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Unread 04-27-2016, 11:58 PM   #16
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As I mentioned above, we wouldn't call it trans-substantiation, nor would we use some of the weird metaphysical machinery that the West uses to speak about it. All we're willing to say is that Christ is present in the Gifts, bodily, and that we should treat them accordingly.

We would, however, insist that Christ is truly present in the chalice through a holy mystery (indeed, we refer to the Gifts as "the Holy Mysteries"), and treat the holy things contained therein with the utmost reverence. Our Liturgy makes this clear when the priest prays "And we pray You, send down Your Holy Spirit upon these gifts here offered, and make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ...and make this cup the precious Blood of Your Christ...making the change by Your Holy Spirit."

We bless the foreheads of those who are not receiving communion (people who choose not to for whatever reason, or who may have been placed under some kind of discipline for a time, as well as catechumens like myself who are preparing to be received into the Church) with the Chalice because we understand that chalice to contain the holy body and blood of the Lord. The faithful make a reverence when the gifts are brought out from the altar.

In general, we do not place the Holy Mysteries in some means of display and lift them up for hours at a time to be gazed at and adored, as the Roman Church does. I mean, it technically makes sense, I guess, but I once heard somebody describe this as seeming like 'playing with your food', and I agree - Christ gave Himself to us as the Bread of Life, the bread which we shall eat and not die (John 6:41-51), the 'medicine of immortality', as St. Ignatius of Antioch, who lived in the late 1st and early 2nd century and was a disciple of the Apostle John, referred to it. He is given to us as food and meant to be eaten, not gazed at for hours at a time - and we worship Him in the eating.

If you're interested in reading more about this, I'd recommend Eucharist by the aforementioned late Fr. Alexander Schmemann (may his memory be eternal!), followed by For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. Both are considered modern-day Orthodox classics.

Another thing regarding the priesthood of every believer - it goes far, far beyond the altar. Every Christian, when he or she goes out into the world, offers God sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving every day. We are called to participate in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly ministry of Christ in our daily lives - offering God our work and our worship, proclaiming the Good News to a world that has loved the darkness rather than the light, and exercising wise, kind, and just dominion as rulers of the Earth (our species has been really really bad at this, on the whole).
Interesting that you mention, "We worship Him in the eating." My now-former roommate (I miss the guy pretty bad) and I have had numerous conversations about what true worship and fellowship looks like. He did a semester project over the topic of communion and fellowship and had personally concluded himself while the bread and cup did bear significance, that true fellowship came through the breaking of the bread and the passing of the cup; or, in his terms, "the fellowship meal." He concluded that it was meant to be a meal that was shared, and not a cracker and a sip of wine. Of course he would say one should still participate in communion, but where he sees the difference in the significance of each, I do not know.

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Unread 04-28-2016, 12:40 AM   #17
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Your friend is right, of course. Our being Christians sanctifies our whole lives, and especially at mealtimes, when we remember that our Lord commanded us to celebrate His remembrance as a meal, I think mealtimes can easily be regarded as a holy act for Christians, even if we don't celebrate the Eucharist as such. Fr. Schmemann actually talks about eating being sanctified in For the Life of the World.

In the Orthodox church, our practise is that the priest mixes the consecrated bread into the wine and serves little particles of the wine-soaked bread to the faithful on a golden spoon (interesting that this is an equalizer - in the Eucharist, both the richest person and the beggar on the street eat the best food (the Lord Himself) from a (literal) golden spoon and a golden cup!). I think this evolved in the East because people would steal pieces of the consecrated bread and do witchcraft with it In the fact that everyone approaches a single chalice, we reflect the fact that we are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. And the reason we guard that chalice, and prohibit those who aren't Orthodox from partaking of it - it is that unity means something to us than just agreeing on a 'lowest common doctrinal denominator'. Unity means just that - that a person has been received into the Church and agrees with her doctrine (or at least struggles in good faith to agree with it, which is where I am on a couple of matters of morality, currently), which has received and guarded an unbroken Tradition since the time of the Apostles.

The fact that I couldn't approach the chalice when I was still an Anglican (and still can't as a catechumen) was deeply painful to me, as is the fact that I can't approach one chalice with my Protestant friends, whom I love. But unity means something profound, to Orthodox Christians, and it's not merely glossing over differences.

(There is something that non-Orthodox/those under church discipline/catechumens can partake of, and that's the bread and wine that have been set aside and blessed, but not consecrated - called the antidoron (Greek: 'instead of the gifts'). At least in my church, usually anyone who people know to be a visitor get multiple people taking antidoron from the basket after Communion and bringing it to them. A visitor at my church can end up with a lot of random people giving them bread :P )

It's also the reason (well, most of the reason) why many Orthodox parishes (especially smaller mission parishes like mine) have an 'agapé meal' - usually potluck - immediately after the Divine Liturgy - to retain that connection between the Eucharist and the eating of a meal together.
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Unread 04-29-2016, 01:08 AM   #18
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Also - apropos to something I said above, these are the opening words an Orthodox priest says when someone comes to him for confession:

"Behold, my child, Christ stands here invisibly before you receiving your confession. Be not ashamed or afraid, but doubting none of these things tell me all that you have done, for I am only a witness bearing testimony before Him of all that you say unto me."

St. John Chrysostom wrote that the Church was 'a hospital for sinners and not a court of law'. This is how Orthodox Christians understand confession.

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Unread 04-29-2016, 07:33 PM   #19
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Very well explained!
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Unread 04-30-2016, 09:42 PM   #20
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Wow, I never even knew that there was such thing as an Orthadox church. Very interesting, and I agree. You can't really judge whether someone is saved or not, but a lot of Protestants (or at least the baptists I've met) throw all Catholics and Orthodoxs under the bus and say they are not saved, no way, not even possible. I've even heard some say that the Catholics are of the devil and was his attempt to destroy Christianity.
I guess what I made this thread for was to go against that.
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Unread 04-30-2016, 10:26 PM   #21
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We're the best kept secret in North America Mostly because Orthodox people here in the US and Canada don't realize what a treasure of Truth they're sitting on. That's starting to change, glory to God!

PKGuitarist, where do you live in TN, if you don't mind me asking? I know of a great Orthodox church in Oak Ridge, near Knoxville, if you're interested in checking one out sometime. I read their priest's blog often and he is an incredible writer and theologian and preacher.

ps. that icon of the Prophet Jeremiah in your signature? That's painted in the Orthodox Christian tradition!

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Today, starting at midnight, we're celebrating the day of the Lord's Resurrection (we observe it on a different calendar than everyone else..for reasons that are complicated). The last line in Fr. Stephen's post above is what I'll leave this thread with:

Hell is real. Jesus has come to smash it. It is the Lord’s Pascha. It is time to sing and dance.
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Unread 05-01-2016, 03:02 AM   #22
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Wow, I never even knew that there was such thing as an Orthadox church. Very interesting, and I agree. You can't really judge whether someone is saved or not, but a lot of Protestants (or at least the baptists I've met) throw all Catholics and Orthodoxs under the bus and say they are not saved, no way, not even possible. I've even heard some say that the Catholics are of the devil and was his attempt to destroy Christianity.
I guess what I made this thread for was to go against that.
It's interesting, because Baptists can be so divergent in their beliefs! I know where you are coming from background wise. I was raised Baptist, in a Southern Baptist Church in Texas.

I went to a Baptist university and I was amazed at how stratified the Baptist tradition is!

Obviously, this doesn't have to do with the topic, per se, just wanted to throw my two cents in there, as a Baptist who doesn't believe any of those things about Catholics or Orthodox Christians. In fact, I probably align more with high church traditions (Church of England, Catholicism, Orthodox) than I do with most other Baptists.

Historically, Baptists have been obsessed with justice and with peace. This is why Baptists were at the forefront of the abolition of slavery. It is also why Baptists had women preachers in the 19th century.
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Unread 05-01-2016, 10:00 PM   #23
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PKGuitarist, where do you live in TN, if you don't mind me asking? I know of a great Orthodox church in Oak Ridge, near Knoxville, if you're interested in checking one out sometime. I read their priest's blog often and he is an incredible writer and theologian and preacher.
I live in the small hills of Cocke County which is around 45 minutes from Knoxville. I will definitely check it out sometime!

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ps. that icon of the Prophet Jeremiah in your signature? That's painted in the Orthodox Christian tradition!
That's awesome! I didn't know that. I just wanted a picture of the Prophet Jeremiah because I love the way he describes the words of God, like a fire in our heart that we cannot hold in. It's an awesome quote.
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Unread 05-01-2016, 10:04 PM   #24
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It's interesting, because Baptists can be so divergent in their beliefs! I know where you are coming from background wise. I was raised Baptist, in a Southern Baptist Church in Texas.
Actually, I was raised even more uptight than that. My church even preached against Southern Baptists. I was raised in a church that was independant, very fundamental and very. . . judging.
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Unread 05-26-2016, 12:30 PM   #25
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PK, you had asked a question early on about "Where did the 'alone' come from?" I skimmed much of the last half of this, but I didn't see anyone answer that question specifically.

During the Protestant Reformation, the reformers came up with 3 statements that each challenged people to look into the Bible for answers rather than a different source:

By Scripture Alone, not by tradition or "the way we have always done it"
By Grace Alone, not from merit or entitlement
By Faith Alone, not by works or deeds

Later, 2 more were added to the list:
In Christ Alone, not by any other Saint or Mary etc.
For the Glory of God Alone, not for the glory of any other saint or Mary etc.

The idea of Salvation is simple (and we tend to over-complicate it):
We all sin, and therefore all deserve death. Christ did not sin but was killed on our behalf. Nothing we can do will earn us salvation, and nothing we bring to the table will change that. It brings God glory to pardon sins (grace) and it brings him glory punish sins (justice). God bestows grace on those he chooses, and they in turn respond in faith *backed/proved* by works (repentance).

I like to say (and someone else already said something to this effect) that I believe there are Saved Catholics just like I believe there are Saved Baptists. The church you attend has no bearing on your salvation, only how much Truth you get from the pulpit.

For further reading, look up Romans 3:23, 6:23, 9 (the whole chapter, has some very deep and "controversial" issues; talks about God choosing some for honor and some for destruction and how we as people have no grounds to ask "why/"); Ephesians 2:8-10 (talks about Grace, Faith, and Works) and James 2:14-26 (talks about Faith and Works and how they need one another).

I hope this all makes sense, but i will happy to elaborate further =]
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Unread 06-16-2016, 09:02 PM   #26
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As a former Catholic, who still has Catholic family & friends, and is now in a Presbyterian church, and bears no malice towards Catholicism, I would say that any Catholics who are saved are saved in spite of the Catholic church's teachings.

Let me unpack that a bit.
I find it helpful to distinguish the Catholic from the official teachings (& unofficial teachings) of the Catholic church (This would also apply to any other group/denomination/etc.)

So no Catholic holds to all Catholic teachings-inconsistency is a human trait and sometimes it is a good thing.

Official Catholic teaching denies the gospel in the areas of Justification & authority, but many Catholics don't hold to those.

I'm not saying you have to have every single little thing correct, but the big things should be.
And the teachings are not the people & the people are not the teachings.

I state this as the Treasury of Merit, an official teaching of Catholicism and found in their official catechism, denies the finished work of Christ & teaches that the excess merit of believers can also be applied to us.
There is no excess merit in anyone other than Christ and He alone is all we need.

That is a an overview & perhaps an oversimplification, but I find online is not a good way to discuss this--so let me know if you want clarification.

I realize this will put me with odds with some here, and that's okay.
I am not saying this in judgment to anyone else.
It grieves me I have family members who don't believe the gospel--not because they are Catholic (Some have also left Catholicism for agnosticism or atheism or new age movements), but because they have rejected the gospel.
I take no joy in saying that a teaching is not Christian or that someone who holds it may not (Or is not) a Christian. In many ways I see the attraction to Universalism-that all are Saved--eventually (Again perhaps an over-simplification)

I am prepared to say that if the official Catholic teaching is correct/the truth--then I am not saved.
The differences are too different--so if you consider me and a Catholic who holds to the Treasury of Merit, then either I am right & they are wrong, they are right & I am wrong, or we are both wrong.

That's a 1 in 3 shot I am right, and 2 in 3 that I am wrong.

But individual Catholics may or may not be saved.
Just as individual whatever else may or may not.

I welcome comments & will consider any answers given that are not ad hominem attacks.
I am not attacking any persons here--I am speaking of teachings & of myself & hypothetical people, none of whom I would hate if they are real.
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Unread 06-17-2016, 02:01 PM   #27
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I'm so sorry you had that experience, Zedman. This is one of the categorical errors of Western Christian theology, unfortunately: the idea of created grace.

In Eastern Christianity, grace is nothing less than a participation in the uncreated energies of God, 'partaking in the Divine Nature', as St. Peter puts it. Like matter, grace cannot be created or destroyed anymore than God can be created or destroyed, because He is God.

Where the West gets into trouble is that there's this idea that 'additional grace' can be created and dispensed (often, understood as the perogative of the Pope of Rome). The Protestants took this categorical error and ran with it, teaching, rather implicitly, the idea of 'merit' such that Christ's 'merit' pays for our sins as though we owed a debt.

Whereas, the Orthodox Church understands that while, yes, one of the principal ways we participate in the life ('grace') of God is through the sacraments of the Church, there is no additional, superfluous grace - the saints in heaven pray for us and the Church holds forth their examples as spiritual comfort and guides for righteous living, but they have no 'superfluous merits'.

As for our debts? They aren't paid by Christ: they are destroyed, along with the one who held us in bondage to them.

I hope one day you'll investigate the Orthodox church! The way I sometimes put it is that we're what the Church was without Rome's additions and muddying-the-waters with scholasticism and Protestantism's subtractions (and no small amount of continuing in the tradition of Roman Catholic scholasticism).
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Unread 06-19-2016, 11:33 PM   #28
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I'm so sorry you had that experience, Zedman. This is one of the categorical errors of Western Christian theology, unfortunately: the idea of created grace.
I'm not sure what experience you are sorry I had.
My experiences have made me what I am, and led me first to Christ and then to be closer to Him.

If I regret anything it would be how I have treated others at times (Or maybe mistreated others applies better to the actions I am thinking of)--I have learned from those though.
And also ignoring God for so long in my younger days.

I don't get what you mean by created grace--the grace that saved me was from God--and from Him alone.
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Unread 06-20-2016, 05:19 AM   #29
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I hope one day you'll investigate the Orthodox church! The way I sometimes put it is that we're what the Church was without Rome's additions and muddying-the-waters with scholasticism and Protestantism's subtractions (and no small amount of continuing in the tradition of Roman Catholic scholasticism).
I think you underestimate Platonism as a theological developmental program within your tradition. Scholasticism is precisely why I'd stick around in Protestantism after investigating EO.
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