Father Chris Flesoras joins Mark and Rex to discuss Eastern Orthodox spirituality, a spirituality marked by ritual, tradition, and beauty in worship.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore,
and your co host Rex Gurney. And today mark, we’re actually going to break with traditional a little bit. And although we’re going to be talking about I know Yeah, we’re gonna focus on tradition, and I’m going to introduce our guest today, and it’s father, Chris Flesoras or Dr. Chris Flesoras or pastor Chris Flesoras depending on how you how you know him. He’s the priest at St. Anna’s Greek Orthodox Church here in Roseville, and he has been teaching with his sewer Jessup, particularly the history department. He does have a PhD in history, along with his laundry list of other degrees. And he’s been teaching with us for about 10 years. And he’s actually one of the most more popular teachers in in the history department. I’ve actually never heard anybody say, it’s a negative thing about about his his classes on even though he really does challenge ourselves. But I think you’ll really, really enjoy what Chris has to say, just sort of explaining a little bit about the Orthodox tradition. And and what that brings to the wider Christian world.
Yeah, he’s such a great voice to have on campus, and we’re just excited to be able to share his voice with you on the podcast. Hope you enjoy the show.
Father, Chris, it’s great to have you on the show. And I was even I was thinking this morning. I was like, I can’t believe we haven’t had you on the show yet. So my apology right, right away. No worries. Because, because I think you are are such a unique voice at Jessup. And and one that every student I’ve talked to has loved your classes. And, and you bring more students. They live in terrified. Yeah. pool of students. I talked. There was a student back in 2018. Yeah, they loved it. But now just excited to have have you on the show and kind of talk about orthodox spirituality. And, and, and I think it’s really important that here just we have your voice with all of our voices, too, right. So we can kind of learn from different traditions, and but maybe to help our listeners, how long have you been teaching at Jessup? I think about 10 years,
you know, I was trying to think actually, when when it’s like, how and when I like first, you know, I don’t know got in contact with you or something for
Yeah, cuz you would have been the connecting piece. Right. I don’t even remember that. It
was sort of Professor Professor Nystrom that used to be here. Okay. Yeah. teach, teach early church, but I became familiar with the campus through his brother that’s at Sac State. For him, okay, and then learned of Jessup a. Right That’s and then from there. I think when he went down to Southern California, then that was an opportunity to come and have a conversation with Rex about the department about maybe some needs here. Yeah. So I believe that’s one thing started off. And
you’ve been teaching our early church history class, like forever. Right. Right. And, and there’s no better person actually to teach that. Oh, right. I’m, I’m not making this up. Yeah.
When we may have came to Jessup at the same time, because I came around was fall 2010 was when I taught my first class, Jessup, and I’m trying to think I would have we would have connected shortly after that, I think yes. 2011. in there, so. So thank you, Rex for connecting for us and maybe played a nice drone for having a brother.
It’s been a real benefit for not just our department, but I think for the whole school, especially with, ya know, what you brought to some of the conferences that we’ve had and such. I mean, it’s good to have somebody that knows everybody. That’s actually a good thing. Yeah. And, and Chris does.
Yeah, that’s true. And, and with the church, too. How long have you been there?
So I was assigned to the parish in in 2001. Okay, wow. So I bought a pair of him for about 2120 years now. 20 years? Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. So thank god it’s been it’s been good. That was the primary focus of course of coming up and then a lot of being just more studies up here and and then once it concluded then it was a matter of trying to plug in somewhere because I love higher education.
Right. And you’re from California, right? For one reason, Modesto. Yeah, yeah. Along with one of our other professors. Actually, we have Yeah, the history department. Richards also from Modesto capital or some
way we went to high school. High School. Yeah. So I still kind of just give him that stink eye as we walk across each other. Yeah.
The Friday night football game. That’s right. Hey, we still won. Yeah. Well, that was great. And that is being at a church for 2021 years. You know, the parishes great. I’ve been at church in Sacramento for coming up on 13 years. This I’m trying to I’m trying to catch you on on the time. And it’s and I think is great to be with a community for that long. I mean, there’s so much, especially within in the evangelical tradition, it feels like there’s so much turnover of pastors, you may be at a at a church for a couple years
or years. It’s just sex for a while. We’re just appalling. It was like, yeah, move on, like less than two years. And it’s just like, what’s going on with that?
Yeah. And there’s something to be at a place and to
well, and in our tradition to the blessing is, it’s not, it’s not my choosing? Yeah. So one of the bishop says, You know, I need you elsewhere then is your will be done? Yeah. So the nice thing is the parish always has to be set up for somebody else to come in. So it’s never charismatic, driven. Right? My personality is such it’s, my job is to have it set up for the next person. It’s going to come in and serve. Yeah. So as long as he finds it’s a good fit here and the needs aren’t elsewhere, then Mina may be blessed. And you do have help help. They’re right. There. Do we have a second personnel, which is great. And we have our Deacon as well. So that’s, that’s open up some opportunities. It’s been easier navigating and kind of this whole COVID season with some of the other obligations. Yeah. So I know the parish is in good shape as as things come up. Good. Yeah.
Yeah. That’s still looking forward to that. That final worship space when he ever actually
grounds actually got one the groundbreaking next month, good, good. And I was just speaking with, it’s gonna be magnificent. I just know that it is. I was just speaking with the mosaic assists, goodness gracious last week, sort of finalizing some of the plans of what that’s going to look like. And my hope is, once I get my first and second shot, then I’ll be flying over to Cyprus, and then to Thessaloniki, and then over to Florence, in about a week and a half to just meet with our various trades, folks. That’ll be doing the woodwork. Work, the silver to get everything ready. Because God willing, it’ll be ready for Easter. 22 Oh, wow. Wow, that’s great. Wow. Yeah, that’s not with all the all the mosaics if we’re to put them in the equip, that equates probably to eight to $15 million worth of work just to mosaic work. Wow. So we’re not going to be doing that right away. Yeah. But some of it will be phased in. But we have to have the master plan done. Yeah, for us, and then for future generations as well. Well,
I think that highlights a part of the Orthodox tradition, that I’ve always appreciated, and that is somewhat different than maybe the evangelical tradition is the the eye for detail in architecture, and how that adds to worship. And, and bringing in art and, and form and function and all of that, and worship engages all of your senses, all the senses, right? Correct.
And that’s because it’s looking at the beauty of the human person, the fullness of the person and that every every part of us can connect with Christ and ought to be engaged in worship. I, I guess the criticism, let’s say, of of Christianity, post reformation, is it becomes really an intellectual exercise. I know God through the intellect. But yeah, but for early Christians, it was knowing God through experience, the intimacy of experience. And then also, what do we do folks have faculties that aren’t as developed as others, right? If one isn’t intellectually developed, can they know God, at any point would smell from an orthodox perspective, of course, because they can engage through the sights, the smells, the tastes? The sounds,
we actually talked about that very question in Christian perspective class today, because some of the students really wanted to talk about that, and I never had before, and I was determined to try to address that.
So from our standpoint, it’s a non issue
for the traditions that we come from, it can be right didn’t seem right for any of the students there. But I could see how it can be for some folks. Especially if your whole relationship with with the faith as sort of propositional and intellectual then that’s going to be an issue. Yeah. Right. It’s that’s what it is. Right?
Yeah. And we often don’t and I’ll keep saying y’all keep maybe pointing to Rex here, you know, cuz he’s a Baptist and he’s a Baptist, the altar, the altar. I mean, when you kind of grow up, I think, for me, it was when I got to college, I started to get into more religious artwork and, and, and using that in forms of worship and understanding that because and I grew up to in a tradition that we didn’t have, you know, artwork in the sanctuary and that wasn’t like a word designing a sanctuary. That wasn’t no one was flying to Cypress wrote to talk to and I think that that is really important, like you were saying, to be able, within worship to engage all of the senses. And and we kind of missed that I think in our which would can just kind of engage maybe the mind with a with a 40 minute sermon.
Who knows Growing up, I actually never heard of anything called a worship service. It was always the preaching service. And just really interesting when you look at it now growing up, I just never, you know, I mean,
historically, of course, that was a part of actually take it back in some cases, it wasn’t even a part of services. And there was only early church, it was just the bishop that would preach
still, instead of being centered around the Eucharist since I’ve been sick, right on the surface,
if it were centered, right, you’re advancing through the various circles surfaces of the day, you’re being engaged by the space itself, to where, really, if one’s praying the service, the homography, listening to the Scripture, looking at the icons, the smells, the sounds, you don’t need a sermon. Yeah, it’s already preached and everything that we’re seeing and hearing and re experiencing. Yeah, so there’s still days for us in our tradition where we won’t offer a sermon, there’s enough said within the service to, to stand alone.
Yeah. And there are some preachers out there listening right now. They’re like, Oh, all right. And then other preachers are like, that sounds great.
And there’s, there’s something too, I sometimes feel bad for a few of my, my dear friends that don’t fall don’t have lectionaries as a church, right? Alright, because it’s attempting to be relevant and create series. When churches always had it, there’s a liturgical cycle that we just plug into. And it’s there in spite of me. And I don’t have to be clever crafty. I use the readings, the history and as I was sharing with the kids, and or students, excuse me, in the early church class, the first class, as we talked about the apostles, and they have to write a paper on one of the 12 of the 70 apostles. And the way this particular text we use one of the text notes is Gonzales notes. It is almost folkloric information about whomever it might be. Well, to the Orthodox world, or to the Catholic world, which make up the vast majority of Christians. It’s not folkloric, it’s not legendary. It’s a tradition. Yeah. So if we’re engaged in the service for today was the feast of St. Nicky photos, an early martyr of the church and become familiar with his life. It’s not folkloric to us that’s living, we just have the privilege of praying that service on the particular day incorporating ourselves into that greater feast with part of that cloud of witnesses. Yeah. So what is it just a different engagement and experience? Right? Yeah.
And it helpful when I mean, when we’re talking about tradition I grew up in. And once again, I always had to, I feel obligated, I guess, but sort of a caveat to anything I say, with that, because I’m actually grateful for the tradition that I grew up in Christ. And that’s just an important thing in my life. But now I can see some deficits and in in the way more the tradition I grew up in, and one of the major deficits, Chris is actually it was sort of tradition less,
which is a tradition unto itself, just
unmoored from Christian history. You know, it’s almost as if, in fact, we’ve been skipped. We’ve been skipped the beginning of the reformation, we sort of skip all the way over until like, you know, I don’t know, the Second Great Awakening, right. Yeah. So and, you know, that just I mean, is it’s historically wrong in the first place, but it just, it cuts you off from the riches of your own heritage that you don’t even know that you have.
Well, that. You know, I’d like to think, of course, within every tradition, there’s a great deal of sincerity and a good intent. But good intent doesn’t make good theology. Yeah. Yeah. And from can kind of an early church perspective. You know, that in the early days, there weren’t Shades of Grey, you’re either in or you’re out. But the beauty of I think the culture we live in today, or the the period we live in, we look at things of shade of gray, the Holy Spirit blows, we’re at will, so you can find goodness in every tradition. And even if it traditions non traditional, it’s still a tradition unto itself. There’s still right. It’s a religion. I mean, it’s a traditional a ritual, but it’s still a ritual and a tradition unto itself. Folks just sometimes don’t always realize that.
Right? I actually will mention that with some of the students in the classroom talking about the liturgy. And it’s like, you know, March edition has a habit of saying, well, this look at chaplet. Jessup. Try, you think there’s only two things that are going on there, but try switching them? Yeah. And you know, that if you tried switching him, that would be problematic for a whole lot of people, because that’s the the ritual in itself, you know, you do that, yeah, that way. And so
and there’s an inherent beauty and predictability that allows us to then be prepared to prepare ourselves for Yeah, if it’s on campus elsewhere, right. But and yes, and that’s, of course, just one of the hallmarks of who we are in the Orthodox world is the importance of that structure, physical structure, the elements of beauty of how we just have the privilege of plugging into it where we’re living. So when you were mentioning before about the sanctuary being built to the coolest thing, it hit me a while back, but sending an email to the parish have known that when the sanctuary is built, it will never be anything else. And it will stand here until the second coming of Christ. Yeah. Really I mean, that’s, that’s remarkable to think whatever we construct now we’ll be here until the second coming, whether it’s tomorrow or whether it’s in 1000 years, that’s I will never be used for anything else. And it doesn’t matter who the priest is, it doesn’t matter who the people are, the, the hallmarks of Orthodoxy will remain in spite of all of us, which is beautiful. Yeah. So what really is
one thing, this always impressed me, but coming from a sort of a free church, image free tradition, actually. Is, is the use of the icon of status in worship, like liturgically, you know, not for private devotions or anything but liturgically and I was wondering if you could sort of explain to us neophyte some something about that.
So, okay, so, the Anastasio the icon screen is, what can be there considered it point of division or point of unification between the Holy of Holies, the Knave, and then the North x, right. So it’s just so for us, we go back to the the tentative meeting and look at the structure of the tentative meeting that had structure and division of space. Solomon’s Temple had structure division of space, early Christian churches had structure and division of space. So the icon screen when you’re looking at it, there’s the road or at the center, that’s entrance, but then on the right hand side is my kind of Christ, next to Christ is going to be an icon of john the baptist, on the left hand side is going to be an icon of Christ in the arms of Mary. And the next is next to the icon of Christ, Amir in the left is going to be an icon of the church to whom it’s dedicated. So when we’re looking at the space, we’re reminded, of course, first and foremost, and oh, I should say on the icon of Christ, the book is open. I’m the light of the world, because that’s kind of our focal point there. When you’re looking at john, John’s reminder of pointing to the word right, which is his prominence on the icon is the last of the Prophets, and the greatest the prophets and then the other side, we can’t escape the fact that Mary was the vessel of Cujo. So you can see, I just started thinking that I was being the birth giver of God, as opposed to Crystal tocris, or whatever are the terms we come up with it. We’re considered deficient in the early church, right? And so we’ve got her there in throne. And then on the to the left, in our case is an icon of Anna. But Anne is not in the Bible. But she’s the mother of Mary. And we know that from extra biblical sources. And, again, when we spoke of tradition before, there’s no question east or west of her prominence, in fact, she’s the most venerated woman in Christianity next to Mary. So that space then is not so much a separator from the holy sanctuary of the Holy of Holies, in which is the ultra table, vigil lamp that perpetually burns to show the presence of God, the Holy Eucharist isn’t thrown on the altar table together with the book of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and john, because the altar, the altar table then takes on the, the fullness of being the throne of God. So those two spaces are unified, and then they were people meet God. So whatever mystery unfolds in the sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies, let’s say, is then brought forth into the nave through the rail doors. And then on the if you go, I’m sorry, two icons out one on like on either side. On the left hand side all the way over to the left is these are referred to as deacons doors. So the far left door has an icon of Michael the archangel, and on the right side is Gabriel, the Archangel. The reason Michael is on the left is that’s the way the deacon exits the altar. And it’s a reminder that Michaels there standing guard, keeping everyone out of Paradise, but the way the deacons able to come back in is through the good news in the proclamation of Gabriel. So, so everything is everything, Charles? Absolutely. Right. Absolutely. And even looking at our iconography pattern for the church, the beauty is going back and looking at other historical churches looking at plans from the unis, these theses, the airy APA guide, who is considered to be one of those first converted by Paul in Athens. And he came up with a plan of iconography not so much for the church, but how certain things are drawn in their hierarchy, even of the angels and all the categories of angels we have come back to the uneasiness so we have to consider all those things and consider the space and then where does everything go? How does it fit in, so that it is well pleasing scheme. And as always elevating the soul toward the the understand that God dwells here among men. Now,
he has a really way of using space to tell the story and and invite you and and again draw you into the presence of God,
which is and walking into the space. It’s not it’s the sight, but it’s also the smell. Yeah, so walking into one of those early churches, when some of the students traveled to Greece to the Holy Land. You walk in and there’s just a smell. There’s a feel, and especially what’s what’s tragic, at least in my opinion, from here in the West is some of our, our spaces. There’s a utility and a function to them, but there’s no beauty. Yeah, yeah. So walking in, we’d have no concept that the divine lives or dwells here until the people Come in and pray. But the space audit control the space audit, communicate something more. Yeah, because that was a part of Judaism. It was a part of early Christianity, it continues to be a part, you know, really up until now, more contemporary times, right. And I understand what building cost but if the church doesn’t preserve beauty, who will? And that’s why we feel obligated. Coming back to mosaics in our case, if we don’t do Mosaic, you’re in Roseville who’s going to do it within our region. And it’s one trade that’s been lost.
So tell me a little bit you were, I guess, a couple of years ago when? I don’t know if you had brought a representative of the last like, mosaic workshop or whatever in Florence? Or was it? Yeah, that guy or whatever? I just I remember that. So there’s
a handful of shops. Yeah, there are handful shops that are still doing the work there.
And so but it’s very, very, very few worldwide right now that are doing that.
Yes. And very few of the caliber. So as an example, in the dome, the dome on Pisa, okay, as an example. So when you look at the structure, beautiful structure. World War Two, the windows were blown out. So the question is, what are those original windows look like? And since the Domo did not have its dome done inside, what would have been the plan based on that period? So they’ll bring in some folks to come in and research and masimo, the gentleman that’s helping us is the one that had to put together the plan of saying, Wow, historically, these are the Windows based on other windows we have during this period that would have been here, at least a variant of it. And this logically is what the dome would have looked like Had it been able to amend done. So this is what we’re proposing, which is then to not just the the the Vatican, but also to the bureaus in Rome that ensure that everything in Italy, are done, according to spec. So that’s the gentleman that’s helping us with our project. Yeah,
yeah, that’s a real I want to say cool, but it kind of is actually to have someone of that caliber. Oh, absolutely. It’s awesome working with your church. It’s just amazing. Ladies, a good man to read family. No, that’s
great. Yeah, that was great. It’s making me excited for this. For this sanctuary to be built. And to see it.
There’s a there’s a beauty to it. There’s a functionality of it. Ah, well, this is a little bit of a sidebar, but about three weeks ago, we ripped up all the shrubs on our grounds in the parking lot, and they’re good. They were pretty, but they don’t produce anything. So the question is, what do we what do we do especially in our age right now, where? With all the COVID words, right, so, Rex has been up on our site and in the front of our property, we have our grapevines we imported from Cyprus to make our communion wine, we’ve got our palm branches for Palm Sunday, we’ve got some more lemon or whatever else, but then it was what else can we bring in? That would be beneficial for us on we’ve got a ton of roses because it’s Roseville. But we’re replacing all of our shrubs with I think we have 80 fruit trees that are coming in. Oh, wow. Wow. And the rationale is, historically, we were self sustaining the church communities. Yeah. And what a great thing for us to have. So we can enjoy these things ourselves. But then we can give back to the city, to the food banks and the handful of yours. So knowing that we’re going to three harvests a year that takes care of our parishioners. And with excess, then we just give it back to the city.
And there’s some echoes of revelation actually, in that whole image of the trees there. It’s it’s great stuff.
Again, that’s what we’re supposed to do. Right. It’s, that’s part of our monastic tradition is everything’s kind of done in house. So we’ve got our bees on site, so we harvest our own honey but yeah, we then take the the wax and give it to our sisters up at one of our monasteries, and they can make the beeswax candles. So and the other cool thing is it’s giving our, our own people, especially our young adults trade, where they can start getting familiar with of how to how to toil, because part of the frustration disappointment today is people don’t actually know how to get dirty anymore. Yeah, work with their hands and produce anything. And yeah, and a part of I think even what Genesis says, aren’t we supposed to like dig and plow the ground? Yeah, I think he’s doing that in what Minecraft just is not the same thing.
Yeah. Not quite, you know, although if it was my children would be my son would be an overachiever. Yeah, he was he is really playing saints by this point. But I that’s what what’s interesting about i’d love that I love again, using all of the church space to to speak to the community and and to bring people together. And it’s interesting over over kind of COVID time, my my wife and I and our my two sons became duck farmers. We build a coop area awesome and rotten. we afford ducks and resistors I joked with a class I was like, This really is part of my spiritual formation, right? Like, I go out there every morning by 630 and let him out, you know, replace their food. Replace water have to do their pools couple times a week and it just there’s this rhythm that it puts you in there. And it’s really interesting what you’re saying when you look at monastic traditions and that there was there was so much of the spirituality was tied to to work during the day and meaningful work and and that being part of their formation not something they did on the side right not just like oh, you you kind of work during the day and then you come back to the monastery and pray like know when you’re making bread when you’re making candles when you’re praying when you’re making cheese. Yeah,
we introduced our we have chickens now in our yard. Hey, there we go. And we have beehives. Yeah, in addition to our fruit trees, and I want my kids out toiling. I want them to become familiar with these trades. And there’s something beautiful also about a few weeks ago was picking up kumquats and making a preserve, which I’d never done before. But what a great gift to be able to give someone because we’re toiling right and realizing the blessing of producing something. Goddess, you know, God gives us the trees, we water them, we tend to them. God gives us the fruit, we then pick the fruit and
work with it, and then offer it back since he’s wrong on monasticism a little bit. I know this is one of those like, like, Can you tell me in a nutshell sort of questions to ask something like this, but but what what are some of the, I guess in a nutshell, differences between Western and Eastern monastic traditions? Okay, so the first thing
so the first thing is that a monastic is one of the practices ASCII sees for spiritual exercise. Every Christian is meant to have spiritual exercise. Yeah, the Lord says when you fast when you pray when I got it’s not Yeah, there are no F’s in fasting, right? And so our monastics live extremely austere lives. Many are in a monastery, and but every monastery is gonna have its own flavor of what that life in Christ looks like. A typical monastery is going to have what sick about eight hours of prayer day. But as you’re mentioning to the work, as they toil throughout the day, all of that is considered part of prayer. But it’s not the formal prayer of a brotherhood or sisterhood. So we don’t have teaching orders, we don’t have Sisters of Mercy and things like that, and beautiful traditions in the West. But in the eastern side of the house, when one becomes a monastic, it really is denying and giving up the world. Not so much shunning the world, acknowledging the goodness, but the missionary system historically, in the early Christian church came forth from monasteries, and those that went into the world to encourage people in martyrdom work from monasteries, and those that would serve in hierarchy were from monasteries, because there was a different formation that took place in the world. So thank god here in the United States, we’re finally really building up our monastic communities, it’s little by little, we’re probably still not going to be on let’s say, an orthodox community probably for about 100 years in the United States. And that’s what the parish is maturing, but also our monastery is really taking root but that’s one of the reasons I’m going to Cyprus has spent some time there one of the communities that I’m have a great affinity for. So just a lot of prayer. Hospitality is important. And that’s like when folks traveled to the Holy Land or Jerusalem. All the holy sites, the sepal occur the Church of the Nativity and and and and, and all those are part of the Brotherhood of the holy sapsucker, which is a monastic brotherhood that manages all these sites serves at them, and then by extension, opens them up to the greater Christian world for hospitality. Yeah. So but not so much as a particular order. But as a brotherhood or Sisterhood of just focused in prayer under their salvation. Fair.
Sounds good to me. Cool. Yeah, sign me up. The I think I have another kind of ludicrous nutshell question, which might be hard. But there might be many of our listeners who, who are still thinking, I don’t really know, maybe distinctions of the Orthodox tradition versus Catholic versus Protestant. But if so, if you were if you were trying to explain to someone, the How would you summarize the essence of the Orthodox tradition?
Hmm. Goodness gracious. Um, that’s a tough one. It’s not a simple answer. Right. The first thing is, we’re ritualistic. Why, because the early churches ritual, ritualistic right to we’re all about dogma and doctrine, because the early church was doctrine and dogma.
theology is important. theology is almost like prayer, isn’t it? In some ways?
Well, of course. Yeah, of course, it isn’t. If we consider the ship to be the, the vessel of salvation and the churches, again, that image of the ship, it would be really bad for us to be even off by a degree, because then we missed the port, right? So these things are super essential to us. So there’s a great respect for ritual. There’s a great respect for history a great respect for theology for tradition. I guess one of the things I would say is that, in some cases, it seems like across the Christian spectrum, again, not a negative The criticism to different things, yeah, is some of the approach the gospel by saying, Let’s bring it down to the level of the people, right? We’ll say, why don’t we challenge the people to rise the level what it means to be a Christian? Because the blessing is, you know, we’ve got, especially when we go back to when we were one church for about 1000 years, there was only one way of doing it. Right. And it worked. Yeah. And there might have been some, let’s say, human errors along the way with how some things were administered. But when folks really get back into the theology of it, it was a pure faith, and we’re talking about today in the class. You can’t escape the Church Fathers just can’t escape them, right. You can’t escape escape what Tertullian who gave us understanding of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, right? You can’t escape the decay that gives us an understanding of how to baptize people. Yeah. It’s can’t escape the efficacious. God became man, so man could become God. It’s so many things we just can’t escape. Yeah, so it’s having a great respect for it, and accepting the tradition that’s been given to me, but then passing it on to the next group, unblemished. And if, and that’s the beauty of our faith, again, is that it’s not going to change. Just a bit, it can’t change. None of us have the power. And actually, the minute our faith changes, let’s say in Roseville, the minute we see some being orthodox, and the blessing is I’ve got a bishop over me that would ensure that I’d be removed, more people would be sequestered in a sense, or suppressed that if we started to preach or do something that was anti, Yeah, we are.
So what’s the formation, Christa, of the Orthodox priests said, you know, the educational and sort of the standard
is the course an undergraduate degree. And then our seminary is going to be a three or four year program for a master’s level. But the formation is different than a lot of our seminaries out in other Christian traditions. The day starts with chapel every morning at eight o’clock. What lasts anywhere from half an hour to an hour, and then everyday conclude. So the first morning prayer, then the day concludes at five with Vespers and evening prayer, every day. And then, of course, on Sunday, the celebration of mountains and liturgy, and on great feast, the church, the students will be seminary started at seminary starting service at seven, and then concluding morning prayers by nine. And that’s just part of the routine. So it’s really it maintains
tradition of praying with your faculty, studying with your faculty, eating with your faculty, and then praying with your faculty again, yeah, and kind of closing the day. So it’s, it really is immersion. And then additionally, our students be at regardless of our seminaries either spend time in Greece, content, Turkey, Russia, Alexandria, Antioch, as part of their formation, even if it’s for a handful of weeks of getting an experience of that large those the larger orthodox world, I should say, in the Holy Land, of course, too. So it’s pretty. It’s a lot of immersion, into the tradition, and formation, I should say, That’s the goal. It’s not, it’s not about the academic stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not important to all of our preset masters. But it’s about the formation that takes place. What is just and there’s no, it has to be done on campus. Okay, there’s some things we can do online. Yeah, I guess that that sort of would not work. For us. It just wouldn’t. And there’s and don’t get me wrong, there’s there merits to online studies. But there’s some things where, right, you know, we really have to think things through carefully and wisely because we have these implications of not just our immediate experience, but what’s going to be long lasting after this. information can take a long time. And I should also, I should have also thrown in wrecks that, you know, in our case, if one recently becomes orthodox, one can’t go to the seminary for I think it’s about a five year period for them just to get used to being acculturated, right, not not into an ethnicity, but into orthodoxy, which is a culture unto itself. Yeah. And once they’re comfortable, they’re then progressive with the blessing of a bishop with the blessing of their spiritual father to go to seminary, then coming out of seminary doesn’t mean one’s going to be a priest, because one still needs to go to the whole battery of exams, psychological exam course all the background stuff now, but also needs a blessing from their spiritual father and Bishop that it needs the approval of the Synod of Bishops in order for one to be ordained a deacon or priest. So there are no guarantees. But I appreciate that. Because it’s, it’s not about the ego. It’s not about me, it’s about
what will be and what will be. I appreciate the rigor of that to my ordination, which was meaningful to me, but I always sort of joke that in the tradition that I was brought up in as long as someone has or feels they have a call from Jesus, that they will ordain a rock pretty much. And I remember it was like, there was no I mean, as far as battery of tests or anything, it was basically you have the date for the ordination. You make sure that There’s a potluck afterwards so that people will bring the food. Yeah. And then like 10 minutes before the ordination, sermon and service, a group of local pastors will just in my case and toss me a couple of softball questions. And and, you know, you’re always going to pass that because other people have already bought the food. So a foregone conclusion and have and and, you know, I think there’s much more to be said about beer tradition than that way of ordaining folks, well,
just. Which doesn’t mean it’s not a valid ordination, right i by any means, but the intentionality, right? And when you mentioned about the battery of questions that actually came in our senior year, where we’d have to sit down with all of our faculty, and then we were peppered for hours, with questions, and then at that point, they could either recommend us or not for ordination. So it didn’t matter what our intention was, after three or four years at the seminary, you can have your faculty say, Gosh, God bless you with your studies and how you’ve done. But ordination isn’t for you. Yeah. And it’s, and I gotta tell you, I like that, because it’s then not about me. Right? Right. There are others who are making the decisions. And my task is just to be obedient. And that’s probably one of the greatest things in Orthodoxy is just this concept of obedience that I don’t always know what’s best for me. Yeah, I can be self deceiving. So being able to put myself in the care of someone else to kind of mentor me and guide me along. Right is wise. So where do you go to seminary? I was back in Boston. Okay. So we have our seminary Holy Cross, which is not there’s a Holy Cross Catholic, and there’s a Holy Cross orthodox. So we’re in Jamaica Plain, or Brookline. So did my studies there. And then continued post and yeah, and then just kept going? And you also have a degree from UC Davis. I do. Yeah. my doctoral studies there on and northeastern, and then I’m actually back in another master’s program right now in joint operations studies for the military.
That’s right. And so a real renaissance man here. Yeah. Why he we love having him. I mean, it’s an I’ve always felt, Chris, that. You know, you’re doing us a favor here, actually. I really believe that what you bring is something that that we need, and our students need just the intellectual rigor and just the tradition that you come from, and we’re all in this together rain, that’s always that, but it’s a good thing. It’s
like it can’t hurt and the the challenge if we really believe there’s a God, right, get really basic about it, if we really believe it. It’s pretty important relationship at the end of the day, and it’s nothing we should take too casually. Right? Right, right. So we’re only going to become sharper through ongoing engagements and conversations and and Rex can testify to this. But when I first got here, some folks were not a fan of having me on campus. It was a little bit unsettling for some of having an Orthodox priest here and over the years rexel remember, we’ve had a monk that is now at Mount Sinai, a priest monk who came into lecture, we’ve had some other professors that orthodox clergy and non orthodox that have come on campus to help me out with my class. And in this current class, we’re going to be zooming in a priest monk or a monk I should say, from keycodes monastery in Cyprus, it’s gonna be joining us at one point, but this is about it’s a pretty grand Christian world. It is not it’s not just 21st century America, right in California, in Roseville, or in Rocklin. Right. So it’s important for us to have a good understanding of all of it, and the timelessness of the Church of what of all times Kevin Adams like saying that, but I think it’s a great saying, right, the church of all times in all places, yeah, if we don’t have an appreciation of that, our understanding of it, my goodness, gracious, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves into the church. That’s right, because it’s not about me at the end of the day. Yeah. And we should be able to have some good, insightful conversations about the church dispassionately and with clarity, rather than just opinion. Right. And that’s why Rex will know, my poor students in class. Opinions just unless it’s rooted in something of history, right. And it just isn’t gonna have a place in the class. Yeah.
And I always tell them that it’s good for you. So that’s right. And and really, for our, you know, our audience out there. Yeah. The, you know, millions that list Exactly, yes. It is true that honestly, I’ve never heard a student that has gone through a class with Chris and he’s taught the route church class with us. He’s taught a course in Christian art, I believe art in architecture for us and history of ancient Greece, all sorts of things. But I’ve never heard a student that actually. Well, they’ve all said it’s a challenge. Right? And that right, and but they’ve always appreciated that they knew what was going on.
Yeah, even if they didn’t like it necessarily at the time, they knew what was going on. And they appreciate it. The purpose of higher education is to challenge our understandings to make a sharper and better and who, as individuals, right, right. And that’s, if I don’t bring that to a classroom out of respect to my students, and I’m failing in my vocation and you don’t I shouldn’t be teaching. So it’s a privilege always working with the students and it is a workload, but if they’re upper division classes, the students need to be put All right, yeah, I need to be able to make sure that they’re prepared. Because for some of these kiddos, it’s going to be off into the real world. Right? Some of them are going to ministry, others are going to go for graduate studies, or they’re just going into work. So that’s part of the privilege of, of helping them out right? successes and failures for all of us along the way. Yeah.
Well, we’re so glad you’re here. And so glad that you joined us on the show. And I think it’s really important, some of you said that we can just kind of land on the idea that the church for all time, right, and that for the first 1000 years of the church, we were one and and I feel like even though maybe at the beginning, you know, a little resistance on campus. I think it’s important for us to start to recognize and, and, and become have our different traditions, but to see ourselves more unified than separate, and that we are all in the church together. And and the kingdom of God is all of these traditions. Absolutely. And, and so we’re just so glad to have your voice on campus and on the show. So thanks. Thanks. Thanks. Yeah. Great. That’s always nice to be here. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup bank. We would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.
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