Lovely to see!

In response to my blog entry below about testosterone-driven Orthodox apologetics (which bears an uncanny resemblance to testosterone-driven Catholic apologetics) the gracious and classy Fr. Gregory writes:

Mark thank you for your observations about misguided apologist–East and West, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestants.

Whether or not the polemics on the site you link do or do not reflect the views of “a small percentage of triumphalists” is an empirical question for which we have no data. But whether or not the represent a minority, a plurality or majority of the Orthodox faithful is not the point.

What is the point, I think, is that there is neither reconciliation or salvation where love is absence since love is the substance of the Gospel. And what is love except my ability to see in another what is unique and of lasting value; love allows me to see the beauty that is hidden to the eyes of the world but know to God.

I would suggest the problem isn’t that Catholics and Orthodox Christians disagree but that we do not see the beauty in each other’s tradition. More than that, however, is we too easily defer to the loud voices in our respective tradition. For all that these voices might have a grasp on the naked facts of history, the are loud because, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, they lack love and so are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals (see 1 Cor 13.1).

This is not to say that their lack of love is global, it isn’t. But what is lacking is love of the other side of the conversation. Again, love is what makes it possible to see what is unique and beautiful in someone. And it is love, to paraphrase Chiara Lubich, that makes us bold and gives us the courage to draw close to each other in ways that acknowledge what we share, while remaining respectful of our differences as persons and traditions.

At the risk of being judgmental, I think too many apologists–Eastern and Western, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant–are simply spiritually (and I suspect, psychologically) immature. And yet, to the degree we are able, we should remain gentle with them both in our speech and, more importantly, in our hearts.

Such gentleness is a podvig (ascetical challenge) for me. I have to remind myself (sometimes more than once in a single conversation) that a heart in which love is absent is a heart ruled by fear (see 1 Jn 4). Yes, I must speak the truth in love (see, Eph 4.15) to all I met–especially to those whose hearts are gripped by fear. But to speak the truth in love requires from me that I first love the person with whom I am speaking, that I see in that person what is unique and beautiful and of lasting value in his or her life.

To speak the truth in love, means not only to love but also to be myself lovable. Alas, for too many of us, the Gospel is not the revelation that we are loved by God, that is that I am lovable, but the opposite, that I am unloved. The fundamental anthropological truth of the Gospel is not that we are sinners, but that we are loved. Repentance is not grasping that I am a sinner, any fool with a modicum of self-knowledge and awareness knows that about himself. No repentance is knowing in a deep and personal way that I am loved. Based on their words and actions, I wonder how many, if any, of our self-appointed apologists know that they are loved? Love makes me gentle, patient, forgiving, respectful and long suffering with others in their struggles (see Gal 5). Where these are absent in speech, the (we can be sure) that it is merely a word spoken from my ego and that the Gospel is not being proclaimed.

Again, thank you for your words here.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory
Orthodox Church in America

Refreshing to the spirit and good to the last drop! Thank you, Father!


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