A Call To Arms



  • @cyril

    As regards beauty, the fathers termed it "Philokalia" for a reason. "Love of the Beautiful." Dostoevsky said it best when he said "true beauty will save the world." So beauty is important. The problem is that the modern contemporary trend is a reductionist one that doesn't attribute intrinsic beauty to something. Beauty is replaced with utility in an almost utilitarian ideology. Notice that reductionism and utilitarian philosophies are diametrically opposed to the Christian maximalist worldview. They are atheistic in a sense. So yes, beauty is important. But if a beautiful hymn can be replaced by our God is an awesome God (which borrows its beat hand clap-foot stomp beat from "we will rock you" by Queen) then you cannot be surpassed if our people aspire to be more like Freddy Mercury than like Fr. Sarkis who wrote many a beautiful hymn. 

    As for what the people are to do, there is no reason to lie to ourselves. Were all adults so lets put the "no no its ok they'l be alright" to rest. It not true. The people are at a loss, and its at the cost of the uneducated and self centered "teachers" they are forced to be subject to by the system that the past couple years have solidified. There is a problem when the priesthood becomes a way to Lord opinion over people. Whether in personal issues or in ideologies. I actually had a priest try to absolve me from something I don't believe is a sin because i have absolutely no reason to assume it is a sin. Have you ever refused an absolution? But I had to think for myself.

    But the problem stems much further. Our "saint stories" of contemporary saints for example are 99.99% fluff. They portray the saints as inhuman, unthinking stones obedient blindly. So then what? To be a "saint" of God, people believe they have to be sheep of Abouna's pasture rather than of Christ. And why should they not think that when St. Athanasius (the man who had the gall to challenge the emperor) is portrayed as a complacent dreamer theologian. Or even Pope Kyrollos is portrayed as this humble skinny little monk who would never ever stand against authority (which was totally untrue.) So then the end result is that people are putting they're trust in the hands of people who, personally, I wouldn't trust with my pet rock. Yes these people suffer. Yes they are lied to (especially with protestant influenced sermons), yes they are at a loss. But at the other end of this is that Christ already warns what happened to those who lead those who come to him astray (Milestone-neck.)

    My priests have brought in many stupid people to preach in our church on Christ. "Rasheed" that muslim bashing dude. When he speaks of bringing people to Christ, what Christ is he speaking of? The one who's body I can eat on the altar every sunday, or the Christ who would damn me for idolatry in doing so? What are these "shepherds" thinking bringing a wolf into the sheepfold. May God demand the blood of Abel's blood from Cain. But try to stand against it and be called an extremist. Be made an example of in front of a servants meeting of "the extremism we don't want to promote." 

    We can sit here on Tasbeha.org all day. Won't change a thing. We can talk to our priests but unless they are educated and humble enough to hear other opinions and be willing to accept being incorrect, well get no-where. 

    Bottom line. Prostentantism is a self-centered ideology. It lives of self-centeredness. So we cannot be surprised that a self-centered ecclesiology or a self-centered quality of leadership leads us to protestantism. Its mathematical. 

  • Thank you @ReturnOrthodoxy I like what you said about beauty. It is so important.
  • edited October 2014
    Looks like I really pressed Ray's buttons. I want to clarify a few things. We all can see, Ray, that you are speaking with a chip on your shoulder. One can easily hear the frustration and anger. But I would like to point out to you and Ioannes, that this frustration is unwaranted when the real emotion you need to express is joy, unbelievable joy. Joy that makes us jealous. We were never called extremists for defending our beliefs. Yet you, both of you, are "makarios", "ouwoniatou", "blessed". If you study Coptic and Greek (yes I went there), "blessed" is not a complete translation. Idiosyntactically, makarios means extreme happiness. The kind of happiness a parent would feel when finding their abducted child after 10 years. The kind of happiness that a patient would feel when on their death bed, they completely recovered from a cancer that modern medicine could not even touch. The kind of happiness when a starving child is adopted into a rich family that lavishes him with all royalty and endless food and necessities. "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you for My Name's sake". It goes without saying that such a blessing is what we strive for on earth because it is a small glimpse of what you will receive in heaven.

    I was going to respond to all your points but it would not positively help the discussion for the benefit of all. Rather, I only want to speak about one point I feel is important to address publicly.

    You wrote: "Our saints stories of contemporary saints for example are 99.9% fluff. They portray the saints as inhuman, unthinking stones obedient blindly." I have mentioned in the past that generalization of this broad nature are never helpful in a discussion. I don't know what saints stories you speak of, but if you study hagiography, they are far from "the fluff of inhuman saints". Many stories, like St Hilaria/Elaria/Haliron, St John the Litttle, St Daniel of Scetis, St Makarius, are filled with examples of weakness and fallibility. These are not stories of inhuman or supernatural humans in any sense. Rather using human faculties, they attained supernatural results we call "crowns". When you disect the layers of hagiographical stories, you will find multiple examples of a normal person who chose to follow God's will and commandments to the extreme. They did not blindly obey an elder or a priest or a bishop or anyone. Some saints manifested their choice to follow God in what you call blind obedience. But it cannot be considered blind if there was a choice of will to begin with. Thus, when St John the Short was told to go water a dead branch miles away, it was not an example for zombie-like submission, misplaced trust in someone you consider not worthy to be entrusted with a rock, or ecclesiological supremecy. Rather, it was an example of the full human ability to say "My love and my trust in God is manifested in trusting fallible men or a fallible system. For if I succeed and attain the promises of God by trusting men who sin and a system who (allegedly? and consciously? and willingly?) misrepresents God's eternal truths, then I have been "makarios" - "blessed", and the kingdom of heaven is mine.

    In a way, it is self-centered ideology. By being Christ-centered, I will have gained the best results for myself. It is not mathematical. It is paradoxical sacrifice. It is only through this paradoxical sacrifice that we can fight this Protestant infestation since we do not batttle men, but principalities, angels and supernatural beings (and I would add attitudes and ideologies to this list)
  • If we incorporate protestant practice and hymns into the liturgy then it ceases to be divine.
  • edited October 2014
    Why are people so keen on giving up too easily or losing any hope? Is the church dependent on us or on Christ? Don't ever think that because I am unable to do something that I should leave. No clergy or layman has any authority to think they will save the Church.

    Furthermore, do not always jump to the highest authority to affect change. Change sometimes means you have to start within. If there is poor leadership, there is still hope. Be cunning. Did not Christ teach "be wise like a serpent"? Print or buy those books I mentioned and put them on every bench of your parish, and see if you can sneak in the traditional hymns of the church. Pray to God that He may enlighten them, that in tasting better fruit, they themselves will choose the Orthodox over the heterodox worship. But I don't want to hear anyone say I'm going to leave the church. Exhaust all measures "even to bloodshed" before you even entertain such a thought. Otherwise, if you leave prematurely, you will think the church needs you! No! The Church needs Christ, and you are there to live it for them, not to leave them.
  • You are right Mina but I am looking out for myself and my family, who am I to effect change? Even Moses in all his wisdom could not change the Pharaohs so what makes anyone think that I or anyone else can? You have to remember it is especially hard for me because I am a non-Egyptian convert and the church is rife with ethnocentricism.
  • edited October 2014
    What is this I hear of leaving the Coptic church? I thought this was a call to arms, a call to dig in and brace ourselves for the long haul. Not a call to capitulate but to proclaim Contra Mndum. Yes Contra Mundum even if only a singe one of us is holding onto Orthodoxy.
    But as we can see there is a multitude of us and we can say “those with us are greater than those with them” 2 Kings 6:16.
    Brethren the triumph of Orthodoxy is inevitable.
  • Ioannes said:

    If we incorporate protestant practice and hymns into the liturgy then it ceases to be divine.

    Amen.  If I were serving in a Liturgy and they started singing "Our God is an Awesome God" or some other pop song during the Holy Communion I would take off my tonia and walk out.  I wouldn't be a party to profaning the Liturgy.
  • I had no idea you were non-Egyptian. I understand. If in a family it is tougher. May I suggest perhaps another parish then? I attend St. Mina's in holmdel, nj, and I think many here if they take a chance to visit will be pleased with the priests' service there.

    I also read Rem's post. Words to live and be encouraged by.

    God bless.
  • @ReturnOrthodoxy @cyril  

    Yes Dostoevsky said "true beauty will save the world."

    May I add another quote by Dostoevsky "there is only one face in the whole world which is absolutely beautiful: the face of Christ," and "the incarnations [is] the epiphany of the Beautiful one" (The Brothers Karamazov, IV, 1) 

  • But if you can, as a soldier, "stand your ground"
  • edited October 2014

    Let me be perfectly clear: although (like Ray) I've been villainized and even characterized as a "zealot" (I deserve this and more for my sins) I have no intention of surrendering the Church to the hyenas.  I have every intention of staying and fighting for the Universal Church in my given location.  God has blessed me with some unbelievable opportunities to do so.  That said, if any Orthodox Church ever officially endorses a "big tent" approach and declares that Protestant praxis - and therefore Protestant theology - has a place within its walls - that there can be "traditional parishes" and "Contemporary Praise & Worship" parishes - then it's not me who is leaving.  That withered branch will have fallen away from the Church and I'll have no reason to stay there.  Mina, I am definitely standing my ground as long as there is ground to stand on.  When the ground becomes a pile of Rick Warren's sludge, I see no reason to drown in it.


    Like you said, Mina, the Church doesn't need us.  We need to receive the Holy Mysteries and Our Lord Jesus Christ through Her.  I can't receive that salvific grace in a place where they're profaning the Eucharist with poison heretical songs.

  • Is it possible that our Church is already past the point of no return? I'm in agreement that we should not be quick to "leave the cell" and that we should pray and hope and love. But I'm not sure we (or any other Orthodox Church in North America) can do things alone or say that all that we have is sufficient. Perhaps things need augmenting, and we and others need to recall what has been forgotten. Perhaps we do need to look to the other Orthodox in North America if we want to avoid a slow death in an ethnic and spiritual ghetto.

    I wonder if the trends we are seeing are deep reactions to things which have already been suppressed or lost? Whether that's beauty or theological foundations or the ability to embrace, speak and express the mind of the Fathers today (instead of just blindly repeating the past).

    On other threads we have explored the question of Christian Contemporary music and asked if the excluding of women from the Choir and also reducing the role of the diaconate has created a vacuum for our sisters which is now being filled by the Christian Contemporary songs. It's the type of question that's deeply self reflective and which requires a humble look at what we are doing as a result of culture and faith.

    I would hope that many of the Church can "work from within" but I also wonder if we cannot put new wine in old wineskins. Trying to do so might end up losing both the new wine and the old wineskin.

    Perhaps the whole direction towards Evangelical materials is not as new as we think? Perhaps the introduction itself was a forcing of new wine into old wineskins, which is causing us to lose it all. Perhaps the Protestant Ideologies are the old wineskins in our Church now? To put Orthodox things back now might mean loss of both?

    May God have mercy on us all.
  • Ioannes,
    Even Moses had his Aaron to speak for him; even though he didn't need him. And Moses did effect change on Pharaoh and all the people multiple times. Moses said to Pharaoh, "Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 5:1). After 4 plagues, Pharaoh says to Moses in Exodus 8:23 “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.” Of course, we know Pharoah lied. But after the Passover, Pharaoh said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites. Go worship the Lord as you have requested." (Exodus 12:31). So as you can see, Moses did change Pharaoh's mind multiple times. But since God "hardened Pharoah's heart", Pharaoh went back on his word after each plague. It was not that Moses was ineffective, it was that God had better plans for Moses. God didn't just want Pharaoh to grant a three day feast in the desert. God wanted His people with Him on the same mountain He dwelt on.

    To Moses, at Mt Sinai and in the burning bush, he said something important to prove how effective he was. Moses, thinking he would be ineffective to speak to Pharaoh, much less convince him to let the Israelites go, asked the same question you did Ioannes in Exodus 3:11. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11. God answered him in a way one can't imagine. In Exodus 7:1, God basically answers this question "You, Moses, are like God to Pharaoh."

    From what I have read from your writings and your understanding of patristic writings, you Ioannes, are like God to us modern day Coptic pharoahs. You have been effecacious for change already. Like I said, "Makarios!!!!"
  • edited October 2014

  • edited October 2014
    Ousia said:

    Have any of the monasteries been affected by this trend at all? In any shape or form, whatsoever???div>


    I think they have been affected. Remember bishops are chosen exclusively from the monks, so if the latter were fine there would be no issue.
    Ousia said:

    Are they the last bastion of hope, with regards to maintaining Orthodoxy proper? Also, I am aware of Sayedna Youssef's article found here: http://returntoorthodoxy.com/bishop-youssef-true-christian-unity/ ...but are there any other instances were he has shown scorn or addressed this particular occurrence? Is he by and large a fundamentalist, and would he stand by those who feel this palpable incursion creeping in?div>


    Bishop Youssef publicly and consistently maintains his line on this issue whenever asked, eg the article you mentioned, Q and A on suscopts site, sermons, etc.
    By and large, yes, HG is a fundamentalist (the good type)
  • Im not leaving the church I am just frustrated and am looking at all my options. I am in a difficult position as I have a family that I do not want taught that protestantism in the church is acceptable. Not only that its a huge distraction for me.
  • "Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, rapidly performed and with everyone watching. Indeed it will go so far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and perseverance."
    - Fr Zosima in Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov," Book VI, Chapter 3.

    "Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty."
    - Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

    "Every one of us is in the image of God, and every one of us is like a damaged icon. But if we were given an icon damaged by time, damaged by circumstances, or desecrated by human hatred, we would treat it with reverence, with tenderness, with broken-heartedness. We would not pay attention primarily to the fact that it is damaged, but to the tragedy of its being damaged. We would concentrate on what is left of its beauty, and not on what is lost of its beauty. And this is what we must learn to do with regard to each person as an individual, but also - and this is not always as easy - with regard to groups of people, whether it be a parish or a denomination, or a nation. We must learn to look, and look until we have seen the underlying beauty of this group of people. Only then can we even begin to do something to call out all the beauty that is there. Listen to other people, and whenever you discern something which sounds true, which is a revelation of harmony and beauty, emphasize it and help it to flower. Strengthen it and encourage it to live."
    - Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

    These three reminded me about beauty and the latent beauty of our Church which so often gets lost when the Church gets reduced to nationalism, a cult of big, triumphalism, culture or theological and historical packaging. The other reduction is forcing beauty or claiming that beauty exists and claiming people need to do mind and heart games to see it. Even when we do see beauty in latent form we should not claim that such beauty is "all we need" but rather pray, work and love towards beauty restored and raised. The damaged icon led back to that "Ancient Beauty", from glory to glory.
  • For those of you on Facebook please join our group Orthodox Christian Apologists, we are working on putting this group together with the support of Bishops in which we address these issues in the church.
  • Beloved brothers and sisters, whatever is being done please do so in love.

    "I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: "During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady." But the way that he said it, crushed her. "Look", I said to him, "you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also."

    Let's not stone our fellow-man in a so-called "Christian manner." The person who - in the presence of others - checks someone for having sinned (or speaks in an impassioned manner about a certain person), is not moved by the Spirit of God; he is moved by another spirit.

    The way of the Church is LOVE; it differs from the way of the legalists. The Church sees everything with tolerance and seeks to help each person, whatever he may have done, however sinful he may be."

    - Elder Bishoy of Athos, The Letter of the Law

    One Friday they were out harvesting and it was Simeon’s turn to cook the midday meal. Forgetting that it was Friday, he prepared a dish of pork for their lunch, and they all ate of it. Six months later, on a feast-day in winter, Simeon’s father turned to him with a gentle smile and said,

    ‘Son, do you remember how you gave us pork to eat that day in the fields? It was a Friday. I ate it but, you know, it tasted like carrion.’
    ‘Why ever didn’t you tell me at the time?’
    ‘I didn’t want to upset you, son.’

    Recalling such incidents from his life at home, the Staretz would add, ‘That is the sort of staretz I would like to have. He never got angry, was always even-tempered and humble. Just think - he waited six months for the right moment to correct me without upsetting me!’

    - Archmandrite Sophrony, "Part 1: The Staretz' Life and Teaching," in "Saint Silouan the Athonite."
    Translated by Rosemary Edmonds. (New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1999) 12-13.

    "Therefore, you have to choose the appropriate time at which people can endure your speech. You should perceive that everybody you talk to is a human being who has emotions that can be hurt, or at least affected and fatigued. You should regard the sensitiveness of people and should not use an iron hammer where a significant hint would be sufficient. You should be kind and compassionate so as to relieve others. You should also keep away from oppressive judgment."
    - HH Pope Shenouda III

    "Don't wage your Christian struggle with sermons and arguments, but with true love."
    - Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia

    "When we argue, others react. When we love people, they are moved & we win them over.
    When we love...we are the first to benefit."
    - Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia
  • Formal Measures

    Formal Measures Taken by the Oriental Orthodox Churches to Counter Heterodox Influence

    In order to address the spread of heterdox influence on our Church and our youth, the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod, under the leadership of H.H. Pope Shenouda III of thrice-blessed memory:

    • Forbid priests to accept invitations to appear at Protestant gatherings unless they had first received the express approval of the Patriarchate (June 1996)
    • Declared that “No Protestant chorals [singing] and no unorthodox prayers are allowed in Orthodox churches” (May, 2005)
    • Warned against unauthorized “house meetings” and the spread of Protestant books, cassettes, and CDs (June 1996, June 2001)
    • Authorized a committee for the revising of religious books to remove any Protestant influence or doctrine, warning that “the statement that we are all one in Jesus is deceiving” (June 1998)
    • Warned specifically against music as a means of spreading Protestant influence and theology [H.H. Pope Shenouda III] (June 1998)
    • Declared that “clergy should be careful about teachers in church and check whether they are influenced by Protestant thought or not” (June 1998)
    • Convened a conference on how to face Protestant activities and how to protect the Coptic Orthodox Church from the spread of Protestant influence from the inside out (October 1998)
    • Instructed Orthodox clergy not to write introductions for non-Orthodox books so as not to give Protestants the opportunity to deliver a non-Orthodox message to Orthodox believers (May 1999)
    • Warned Orthodox Christians against attending non-Orthodox retreats (May 1999)
    • Warned Orthodox youth not to join in activities held in joint cooperation with Protestants or Roman Catholics, including sports activities, conferences and lectures, “since these are used for proselytism”; The Synod is explicit that “these are very dangerous issues” (June 2000)
    • Convened a conference to warn the Coptic Orthodox faithful against the activities of the Seventh Day Adventists (October 2002)
    • Organized a number of seminars, sermons, spiritual days and conferences stressing Orthodox dogma, differences with the Protestants, and explaining why the Coptic Orthodox Church rejects false unity, declaring that, “God is not only Love but the Truth” (June-September 2003)
    • Warned specifically against the activities of the Southern Baptist Convention, which published materials stating explicitly that they were targeting the Coptic Orthodox Christians of Egypt for conversion (June 2006)
    • Prohibited Coptic clergy from appearing on Protestant satellite channels (2009)
    • Prohibited Coptic Orthodox bookstores from carrying a number of heterodox titles, materials and publications (1999, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010)


    In order to address the growing spread of Protestant influence on some of its communities in North America, the Coptic Orthodox Church has taken the following measures:

    • H.G. Bishop Youssef of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States issues an official press release to counter the misconception that a so-called “unity of love” eliminates the point of unity of dogma between the Orthodox Church and heterodox bodies (May 30, 2013)
    • Following complaints from bishops, priests, and servants about the rise of a Protestant-influenced movement in North America, H.H. Pope Tawadros II sends an official investigatory committee consisting of three bishops to the Washington, DC area (February, 2013).


  • @Cyril,
    Sometimes some people need harsh words.. of course I am not talking about the example you cited, or condoning it, but at times this becomes necessary. There are many a verse in the Bible and especially in the Book of Proverbs..
  • Amen.  I'm wondering why the Holy Synod's decrees aren't being widely disseminated or enforced in the West?
  • edited October 2014

    Amen.  I'm wondering why the Holy Synod's decrees aren't being widely disseminated or enforced in the West?

    They probably aren't enforced in Egypt either. Probably because liberals will never accept it. But, if compliance in Egypt is indeed higher, it is because the Church there has been able to produce many Protestant-style songs, which it hasn't had the opportunity to do yet in the West. Thus, they turn to actual Protestant songs as a temporary measure till they have the ability to produce 'Orthodox praise and worship' music.
  • But we're a hierarchical Church.  If the Synod proclaims something, we're supposed to abide by it, not just ignore it.
  • But we're a hierarchical Church.  If the Synod proclaims something, we're supposed to abide by it, not just ignore it.

    It was probably proclaimed on the informal understanding that it would not be completely enforced.

    That being said, there could be some wiggle room in the wording: "Declared that “No Protestant chorals [singing] and no unorthodox prayers are allowed in Orthodox churches” (May, 2005)"

    Eg, how is 'Protestant chorals' and 'unorthodox prayers' defined exactly?
  • Better life concerts coming to some of the church meetings and other events
  • I was upset at Protestant hymns in my Church. I spoke to a bishop who told me that there's no such thing as a protestant/orthodox/catholic hymn. Either its orthodox/correct in the hymn's theology or its not. 

  • edited October 2014
    ophadece said:

    Better life concerts coming to some of the church meetings and other events

    Exactly what I mean ophadece! The Synod didn't necessarily ban 'Orthodox' choirs singing Protestant songs.
  • Zoxsasi said:

    I spoke to a bishop who told me that there's no such thing as a protestant/orthodox/catholic hymn. Either its orthodox/correct in the hymn's theology or its not.

    That makes 'Allahu Akbar' OK too! And maybe even some Mormon/Jehovah's witness hymns.
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