Thursday, May 10, 2012

A great sermon by Fr Tom Hopko on monogamy

Radical Monogamy. Do not be alarmed that I am linking to Ancient Faith Radio. As I said before, I am sure there is quite a lot of great content in there, and Fr Tom's stuff is good. It would not be healthy to listen to this and then listen to 10 other sermons, and it may not even be healthy to listen to one of his sermons every day. There's a lot to chew on. The last article I posted was a talk at a retreat 11 years ago, I saw the article maybe 7 years ago, and I have periodically referred to it ever since with great profit. I think it is more important to have a few things that are good that you refer back to consistently and know well than to have a flood of cheap information of high quality. With a flood, you'll miss the gems and trick yourself into thinking you understand more than you do. Socratic ignorance is not the start of apophaticism ("the cloud of unknowing"), but it might perhaps be a prerequisite.

And an aside:

And yif we wil ententifly preie for getyng of goodes, lat us crie, outher with worde or with thought or with desire, nought elles, ne no mo wordes, bot this worde God. For whi in God ben alle goodes.. Fille thi spirit with the goostly bemenyng of it withoutyn any specyal beholdyng to any of His werkes whether thei be good, betir, or alther best, bodily or goostly—or to any vertewe that may be wrought in mans soule by any grace, not lokyng after whether it be meeknes or charité, pacyence or abstynence, hope, feith, or sobirnes, chastité or wilful poverté. What thar reche in contemplatyves?.. thei coveyte nothing with specyal beholdyng, bot only good God. Do thou.. mene God al, and al God, so that nought worche in thi witte and in thi wile, bot only God.
EDIT: More on the subject of reading a few things and reading them often. There was a story of some bad tsar, perhaps Ivan the Terrible, being given a copy of the funeral service and being told to read it daily. It's a very good idea, I did it for a while, and that is why it is on the side bar. You can just read over it. I highly recommend it. This being the paschal season, perhaps it is better to read over the paschal canon for now. I don't mean to suggest too many things. I should amend the list on the side, too, I have some different articles to put up there now.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Addendum: A Helpful Article

On Becoming and Remaining an Orthodox Christian is a pretty decent article on this sort of thing. Also, it seems my biggest source of consistent traffic is google hits for "ocatruth". Ugh. It seems Jesse Cone and Rod Dreher took down their anonymous web site at some point, which is unfortunate, because it's the sort of thing that should remain on the public record. On the other hand, it is a good thing because it means nobody can read the tripe they put out there.

Monday, May 07, 2012


For whatever reason, I heard a bunch of converts in Blogoslavia talking about burnout - whether anybody ever felt it, how to avoid it, whatever. I, of course, have my own extremely opinionated ideas about it because I've heard whiny converts wondering about it for a while. I am not qualified to ever give advice, but here is some advice. Caveat lector and all that jazz.

  1. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
  2. Start slowly and do less.
  3. Spend more time at divine services and in actual prayer than reading stuff.
  4. It might be a good idea to start with only one divine service per week and a short rule of prayer, too, by the way.
  5. Don't read more than one book per month, if that. It's better to read the same book three times than three books, too, if it's a good book.
  6. Don't read web-logs - normal, well-balanced people don't read web-logs.
  7. Don't listen to AFR.
  8. Don't even look up what xerophagy is.
  9. If you find yourself wondering about "world Orthodoxy", stop immediately.
  10. Ditto for the panheresy of ecumenism.
  11. Ditto wondering about the claims of Orthodoxy about being "unchanged". Hint: Orthodoxy doesn't claim to be "unchanged" - you listen to too much AFR.
If you spend more time reading web-logs, pop-lit, and listening to schmaltz on AFR than actually being Orthodox (eg, liturgy, prayer), you're filling up on popcorn, not even milk, and nothing even close to meat. I realize it's tempting to buy a dozen books, start reading forums all day, and pipe in AFR 24-7 once you've discovered this great Orthodox thing, and maybe even to volunteer for a dozen different duties in the church and think about discerning the phronema with your nous. Resist the temptation and force yourself to do less. These are activities that are peripheral to Orthodoxy, they're "about Orthodoxy", not performing Orthodoxy itself.

These bits of advice aren't for everybody, not even all new converts, and for some people, they will even be detrimental, but most people on the internet are crazy and Orthodoxy is not about indulging your neuroses. It's about the Gospel. So if the Orthodox-brand stuff you're doing is getting in the way of going to church on Sunday, reading the Gospel every day, and saying a few prayers, something is amiss. If you're tempted to fill up your time by reading the latest Conciliar Press title or listening to yet another pod-cast about how we're not Protestant, I suggest that your time is better spent praying the Psalms until you get bored. It takes about 6 hours to get all the way through and you will start wondering about Og, King of Bashan - what is the deal with him?

I don't mean to be too hard on AFR in particular, I'm sure there is a large amount of valuable, thoughtful content on there. However, it has to be carefully listened to and thoughtfully engaged with, you can't just play it in the background or listen to hours and hours on end. Before the advent of mass distribution of Orthodox recordings, you might be fortunate to hear Fr Tom Hopko lecture a couple times at a retreat, and you'd think about it all year (if not the lecture, at least the way he pronounces "mandorla") until the next time you go to some Orthodox thing where there's a distinguished (or not) speaker, which would probably be at least a full year, right? Other than that, all you have to listen to are your priest's sermons. But now there's 50 hours of his lectures and sermons on the internet, plus several hundred hours of other distinguished (or not) priests and scholars, so you can just listen to whatever you want at any time of the day or night. That can be dangerous, you don't have to do anything, so you're not aware of how much it takes out of you.

Now I'm rambling. HTH. HAND.

EDIT: Something I said on some silly forum: One thing I want to reiterate (because it is important) is not to let your reading/intellection/etc get too far ahead of your actual praxis. I think you should spend more time in the sum of your morning/evening prayers and weekly church attendance than in your spiritual reading/etc. So if you've got 20 minutes of prayers per day and 1.5 hours of church on Sunday, don't spend more than 30 minutes per day on "other" spiritual activities. That includes listening to any sort of church music, wasting time on the "spiritual" internet, anything at all like that. And, no, don't increase your morning/evening prayer rule to make more room.