I regret to say that I’ve wasted about ten minutes I’ll never get back skimming over a few posts of converts to Orthodoxy opining on what is and isn’t real Orthodoxy in the United States (most of them reacting to what are taken to be “Protestant” techniques and forms imported/infused into “real” Orthodox essences–or something like that). Forgive me, but there’s something that smells slightly of an upwardly-tilted proboscis, and maybe a little former-Prot self-loathing, in the phrases “dumbed-down,” “Ortho-lite,” “the Faith made easy,” and so forth.
Now, full disclosure here: the parish to which I belong, and perhaps certain of its clergy, will get tagged as “not fully Orthodox” because of this or that perceived tendency, association (to *that* magazine) or practice. We do happen to observe two feasts of All Saints each year, after all–though the “western” one is not served with a Divine Liturgy, so maybe we’re square on that, after all.
It’s the third day of the Fast, so perhaps this is why I find myself with so very little patience about these matters. And my first instinct is to remind the critics that if they’d spent the time with the Jesus Prayer that they’d spent in their criticism, they might themselves have come closer to the Orthodoxy of which they claim the objects of their criticism lack a certain measure.
Yes, the canons and a properly served Liturgy, and an apostolically ordained clergy, and so forth are important for the life of any parish. Yes, one ought be thoughtful about the forms one uses. And, heaven help us all, yes, yes, yes, we must do everything in our power to every day acquire that true philosophia that is the way of the Life of the Church, Christ himself.
But forgive me, it is not that complicated, and we need waste not a single instant on eyeballing what’s on someone else’s plate. It is really very simple. We pray morning, noon and evening. We fast with the Church. We do acts of mercy to all around us. We strive hard, some days in an unbearable struggle, to forgive all and every. And we constantly plead God’s mercy, for ourselves and for all around us. If every moment is one of simple, heart-over-head, outstretched hands of trust in Christ; if we can say with simple tears, Panagia’ mou, then we are far likely to be more Orthodox than those who read the footnotes in the Lenten Triodion. I do not of course myself live these things as I should, so this is as much a criticism of myself, and a reminder, as it is an expression of exasperation.
But of course, if we are *doing* these things, our minds will not often wander to the trough of comparison, unless only to compare ourselves with ourselves. We will hopefully embody the nobler heart in that parable of the two men who went up to the temple to pray, that parable with which we prepare for Great and Holy Lent.