The Many Faces of Jesus

faces-of-jesusToday, I was reflecting on my Protestant years and the many teachings and beliefs I encountered regarding who God is and how we relate to Him. Particularly God in the person of Jesus. The following is meant to be a bit of a light-hearted poke at many of these:

Spiritual but not religious:

For my many “spiritual but not religious” friends Jesus is simply a really nice, enlightened pacifist who got entangled with the religious and political authorities of his day. One day, Emperor Constantine supposedly made him God and ever since then Christians have been duped into worshiping him. People in this category tend to be very distrusting of any organized religion and believe that other people always corrupt our view of God (and yet they themselves seem to be free of corruption).  As a bonus, if you’re “spiritual but not religious,” anything you don’t like about Christianity can be dismissed merely by putting it into a sentence with Constantine’s name. Words like “corruption” and “conspiracy” are jackpots that ensure your argument will win.

Continue reading The Many Faces of Jesus

Prayerful Scottish Poetry

George_MacDonald_(1862)Lately, I have been reading through the beautiful, contemplative poems of George MacDonald.  You may or may not have heard of him.  His style reminds me of the prayers written by the Eastern Orthodox Saint Nikolai Velimirovich.

While MacDonald was not part of the Eastern Orthodox faith, he was the inspiration of many an author.  Here are a few quotes:

Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later, I knew that I had crossed a great frontier. (CS Lewis)

Lewis went on to say that everything he ever wrote was inspired by George MacDonald.  Later he even put together a devotional with 365 of MacDonald’s writings so that a Christian could have a snippet of his thoughts every day of the year.

JRR Tolkien also found him Continue reading Prayerful Scottish Poetry

Man as a Temple

from http://www.cityscouter.com/pictures/munich/Dachau-Concentration-Camp-Photos.htmlThe temple as a building symbolizes the human body.  “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” (1 Cor 6:19).

The above quote is taken from St Nikolai Velimirovich’s book The Universe as Signs and Symbols.  And it made me stop and ponder: if somebody could magically or mystically wave a wand over me and construct a temple using what is inside of my heart, what would it look like?

Since an Orthodox church is also called a temple, I thought I would use that for my metaphor.

WHAT’S IN MY HEART?

What kind of icons would appear?  Would there be the saints, angels, and a Savior, or would there mostly be pictures of personal achievements that make me feel proud or, worse still, profane and vulgar ideas and memories? Continue reading Man as a Temple

A brief word of wisdom

from orthodoxphotos.comDo no seek things too difficult for you, nor examine what is beyond your strength. Think about what is commanded you; for you do not need what the Lord keeps hidden.

Do no meddle in what is none of your business, for things beyond human insight have been shown to you. Speculation has led many astray and evil suppositions have caused their minds to slip and fall.
(Wisdom of Sirach 3:20-23)

May we seek those things that God has granted to us, may we grow in the knowledge that he has bestowed upon us, may we be fully present in the places he has placed us, may we not seek after that which has been wisely hidden, may we be grateful for the heavenly knowledge revealed, may we humbly learn the commandments of Christ so that we can be joined to Him in this life and the age to come, and may we rest in the quietness of His love and peace, leading others to do the same.

The UnAmerican Gospel

from http://calonarang.deviantart.com/art/Wolf-in-Sheep-s-Clothing-268960219Recently, a short clip of Joel Osteen’s wife, Victoria, preaching at their house of worship has been making the rounds on social media.

In it she essentially states that the purpose of church, worship, and prayer are to make us happy. That God wants nothing more than to see happy people is the divine reason behind everything. Why do we go to church? to make us happy. Why do we worship? to make us happy.

I don’t dislike the Osteens, but I do disagree with the message.  I chose this video because it is recent and it summarizes the Gospel According to America, though in an unveiled manner that shamelessly embraces its own narcissism.

MIXED MESSAGES

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns us, “False messiahs and false prophets will arise…” (24:24). It is worth noting that he does not tell us to beware of bad philosophies or crooked politicians. Rather, we are to beware of false christs/messiahs. This does not simply mean, “watch out for people pretending to be Jesus,” but includes the doctrines and lifestyle of anything that sets itself up against that which Jesus Christ Continue reading The UnAmerican Gospel

Apps for the Eastern Orthodox

iphone and galaxyIn the 21st century, technology plays a crucial role in the lives of most Christians in the West.  Even some monasteries have Facebook pages and smartphones.

My focus today is on apps. There are good Orthodox apps out there that are beneficial to those who like to have scripture, prayers, writings of the fathers, and the daily saints with them at all times. Due to the multitude of available apps and my limited time, this is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide, but just a review of the apps I have used.

BENEFICIAL APPS

Lives of the Saints & Daily Readings

Orthodox Calendar app ROCOROrthodox Calendar – This is a wonderful app that defaults to the Julian Calendar. It contains the lives of the saints, fasting regulations, daily tropars and kondaks, and the daily scriptures. For the lives of the saints, it usually shares several saints per day with biographies that are sometimes quite extensive. It contains a wealth of information on the saints, far more than any other app I’ve seen, and is quite enjoyable to read. The calendar is adjustable to select any day of the year (so you can use it even if you’re on the New Calendar, just go forward thirteen days).  It utilizes liturgical language for the daily troparia.  The only thing it doesn’t include is a built in prayer book.  Google Play Store link here, and iTunes app here.

daily readings app goarchDaily Readings – This app, released by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, is a good app for reading lives of the saints, fasting regulations, daily tropars and kondaks, and daily scripture. The paid version contains a useful glossary full of liturgical words that are good to know. It is a work in progress, and usually there are only one or two saints whose lives you can read about per day. The entries tend to be brief.  One useful feature is that it pulls up the applicable prayers for the current time (i.e. at noon it will pull up the sixth hour prayers and meal time prayers).  Any section of the built-in prayer book can be accessed at any time.  It is based on the New Calendar, but any day of the year can be pulled up.  It utilizes modern language for prayers, troparia, etc.  It seems to be a little more feature-rich on the iPhone, but can be downloaded for Android here.

the-prologue-of-ochridThe Prologue of Ochrid (St. Nikolai Velimirovich) – This is not an app, but it is my favorite resource for daily reading of the lives of the saints.  The website automatically updates for the day that you visit it, though any day of the year can be selected.  I am very grateful to the Serbian Orthodox Archdiocese for making this splendid work freely available online.  Alternate link to purchase the print edition.

Prayer Books

English Orthodox PrayersEnglish Orthodox Prayers (free) – This app is a slightly abbreviated version of the Jordanville Prayer Book, which is the one that I mostly use.  Therefore I love this app!  If I’m traveling, it has all the necessary prayers (morning, evening, pre-communion, etc) and I don’t have to take a prayer book with me.  Unfortunately, it is only available for Android.

Orthodox Prayer BookOrthodox PrayerBook – A simple app that contains several useful features: a great variety of prayers, daily fasting requirements, daily troparia, and it allows one to select from three different diocese (Antiochian, OCA, Greek) for daily variables.   It utilizes liturgical language. iTunes only.

Bibles…Oh the Choices!

EOB appEastern Orthodox Bible (EOB) – For those who are familiar with this, they will find that having the text of this Bible for such a low price is quite a steal. It is a New Testament that was translated by the Orthodox. Unlike the Orthodox Study Bible, which is the New Kings James text with Orthodox commentary (meaning it was translated by Protestants with slight Protestant biases), the EOB text was translated with the Orthodox in mind.  iTunes store only.   More information on it here.

RSV bibleHoly Bible (RSV) – Fr. Thomas Hopko’s favorite English translation of the Bible was the Revised Standard Version.  It has a few issues with Protestant theological leanings, but overall is better than most English translations.  This app itself has room for improvement.  It does not remember your last chapter read, and bookmarks are not interactive (can’t be clicked).  So each time you open it you have to scroll through the menus to find your last book/chapter.  It also has ads.  But, if you must have the RSV, then here it is:  Android only.

Orthodox Study Bible for itunesThe Orthodox Study Bible (NKJV) – I have a hard copy of this Bible, but I have not used the electronic form.  In general, it is a good starting place.  The commentary seems to focus largely on the differences between Protestant beliefs and Orthodox theology.  Those who frequently read patristic commentaries (i.e. Saints Chrysostom, Theophylact, Augustine, etc) will probably find the commentary in the OSB to be lacking.  However, for most people, especially new converts, it will probably be sufficient.  The real jewel here, in my opinion, is the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament.  Unfortunately, the only affordable option is in the iTunes store.  For Android users, Olive Tree offers it for a whopping $39.99, which is more than the print version costs!

NKJV Bible by Olive TreeNKJV Bible by Olive Tree – For those who appreciate the NKJV, but don’t need the commentary of the OSB listed above, and don’t want the ads or frustration of the RSV listed above, this app seems to be a good, free alternative.  It doesn’t have the full Old Testament like the OSB since it’s a Protestant work, but it is sufficient for studying the New Testament.

Other Useful Apps

AFR iconAncient Faith Radio (AFR) – One of the more popular apps.  With it, you can stream music and podcasts.  For those who are fans of the AFR service, you will likely enjoy this.  Google Play store, and the iTunes link.

 

Orthodox Prayers and ServicesOrthodox Prayers and Services – One of the most in-depth works I have seen in an app.  It contains a library of Bible commentaries, patristic homilies, liturgical services, prayers, saints, and writings of the fathers.  I was greatly impressed with it.  The catch: it can take several minutes to open and it may crash older, slower devices.  I think it downloads the entire library into your device’s memory rather than loading entries as they are selected.  The app is a wonderful idea, it just needs to be designed a bit better to make it easier to load.  Google Play only.

 

My list above certainly does not include every Eastern Orthodox app available in English for the iPhone or Android systems.  Within a year of publishing this blog, many new apps were introduced and I haven’t had time to review them all.  Feel free to leave me a comment below if you have any favorites that I left out.  Additionally, if you can read Russian or Greek, you will have quite a vast selection of beautifully designed apps available on both platforms.

 

BEWARE OF THE PILGRIMAPP

PilgrimAppThe contents of this app are a mixed bag. The Daily Prayer Rule seems pretty standard and Orthodox. But the rest of the content is where there is trouble. The description of the app itself is quite revealing, “We are deeply appreciative and humbled by the many great expressions of Orthodox teachings and faith.” In other words, they are not Eastern Orthodox, but have been inspired by various groups who consider themselves to be Orthodox. There are hundreds of these types of groups, and some of them are apples that have indeed fallen very far from the parent tree of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Some problems with this app:

There’s a Kiloran Liturgy that is not in line with Orthodox theology. For example, the following petition contains theological errors,

Let us all pray for the church…to unite the broken body of Christ, to perfect it with Your love.

While this sounds nice, neither Christ nor His body are broken or imperfect; we as individuals are, but He is not. The Apostle Paul writes that the Church is the “pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and that “the church…is His [Christ’s] body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23)

We cannot one moment say that Christ’s Body, the Church, is the pillar and ground of truth, and the fullness of God and at the same time call it “broken” and imperfect. The above petition, in my opinion, shows a very poor understanding of ecclesiology.

Also, used in the Kiloran Liturgy is the Apostle’s Creed instead of the standard Orthodox creed that has been in use since AD 381. The Apostle’s Creed is popular among some heretical groups due to a lack of Trinitarian emphasis.

There’s a section called Reflections/Readings which contains readings I feel mixed about. Some of it is good, some of it not so much. There’s a section on Unceasing Prayer in which the Jesus Prayer is surprisingly not mentioned.

There’s “Orthodoxy in Brief” that says the Orthodox are “theologically unified,” which is an odd statement since they are not representing one particular “Orthodox” group, but hundreds of groups that differ significantly and are not in communion with one another.  There are also other subtle omissions in this article that attempt to present a false unity among pretty much any group that utilizes the label “Orthodox.”


What apps do you use, and which ones would you recommend? This list is in no way exhaustive, so let us know if you use an app not listed here and tell us what you like about it.

Whose Time Is It Anyway?

We have this funny idea about time.  Let me give you an example:

booboofluffmuffincatbox1The alarm goes off, playing a cheesy song on the radio.  I roll over, turn it off, and dress for work, thinking about how I need to begin my morning prayers.  I walk out of the bedroom door and a cat has puked on the living room rug.  Stumbling over to fetch some paper towels, I am greeted by a horrendous smell: the litter box needs to be cleaned…again.  Ugh.

Disgusted, I pull on the paper towels and knock over a glass on the kitchen counter creating another mess, this one composed of glass and water.  The birds hear the clanking of the glass and get excited: “Feed me! Feed me! It’s morning!  Whoopee! Feed me!” they sing with their usual morningtide gusto.

Seeing me stump back into the room, the cats roll around on the rug playfully, never mind the pile of puke next to them.  I grumpily begin wiping and cleaning, petting and feeding, all the while thinking, “It is time for prayer and I’m stuck out here cleaning messes.  I don’t have time for this!” or even worse: “God, if you really wanted me to pray, you wouldn’t have allowed all of this to take up my time!” Continue reading Whose Time Is It Anyway?