Love and Love in Return

This post by Fr. Andrew Damick on his “Roads from Emmaus” blog is truly inspired: Love is Not a Two-Way Street. I highly recommend everyone to go and read it. It touches upon not only loving your enemies, but loving those who don’t always love us back, which sometimes can be even harder. However, it makes the progression of that passage in Luke 6 make even more sense – ” But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return”

Now, there’s not much that I can add to what he’s written on the subject, it’s that good. 🙂 However, in one of the comments, there’s a question that kind of intrigues me, and since it hasn’t been ‘answered’ in the months since, I figured that I might take a shot at it. The question is as follows: Other than the love of God, do we need love? If the answer is no, we don’t need to be loved by anyone else, since God loves us, how do we react to a spouse that doesn’t love us? We need to love our spouse. We need to loved by God. We need to love our neighbor. But it seems to me that we don’t need these people to love us in return, since we are loved by God. Needing to be loved by people is an addiction in a way. What say you […]?

I don’t know that we don’t need to be loved by others; on the contrary, we need and long for love from others just to find our place in this world, to have a chance at encountering this world in a healthy and adult manner. We need and crave the love from parents (and children who don’t get it have tons of problems) and from friends and, as we get older, often from ‘romantic’ interests, leading to such relationships such as marriage. The Love of God is always there, but a lot of the reason that we can experience God’s Love is because we have experience of love, imperfect as it may be, in others.

That being said, there are those who will devote themselves to God, and through their spiritual development, can learn to detach themselves from this world, including earthly relationships, and live solely in the Love of God. This, however, is extremely rare, and probably shouldn’t be attempted by 99.9% of the population. For the rest of us, then, these relationships on earth remain extremely important for our overall well-being.

Is it an addiction though? I would argue that it doesn’t have to be. Someone who is living a generally ‘balanced’ life can love and be loved in a very healthy manner. It’s kind of like food – just because one must eat pretty much every day doesn’t mean that one is addicted. It’s when things get ‘unbalanced’, that there’s a problem. Someone who craves food all the time will tend to overeat. Someone who craves ‘love’ – and a lot of times it’s less love than just general attention – will often do really bad things to try to get this attention, be it sleeping around or having an insatiable need to be the center of attention or whatnot. That’s where the danger lies, but at this point, it’s not even love anymore, because there is no such thing as too much love.

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A bit about religious experience

Life has a funny way of getting crazy. For us, these last couple of years have been crazy, filled with both the good and the bad, lots of stress, and an abundance of God’s grace. As a result, I’ve really had very little time to sit down and write, though the thoughts are constantly going through my head.

As a kid who was raised around Protestants, one thing that was constantly emphasized was having an “experience” of God or of Jesus. This, of course, makes sense, because without any sort of Liturgical consistency, without believing that what we partake of in Communion is the true body and blood of Christ, basically the best one can hope for is some sort of religious experience.

For me, this didn’t sit right, though I didn’t understand why. I think part of it comes from the fact that when one “accepts Christ into your heart”, there is supposed to be some sort of feeling of certainty that one does, in fact, “belong to Jesus”. Even from the time I was very little I tried to do the thing that God instructs in the Bible, and I wanted to go to Heaven and be with God when this life ends. But I don’t know when I “accepted Jesus”, because I think I asked for it each time we were invited to in school, and I daresay a good number of other times as well. I don’t want to say it was meaningless, because, of course, it’s not, but I never had the kind of religious experience I figured would accompany the certainty of the enormity of such an action.

Many years later, I became an Orthodox Christian. It was comforting, on many levels, that the idea of religious experience is really downplayed. One doesn’t need a miracle to worship, to pray, to integrate ones’ self into the fabric of the Church. Things ‘otherworldly’ are met with some skepticism, with the realization that we, as mere mortals, can be tricked and confused by many things disguised as ‘religious experience’, and that we ought to be wary of it.

The down side to this is that it seems like many believe that the only people who have genuine ‘religious experiences’ ought to be monks, nuns, and clergy. Therefore, now being an Orthodox Christian, when I do feel like there has been something in my life that one could call ‘religious experience”, it’s hard sometimes even to discuss it. I’m sure that this is the case for some Protestants as well, but I grew up around people who regularly told stories of the inexplicable that they chalked up to God’s working in their lives; God called them to do this, God made something happen, etc. Surely it’s not a bad thing to acknowledge that when we endeavor to follow God, He works wonders in our lives. However, when this is the only thing that people have to try to ascertain whether one is on the right path, it can be a dangerous thing as well.

Christ is Risen! (Music on Monday)

In the Christian world, Pascha (Easter) is the greatest celebration of all, even eclipsing Christmas. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who was born of a virgin. Easter, though, celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and in so, the destruction of death itself, and the foreshadowing of the final destruction of evil. Every Sunday is a little bit of a reminder of this, but Easter is the pinnacle of this.

Forgive me for the “blog silence” as well… Things just get crazy, and it’s hard to sit down and write!

A few random thoughts after a weekend of reading WikiLeaks

First – there’s a lot of information out there, and it’s pretty difficult to slog through. That being said, there’s a lot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without really knowing who the inside players are, and the context of a lot of the messages. I’ve never spent much time on Reddit in my life, but certain threads there have been quite helpful as far as background and context goes, especially for someone like me, who couldn’t sit and read through thousands of emails this weekend.

Second – I think most people are looking for “smoking gun” emails, that is, ones that spell out what happened and who did it. This isn’t to say that there aren’t messages that aren’t pretty damning, such as the $1 million “gift” to Bill Clinton for his 65th birthday, Clinton Foundation money going for personal expenses, such as Chelsea’s wedding, LOTS of media collusion with the Democrat party, etc., but these people aren’t stupid, and they know that they shouldn’t be explict (nor do they need to be) in most of their discussions.

Third – As much as a lot of people have howled about Donald Trump’s statements about the game being ‘rigged’, the emails do nothing to disprove this, but rather cement the notion that a lot of people feel that they are the ‘puppet-masters’ and that they have the right to rule the world the way that they see fit. This inevitably entails consolidating their own power and enriching themselves to a degree that most of us ‘peasants’ could never imagine. And for those of you who are Bernie Sanders fans and felt like the deck was stacked against him, too, you are entirely right.

Fourth – There are aspects in some of the emails that are downright creepy, even reading things on the surface. The best direct example of this is probably the conversations about attendance at a certain Marina Abramović and her “spirit cooking” sessions. While many may blow this off as “performance art”, without even going any deeper, there is something quite deeply disturbing about it. It’s not to say that sometimes art can’t be deeply disturbing and yet profoundly meaningful, but this delves, rather, in the dark and Satanic. Most of us, I believe, live our lives without paying a whole lot of attention to the ‘darker’ forces which run amok in the world, and that’s fine. However, this does not mean that these forces do not exist, and that there aren’t people who have allowed themselves to be possessed by evil. Some of this evil manifests itself as the unending pursuit of money, power, and fame. As Christians, we are warned against this, in large part, I believe, because it opens the gateway to following greater evil.

Fifth – A lot of these ‘elites’ are openly hostile to Judeo-Christian beliefs and tradition. For instance, it’s amazing to see pushback from DNC staffers who don’t want to release an official statement on the Jewish day commemorating the Holocaust even though Debbie Wasserman-Schultz requests one. For believers, faith in God supersedes subservience to the state, and for those hold power, dissent of any kind cannot be tolerated. At this point, even paying lip-service to respecting religion can hardly be allowed, though some will be done in the pursuit of holding power. Before the WikiLeaks released the emails of John Podesta, he was considered a ‘practicing’, ‘progressive’, Catholic, much in the vein of Tim Kaine or Nancy Pelosi. However, the emails reveal that he was working with George Soros-funded groups to subvert traditional Catholic teaching from within the Church.

One can search for keywords within a set in Wikileaks, and I thought it was interesting the few results that came up concerning the Orthodox Church. My search wasn’t exhaustive, but it seems like all the hits pertained to the Greek Orthodox Church. The following are my impressions, which are not necessarily made from things said explicitly, but the general impression of the whole. Already, one official of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has recently claimed that it was the US State Department, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, that put pressure on Patriarch Bartholomew to back away from a joint resolution to help heal the Church scism in Ukraine. It seems as though there is some effort to “make nice” with the Greek Orthodox, with certain people among the “in” circles being considered friendly towards them. Among these are Vice President Joe Biden (who was made an Archon), Representative Chris Van Hollen (whose wife is Greek and whos kids were baptized Greek Orthodox), and John Podesta himself, whose mother was Greek, and in one email points out to a reporter that one of the icons in his office was a gift from the Ecumenical Patriarch. I think these people are there to make Greek Orthodox faithful believe that they have good “friends in high places”. However, when push comes to shove, I don’t think it will matter a hill of beans. I believe that they see President Erdogan’s consolidation of power as something to be admired and emulated, and furthermore have demonstrated that they do not mind turning a blind eye to repressive governments (especially if they are willing to support the Clinton Foundation). Therefore, I believe that in particular, if Hillary Clinton were to become President, what is left of the Orthodox Church in Turkey (the Church in Constantinople) will be destroyed, and not only will there be no help for the EP from the US, but it is doubtful that there would even be a strong letter of denunciation from our side.

And the church came crashing down

The Chicago Tribune posted the following story: No injuries reported when church building collapses in Wicker Park. Although the church was called the Mision Cristiana Church, as soon as I saw the address of 1905 W. Schiller (which also appeared in the preview to the story), I knew exactly which church this was – it was the church that served as the original home to Holy Resurrection Cathedral, one of Chicago’s earliest Orthodox Christian Churches.

In the late 1800s, efforts were being made to establish an Orthodox Church in Chicago. Of course, being Orthodox, there were plenty of jurisdictional issues. However, out of a shared rental space, three Orthodox Christian cathedrals would be established – Annunciation (Greek), Holy Trinity (Russian/Orthodox Church in America), and Holy Resurrection, under the auspices of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

According to Holy Resurrection’s timeline on their website, California-born Fr. Sebastian Dabovich (now St. Sebastian of Jackson and San Francisco), made a number of visits to Chicago between 1893 and 1905, with the express purpose of helping organize and establish the parish there. The property at 8 Fowler Street (later changed to 1905 W Schiller) was purchased, and the first Liturgy served in its chapel on July 4, 1905. Two months later, Fr. Sebastian was raised to the rank of archimandrite here, and from Chicago he was put in charge of the “Serbian Mission”, whose territory encompassed the entirety of the United States.

The parish continued to operate using the chapel of the existing building at 1905 W. Schiller until the 1930s, at which point the parish won a suit to purchase the lot next to the house that they owned and erect a church on the parcel of land. With the Great Depression in full swing, the Chicago Tribune reported that at this time (1932) that this church and the Post Office are the only buildings being built in the city.

Holy Resurrection continued to call this church home until 1971, at which time they sold the building and broke ground on a bigger temple located further northwest in Chicago. The building was sold to a church called ‘Mision Cristiana’. When the Wicker Park district was being considered for landmark district status in 1991, this church declined to be part of that. Mision Cristiana Church sold the property in 2015 for an undisclosed amount, to developers who were hoping to create two single-family homes from the original buildings, and transform the church itself into a two-unit townhome. (This article here demonstrates the layout of the property fairly well.) However, at about 6am this past Monday morning (24 October 2016), much of what remained of the buildings came crashing down, not only on the property, but on the sidewalk, and into the street, severely damaging cars parked there.

According to the site DNAinfo.com, although several permits had been obtained and work was being done, a stop-work order had been issued in July, citing work beyond what the permits allowed. (Do note that in that same article, there is an interview with “one of a team of 15” who were working on the interior demolition of the church structure.) DNAinfo.com also reported that the city immediately ordered the demolition of the entire site and that the developers will need to start from scratch as far as plans and permits for the site. (More pictures can be found here: http://abc7chicago.com/news/part-of-wicker-park-church-collapses-several-cars-damaged/1570076/.)

It’s sad that the church is gone, even if it hasn’t been the home to Holy Resurrection for many years. However, that being said, I have very ambivalent feelings towards converting churches into townhomes, condos, and the like. It certainly is a trend, not just in Chicago, but in other expensive property markets where congregations cannot support the upkeep of the property anymore. The developers often talk about wanting to “respect” the history of the place, but I don’t know that there’s necessarily a “respectful” way of converting a sacred space to the mundane. (The developers for condos that were created from Our Lady of Good Counsel Church – not far away, at Western Ave. – were given permission to retain the Catholic Charities star in the design of the condos, for example. Artist rendering here) In that sense, and in particular because of St. Sebastian’s influence at Holy Resurrection, maybe it’s for the best that this place, if not retained for something sacred, is a place that needs to be rebuilt anew, rather than ‘converted’.

(H/T to the General Mihailovich blog for info.)