Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Read This

I was talking with Audra last night about what a priest should be. This, of course, ties into what a seminary should aspire to be (and what it should not waste its time trying to be). I was pleased, then, to read THIS POST by Fr. Jonathan Tobias, which not only states my ideas about what a priest should be able to do and what kind of man he should be, but also expands into what a seminary should do and be for the formation of said candidate to the priesthood. I am glad to say that some of the aspects of SVS are there in the post (these would be some of the most hotly contested aspects of our seminary life, but which I think should be there and are good for ego razing and routine). Others are not, sadly. While I am pretty sure that SVS is not the seminary that Fr. Jonathan says he won't "have to worry about," such a post could go a good, long ways to helping seminarians in multiple Orthodox institutions "self-correct." Hear, hear..

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Half-Way There

[Cue "Livin' on a Prayer" in the background]

Well, it seems as though the seminary experience has let up for another break. Classes came to a relatively easy end, compared both to the rigor of the past semester and the nature of last year's finals. When one is committed to family and household, one has to pick one's battles in terms of what one will study for and what one will give a miss. In the case of systematics, I suppose I was a good former Baptist and chose Sin and Atonement as the two topics (out of eight) to write on. I've written articles on the general topics before (HERE and HERE), but since this required adaptation to answer specific topics given by the prof, it simply made the going easier due to familiarity with the topics. Pick yer battles, like I said.

OCA SVS-ers who are intending to petition for ordination are usually ordained deacons during the second half of the second year; all such students in my year had a liturgics final wherein we were quizzed on vestments, parts of the liturgy, instruments in the liturgy, and liturgical movements of deacons. With the exception of an entrance at Great Vespers, my prof said I did "very well" and that he was "very impressed." Thank God. Keep us in your prayers.

Greek (at least for me) was a welcome class. My tendency towards languages (and past familiarity with Greek through a series of informal classes out of a N. Texas parish) made it an easier ordeal for me than for some folks in the class. For better or for worse, the class accomplished its stated objective: To bring us to a point to where we, with the use of a dictionary, lexicon, software, and/or Greek/English interlinear Bible, could intelligently interact with the text and figure out what is going on in a passage. That I will not be taking this class next semester is the only thing I'll miss while taking the CPE unit, which is slated to begin next month, Lord willing.

We've started talking about where we'll be placed after seminary. It's too early to start putting anything up here, but one prospect seems to be a daunting challenge, and the reality of the Church's inflicting a parish with me is starting to feel more like a real possibility. In talking with some of my fellow seminarians here, I've been struck by how intent some of them are on "landing a position" that will provide a middle-class existence of sorts. Comments like "They [the Church? Bishops?] will have to meet certain standards; I won't just go anywhere," or "Why shouldn't we be able to live a comfortable life as priests?" have, I admit, been a challenge for me; part of me wants to judge, while another part can relate to the temptation, especially with a wife and kids. Regardless, any prospects with a community where Spanish will be utilized are probably going to be lower income-wise for us, and Audra and I knew this when we came to SVS. We seem to tend to pursue and train for jobs that have a "make-you-or-break-you" aspect to them; both teaching and the priesthood have been described as an "if you and yours can survive the first five/seven/whathaveyou years, you can survive anything." Perhaps this is youthful arrogance and stubborness: "Won't happen to me." The most I can do is to remember the words of St. Paul--"He who desires the work of a 'bishop' [overseer of a parish, later 'priest'] desires a good work," then the comment by St. John Chrysostom that it is not "a terrible thing to desire the work, but only the authority and power." (On the Priesthood, III.11, SOURCE) Please, please, keep us in y'all's prayers.

What's certain for us is that we've started to see, both in the US and, I'm told through good friends of ours here who hail from there, the Church in Canada, an awakening to the reality of more, smaller missions and the men and their families who are willing to serve the small communities within them. This is why any podunk town in Texas or Oklahoma will have a Baptist or Church of Christ congregation in it; men were willing to plant themselves there--sometimes working a circuit of two or three at a time, while driving a truck or somesuch during the week--in order to serve a few dozen faithful in the division of the Word. Would that the work of Archbishop DMITRI and Bishop SERAPHIM continue, difficult as it is oftentimes to make ends meet. A little leaven...

We're here in Kentucky for a couple of weeks with the inlaws. They're both charismatic ministers dedicated to inner healing and deliverance and end-times prophecy; it's always interesting to see how, as Owen has put it, "there are Pentecostals, and then there are Pentecostals." My inlaws are the good, honorable, "earthy" Pentecostals Owen describes, through and through; I am blessed to know them and to be in their family. While we obviously differ on matters ecclesial (not a small thing), there is a reverence for and sacrificial submission to the Christ of Scripture and His Gospel of loving fellowship of God and man--as well as a charitable openness to other confessors of Christ--that leaves much room for common ground, dialogue, and mutual learning from each others' experiences. It's that openness and commitment to Scripture led them to an eschatology far removed from the pre-trib/post-trib nonsense of recent decades (my father-in-law's words) and towards a more amillenial view that embraces the same suffering the martyrs endured. Things must get dark, and we must hang on...for however long...but we wait for the Parousia, when the faithful are gathered and all are judged. And His kingdom shall have no end. And all wicked ways which pass through every human heart shall be straightened, ready or not. It is good to be here.

And finally...

This is Sarah Gregory, married to one of three Gregory Brothers, who've become something of a YouTube sensation over the past couple of years (check their schmoyoho channel to see why). They've apparently recently done a concert, and I've embedded one of the songs below. Please, frivolity of the song choice aside, please tell me how this girl doesn't have a record deal, but Ke$ha does.

I wish you all a blessed remainder of the Forefeast and celebration of our Lord's Nativity in the flesh.