Monday, November 14, 2005

a whimsical time up a tree

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God" - G.M. Hopkins
It is good to be home, although I couldhave stayed at the youth retreat for a long long time. It was amazing to see everyone, and to hear Fr John speak on such a relevant topic. God is soooo good. What more can be said? words are not enough.

I feel like I'm becoming more of an integrated person. I feel like God is uniting me with my past and my future...sometimes I've felt disunited from the past because I had such a different lifestyle for some time, and from the future because I don't really know what my vocation should be and where I should be stepping. But more and more these things are being revealed, and it is incredible to be in the midst of God's grace and mercy as He re-unites me. Glory to God!

Here are some of my favourite quotes from Fr John's talks at the Youth Retreat, on the topic of Singleness and the Married Life:

"We need to understand who we are, what this world that we live in is about, and who God is and what He has accomplished for us on the Cross, before we can have healthy single or married relationships. " - Fr John
"Lust is wanting something right now."
"Modesty is a quality inherent in women. In the past, modesty gave women the right to withold themselves from dishonourable men. Modest women live in a way that makes the quality of womanliness transparent, trascendant, and implicit. Modesty induces men to be true gentlemen. Modesty is the proof that morality is sexy." (Fr John's paraphrasing of Wendy Shalit's "Return to Modesty").
"This is how I die best." (quote from Fr Gregory)
"Mummies and daddies are God's way of showing us that we must be loved into being." - Fr John

And now, I want to get your opinions: how would you define dating, in an Orthodox Christian setting?


Neo said...

Mira-cle wrote:
“And now, I want to get your opinions: how would you define dating, in an Orthodox Christian setting?”

Glory be to Jesus Christ!

Dear Sister in our Lord,

For starters I do not believe in dating, or perhaps more so not in the Hollywood definition of the word. In the world, dating (long term relationships) most likely consists of physical relations. But in the true Church, the Kingdom of God in diaspora, we are called out of the world to be received by Christ our God as a pure and chaste virgin bride (Romans 1:6, John 17:14 and 2 Corinthians 11:2). Yea, in Truth, an Orthodox romantic relationship (that would probably lead up to the couple getting engaged and married) does not include physical relations. To be more precise an Orthodox romantic relationship is nothing more, in the early stages, at first glance, a glorified friendship between two people of the opposite sexes.

That is to say, an over glorified friendship but not without some minor flirtation and profound romantic notions. The average Orthodox “date” consists of hanging out at a coffee shop or dinner at a Greek restaurant (where the food is poor in quality to the Greek food any of my Theias cook— btw Theia means Aunt in Greek, in case anyone doesn’t know lol) or a movie etc etc. Even at Valentine’s Day, regardless of the fact that the Orthodox Church does not endorse this Latin feast day, the average Orthodox couple does the usual buying of chocolate, roses etc. But earlier on in the relationship if one were to cut out the physical endorphins, spiritual desire to connect and the expression of those through flirtation the relationship really is nothing more than, as said before, a glorified friendship.

Yes one of the reasons I do not to date (the Hollywood sense) and choose not to believe in is yes the fact that Hollywood has ruined the term but also the fact that in the early stages of the relationship its just, and cannot be more than, friendship with flirtation least it cease to be an Orthodox relationship. The problem with the world today is that everyone is too ready to jump into a romance, with almost hedonistic intention (subconscious perhaps in many cases but the hedonism is still there). People feel that they need something but never stop to consider that what, or rather Whom, they need is actually Jesus Christ, our Lord God and Saviour.

St. Simeon the New Theologian wrote:
When the body, as consisting of many parts, becomes ill, it has the need for various medicines… The soul, on the other hand, being incorporeal, is simple and not complex, and when it becomes ill, only one medicine can help it — that is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (Quotation used without permission from the book “Orthodox Psychotherapy” by D.A. Avdeev — Kudos to Gregory W. for giving me a digital copy of the book).

While we are enticed by out physical desires we confuse it, because of our fallen diseased minds, with our great spiritual hunger for the communal salvation found in the Body and Blood of Christ our God. In truth, in many cases we, like Aaron and the Israelites, build our own “golden calves” out of romance. Instead of seeking union with Christ the Lord, we butcher the beautiful concept of romance by turning it into a form of Idolatry. It is not about how beautiful the other person is in his or her Faith in Christ, its how beautiful physically he or she is in his or her designer clothing. Instead of embracing the Truth who is Jesus Christ (John 14:6), we accept a poor substitute of the heathen culture presented by Eminem, Brittany Spears, Usher, “Madonna” etc etc.

For me, marriage is not about becoming one with the other person—it is about uniting with Christ through the other person. For the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) and if the two Temples become one (Genesis 2:24) then the two share the One Spirit. Romance, even in its preliminary stages is about becoming closer to the Lord and learning from one and other in this great road of life in Christ. For this reasons, I believe those of us who struggle to remain in the Kingdom of God (in diaspora, that is to say the Church) should abandon the term dating because of its sinful, worldly connotations and just focus on building Godly Christian friendships in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Hence, let us build up the body of Christ in the unity of prayer and Godly community, and not tear it down by embracing the sinful concepts of the world that we have been called from but are still in. Let us pray in compliance to Jesus Christ, the Lord our God, that as He is sanctified in the Father and the Spirit that we too might become sanctified by His Grace and uncreated energies. Romance is not about taking, but rather sharing in the Truth who is God the Holy Trinity.

Let us conclude this by saying: If Orthodox “dating” is nothing more than hanging out, going to Church together, and basically just becoming good friends then do just that. But yet let us look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet our heavenly Father, the Lord, feeds them. Are we not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26). Let us stop worrying about titles (like “dating”—don’t use titles or names) or stresses (i.e. the ever popular question, “Where are we going with this relationship?”), just let things happen in God’s good time. If the Lord wills, then the Lord wills—but if the Lord does not will, then the Lord does not will. Let us do all things in the Name of Jesus Christ for the Glory of God the Father. Let us build friendships, as brothers and sisters, in the Name of the Lord... and if God wills, something will come of these things. This is true Orthodox “dating”: Jesus Christ above all!

May the Blessing and Peace of our Lord Jesus be with all of us. Amen :)

Your brother in the Lord,
Neo (aka Simeon, the eccentric Greek guy)

Neo said...

PS I think we may have met last wednesday at after Vespers at Bible Study at St. Herman's

How's it going? :)

pasivirta said...

well neo,
I sort of agree, and sort of don't.

First, a question, what shall we call a relationship then, how will we differentiate between say, a friendship that is merely that, and a frienship that is open to the progression that you elude to?

I am close friends with Biss, and even before she knew Phil, we knew each other and ourselves well enough to know that it would be okay to define our friendship as such. a frienship. its a beautiful one too, I am honoured by it.
I agree that it is necessary to grow into a relationship, to take time to get to know someone, to not allow ourselves to compartmentalize our lives into categories of physical and non, either way.
I am often tempted to rush relationships, of any kind, I want Intimacy now! and while I understand and can jive with what Fr. John H said about lust being the state of wanting something now, I think it has to be qualified with something about it being a selfish desire. patience is key (listen to me spouting all of this...)

Let me try and answer.
I think Dating (for whomever) should be based on a relationship that already exists, and in order for that to happen, its important to somehow get around any attraction that is initial, because its going to happen, if you maybe acknowledge it and admit it and say that it is not going to drive your thinking, perhaps there is more freedom there.

Like if you meet someone, hit it off, are attracted to them, but want to see them for who they are, perhaps admit that you are attracted but don't want that to be the primary factor in getting to know them, then there is honesty and the gift of freedom.

I do think though that as we are whole beings, a relationship that is progressingn towards marriage would involve a level of physical interaction. affection. selfless hopefully, self-giving.
but too, it involves a lot of listening with more than our ears, we need to be perceptive enough to know where the other person stands, what they are thinking feeling etc, and if we can't see that, we need to ask, because as you pointed out Neo, it is about our unity with Christ through the other, and if the other is not really interested and my faith, then I have to allow for that. I have to have ears to hear what she is saying.

Honestly, I think dating should be the same for orthodox and non, but it would be a lot harder outside the church.

OH! I almost forgot, I think that because we are able to be known by our church community so well, we could even have a form of arranged marriages. I wouldn't be opposed to hearing suggestions from some of the people at church who know me, I can't always see certain things about myself, but I sometimes forget that others don't always know what I do about myself. whew.

methings this question might gain a lot of words Mira, but a good thought.

Neo said...


To sum up what I was saying in a lot of words (which apparently I did not say, lol – remind me not to write post so late again):

Don’t date, become best friends instead for in the end all that will remain is the friendship. In the end it will all amount to the same. For the Lord said, “At the resurrection of the dead, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30 and Mark 12:25).

By saying “… it will amount to the same …” I mean two things, first and foremost I refer to the words of the Lord and secondly, I mean “… it will amount to the same …” because best friends hang out and when a guy and a girl hang out, and flirt a bit, its basically the same as going out on a “date.” In fact in the literal historical usage of the word, a date can refer to two people, even of the same sex, “hanging out”— a date is literally an appointment. What I am trying to say is that, in the early stages of the relationship, one should not bother trying to differentiate between one’s girlfriend or boyfriend and one’s best friends. And by the “… early stags …” I mean a good year or so. And then, “If the Lord wills [for something romantic to happen], then the Lord wills—but if the Lord does not will [for something romantic to happen], then the Lord does not will…” (me).

If one has this mindset, and the relationship becomes clear that it would not work out then one can just walk away knowing that one is technically just good friends with the other person and nothing more. It truly saves a lot of heartache that would not have been avoided if the couple jumped into “dating” right away. And also, really if it does work out and the Lord wills it—then when the young couple argues, there is the rock solid friendship to fall back out. It leads one to think that if the relationship, between the guy and girl, works as best friends then they might work just as well as a couple, then if they work as a couple marriage might work as well…

And lastly, for Europeans at least it is easier to introduce, to one’s parents and relatives, one’s future spouse as one’s best friend than as one’s girlfriend or boyfriend. And lastly, maybe it just appeals more to the intellectual part of my mind more. That the future romance that might follow spouse, since best friendship implies an intellectual “brainly” relationship (that would include debating for fun on different issues), would not remove that previous relationship but actually just add onto it. The way I view romance is that it is like a well built building, built on a strong foundation: the friendship shared, between the guy and girl, in Jesus Christ. And the romance is preparation to build the walls and floors, and marriage actually building of the walls. And old age, for the couple, is the final concluding steps of painting (maturing) the house. And so a romantic relationship is built on Trust (shared in Christ), Love and Wisdom… or so it is my opinion.

My views are based on the experiences of observing my parents marriage, my aunts’ and uncles’ marriages and a couple dozen broken hearts of my own over the last four years (which I do not regret the experience from which I have been greatly blessed). And yes, I stole the metaphor (of marriage as something constructed like a house) from St. Paul concerning the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 2:20 and Ephesians 5:32).

I pray that this all actually makes sense now that I’m awake, lol

Peace and God Bless always,

Mira-cle said...

His Glory Forever!

Oh dear. I wrote a big long and well thought out answer to all of these things and I didn't type in the word verification properly and it got erased!

I was basically thanking you both for your comments because they help me to clarify my thoughts. And my thoughts can be summed up as: I agree with both of your comments to higher and lower degrees. I think a lot of my confusion as to what "dating" is has come about because I don't see how it does differ from a profound friendship. Which we can have with or without being married to that person. But perhaps not in the same way. Like if I were married or if a good friend of mine were married, I would avoid seeing them outside of the context of a group or very transparent situation. Perhaps this should be a guideline for friendships even if they enter into the courtship stage. We underestimate the importance of friendship in the world. For instance you often hear of a couple becoming more than "just friends". I think in the secular world this usually means they've become physically and emotionally addicted to each other. As you said, Neo, there is no place for that kind of involvement in a healthy Orthodox relationship of any kind.

I guess the problem is that it seems natural to say that there is a hierarchy, and perhaps there is to some degree, in human relationships. Theres marriage at the top, and before that engagement, before that courtship (a better term than dating), and before that friendship, and before that simple acquaintance, or family you haven't gotten to know yet. But Fr John emphasized this weekend how Singleness is a vocation in itself, and so in a Christian view of relationships, a person can be complete without ever marrying someone, because we are all married to Christ. And this is probably critical to our understanding of courtship and marriage, because it liberates us to have profound friendships with people, regardless of their gender. Friendship, as you said Neo, is the foundation and sustenance of any healthy relationship, especially a marriage.

I've decided that like everything else in life, this is something to let God work out. I personally may never get married, although I'd like to, and I should be content with is about God's will, not mine, and it is about "the way that we die best".

I've heard from married couples that you "just know" when and who you are meant to marry. This I guess is what had me confused, because it seems sort of nebulous to say that... my flawed logic wanted to hear something like "here is the checklist, and when a suitor fills all these requirements you can pick a date and get married."

As long as the Kingdom of God remains the focus, then both people in a courtship would not be wasting time in finding out if they are meant to marry each other. And the friendship they are basing this inquiry on would be strong enough, if based upon love in Christ, to withstand a failed courtship. The focus then, must be on praying together, and discerning God's will in all situations, not our own.

Got to run to class!

Yes, Neo, we probably did meet last week after Vespers at St Hermans, I was en route to Edmonton.

Gabe said...

Good answers. i don't think i will add to them for the questions is one i have myself. the only thing i will say is that i think if marriage isn't thought about before dating begins with a person don't date. simple i know, but i thought i would put it out there anyway.

Also who is this Neo person. i know he goes to St. Herman's but for how long. i don't recognize him. you should introduce yourself. there is getting to be to many people to know. which is a good thing. as for me Neo i am a friend of St. Herman's but at the moment i am in the middle of the prairie. orange hair. and im coming to the cost in the spring.

God Bless!
Later days.

Neo said...

Mira: "His Glory Forever!"

His Glory, hence forth unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Dear sister in Christ the Lord,

Mira, wow— this is the first time in a long time that I actually agree with someone on this issue of dating (I usually get told off when I tell people my "philosophy” of "dating"). And yes, I totally agree with you when you write:

“As long as the Kingdom of God remains the focus, then both people in a courtship would not be wasting time in finding out if they are meant to marry each other. And the friendship they are basing this inquiry on would be strong enough, if based upon love in Christ, to withstand a failed courtship. The focus then, must be on praying together, and discerning God's will in all situations, not our own.”

If one accepts and surrenders to the will of Christ with in faith, love and fear of God (the Father), then nothing is a failure but all things are a success. With God the Holy Trinity, everything is recycled and made anew. For this reason the Word of the Lord says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

But yeah, wow this is pretty cool to finally agree with another person on this issue. Actually yeah, thank you :)

May the Peace and Grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus be with all of us always :)

Your brother in the Lord,

Neo said...

Dear brother, in the Lord, Gabe,

I’ve been going to St. Herman’s on and off since 1995 or was it 1996? Don’t remember exact dates. Anyhow mostly it has been to Vespers on Saturday night for confession. I’ve been a spiritual child of Fr. Lawrence for some time now so to speak. For the most part I’ve attend St. George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Vancouver for most of my life (Yes, I’m one of those crazy Greeks lol).

Since last year, as Dave Pasivirta and the gang from Trinity converted to Orthodoxy, I’ve started attending St. Herman’s more (that reason, and Fr. Lawrence’s sermons are pretty good— I’ve learnt a lot). In view of the fact that I was attending TWU, up until last semester, and the campus being close to St. Herman’s is also another reason. Add what Dave calls “Church Addition” to the picture and it pretty much sums everything up lol

If you’ve been attending St. Herman’s for sometime, you would probably recognized me if you saw me in person.

Peace be with you bro and God Bless always :)
Neo aka Simeon

Simply Victoria said...

wow. great picture. is it you?

Mira-cle said...

Haha, yes Victoria, that's me :) I've been sorting through a box of pictures. Its a real blessing. My favourite ones are currently on my blog. You should check it out if you have a moment.

Its so amazing to think that this moment is something we will reminesce upon later, and how this moment means so much to so many people, yet its still the same moment. Like who knew, when that picture was taken of me in a tree playing with dolls, that I would be posting it on a blog in Canada? It all makes me ever more mindful of the holiness of "now".

thomasw said...

gipgoMira-cle wrote:
“And now, I want to get your opinions: how would you define dating, in an Orthodox Christian setting?”

This is simple: if we mean by dating the going out as a couple just to check each other out. I answer that, it just isn't done.

As Orthodox it might be that we go out in mixed groups, but there is no dating in the sense above until a more formal set up is reached. I would term this next step as 'courting', and it involves level of trust and commitment between the girl, the chap and the parents (especially the females). After this courting, the next step is a betrothal.

As such the only point to any move toward something more than mixed-group activities would to seek a hand in marriage.

That's how I think it works best. Anything less is a compromise in modesty.

Stacy said...

Yea Thomas! Excellent job! Well done!

I too believe in courtship.

(Although I do want to say that the part concerning the parents may mean his/her spiritual Father as opposed to or in addition to the biological parents. That's my opinion anyway.)

Mira-cle said...

Yes, sorry, I should have used the term "courting" from the beginning instead of dating. I think I mentioned that shift in one of these comments.

Thanks to all of you!

May God strengthen you and guide you in the path of His commandments, that you bring Him honour and glory all the days of your lives.