces...I am a convert to Catholicism from Orthodoxy (born in a traditional Orthodox country) and I would have never dared to announce it on a blog like you did...Father Seraphim Rose? Yes, some of his writing are beautiful but do you really believe what he said about UFOs too? :-).

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