Monday, March 9, 2020

Lent 2020: Following Where the Faithful Lead

I left off yesterday pondering whether it's time to pursue Orthodoxy, in light of our Catholic diocese's decision to choose fear over faith in responding to the current virus panic. I took particular inspiration from a letter from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, proclaiming that it will not be altering any of its services and that "no genuinely believing Christian can for one moment accept that the Holy Mysteries might bring or be the source of sickness or ill health."

Today, I found that the same letter had been included in this past weekend's bulletin at an Antiochian Orthodox church in my neck of the woods -- and that the Greek Orthodox Church as a whole declared that the Eucharist "cannot be a cause of disease transmission," proving that they believe what they say about the Body and Blood of Christ.

"Faithful of all ages know that coming to receive Holy Communion, even in the midst of a pandemic, is both a practical affirmation of self-surrender to the Living God, and an apparent manifestation of love," the Greek church stated.

What a refreshing contrast to the local Catholic capitulation. I took both things as a sign that I should contact the priest at our Antiochian Orthodox church, which I've done. I now await a reply.

This isn't the only reason I'm looking East. It just happens to be the flashpoint for something I've been pondering over the past several weeks. Anyone who reads this blog knows my past struggles with Catholicism, especially its rigid legalism that turns God into a distant abstraction and the many dogmas and doctrines that I've always wrestled with. Going into Lent, I began to think more about the Orthodox view of theosis and how a theology not viewed through Augustinian lenses seems both so ancient and so relevant, vibrant, and full of truth.

I prayed about this -- at least to the extent that I do pray, which is to say awkwardly and not well. I just asked for clarity to know where I belonged, whether it was with the Latin church, the Eastern Catholics, or the Orthodox. And it seems I'm getting the signs I asked for.

This could all go nowhere. We'll see. But I find myself once again thoroughly disillusioned with a church that adopts the ways of the world rather than acting as a bulwark against the world when it loses its way, a beacon of hope and truth and faith in a world currently gripped by irrational panic and selfish hoarding.

In a hysteria-driven climate that has the entire nation of Italy now on lockdown, with public Masses banned in Rome, someone has to come out and say that while taking sensible precautions is prudent, we as a people are better than this. In a situation where even a doctor has publicly asked people to act more rationally, we need voices that say "fear not." My church isn't doing that. I see the ones that are. And that tells me that their faith is firmly where it needs to be.

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