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FAQ

Consecrate your lives to the Lord God. Always be ready to answer
for your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it,
but with humility and reverence.

Don’t you think that these self-deprecating quotations need to be balanced by remembering that Christ forgives us?

No, actually. For one thing, I would never presume to become the balance to the holy fathers. But also, I don’t think they need balancing. When we become like little children, we will never hesitate to turn immediately to Our Lord when we fall, as a child does with a dirty face, holding the shards of a broken pot. We will turn innocently. And yet, following this we will still hear the fathers telling us to keep our minds in hell, to remember that we are dust, to say always that we are unworthy servants. Don’t forget that this is Our Lord speaking to us; do his words need to be balanced? We are already lost, if we presume that. We cannot learn, cannot sit at the feet of our fathers, but become the teachers of those who are glorified, wiser than the heart of the church, the mediators of a reality we have failed to experience — we engage in what the fathers call idle chatter, and fall into delusion, independence, pride. We shipwrech. The father does not say, keep your mind in hell “but” despair not. Rather, “keep your mind in hell, and despair not”. We like to put the latter half of that instructive in bold; it is easier to digest, we presume, than the first half. But perhaps not. Perhaps the need to stave off the difficult parts of the Faith – to make the bad thing go away – is itself a form of despair. We should not rush to offer a corrective, a medicinal, until we have obeyed the teaching of the father in the first place. If we both keep our minds in hell and do not despair, we will have no shortage of those who will seek our counsel and guidance — our medicine. And, following the holy fathers, we will be reluctant to give it, since we say with them “all shall be saved, and I alone shall be condemned”. If we presume to bring balance to the fathers, who shall throw us off balance, so that we do not presume that we stand. If we presume to mend their words, who will heal ours? Angels are the light of the ascetics, and the ascetics are the light of the laymen. These are our angels. Let us hear them announce the Lord.

Why do Orthodox men have beards?
The fulness of the tradition is not only that we have beards, but that we never cut them.

  1. As a sign that the Orthodox are as a special people and a piety of setting oneself apart in Holy Orthodoxy
  2. As a sign of both maleness and manhood, and so as a piety in the affirmation of natural reality.
  3. As a piety of disdaining the tyrrany of fashion, with the fastidious preoccupation with outward adornment. Note, the Orthodox are often accused of just such a preoccupation because of their beards, but of course this presumes one can know the motivations of the heart.
  4. As a piety in fildelity to the Saints and tradition. Orthodox men have kept their beards since the beginning. Look at the commands in Leviticus in the Old Covenant and the Holy Icons of adult male saints in the New Covenant. Naturally, there are exceptions, such as when the Saint has no natural beard.

Do you worship Mary?
Certainly. There are two kinds of worship: veneration in which any holy person or thing is reverenced, and adoration which is for God only.

Why do you pray to saints? Isn’t that for God alone?
Because there is one Church undivided by death. The Saints hear us, and we ask for their prayers. To pray merely refers to asking – as in “I pray you, pray to the Lord for me.” If we pray each other to pray for us, how much more shall we pray to those who are deified? So, we pray to the Saints in similar words as we pray to and for others, “by your/their prayers save me.” It is a belief that Christ hears the prayers of others and that their prayers for us are of much avail.

What is grace?
The uncreated energies of God.

How is one saved?
Salvation is theosis. It takes one’s whole life and beyond. It is a synergy of God and man working together to so unite an individual person with God in Christ that no part of the person is extinguished, destroyed, or lost, and yet he is divinized. The person becomes deified by the uncreated Energies of God – becomes God, while remaining utterly distinct and unique as a person.

Are the Orthodox the only ones who are saved?
The short answer is “That we know of.”. For us, to be Christian is to be Orthodox. They are the same thing. Orthodoxy is inseparable from reality; it is not a hypothetical category which may or may not be real. There is one Church and the Church is Orthodox, as it has been since the creation of the Holy Angels, and apart from which is no salvation. There may be pious people outside of the Church, and God may hear their prayers, and the Holy Spirit may be in some way with them; We simply do not know. While the Holy Spirit is boundless, the Church has very clear boundaries. Outside of Her, there is no priesthood, there are no mysteries, and there is no salvation. There is but One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism.

So you’re saying that Protestants and Roman Catholics aren’t saved, or that their churches are invalid?
We have no concept of validity in respect to the Church. There is one Church; something either is or is not that. As for the salvation of individuals who are not Orthodox, we would reject the question’s premise, namely that there is any difference between salvation and Holy Orthodoxy. When asked whether someone is being saved, we would tend to answer with a question: Are they becoming Orthodox? We do not presume to judge on behalf of Christ who has not even judged anyone yet. Rather, we pray for all. Our prayers have no conception of a salvation apart from salvation, a God apart from God, a Church apart from the Church.

So you are saved just by being Orthodox?
I believe that I am being saved by God’s grace. We cannot separate this, in our thinking, from Holy Orthodoxy, which is the fulness of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Don’t you believe that Baptism saves you?
Certainly. Baptism saves us, and Chrismation saves us, and Holy Communion, and Holy Confession, and Holy Matrimony, and the prayers of the Saints, and all else that is Orthodox. Nothing in Holy Orthodoxy is non-essential; rather, the purpose of all things in Holy Orthodoxy is our salvation.

So if an Orthodox man doesn’t have a beard, then is he saved?
I don’t know. None of us know who will ultimately be saved, but we believe that we are all being saved. I believe that everyone in the world will be saved, but I alone will be condemned. Because of this, I ask the prayers of all, and pray that by their prayers I might be saved.

Who do you say that God is?
This is not an Orthodox question. We say that whatever one says that God is, God is not that.

But you say that God is the Holy Trinity
God is truly Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but even our conception of that is but an anthropomorphism. When we speak of the Holy Trinity, we realize that we are not truly comprehending God. We recognize the holiness of the language and at the same time know that it is a condescension to our weakness, revealed to us but understood by us not fully, since we are created and therefore contingent beings incapable of circumscribing God in our thoughts. We seek not to express God, but to be saved by Him.

Aren’t Orthodox women subjugated?
To Christ or to men? Certainly Our Champion Leader, the Theotokos and Mother of God, steadfast protectress of all Christians is not subjugated by me. But we are all suject to one another in love. There is an order in our lives. Man was made first, and woman second. This is a difference of order and yes, even of significance, but not in the Western sense of a greater and lesser. Just as every individual person is unique, and yet there is an order, so man and woman are distinct, and there is an order. Distinction does not, for us, imply opposition.

But women can’t be priests.
Nor can a man be the Mother of God. Still, it is not in reality that women cannot be priests, as though this were theoretically possible and they are merely restricted. Rather, there’s no such thing as a woman priest any more than there’s such a thing as a female man. The priesthood is male. In fact, there is a canon that a man who is maimed cannot become a priest, though there are priests who have become maimed. Christ is whole, you see, and it is His priesthood. And likewise, there are many other reasons that one cannot become a priest, the least of which have to do with male genitalia.

But some Orthodox women are convinced they have to cover their heads.
They are an example to us all. And of course, this is during prayer. Likewise, there are some men who are convinced they cannot pray with their heads covered. They also are examples to us. It is our tradition, and always has been, that all Orthodox wear vestments, including the laity. There are different vestments for different orders of Orthodox. The Reader does not wear the same vestments as a priest, nor the priest the same as a bishop. Likewise, as a layman, I do not wear the same vestments as a tonsured Reader. Nor do I, a man, wear the same vesture as a woman, whether it be a brazier or a covering for my head.

Do you believe in the Bible?
If you mean the Holy Scriptures, we wrote them. Certainly, they express things we believe, and we believe what they express. We do not, however, treat them merely as objects of intelligence, but also of veneration and of prayer. I would say that we converts believe so strongly in what the Patriarchs and Prophets and Evangelists and Apostles have written, that we have chosen to belong to their Church, except that in truth, we believe what they have written because we belong to their Church.

Where in the Holy Scriptures does it say that you can have tradition other than the Bible?
The entirety of the Holy Scriptures indicates an existing tradition out of which they are written, and to which they contribute as a diadem in a crown. Look anywhere. Besides, it follows from both history and reason that something must exist, at least conceptually, before it can be written about. If you’d like a proof text, we don’t really do that, but you could certainly look at the second letter of St. Paul to the Orthodox Church of Thessaly. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”. As I say, though, this is but a sample, since the Holy Apostle was writing to the Church which was already there and was not a blank slate or a mere theoretical category that was created by the writing. St. Paul was obviously a member of the Church when he wrote to it.

Why do you pray for the dead. Aren’t they in Heaven, in which case they don’t need your prayers, or in Hell in which case they are beyond help?
Those in Hell were not beyond help when Christ descended to Hell and freed them, and we generally pray to those in Heaven rather than for them. Remember, the Judgement has not yet come, and just as the Holy Apostles tell us that Christ having begun a good work in us, will continue to perfect it until the day of Judgement, so we pray our “Amen”, seeking the perfection of those not perfected and the intercessions of those who are.

Do you really believe that the prayers of Saints can save you?
When you pray for the salvation of others, don’t you believe that God will grant your request? We believe that God will grant the requests of his perfected Saints, as well.

Why do you call Mary the Mother of God? Isn’t she mother only of Christ’s humanity?
No. Christ is two natures inseparable in one person. If it was God who became man, was crucified, suffered, was buried, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, then was it not God who was born of the Theotokos? Suggesting that Christ is divided, removes the possibility of union with God. If Christ is not inseparably God and man, then neither can we be united to God in Him, but are forever separated from Him. This is why the Church considers it blasphemy to so divide the Incarnate Christ, and sp heresy to fail to call the Theotokos Mother of God.

You say that the day of judgement has not come, and that you cannot judge the eternal destiny of another, but you have anathemas against heretics.
All of our anathemas are anathema maranatha (anathema until Christ come). The anathema does not pronounce eternal judgement, but merely recognizes that the heretic and those who follow his heresies are not what we are and so are separate from the Church. The anathemas are an act of love for all, protecting the salvation of the Orthodox, and calling the heretic to awareness of the deception into which he has fallen. When any return to the Church, as most do, we receive them as the prodigal son, with rejoicing.

What about those who have never heard of Orthodoxy? How can you say they won’t be saved?
Again, we don’t say whether anyone will not be saved. We pray for the salvation of all. The Light has come into all the world, so that we are without excuse. If we respond to the Light, we will be given more light. If we reject it, even what we have will be taken away. This is true whether we have heard of Orthodoxy or not. An example: my wife lived in a country in which Orthodoxy is relatively unknown, though there are Orthodox Churches all over the country. There wasn’t one in the second largest city, in which she lived. And even if she had lived in the capitol, she might not have heard of it. But she responded to the light she had been given, and sought Christ in truth. She never expected that I would show up, and that I would lead her to the One she sought, but that’s what happened. I am convinced that if she had not responded to the light she was given, we would never have met. Even so, there are still people who die never having heard of Christ. Do you still believe we should not pray for those who have died? After all, Christ descended into Hell and preached the Gospel to St. Adam and to the Patriarchs of old.

Why do you pray canned prayers?
Because bottles cost more. Just kidding. It’s not either/or, it’s and/both. But we do not pray so much our own thoughts until we have been taught by prayer how to think. How about this example: We pray the Holy Scriptures. In Orthodox Churches, virtually the entirety of Holy Scripture is prayed every year, with the exception of the Apocalypse, which is sealed and so not read liturgically. In a previous question, you asked why we have tradition other than the Holy Scripture. If we pray Holy Scripture, is this canned? And if we believe it, shall we not pray it, just as we believe the things we pray? We do not separate the teaching of the Church from the prayer of the Church. Rather the former is the means of the latter, and each having one purpose, our union with Christ. After all, we have always done this. The psalter, for example, has always been a prayerbook of the Church. We pray the prayers of the Church and with the Church because these teach us how to pray. Rather than squinting in the agony of composition, we learn the language and thought of the Kingdom from the very heart of the Church, the Fathers, and make the prayers our own. Our Lord taught us also to pray liturgically. The “Our Father” is an example of this. Likewise, we also pray always in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Trinity, to whom we pray, is changeless, then why must our prayers always be changing? Same God, same prayer. One God, one salvation, one cry to the Holy Trinity, “save us who sing to Thee”. I’ve seen the balance tipped in favor of personal composition, in Protestantism, and the results have been the “Lord, we just come before you and just…” followed by a halting, plethora of invented heresies that have to do with the individual’s confusion than with God’s wisdom. How could I compare that to “Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art in all places and fillest all things. Thou Treasury of Blessing and Giver of Life, come and abide in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls O Good One.”? Speaking of Holy Scripture, it is the latter kind of prayer, rather than the former, that I see in the richness of Holy Writ.

What would I have to do to be saved?
You would have to die. Leave behind all that you know of God, Who is beyond definition, analogy, or circumscribing in our thoughts, so that you may receive Christ who reveals God in His own person, and come find the Church that is Christ’s Body, learning the Faith he delivered to the Holy Apostles with us still, and be united to the Church in the worship of the Holy Trinity forever. If we required less, you would be looking in the wrong place.

Why are you Orthodox?

Why do you pray for the impossible?
Because the possible I can do myself.

If God is all-powerful, why be an activist?
The master says that miracles are always a synergy of the created and the creator. Neither action without prayer, nor prayer without action.

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