Friday, September 5, 2014

Notes from Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius Conference

From a blog I have followed for quite a long time: Londinoupolis.

The 2014 Fellowship Conference (11-14 August) was dedicated to Marriage, Monasticism and the Single Life. It was the fourth time, within the modern period, that the Fellowship held its annual conference in High Leigh Conference Centre, where it held its conference on and off since its birth in late 1927. Following is a summary of the conference.

The first talk was given by Archpriest Stephen Platt (a wonderful priest I met last I was in the UK), who is also the Secretary of the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius. His talk was on Marriage, monasticism and the single life: equal paths? Fr Stephen began by talking about children in the Church, since he just came back from an Orthodox youth camp. He was renewed, especially when he took into consideration the fact that children during confession are simple and refreshing. They understand their sin and wish to repent, and then live on. Continuing, the speaker explained that virginity in the world is very dangerous and unjustified; it is a spiritual danger to other people. The three paths have existed in Christianity since early on. Are they equal paths? For whom? For where? We have to raise questions.

Marriage finds its definition as the union of one man and one woman. Now, in modern society, there are challenges and redefinitions of this fact. The image of marriage is a human person, the heart and crown of God’s creation – Adam and Eve, i.e. man and woman walking together with God. According to St Gregory of Nyssa, the only sacrament is marriage, in the Pre-fall world. The speaker then pointed out the fact that Jesus Christ, a rabbi (according to the New Testament world) was an unusual rabbi, due to the fact that he was not married. In the East, during the first centuries, there was no wedding service. The norm would be that a civil marriage took place, and then the couple would receive Holy Communion with the crowns, given by the civil pagan authorities. The crowns within the Church symbolise kingship and martyrdom. Within a perfect marriage the following connections are made: physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional.

Monastic Life. According to Fr. Stephen, it is of its essence an innovation. It is a martyrdom of the ascetic life. It is not an escape, but a deepening battle of spiritual trials. Community is an important term for marriage, monasticism and the single life. Lack of community is why things go wrong. There is a need for community. It is not good for man to be alone. In the Bible we read, ‘Let us create…’ Here we have the Trinitarian likeness; it is communal, based on relation; it requires the other. Communion and community with the other mean interdependence. Within the monastic life, communion is important; there exists martyrdom, community and obedience. The latter means to listen; there is no negative meaning. True obedience requires mutuality. Obedience is mutual listening, mutual burden raising.

A person within the single life has no support neither by marriage neither by a monastic brotherhood. Many don’t choose the single life within the church. This can be due to a bad marriage, death, the right person doesn’t come along etc. Some embrace it as a vocation. This requires obedience to the law of Christ (the Gospel) and the community (the family) of the Church. The Church is the Ark of Salvation, but also a family. The paradox of Salvation is that it is two-part: a. there is a unique and distinct relationship with Christ and b. we are never saved alone. Outside the Church there is no salvation. We are saved in communion with each other.

The next speaker of the conference was Canon Brian Macdonald – Milne, an Anglican priest who had been to the Western Pacific islands for missionary work. His talk was inspired by his past experiences, entitled Anglican religious orders in the Western Pacific and the single life...

Complete post here.

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