Cookie Permissions

Friday, May 09, 2008

Kepler's Eye

The Kepler NASA Mission, due to launch in 2009, will place a telescope in solar orbit specifically to look for near earth sized planets orbiting other nearby stars. This has to be (in my book) the singularly most exciting development in our exploration of the Cosmos since our decision to send humans to Mars. Please do visit the Kepler web site here.

For all of you (including myself) who want to participate in a small but significant way, NASA is offering an unlimited opportunity for the public to place their names and short messages on a DVD that will be launched with the telescope. This is what I have said ...

Kepler will open up the possibility of detecting earth-sized extrasolar planets. The scientific, social, cultural, spiritual and (eventually) economic implications of this new Copernican endeavour cannot be underestimated.

So long as humans think of themselves and their world as unique they will remain impoverished and myopic in the Cosmos. Evidence of earth-like planets will translate a well founded supposition into reality. The resultant transformation in understanding of our place in the Cosmos could, arguably, both unite humankind and provide that necessary spur to move offworld and explore.

May we not repeat the same mistakes in the Cosmos as we have on earth but rather develop those finest and highest qualities of which our species is so eminently capable. I am a theist, so may God "make it so."

Revd. Fr. Gregory Hallam

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Orthodoxy is Scary!

“What a strange idea Father!” some might say. Well it’s not as strange as you might think. Such a huge gap has now opened up between Christianity as practised in the Orthodox Church and other Christian traditions that I regularly encounter a certain “culture shock” from those who encounter Orthodoxy for the first time. This is much more pronounced amongst those who already have some Christian background. “Why such long services?” “You don’t have any of the songs that I love in your church.” “I am just confused; there’s simply too much to absorb,” and so on and so forth.

On the one hand this distinctiveness is useful for it marks out Orthodox Christianity as something quite different from what one usually encounters and not just another rather unusual “flavour.” On the other hand if we don’t help people gently into the fullness of the truth we stand accused as those who “bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. “ (Matthew 23:4)

It is instructive to observe what that great Orthodox Christian pastor and Enlightener of Japan, St. Nicholas (Kasatkin) required of his converts ... principally four things only before baptism: a familiarity with the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and regular attendance at Church services and meetings. This was sufficient for the neophyte. Good as though it is, they didn’t have to read Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s “The Orthodox Church”, stand in the nave for three years or learn Russian.

If we have to be restrained in what we “serve up” to converts, in like manner we must insist in our dealings with enquirers that NOBODY finds out all that there is to know and understand about Orthodox Christianity, even in a lifetime. The idea that it must be all “understood” first is erroneous and heavily conditioned by western heterodox ideas about Christian truth.

It is far more important that Christian living keep pace with Christian learning and for the two to interact in a mature and spiritually guided way. For this to happen the neophyte has to “unlearn” not only what he thinks Christianity is all about but also how a living faith is acquired and deepened. Some are simply just not ready for that change in perception. Some are. The wisdom of a pastor and a catechist is to recognise this and to know the practical difference with its implications for an individual soul.

Popular Posts