The society at large is shaped by all sorts of pernicious influences, as evidenced by so much of what appears on our TV’s, both in the shows and the advertisements. And for many, these things are “normal.” But for us, our models are the Lord Jesus Christ, the Theotokos, and the saints of the Church, including the martyrs, the desert fathers, and the “fools for Christ;” they are the ones who are normal, in the Divine perspective- the one that counts- regardless of what our society thinks. (from the last post, “Socialization: Living Stones“)
Of course we must hear from the Lord (through our bishops and also in the many other ways in which He speaks) how we are called to live out the Church’s Tradition and the words of the holy Fathers in our cultural context. Are we really being called to the desert? Perhaps we are, but not literally.
Fr. John Chryssavgis, who wrote the booklet The Body of Christ: A place of welcome for people with disabilities, also wrote The Way of the Fathers: Exploring the Patristic Mind. Click here for a description of the book: http://www.light-n-life.com/shopping/order_product.asp?ProductNum=WAYO125
The Fathers of the Church provide for us inval;uable perspective -from outside our own cultural setting- on all matters pertaining to the Christian life.We must not lose the challenge of their message, the stark, bracing truth of their words.
“A time is coming when men will go mad, and when thy see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.” – St. Antony the Great
Are we there yet? What do you think?
Having begun to address how we can look at the question of “Normalization” from a Patristic context, here is a section of the website coping.org, developed by the Protestant Christian psychologists James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D., on normalization as it relates to children with special needs. It actually has less to do with conforming to the world’s standards and more to do with giving these children a life with dignity. http://www.coping.org/specialneeds/normaliz.htm#normalization
But the group home system in which my wife and I work goes through a state inspection each year. Now this system, Friendship Community, was begun by Mennonite Protestant Christians. From time to time, there have been conflicts over values- over what is “normal.” Once, for instance, it was whether we could forbid “two consenting adults of the opposite sex” from being in one’s bedroom with the door shut.
Another time we were told to take the locks off our refrigerators, even though there were people in our home with serious appetite control problems. Soon after that one of them seized the opportunity to start chugging down bottles of salad dressing. It created health problems for her.Apparently, snacking between meals is a “right.”
Normalization can be a good focus, but it can also be used as an imposition of values foreign to the Christian faith.
Lent has begun, and the “right” to snack has been curtailed for Orthodox Christians. And this frees us to focus on our life in Christ more intensely. This is the disposition that brings “times of refreshment,” so that we may inch closer to the sanity of the Saints, for whom holy is normal.