Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Speech - Science wins?

A close friend of mine (Vanda) had sent me the other day this speech. I found it quite enlightening and relating to our modern times. Give it a read and leave your comments. Also I have attached a link at the bottom to a talk given by Fr. John Behr. The theme is death and I thought it relates quite well to the theme of this particular speech.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge"


With the world watching he began to speak...

To those of science, let me say this. You have won the war.

The wheels have been in motion for a long time. Your victory has been inevitable. Never before has it been as obvious as it is this moment. Science is the new God.

Medicine, electronic communications, space travel, genetic manipulation...these are the miracles about which we now tell our children. These are the miracles we herald as proof that science ill bring us the answers. The ancient stories of immaculate conceptions, burning bushes, and parting seas are no longer relevant. God has become obsolete. Science has won the battle. We concede.

But science's victory has cost every one of us. And it has cost us deeply. Science may have alleviated the miseries of disease and drudgery and provided an array of gadgetry for our entertainment and convenience, but is has left us in a world without wonder. Our sunsets have been reduced to wavelengths and frequencies. The complexities of the universe have been shredded into mathematical equations. Even our self-worth as human beings has been destroyed. Science proclaims that Planet Earth and its inhabitants are a meaningless speck in the grand scheme. A cosmic accident. Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone. We are bombarded with violence, division, fracture, and betrayal. Skepticism has become a virtue. Cynicism and demand for proof has become enlightened thought. Is it nay wonder that humans now feel more depressed and defeated than they have at any point in human history? Does science hold anything sacred? Science looks for answers by probing our unborn fetuses. Science even presumes to rearrange our own DNA. It shatters God's world into smaller and smaller pieces in quest of meaning...and all it finds is more questions.

The ancient war between science and religion is now over. you have won. But you have not won fairly. you have not won by providing answers. you have won by so radically reorienting our society that the truths we once saw as signposts now seem inapplicable. Religion cannot keep up. Scientific growth is exponential. It feeds on itself like a virus. Every new breakthrough opens doors for new breakthroughs. Mankind took thousands of years to progress fro the wheel to the car. Yet only decades from the car into space. Now we measure scientific progress in weeks. We are spinning out of control. The rift between us grows deeper and deeper, and as religion is left behind, people find themselves in a spiritual void. We cry out for meaning. And believe me, we do cry out. We see UFOs, engage in channeling, spirit contact, out-of-body experience, mindquests-all these eccentric ideas have a specific veneer, but they are unashamedly irrational. They are the desperate cry of the modern soul, lonely and tormented, crippled by its own enlightenment and its inability to accept meaning in anything removed from technology.

Science, you say, will save us. Science I say, has destroyed us. Since the days of Galileo, the church has tried to slow the relentless march of science, sometimes with misguided means, but always with benevolent intention. Even so, the temptations are too great for man to resist. I warn you, look around yourselves. The promises of science have not been kept. Promises of efficiency and simplicity have bred nothing but pollution and chaos. We are a fractured and frantic species...moving on a path of destruction.

Who is this God science? Who is the God who offers his people power but no moral framework to tell you how to use that power? What kind of God gives a child fire but does not warn the child of its dangers? The language of science comes with no signposts about good and bad. Science textbooks tell us how to create a nuclear reaction, and yet they contain no chapter asking us if it is a good or bad idea.          

To science, I say this. The church is tired. We are exhausted from trying to be your sign posts. Our resources are drying up from our campaign to be the voice of balance as you plow blindly on in your quest for smaller chips and larger profits. We ask not why you will not govern yourselves, but how can you? Your world moves so fast that if you stop even for an instant to consider the implications of your actions, someone more efficient will whip past you in a blur. So you move on. You proliferate weapons of mass destruction, but it is the Pope who travels the world beseeching leaders to use restraint. You clone living creatures, but it is the church reminding us to consider the moral implications of our actions. You encourage people to interact on phones, video screens, and computers, but it is the church who opens its doors and reminds us to commune in person as we were meant to do. You even murder unborn babies in the name of research that will save lives. Again, it is the church who points out the fallacy of this reasoning.

And all the while, you proclaim the church is ignorant. But who is more ignorant? The man who cannot define lighting, or the man who does respect its awesome power? This church is reaching out to you. Reaching out to everyone. And yet the more we reach, the more you push us away. Show me proof there is a God, you say. I say use your telescopes to look to the heavens, and tell me how there could not be a God! You ask what does God look like. I say, where does that question come from? The answers are one and the same. Do you not see God in our science? How can you miss Him! You proclaim that even the slightest change in the force of gravity or the weight of an atom would have rendered our universe a lifeless mist rather than out magnificent sea of heavenly bodies, and yet you fail to see God's hand in this? It is really so much easier to believe that we simply chose the right card from a deck of billions? Have we become so spiritually bankrupt that we would rather believe in mathematical impossibility than in a power greater than us?    

Whether or not you believe in God, you must believe this. When we as a species abandon our trust in the power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. Faith...all faiths...are admonitions that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable...with faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed. If the outside world could see this church as I do...looking beyond the ritual of these walls...they would see a modern miracle...a brotherhood of imperfect, simple souls wanting only to be a voice of compassion in a world spinning out of control.

Are we obsolete? Are these men dinosaurs? Am I? Does the world really need a voice for the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the unborn child? Do we really need souls like these who, though imperfect, spend their lives imploring each of us to read the signposts of morality and not lose our way?

Tonight we are perched on a precipice. None of us can afford to be apathetic. Whether you see this evil as Satan, corruption, or immorality, the dark force is alive and growing every day. Do not ignore it. The force, though mighty, is not invincible. Goodness can prevail. Listen to your hearts. Listen to God. Together we can step back from this abyss.

Pray with me...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Liturgical Experience

Last week I was speaking to my father about the progression of the church from the 1st century to the modern times. We concluded that the beauty of the church is not about how "it has stayed the same", which it has, but rather the progression of the faith throughout the century has made the church what is it today. Many complain that the church is out of date and that 3 hour liturgies need to be dropped. I would challenge such an idea and ask the question since when did 3 hour liturgies ever remain the same? In the early church celebrating the Eucharist probably took less than an hour however, the fellowship spent at the church house probably lasted the whole day. Liturgy should then not be viewed as an "3 hour service" but liturgy should be taken in as the service of love. Liturgy lived for the life of the world is the liturgy that people can see Christ in us. By seeing Christ and seeing the love we live by then Christ becomes the ever present reality for the life of the world. Liturgy by definition is the ever lasting work of the people. It is not about a priest doing a few funny things in front of the holy of holies but it is the work of the people coming together in the body of Christ to fulfilled the commandment of Christ. To go out to the rest of the world and to preach the word of Christ baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the priest always recites "Your own of your own we offer unto you, on behalf of all and for all". The work of the people is the liturgy that is lived for the life of the world. The following is a nice passage I came across from a book I was reading that relates the message of the progression of the liturgy. Enjoy. 


Liturgical Experience
'During divine service be trustful, as a child trusts his parents. [...] Cast all your care upon the Lord [...]; "Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father, which speaketh in you." Long ago has the Lord freed us from this care, having by His Spirit taught the Church what to say, how to pray, at divine service." Such an attitude to the worship of our Church does not stem from conservatism.

Nor were the Church's hymnographers inspired by the principle of newness. New elements do not come into Orthodox worship from any feeling that past forms are stale, but for positive reasons:
  • 1) Teaching - for example when heresy threatened, or a Feast was instituted to focus more specifically on an event such as Christ's birth.
  • 2) New events, such as a saint's canonisation or a miraculous deliverance.
  • 3) An aspect of life is made the subject of common prayers - for instance, the environment, or a child's beginning school.
  • 4) Local celebrations and adaptations are more widely adopted.
  • 5) God inspired the composition and its insertion without any previous pastoral decision giving rise to it.

Orthodox teenagers were speaking disparagingly about forms of worship they had experienced at an ecumenical service.
Girl: 'They even had guitars in church.'
Another girl: 'We had to sing - and mime! - a "harvest" thanksgiving chorus about MacDonald's hamburgers!' [I was treated to a rendition.] 
S.M.: 'I'd feel an idiot singing that in a church! But be careful to get your reasons for being so scathing right! At least they were thanking God, singing about Christ. That's quite something nowadays. You can glorify God by a guitar. Or just enjoy it anyway, there's no sin in that. The really important point is not that it was laughably corny, but that it is a mistake to keep adapting the Liturgy, to replace inspired services. It is not wrong in itself to add another means of worshipping for other moments.'
Girl: 'The girls at school don't want it; the teachers make it up to try and be up to date.' 
S.M.: 'Yes, to "keep the young people in Church". C.S. Lewis says, "If something is not eternal, it is eternally out of date." Look at the rock charts. By the time you compose a service based on this week's style and get it approved by a liturgical committee  you'll be ages behind the fashion and have to start again. And there's no guarantee you're inspiring truth about God. It is not a service tested by centuries of praying saints. I'd rather struggle to pray like St. John Chrysostom myself. It's more sure. And it will take me a lifetime to get all I can out of it. The things that don't matter so much can change week by week.'
The saints who expressed reservations about elaborated hymnography in comparison with monologistic prayer (monologistic means concentrated in a short phrase; the Jesus prayer is the most widely practised of this type) were not rebels. Some ascetics live at such a depth of prayer that they have less need of liturgical richness. For the rest of humanity, the forms of our public services take people in a positive direction, freeing their minds from heterogeneous preoccupations. Common worship is also valuable as means of uniting with others in prayer. Athonite monks are taught that even thought prayer in the cell can go deeper than prayer in the church, monks who conclude that it is therefore better to skip the services will not gain grace in their cells.

+ Sister Magdalen of Essex, "Conversations with Children: Communicating our Faith," (Essex: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2004) 194-6. ISBN 1 874679 21 5