Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Does Orthodoxy Mean to You?

So asked Birgitta this morning at breakfast. That surprised and gave me pause to answer carefully.

What first comes to mind is OCA Metropolitan Jonah's recent speech entitled "Creativity and Tradition".

I'm proud to have joined a tradition, especially that of the Russian Orthodox, that has produced such great artists as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn, as well as composers Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, etc., This gives me a cultural/societal anchor in the world that is far more authentic than my mother's relatively new tradition in which I grew up. Especially transforming for me has been learning about the lives of devout Russian Orthodox priests and monks, such as St. Herman of Alaska, considered a 1794 founder of the Orthodox Church in America and more recently Fr. Arseny, survivor, and St. Pavel Florensky, martyr, of the Soviet gulags.

It was probably Fr. Arseny's example of the Orthodox way of receiving confession, giving spiritual direction and the quality of his prayer life that affected me most profoundly. This Orthodox Odyssey series takes his example as its main inspiration. Furthermore, Fr. Pavel Florensky's chapter on "The Structure of Dreams", in his magnum opus Iconostasis, written in 1922, as well as his rigorous technical background plus his passion for his Orthodox priesthood, amazed me and deepened my excitement of the Russian Orthodox example of courage, commitment and inspiration.

Another powerful example for me is St. Herman of Alaska, a simple monk who was one of the founders of the OCA in Alaska in 1794. He was not even a priest, but his courage, commitment, and love of people made such an impact on so many lives that he is remembered to this day as a miracle worker.

As for having to declare Orthodoxy as the only "right" way, this is not important for me to assert in joining the tradition.

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