To listen to this program via podcast or to check out any previous shows, just visit the Orthodoxy Live podcast page. And, as I do each and every time I’m on the air, I invite you to check out the many, many resources that are available here on Ancient Faith Radio: audio, blogs, video, print publications that you can get at the store here on Ancient Faith, and just about anything you can think of. There’s always something new coming out. I noticed a new book by Fr. Vassilios who’s put out a book on the twelve great feasts, and I got a copy and was looking through it the other day: short little reflections on the twelve great feasts of the Church that mark the life of Christ, and something that’s well worth picking up and checking out.
Anyway, tonight, as we get our program going here, we do have several people working hard in the studio, and that’s Troy Sabourin who’s on the phones and welcomes you to Orthodoxy Live. You can call him at 1-855-237-2346. Bobby Maddex is producing, and John Maddex is engineering, and Steve Early is in our chat room: if you’d like to go there you can.
Next week here on Ancient Faith, you can join in for some live programming on Ancient Faith here at the 27th of September. Fr. Barnabas Powell will be hosting Dr. Kyriaki Fitzgerald, and their topic will be theosis. So tune in to listen to that.
And I also wanted to give a plug and a shout-out to a series of webinars that are available to you. They are found at GOArch.org—G-O-A-r-c-h dot o-r-g. That’s the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s main website. And if you go there, under Archdiocese and Departments, you’ll find the Center for Family Care, and they have been hosting for a while now a series of webinars. If you miss the live broadcast, I believe you can get the recorded broadcast. But tomorrow, September 21, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, there’s going to be a webinar on “The Spiritual & Physical Heart: What’s the Connection?” Dr. Trent Orfanos is going to be on.
He’s a functional cardiologist, and I happened to hear a podcast of his, or a recording of his talk, given last year at Holy Cross seminary. Ancient Faith Radio picked that up and broadcasted it. It was a talk on the physical heart and its connection to the spiritual heart. It was absolutely fascinating, and Dr. Trent Orfanos, who’s a functional cardiologist, talked about how the heart itself, our physical heart, is indeed affected by our spiritual life, and not only does the electromagnetic field around the heart, the heart itself, function in a specific way when we do pray and especially the Jesus prayer, but that prayer of the heart, as we say in our spiritual lives, affects the physical heart, which affects the mind! So the wisdom of the Fathers who talk about the descent of the mind into the heart is something that scientists are themselves starting to figure out, is actually real.
Dr. Trent, who’s a cardiologist, talks about how the heart actually thinks and sends messages to the brain and instructs our way of thinking. What I found absolutely fascinating about his conversation about the heart was how the heart can speak to another heart. Literally, our own hearts can inform the hearts around us. So, in one experiment, a group of friends who were quite close and were able to develop a deep friendship over time, they did an experiment in which they brought a stranger into the room after these friends had been discussing and were really kind of in a space of deep communion, and the other person’s heart began to beat like the gentlemen who were dear friends, which tells you something about the Church: that in the Church as we gather around Christ and we learn ourselves to have our own spiritual hearts attuned and aligned with his, and as our hearts beat with his and as we do that in community, those who enter into our assembly literally have their hearts tuned to our frequency. Of course, that tells you the opposite, that if indeed, as we gather as the body of Christ, our hearts are not aligned with Christ’s, if they aren’t in tune with one another, then when someone walks in they notice that fragmentation, or that disharmony. So how important it is!
I certainly appreciate, as many of you do, the profound words of Fr. Thomas Hopko. I’ve been listening again to a series he did on the Divine Liturgy called Worship in Spirit and Truth, and if you’ve not yet listened to that series it’s a long series… It’ll take you who knows how long it’ll take you to listen to it. It depends how quickly you can get through those very dense and powerful lectures of Fr. Thomas, but he talks about how, in the Church, we often first speak the liturgy, pray the liturgy, and then we understand the liturgy. I wonder often, when I myself celebrate the Liturgy, how the words and the environment itself are the things that are conditioning my heart, without my heart even fully understanding what’s going on.
Then in time, as my own spiritual life matures, I begin to understand things. So, for example, this past week we’ve been focused on the Cross. As we do each year we celebrate the feast of the Cross on September 14, and so the Sunday prior has that very short gospel reading from the wonderful words that John the Evangelist wrote in his third chapter about the love of God and how the love of God leads to his coming into the world and really his sacrifice for each and every one of us. And on the Sunday that follows the feast of the Cross, we read from the Gospel of Mark 8:34-38, 9:1. We sort of have this whole week in which we lift up the Cross, and it’s very interesting to note that this feast of the Cross comes at the beginning of our ecclesiastical year, which dawns every year on September 1. So we enter the year with the Cross on our minds, and we reflect upon the Cross.
I was speaking earlier about the heart and how the heart itself can be conditioned over time by the community, and Fr. Thomas would say how important it is that for those of us who live within the Church, within the body of the Church, are in alignment with Christ, that we know his words through holy Scripture, that we follow his commandments, that we live the life of the Church. And this allows our worship to be truly alive. In a similar way, I was reflecting on the meaning of the Cross for my own community and how, when we consider the Cross, if we ourselves live in a sort of mundane or ritualistic way, where we venerate the Cross or kiss the Cross or make the sign of the Cross, but we don’t actually live the way of the Cross, then the Cross is devoid of its true power, and it really ends up being just a meaningless symbol. So how important it is for us to enter into these things and for our hearts to be aligned with them.
And if we are struggling to do that, I think one of the great messages that Dr. Trent Orfanos—and if you can join that webinar, you’ll learn even more—tells us is we should seek out those who are living with Christ, who themselves live for and with and in Christ. And if we do that, then we ourselves can be conditioned by them. How important, then, is the Church. How important [are] our spiritual fathers, communities, the living tradition and flow of the Church, then, so that we ourselves can learn, even without knowing, just like that man who walks into the room when friends are sitting around and has his own heart conditioned by them.
Tonight, as I said, it’s September 20. It’s the feast of the Great Martyr Efstathios. For those of you who don’t know who he is: He was a martyr who was a Roman legionnaire, and he was quite well-known, I think a general, and he and his wife and two children were martyred. St. Efstathios was a hunter, and he saw the sign of the Cross in the midst of the antlers of a deer and was converted and himself martyred because of his conversion. I mention this because my dear family has quite a few Efstathioses in it, and my brother, my grandparents, cousins, all having this name of Efstathios, so I remember this day greatly, and my prayers go out to my family, and we ask for the prayers of St. Efstathios.
As we begin tonight’s program, I wanted to share with you a question that came in quite some time ago, and I apologize for taking such a long time. This question came in over a year ago—I should say year and a half ago—and it’s a great question. It’s a question we’ve been asked several times on the program, and I continue to receive a question like this or questions like this, so I thought I’d bring up this old question and see if we couldn’t address it in a new way, which may help people who themselves are struggling with answering this question themselves. It says:
Dear Fr. Evan,
My name is Ellie, and I have a question. As an Orthodox Christian, when I meet with my dear Protestant brothers in Christ, they always ask me the same question. They ask why do I ask for the prayers of others. Can you tell me what are the theological and Orthodox principles when we ask for the prayers or intercessions, especially of someone like our holy mother Mary. As Protestants insist, we don’t need any intermediary to reach God. We should and only pray to Christ to save us. I appreciate your answer.
Well, you know, Ellie, I think the quickest answer to our dear Protestant friends when they ask us this question, why do we pray to others, it’s certainly not needed is: they’re right. We don’t have to pray to anyone besides God. And, in fact, they are not needed, the prayers of the saints. In this point, our Protestant friends are echoing our own theology. God is perfect and complete and needs nothing. In fact, he hears and knows the needs and wants of all of us. In fact, like a good parent, he often knows them before we do ourselves. So there is no need to pray to Mary; there’s no need to pray to any of the saints, to ask of them anything when we can go directly to our Lord and Savior. Certainly as the Scriptures tell us and we affirm whole-heartedly, there is one intermediary, one intercessor between God and man: the Person Jesus Christ. So this we affirm, and here with our Protestant brothers we stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
But we would tell our dear Protestant brothers and sisters that they are missing part of the story, a very important part. If you’ll notice in Scripture, there are many times in which our Lord himself works with and through humanity. In fact, we could say, “Why would the Lord come to earth and establish a church? Why would he have apostles and disciples if he himself could do it all?” Well, certainly he can, but that’s not the point. God himself lives in relationship, in community, and it is this very fact that leads to his creation. He himself, who lives in divine community and in a divine community of love, seeks out others to establish relationships of love.
When you love somebody, you enter into a relationship with them, and a relationship is not one-way. So our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ doesn’t need the prayers of Mary. He doesn’t need the prayers of any of the saints, but he invites them. He listens to them, because he’s in relationship with them. So we see this throughout the New Testament. We see that the Lord shares the commission that he has received by and from the Father. So he says to the apostles, “As I’ve been sent by the Father, now I send you.” He sends them out even before he departs from this world, as missionaries, two by two, and he has them report back and he wants to know how they did and what happened. He certainly, as we see in the book of Acts, works through the great Apostle Peter, who heals on the steps of the synagogue and on his way to it.
We also know that our Lord himself consulted, and when he gives an answer to his disciples of who he is on the great mountain of Tabor, when he’s transfigured, he’s found discussing his own departure from this life with Moses and Elijah. So our Lord didn’t live in isolation and he still does not; he lives in the company of the saints.
Finally, we should say that we even see in the apocalyptic literature of John a vision of our Lord in the heavens at his great altar, and there we are told, in I believe the fourth and fifth chapters, about the saints who pray, about the altar and its incense lifts up—they lift up their prayers. The Lord receives these prayers and listens to these prayers because he himself loves his followers as his disciples.
We could reverse the question and ask of our dear Protestant brothers and sisters: If we do not ask for the prayers of our saints and of Mary, then why do we ask for the prayers of our friends? Certainly the book of James tells us that “the prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” So sometimes I think this question boils down to a belief in the resurrection. Do we believe in the resurrection? And if you recall, there is a dialogue that occurs—it occurs in the 11th chapter of Mark, and it also occurs in another synoptic, Matthew; I’m not sure right now off the top of my head if it appears also in Luke—but it’s a question and a controversy over whether or not the resurrection is real or biblical.
And I would encourage you, if you haven’t done so: start listening to the Bible study that I’ve been hosting, called Transforming Our Lives in Christ. It’s a study on Mark that you can find on Ancient Faith. It starts at the beginning with the formation of the canon of Scripture, and right now we’re in chapter 12. In that chapter, there’s a debate between the Sadducees and Jesus about whether the resurrection is real or biblical. In it, the Sadducees present, from the book of Exodus, a stumbling-block for Jesus. There’s a woman who’s married to a man, and the man dies, and then his brothers, fulfilling the law of Moses, in succession marry this woman, because she was left childless by her first husband. So they say, these seven brothers, each in their turn, marry this woman, and each die, so in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be? And Jesus, really noticing this isn’t a question about marriage but it’s a question about the resurrection, asks and tells them, from also the Old Testament, what is it that God says when he encounters Moses: that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of the living, not of the dead.
When we think about the resurrection and we understand it to be real, as St. Paul says in the first chapter of Philippians, I think it’s verse 21, that he himself considers his own death to be a gain, for he shall be with Christ, and if we look at the fifth chapter of John and notice the language that our Lord himself uses about death and how it’s a transfer from death to life, then we know that those who die in Christ are alive in Christ. And so to ask for their prayers, it’s not asking for the prayers of a dead person. They are alive in Christ, and so this is the affirmation of Scripture; this is the position of the Church. So we gladly ask for their prayers—but we affirm that they are not needed.
As we continue with our program, I am happy to get through a question that was sent it looks like in May 2014, but to a more recent question that’s been sent in, actually just this past month. It comes in from a listener here in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and she writes:
Dear Fr. Evan,
I’ve been a convert for 21 years and have great respect for my dear elder brothers and sisters who have preserved and kept Orthodoxy and brought this faith to the Americas. In these 21 years, I hear arguments against using English in church for the Liturgy and music, even though the tones for the Liturgy have remained unchanged. Just yesterday I read another comment about a Byzantine hymn that was sung in English as though it was blasphemous. It occurred to me that if the Church was established at Pentecost and that people heard the Good News in their own languages, that thus settled the matter. Would you please clarify this issue? And yes, this is not the case at my parish, which is unique in its balance of old and new, with many ethnicities.
Well, I know sweet Bonnie, and I know that this time of year is a special time for her, because she marks in September her coming into the Church. Bonnie, I appreciate the gentle, gentle way in which you’re asking this question about the use of English here in America, perhaps in other places, and how there seems to be an ongoing controversy. I can tell you, personally, as a young child growing up in America, I did not hear—I was born in 1969, so that makes me 46 years old—and as I grew up in Denver, Colorado, at the parish that I grew up in, I never once, ever, heard any service in anything but liturgical Greek.
That was the way that I grew up, and into my teen years that was still the case. As a young teenager, a group of men, fathers, and some mothers probably prompted them as well, went to the bishop and asked if they could be given the right to hear the Liturgy in English. They noticed that their children, and really they themselves, did not really understand what was going on. They didn’t have the type of books that many of us have now today. And they petitioned for the Liturgy to be done in English. This was about 1981, 1982. And, in time, a new parish was established that did the Liturgy [with some English].
And here I would say it did the Liturgy half and half, because, although the prayers and petitions were now done in English, the hymns were still sung in Greek, and so some of our parishes up there that say, “Oh, we’re half and half,” whether they’re Russian or Greek or Syrian, they often actually are doing 75-25, because they do half the petitions and prayers in English, the others in Slavonic or Romanian or Greek, and then they do all the hymns in their ancient languages. But the truth of the matter is that as a young teenager it was the first time that I heard the service in English and had a book where I could follow what was going on. And the experience was radically transforming for me.
As I have grown up in the Church and seen more and more of the use of vernacular English and its incorporation in all forms, not just the Liturgy, but in vespers or matins or vigils, the rest, I’m quite pleased by it, and I have to say that I think whole-heartedly that this is the direction the Church must go. I try to often stray from being too polemical or divisive on this show, because I want to allow for the many different voices that exist in the Church, and I certainly have a great respect for the native languages that many of us carried to this country and a great respect for the classical languages, like ancient Greek or Church Slavonic, but I must say, pastorally, and I really think spiritually, and even in terms of formation, their continued use stunts the growth of the Church.
I know this is an arguable point. Some would say that that’s not true, but I have not seen evidence that the continued use of these languages promotes church health, parishioner health, and church growth, frankly. Rather, it seems that they often allow us to move into a mysticism that is not healthy, an ignorance that is death-inspiring, and an avoidance of the truth of the Gospel. That’s pretty strong language, and I realize that just by moving to English we don’t solve those issues, and often we have to be careful with the use of English, because the translation of the text can be wrong. Yet the persistence of many of our parishes to rely upon a cultural identity as opposed to a Gospel identity I think is absolutely and totally tragic. I can’t speak more strongly on this issue than to say each of us and all of our parishes and every place that the Gospel is presented in an Orthodox church in America, we must encounter the Gospel in its fullness, but we must remove every obstacle to its comprehension and its use in our lives.
So I appreciate the question, Bonnie, and I think that you’re on the right track. I think that the message of Pentecost is one of diversification. Some people will even argue that this classical use of the Greek language or Slavonic is an imperialism or it hearkens to a golden era. If you really look closely at Byzantine history and the Byzantine empire, it was a pluralistic society. Although there are certainly beautiful and well-developed arguments for the way a language and its use can be a unifying factor, I don’t see the case in America; I rather see the opposite. So that’s where I stand on it, and I hope I haven’t offended anybody out there, but I think I’m taking the right direction.
You’re listening to Orthodoxy Live here on Ancient Faith Radio. I’m your host, Fr. Evan. In just a moment we’re going to take a short break, and when we come back I hope you’ll join me. You can dial in at 1-855-237-2346. That’s 1-855-AF-RADIO.
Welcome back to the program. You’re listening to Orthodoxy Live. We’re streaming to you here on September 20, 2015. I’m your host, Fr. Evan. I’m so glad you’re joining us tonight.
As we continue our program tonight, I wanted to share with you as listeners something that happened in the life of our own parish here in northern Colorado. We moved into our new church home this past Sunday, and we welcomed our bishop, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, for our first-ever Liturgy in our new space. What a beautiful and wonderful day that it was! We welcomed the largest crowd ever to a Liturgy here in northern Colorado, and we were so pleased to see so many attend the Liturgy in our new facility.
As we consider the Church and its mission here in the world, it is to draw all nations to God. So this last question that came in from Bonnie is one that really stirs my heart, because I feel for too long we have erected barriers and obstacles to entrance into the Church. Some of those barriers are cultural, and those we really need to be careful to remove some of these cultural [barriers]. Some of them are contextual, the way that we do things, and some of them, like this other listener who’s written in—his name is Brian—are theological. So Brian, who’s scheduled his chrismation and entrance into the Church, is writing because he’s still unsure how to justify icons to his dear friends who have been watching, I think quizzically, his movement into the Church. So he writes because, he says:
My wife, children, and myself are scheduled to be received into the Orthodox Church on August 30, praise be to God!
So it seems about 20 days ago this listener from Hopedale, Massachusetts, entered into the Church.
And I venerate icons at church, I have icons in my home, I’ve prayed before them. It feels right, but I just can’t justify them logically in light of the second commandments. I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of Orthodox podcasts, have read everything I can find online about this matter, I’ve even ordered tracts from Ancient Faith Publishing that talk about this, but it’s still a sticking-point for me.
I turned to you because my journey to Orthodoxy began with Orthodoxy Live. I have a deep respect for the wisdom and ability that is displayed on this show. Coming from a Protestant background, I have no qualms about spiritual images in general, nor would I imagine too many Protestants nowadays. I also understand that veneration is giving honor to the one depicted and ultimately to God, not to the wood and paint. I would imagine, though, that the ancient idol-worshipers felt the same way. They didn’t believe the idol actually was their god, but a representation.
The second commandment states that Israel, and by extension the Church, is not to make images of things, clearly for use as idols, given the rest of the passage. Specifically, they are not to bow down to them, exactly what we do. How do I answer a Protestant family member who says, “You’re bowing down to an image”? Yes, I am. Thanks for the wonderful work you do, and I really look forward to your answer.
Well, you know, Brian, as you write in with this question, it strikes me that, obviously, you’ve done all of the theological research, you’ve moved on this question from the various angles, you’ve certainly sought out consultation and advice from your parish priest, from the books that you’ve read—hopefully you’ve read St. John of Damascus’s treatise on the divine images—and you’ve incorporated the use of icons into your daily spiritual life, and perhaps even you’ve looked at the Seventh Ecumenical Council and its writings on the restoration of holy images in the Church.
Now the prohibition is against idols. So then the question becomes: Is an icon an idol? Is it an idolatrous image? Within the experience of the Church, this is not what we find. The use of icons and the use of these images does not draw us away from God, but draws us into the experience of the living Christ. Now that is something I think, once we have answered the theological questions, is important for us to note. There is a difference between an idol and these images in the Church, these representations or reflections. Of course, the important theological argument of the Incarnation is quite prevalent within our thinking, that matter matters, and how we depict the divine life of God matters.
In Christ, the idea of the image of God comes into its fullness. Christ, the Son of God, the divine Word of God, the pre-incarnate Word, we could even say, becomes incarnate. He becomes flesh. He enters into the world. So he shatters even our preconceived notions of who God is, and he also recasts all of the commandments of God into a new light. So in the light of Christ, as we understand his entrance into the world, we see that prohibition against idols in a different way. Certainly, if any of the Jews would have seen one of the disciples bowing down before Christ, they, like they did, thought to be blasphemous, but we do not. We understand Christ resets and recalibrates the whole of human creation, so likewise in the Church all of the commandments of God, as just the Lord himself did on the sermon on the mount, how he said, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ but I say unto you, ‘He who looks at his brother or calls him a fool’ ”—not “looks at his brother”; that’s the other commandment, about adultery, but he who calls his brother a fool—” ‘is in danger of hellfire.’ ” This commandment is recast.
Well, so, in a sense here, when we’re talking about this idol-worship, this is not exactly what’s going on in the Church, but rather the reflection of the life of God is given to us through these icons.
Another thing I think comes out is that, within the reality of the use of icons is again this phrase that “matter matters.” We look at the human life, and I think… You know, I see this more and more in a lot of Christian talk, that we’re almost Gnostic. We have divorced the physical world from the spiritual world. And I even heard of a preaching at a—they’re not even called funerals, really; people call them celebrations of life—where someone had died, and so there was a celebration of life, and the proclamation that finally this person’s soul had been released from the body. This is not how we speak in the Church. The release of the soul from the body—we don’t call it as a good thing. That’s a tragedy; that’s called death. It’s when the soul separates from the body.
In the Church we have all sorts of things that we use, whether it be oil or water or wine or bread, incense, the very space that we’re in, and the whole movement away from the use of imagery and icons and bowing down before them and kissing them and touching them—all of this is something that finds its trajectory after the Schism of the Church, not prior to it.
The Fathers of the Church who knew the Scriptures and lived them had no issue with the use of icons. In fact, they themselves defended their use. So it’s not a matter of misinterpreting the Scripture. It’s not even a matter of them being ignorant of the Scripture. I think for most of those writers we can say that their knowledge of the Scripture was far beyond many even modern-day scholars. They understood the Scriptures and lived them. So part of this is also trusting in the movement of the Church. So here’s where we get into a different area when we’re talking to our friends outside the Church who say, “Yes, but you’re breaking a commandment.” Part of this is also understanding the authority of how we interpret all the Scriptures in the first place, and where does that interpretation come from.
I’ll give you a simple one. Often I have dear friends who say, “I don’t understand why anybody calls you ‘Father.’ It says clearly in the Scriptures no one is to call anybody ‘Father’ or ‘Teacher.’ ” So then I will say, “When you were at school, did you call your teacher ‘Teacher’?” So clearly there’s a hermeneutic there that we’re operating under that seems to be beyond the black-and-white grasp that some have of these texts. Certainly St. Paul had Timothy and Titus calling him “Father.” He called them his spiritual sons.
As we continue on, it’s nice, because I’ve got all [this] backload of questions that have come in through, boy, the months that we’ve been doing this program, and I think we’re approaching somewhere like three years of producing this show. I’m so pleased that we’re still on the air and still plugging away. There are often times that I have doubts about whether or not to continue with the show, because I certainly feel like most of the answers I provide on the air are quite poor and limited, so I ask and beg your forgiveness for that, and I ask and beg God’s forgiveness for any way in which I’ve misrepresented or given incomplete answers on the faith.
There’s another question that came in, and it came in right at the time of the feast of the Dormition, which is on August 15. I just never had time to get to it. So this question comes in from Maria, and Maria wrote on August 11 of this year:
Fr. Evan, could you please explain the differences between the Orthodox understanding of Mary’s dormition and the Catholic understand of the assumption of the Mother of God? Thank you.
Well, Maria, it’s quite actually rather a straightforward distinction in the sense that we as Orthodox proclaim that Mary died. In fact, the feast in the Greek is called Koimisis tēs Theotokou, which literally means Falling-Asleep of the God-bearer. And the icon—and here, to our last caller, another point to bring out, and I’m sure you’re aware of this: icons do such a wonderful job of teaching—the icon of this event depicts a theological truth, that Mary died, and that, in dying, she proclaims her faith in her Son and in his victory over death. We see in Mary a demonstrated faith, which she exhibited throughout her life, and it is something for us to imitate. The Orthodox clearly proclaim that Mary fell asleep in the Lord, and, in falling asleep, she died, and she died what we would call a normal death.
The Catholic understanding of this event is a little different in the sense that there is a belief that Mary did not die or taste death but was assumed from this life into the next. Here there is some mixing of understandings, because some people say, “Don’t we sometimes say that Mary was assumed?” Well, here the distinction [is] that the tradition is and the teaching has always been that she died. Now, there is no shrine for Mary. We don’t have her body like we do for many of the saints. So there is an understanding that Mary’s body was taken up and did not see corruption and that Christ, her Son, could not bear to see, if you will, her body become corrupted, so it is taken up and assumed.
I hope that helps, and I appreciate the question. For those of you who do write in, don’t ever think that I don’t read your questions. I do read them all, and I save them all, and there has been talk at different times on whether or not we might even just have a show just to answer email questions. I’ve talked about that before with John Maddex here at AFR.
We’re going to go to the phones right now. Kelly? Welcome to Orthodoxy Live. You’re on with Fr. Evan.
Kelly: Hi, Father!
Fr. Evan: Hi! Welcome, Kelly. Where are you calling from?
Kelly: I’m calling from Alfred, New York.
Fr. Evan: Okay. You’re going to have to explain where that is. Alfred, New York? Where is Alfred?
Kelly: Alfred. Ah, well, if you know where Rochester is…
Fr. Evan: Okay, Rochester.
Kelly: If you drive south by about 70 miles you get to Alfred.
Fr. Evan: Now, it’s not a big place? Tell me.
Kelly: It’s not. There’s maybe a couple thousand people here, but there’s actually two colleges in town, so that’s exciting.
Fr. Evan: What are the colleges?
Kelly: They’re called Alfred University and Alfred State College.
Fr. Evan: No way!
Kelly: We’re really creative here in New York.
Fr. Evan: And are you a native of Alfred?
Kelly: I’m not. We’re transplants.
Fr. Evan: You don’t have the accent.
Kelly: My husband and I… No. My husband and I are both working at the university.
Fr. Evan: That’s how you ended up there in Alfred.
Kelly: Yes, we did.
Fr. Evan: Where from?
Kelly: I’m originally from the Utica area in New York, so further north. And my husband’s from Jersey.
Fr. Evan: From Jersey. And what do you teach?
Kelly: I teach math.
Fr. Evan: Oh, you do? Oh my.
Kelly: I do.
Fr. Evan: So you need to text me your phone number. I have a teenager who’s in a math class that I can’t help her in any longer, so I need… [Laughter]
Kelly: Well, I’d be happy to. I love teaching.
Fr. Evan: It’s so funny, because as my daughters have gotten older… I was not one for math. I just never really… I like the subject, but I didn’t stick with it. And, boy, as soon as I could no longer take math, I was out of there. So now she’s in advanced math, and she’s always asking me different questions, and I just shrug my shoulders, and she’s growing increasingly frustrated with her ignorant father. [Laughter]
Kelly: People have different passions and different talents, so…
Fr. Evan: Do you have children?
Kelly: No, no children.
Fr. Evan: Well, if you do, don’t lose your math skills.
Kelly: [Laughter] I will do my best.
Fr. Evan: What does your husband teach? Hopefully something in the arts, so you can just round this whole thing out.
Kelly: He’s a physicist.
Fr. Evan: Oh, you’re… you’ve got nothing to help with this! What if you have a child and they want to paint? What are you going to do?
Kelly: Well, we’re going to buy him paints and say, “Have fun!” [Laughter]
Fr. Evan: So, Kelly, is there a parish in Alfred, New York?
Kelly: No, we actually drive to Rochester. That’s about the closest parish to us.
Fr. Evan: Wow. So that’s an hour and a half one way.
Kelly: It is an hour and a half one way.
Fr. Evan: God be with you and bless you. Isn’t that something!
Kelly: Oh, thank you, Father. We’re very fortunate that we’re able to do that. It’s a blessing, and the parish is wonderful.
Fr. Evan: Is it an OCA, Antiochian? Tell us the name of the parish.
Kelly: It’s an OCA church, St. John the Baptist. It has fantastic people, and is just wonderful.
Fr. Evan: And what’s the name of the priest?
Kelly: Fr. Ken Stavrevsky.
Fr. Evan: [Stavrevsky]. So people want to find it, it’s St. John the Baptist in Rochester, New York, under the OCA Archdiocese. Great, well, I always like to make sure we list and name the parish, because there’s probably someone in your area that’s listening, and it gives them an opportunity to kind of know somebody who goes there, so to speak.
Kelly: Oh, absolutely.
Fr. Evan: Well, Kelly, what’s your question tonight?
Kelly: I had a question about the phrase, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, only the priest says it when we’re in Liturgy, or if you’re maybe doing a Bible study, the deacon. Why is it that only the priest says it, and if you’re at home, like, you know, with your family or if you’re having a Bible study just with some friends, should you say it then, or should you just not say it then? And why?
Fr. Evan: Well, here I think you’ve actually asked a bigger question, Kelly.
Fr. Evan: Yeah, and you didn’t know that, but I’m going to show you how.
Fr. Evan: When we think about this, we think about, okay, I as a Christian can pray the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the prayer that the Lord himself taught us. When you pray that prayer, you pray it out of the gospel of Matthew. You don’t pray it out of the gospel of Luke. So that’s an interesting thing. I mean, why is it that you’re praying it out of Matthew and not Luke. I don’t know if you knew that…
Kelly: I think I did, but never really wondered why.
Fr. Evan: Okay, so if you pray it out of Matthew. And if you were a Baptist, guess which one you’d pray?
Kelly: Um… Matthew still?
Fr. Evan: You’re a good mathematician. You’re taking your odds. That’s good. I like that. If you were a Catholic, which one do you pray?
Kelly: Um… Matthew?
Fr. Evan: Keep going. If you were a non-denominational Evangelical, what would you pray?
Kelly: Hmm… Well, I probably wouldn’t, but maybe Matthew?
Fr. Evan: But maybe Matthew, right! So no matter where you are in the world, as a Christian, you would pray the Lord’s Prayer out of Matthew. Okay. So let’s do some deduction here and let’s try to figure out what’s going on.
We know that the gospel of Matthew is not the first gospel. It’s the first in the order of the canon, but it is not the first in terms of age. The first gospel is Mark, and the last is John. Matthew’s in between there, and its audience, Matthew’s audience, is clearly Jewish. It’s sort of written as the Gospel to disciples, so they’re to hear and do. As Matthew writes this gospel, he was understood to be one of the Twelve, but as he’s writing his gospel, there is already a Christian community. It’s apparent in his gospel that there is. There’s some hermeneutical clues and exegetical clues that are in the gospel that actually tell us quite clearly that as Matthew’s writing this gospel, there are already Christians who are listening to these stories who didn’t meet Christ directly, and these stories are circulating as a collection. I’ve got a study on the gospel of Matthew on my parish’s website, at stspyirdons.org; under the media section you can go and listen to a verse-by-verse study of Matthew.
But in that use of the Lord’s Prayer, we notice a liturgical flavor to it. This liturgical flavor tells us, and so does also that little exercise it puts you through of answering what prayer, Luke’s or Matthew’s, does everyone use, sort of tells us or gives us a clue as to what’s going on in the community as Matthew tells them about the Lord’s Prayer in the gospel. He’s actually representing what the liturgical community in the liturgy is already doing.
Kelly: Oh, interesting. I’ve never thought of that.
Fr. Evan: Yeah, so if you’re a baptist, Methodist, whatever, you inherit the liturgical tradition of the Church. I’ll give you another one. If you go to the wedding of your friend, and he gets married in the park, and as you walk in there’s an usher to take you to your seat outside, what do they ask you?
Kelly: Bride’s side or groom’s side?
Fr. Evan: Right, and if you are the groom’s side, which side is that?
Fr. Evan: It’s to the right.
Kelly: Is that the left? Oh, to the right.
Fr. Evan: Right? It’s to the right, and the bride’s side’s to the left. And if you’re walking down the aisle, and you’re—me as a dad, I’m walking my daughter down the aisle, she would be on my left. Well, if you look up at the front, on the icon screen, where is the icon of Christ the Bridegroom?
Kelly: The Bridegroom? Is it on the left?
Fr. Evan: It’s on the right. No, it’s on the right.
Kelly: Oh, it’s on the right! [Laughter]
Fr. Evan: You’re okay! As you’re looking forward at the altar, at the right of the altar is the icon of Christ the Bridegroom. If you look on the left, there’s the icon of the bride, the Virgin Mary, who represents the Church, right?
Fr. Evan: My point being that, once again, if you’re not in the Church, or even have any knowledge of the Church, you still function according to a paradigm that the Church started: grooms on the right, brides on the left, because the Bridegroom is Christ, whom we as a man can represent, and the Bride, his Church, women can represent on the left. Okay? So there’s those forms.
When you’re asking about the Lord’s Prayer, you’re saying, “Okay, this part, the priest says this part, and I say this other part.” Well, the reason gets back to a very ancient reality, which is the liturgical movement of the Church. So that the prayer as it was being prayed in the liturgy had this separation where the exclamation, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,” was said by the celebrant, the priest, right? And the people, then, responded with an “Amen.” So in that back-and-forth—so here’s where, again, in a modern-day Christian circle, you’d say, “What’s the big deal?” Well, they’ve done away with the priesthood.
Kelly: Right, yeah.
Fr. Evan: And that’s not biblical, to do away with the priesthood, but we in the Church have a remembrance of the importance of the celebrant, who stands as Christ, who dialogues with his people, and so as the prayer is being said together, then there’s an exclamation, then there’s a response—this liturgical act is remembered in the Church, and so it’s tradition, which we still keep, it’s something we inherited. Well, that dialogue and liturgical worship is pretty important. It would be awful if it was just you as a congregation saying, “Okay, everybody, what do you want to sing next?” And then it would be awful if just this priest stood up on on a stage, so to speak, and just spouted stuff, and you just sort of glazed over like you were watching a movie.
Kelly: Or sitting in a math class…
Fr. Evan: Right, or sitting in a math class! [Laughter] You said that. I didn’t say that; you said that.
Kelly: I did!
Fr. Evan: So, Kelly, the back-and-forth… You’ve asked a very big question which brings up liturgical worship, which brings up the idea of the priesthood, which brings up the idea of worshiping dialogue. So then you ask the question: What do I do at home? Well, at home it would be more appropriate to not say that part of the prayer, but to say, “Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.” That phrase preserves our understanding of the reality and value of the priesthood, so that even in our homes we bring the priesthood in, you know?
Very recently in my own community, I preached a little bit about just how important the priesthood is. Think of it: Christ, one of the greatest gifts he gave to the world was the priesthood, his priesthood, the unaltered, eternal, without-end priesthood of Christ the King. He gave that to the world, and the Church has kept this gift, and by it our marriages are blessed, our children are baptized, the Eucharist is rightly celebrated and consecrated. I mean, it’s an amazing gift he gave us.
Fr. Evan: So when we go home and we say the Lord’s Prayer, we don’t forget that our private prayer is connected to our corporate prayer. So you could just charge through. You could just say, “Well, I can just say this. I can read the words.” But that’s a lie. That’s the lie of: “Well, I don’t need to go to church. I don’t need the Church. I don’t need the priesthood. I don’t need the sacraments.” You see, that’s that invisible Anabaptist doctrine that the Puritans brought to America. We’ve sort of divorced ourselves of any tradition and any priesthood and any sacrament. That’s a horrific thing to divorce yourself from.
So when you don’t say that phrase, and you say, “Through the prayers of our holy Fathers,” you give voice to that whole reality. Isn’t that beautiful!
Kelly: It is beautiful. I had never even thought that this was such a big question.
Fr. Evan: It’s a huge question.
Kelly: That’s beautiful.
Fr. Evan: Yeah, it’s absolutely huge, and so there must be some sort of math principle where you take something like 2 + 2, and you make it the end-all, be-all. [Laughter] In a similar way, your question certainly moves into a whole big realm of what ecclesiology is, what prayer is, what worship is, what a tradition is—all those things. So thank you for calling. No question is too small. That’s wonderful.
Kelly: Well, thank you, Father. We really just love your show and we really appreciate all the time and energy. It can’t be easy, taking all these random questions as they come up.
Fr. Evan: Yeah, someone said, “How do you prepare?” and I said, “You can’t. You just sort of walk into it.” I appreciate you calling. Keep up the good math work. You can always write me at Orthodoxy Live and share your text number, and I’ll send my daughter on you. [Laughter]
Kelly: Absolutely, absolutely.
Fr. Evan: Thank you, Kelly. God bless you.
Kelly: Thank you very much. God bless, Father.
Fr. Evan: Good night.
Kelly: Good night.
Fr. Evan: So you’ve been listening to Orthodoxy Live, and we thank you for joining. I’ve been your host, Fr. Evan, and this is your live call-in show about the Orthodox faith, her teachings, and her traditions. If you missed any part of tonight’s program, you can listen to them again at the Orthodoxy Live podcast page here at Ancient Faith. We invite you once again to support Ancient Faith by making a donation or a purchase, telling your friends about this. If you haven’t yet loaded the AFR app on your phone, tablet… If you’re not listening to this at work, I can honestly tell you: I drive to work, I commute to house blessings, make my way to the airport, I’m on planes, and AFR’s what I’m listening to. I’m listening to podcasts, I’m being edified as I go through my day, and you should as well.
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