...are the ones that make the biggest difference


Darn it...back to square one.

I must admit that one of the things that I found so attractive about Orthodoxy was that it came packaged with answers to all kinds of difficult questions. What is the church? Who is in charge? What is the source of authority? How do we know who is right? All these questions, and countless others, had easy, or at least easily accessible, answers within the Orthodox framework. There might be some ambiguity, some varying degrees of disagreement or varieties of interpretation, but at least the foundation upon which these differences existed was the same. And in this common source, the questions didn't matter quite as much because the source was in common to all the questioners - everyone could at least agree on that and seemingly get along quite well.

But alas, I am back to square one with no pre-packaged answers to any of it. Well, most of it, anyways. One of the things that has really been on my mind of late is the nature and identity of the church. This has been partly inspired by a series of posts & comments-debates over on Pontifications regarding these same questions and related issues. At the end of one post, which pointed out a Calvinist site taking on Orthodoxy, he posted a quote by Newman:

“And this one thing at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this”

If there is one thing that my journey through Orthodoxy over the last couple of years has taught me is that this statement is almost entirely true. A quick review of the first few centuries of the faith shows that Protestantism just doesn't match in many ways. Different structure, different understanding of the sacraments, authority, vocation and certainly different theological emphases. But that is not to say Protestantism is wholly alien to the early church; it is Trinitarian, has a high view of scripture (perhaps higher than the Ante-Nicene Fathers, but they clearly held it in high regard as well), is missional and evangelical (in the non-political sense of the word), and ardently desires to worship and honor Christ. Of course, the Orthodox and Catholic churches believe, despite those important similarities, that the absence of the other stuff clearly separates Protestantism from the historic church. Thus, any Protestant truly concerned with the identity of the church must join one of those communions in order to be in fellowship with true extension of the Apostles.

But the Protestant who studies history rightly turns the tables and asks whether Orthodoxy and Catholicism are really all that similar to the early church. Certainly they share generally similar structures with the episcopal hierarchy, similar views of the sacraments, vocations, and certain theological points. But the Protestant reading history and the Fathers finds marked departures as well. In Catholicism, the role & authority of the Pope is a distinct variation. In Orthodoxy, the lack of missional zeal. In both communions the high veneration of Mary and the veneration of the saints generally, icons, eschatology (purgatory and the toll-houses, for example) and other theological understandings are wide variations from the faith of the early church. While they may not have strayed off the path entirely, I think there is a case to be made that Orthodoxy and Catholicism have strayed. They have innovated, perhaps for very good, holy intentions, but they have innovated nonetheless. Who is to say which set of differences, Protestant or Orthodox/Catholic, is the greater or more injurious to faith? Arguments can be made from either side on why their's is the better, but I don't think either really has an airtight case.

Which leaves me with yet more questions, and only a few conclusions. One of which; we're left to deal with what history has handed us. I think the state of the church, in its most general sense, is a mixed-bag of strengths and weaknesses, highs and lows. We all have a long way to go in living out the Gospel of our Lord, many areas where we need to improve our faithfulness. For me, this realization is actually rather freeing. I don't expect to find a perfect church anymore. I don't expect to find a place of ultimate fulfillment, which is what I was hoping Orthodoxy would be. What I expect, what I hope to find, is rather a community of the faithful honest about their failings, committed to doing better and who are trying to live out the Gospel. That is all, and I believe, that is more than enough.


Well prepared

I am currently heading into the 3rd week of school, which has been wonderfully abridged with the holiday. No class or clinicals - just the lab on Thursday or Friday morning. So far, the nursing classes have been informative but not particularly challenging. Which is not terribly surprising as we've been going through some of the very basic groundwork of the trade; history, safety, asepsis, etc. Most the 'hands-on' stuff we've covered so far I've already learned on the job, and from the instructor's discussion on what we'll be doing & learning for this semester, I think I have been extraordinarily well prepared by my last year of employment. One indicator came last week at the clinical site as we were being assigned patients. The instructor had assigned about half the class and then said a couple of the remaining patients were "medically complex" and wanted to give them to someone with some direct patient care experience. Every thing in her description of their "complexity" is something I deal with every day on almost every one of my patients. I'm very grateful to have been lead to my hospital and for the apparently unique professional experience it has imparted to me.

There have been some things that I have been wholly unprepared for, though. One, due to the often serious status of my patients and the length of their hospital stay prior to coming to us, we are, in all honesty, not overly concerned with their possible embarassment. Many of them have gotten so used to the stuff we have to do, that they don't bat an eye at it anyways, but my instructor and my textbook take a much more serious view to maintaing the patient's dignity. Which is a good thing and a lesson I am trying to take to heart even in my current job. Second, I was not prepared for some of the "theories of nursing" that have been presented to us. Driven largely by what appears to me to be a desire to be considered on par with medicine (ie, doctors), various nursing academics have tried mightily to concoct conceptual frameworks that identify the unique factors that nurses bring to the patient. But as these are academics, some theories have been cross-pollinated by the worst kind of popular tripe that prevails in many of the humanities in the modern university. And with that, I leave you to Parse's Human Becoming Theory

Parse proposes three assumptions about human becoming:

1. Human becoming is freely choosing personal meaning in situations in the intersubjective process of relating value priorities.
2. Human becoming is cocreating rhythmic patterns or relating in mutual process with the universe.
3. Human becoming is cotranscending multidimensionally with the emerging possibles.

The nurse's role involves helping individuals and families in choosing the possibilities for changing the health process. Specifically, the nurse's role consists of illuminating meaning (uncovering what was and what will be), synchronizing rhythms (leading through discussion to recognize harmony), and mobilizing transcendence (dreaming of possibilities and planning to reach them). The Parse nurse uses "true presence" in the nurse-client process. "In true presence the nurse's whole being is immersed with the client as the other illuminates the meaning of his or her situation and moves beyond the moment."