Wednesday, August 30, 2006

one Thing needful...

School is off and running; with the illnesses of previous weeks beaten, my students and I seem to be getting into a routine now...just in time for total upheaval, as an assistant principal and I have determined that the only way we can fix the absurd-yet-perennial situation of native Spanish-speakers being placed in my language acquisition classes is to convert one of my existing Spanish 2 courses into a Spanish 1/2 course for native speakers, and move all native speakers either to this class, or to other native speaker classes already in existence. The non-native speakers in said class will be dispersed to my other six periods. Joy. Yet, while this is a big pain both for me and for them, the advantages of having a much more homogenous classroom environment in terms of abilities and background will be well worth it once we really hit a stride.

Attended liturgy last Sunday for the first time since Transfiguration on the sixth. "It is good for us to be here" is about the only thing that needs to be said. The Church being what it is: the mystery of the Body of Christ on Earth, full of light and lightness.

Found out that a dear friend is getting a divorce, and is already in another serious (or at least an emotionally intense) relationship. Questions about why we grow up to practice without a second thought what we spent our childhoods knowing was wrong (I am no stranger to this), as well as what possible emotional need we're looking to fill by running to these things for our sustenance.

Talk with two inquirers last Saturday evening after Vespers (out of order, I know, but so are these rambling thoughts) about the church they're coming from versus ours, and the invariable discontent that is present during that period of transition. The situation they were coming from was one I could sympathize with, as well as understand why they would want to make the move they were making, so it was a bit of an attempt to help them temper the discontent with acknowledgement of the goodness and beauty that's there where they came from. Had "that feeling" both during and after the conversation, which I brought up to Father Basil after they had left: during conversations where I am asked my opinion (and even those when I am not), I will often feel, during the times I'm talking, a nagging voice inside that says, "Shut up; shut up; shut up; you're talking too much and not only making a fool of yourself, but also hogging the conversation and feeding your ego with your chatter." Father said that he had talked with a priest just the other day who was concerned about this very thing within himself, and also said that he had overheard an actual theologian voice this very fear about himself, as well. Good to hear I'm not alone... Fr. said that, as long as I'm aware of the tension, as long as I'm asking these questions of myself, an important check is in place in me. Audra's advice re: this was best, though, imo: "Always strive to listen louder than you talk."

Vespers tonight, then inquirers class with two regular inquirers. Talked about the Church as a Mystery which has mysteries within it, and about how to read the Bible. For the latter, we read part of an article by Bp. KALLISTOS (which can be found in the back of the Orthodox Study Bible New Testament/Psalms). Always good to revisit "the basics." A brother from an OCA mission in Birmingham is here in Ft. Worth on business the next few weeks; got to visit with him and hear his story. Growth, pains, small buildings, committment, community--all these things mark his current experience in the Faith, and he loves it. Totally captivated by the beauty and the goodness of the Church as worship of God. Seeing the Church--and, thus, Christ--in this manner makes all other reasons for leaving behind former confessions/lives rather trivial, as the one Thing needful trumps all convert defensiveness, self-important chatter, emotional reactions or occupational curveballs.


Eric Weis said...

God bless you this year in your teaching.

David Bryan said...

Thank you!

Stacy said...

Unrelated to your post:

I like the new look of the blog.

Anonymous said...

As a Protestant who has recently been exploring the Orthodox faith, I find it refreshing that you would take it on yourself to try and remind your inquirers of the "goodness and beauty" of where they've come from. I have not had this experience in my interactions with Orthodox believers. While there are many things that I find attractive and compelling about the Orthodox faith, I grow tired of hearing the Protestant church endlessly criticized. For all its weaknesses (and I admit there are many) the Protestant Church is, and will always be, the place where my own faith was born, nurtured, and raised. And however "bastardized" that faith may be for having been born outside of the Orthodox Church, it is, nonetheless, a real and living faith. I have many Protestants to thank for that.

Rhology said...

Short comment:
I don't think the Protestant faith is bastardised at all. We have the Scriptures as our source, and they go farther back than any perceived 'church tradition', back to the very theopneustos word of the One True God.
But if Orthodoxy is the true faith, Protestantism is at best heterodox and not worth holding to. The converse is true also, as I'm betting Reader David would agree.


Emily said...

I always enjoyed being ahead of everyone in spanish class, I'm glad mine were never split up. It was always fun when a friend informed the teacher that Spanish was my first language and, 'no, she wasn't actually paying much attention to the lesson on colors.' I guess you never expect that of the blonde kid in class with a German last name?

~Ardilla said...

I think it's a wonderful idea to split the classes!! It will be helpful both for native and non-native speakers. As someone who both learned and taught a second language, I believe it is extremely important for the student to be in a class with the appropiate difficulty level. It will give the advanced student a chance to go into more interesting and challenging subjects, it will give the teacher a chance to focus on the grammatical and phonetical problems that only native speakers have; and it will also give the beginner student a chance to take his own language experience at his own pace.
I know you know this... I just wanted to say I totally agree with you :)
But yeah... my Spanish classes rocked too... easy A.

As for Orthodoxy and Protestantism... well, it is true that the monotheist rule might apply, and the verity of one religion automatically contradicts the logical verity of the other.
What I'd like to say is that the differences in Protestantism and Orthodoxy are not necessarily contradicting. Although we think of the concept of worship in a whole different manner, we do worship the same Lord. We believe in a loving God who sent his One and Only Son to save us from our sins. I personally don't think that the fact that Protestantism is true contradicts the thurthfulness of a sister faith. In the end, we are saved because of faith in the Lord, and not because of the small decisions (which are surely either right or wrong, but only He is Worthy to decide).

~Ardilla said...

my comment got cut off.. but I was saying that although these small decisions (such as our decision to believe -or not- in icons) do either please the Lord or they don't, they do not count towards salvation. We are saved by grace alone. I think we must face the fact that although we can decide whether or not we BELIEVE these things are true, we cannot MAKE them true. The correct interpretation of Scripture, the concept of worship, the correct institution of the church, and all other small (though apparently important issues) things will ultimately remain a mystery to us until the End days. Now we live and see and understand as children. I think we should therefore be loving and accepting of our differences and wait until we know and see fully.

David Bryan said...


Yes, it's difficult to "strike the balance between being honest with oneself and "telling it like it is" with regards to Protestantism and obsessing over it--the latter makes it seem as if we're converting FROM something more than TO something else, and I think that's a path that's doomed to dead-end more often than not.


We also would say that we have the Scriptures at the very source of our faith, so that argument wouldn't really persuade us as to Protestantism's verity, as you know. For us, it's not a matter of merely drawing from the same source (Holy Scripture) but also doing so in the same way as those who first received those Scriptures. Protestantism does not do this, as the earliest fathers make plain, while Orthodoxy does this much more faithfully.

Without recourse to the traditional interpretive tradition of Christendom from the beginning on, though, I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on the citation of Scripture as a source as being a "clincher" for Protestantism's verity...

Emily (or should I say Emilia?),

Entonces, ¿tú eres argentina? No conozco ninguna otra región de latinoamerica en que hay una población considerable de alemanes...vaya...


You’re right; we both dobelieve in a loving God who sent his One and Only Son to save us from our sins. And it is true that faith in Christ is what does save us. The only question I would raise is whether or not how we follow Him in faith and obedience matters…or, in other words, does it matter what “faith in Christ” looks like or consists of? We would say that the notion of personal, internal faith in and obedience to Christ, crucial as it is to Christianity, is not enough; there must be a physical encounter through the (we believe) Christ-ordained and grace-filled sacraments that, along with other things, the Church was founded to give to the faithful.

I do believe, though, that many Protestants are following Christ as best they can, and (I imagine) often more seriously than many Orthodox Christians (I say this to our shame). We would say that the fact remains, though, that the sacramental encounters with Christ in the waters of baptism, the mystery of repentance (aka, “confession”), the mystical Body and Blood of Christ in communion, and the liturgical life and prayers of the Church are all still vital to a full understanding and participation in who Christ is. Whether or not missing out on this would deprive someone of heaven is not something any of us know, but we would be absolutely against anyone saying that you could “get by alright without ‘em.”

FreeCyprus said...

"the decision to believe -or not- in icons..."

This can't matter when this is happening in the world:


How much have we sat around with our Christian brothers and sisters debating the icon issue and other, some might argue, insignificant topics?

"You Protestants are Catholics are that...oh you Orthodox Christians and your icons"

...when we should be out in the world practicing everything Jesus had preached rather than talking amongst ourselves...

We love "preaching to the choir"

David Bryan said...


The war in Iraq is, indeed, a harsh reality in our lives today. We must do the work of Christians, you are right. First and foremost, this is prayer for peace of the whole world.

Our inter-confessional bickering can, indeed, be petty and superficial, especially when these points of theology are argued over for the sake of arguement. Yet things like why we use icons or what we confess the Eucharist to be can be gateways to the complete transfiguration of the human race.

And that is not--or at least, is not meant to be--an abstract, academic, removed, theological principle with nothing to offer a world suffering in the throes of wars and rumors of wars.

Your admonition has its place, however; no doubt. Thanks for commenting.

~Ardilla said...

Hello again David :)
I was trying to say that although I believe that it does matter how we live our faith out (we Protestants have our own little set of things you can't really get by without), the ultimate judgement is God's alone. We should therefore be loving and accepting of other religions, like you seem to be.
.. Of course, Freecyprus is right that I am preaching to the choir (which by the way I think is ok and even nourishing to us all, so long as we complement our own nourishment with outreach).

David, do you believe your statements of prayer to be some type of icons of the prayers themselves? I am curious about how you guys will often say something like "prayers for so and so" without writing out the prayer itself. Perhaps I'm making a silly question (I'm already thinking that maybe icons can only be windows to the divine, and not to prayers TO the divine), but I thought I'd ask.

Many blessings to you all :) !!

~Ardilla said...

OOoOoooh... y Emily no tiene que ser argentina... los latinoamericanos estamos en todo lugar... y los alemanes también.. jeje... Por ejemplo, hay una población enorme de mexicanos en no tengo números, lo siento :P. vaya comentario.. jaja.. pero en fin, al parecer los chicos mexicanos les son muy atractivos a las alemanas :) Me imagino que lo opuesto también es verdad. Los chicos alemanes son lindos también...
bueno, solo un poco de información. ¡hasta luego!

David Bryan said...

Eso es la verdad...mi ahijado (un puertorriqueño) acaba de casarse (hoy, en realidad) con una peruana que conoció en alemania. Siempre se le antoja la gente extranjera -- sé que a nosotros (los anglos) siempre nos gustaban las latinas en nuestra prepa, y cuando fui a sudamérica se notaban las chicas americanas.

David Bryan said...

And to answer your question above, it's mostly just to let the person know we're praying. Sometimes we'll type out "Lord, have mercy," or something, and sometimes (when we're feeling really ambitious! ;-)) we'll type out the prayer.

But usually that's it.

quijotefan83 said...

What was it they were doing for the World Cup on Univision? Message to my Mother-In-Law back in Mexico? :P

Emily said...

I'm neither Argentine nor German ;) I was adopted, so that's where the German name comes from. My father is an attorney and speaks spanish fluently for work, and growing up my nanny was Venezuelan. I didn't hear english from anyone but my mother, and didn't really speak english as my primary language until I was in school.

~Ardilla said...

yup! thats exactly what they did! fun stuff... these German peeps are nuts! "Saludos a mi %&$%&ª* vieja, y a su "·$%& madre! que la quiero mucho y que nadie cocina como mi suegra!"
these are German men speaking. I'm not kidding! :)!! didnt know you had a german name :)