Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saints, fundamentals, and fighting the good fight...

Once upon a time, I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church at a wonderful little parish: All Saints Church in Anchorage, Alaska.

One of the hymns we sang fairly frequently was worthy of our patronage: "For All the Saints." A particular verse has been on my mind in recent days, even despite my conversion to Orthodoxy (which, according to the Eastern rite, doesn't celebrate All Saints on November 1, but rather on the Sunday after Pentecost):

"And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia! "

I dredge up all of this because of a recent post by Orthodox priest and blogger Fr Jonathan Tobias, who proposes a series of "fundamentals" of faith on his blog, "Second Terrace." Fr Jonathan has a profound sense of the fierce warfare we all endure in our feeble efforts to proclaim the True Faith. His proposal of the fundamentals of the Orthodox Faith is worth pondering.

Here's a snippet. But be warned: Upon reading it, you may want to shout "alleluia," or break forth into song, or perhaps even go searching for a good single malt scotch:

1. The Holy Trinity is the end of theology, the insurmountable height of knowledge. Theology is not the province of intellectuals (especially as defined here). The Church, in testifying to what it knows from experience (not from dialectic), says that the Trinity is addressed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not any other linguistic triad.*

2. The Holy Trinity is known in salvation through the Son of God, the Word, Whose Mystical Body is the Apostolic Church, articulated through the ages by Holy Tradition. Only the Apostolic Church can sustain Trinitarian theology and a Chalcedonian economy.**

3. The Church can only do Mystery well, because it is derived from Mystery. The Eucharist is the constitution, the Sacraments are sunrise, wind and rain. The Church is the precinct of Salvation, and the door to forever.***

4. Language survives only when it stays true, when it drinks from the mystical spring of the Faith. Time brooks no falsehood: the speech of the agora withers at sundown, when the markets close.****

5. Faith, the Gospel, the Church, and Salvation History are Real. Because these things are Real, they are Symbolic. Miracles happen: memories grow -- root, stalk and flower. They are not private subjective experiences. They are not psychotherapeutically expedient constructs for individual liberation or consciousness-raising. They are not self-tailored and modified justifications of eccentricities and identity-formation. They occupy no place in any narrative, or brand of historicism.

*Not Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Not Lover, Beloved, and Love. Not Rock, Scissors and Paper. (Somewhere, I think, I ranted about this already.)

**You don’t think so? Where else have you heard sermons on one Person after the union of Two Natures? Where else have you heard the phrase “Three Persons, One Essence”? In this twilight zone of post-America, we need more Christologists and Trinitarians.

***The Church is no good at anything else: like Town Meetings, Lawrence Welk Shows, Amway Pep Rallies, and Unitarian Ashrams. Consultants might spike the traffic count with market analyses and telemarketing and seeker programming, but gains are, 99% of the time, merely lateral moves by malcontents. Besides, anonymity (and freedom from rummage sales) is the main reason for mega-church membership: and anonymity, whether they know it or not, is of the antichrist.

****The inclusivistic, anti-Patriarchal neo-Evangelicals will set, like billy-oh, to the stripping away of “He” from God, and “Man” from humanity. They will rezone anthropology to be more gay-friendly. They will be coached by the spirits of Danton and Robespierre. Of course, they won’t notice that inclusivistic, non-sexist language doesn’t save a single soul. Patriarchalism has, and will. Ask the Mother of God.

*****The Church is the proper judge of culture, as it is, after all, the Pillar and Ground of Truth. That’s pretty fundamental.