Friday, November 30, 2018

Questions and Answers 64 - 67


Identity of Hermit in A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain

Question 64: Does anyone know who the hermit was in the book A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos?

Answer: In a lecture of Metropolitan Hierotheos I translated, he recalls: "After the publication of the book A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain I visited a Hagiorite monk. He said to me: 'Many people ask me whether I am the monk with whom you were talking. I answer them: Do not try to find out who it is. Try to take the advice and live the prayer about which the book is speaking.'"

I think this is sound advice. However, the identity of the hermit in question has been identified. It is Elder Sophrony of Essex.


Was Jesus A Refugee?

Question 65: In the political talk of today, I keep on hearing that Jesus was a refugee? Is this true?

Answer: The term refugee is often used in different contexts: in everyday usage it refers to a forcibly displaced person who has fled their country of origin; in a more specific context it refers to such a person who was, on top of that, granted refugee status in the country the person fled to. Though Jesus fled to Egypt with Joseph and Mary to escape the persecution of Herod, this does not necessarily make him a refugee. Both Palestine and Egypt were part of the same Roman Empire, so it was like going from one part of the empire to another. He was not taken in by a different country like one would be today. Furthermore, most Jews were not Roman citizens, but they were free to practice their religion anywhere in the Roman Empire. And a decree of one governor did not mean another governor had to abide by that decree. So to say Jesus was a refugee is a bit of a loaded term, and is frequently used in Liberation Theology to apply the status of a refugee today as being the same as Jesus once was. Politically, this is not the case. Jesus, Mary and Joseph simply moved to a safer place within the same empire.


Force-Feeding Orthodoxy to Non-Orthodox

Question 66: I became Orthodox when I got married and over the years I have studied Orthodoxy extensively to the point that I cannot see myself as anything but Orthodox. But this was with the help of a loving husband and the Protestant clergy who told me that it is imperative that my husband and I be in the same church, that got me over my doubts to be baptized again.

My question is this. I live in a community with a strong Reformed Protestant faith and from my own experience I can witness how outlandish and strange the Orthodox Church is to these (truly God-fearing) people. My entire family is Protestant and they have received my husband and the fact that I became Orthodox with love - after a few questions. My parents who live with us are old and ailing, my mother already senile.

I am sitting with a big dilemma. Because we live in the same house, there was a silent agreement never to try to proselyte each other. Our icons are accepted in the house and our fasts respected. But I never tried to nudge my parents into becoming Orthodox, knowing that it will cause damage to our relationship. I fear it will rather lead them away from the truth as they will fight for what they believe to be true. I have never met a man who loves God more than my father.

It is so hard to understand Orthodoxy for someone who was brought up so differently. Only because I was determined to make it work for myself did I discover the truth. Have I done wrong? They are still alive. Should I try to force-feed them with Orthodoxy? It feels wrong, but doing nothing also feels wrong. There is not much time.

Answer: Your dilemma is more common than you might think. Not only is this a dilemma in households with Orthodox and non-Orthodox living together, but even in Orthodox households there are similar issues. Having been involved in many such cases, my advice is to respect each others boundaries and not to force-feed anyone Orthodoxy, even on their deathbed. Let God be the judge. You can pray for them. If the opportunity arises to answer a question about Orthodoxy for them, do so. If an opportunity arises for you to point out a difference between the both of you, do so, but do not push it too far. If they are interested to know more about the difference, they will ask. If they don't ask, they are not interested, and you are merely throwing pearls before swine if you explain too much to them. Show them the beauty of Orthodoxy through your life and conduct, and perhaps it will make them more curious. There is nothing more you can do.


Trusted Translations of the Fathers

Question 67: I will be glad if you can help me in the following: Is there any trusted website containing the major Early Christian writings such as Saint Papias, Saint Justin, Saint Irenaeus, etc.? If yes, I will be more than pleased if you can share it here.

Answer: I assume by "trusted" you mean a faithful translation. None are great, but the ones online are for the most part good, in some cases not so much. If you do not know Greek, then you would be hard pressed to trust everything. You can always compare various translations to get a better understanding of a passage. Some websites might have a better translation than others, but most translation variations are about style rather than accuracy. I would say the same things about translations of Scripture. Unless you read them in the original language, and even compare the texts, then I would say do not entirely trust it. No translation is divinely inspired.


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