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Archive for June, 2011

We Wrestle Not?

We are surrounded by a culture that requires us to be happy. All the time. We are also surrounded by a self-help culture which assures us that by following these five easy steps, or discovering that secret, we can eliminate struggle and pain from our lives. Some of this can be helpful. Most of it is dangerous. To the degree that we can move out of sad self-obsession into the freedom of joyful giving, to the degree that we can benefit from overcoming certain bad habits or achieving more order in our daily living, we can be thankful. But the danger inherent in the implicit promises made by these surrounding cultures is that having reached the end of whatever process or achieving the “enlightenment” of whatever gnosis that is being sold, we will enter a state wherein the struggle is over.

This is a lie.

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Protestants who are received into the Orthodox Church, particularly those from non-liturgical churches, not infrequently find the transition to Orthodox forms of worship challenging. The Orthodox do not use instruments, the music is different, the hymnography is alien. No praise bands, no soaring organs, no “How Great Thou Art.” But the differences between Orthodox worship and Protestant worship goes much deeper than these surface differences. For Protestants contemplating becoming Orthodox it can help to realize that the primary difference between Protestant worship and Orthodox worship is that for Orthodox, the personal experience of worship is primarily one of kenosis and askesis, of self-emptying and discipline.

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