"A certain person went to a medical center and inquired of the doctor,
"Do you have a medicine that would treat sins?"
The doctor answered with a discourse: "We have--Take a root of
obedience, add a leaf of patience, the flower of purity, and the fruit of
good works. Crush it together in the pot of silence, and sieve it through
the discernment of humility. Blend it into water from tears of prayer and
pour into a melting pot of fellowship. Heat it with fiery divine love. Cover it with
charity, and when it is ready, salt it with brotherly love. Take it with a
spoon of repentance, and you will be healthy."
(Taken from the life of Schema-Nun Sarah of Borodino)
There are a couple of aspects of Orthodox spirituality that continue to amaze me that are illuminated in this little anecdote:
1) Salvation is relational, not juridical.
2) Salvation is therapeutic, not legal.
Not that the legal metaphors are of no use. Penal-substitutionary theory has a place in Orthodox soteriology-just not the place of primacy it has in the West. In the West, there is a tragic misunderstanding and experience of salvation and much of that is due to the loss of the therapeutic model used by the Fathers.
A friend of my sister-in-law's is interested in Orthodoxy, but she is very upset by the Orthodox position of closed communion. To her it smacks of arrogance and pride. "How can they deny me, a Christian!, the chalice?" During the discussion, we asked her, "Does it make you angry or hurt that, as a non-Orthodox, you can't participate in the sacrament of confession? Or that you haven't worked out a rule of prayer with a spiritual father?" Stunned silence. "Well no, I guess not." she said.
The questions is this: if salvation is union with God, union with our neighbor and the eradication of our sinful nature, why do we tend to compartmentalize the different aspects of the spiritual life? --- "I want communion, but not confession....I want truth, but no doctrine...I want fellowship, but no common life...I want humility but without having a spiritual father"....etc.
More often than not, we usually aren't willing to follow the historic, tried and true way-- the Church's "prescription." Why? Because the it is a lifestyle of self-denial within a communal commitment to the visible body--two things that go radically against the grain of our individualistic and self-gratifying culture.
Matthew Gallatin makes this point so well in his new book, "Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells"--
"[Life in the Church] is a way of life totally devoted to self-sacrificing, obedient, loving service of Christ and our neighbors. The Lord provides a remedy for the those who are struggling to find the truth, who are seeking authentic union with Him. He also provides a path for those who are already "Orthodox" in name but who have failed to really live out, with God's grace, the Orthodox life. Healing and transformation will come for both, as each responds to the call to actually BE ORTHODOX! But they must embrace the WHOLE of the ancient Faith, and PRACTICE its truths and ways diligently."
(I will post more of Gallatin tomorrow...I think he may shed some light on the continuing discussion between Tripp, Cliff, Jeff, James, Huw....)